When starting your own business, you often don’t know what you don’t know. In March Vanessa Emilio answered seven common ‘starting up’ questions. Today she answers six more.
One of the most popular articles on the Flying Solo site this year was the one I wrote in March covering the seven most common questions I get from people starting a new online business. Today I’m going to cover a further six questions that will be helpful if you are starting your own business. Let’s go!
1. What should I do when my domain name does not match my business name or company name?
If your domain name has nothing to do with your business, this can be very confusing for your customers. If this is the scenario you’re facing, at least pick a name or a variation of a domain name that relates to the goods and services you are offering.
Other times your domain name may describe your business well but differs from your company name. For example, you may have myplumbing.com.au but you are running your business under Acme Services Pty Ltd. It is best practice to include a statement either in your ‘About’ page or in your footer stating something similar to: ‘myplumbing.com.au website is owned and operated by Acme Services Pty Ltd’ to notify your customers that you are running your business under a Pty Ltd company structure.
On a related note, we always suggest you consider operating your business under a Pty Ltd company. It is good protection for your personal assets in the event of any claims which otherwise may be at risk. In addition, make sure your website domain is registered in your company name and that the domain is listed in your company’s asset register.
2. Do I need insurance for my business?
The short answer to this is ‘Yes’. But what kind of insurance does your business need?
This can be very dependent on both your type of business and your risk appetite. Some professions and businesses are required to take out certain kinds of insurance (personal trainers, financial advisors, lawyers etc.) If you’re none of these then the type of insurance you take out depends on your type of business activities.
If you have, for example, a business where you provide ‘advice’ such as consulting or coaching on business strategies, health, fitness, or other similar types of ‘advice’ where your clients or customers could rely on your recommendations and suffer loss, injury or become ill, you may find yourself with a legal claim against you.
The types of insurance you may wish to consider include: professional indemnity, public liability or business continuity. There is even a new type of insurance called cyber insurance. This insurance protects your business in the event of hacking, viruses, system failures and similar IT threats.
Should you decide to obtain insurance, whatever type of insurance you choose, it is critical that you read the policy in detail and ask your broker to confirm in bullet points, with examples, whatever it takes for you to understand exactly what your policy covers you for.
Insurance policies are tricky to read (and long!) and often may not cover you for what you think they do … so be careful and certain before making the large insurance outlay.
3. How do I take online payments through my website?
The easiest type of online payment to accept is PayPal. Setting up a PayPal account is straightforward and once done, you can create ‘Buy’ buttons for each product you sell. PayPal also has the advantage that your customers can make payment via their PayPal account or credit card.
Taking payment by credit card directly is more complex. You will need to a ‘merchant account’ and access to a payment gateway, that processes the credit card transactions. In simple terms, the payment gateway is basically the transaction processor and the merchant account is the bank account.
These days, the easiest way to set up payments is through a payment gateway that will set up a merchant account for you. Some of the leading services for this are Stripe and Shopify. With Stripe, you can tailor the checkout process to match your business needs. With Shopify, they provide their own full backend service to help you manage your e-commerce website.
4. What assets should be in my company name?
You should keep all your assets in your company name or transfer them from your personal name to your company once you set up your company. This includes your domain name and registration, trademark registration, all logo ownership and other IP rights, any hosting services, merchant facilities, and all things relating to your online business.
This is important for a number of reasons. If you ever want to attract investors or sell your business, you need to be able to show that these assets are part of the business. In addition, from a legal perspective, having a company that contains your business assets will protect your personal assets in the event of any legal claim. It is not a good idea to mix business and personal assets or ownership and is good business practice to have a clean trail for all business asset ownership.
5. How do I know if I require a licence or certification to conduct my business?
There is a good government website for those starting out where you can find out about some of the regulatory requirements and which organisations you can to go to for assistance. While this site provides a good start to understanding licensing considerations, however, it is not a complete guide to your individual business activities so do not treat it as gospel. You need to do full enquiries on your certification and other requirements prior to starting your business.
6. Am I protected if I use E-signatures?
E-signatures are becoming more widely used and recognised as a form of signing agreement to terms and contracts in Australia. To be able to rely on e-signatures, you need to be able to show you can identify the signer and that they agreed to the document they were signing. In the event of any dispute, you may also need to be able to show that the means by which the signature was attached was secure and appropriate. The easiest way to do this is using an e-signature service such as Adobe eSign.
There are also is a stronger protection method you can use which are called digital signatures. A digital signature involves a coded message unique to the person signing which is a stronger method of ensuring authenticity of the signer. For this reason, a digital signature is stronger and more universally accepted as the intention of a person to sign and agree to your terms. One of the services that offers this is Docusign.
What else should you know about when starting out?
The list can seem endless but if you divide up the tasks into bite size chunks and tackle them one by one, they do get done. The rest may be learning ‘on the fly’. But if you have any other questions you want answered about starting your own business – ask us below!