Your 10 Point Checklist to Starting an Ecommerce Business

Starting an Ecommerce Business

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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.)

The choice of a business name is a critical step in forming your brand identity. It’s more than just a label; it reflects your business’s values, target audience, and niche. A memorable and impactful name can significantly influence customer perception.

When brainstorming, consider names that are easily pronounceable, memorable, and give an insight into what your business is about. Tools like business name generators can spark ideas, and checking for domain availability simultaneously is a practical step.

2. Secure Your Domain Name and Website

Your domain name is your digital address and plays a key role in search engine optimization (SEO). It should be concise, easy to spell, and reflective of your brand. When choosing a hosting service, look for reliability, customer support, and scalability options.

Given the growing number of mobile users, ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly is also crucial. Additionally, consider the user experience in website design, making navigation intuitive and the checkout process straightforward.

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 isn’t available, try something similar like

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

Choosing the right business structure (Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, LLC, or Corporation) has significant implications for liability, taxes, and operational flexibility.

Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships offer simplicity but less personal liability protection, while LLCs and Corporations provide more protection but come with additional regulations and potential tax benefits.

Consult with a legal or financial advisor to understand which structure aligns best with your business goals.

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.

checklist starting an ecommerce business

4. Get Your Employer Identification Number

An EIN is essential for various business activities, including opening a bank account and hiring employees. The process of obtaining an EIN is straightforward and can be done online through the IRS website.

This unique number is crucial for separating your personal and business finances and is a requirement even for businesses without employees.

5. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits

Depending on your product range and location, various licenses and permits may be required. This could include a general business license, sales tax license, or home occupation permit. Research local and state regulations thoroughly to ensure compliance.

Failing to obtain the necessary licenses can result in fines and legal issues.

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

Your choice of vendors can impact product quality, pricing, and supply chain reliability. Develop criteria for selecting vendors, such as quality standards, pricing, and delivery schedules.

Building a good relationship with your suppliers can lead to better terms and reliability, which is crucial for your business’s reputation and customer satisfaction.

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.

checklist starting an ecommerce business

7. Start Marketing Early

Developing a marketing strategy before launch helps build anticipation and a customer base. Utilize social media platforms to create buzz and engage with potential customers.

Creating a blog can establish authority in your niche. A “coming soon” page on your website is an excellent way to start building your email list, enabling you to hit the ground running on launch day.

You can even 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

Investing in the right software from the start can save time and streamline operations. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software helps manage customer interactions, while accounting software aids in tracking finances and taxes.

Project management tools keep your team organized, and email marketing software is crucial for engaging with customers and driving sales.

9. Stock Your Inventory

Effective inventory management is key to avoiding stockouts or overstocking. Start by estimating demand and keep an eye on sales trends to adjust your inventory accordingly. Consider using inventory management software to track stock levels, sales patterns, and reorder times.

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.

checklist starting an ecommerce business

10. Make Sure Your Business Stays Compliant

Staying compliant with legal requirements is crucial. This includes filing annual reports, renewing permits, and staying abreast of changes in laws that affect your business. Setting reminders for these deadlines can prevent costly oversights. Regularly consulting with a legal advisor can help you navigate these requirements efficiently.

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.

1. Start With Your Business NameChoose a unique and memorable business name that's not already in use. Conduct a corporate name search to ensure availability. Register the name accordingly.
2. Secure Your Domain Name and WebsiteIdeally, get your business name as the domain name. Choose an easy-to-remember URL related to your business if the desired domain is unavailable.
3. Select The Best Business Structure and Register Your BusinessDecide on a suitable business structure (Sole Proprietor, Partnership, LLC, or Corporation) and complete the necessary registration process.
4. Get Your Employer Identification Number (EIN)Obtain an EIN for your business, which is crucial for opening a business bank account and fulfilling tax obligations.
5. Apply for Business Licenses and PermitsCheck and secure any required sales tax licenses or home business permits from city, county, and state authorities before starting operations.
6. Find the Right VendorsResearch and identify vendors offering quality products at competitive prices to ensure a steady supply for your eCommerce store.
7. Start Marketing EarlyCreate social media profiles and blog content in advance to build anticipation. Set up a "coming soon" page on your website to capture visitor interest.
8. Get More Productive with the Right SoftwareUtilize customer relationship management, accounting, project management, and email marketing software to enhance business efficiency.
9. Stock Your InventoryEnsure sufficient inventory to meet initial demand. Monitor sales to make informed decisions on future inventory orders and prevent stockouts.
10. Make Sure Your Business Stays CompliantAfter launching, adhere to annual reporting and business permit requirements to stay compliant with legal regulations and deadlines.

Completing this comprehensive checklist will lay a strong foundation for your eCommerce business, setting you up for success in the competitive online marketplace.

Frequently Asked Questions

checklist starting an ecommerce business

What should be the first step when starting an eCommerce business?

Choose a unique and memorable business name that aligns with your products. Register the name to protect your brand identity.

How can I secure a domain name and website for my business?

Ideally, get your business name as the domain name. If unavailable, choose a related and easy-to-remember URL. Design a visually appealing and functional eCommerce website using platforms like Shopify.

What are the business structure options, and how can I register my business?

Business structure options include sole proprietorship, partnership, LLC, and corporation. Register your chosen structure by filing appropriate paperwork with the IRS, or hire a business filing company to assist you.

Do I need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for my eCommerce business?

Yes, obtaining an EIN is essential for opening a business bank account and filing taxes. It acts as a unique identifier for your business.

Are there any licenses and permits required for an eCommerce business?

Yes, you may need sales tax licenses or home business licenses. Check with your city, county, and state authorities to ensure compliance.

How can I find the right vendors for my products?

Research and compare vendors to find the best quality and pricing for your products or materials.

When should I start marketing my eCommerce business?

Start marketing early by setting up social media profiles and writing blog content. Create a “coming soon” page on your website for interested visitors to sign up for updates.

What software can I use to improve productivity for my eCommerce business?

Utilize customer relationship management, accounting, project management, and email marketing software to streamline your operations.

How can I ensure I have enough inventory for the launch?

Stock your inventory adequately, aiming to have more rather than less. Monitor sales patterns to make informed decisions for future orders.

How can I stay compliant with legal requirements for my eCommerce business?

Stay organized by filing annual reports for your business structure and paying the required fees for permits. Set reminders to meet deadlines and stay on track.

Completing this checklist will ensure you’re well-prepared to launch your eCommerce business and thrive in the ever-growing online marketplace.

eCommerce Website Photo via Shutterstock

CorpNet offers business formations, filings, state tax registrations, and corporate compliance services in all 50 states. Express and 24 hour rush filing services available upon request. Click here to learn more.


Nellie Akalp Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, recognized business expert and mother of four. She is the CEO of CorpNet, the smartest way to start a business, register for payroll taxes, and maintain business compliance across the United States.

61 Reactions
  1. 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.

    • hi aira, is selling only about branding. i mean is it easy to sell when you have a brand name

    • Hey I’m gilly I am a designer and just so you know a logo and a brand is not the same thing. A brand is the emotional and experiential qualities that fuel perception and ideas that others share and experience about a company. A logo is a visual mark showcasing the character and essence of the brand.

  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 business

  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?

    • 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?

    • 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. Reseau Solutions SL Inc

    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,, 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. Kristina Mendoza

    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.

  22. Hello Mrs Nellie Akalp and everyone else. I came across your website and this bottom comments section which I read through and was really glad to read up on the points about registering your business name. From personal experience due to me being a web developer and also an advisor on web related business ventures I would like to state that it is a very important factor to not only register your business with your county and also making sure you do your dba as well. As for those who ask which cms is best to use, I would suggest to start with wordpress woocommerce if you are starting out, as you may be already well informed shopify is also a known cms which helps a lot but that will be based on how much you want to spend in the beginning stages of your online business. So its advisable to start with wordpress woocommerce and build up. If you need more info feel free to drop me any questions here or via my email, im in los angeles north side of it.

  23. My ambition is to stRt a e commerce company.can you help me

  24. Am thinking of starting an ecommerce site but don’t know the platform to use.
    Can you recommend?

  25. how do I start an online store… what is first on my checklist?

  26. Brilliant advice! I think it’s important to concentrate on the brand too and really think about how you portray yourself – sell the lifestyle and make it something people really want! I’m starting to branch out into niche websites and am excited about selling products I’m passionate about!

  27. how will i be able to get a business license?

  28. Cool post, thanks for publishing!

    Launching an ecommerce store from scratch depends on many factors. But you can be sure to go from zero to live in a way that suits your business best if you choose well

    For example, if you are an enterprise brand that’s replatforming and getting into a new website. That means you likely have significant historical systems and high customization needs.

    In which case, Shopify may not be the best fit. You will want to build the site on your own using platforms like Magento or DemandWare. Both are worth a look for such a project, but only if your company has a strong dev team and enough capital to build and maintain a site on such a robust platform.

    We mapped out on our blog today, if you want to read more:

    Hope that’s useful for ya. Thanks!

  29. Ok, so this may sound a bit juvenile due to the fact that I am at the beginning stages of researching e-commerce, but when your online store is up and running who handles customer service? Do you outsource to call centers?

    • Hi TJ –

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Every business owner makes this decision based on their own bandwidth. Some handle calls and customer service themselves, some hire an employee or others outsource. You have many options. Best of luck!

  30. Hi All

    I am looking for a company that can build me an ecommerce site with website, shop, calendar, track the analytics, facebook and other social media platforms, etc etc. Any suggestions

  31. Hello,
    One of the beauties of the eCommerce industry is that there doesn’t appear to be an 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.

  32. Hi Nellie, thanks for the article! Upon launching a new company should you state that your new (i.e. “lots of new products coming soon! Click here to join our mailing list!”)? OR- is stating that you’re new a big no-no?! 🙂 Thanks for any reply! And anyone else reading this, I’d love your opinion too…

  33. Awesome! Its really awesome article, I have got much clear idea about from this piece of writing.

  34. After going through this article I checked your checklist I feel some points are missing in this article so i think I can make my own checklist which might help you and you should implement in your business too. If you want to read my article click on profile and enjoy your reading.

  35. hanks for publishing!

    Launching an ecommerce store from scratch depends on many factors. But you can be sure to go from zero to live in a way that suits your business best if you choose well.

  36. Awesome, I stumbled on this article while doing search for e-commerce strategies for 2021 and I must confess that this guide is worth saving for future references.

    I love this!

  37. Very good checklist for starting ecommerce business. it’s very good works for my ecommerce business in future trends.

  38. this is what i exactly need

  39. Thanks dude for sharing this

  40. I found this very helpful for those who want to Start an Ecommerce Business. Thank you so much Nellie Akalp for your informative article.

  41. Hi Nellie Akalp
    I also started an e-commerce business, very helpful article

  42. It’s pretty difficult to get seen on Etsy at this point tho 🙁

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