You might think starting an online business, be it on a major selling site or totally on your own, is a simple, cut-and-dry process. Buy a domain, post a few pictures of your products and voila! you're good to go. Not so fast, though. Despite the ease with which you can get a website going and the enthusiasm you'll have for your new small business, there are actually quite a few important legal considerations you need to address, first.
1. Your License And/Or Permit
For many items that you could sell online, no special permit or license is required; however, be sure of this before you begin. Certain specialty products may require you to hold a permit, if the category they fall into is at all regulated, such as supplements or healthcare devices. Give your county licensing department a quick ring, to make sure you're in compliance with the local laws governing your product(s).
2. The Taxes That Apply To You And Your Customers
Taxes online can be very tricky, unless you're the world's largest retailer. Until you can claim such a powerful status, you're going to need to find out how you tax, who you tax, what you tax and at what rate. It's good to know this way ahead of time, so you can clearly explain the taxes that apply to your customers. Keep meticulous records of everything as you go along, to make filing your taxes later as easy and accurate as possible.
3. What You Need To Copyright Or Trademark
Even if you don't think you need to trademark your shop or copyright your business name, it may be in your best interest to do so. Talking with a small business lawyer, you'll find all of this out, along with making sure you're not violating anyone else's trademarked or copyrighted material yourself. A search will likely be involved, following which you can proceed without the worry of infringing on others and with the comfort of knowing your brand is protected.
4. Shipping Laws
For the most part, shipping is a matter of logistics, but in some cases, you may not be able to ship your items without some restrictions. For example, perfumes and nail polishes, due to their volatile nature, may require special labels or additional fees. If you're not sure about your products, check with the Federal Trade Commission, who has all kinds of rules you should look into or ask your attorney to explain special shipping rules and regulations. From the warranty you might offer on a product to how you handle the sensitive data of your customers, there's much to learn.
5. Zoning Laws
Even though you're operating out of your home, you may be storing inventory, which special regulations could apply to that you'll need to be aware of. In addition, being able to run a business from your home is considered a special circumstance and may or may not be allowed, depending on your town or city's specific zoning laws. If you start a business now, then discover later you weren't supposed to (from your home), you could lose everything, so understand how the zoning laws apply to you and your new small business.
6. The Insurance That Protects Your Business
If you thought your auto insurance was complicated, just wait until you delve into your business insurance. For this matter, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney, just to make sure you and your business are fully protected. From defective products to the strange ways people could hurt themselves with the most benign products, cover every base you can.
As tedious and time-consuming as it is to dot all your I's and cross all your T's, it's necessary when launching a small business, even one online. Eventually, you'll be forced to contend with all these issues, and you'd much rather do it on your own terms, with the advice of a small business attorney, than to have the IRS questioning you later on or to have some other complications crop up. Know all that you need to take care of, then get it done quickly and efficiently because you have a new business to launch!