‘Tis the season: 8 tips for preparing your online business for Small Business Saturday

Business, Tips & how-to

Small Business Saturday, a relatively new concept, reminds consumers to support their local economy and not forget mom and pop stores during their post-Thanksgiving shopping spree.

If you own a small business and want to ramp up your efforts to include online e-commerce this shopping season, perhaps through a marketplace like Etsy or eBay, follow these eight tips to make sure you are running your business legally and efficiently:

#8 – Be mindful of privacy

Online shoppers want to be extra sure their financial information is protected along with their address and full name. Be sure to use extra encrypted, secure software when handling sensitive information online, or you could face major liability if a breach occurs. Modern laws expect online retailers to understand this.

#7 – Keep a lid on spam

Nobody likes spam. Even if you are well-meaning, rapid-fire newsletters and excessive emails to potential customers will, at the very least, result in unsubscribe requests. At most, you might be in violation of the federal Can-Spam Act, which protects inboxes from the obnoxious by explaining when you cannot spam. Under this act, you must conspicuously explain how to opt out, as well as honor recipients who choose to do so.

#6 – Pay your taxes

Yes, you must keep track of your income and pay your taxes. As an online retailer, you likely have payments coming from all 50 states (hopefully!); however, your income tax requirements will be based on laws in the state where you’re physically located. You must file your quarterly income tax returns just like any other retailer, and you could face personal tax liability if you forget.

#5 – Be mindful of copyrights and trademarks

We have covered this in detail in another post, but Etsy and eBay shop owners must be very careful not to infringe on trademarked logos, team names, movies, television shows, cartoons or any other copyrighted material without a license.

#4 – Understand online marketing rules

The Federal Trade Commission has published a lengthy list of rules governing online marketing designed to protect unsuspecting consumers from a scam. For instance, you cannot promise products you cannot deliver, and you are prohibited from engaging in bait-and-switch advertising. In general, trade practice laws governing brick-and-mortar businesses also apply to online shops, so keep it honest!

#3 – Obtain the proper business licensure

It may seem counterintuitive, but an online business must apply for and obtain a business license just like any other entity in the community. Your state undoubtedly requires a business license and payment of franchise tax, and your local county or municipality may require a license as well.

#2 – Review international shipping requirements

Working as an online business can significantly expand your business, but it will also introduce overseas customs and declaration laws. When selling internationally, be sure to review the FTC’s guidelines regarding proper paperwork for completing international sales.

#1 – Follow prompt shipping laws

It goes without saying for any savvy online seller that prompt shipping is the hallmark of a successful business. It’s a way to retain your customers by getting your goods out on time and improve your reputation and online reviews. However, if you are tempted to over-promise on your shipping guarantees, keep in mind that you could face legal issues by doing so, including a rightful refusal to pay by the buyer if your items ship significantly later than expected.

In sum, small business online retailers are in a perfect position to do great business not only on Cyber Monday, but also on Small Business Saturday. Just make sure you are within the licensure, advertising and consumer integrity laws within your state, and you should be good to go!

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