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Start an Online Business

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Published January 10th 2011
What do Apple, Mattel and and Ebay have in common? They are all successful companies that were formed in their creator's garage or bedroom. You don't need lots of money to start your own company – all you need is an idea. And while your business might not become a multi-national, it should earn you a little extra cash.

As I've already stated, you'll need an idea to begin. You could capitalise on a skill you possess (like sewing, painting or photography), you could take something that's already out there and do it differently (like painting with organic materials or pet photography) or you can do a little research and fill a gap in the market (like the founders of baby wear business Little Blue Dog, who saw a need for baby clothing that wasn't too cutesy or too risque).

Hone your idea by creating a business plan. List your goals for the business and how you plan to achieve them. Be sure to set a time frame – three to five years is standard. There are loads of free business plan templates on the internet.

Before you can start trading, you will need a name and an Australian Business Number. An ABN is free to obtain and it's as simple as filling out a form. Without an ABN, your businesses income will be taxed in the highest bracket. You should also visit Business.gov.au, an Australian government initiative, to see if you need any licenses (this site also provides a lot of useful advice for small business owners).

Now you can start getting your product or service ready. All you need to begin with is a place to use as your headquarters – your bedroom, lounge room or garage will be sufficient – and a website.
Depending on your business you may be able to utilise an online platform that already exists, like Ebay or Etsy. This will make getting started a lot easier and you can always get your own website once you've started turning a profit. Otherwise, you will need to secure a website. Blogging sites like Wordpress provide a perfectly adequate site for a fledgling business. If you have the capital, you can purchase your own site and domain name but this can be costly. You will also need to hire a graphic designer if your coding skills aren't up to scratch.

Common sense says that you shouldn't launch your site until you have your product ready, although you might like to post a teaser advertisement in the lead up. You should also avoid taking on more work than you can handle. Once you've launched yourself, your reputation is everything and disappointing customers can have a devastating effect.

To advertise your business, you need to get your link out there. Submit it to online directories, put yourself on Gumtree and Stumble Upon and send a press release to relevant media outlets. Google AdWords is a fantastic way of generating traffic, although it can be expensive for new businesses.

Come tax time, you will need to declare all the income your online business has made. Conversely, you will be able to claim a lot of expenses so be sure to hold on to your receipts throughout the year.

Staring your own business can be a difficult and stressful experience and you will need to work hard to succeed. The potential benefits, however, are numerous.
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Why? Become your own boss
Where: Your house
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