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Starting A Business Online (3 Important Things You Must Do First)

Three women sitting at a long brown table with a computer and notebooks. They are having a discussion about how to start a business.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov

Starting a business online is exciting, and you're ready to take the leap.

Ideas are constantly spinning in your mind and feel like a hurricane waking you up in the middle of the night.

You've researched and validated the need for your product(s) or service(s). But you find yourself pressing the brake and coming to a complete stop.

What’s holding you back? Is it that you have no idea where to start?

You want to know the exact steps of starting a business, but the information you find is not what you need. How do you form a legitimate business?

In today’s fast-paced world, information about how to start a business (the right way) is often overlooked. Many “business” owners are not running a business that legal standards would recognize.

The following three steps will help get you started to form a legitimate business. A business entity that keeps you and your assets secure.

Let's get started.

It's time to take your foot off the brake and start a business.

1. Build Your Business Structure To Meet Your Business Needs

A women pictured from the neck down wearing faded blue jeans. She has a laptop on her lap and is typing on the computer and doing research. There is  someone sitting next to her taking notes in a notebook. They are working on how to build their business.

Photo by Zen Chung

What does "business structure" mean when starting a business?

Your business structure, or as I often refer to it, is your business foundation.

Think of it as if you are building a house. You can't build the walls until you have a solid foundation. It's the starting point of registering your business as a legitimate entity.

Start with these steps to build your business structure:

  • Research your business name availability: Perform a Google search for the name(s) you have selected for your business. Did you find any similar business names? Additionally, you should confirm that your business name is available with your local Secretary of State. If you find a business name similar to yours, you may want to consider a different name. You may run into trademark or branding issues down the road with a similar name.

  • Domain name search: Do a general Google search for your domain name(s). Domain names may not be in use and come up in your Google search, so you will also want to check domain providers like or to see if the domain name(s) are available to purchase.

  • Do a trademark search: Generally, you do not trademark your business at this stage, but you want to do a search confirming if your business name and product names are currently trademarked. This helps you in the future, so you do not have to worry about rebranding your business and products.

  • Research business application costs and the filing process in your state: It's essential that you become familiar with the application process. Each state has different registration and fee requirements. This information can generally be found through your local Secretary of State. You can also check SBA.Gov to get you to the right location for your state.

  • Research and understand the different business entity options: This is very important. How will you register your business entity; as an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, or S-Corporation? To learn more about each business entity option, visit SBA.Gov. You must become familiar and well-versed with each of the different options. Before registering, you will also want to consult with a business attorney and CPA to determine what makes the most sense for you and your business.

2. Register Your Business (The Right Way)

An EIN Employer Identification number application form. It is on a blue clip board with just the top of the application showing. It is placed on a desk with a computer keyboard. The image helps the reader recognize the form they need.

You've done your homework; now it's time to take action and create a legitimate business.

  • Apply for your business license through your local secretary of state: Complete the application and pay the application fee (if needed). Depending on your state, you may receive immediate approval after you submit your application, or you may have to wait for a response via email or mail.

  • Apply for a federal tax identification number: The federal tax id number is called an EIN (Employer Identification Number). This is like a social security number for your business. Currently, there is no charge for the EIN number.

  • Apply for a state tax identification number: A state tax identification number is needed for selling products that your state collects tax on or if you have employees. Each state has different tax laws, so consult with a local CPA, familiarize yourself with your state's tax laws, and meet the necessary requirements.

  • Purchase your domain name: Secure your domain name(s). These are relatively inexpensive, so if you have variations of your business name or other names you may use in the future, I recommend securing those domain names as well.

  • Research and open a business bank account*: You must keep your business and personal bank accounts separate for many reasons. Keeping your personal and business bank accounts separate help to protect your assets and to keep track of your business income and expenses in one place. When researching business bank accounts, look for banks that offer no balance minimums and don't charge fees for essential services, such as balance minimums or fund transfers. Ask other small business owners which bank they use for their business. This is a great way to learn how specific banks work with small business owners. *To open a business bank account, you must have an EIN number.

  • Apply for a business credit card: This is similar to having separate bank accounts. Keeping your business expenses separate from your personal credit card makes managing your business records easier.

  • Setup payment portal(s): Research the different payment processors, such as PayPal (for business), Stripe, Square, etc., and see which one(s) fits your business transaction needs. You will need your EIN number to open a business account.

  • Set up a platform to sell your services and products: How will your customers view and purchase your products/services? There are many different platforms to consider, such as DIY websites or course platforms.

3. Protecting Your Online Business - Legal and Insurance Must Haves To Keep You and Your Assets Safe

Three younger women sitting on a couch in an office setting. They are reviewing documents. This  images shows the importance of talking with a professional for their business insurance needs.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov

Many new and existing small business owners overlook or look the other way when it comes to having business insurance, client contracts, or even terms and policies for their websites because of the cost associated with them.

These are the most important things for your business, not the place to take shortcuts.

It's best to be proactive instead of reactive.

You need to treat your business like a business. Not like the lemonade stand you had outside your home as a kid. Investing in your business's safety is a small price compared to what you could lose if you do not set up proper policies for its protection.

  • Consult with a business attorney: Yes, there are differences in what attorneys specialize in. Your attorney must be versed in your type of business to help you get the proper documents in place. Your attorney will confirm what type of contracts you need, what information you need on your website, and the necessary forms or contracts for your business and any employees, vendors, independent contractors, etc.

  • Consult with an insurance broker: This is another must-have for your business. What type of business and liability insurance would be best suited for your business? Even if you feel your business is not making enough revenue to validate the cost, it is a necessary part of your business foundation. You would be surprised what a good business insurance policy can protect you and your business from.

  • File a Trademark: You may or may not be ready to file a trademark. However, working with a Trademark Attorney is essential before filing a trademark yourself. You may spend a lot of time and money and not file the proper paperwork. A Trademark Attorney will also advise you when would be the right time to file for your business needs.

Now It's Your Turn; Bring Your Ideas To Life and Build Your Dream Business

A women with dark long hair, smiling while working at her desk in her office with a computer. There is a large set of windows behind her desk. She is on a cell phone and has products from her business around her. She is taking and shipping orders for her business.

Now you have the inside scoop on starting a business online legitimately.

Are you ready to plan your grand opening?

Don't let these steps confuse or overwhelm you. You can do many of them on your own and complete them rather quickly.

Now it's your turn. You have the information to move forward.|

No time like the present.

Find your local Secretary of State's website and complete your business application today.

Congratulations on taking the first step to start your business. You are now three steps closer to making your dream a reality.


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