Operating your venture online when you first start out in business can be a savvy way to build up sales, clients and brand awareness for a lower financial investment than a bricks and mortar establishment.Read on for some things you’ll need to address if you’re considering creating a digital enterprise and why online could be a great format for you.
In many instances having an online business will mean that whether you intend to operate as a start-up, independent contractor or sole trader, you will probably operate from home, at least to begin with. This can present a variety of benefits and challenges that are unique to people who live where they work!
As with any business, you will need to acquire an ABN and once you earn a certain amount, GST obligations will apply. While you’re setting all this up, it is wise to register your business name through the Australian Business Register also. You’ll still also need a good record keeping system from the very beginning in order to track income (invoices and sales records etc.) expenses and deductibles. Any tax related documentation still needs to be retained for 5 years, but these can be kept electronically as well as on paper.
An online business model will typically mean that all your sales will be electronic and you may wish to utilize the convenience of secure payment systems such as Paypal. When operating solely online, the use of an e-business platform will become essential to your business’s growth. You may wish to begin by gaining sales through other sites such as Facebook or Etsy, but as you gain customers you’ll need to expand to keep up with demand and will require your own website even if it is only to funnel sales through other storefronts.
To make your business’s website you will need to register and pay for a domain name. A .com.au ending is fine if you only intend to make local sales, but if you’re thinking big, also try to register its .com counterpart and have a permanent redirect on the local address. To maintain your website and sufficiently provide for traffic, you will need to pay an annual fee for it to be hosted.From here you’ll need a design and a bunch of content that your potential customers can easily search and view. There are free templates available or outsource this task if it’s not your cup of tea!Setting up your website will also give you a chance to complete the tedious, but necessary, terms and conditions for sales, refunds, your brand’s vision (for e.g. the about us section).
Another great reason why you may consider opening your business in an online capacity first is so you can operate in a beta-phase. This is where you invite friends and family to your new online site to make purchases and provide feedback on the entire experience so you can tighten up any bugs before you take your business public. Again, getting a once over by a tech savvy person before you publicly launch will also assist to mitigate any back end IT issues down the track.
As you gain clients and a reputation online, you may wish to look into opening a physical storefront, whether it’s a retail space for sale or lease. If you think that your online business may head down this road, make plans for this in your initial business plan so you can periodically monitor your progress and know when it’s right for you to expand from the purely online space to incorporate a physical store to your growing empire.