One benefit of today’s digital world is the relative ease of starting an online business. You can launch a website, find customers, conduct market research, and accept payment without a lot of technical expertise or savvy.
But it helps to have a plan, especially to manage the ‘fine print’ of running part (if not all) of their business digitally, and to answer the questions that most new entrepreneurs have, like:
“What type of contracts do I need to send to new clients or customers?”
“How on earth do I purchase a domain name?”
“Do I need to put copyright information on my website?”
Here’s a list of practical recommendations that will help you get your business ‘ducks’ in a row so you can launch faster and more easily.
What is the best online business to start?
Many online businesses require little to no capital to get started. If you have a working computer and a strong Internet connection, you have most of what you’ll need to launch your online business. That said, there are some types of businesses that are likely to turn a profit more quickly than others:
- Online blogging
- Affiliate marketing
- E-commerce shop
- Online coaching
- Selling digital courses and products
- Marketing & ad management
- Freelance writing
These are just a handful of the many profitable online businesses that are thriving today.
Launch with a defined business idea
Whatever your particular skill set and professional experience, plan your online business around your strengths and do a bit of upfront research to make sure your idea is viable. Once you have a business idea, try finding some competitors and other like-minded online entrepreneurs to learn more about their marketplace positioning, offerings, and specialties. Similarly, research the clients that may be interested in your services and learn what you can about their needs and interests. Join online communities where your peers and your ideal clients hang out, and spend time actively listening to learn what you can about how to best position your own offerings.
Choose your online business name
Many entrepreneurs wring their hands over choosing a business name, and for good reason. It can feel daunting to pick the right name that will grow with your business rather than hinder it. Here are some things to consider when choosing your online business name:
- Where do you see your business in 5 years?
- Do you want to be recognized for your name and as a personal brand, or do you want to form a brand separate from you, the owner?
- Will you strive to form an agency or operate as a solopreneur of small business over time?
When choosing your online business name, avoid the temptation to be too clever, use puns, or otherwise be obscure with your name. Keep it simple, and consider your goals before you commit. And remember, you CAN change your name down the road, so don’t let this part of the process stop you from making progress.
Consult a lawyer and/or accountant
Whether you’re a seasoned internet veteran or a complete newbie, it’s important to establish a relationship with a trusted lawyer and/or accountant who specializes in business (or small business) law.
Not only can these professionals help you define the types of contracts, banking accounts, and copyrights that are most beneficial to your business (more on this later), but leaning into these trusted relationships allows you to focus your attention on running and growing your business online (while still getting 7+ hours of sleep!).
When it comes to the legal and financial realities of a brand-building journey, consulting with a lawyer and an accountant can provide the peace of mind (and confidence) you need to build a solid business foundation online and out in the world.
Decide your business tax structure
The business structure you choose will influence everything from your taxes to your personal liability to how you conduct business each day. Choose the structure that makes the most sense to you today; you can always change it as your business grows. Here are the most common types of online businesses:
- Sole Proprietorship: When you’re just starting out as a one-person business owner, a sole proprietorship is an easy and lightweight way to get started. In this model, your personal assets and your business assets are combined, so you don’t need to separately register your business to launch.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC): In an LLC, you register your business as an entity separate from your personal assets, which protects you in case of bankruptcy, and you rarely bear the burden of additional corporate taxes, making it a low-risk option for many small businesses.
- S Corporation (S-corp): As a business grows, an S-corp is a common structure to use. An S-corp is a tax election that allows you to avoid many corporate tax rates while making it easier to add payroll and an expanding team to the mix.
The process of creating your business structure varies from state to state but is typically a straightforward process you can do on your own.
Secure your domain name and business email
We’ve all done it: crafted the perfect business name, only to put off securing a domain name until it’s been snatched up by someone else. To avoid this not-so-ideal scenario, take charge and secure your chosen domain name (or a close variant), even if you’re not quite ready to launch just yet.
If you’re building your personal brand and need a website, head over to Hover.com and purchase your vanity URL (think www.rachelgogos.com). I like Hover.com because they include “privacy” in your domain name purchase, so you don’t start getting a million phone calls and emails for web building offers. Most other domain registrars charge extra for privacy.
Can’t find your full name for a .com domain? Try adding your middle initial in there or, if nothing else works, a hyphen in between your first and last name, and as a last resort you can choose a domain extension that fits your industry. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you can purchase a yourame.design domain extension. The .com is always the best option, though.
As for your business email, Google Workspace makes it easy to set up your account and get a business email address for your unique domain name.When choosing your online business name, avoid the temptation to be too clever, use puns, or otherwise be obscure with your name. Keep it simple, and consider your goals before you commit. Read more: Click To Tweet
Copyright your work (and protect your information)
Copyright, according to the U.S. Copyright Office, is “a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.”
This copyright includes the written and visual aspects of your website that have been created, designed, and posted by you. However, domain names are not copyrighted.
Conduct market research
At the end of the day, you’re building your personal brand and business to build community and get yourself in front of your target audience—or, more specifically, your ideal client avatar.
Need help identifying your ideal client avatar? Take a peek at our blog post about it.
Once you’ve identified this avatar and their unique struggles, passions, and needs, you can begin to define the intersection between your avatar, your skills, and where you can be of immediate, lasting benefit in their lives.
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About The Author
Rachel Gogos is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for people, the web, and creating strong personal brands. She started her career at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where she helped create the look and feel for the organization’s first website. Today, in her current role running brandiD, Rachel channels over 15 years of marketing and communications experience into each and every website for brandiD’s clients. Find out more!