Launching Your Web Based Business
Whether you are expanding your existing business or starting a new online business, it is important to get off on the right foot. From understanding local laws and regulations to online terms of service agreements, your LegalShield provider law firm can help. The following tips cover some of the basic steps you will need to take before establishing your online business. If you are forming a new business, Launch by LegalShield can help you form an LLC, Corporation or register a DBA.
- Local Laws and Regulations – Just because your business operates online does not mean it is free of state and local business regulations. You must still follow applicable employment, business registration and licensing regulations. If you are unsure of which laws apply to your business, contact your LegalShield provider law firm.
- Domain Name – Registering a domain name for your website is an important first step. Do not be discouraged if your first choice is not available. Some of the most successful online businesses have names that do not have a literal connection to their business. Think of Google and Amazon. The most important factor for your domain name is that it be simple and easy to remember. Domain names can be registered for a specific period of time. You cannot buy a domain name outright. Registration periods typically range from one to three years; the maximum term is ten years. Once you register your domain it is important to set up automatic renewal and alerts to an email box you regularly check. If you forget to renew your name after your term expires someone else can register the domain. In a best-case scenario, you would have to pay them to get it back; worst case, you lose the name.
- Hosting – You do not have to host your site with the same company you use to register your domain, but many domain registration companies do offer hosting. There are a wide range of options for website hosting. Some sites provide an easy to use interface for building and managing your website and even integrate a checkout and payment portal system. Shop around to find the best service to meet the needs of your business.
- Protect Customer Data – One of the most important considerations is the security of customer payment information. Often, for small businesses, the best solution is to use a vendor who will handle your transactions and forward payments to an account you designate. There are a wide range of options for online payment services.
- Payment Processing – Many businesses, both online and offline, utilize online payment portals to process customer payments. These services integrate with your website so customers can pay with credit and debit cards. Setting up an online payment portal is typically easier and less expensive than establishing a traditional merchant account. Many vendors charge a flat fee per transaction plus a percentage of each payment processed. Some vendors may charge an initial setup fee for establishing a new account. Some credit cards may have higher per transaction fees. Make sure you understand the complete range of fees before selecting a vendor.
- Sales Tax – If you make a sale in a state where your business has a physical presence, such as a store, office or warehouse, you may be responsible for collecting sales tax. Not every state requires sales tax and some states only collect taxes on certain items. It is important to make sure you follow the proper tax guidelines in any state where your business has a physical presence. Some online payment vendors automatically calculate and collect tax from purchases. If you need additional information, contact your state taxing authority or your LegalShield provider law firm.
- Terms of Service – You will likely deal with a wide range of vendors in setting up and managing your online business. It is important that you carefully review all service agreements and contracts before you sign or agree to them. These documents are typically long and difficult to read. Your LegalShield provider law firm can assist in your review.
- Advertising – Online advertising carries the same rules and regulations that govern storefront businesses. The most important rule to live by is that all of your advertising must be truthful and cannot mislead consumers. If you make a specific claim about a product or service, you must be able to verify the accuracy of your claim. Even if you hire an online marketing company to work on your behalf, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for reviewing your business’s advertising. The Federal Trade Commission has detailed information about online advertising on their website.
- Customer Relations – The Internet allows your products to travel further into the marketplace, but it also amplifies the voice of unhappy customers. Online businesses suffer greatly from poor online reviews, which may send potential customers running. Closely monitor your reputation. There are online tools such as Google Alerts and Social Mention that allow you to follow reviews and social media content regarding your business. Reading both positive and negative reviews will help you improve your business and refine your customer service.