Published on November 11, 2013 Starting a new business – get your business registered
Ready to start selling online?
Here are the first steps with getting your business and domain registered.
If you have decided on the product to sell online and taken the first steps in deciding how you will take it to market, you will be starting to think about how to get your business registered and domain name sorted. Your first steps are getting your business name sorted, then registering your name and getting a domain. You can then start thinking about the shopping cart technology that you will use for your website.
Got a business name yet?
If you don’t have a business name yet, then this will be one of the most important decisions that you make in getting your business off the ground. Your business name will sit over the top of all of the things you do, and is hard to change down the track – especially once you have started promoting it. So you do need to take the time to consider it carefully.
A great business name needs to be:
- Memorable – if you want to build a loyal base of returning customers, you should choose a name that is easy to remember and hard to forget
- Relevant – a business name needs to make sense for the products that you sell
- Compliant – you don’t want to infringe anyone else’s names or trademarks
- Transferable – you want to make it easy for your business name to be translated into a domain name that people can either type in to a browser or find easily in Google
- Different – just as important as being memorable, you want your domain name to be easily distinguished from current and future competitors. You don’t want to come up with a catchy name that’s easily translatable into other variations, or could be confused with another business. Otherwise your potential customers could unwittingly end up buying from your competition!
Tips for choosing a business name
Here are some tips to think about when choosing a business name:
- Say the name out loud – how does it sound? Could it be confusing to people to say over the phone?
- How long is it? – when it’s a domain name, will it be too long to type? Are there too many repeating or multiple letters in it that could be confusing to potential customers?
- Does it stand the test of time? Unlike a promotion that can come and go, a business name is something you want to last for the long term, so choose something that won’t seem tacky or dated in a year or five year’s time
- Think about translation – If you are going to sell overseas – ask about whether your brand name translates into something you didn’t intend. For example, if you wanted to call your product business Nova Enterprises, then make sure you’re not selling to Spain because “no va” in Spanish means “It doesn’t go”.
- Test it – with friends, colleagues, family or preferably someone you know who fits the target profile of your customers. Does it make sense to them? Is it relevant? If your name is “clever”, do they “get it”?
Some techniques you can use to get started with coming up with your shortlist names include:
- Joining words together that don’t normally mix
- Making up new words that don’t currently exist
- Playing word association. Write down your product and describe it’s best features. Then write down words that you think of when you see those words. Repeat the process until you have a lot of words, then review them and make up company names from these
Once you have found the right business name, it’s worth checking the following places to ensure that someone else hasn’t already registered the name or has a trademark on the name already. To do this you can use three government services: the ASIC business name search tool, the ABR business name lookup and the Australian trademark search system. Search for your name and make sure that the name and longer variations of your name aren’t already registered (as you could be asking for trouble by registering a business name that is a subset of another already registered trade mark). If you are unsure it’s worth getting formal legal advice from your business solicitor before jumping into business registration. A little money spent at the start of your business venture can save you a lot of money in legal fees later, and give you the peace-of-mind to not worry about your business name.
Decide on your business structure
There are a number of different business structures that you could go with. Each have their own pros and cons. You WILL need an accountant to successfully run a small business, so if you don’t have an accountant we strongly recommend that you hire one. They may be able to give you some solid advice in this area.
- Sole Trader – this is the easiest to set up. You run the business in your own name. Being a sole trader doesn’t mean that you can’t have employees as your business grows, it just means that you are the sole owner of your business and the business is legally the same as you. Your assets are the business’ assets, as are the debts and responsibilities. You have all the risk and all of the reward. You will pay personal tax rates on your business earnings, but be able to make tax deductions (see your accountant about this).
- Partnership – a partnership will have the business run in multiple names. You will own the business equally and share all of the risk and reward between you and your partners. You can have employees.
- Private or Public company – you can register a company which is a separate legal entity. You own shares in the company and your own personal assets are separated from those of the company. You will need to meet important ASIC reporting rules, so you will need to work closely with your accountant and/or lawyer to make sure you meet all of the requirements. Companies may have some tax advantages than partnerships or sole trader agreements, but have more paperwork and compliance requirements. The difference between a private and public company is essentially one of size. A public company is listed on the share market and anyone can buy any available shares in it on the stock market, a private company’s shares are controlled by the directors and cannot be traded on the ASX.
Should you register for Tax/GST?
For Australian residents, at the time of writing, you will be required to register for GST by the ATO if your turnover (sales) are over $75,000 for most businesses (See https://www.business.gov.au/Info/Run/Tax/Register-for-Goods-and-Services-Tax-GST) and for sales under this, it will be up to you to decide if it’s worth it for you.
The benefits of being registered for GST are that you will be able to claim back the GST on any Australian purchases you make from other businesses registered for GST. The drawbacks are that you will need to collect GST on your Sales and complete a GST return for the ATO every quarter. Your shopping cart software will need to be set up to be ATO complaint – showing the words “TAX INVOICE”, the date of the transaction, the total amount of GST collected (on products AND shipping) and the invoice number. GST cannot be charged on international sales as the ATO does not collect this from merchants. It is misleading to do so and against Australian trade practice.
Yes, you will need a business number / ABN
However you structure your business and regardless of whether you are registered for GST, you will need an ABN (“Australian Business Number”) to register a domain name and to trade in Australia. So, register one with the ATO before getting started. If you are registering a company you will need an “Australian Company Number” (ACN) as well – and this will be issued for you by ASIC when your company is registered and the registration fees are paid.
Registering your business name
When you’re ready to register your business name, you can use ASIC’s business registration tool which allows you to register an Australian business name that’s valid in all states of Australia. This means that you no longer need to register your business in multiple states if you want to prevent others from registering your business name.
To start the registration process, go to ASIC connect here: https://asic.gov.au/for-business/registering-a-business-name/
Once you have an ABN and business name registered, you can register a trademark and your domain name.
Consider registering a Trade Mark
If you’re serious about growing your business, you should consider registering a trade mark for your business name and logo. A trade mark gives you a higher level of protection of your name than either a business or company name, as well as giving you legal recourse to challenge other businesses who attempt to use your business identity anywhere in your country.
Don’t have a domain name yet? Register your domain name
When you’re ready to register your domain name, you can do this through the domain name registration system on our website at https://client.ozcart.com/domainchecker.php (if you cannot find our domain registration system, please contact us).
What if you already have a domain name?
If you already have a domain name, you can keep your existing domain name for your new store. You don’t have to transfer a domain name to a website provider in order to have a website, because domain names and the website that are related to those domain names are managed separately. While it’s common to have both your domain name and website billed through the same provider, it’s by no means compulsory. In that case, when you purchase your shopping cart website package, you select the option to “point” or “change the nameservers” and you can keep your domain name with your existing website and just point the website to it.
Choose your shopping cart
Your shopping cart is your online storefront and you need to make sure that you make the right choice. In making the decision of what’s right for you, you should take into account the following:
- DIY vs Prebuilt – do you have the skills and time to set up and manage your shopping cart website? If not, you should consider a prebuilt cart on a secure, hosted ecommerce platform with certified and audited shopping cart security
- Range of ecommerce features – does the shopping cart have the ability to do the things that you want? You may want to try out the Demo Shop to see how the front end and the administration panel of the shopping cart you are choosing works
- Support – what kind of support will you get when something goes wrong? There are many different ways that ecommerce providers give help, each with their own pros and cons. Besides things like manuals and knowledge bases, for answering the questions specific to your website, you’ll want help during business hours so check that the provider has a team ready to answer questions. For example, at Ozcart, we offer a ticket based email support system, and questions are answered 6-days a week by technicians.
- Relevance of features – you can sometimes be overwhelmed by the features of a shopping cart, but does it have the RIGHT features that you need? Think carefully about the type of shipping that you want to offer, and the payment options – are your country’s native ones there?
- Getting set up for your country or international selling – do you have the skills to set up your shopping cart for your country’s business conditions? If not, you need a shopping cart with built in country-specific features as even many businesses give you out-of-the-box US shopping carts with standard packages. Make sure you know what you’re buying.
- Web Design – do you have the skills to customize the design of the website for your business? There are many shopping carts that come with pre-made designs, but they leave you to work out how to change the colours to suit yourself and do not change out the banner graphics to suit your business. If you don’t have the design skills or the time to set up your initial banner graphics and colours, then make sure you choose a cart with design included.