Online Business Guide
1 Create an LLC
While you can set up your new ecommerce business as a sole proprietorship, many small business attorneys recommend you create a limited liability company, or LLC, instead. Why? As the name implies, an LLC provides you with limited liability in case you are sued. Unlike a sole proprietorship, an LLC is a legal entity separate from you. In other words, if someone sues you business, or one of your employees, your personal assets are protected.
2 Open a Business Checking account and get a Business Credit card
Again, it's important to separate your business assets from your personal assets. So as soon as possible, set up a business checking account and get a business credit card. If you have a good relationship with your bank, contact them first.
3 Trademark your intellectual property
The last thing you want after going through the trouble - and money - to set up your ecommerce business is someone stealing or copying your business name, logo, products and/or services. Protect your intellectual property by trademarking it with the United States Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO).
4 Get a Sales-and-Use tax permit or Resale Certificate
Even though your business may be entirely online, at some point you will need to charge and collect sales tax, if only in the state in which your business is registered. To find out what is required in your state, and apply, go to you state's Department of Revenue Services website - or ask your accountant.
5 Choose the right ecommerce solution
There are dozens of ecommerce platforms and shopping carts out there aimed at small businesses, but which one is right for your business and the person who will be managing the site?
Do they offer SEO? Do they offer social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter) integration? These are all must-haves in today's ecommerce world. Finally be sure to check out the company's refund policy before you hand over your credit card information.
6 Hire a good designer, photographer, and writer
Good product descriptions, SEO and marketing are what will drive people to your ecommerce site. Good website design and navigation and great photographs will keep people there and get them to buy from you. As successful ecommerce business owners will tell you, it's worth shelling out a few hundred, even a few thousand dollars to create a visually appealing, easy-to-navigate site, especially if you are a retail business. People buy with their eyes.
7 Provide search-engine optimized product descriptions that inform but not bore visitors
Product descriptions are what get people to your site and inform people about what it is you are selling. Make sure your content is descriptive and to the point, without being verbose. There are few products or services that cannot be described in a few well-written sentences, especially when accompanied by a photograph and/or video.
8 Make your site easy to navigate
Make finding products and checking out easy - the fewer clicks, the better. And be sure to include a link to your shipping and returns policy on your Home page.
9 Support multiple browsers and mobile devices
What's the point of setting up a site if the majority of users can't properly view it? Before you go live, make sure the site, not just the Home page, can be properly viewed in multiple browsers (i.e., Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari) as well as on popular mobile devices ( i.e., iPhones, Android devices, iPads).
Many ecommerce software solutions include this capability, so typically you don't have to create a separate version of your site - yet another thing to check for when considering an ecommerce platform.
10 Promote your business before you launch
Don't wait until after you've launched to spread the word. Set up a Facebook page and Twitter account for your business.
11 Be stocked and ready to sell
People want what they want when they want it - not two weeks from now. So before you tell people you are open for business, make sure you have stock on hand, or can get it quickly, or that your service is ready to go.