August 21, 2017

Your 10 Point Checklist to Starting an Ecommerce Business


With more than 206 million predicted shoppers spending money online this year, there’s never been a better time to start an eCommerce business. If you’re thinking about starting an eCommerce business and selling products online, use this checklist to do it the right way.

1. Start With Your Business Name

The first thing to do (after you decide what you want to sell, of course) is choose a fabulous, memorable business name that no one else is using. You can conduct a corporate name search to make sure it’s not already in use. Once you’ve chosen the name, register it. (If you form an LLC or corporation, this will happen automatically in the state where you file your paperwork.)

2. Secure Your Domain Name and Website

Ideally, you’ll get your business name as your domain name, but if it’s not available, choose a URL that’s easy to say and spell, and relates to your business. So if your business is Karen’s Craft Creations and KarensCraftCreations.com isn’t available, try something similar like CraftsbyKaren.com.

The design of your eCommerce site may be the biggest business expense you have. But you want to ensure that it’s not only visually appealing, but also functional. There are out-of-the-box eCommerce solutions like Shopify to begin with, but you may require something more custom-made if your needs are more than basic.

3. Select The Best Business Structure and Register Your Business

You’ve got several options when it comes to your business structure:

  • Sole Proprietor
  • Partnership (if you have a business partner)
  • LLC
  • Corporation

If you don’t choose a business structure like a corporation or LLC, you’ll automatically be considered a sole proprietor (or partnership) by the IRS. However, operating as a sole proprietor, your personal assets are at risk. If your company is ever sued, the court can seize your personal assets if your business doesn’t have enough to cover its debts. Both the corporation and LLC separate you and your assets from the business, and provide other tax benefits.



You can register on your own by filling out the appropriate business structure paperwork from the IRS yourself, or you can hire a business filing company to do it for you. A lawyer is another option, but that’s often overkill for the average small business owner’s needs.

4. Get Your Employer Identification Number

You’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to open a business bank account and file your business taxes next April. Your EIN is a bit like your business’ social security number: it’s a unique number that identifies your business and helps you file important paperwork. Every business needs one, whether you’ll have employees or not.

5. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Operating an eCommerce business does not exclude you from needing certain business licenses and permits. Check with your city, county, and state to see what sorts of sales tax licenses or home business licenses you need, and get those approved before you start operating.

6. Find the Right Vendors

You’ll have a lot of competition selling products online, so it’s in your best interest to find the best quality and best prices for the products you sell or materials you use to create your products. Shop around until you find a vendor you want to do business with long-term.

7. Start Marketing Early

Even if you’re not up and running, it’s a good idea to set up social media profiles and writing content for your blog now so that you’re not starting from scratch Day 1. You can set up your website with a “coming soon” page where people who are interested can sign up to get updates, using a tool like LaunchRock.

8. Get More Productive with the Right Software

Technology can make so much of your work easier, so before you start your eCommerce business, play around with customer relationship management, accounting, project management, and email marketing software that you can integrate into what you’re doing once you launch.

9. Stock Your Inventory

Whether you’ve got a warehouse full of products somewhere or your inventory lives in your garage, make sure you’ve got enough to launch. It can be tricky, not knowing how much you’ll need, but in general, it’s better to have too much inventory than not enough. Pay attention to how your sales increase so you can be smart with future orders.

10. Make Sure Your Business Stays Compliant

Once you launch your eCommerce business, things are going to move at the speed of light. Don’t overlook filing your annual report, if you incorporated or filed an LLC, nor those annual fees for business permits. If you need to, put these deadlines on your calendar so you stay on top of them.

Can you check all 10 of these items off your list? Great! It’s time to launch. Having done all the preparation up front, your eCommerce business will skyrocket.

eCommerce Website Photo via Shutterstock

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Nellie Akalp


Nellie Akalp Nellie Akalp is CEO of CorpNet, her second incorporation filing service based on her strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting their business. Free guides, advice and videos on small business legal topics are available at her Small Biz Corner.

28 Reactions

  1. Aira Bongco

    When I was starting, I didn’t know that getting a name was that hard. I thought that it was just a brand. I did not think that it was that big of a deal until I learned about branding.

  2. Hi Nellie

    for me, you miss to mention the branding part, yes you can market your business ahead but how about the branding portion? you should focus first to your branding to stabilize everything in marketing your businesshttp://eayana.com/blog/

  3. shubham poswal

    hello mam, i am a student of computer science engineering 2 year and i wants to start a e commerce business and also due to lack of experience i need a guide so that i can do this so,please help me if possible .thank you

  4. Thanks for the tips! I tried clicking on the LaunchRock link but it doesn’t appear to be working?

  5. What type of licensure is needed for an e-commerce business and does it matter the type like if its food or not?

    • Nellie Akalp

      Hi Elle,
      Unfortunately it’s impossible to know what type of licenses will be required for your specific business until some extensive research is done. Requirements vary depending on many factors – city, county, whether or not it’s a home-based business, the purpose of the business, etc. My company CorpNet does offer this research. Please feel free to contact us for a free consultation at 888.449.2638.

  6. Oluchi Irobunda

    hi. I’m about to start an online business. but in the area of building a site, i found one of the themes in themeforest to be helpful for the structure I have in mind.

    but is that enough? do I still have to worry about server hosting and Ssl and other things? because the themes in themeforest are basically open cart. thank you

  7. Hi.
    In one of your replies you have mentioned about corpnet providing free research consultation.. Can some body contact me back in this regard

  8. which is the best CMS for ecommerce Magento or Woocommerce?

  9. So glad I came across this post! I’m in the beginning stages and needed a go-to checklist. This is perfect. I do want to point out that your link to Launchrock is missing the “m’ in .com Thanks for the great info

  10. One of the beauties of the eCommerce industry is that there doesn’t appear to be any essential limit to strong and steady growth. In fact, overall sales volume and other vital metrics in the field have dramatically increased each year for at least the past decade.Using hybrid Email marketing solutions we can create campaigns for E-commerce which will prove to be very significant.

  11. Thank you for this guide, it contains all the information for beginners. Thank you.

  12. The point about starting marketing early is very valid. At the same time, one should start focusing on tracking conversions while setting up an e-commerce business.
    In no time, you will lose track of where’s the money going and what part of it is coming back if you’re not fully equipped with conversion tracking.

  13. I have an idea to create an e-commerce website. Can you refer which CMS is best to fulfil the needs whether its woo commerce or Magneto?

  14. wow you did not talk about logistics and delivery which are the two major aspect of e-commerce

  15. Nellie as usual bringing great content. Is product liability insurance something you should determine before or after you select your vendors? If someone is hurt by a product they purchased through your store even if you aren’t the manager you can be held liable so when is the best time to get covered?

    • Nellie Akalp

      Hi Allan,
      Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words! I am unable to give legal, tax or financial advice so can’t speak to your specific situation. However, insurance is generally something that is taken care of in the beginning stages of the business being formed. We always recommend speaking with an attorney to determine if business insurance is something you should look into. I hope this information helps!

  16. Very good concept to make an eCommerce website. I think You miss the branding part that is most important to start an eCommerce business. and The most important thing is that which CMS is more suitable for your website. so please mentioned about CMS. thanks for sharing a good effort.

  17. Good insight from this article. Thank you so much. I sent request to connect with you on LinkedIn.

  18. Another key thing to remember about starting an ecommerce site is to choose the right software, and then design the website to look unique to your brand. My company, VenturaWebDesign.com, specializes in building ecommerce stores.

  19. Hey, Nellie.

    With helpful resources like this people are getting more confident in starting an e-commerce website of their own. It would better if you wrote a bit on how to promote an online business. Looking forward to seeing a curated post on it.

  20. Very informative post! Thanks for sharing such handy information. Cheers!

  21. This is great post. It is so much informative that anyone can understand the business plan. A successful business depends upon a proper business plan. A lots of business planner are available in the market but you should be choose the perfect and right one. TS Business Plan, OGS Capital, bplans are the best business planning companies.

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