I've had a lot of email from people who know they want to start an Internet business, but don't know how to put the nuts & bolts together on the business end.
That’s not surprising. It can be confusing, and there are certain steps to be taken in a certain order. Without help, you can end up running in virtual circles for weeks.
Now, please keep this in mind, folks; I’m not an attorney, and I’d rather not have to hire one after writing this article. Let me just say that this is how it works where I live. Your local government may do things a bit differently, and of course I can’t speak to this issue for those outside the US. (Sorry!) If you need to, consult an attorney or accountant. You should, though, be able to do this pretty easily on your own if you choose.
So, here’s how we do it in Florida, USA.
First, swim to the poolside bar and grab yourself a nice cold drink. Then…oops, sorry, that’s AFTER work!
Seriously, now, there are five things you would need in Florida to get started the RIGHT way. It works pretty similarly around the rest of the US.
1. File your Business Entity
You need a “business entity.” That just means you need an official business name that’s recognized by the government. You can do this one of two ways.
A. Corporation: You can file a corporation with your State. Florida has a web site at www.sunbiz.org, where we can file a Florida Corporation Online. I believe that most States in the US have a service like this by now. They also have instructional forms that detail what goes where, and what everything means on the forms. Once we complete our forms, we submit them online with about a $90 payment, and poof…we’re a corporation! We get our official copies back in a few days.
B. Fictitious Name: This is a simpler way to register your business, but it does not afford you the protections that a corporation does. Same thing…in Florida, sunbiz.org has the forms, and we fill them out and submit them online. This doesn’t cost as much as a corporation. In some States, this is called a DBA (Doing Business As…), and is obtained from your local County Office building for a minimal fee. ($35 would be an average). If you’re not sure which way you want to go, see an attorney or accountant. This is an important decision!
2. Obtain a Business License
Here in Florida, we are required to have a County Occupational License issued by the county our business resides in. This takes a couple of hours at the local County Office Building, and costs about $30. We must show our Business Entity papers. In some other States, a County Occupational or Business License may not be required.
3. Obtain a Resale Certificate
In almost every State you are required to have a Sales Tax Certificate (Tax ID Number). In Florida, we can get a Sales Tax Certificate in about 20 minutes for $5. We must again show our Business Entity papers. This is done at the local State Tax Office. When you buy from a Wholesale Supplier, you will be asked to supply them with a copy of this certificate. They use it as proof to the IRS that they are not required to charge you tax on the products they sell you at wholesale.
4. Open a Business Bank Account
If you’re going to do business, you must have a business bank account. You’ll need your Business Entity papers, your Tax ID and your County Business License, (if required). Here, we can open a business account for a deposit of $50 to $100. Almost all banks offer business accounts.
5. Open a Merchant Account
The last thing you need is a Merchant Account. You’ll need everything you obtained in the five steps above for this one. (Unless the County Business License is not required in your State).
This is the thing that allows you to accept credit cards from your online customers. Without this, you'll get nowhere. Online buyers are instant gratification junkies. They want it NOW! If they have to mail you a check, they'll go somewhere else and buy. The Merchant Account will collect funds from your customers’ credit cards, and deposit those funds in your business account. The Merchant Bank will charge you a set percentage of the sale, plus cents per transaction.
Your Merchant Banker will help you to incorporate your Merchant Account into your Internet store software.
Well, there it is. That’s the business end of an Internet business. Sound complicated? It isn’t, really. The hard part is waiting for one thing before you can obtain the next!
For more details on this process, please read my FREE EBook, "Starting Your Internet Business RIGHT!"
As I said above, these are just guidelines. If you have questions, please consult a professional.