Starting & Running an Online Business (UK Edition)
Think you’d like to take the leap into the booming world of ecommerce, but you don’t know where to begin? Here you’ll find all you need to get your business up and running, quickly and economically. Print out and pin up these handy checklists and fill in the reminders with your own details so you always have everything you need for your online business, exactly when you need it.
Keeping Important Online Business Contact Information Close at Hand
Nobody runs a business alone. You need to know where to go for help if problems arise. Take a moment to jot down the following names and phone numbers/e-mail addresses so that you have them when you need them:
Your ISP’s technical support number (where to call if you can’t connect or access your e-mail) and your Internet access account’s username and password:
Your web hosting service’s number (the company that posts your website on its server — may be the same as your ISP), plus your web hosting service’s username and password, your Domain Name Service server names and IP addresses:
Your website designer’s contact details (a friend or a firm that you hired to help you build your website):
Your technical support contact (a neighbour, a free computer support company, or a paid service):
Your employees’ or business partners’ contact details:
Your credit card network or payment service provider’s number (where to call when you want to process online payments):
Your accountant’s number:
Website Checklist for Your Online Business
You can put almost anything you want on your website, but here are some essential things that you need to be sure you include to make the most of your online business:
Your contact information
Your company name and logo, if you have one, your company’s registration number and VAT number (if applicable)
Your business mission statement
Titles that match each web page's contents
<META> description tags and strategically placed keywords that help search services index your site
Links to main areas of your business website
Endorsements from satisfied customers/clients
Clear photos of your merchandise for sale
Online order form
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page
Customer service information
Payment options (credit card, cheque, online payment)
Posting/shipping options (special delivery, courier, first class, air-mail)
As required by the Equality Act 2010, your site must be accessible by blind and disabled users.
Referral List for Your Online Business Clients
Smart businesspeople build goodwill and develop loyalty by referring customers to other sources when they can’t provide what is needed. Keep a list of the names, e-mail addresses, URLs, or phone numbers of companies or individuals that you can personally recommend:
Legal and Business Requirements for Your Online Entity
Here are some important action points to get cracking with as soon as possible in terms of both the functionality and the legality of your online business.
Decide what type of business you’re going to be: Are you going to be a sole trader, a partnership, or are you going to become a statutory business entity?
Register with HMRC: You’re required to register your business with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, and you’ll probably have to register for VAT as well.
Choose an accounting method: You can either use cash-basis or accrual-basis accounting.
Choose an accounting period: The calendar year is simple, but you can also choose a fiscal year.
Record your revenue: Write down the amount you receive, the form of payment, the date, the name of the client, and the goods or services you provided in exchange for the payment.
Keep track of expenses: Write down the date the expense occurred, the name of the person or company that received payment, and the type of expense incurred.
Be aware of Health and Safety restrictions: As soon as you set up and register your online business, you must create a safe and risk free environment for your employees (even if the only employee is you!).
Research your trade name: Do a search on the Internet followed by a search of Companies House.