Starting A Business Online

Discover everything you need to start an online or brick-and-mortar business, from initial setup and LLC formation to finding the best tools and platforms.

Starting a business, whether online or brick-and-mortar, can be an exciting yet challenging journey. This guide aims to provide you with a comprehensive overview of what you need to start a business, how to set up a Limited Liability Company (LLC), the best tools and platforms for managing your business, and some business ideas to help you choose the right path for you.

What Do You Need Before Starting an Online Business?

1. Business Plan

  • Purpose: A clear plan outlining your business goals, target audience, market analysis, and financial projections.
  • Tools: Use templates from platforms like LivePlan or Bplans to create your business plan.

2. Market Research

  • Purpose: Understand your competitors, market trends, and customer needs.
  • Tools: Utilize resources like SEMrush for competitor analysis and Google Trends for market insights.

3. Domain Name and Hosting

  • Purpose: Secure a unique domain name and reliable hosting for your website.
  • Tools: Services like Bluehost and GoDaddy offer domain registration and hosting packages.
  • Promo: Bluehost often has promotions for new users, such as discounted first-year rates and free domain names.

4. Website Creation Platform

  • Purpose: Build a professional and functional website to showcase your products or services.
  • Tools: Platforms like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace are popular for their ease of use and customization options.
  • Promo: Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, and Wix frequently provides discounts on premium plans.

5. Payment Processing

  • Purpose: Enable secure and efficient payment processing for your customers.
  • Tools: Solutions like PayPal, Stripe, and Square are widely used for online transactions.

6. Marketing and SEO Tools

  • Purpose: Drive traffic to your website and improve your search engine ranking.
  • Tools: Mailchimp for email marketing, Yoast SEO for SEO optimization, and Hootsuite for social media management.
  • Promo: Mailchimp offers a free plan for small businesses, and Hootsuite provides discounts for annual subscriptions.

What Do You Need to Start a Brick-and-Mortar Business?

1. Location and Lease Agreement

  • Purpose: Secure a physical location that meets your business needs and budget.
  • Tools: LoopNet and Zillow Commercial are useful for finding commercial real estate listings.

2. Permits and Licenses

  • Purpose: Obtain the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally.
  • Tools: Check local government websites or consult with LegalZoom for guidance on required permits.

3. Business Insurance

  • Purpose: Protect your business from potential risks and liabilities.
  • Tools: Providers like Hiscox and Progressive Commercial offer tailored insurance solutions for small businesses.

4. Interior Setup and Equipment

  • Purpose: Furnish and equip your space with the necessary tools and fixtures.
  • Tools: Uline for supplies, Staples for office equipment, and Home Depot for building materials.

5. Staffing

  • Purpose: Hire and train employees to support your operations.
  • Tools: Indeed and LinkedIn are excellent platforms for finding and recruiting talent.

6. Point-of-Sale (POS) System

  • Purpose: Manage sales, inventory, and customer transactions efficiently.
  • Tools: Solutions like Square POS and Clover are popular for their ease of use and comprehensive features.

How to Set Up an LLC

1. Choose Your State

  • Purpose: Decide where to form your LLC. Consider your home state or states with favorable business laws, like Delaware or Nevada.
  • Tools: Nolo provides a state-by-state guide for forming an LLC.

2. Name Your LLC

  • Purpose: Select a unique name that complies with state regulations and is available as a domain name.
  • Tools: Use a name checker tool like Namechk to ensure availability across various platforms.

3. File Articles of Organization

  • Purpose: Submit the required documents to your state’s business filing office.
  • Tools: LegalZoom and Incfile can assist with filing your LLC formation documents.

4. Create an Operating Agreement

  • Purpose: Outline the ownership and operating procedures of your LLC.
  • Tools: Templates from Rocket Lawyer can help you draft your operating agreement.

5. Obtain an EIN

  • Purpose: Get an Employer Identification Number from the IRS for tax purposes.
  • Tools: Apply for an EIN directly through the IRS website.

6. Register for State Taxes

  • Purpose: Comply with state tax requirements, including sales tax and employment tax registrations.
  • Tools: Your state’s department of revenue website will have specific instructions.

7. Open a Business Bank Account

  • Purpose: Separate your personal and business finances.
  • Tools: Banks like Chase and Bank of America offer tailored business accounts.

Benefits of Creating an LLC

  1. Limited Liability Protection: Protects personal assets from business debts and liabilities.
  2. Tax Flexibility: Options to be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.
  3. Less Formality: Fewer compliance requirements compared to corporations.
  4. Credibility: Enhances business credibility with customers and suppliers.
  5. Ownership Flexibility: No restrictions on the number of members or types of owners.

Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

1. QuickBooks

  • Features: Comprehensive financial management, invoicing, payroll, and tax preparation.
  • Cost: Starts at $25 per month.
  • Promo: Often offers discounts for the first three months of service.

2. Xero

  • Features: Cloud-based accounting, inventory management, and multi-currency support.
  • Cost: Starts at $13 per month.
  • Promo: Offers a 30-day free trial for new users.

3. FreshBooks

  • Features: Simplified invoicing, expense tracking, and time management tools.
  • Cost: Starts at $15 per month.
  • Promo: Free trial available, with occasional discounts for annual subscriptions.

4. Wave

  • Features: Free accounting and invoicing software with optional paid payroll and payment processing.
  • Cost: Free for accounting and invoicing; payroll starts at $20 per month.
  • Promo: Always free for basic accounting and invoicing features.

5. Zoho Books

  • Features: End-to-end accounting, project management, and automation capabilities.
  • Cost: Starts at $12 per month.
  • Promo: 14-day free trial and discounts for yearly subscriptions.

Popular Websites for Online Shop Creation

1. Shopify

  • Features: Comprehensive e-commerce platform with customizable templates, payment processing, and marketing tools.
  • Cost: Plans start at $39 per month.
  • Promo: 3-day free trial with a $1/month offer for the first three months.

2. BigCommerce

  • Features: Scalable e-commerce solution with robust SEO features and multi-channel selling.
  • Cost: Plans start at $39 per month.
  • Promo: Offers a 15-day free trial.

3. WooCommerce

  • Features: WordPress plugin that turns your website into a fully-functional online store.
  • Cost: Free, with optional paid extensions.
  • Promo: Various discounts available on hosting and extensions through partners.

4. Squarespace

  • Features: Elegant and intuitive website builder with e-commerce capabilities.
  • Cost: Plans start at $23 per month.
  • Promo: Free trial and occasional discounts for new users.

5. Wix

  • Features: User-friendly drag-and-drop website builder with e-commerce functionality.
  • Cost: E-commerce plans start at $27 per month.
  • Promo: Frequently offers discounts on annual plans.

Business Ideas & How to Pick the Right Business for You

Business Ideas:

  • E-commerce Store: Sell products online through platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce.
  • Consulting Services: Offer expertise in areas such as marketing, finance, or IT.
  • Freelance Work: Provide services like writing, graphic design, or web development.
  • Food Truck: Operate a mobile food business catering to various events and locations.
  • Fitness Studio: Open a small gym or fitness center offering specialized classes.

How to Pick the Right Business:

  1. Assess Your Skills and Interests: Choose a business that aligns with your passions and expertise.
  2. Evaluate Market Demand: Research if there is a need for your product or service.
  3. Consider Start-Up Costs: Determine how much capital you need and if you can secure funding.
  4. Analyze Competitors: Understand your competition and find ways to differentiate your business.
  5. Seek Advice: Consult with mentors or business advisors to validate your ideas and plan.