You’ve just started your own business. Or maybe you’re burned out from your uninspiring 9 to 5, or just looking to make some extra income. No matter what your reasons are, you’re taking charge and ready to become your own boss. After helping more than 3 million small businesses get online, we understand. We’re here to help you start and build your business – and create a website that connects with your customers.
Every New Business Has Difficult Questions. We Have Easy Answers.
Like you, Ben Britten had a passion for becoming his own boss and recently launched one of over 30 million small businesses in the United States. As he was putting together his venture, White Wagon Coffee Roasters, Ben faced many of the challenges you may be experiencing.
“At first, it was scary to sit down and figure out the cost of everything. Coming up with the business model for the company and sticking to it was key,” says Ben. “But with hard work, determination and fighting through the hard moments of starting the business, fulfilling my dream feels like a bonus.”
We work with new business owners like Ben every day. Based on these insights, we’ve developed a checklist of important items to help take you from startup to success.
1. Form a Limited Liability Company (LLC), a Corporation (C-Corp) or a Subchapter S Corporation (S-Corp)
When starting a new business, one of the first decisions you will make is choosing a legal entity. Three common types of companies are LLC, C-Corp and S-Corp. You’ll determine which is right for you based on your goals and needs.
What is an LLC?
An LLC protects you from personal liability and means your personal assets are not at risk should your LLC face lawsuits or bankruptcy. Your business’s profits and losses get passed through to your personal income without being affected by corporate taxes.
Consider forming an LLC if: you have a medium- or higher-risk business with owners who want to protect their personal assets and pay a lower tax rate than they would with a corporation. An LLC is generally preferred for partnerships due to its flexible nature.
Single owners of a business should avoid forming an LLC in some states, however, since the limited liability status may not always be recognized by a court. Talk to a business attorney licensed in your state for more information.
What is a C-Corp?
A C-Corp is separate from its owners’ personal assets, has shareholders, can be taxed and is accountable (as an organization) for any legal situations or claims. C-Corps are also subject to corporate income taxes.
Consider forming a C-Corp if: you plan to have shareholders and may try to sell the business for a profit in the future. Please note that forming a corporation requires certain corporate formalities, such as adopting bylaws and holding annual meetings.
What is an S-Corp?
An S-Corp is similar to a C-Corp because it has shareholders and greater corporate formality requirements (such as adopting bylaws and having annual meetings), but does not pay corporate income taxes and has many benefits similar to an LLC. Owners can take advantage of pass-through taxation, meaning profits and losses are reported on the owners’ personal tax returns.
Consider forming an S-Corp if: you will have shareholders but want the benefits of an LLC. In some states, to maintain limited liability protections, an S-Corp is preferable to an LLC for single-owner businesses.
2. Register Your Business and Business Name
In almost all cases, registering your business is part of the process of forming a C-Corp, LLC or S-Corp. While you are doing this, you’ll also need to choose and register your business name.
Your name should succinctly define your business and be distinct. Start with an online search to make sure your name is not already registered. You can look deeper on websites such as LegalZoom.com that feature searchable state and federal databases.
When you think your business name is available, submit a registration application to your state business division. This is typically an easy process that can be completed online.
3. Secure a Unique Domain Name for Your Business
You have your business name. Now it’s important to find a domain name that is unique to your brand. This will set the tone for your business’s online presence and will also influence your business email address.
The small business experts at Web.com can help you select and register a domain name for free. We also register the domain in your name so you always own the rights to this web address until you sell or relinquish it. You can learn more about domain names here.
If you’re not quite ready to build your site, you should still register your domain name for future use. Web.com can do this for you and create an “under construction” placeholder web page to prevent anyone else from buying your new domain name.
4. Obtain Permits and Licenses
You’ve registered your business and have a domain name. Depending on your business type, you’ll need permits and licenses to do business, including:
- Business license – This gives you the right to operate your business. You may need to get various business licenses from your state, county or town.
- Seller’s permit – Many states require this permit for LLCs, partnerships and corporations that sell taxable goods and services.
- Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Think of this as a social security number for your business. The IRS uses this number to identify your business and track your transactions.
There are other types of licenses and permits that may be specific to your business type and location. Contact your local and state governmental business departments for more information. The U.S. Small Business Administration also has details on obtaining federal and state licenses and permits.
5. Protect Your Business
As you build your business, it’s important to protect your investment. Here are some options to consider:
- Protect your intellectual property (IP) with one of the following:
- Patent – Protects ideas, such as a new product, process, method, plan, software or other invention.
- Trademark – Protects words, symbols and indications of origin. This may include your website domain name, your brand name, your product or service names and more.
- Copyright – Protects original works of authorship, including your website and other things such as books or articles, photos, music, videos and written brochures and materials.
- Understand employment laws, including:
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – Designed to ensure that all employees are paid fairly.
- Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) – Ensures that your employees have the right to work in the U.S.
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) – Requires you to withhold social security and Medicare taxes from your employees’ wages and you must also contribute a matching amount of these taxes per employee.
- Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) – Governs workplace safety and health.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Protects employees with temporary or permanent physical and mental disabilities.
- Know your rights when working with vendors:
- If a vendor fails to complete a job as promised, delivers unacceptable results or breaks any other terms and conditions of a mutual agreement, you have legal rights.
- The best way to protect yourself is to have a detailed contract so there is no room for misinterpretation. You can find examples of these types of contracts on websites such as LegalZoom.com. Be sure you understand the contract terms before you use it – do your research or talk to a business attorney.
- Get business insurance:
- Most small businesses should have general liability and property insurance (if you have a brick and mortar location) at the very least.
- If you have employees, most states require you to have worker’s compensation insurance, and commercial auto insurance is important if you have employees that operate vehicles for your business.
- To determine a complete plan designed for the specific needs of your business, contact a small business insurance specialist.
6. Design and Build Your Own Website
A website gives your new business credibility, attracts customers, provides key information about your business and is the anchor of your brand. With Web.com, it’s easy to make your own website with two convenient options:
- Website Builder – Using Web.com’s easy-to-follow drag and drop website builder, you’ll find it’s fast and easy to design your website and get online. You’ll have access to intuitive tools that guide you through every step of the process, including a variety of industry-specific web page design templates that are ready to be customized with your information and messaging – no design experience required.
- Website Design Services – If you need help building a website, Web.com has experts to help you stand out online. We’ll talk with you to understand your business, then find out what you like and don’t like in a website. Our writers and designers will take this information and weave it into an attractive and impactful website that you and your customers will love.
To help your customers find you when searching on the go, Web.com optimizes your website so it works well with smartphones and tablets. It’s another important way to connect with your target audience.
Whether you go the DIY or design services route, you will have the support of the Web.com team throughout the lifecycle of your website. Also, we specialize in small business website hosting and website security so you will have a reliable site that you and your customers trust.
7. Promote Your Brand
Now more than ever, people are searching online for businesses. In fact, 93 percent of all online experiences begin with a search engine. Over 57 percent of all business-to-business marketers claim that SEO generates more leads than any other marketing initiative. And 81 percent of all people conduct some form of online search before making a purchase.
Here are some marketing ideas for promoting your online brand.
Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) keywords to attract customers – When your prospective customers access Google, Yelp and Bing to search for a product or service, they are provided with a ranked listing of business website links. The rankings are determined in large part by SEO keywords that are found in website content. Web.com helps you create content that is rich in SEO keywords that are specific to your business and industry, so you attract more people to your website.
Frequently update your website content – When you update or “refresh” your website content with a new blog post and new SEO keywords, search engines take notice and you can move up in the search rankings. Small Business SEO Services is an outstanding resource when you want to raise your position and make it easier for your customers to find you.
Develop social media campaigns – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can be effectively utilized for your marketing messages and campaigns. Each platform has varying demographics, so choose the one or combination that best fits your target audience. Once you’ve established accounts for your business, social media can help you build website traffic and enhance engagement with your brand. It also allows you to grow your email marketing lists, gather feedback from your customers and inspire them to action.
Create an email strategy – Emails to your current and prospective customers can build a strong connection with your target audience and inspire them to take action – like making a purchase. Include a pop-up message on your homepage that promises news updates about your latest products and services, or a discount on a first purchase, in exchange for an email address. Sending customer emails is a low-cost, low-risk proposition that can yield great results. The key is that these emails link your new and existing customers back to your website – and back to your brand.
8. Measure Customer Activity With Online Analytics Tools
Web analytics tools measure your web and mobile traffic to see who is responding to your online messages so you can track and understand your target market’s behavioral – and buying – patterns. You can use this information to see what parts of your online marketing approach are working best, what segments need improvement and how you can best reach your customers.
To gain a better understanding of all of this detailed data, most online analytics tools will provide you with graphs and charts to document progress in all areas of your online marketing efforts. Check out Google Analytics, Spring Metrics and Woopra. These tools are easy to learn and can add value to online marketing plans.
We’re With You for Every Step of Your Business Journey
Use this checklist to help guide you on your business journey. If you have questions, contact us at Web.com or at 844-479-9727.
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