With the surge in demand for work-from-home opportunities, a number of people have taken to running their own online businesses. This is both due to the need to be able to control their work hours and to make the most of current technology.
But running an online business that is sustainable over the long-term means taking proactive steps to protect and nurture it. Here are nine ways in which you can protect your online store and help it grow.
1. Get the Right Insurance
If you have a web store on sites such as Amazon or Etsy, or if you’re any type of online seller or manufacturer of goods that are sold online, you need to have the right type of insurance. Product liability insurance, for example, protects your business if a customer suffers from allergic reactions to the product, or some other aspect of the product goes wrong.
It protects your business whether you manufacture your own products or you purchase them from a third party and sell them on. Without insurance, you could be sued. Not only is this expensive but it can also destroy your business. This is the reason product liability insurance is key; you can learn more here.
Other types of insurance, such as income protection insurance and commercial property insurance for business premises, such as a warehouse where your stock is stored, are equally important. Speak to an expert if you are not sure which policy is suitable for your requirements. And don’t decide insurance is an expense you can’t afford. That would be a huge mistake.
2. Register Your Business Name
The first step is to make sure nobody else shares the business name you have in mind. If they do, opt for a more unique name. Next, register the unique business name. It is also equally necessary to register your domain name online for your web portal. Ideally, opt for the .com option for your web address, and also buy the related domain names such as .net, .org, and .info.
Try and choose a business name that fits your brand. It needs to be memorable, not ridiculous.
3. Choose the Best Business Structure
Many entrepreneurs start by trading as sole proprietors. This is fine in the early stages of setting up an online business, but in time, it is worth reconsidering changing to a different business entity.
As the business grows and more money is flowing through your accounts, it might make more sense to change to a limited liability corporation. This offers greater protection in the event the business is hit with a lawsuit, as it means your personal assets are untouchable.
4. Get Online Safety and Security Tools
Choose a reputed service. This ensures your payment and checkout processes stay safe from hackers. Free hosting for an online business is not a good idea since the service is basic and offers little protection. Review domain providers and choose the one that offers the best online security protocols as well as maximum uptime for your website.
Additionally, keep your software up to date by installing updates regularly. You also need to get good antivirus and encryption software in place to protect all of your and your customer’s financial and personal information.
5. Get All Necessary Legal Documents
Be aware of online legislation that applies to your business, so you are not selling anything prohibited in your region or using content on your website that you don’t own the copyright for. This is a complex area, so it is worth seeking expert advice from a lawyer.
For example, while you may not be based in the EU, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) still applies to businesses dealing with customers in the EU. For example, if you send marketing emails to EU customers, you must have permission to use their email addresses. Without this, you could be fined a significant sum of money.
6. Change Passwords Regularly
Choosing a strong password that can’t be easily guessed or known is just the first step. Next, you need to make sure you change passwords regularly. This makes it harder for hackers to hack through your web pages. This is important also because your passwords are also saved by the web services you use. If the service gets hacked, your data can also get compromised.
7. Educate Employees
When the time comes to hire employees, make sure they fully understand the basics of cyber security. Hacks are very sophisticated and many people fall victim to scams like phishing emails. Hackers like to target small businesses because they are far less likely to have the resources to fight a cyber breach. It is worth outsourcing your IT to an external provider if you are not confident your current systems are enough to protect your online business.
8. Use Proper Contracts
A contract leaves a paper trail of all online transactions. It protects you by keeping a record of what exactly was agreed to by both parties. This can be helpful when there is a change of management, or when the work continues for a long time and scope creep expanding the work from what was originally agreed upon happens.
9. Backup Data Regularly
Online businesses rely on a website, so if that website crashes and stays offline for a significant period, it could seriously damage the business. Have a system whereby website data backups are regularly taken. Storing backups in the cloud is one way but it is also worth keeping offline backups, in case your site is hacked and cloud backups corrupted. This way, you can restore your site quickly with minimum fuss.
An online business can be an exciting way of branching out on your own. Take these proactive steps to protect and nurture it and enjoy your entrepreneurial journey.