Secure Your Brand
Creating a logo, name, and tagline can be key components of the brand that will represent your company. You want to ensure that your trademark is protected. Firstly, you’ll need to check that your chosen name is unique and not already taken and also that your logo is completely original. It’s not always clear cut because there are tons of companies out there.
Spend some time and invest in checking out that everything you’re creating and registering is truly original. This can save you the headache and high cost of rebranding, along with helping you avoid potential legal fees if you accidentally infringe on an existing trademark.
Once you are sure your branding is original and available, register your trademark in all countries where you plan to operate to ensure no one steals your corporate identity across the pond. If you end up being a smashing success across the U.S. and Europe, someone in Australia may recognize that and register as your brand for that market. That will leave you in a bit of a pickle if you choose to expand to the land down under later down the road.
Form a Business Entity
The best business entity will depend on the kind of business you are running and how you plan to scale. This is another opportunity where legal experts would be able to advise you on setting up the proper structure from the beginning, since it’s much easier than switching down the line and doing a restructuring once processes are already in place. For the most part, boutiques and other eCommerce businesses choose to set up as Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) or corporations.
Codifying your policies in a comprehensive Terms and Conditions document is the best way to shield your company from liability. Terms should be easily accessible to your customers (albeit they are rarely read) and provide information on everything from returns to your legal jurisdiction.
You may be tempted to just take the terms from a similar business to yours and change it up slightly. This is a shortcut that could cost you big time in the long run. Terms and Conditions are unique to each business and depend on many factors. You’re shielding yourself from potential liability and lawsuits, so you want to ensure your terms cover all your bases as well as they can. We strongly advise consulting a legal professional during this key step in establishing your online boutique.
Ensure you are properly calculating taxes--both your own business taxes and sales taxes. An accountant can help you sort this out based on where your business is located. This is a really important step that you want to make sure is set up properly from the start, since you may be on the hook for a much higher tax bill later on if you make some oversights.
With eCommerce, you’ll generally only need to charge sales tax to customers whose addresses are within the same state as your business.
Apply for a Federal Tax ID Number
Besides sole proprietorships, all companies are required to have a Federal Tax ID number and be registered with the IRS. Applying for the number is free and you need it to file taxes or hire employees. It’s best to apply for this as soon as you have your business structure established in order to avoid delays when you want to start hiring.
Check Your Website for Copyrighted Content
Just like we mentioned above with making sure your branding is all unique, you need to make sure your site is using images and fonts that you either have the rights to use or are not copyrighted in the first place. Since your online boutique is a commercial venture, a lot of material you can use for education or private use is not available for free.
Be very careful when using images, music, or icons, as the creators can easily search the web for their work. If you can, hire a designer and photographer to take pictures and create the look and feel of your site to be uniquely yours. This way your site will stand out and you will not have to worry about using content off the internet.
While this guide has highlighted some of the most important steps, things may vary based on your sector and location. Because of these particularities, it’s highly encouraged that you find a legal expert who can advise you throughout the process of establishing your business. BizCounsel is a great resource for finding legal professionals that can fit a small business budget, so add a BizCounsel-Approved Attorney to your team today and make legal help easy!