How to Start an Online Business in Australia
In the Article (Quick Access)
If you thought Online Business in Australia was important before the pandemic, you will be surprised to know that it is not only an important but indispensable part of any business today.
The reason for the growing importance of online business is quite straightforward.
While covid forced us to stay indoors, the internet became our medium to communicate with businesses.
Quoting from a recent report on the online shopping increase in Australia published by the famous site statista,
‘The pandemic also witnessed a growth in the number of online shoppers, with 15 percent of respondents starting shopping online due to COVID-19. According to the source, around 2.5 million Australians shopped online for the first time during the pandemic.’
Furthermore, the eCommerce industry is growing and is expected to become even larger with time.
Revenues from the Australian eCommerce market are expected to hit US$45.54 billion this year and go up to US$66 billion by 2025.
Add to the above, the growing number of active users in the Australian eCommerce market, As per the latest report, the number is expected to go up to 20.7 million by 2025 (source: Statista).
In short – Whether you are a new small business starting afresh or buying a Profitable Australian Franchise Business, setting up an online platform for an Australian business, or simply developing one from scratch, has become a necessity ever since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold of the world.
This especially is true for Australia, where online purchases account for more than 10% of all item sales.
Beyond the numbers, the online presence for a business is quite simple to start.
The process is far quicker than setting up a business the old-fashioned way.
But, more importantly, an online business allows you to operate without having to take on most of the costs you would with a regular business, with the office and employees.
Although online business is booming and the eCommerce market keeps growing, Australia still lags behind other nations in accommodating online businesses.
You will have to register a business in Australia before you can set it up online.
The next step involves securing a domain for your online business, with the .com.au domains being the most preferable for SEO purposes.
Beyond the technicalities, you must know what type of business you want to set up and have a comprehensive plan for it.
Without digressing more, let’s look at what you need to do to set up your online business in Australia:
To Do List - Before Starting Your Online Business in Australia!
Registering your business and setting up a domain is the simple answer to starting your online business.
However, you will need to do much more than that to get the success you desire.
Here’s a checklist that you must follow to achieve the most with your online business:
Choose the Most Suitable Business Structure
The first step toward registering your online business is to choose a business structure.
Australia typically has four of them:
- Sole Trader
- And Company.
A sole trader takes full responsibility for their company, while a Trust allows you to set up some of your assets for the benefit of a third party.
Moreover, you enter into a partnership when you start a company with other individuals, whereas a Company holds a separate legal existence beyond its shareholders.
Now that we know what the four business structures represent, choosing the most appropriate one for your online business is imperative.
Your business structure choice directly affects:
- Your level of control over the enterprise
- How much tax you will have to pay
- Regularity obligations on you
- Personal liabilities associated with the business, and
- Any health and safety requirements that you will need to follow
Choosing the right business structure by yourself can prove to be difficult. You should consult your lawyer and accountant while making the choice.
Furthermore, health advisors can give you a detailed account of any requirements and procedures you may need to follow.
You need to spend as much time as you need on this step, since choosing your business structure will have a major effect on your earning potential and personal liabilities (source: Shuriken).
Register Your Business and Get Your ABN
Whenever you are starting a new small business, you need to have an 11-digit number called the Australian Business Number (ABN) to legally operate your enterprise in Australia.
You can register your business name, secure domains, send invoices, and claim taxes once you have your ABN.
In short, you cannot set up your online business until you have the ABN.
You can obtain your ABN and register your business name at the same time as well (source: Australian Government).
Secure Your Funding
Moving on, the next step is to go through your finances once more after your domain has been registered and the website set up.
You need to secure funding immediately if you do not currently have enough funds to last the first year.
According to studies, around 70% of startups fail in the first two years because they cannot fund the business and have to close shop (source: CB Insights).
You cannot let your online business add to this unpopular statistic :).
Making sure of financial security is what you need to do immediately.
Moreover, you need to look at all available options when you look for funding.
It might seem simple to just go to a bank and get a loan, but you also need to factor in the interest that you will have to pay and whether your business can handle doing that.
Similarly, trying to secure funding from venture capitalists and similar sources comes with specific requirements that you need to be careful about.
If possible, you should look at available government grants for business and apply for one related to your online business.
There are various government grants available for Australian businesses, and they can help with different aspects of your business, such as employment, purchasing equipment, exporting or importing of items, marketing, and sales.
Having your lawyer and accountant on board while figuring the funding out can help a great deal. They can guide you towards sources of funding and also help you ascertain just how much you need.
Get Your Business Registered for Taxes
One thing you must know about running an online business in Australia is: that you cannot escape the taxes.
To make sure that everything goes smoothly and you’re able to operate without issue, it is important to register your business with the appropriate taxes.
Make sure you have a meeting with your accountant at the earliest before you make any major decisions.
The taxes that you will have to get registered for may include:
Goods and Service Tax (GST): this is applicable for any business with a revenue greater than AU$75,000 per annum
Pay as You Go (PAYG) Withholding Tax: this is applicable in case you need to withhold some money for paying employees or another necessary expenditure
Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT): this is applicable if you provide benefits to the employees, such as mobile phones or cars
You can also work out how to reduce your tax burden by sitting with your accountant. So, make sure you involve them in any financial decision-making.
I also recommend that you spend some time selecting a CRM Solution that works for Australian Small Businesses before you jump to the steps to setting up your online business.
Setting Up Your Online Business - The 3 Steps
Once you have checked all of the conditions listed above, the time is right to set up your online business.
You must take the right steps and fulfil all the requirements detailed below.
The fact that they seem much more fun than the paperwork and the taxes is going to help, but the effort you put into them will determine the success you see with your business.
Now ‘Taking your Business Online’ is a crucial step in the entrepreneurial process.
It is a Crucial Step because everything in the world has gone on the internet or online.
Your business should be appropriately represented on the internet because your business will struggle without a proper online-based setup.
This is why I will go a bit slow and explain to you all the small yet essential steps to the process of setting up your business’s online presence.
I will also dive deep into some basic concepts of setting up an online presence for a business and will need your attention.
Let’s get rolling!
Gone are the days when you could just have a business with an offline presence.
The widespread of the internet has made the word “online presence” indispensable for every Business.
It’s as simple as saying that you should be on the internet if you have a business.
From a layman’s perspective – being on the internet means three simple things:
- Own a website
- Have a rocking social media presence
- Get Email ids linked to your business’s domain name (note – a domain name is the web address that you type on the web)
Once you have completed the above 3 points, your Business is “online ready.”
How do you do that?
Let us dive in a bit deeper into each of the above three points
Step 1 - Own a Website
Your website has three parts:
- Domain name or name of your business on the internet
- Web hosting space where your website will stay
- A Website that is managed using a CMS (Content Management System)
If you are new to the world of the internet, do not fret over words like domain name, hosting, or CMS – I will explain them all in this step.
Now coming to getting a proper website, all three listed above must have a suitable website up and running for your business.
GETTING STARTED – HOW TO GET A DOMAIN NAME?
A domain name is your Business’s name on the Internet.
Think of it as your Business getting christened or ‘Naam Karan (in India).’
The day you buy a domain name is the day your Business has a name on the Internet – From today onward, thou shalt be called ‘XYZ.com’ on the Internet 🙂
How do you get a domain name?
I have always relied on two companies to offer the service and they are the companies I am going to recommend for web hosting too.
Well! To start with – they are easy to use and have an impressive support division to handhold you (in the case of the Internet)
and they are affordable.
Let’s start with Go Daddy (the oldest living member of the domain seller clan 😉
Let’s get started!
We will start with –
- Go to your web browser and type in godaddy.com
- Let’s search the domain :
Once you are registered, time to get rolling with the domain search.
Click on the highlighted area in the image below to ‘Enter your preferred domain name.’
- What to search?
I do not know your Business’s name but as an example – let’s say I want to launch an online business by the name ‘Online Business’.
I know that’s lazy thinking but it’s a long blog so I would rather keep you entertained until the end than do the heavy lifting in finding a domain name 😉.
Since I am looking for a target audience in Australia – I need the ‘.com.au’ extension at the end.
Once you are registered, time to get rolling with the domain search.
Click on the highlighted area in the image below to ‘Enter your preferred domain name.’
Now, that’s a Bummer!
and all I need to do now is pay AUD 108.85 to go daddy to hire a broker who might get my Business’s name for the Australian market on the Internet.
Before you move to the payment stage, I have a few ‘words of wisdom to help you with the domain name search.
Here comes the ‘Wisdom’ in its wise form –
Before you assume that your Business’s name would be available on the Internet, here is the reality– Names are a rare commodity these days.
There is a good possibility; that you will not get your Business’s exact name with a .com.au extension (or Australian market).
For example, if your business name is XYZ (P) Ltd., you might want a domain name xyz.com.au The probability of finding a domain name like this is next to nill.
To give you an example – I searched for iamwise.com (global).
Don’t give me that look – I know what you are thinking about this self-obsessed IT guy killing you with words like ‘wise’ ‘wisdom’ ‘witty’ and ‘whatnot.’
Before you utter the golden words, WTF! (again starting with – W), I got to stop the ‘W’ joke and get back to the blog.
So, I searched for a highly unlikely to be available ‘domain name,’ and as expected, it was not available.
Instead, I was offered the service of ‘an expert’ to buy the domain name.
Stay away from the ‘expert broker.’
You, my friend, are not here to lose money.
On the contrary, you find a domain name to get your business online and make some money.
Here is what I want you to do – I want you to scroll a bit down so that the smiling broker disappears, and you have your ‘other affordable options to select from.
I know you are feeling disheartened about not getting your favorite name on the Internet.
The first time I searched for a domain name – I was disappointed.
They did not have my domain name.
My first thought was ‘If we can have a million David’s, Trumps (just kidding…I only know of 4 or 5 of their kind and I reckon they are enough for entertainment), and jasmeets living in the real world.
Why does the Internet not allow websites to have duplicate names?
That’s life, Mate.
Suck it up and move on.
To brighten your life with some light and take away the gloominess because of your disappointment of not finding the ‘right domain name,’ I will teach you the tips to find a suitable domain name.
I want you to try the following tips when you are looking for a domain name:
- Look for a localized domain name (country-specific) with extensions.com.au for Australia – the localized extensions help your website rank better in Google’s country search engine.
- Find domain names that are short and easy to spell. For example, if your Business’s name is Altruist IT Solutions Private Limited. Do not look for AltruistitSolutionsPrivateLimited.com!
If I were your customer, I would give up halfway after typing your domain name 😊.
Look for short names like:
- com | AltruistIT.com.au | AltusitITSolutions.com.au
- Avoid hyphens in between. I mean, it is absurd to explain to someone that your domain name is Altruist-IT.com.
You do not need a domain name that is harder to pronounce.
So give “-“a break.
By the way, do not wait until eternity to finalize a domain name – you get it, you finalize it (that is my motto).
Wait-2…I am not done.
There are two more lines of wisdom left for you to digest.
After you search for a domain name, the GoDaddy’s interface gives you a plethora of options likes:
- Other domain name options matching the domain name you searched (an option you are also presented when you cannot find the right domain name)
- Option to book for more than one year (I usually do it for two years)
I recommend that you book a domain name for at least 5 years as it is always safe to have your business name with you.
I even book domain names for my future ventures or my plans. It does not cost a bomb to buy a domain name, so go for it.
- Time to checkout
Time to finalize the domain sale and move on to the next step.
Click on the continue to cart button.
And there you go, Mate!
You are now a proud owner of your Business’s name on the Internet.
In case you have just been busy learning the tricks and have not bought a domain name yet – let’s get started now!
The other domain name provider – Site Ground
I had promised to introduce you to another domain buying service.
I got to live up to the promise. So here we are – Site ground’s domain name service.
You (i imagine) do not need handholding now.
Head to SiteGround and search for a domain!
Alright! We are done now.
Take a small break and then move to the next step. ‘Let’s give your domain name a place to live: Hosting space.’
By the way – I am going to open the bubbly and celebrate your first win.
You just bought or are on the verge of buying a name for our business on the Internet.
TIME TO GIVE YOUR DOMAIN NAME A PLACE TO LIVE – ‘WEBSITE HOSTING’
When buying a hosting space, you need to figure out the technology on which you want your website to be based.
Obviously, that means – you should have a technology decided for your website before you start shopping for hosting space.
Some of us go in the order:
- Buy a domain name
- Build a website using a CMS
- Host the website
The above order is cool when you have a developer who is hosting your test website.
Still, for guys like you and me (the general internet population), we will take a hosting space first because we will build our own website without any developer’s help and give our business an independent ‘internet’ life.
I recommend that you use WordPress as the technology and CMS for your website as WordPress (hands down) is the simplest and the most sophisticated content management system available on the internet.
Note – a content management system is a platform that allows non-technical users like me and you to easily manage their own website—thereby reducing our dependency on developers. I will talk about WordPress and its utility in the next section – how to set up your website.
However, if you are still in a rush and want some tutorials to get started with WordPress, I designed a course on Udemy to help you get started on WordPress
Coming back to the topic at hand – Where do you Host the website?
The hosting service I recommend for hosting WordPress or any other CMS-based website is Siteground.
I know it’s a crowded space when it comes to selecting a hosting provider for WordPress.
Yet, I recommend Siteground because of their understanding of WordPress and other Content Management Systems (I have used them for WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and Moodle, and they have always been equally good).
They have optimized their servers to work with every single CMS in the market (mainly WordPress).
Add to the above their superior service, and around-the-clock customer support.
And last but not least, they are affordable.
Getting started with SiteGround:
Before I start – for the sake of ease, you can buy your domain name and hosting both from Siteground.
(note – I personally use GoDaddy for domains and Siteground for web hosting, but one reason for this is my laziness to shift from GoDaddy. I have been with GoDaddy for 12+ years, and it pains me to use another service for domain names. In your case, you can buy both the services from either of the companies)
To start with Site Ground (at their affordable plans).
Click on the link – Get Started with Siteground.
You will be directed to a page that looks like the page below (the page might change from location to location):
I would recommend that you select Grow Big for your business. It is a bargain service at $ 9.99 / month.
Not only do you get to host unlimited websites, but you also get access to the top-level support provided by site ground.
Note – I recommend site ground because I have hosted my website with them for a very long time. In between, I did try to use a few cheaper options that ended up ruining my website’s speed and had non-existent support to help me resolve my issues.
Once I had burned my fingers, hands, and every part with other services, I retreated to the site ground, and I can swear by their support and service.
Most importantly, their first year comes with a massive discount and a 30-day money-back guarantee (no questions asked).
Yup – You are in luck, my friend.
You are getting an affordable service with a super discount.
All the savings you make here will help you with other parts of starting your business.
How cool is that 🙂
Note – I would advise you to stay away from cheap hosting websites and cheap hosting plans on good websites.
Actually, they all mean the same to me – A cheap hosting website will give you trash hosting that will go down in the middle of the day and an excellent hosting website will provide you with a cheap plan because they want to get the foot in the door.
Do not go with the cheap plan in web hosting. I have made the same mistake for years and have spent countless hours on call with support fixing my hosting space (a job their tech team should have done).
At the end of the day, a few hundred bucks here and there won’t make much of a difference but a website going down when your customer is on it will substantially dent your reputation.
Now you own hosting space in Siteground.
Feel free to get in touch with any of their support executives for any doubts/queries.
FYI – my IT company’s all websites were hosted on SiteGround for years.
I have stuck to them for years because of all the reasons I mentioned above.
I have used their competitors in the past, and despite paying more than what I am paying them, I have never received what we business owners refer to as – “value for money.”
Before I move to the next section, let me repeat what I earlier mentioned ‘New users, please register your account before proceeding.’
No website wants to give its best deals, offers, and services to unregistered users.
The same holds true for SiteGround 🙂
Again, here is the link to register as a new user: Register on Siteground.
Hurray! You, my good mate, now have bought your business an expensive yet affordable house on the internet.
Pat yourself in the back and open the b….ly.
Humm – Let’s take a break from bubbly because I am known to get drunk very soon and let my unnatural senses take over.
We can do the ‘celebration dance and move to the next section.’
ALMOST THERE – SETTING UP A WEBSITE!
Gone are the days when you would spend a fortune hiring a designer and a developer to set up a website for you.
It is the era of “using ready-to-use templates.”
Templates that provide you with the flexibility to set up your website.
Let me take it a step further – we are living in an age where layman non-techie guys like you and me can design our websites without knowing an “iota of coding.”
Website design is as simple as drag and drop.
How do you do that?
There are hundreds of DIY editors in WordPress that allow you to do this (Divi, elementor, beaver, wp baker, to name a few).
I was a big fan of DIVI and used it for a good 5 years.
Recently, I shifted to Elementor and designed the new “lesson at startup” website using Elementor.
What gave them an edge over Divi and other competitors?
To start with – they have built a system that does not slow down your website.
As per one of the WordPress developers I have consulted in the past, Elementor does not come with any junk code in WordPress and keeps the WordPress structure – intact.
WordPress is fast and gives you the flexibility that is unheard of in the world of CMSs.
I can literally design my own website using their CMS options or use one of their ready-to-use templates for individual pages. Add to this, their email opt-ins that allow you to capture leads.
To learn more about Elementor, watch this video:
Time to say Good-Bye to your Web designer and Developer!
Register on Elementor and get started with a life where you take control of your web presence.
As soon as you click on the Registration link (mentioned above), you are directed to the following page:
Time to complete the Registration and become a part of the Elementor family.
We are almost there – A couple of more options to select
Click on “yes, I sure do’.
All you got to do now is ‘enter domain name’ and Elementor with be installed on your website.
You can easily buy Elementor for an annual cost of $49 (I think it’s a bargain to get Elementor at this price. The options they provide you at this cost are every bit worth for money)
Once you buy Elementor, they are easy-to-use tutorials that will help you set up Elementor on a WordPress hosting, and you can get rolling with a website that matches your taste/style and business niche.
Step 2: Taking control of your Social Media Presence
Alright – we are now getting social!
Your Business Needs to provide regular updates about your services and upgrades.
To do that, you need to set up a social media account.
You can quickly go to any of the social media accounts and set up a social media account.
I won’t dwell on the details of how to set up a social media account. However, I will provide you tips on how to “optimally” setup your Business’s social media presence:
- Start by selecting the best 2 social media accounts that resonate with your Business. Do not set up accounts on every social media account for the simple reason that you will not be able to keep up with the intensity of posting daily updates.
- Plan content for social media for at least weeks in advance.
- Lastly, focus on user interactions and not the vanity numbers like “page followers.”
- To save yourself some time and automate your social media strategy, use a social media tool like “PromoRepublic”
“PromoRepublic” is one of the rare finds from last year for me.
Their Tool had scheduling features and more than 1000 content ideas that can quickly help you edit and create content yourself.
Their content section has:
- Motivation ideas
- Upcoming events
- Animated Video
Most importantly – the tool is fun to use.
They even have gifs that you can add to your posts (Instagram lovers will drool over your posts):
I am going to take you through – how PromoRepublic can put your social media campaign on steroids.
To get started – Register on PromoRepublic!
You will be taken to the following page on Registration
Click on the “Start a Trial” button.
You can create your free account by filling out the form or you can get started by using your Facebook account. On completion of Registration, you are routed to the Dashboard – A place where all the social media magic happens for your business. To get started, click on the ‘+ icon’, as shown in the image below:
Time to connect all your social media channels.
Let’s create our first post – click on the ‘create post’ button to create your first post.
Here you can select connected social media accounts.
The amazing PostRepublic allows you to schedule all the posts for the future.
By using the service, You are saving yourself from the agony of waking up every day in the morning and finding something to post.
See – didn’t I tell you. This Tool is Magical. They give you content and schedule your content. As a busy business owner, what else can you ask for!
If you run out of ideas, just select the post ideas options.
The Tool gives you the option to see all trending and eye-catching posts in different industries.
Even you can select the post and post them to your channels.
Step 3: Linking Email ids linked to your Business Domain Name
Every Business needs an “official id.” You obviously would not want to send an email to your client or investor from a casual Gmail id that reads like email@example.com.
Now, most of the email service providers given for free by your hosting companies are pretty bad.
Yup – I am talking about round mail, horde mail, and squirrel mail.
All three mailing services are offered by all the free hosting services.
To save money, I used them for the initial years of my entrepreneurship.
They were fine (I won’t use the hate word 😊) until they served their purpose, which was sending emails and checking emails once in a while.
Yes – I am talking about 12 years back when the internet was just spreading across the globe, and most of the work still happened on paper, but if you ask me to use them today.
Sorry Mate! I cannot use them because their interface is terrible; they do not have a mobile app, and worst of all – they do a half-assed job.
I am looking for a collaborative productivity app, not an app that takes more time from my diary for simple tasks like sending an email.
I recommend – Google Workspace for Email service and better collaboration + Productivity:
Now, getting back to why I recommend Google Workspace.
Grow your business with Google Workspace – try it free for 14 days. Professional email for your business (firstname.lastname@example.org), secure file storage and sharing, real-time document collaboration, and 24/7 support.
- The friendly Gmail interface is integrated into your domain name. Imagine sending an email from your official id (email@example.com) using the Gmail interface.
- The google hangout experience is fantastic and addictive 😊. What better than having all your staff and team members on the same chat. You have everyone from your company on a chat system accessible from the left side of your email. Now, how cool is that.
- Google Calendar to schedule meetings.
- Google Drive to store all your relevant documents and presentations.
- Last but not least – the online google tools to handle spreadsheets, docs, and presentations.
Combine them all and Add to all the features – the admin panel to manage your employees’ access level, and you have a set of tools that help you run your business smartly.
And that brings us to the end of a long yet relevant section – “how to set up your business’s online presence. “.
The Action list on How to take your Business Online in Australia?
Phew! Now that’s one Long Chapter.
I will quickly summarize the whole Step in the form of action points for you:
- Action Point 1 – Register your business for ABN, GST, and other government tax compliances
- Action Point 2 – Set up a Website:
Every Business needs a website, and your business needs it too. Here are the 3 pieces to setting up the website:
- Domain Name or your business’s name on the internet
Find and register your domain name on the internet. I recommend GoDaddy for their easy-to-use service.
- Webhosting: Time to give the house to your domain name on the internet.
Buy a hosting space to host your website. I recommend SiteGround’s services for the same.
- Website Design and Development: You have the name and space.
All you need is a website that you can design yourself (as a non-techie person).
- My recommendation is to use WordPress.
I design my websites using WordPress and manage them myself.
The next step is to find a DIY (Do It Yourself) editor that lets you design your own website and not rely on web designers and developers.
- I highly recommend using Elementor. I use it on Lessons At Startup and it does a commendable job for me.
- Action Point 3: Getting your Social Media Presence up and running.
I have provided all the right tips to optimize your social media presence.
However, if you are a small team that is multi-tasking – I recommend outsourcing your social media work by automating it to Promo republic.
They do a wonderful job of creating, scheduling, and delivering content to your social media accounts regularly at an affordable fee.
- Action Point 4: Time to link your official email id to Gmail and get many more emails.
Yup! Time to make your teams more productive by linking your business with Google Workspace and get their productivity tools including Gmail, google calendar, and google cloud to increase your business’s productivity.
And that brings us to the end of the blog.
May the force be with you in your journey to set your Australian business’s online presence.