With reduced start up costs and the opportunity to reach millions of customers, setting up an online business is becoming an increasingly popular choice for budding entrepreneurs.
In this guide, we’re going to be explaining all you need to know about setting up an online business from home, including different online business models, registration, building a website and regulations.
Deciding on Your Business Model
Before setting up your business, you need to decide what type of model is best for you. Some of the most popular online business models include:
This is the most popular form of online business. Instead of renting a brick and mortar store, you can sell your products or service directly to customers through a website and deliver either physical goods via post or digital products via download or email.
Payments can be made via credit/debit cards or through payment systems such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Klarna.
Online stores give you the potential to get in direct contact with millions of customers and they don’t have as many overheads as a traditional shop.
If you don’t have a product or service to sell directly, you can use advertising to make money. Much like traditional media, like magazines and newspapers, advertisers will pay to have their advertisements on your websites.
However, it’s worth noting that in order to make a decent amount of money from advertising, you’ll need a somewhat established site with a significant amount of visitors. To do this, you can create popular blogs, advice or news articles in order to generate traffic.
A subscription business model works by offering a recurring product or service which users are charged for on a regular basis, such as weekly, monthly or annually.
For example, you could send out a monthly subscription beauty box, where customers receive a range of beauty products each month. You could also provide a subscription based app, where customers must pay either monthly or annually to use it.
Popular online subscription services include Netflix, Glossybox and Hellofresh.
Brokerage or Affiliate Sites
Broker or affiliate sites work as a virtual middleman, earning revenue from getting buyers to purchase products or services from another company.
Famous broker sites include eBay and Amazon, but you can operate on a much smaller scale by creating websites with articles that link to other sites through an affiliate link.
For example, you could write blogs listing the Best Eye Creams for 2022 and link to a range of different products. When customers click on these links and purchase products, you would get a cut.
Register Your Business and Domain Name
Once you have decided upon your business model, it is time to register your domain name. Ideally, your domain should be as close to your business name as possible. You can search for and register your domain name at web hosting companies, such as GoDaddy, Names.co.uk, Nominet and 123 Reg.
If the name has already been taken, these websites will often suggest available variants, however you can keep searching until you find an alternative that you like.
Please note, any offensive or sensitive names aren’t allowed. This is to ensure a name doesn’t mislead or harm the public. Inappropriate words including anything that:
- Suggests business pre-eminence, a status, specific function or names that include ‘British’, ‘Institute’ or ‘Tribunal’.
- Pimples a connection with the UK government, a developed administration or local/specific public authority.
- Includes a word that represents a regulated activity.
- Includes a word whose use could be offensive.
Prior to registering, you should also check to see if the name has been registered on Companies House as this may prevent you from using the name.
Hosting Your Business Online
Web hosting companies store your business’ website on its servers, making it available for others to see on the web.
There are free hosting services available, however, if you’re looking to develop a well established business, it’s always best to pay for the web hosting service which offers the best features suited to your business now and as it grows.
Basic hosting prices start relatively low, with popular sites such as Go Daddy offering a customisable website and web hosting package for as little as £6.99 per month.
Create a Website
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to create a functional website yourself by using customisable platforms such as WordPress, Magento, Craft or Shopify, without the need to hire a web designer and developer.
These platforms typically offer extra SEO add-ons, which will help users to find your site when searching.
Alternatively, you can hire a web designer to build a bespoke website, however, as a start up you shouldn’t be spending more than necessary.
Get Set Up on Socials
Social media is a fantastic way to drive brand awareness and give your company a voice online.
Make sure to set up social media accounts that are relevant to your brand and its products/services. Popular platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most recently, TikTok.
Are There Any Business Regulations to Keep in Mind?
Much like any other retailer, your business will be subject to certain laws and regulations when selling goods and services online, including the Consumer Rights Act 2015, The Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018.
Consumer Rights Act 2015
The act sets out conditions that goods sold must meet e.g. goods must be as described, of satisfactory quality, to an agreed price and fit for purpose.
If you fail to provide goods that meet these conditions, the buyer will have the right to a refund.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations
These regulations are a number of legal responsibilities a seller must provide about their business, including:
- Information about the seller, such as business address and contact details.
- Accurate goods/services description, including prices.
- Payment details
- Delivery costs
- Refund policy
- Terms and Conditions
- Cancellation rights and time limits
- Return costs
The Data Protection Act 2018
The Data Protection Act is the UK’s implementation of the General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) and is designed to ensure people’s information is being used fairly and securely.
Your business is responsible for ensuring that any data you keep about customers and other individuals within your business is:
- Used fairly, lawfully and transparently.
- Used for specified, explicit purposes.
- Used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary.
- Accurate and kept up to date (where necessary).
- Kept no longer than necessary.
- Handled in a way that ensured appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage.
Register Your Online Business with HMRC
When starting up any business, whether online or brick-and-mortar, you are legally required to register online with HMRC to ensure you pay the right amount of tax and National Insurance.
You can choose to register as a sole trader or a limited company. If you set up a limited company, you will also need to register with Companies House.
Business Startups with Ryans
Starting up a new business involves a significant amount of different tasks that require different skills.
This is why it is important to take a moment to evaluate your own skills and weaknesses to help you determine the things you can manage on your own and where you require extra support from professionals.
For example, if you are unsure about which type of funding is best for your business, our team at Ryans can help you to make better informed decisions with corporate finance planning.
We’ll look at your business idea, sales plan and existing funding to determine what will work best for you and pose the least amount of risk should something go wrong.
If you aren’t sure about how to approach investors, it may be worth working with a Surrogate Financial Director.
This is a professionally qualified accountant who will act as your Non-Executive Financial Director to bolster your business. They can attend meetings with investors to give them the reassurance that you mean business.
We can also help you with short and long term business planning, using our wealth of knowledge and experience to establish your current position and make informed decisions to help your business function at its best in the future
We don’t just do the above, we can also help you to:
- Decide on the most suitable structure for your business – sole trader, partnership, or limited company
- Prepare a business plan, cash flow projections, budgets, and trading forecasts
- Assess your finance requirements, advise on the best sources of finance, and draw up the necessary proposals
- Establish a good working relationship with your bank
- Complete any registration procedures with Companies House and HMRC
- Deal with company secretarial issues
- Set up a recording system for your internal use and for complying with statutory requirements
We can help you understand all of the above by breaking it down into simple steps and offering the best advice on how to ensure your new business succeeds in the future.
Looking to start a business? Let’s talk.