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Launching an Australian online business in about 24 hours

Setting up a business has changed a lot in the last 10 years since the last time I set up a business. This is the story of how WiFi2Work was originally set up from an idea to where it is now. You can use this as a guide to launch your own online business in Australia in about 24 hours.

Stage 0 – The Idea and The Plan

You need an idea first. Flesh out the idea into a business plan – there are plenty of guides around on how to create a business plan from an idea. Find a good tool to organise your thoughts, I like Notion because of its flexibility and ease of use. Once you’ve got a rough idea of what your business is going to do, it’s time to put the plan into action.

Before starting, get advice from as many people as you can. At the very least speak to a lawyer to confirm the legal aspects of your business, and to an accountant to confirm the financial aspects of your business. Some advice will directly conflict with each other, and it’s up to you to make a judgement call on what advice you will accept and what advice you will consider but reject.

Now is also a good time to create a new password manager database, and have a rule that every login must be owned by the password manager. I have used KeePass for many years, and keep it in a Dropbox folder so I can access it from any device.

Stage 1 – Business Registration

Your business needs an identity, but it’s easier to name a business than it is to name a child because verbs and adjectives in a business name are common. Keep the business name as short and simple as possible, but make sure it’s not already used because it needs to be reasonably unique in Australia. You can use the business name search tool at https://help.register.business.gov.au/ to see if your chosen business name is already taken. Make sure your domain name is also available, because you really want both to be the same.

Your business needs a corporate structure, and an online store has 2 basic choices: a Pty Ltd company, or a Sole Trader or Partnership. A Sole Trader is much easier and cheaper to set up, and can easily be converted to a Pty Ltd company in future. The downside of a Sole Trader is that you are personally liable for any debts or lawsuits against the company, so make sure you get insurance sorted out as a priority if you choose this structure.

Once you’re ready to take the leap, go ahead and register your business online at https://register.business.gov.au/ to receive an ABN. If your trading name is different from your legal business name, you will need to spend about $40 to register a trading name with ASIC as well.

Stage 2 – Internet Domain Name and Email Setup

Once you’ve received confirmation that your business is registered, you can use your new business identity to register a domain name. The “keys to the kingdom” in an online world is an email address, and you need to get a business-branded email address as soon as possible. The first major decision is, who to use for your email? There are basically 4 choices – Google Business, Microsoft Office365, provider-hosted, or self-hosted. To answer the question about who to use, ask yourself “Do I need a copy of Microsoft Office?” If you need a copy of full-blown Office, go with Office365. If you’re happy to use Google Suite products, then save yourself a few dollars per month and use Google Business. The only reason you’d use a provider-hosted email system is if you want to pay $0 and don’t need any kind of office software suite. There is no good reason to host email yourself anymore, because Google and Microsoft can run an email system better than you can. In my case, I need a copy of Microsoft Office, so Office365 Business Premium is what I went with.

I used NetRegistry for a .com.au domain registration. The purchase process is streamlined, setup is fast, and they have good pre- and post-sales support. The best part is they resell Office365, and set everything up for you as soon as you register your domain. This means, as soon as you click purchase and stick in your credit card details, you can immediately create an Office365 account and send and receive emails straight away. With an upfront 12-month Office365 license ($219.45), the total was $281.25. I made the mistake of adding the “Domain Manager” product for $31.90, which it turns out is completely useless to me now because of the next choices I made.

Stage 3 – Bank Account

You need some way to send and receive money, so a bank account is a necessity. The fastest way to get a bank account is to apply to the same bank you use for your personal banking. It may or may not be the cheapest on the market, but the bank can skip about 80% of their KYC check and give you an account within a day or so. Get a debit card to go with the account so you can use your business funds directly to purchase everything else you need.

Once you have a bank account, set up a PayPal and/or a Square Payments account so that people can give you money using credit cards.

Stage 4 – Web Site

This is where it can get insanely complex, but to cut through the options if you don’t really know what you need, just deploy a WordPress web site on AWS LightSail, and front with CloudFlare. Sign up to AWS using your new email address on your new domain name, deploy a WordPress instance through LightSail, then set up CloudFlare to protect the web site. Boom. Done. Take a snapshot of the LightSail instance now before you do too much work to it. Then remove the Bitnami logo because it looks terrible on mobile devices, update everything, and customise the settings and plugins until the web site does basically what you need it to. Take another snapshot of the LightSail instance, this will be your master copy in case anything screws up too badly.

All of this will cost you $0 for the first month, a few dollars per month for the first 12 months, and a few more dollars per month after that.

If you want to sell products directly from your web site, set up SSL on CloudFlare under the Crypto tab, then take a look at the WooCommerce WordPress plugin and go from there.

Stage 5 – Graphic Design

Ask around and find a good graphic designer. I asked on Twitter and immediately was deluged with cold responses from graphic designers, but it can be tricky to sort out who is a “copy and paste” artist and who is a graphic designer. Ask to see portfolios, ask for references, and let your own eyes be the judge of who should get the job. With a $500 budget you should be able to get a professional logo, web site colour scheme, and business card design.

Add the logo and colour scheme to your web site, and go print a few hundred business cards.

Take another snapshot of your web site, and test it thoroughly to make sure everything is working.

Stage 6 – Marketing and Sales

Again there are plenty of options here, but start with a presence on the major social networks, and fling a few dollars at Google Ads and Facebook Ads to drive traffic to your new web site. Ask for help from marketing professionals if you need it, or engage a marketing company if you need serious help.

Stage 7 – Wait

All of this should be done in a day or two. Go and push your new company on the world, make sales, close deals, do what you need to do.

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