Starting a business online and becoming your own boss is exciting. It can also quickly become overwhelming. Spending thousands or hundreds of dollars on complicated courses and fancy tools isn't always necessary. Let me help provide you the resources, tips, and budget-friendly tools you need to be successful in your online business journey. These basic first steps below are the same regardless of what online business idea you decide to pursue.
The pink highlighted text is a useful tool for you to use. Don't worry about losing your spot; they will open in a new window so you can bookmark or save them for later
Choose Your Business Idea
Consider what you like and dislike. Do you like writing and want to start a blog? Do you want to try promoting on Amazon through affiliate marketing? Do you want to open a print on demand service business (T-shirts, hats, phone covers, etc.)? Do you have a product in mind that you want to private label and have produced? Do you enjoy designing printables and want to sell E-books or digital designs? Do you want to open a Drop-shipping store? Are you an expert at photoshop or math; you can teach and sell classes. Maybe you are awesome at social media marketing and want to be a virtual assistant. The business possibilities are endless; you just need to decide what you are passionate about or what you feel you would excel at. Review individual pages on my website to provide more detail and step by step instructions and guidance for each business model. Click the pictures below to download my Free "Starting Out Quiz" and "Smart Goal" checklist (pdf format) to help you decide which online business opportunity you want to be successful at.
Name, & Legal
Pick a name for your business idea. You will want to check all social media platforms (Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.). Go to Google and type the name just to see what might already be out on the internet. Be careful about your name choice. For certain businesses, it is great to be really specific and for other business models, it is best to be more broad so you can cater to a larger audience. Once you have a name in mind you can search below to see if it is available.
It is ok to have multiple domains if you are unsure because multiple domains will come in handy if you decide to have separate landing pages for any offer you might want to sell. Even if the name is available; don't purchase it yet. You will need to obtain hosting for your website and you get one FREE domain when you purchase your hosting. Next, be sure that you are allowed to run an online business where you live. If so, are there any requirements you should be aware of? Keep track of everything ongoing. Save everything business-related; receipts, invoices, tax information, phone call notes.
This next step is where sometimes people can get overwhelmed and that is how to register your business. Keep in mind, that your business structure will be based on what type of business you will start. You can also register as a Sole Proprietor (Schedule C) business and once you start growing you can expand and register as an LLC, S-Corp or other legal entity. If you decide to start as a Sole Proprietor you will still need to register with your state by a fictitious name or license. This is based on your state so you should check with the local SBA in your state to determine if you are required to register. On the other hand, if you decide to register your business as an LLC or S-Corp. and you are unsure of the steps necessary you can contact IncFile to form your business entity for you. They are fast and low-cost starting at just $49 a year to register and file for you. They are customer service orientated, small business that will get the job done for you. If you file as a Sole Proprietor you have the option to use your social security number as your EIN (Employer Identification Number). If you are worried about security issues then you can obtain an EIN (it is free to apply). If you use IncFile to form your company; they can also apply for one for you.
One thing that is non-negotiable is having an email address that will match your domain. It looks more professional. The best option is G Suite as it has all the Google products you know and love (Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Keep, etc.) but packaged for small business. You will receive a domain email address that you must-have for your email list, login & password storage tool, access to all the Google apps on your mobile devices plus syncing along with many integrations. Once you are set up you can create labels, make your folders to help you stay organized. You can add a professional email signature with your picture and social platform links. It can be used for brainstorming, ideas, doc sharing, and so many other free apps to help your business. I would set up a Buzz folder so that you can store the thank yous and nice things people say about you. This will come in handy when you need testimonials. Now you can sign up for all your social media accounts with your new email address. Much more detail on how to use social media for your business on my other pages. Google offers a basic version for $6/month & a business version for $12/month. If you click my Google link now you will save 20% off your first year using these codes below:
G Suite Basic Plan: 376FV9A9UDW43C7
G Suite Business Plan: YCGKUGWU7KRQLUY
Manage Your Business
You will want to keep track of all money-related things (money going out and money coming in) in one spot. It is so worth having it set up from the very beginning. In my shop, I sell some printables so you can track all your expenses and keep everything nice and neat. I would also recommend using QuickBooks for all of your accounting needs. I have an awesome discount when you use the link above. You will receive 50% off QuickBooks Online or 50% off QuickBooks Self-Employed for 6 months.
You will need to try your best to track all your business expenses and non-cash items too. I use the IRS business expenses website to determine my categories. By making categories it makes it easier at tax time. Examples: Advertising (FB Ads, Google Ads, Pinterest Ads, marketing materials), contractors (designers, tech help, virtual assistants, etc.), professional services (lawyer, accountant), education (courses & resources for learning), travel (overnight travel away from your primary residence including airfare, hotel/parking, rental car, meals & entertainment (during a business trip or meeting with a client, not lunch breaks while at home), office supplies (I use Amazon Business), other expenses (bank fees, PayPal fees, business insurance, affiliate commissions). When it is time to do your taxes I recommend TurboTax. I have used them for the last 10 years for both personal & business. The software walks you through all possible deductions.
Preparing to make Money
You will need to find out if your state requires you to pay state income tax; if so you might need a state tax ID number. Also, if you sell your own product(s), you might have to charge sales tax. To find out, find your state here. Don't be afraid to call and make sure you understand and get all the information needed if required to collect sales tax. You will need to open a business bank account; so you can keep personal and business separate. Try to look for free or fee-waived options. Here's a list of free business accounts by state. Once you have your business account it will be more cost-effective ordering checks from Deluxe (you can usually find a coupon online; especially if you are ordering for the 1st time. Next in order to receive your money you will need to apply for a business PayPal account. Many online money transactions involve PayPal so it's important to have it already set up so you can start getting paid. Once that is set up you can link it to your new business checking account. If you decide to pursue affiliate marketing many of the merchants will request you open a Stripe account as well (another payment service), but you can wait to see what is required as long as you have PayPal set up. Some merchants will want to have it automatically deposited as well. Many companies will ask you for a W-9 form to be completed before they pay you. Most of the companies have the form already online and when you are completing your account page with them it will be one of the documents needed. You can easily Google the form and complete one if they don't provide it, but I haven't ever had to provide it on my own; the merchant always provided one for me to complete.