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How to start an online business

Updated

Got a great idea for an online business? This simple guide will give you a shortcut to success. With today's tools, you can get started quickly and easily without needing to know how to code, so you won't have any problems with tech slowing you down.

It doesn’t matter if this is the first business you’ve ever started or the 20th, it’s always an exciting experience. We’re all wired to see if our money-making ideas will work, and getting a new business off the ground is probably the toughest, yet most rewarding, journey you’ll ever take.

If you haven’t already, take some time to speak to a successful business owner about how they got started. Most will tell you they wish they knew then what they know now. It’s not because they regret starting a business, but because they’re most likely a little embarrassed about the dumb mistakes they made along the way.

You, however, are smart enough to not make the same mistakes. And it’s possible to dodge a lot of the traps and potholes along the way if you know what to look for. Keeping that in mind, there are some steps to getting a new online business running that everyone must take. And some steps, specifically claiming a domain name, definitely need to be done before the others.

Here’s why: After you start filing legal documents with your state and local government agencies to organize your business, it gets expensive to make changes. Domain names are cheap, so it’s best to start with them.


Register a domain

Of all the steps to starting a business, this is among the most important. Not just because you want potential customers to find you online, but this is usually how you will select the name for your business. Since most domain names reflect the name of the organization that owns it, you’ll need to take some time to pick the right one. What do you want the name of your business to communicate to your audience? Something funny? Bold? Flowery? This is the time to decide.


Organize your company

Once you have your business name and domain name in order, the next item on the list is to have your business recognized at the local, state and federal levels. It’s best to start at the state level because that’s where your business will be registered.

You can organize in your own state, but businesses that want to attract investors usually select Delaware. Why? Its court system specializes in corporate issues. It also uses judges instead of juries for corporate matters, so cases are decided by judges with extensive experience in corporate law. This is why more than half of publicly-traded companies are registered there.

Stripe Atlas is among the quickest ways to organize in Delaware, even if you’re a nonresident alien and need to set up a US bank account. For a one-time fee, you can organize a C Corporation in Delaware.

Depending on local laws, you may also need to register or file some paperwork with the county or city where your business is based. A good place to find out exactly what is needed is to check with the Secretary of State’s office in the state where your business will be physically located.

Learn More About Atlas

Set up an online store

Shopify is among the most popular services you can use to create an online store. Aside from being user friendly and easy to learn, it integrates with an extensive list of other services you might want to use. Shopify is the place where you’ll upload images of all your products, write their descriptions, set your prices, and manage your inventory. There’s no coding required to get a basic store started, and there is a large community of developers available if you want to customize your store but don’t know how to code.

Create A Shopify Account

Build a beautiful website

Some people may stop with a Shopify account since it can be used to create a basic website, but to get a more sophisticated design, SquareSpace is a good service to consider. Shopify stores easily connect to SquareSpace websites, so your customers will have a seamless experience moving from one to the next. In fact, they probably won’t even know where one starts and the other ends! Many of the SquareSpace website templates are free to use, and like Shopify, it has a large community of developers making add-ons you can purchase for a unique design or to incorporate extra features.

Browse Website Templates

Get your books in order

No business would be complete without a way to track its income and expenses. Intuit QuickBooks is one of the easiest platforms to use for business accounting. You don’t need to be a CPA to understand how it works, and it has a long list of services it can be integrated with. The first you’ll want to add is Shopify. All your orders, inventory, shipping and customer information will be imported automatically, so filing your taxes will be super simple. And speaking of taxes, Quickbooks is owned by the same company that makes TurboTax, so that’s one more integration you’ll want to make.

Make a QuickBooks Account

Watch the money roll in

If only it were that easy. The last step is to find the best ways to promote your business and its products or services. The main thing to remember here is that marketing efforts are an expense, so try small experiments to see what works and what doesn’t before committing a lot of money to one place. But for the marketing experiments that result in profits, test a few ways to make them even better, then scale up your budget on the winners. Then, you really can watch the money roll in.