How to Start an Online Business
Online businesses offer excellent opportunities for people who want to work out of their homes. Getting started takes some planning, but it’s not overly complicated. Here are some of the basic legal steps for starting your own online business.
Register a Domain Name and Establish Your Website
Registering a website domain name should be one of your first steps. The domain name works best when it’s connected to your registered business name, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you have registered your domain name, you can then set up your website.
Follow Online Business Regulations
You need to make sure that you comply with some of the special laws that apply to online businesses. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) controls most of these laws. You will want to go over the standards laid out in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, the United States Small Business Administration Self Employment Guide, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act of 1999, and Prompt Delivery Rules. These outline your duties as regards privacy and information usage.
Register in Your County or District
Even though an online business does not have to have a physical address, you still need to register it in your county or district. You must comply with all state and local rules and regulations, and you must also pay all of the necessary taxes. The easiest way to register is to go to the clerk’s office in your county courthouse. Many states are in the process of offering registration online, but for the state and county level, it’s often fastest to register in person. Remember that you must register separately with your state revenue agency if your courthouse does not offer that automatically. All online businesses must collect both state and local taxes from customers, and they will be responsible for those amounts at the end of the year. If you are unsure whether you have registered successfully, talk to the clerk’s office. They have access to all of that information, and they can connect you to the right party if you need assistance.
Explicitly State the Controlling Law
When starting an online business, you have to think about your liabilities. You don’t want to open yourself up to lawsuits from around the world or violate any international trade laws. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to explicitly state the controlling law for all disputes—and you don’t have to list it on every single page. Simply create a webpage with Online Terms and Conditions. It is enough to include it on one page that’s clearly labeled as legal information.