Incorporate business in U.S.
First Steps to Start an Online BusinessOnce you have your idea, how do you start an online business? The first step, just as with any other business, is to write a business plan. Even if you don't need outside funding to launch your start up, writing a business plan will help you sharpen your ideas and position your business to face its competition. Once you've fully thought out your business model, these steps will take you through the process of posting your e- commerce idea live on the web.
Organization, Licenses, Contracts and ProtectionJust because you're launching a business on the web without a curbside presence, don't take shortcuts. You must legally register your business in order to protect your personal assets, to satisfy tax law, to qualify for business credit and to accept credit cards, and the list goes on. Do your homework to determine what organizational structure (corporation, LLC, etc.) is the right choice for your business and then file the paperwork.
Even though you are functioning in cyberspace, any agreements you enter into with other sites, services, etc. are fully enforceable within a court of law. Ask for and issue contracts when making business arrangements. Also make sure that you apply for any licenses or permits you need to operate your business: to collect tax; to hire employees, to use materials or products that are trademarked, patented or copyrighted by others, etc.
Registering a Domain NameTake the time to select the best name for your domain. It's not always obvious. Certainly, purchase the name of your company, if it is available. But, you may only want to use that as a redirector to your actual home site. Your domain name should, in most cases, be one of the words or phrases that your potential customer will either type into a search engine, or type in directly as an URL, in order to see if a website with that name exists.
Designing Your WebsiteIf you, or someone in your new company, knows, or wants to learn either Frontpage or Dreamweaver, building your website in-house is an affordable and practical option.
If you don't have the skills in-house to create and build a design, you will need to give the job to a design firm. But make sure that you train someone in-house to be able to maintain and update the website once it is launched. This is not a difficult skill to learn, and it will save your company time and money to keep website updating on premises.
When searching for a design firm, cast a very broad net. Price differences can be huge, and price may have no connection to quality. Make sure you visit the sites that a design firm includes in their portfolio, and spend time on those sites to determine if the web pages are easy to navigate and understand as well as being attractive.
While your site is being built, do your web hosting service research. Again, compare hosting services before you sign a contract to start an online business. Make sure the service has reliable tech support, and that it provides all of the features you will need if your website attracts the volume of traffic that you hope it will.
Optimizing and Marketing Your WebsiteRead, read, read. If you plan to optimize and market your website on your own read all the books and articles you can, and sign up for free e-newsletters from search engine optimizing services.
Research on optimizing your website for search engines will teach you how to use keywords, page layouts, search engine registrations, etc. If you don't have the time to optimize your site you will want to hire a service to do it for you.
The same applies to marketing your site. If you have a brick-and-mortar business you will want to add your website address to all of the marketing materials. And, beyond that, you will want to read about all of the other strategies that have been developed to help you raise the profile of your new website.
Developing Your Customer BaseOnce you start doing business through your website, you will begin to amass data on the behavior of your visitors. If you sell from the site you will be able to compare visitors who view and leave with those who view and go on to buy.
Constant revision of your site, based the behavior of your visitors, will improve the interest level of your content, and follow through of your visitors. Don't neglect instituting this type of review process as soon as you go live on the web. Following these first steps to start an online business should give you a template that you can customize to meet your special needs.
Want more information about registering a company? Visit our Guide. Check out incorporation fees by each state. Tip: Did you know that Delaware and Nevada are top two incorporation states? Ready to register a company? Choose one of these great online incorporators:
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