Ready to start an online business in Australia?
We’re Megaphone Marketing: Australia’s top-rated marketing agency. We’ve worked with thousands of small business owners (and opened a few businesses ourselves). Today we’ll help you start a business, move it online, and get the leads (or sales) your business needs.
We’ll also cover…
- The benefits of owning an online company
- Concrete steps to start your business
- The legal side of owning an online company
Let’s dive in with…
How to set up your online business
In 2021 alone, over 365,480 Australian entrepreneurs launched their own companies. There are many opportunities to make money and enjoy a flexible lifestyle with an online business.
Let’s start by setting up the legal entities and web assets you need to create a booming online company.
1. Registering your domain and getting hosting
Much like every physical business has an address, every online business needs a domain. Think of your company’s domain as digital real estate.
Fortunately, registering a domain isn’t expensive. You can register a brand-new domain for about $10-$20. Hosting costs depend on how much traffic your website gets. It’s possible to host a new website for as little as $2 per month.
But what should your domain name be? Most companies go with the name of their business. Whatever domain name you choose, make it as short and memorable as possible.
Also, make sure that a variation of the domain you want isn’t being used by another brand. If you want to register toysaustralia.com.au but a popular brand already uses toyaustralia.com.au, that could be a problem.
Registering your business
For many people, the first step in registering a business is choosing a business structure. In Australia, you have four ways to set up a company:
1. Sole trader – Your personal and business assets are the same.
2. Company – Companies take a little more time and money to establish than being a sole trader. But setting up a company separates your business and personal taxes.
3. Partnership – The best option if you start a company with another person or people.
4. Trust – Only applicable if your business owns assets that benefit a third-party.
After choosing your business structure, it’s time to apply for your Australian Business Number (ABN). Fortunately, you can register your business online for free by visiting the Australian Government’s Business Registration Service.
You’ll need certain details to complete the registration process, including:
- Your company’s name and address
- Business structure
- Details about what your business does
- Proof of identity
Once you have your ABN, you can now officially register your Australian company. You can begin the business registration process by clicking here. Unlike applying for an ABN, it will cost money to register your business.
You can buy a one-year business licence for A$39. Registering for a three-year business licence costs A$92.
Can I sell goods and services without registering?
Australia doesn’t require companies to get a license to start selling products or services online. Strictly speaking, you only need an Australian Business License when your sales reach A$75,000 per year.
Without an ABN, there are serious penalties to consider. For one, your business partners must withhold taxes from payments your company receives. Since Australia withholds these taxes at a 47% rate, getting your ABN means more money for your business.
Do I need any special licenses to do business?
Depending on what industry you’re in, your company could need certain permits or licenses to operate. The Australian Government’s website can tell you what licenses your business needs.
2. Building a website
To do business online, you need a website that captures leads or sales. Here’s how you set a simple one up.
Build your website
Start by building a website. A quality modern website is:
- Optimised for mobile devices (mobile-friendly)
- Easy to navigate
- Able to load pages fast
The fastest way to create one is using no-code tools like:
The tools above come with hundreds of templates you can use to create a professional-looking landing page and website fast. 48% of website visitors view its design as the #1 source of a company’s credibility – so take time to find a good template!
Do some keyword research
53% of customers use search engines like Google (and now Amazon) to find products before buying them. A little research ensures your products show up in these searches via paid ads or organic results, e.g.
The benefits of keyword research are:
1. It helps make sure people are actually looking for what you’re selling.
2. It reduces the cost of running ads and increases your odds of showing up in organic results. This means more leads and traffic for you.
The best way to get started with keyword planning is to take a closer look at your business.
- What products or services does your business sell?
- Where is your business located?
- What industry does your business operate in?
Your answers to these questions will be the foundation of your keyword research.
Let’s say that you own a plumbing business in Sydney. Your main keywords would involve Sydney, plumbing, and services a plumber provides.
Once you have several keyword ideas, type them into a free tool like Google Keyword Planner. If you’re optimising for aggregators like Amazon, you can look for keywords in popular product descriptions, e.g.
If you want to be sneaky, visit your competitor’s websites. What are they writing about? This strategy can uncover many keyword ideas to spark your creativity.
Create pages and content
“Content” refers to the text, video, and images on your web pages.
The amount of pages and content you have on your website will vary. Some businesses can have a handful of pages, e.g.
1. A landing page
2. Service pages – e.g. “home repair”, “family law”, etc
3. Product pages (for e-commerce)
4. About us
5. Terms of service
Others will have a lot more pages, e.g. blog posts, how-to guides, and more.
Having lots of content helps your business stand out and can give you SEO traffic from Google (more on this later). But high-quality content takes time and effort to create. A new business only needs the following to get started:
- A good landing page that gets prospects’ contact information (for service businesses)
- A basic store with a homepage and several product pages (for ecommerce businesses)
If you can produce more content – or pay someone to do it for you – check out our post on content pillars. It’ll help you get more traffic and ROI with as little content as possible.
Optimise your website for Google
You’ve done some basic keyword research above. You’ve written some content. Now it’s time to add the keywords to the content to make sure Google knows what your website is about.
On a basic level, this means creating pages around your keywords. For example, if you offer plumbing services in Sydney, you’ll want a page for that. If you are a family law expert, you’ll want your homepage to mention that.
If possible, create a separate a page for each important keyword – e.g. “bed linen Melbourne”, “gold coast plumber”, “family lawyer Australia”.
- Work keywords into page names and URLs. For example. domain.com.au/plumber-sydney is a good choice for plumbing services in Sydney.
- Avoid overusing keywords – If you followed our advice from earlier, you should have a small list of keywords. Use them sparingly. Stuffing keywords can make your content appear awkward or unnatural.
- Build more pages over time – Aim to post website content at least a few times per week. This will help you cover more keywords with quality content. Having a stream of content is a good way to increase visibility on Google.
You don’t have to focus on keywords too much at this point – but thinking ahead will help you scale your marketing in the future.
Setting up an e-commerce store
Plan on selling goods or services online? With Australia’s e-commerce market expected to reach over $32 billion by 2024, you’re in good company.
The easiest way to create an e-commerce store quickly and easily is with Shopify. You can set your store up on your main domain or a subdomain, i.e. either store.domain.com.au or domain.com.au.
Don’t worry if you’ve never built an e-commerce store before. Shopify has templates and tutorials to help you get started quickly and easily. If you need a few extra pointers for e-commerce success, follow these steps:
- Make it easy for customers to leave reviews – 89% of consumers feel that online reviews impact their buying decisions.
- Start a loyalty program – Everyone loves a reward! Have loyal customers earn rewards towards discounts or free products.
- Have a simple checkout process – 41% of consumers abandon their carts due to a slow online checkout process. Involve as few steps as possible to keep your customers happy.
As your store grows, you may want to shift to more advanced platforms like Magento or WooCommerce. But for beginners, Shopify is the easiest, fastest way to get started.
Selling via Amazon
You could combine a website with Amazon product listings instead of running your own store. This helps you get your online business up and running a lot faster.
The upside is that Amazon is a massive search engine unto itself. You can get lots of traffic and leads by adding product listings to their website.
The downside is that working with them exclusively makes you less of a business and more of an Amazon seller. It’s a good way to test ideas – but you have a lot less control over marketing than with your own website.
3. Launching your online business – it’s time to go live!
You’ve worked hard to get your website ready for the world. Now, it’s time to launch it with these tips.
Testing your new website
Before your website is officially ready for the public, it’s important to test it. What kinds of tests are we talking about?
Try these easy-to-perform website tests:
- Learn how fast your website loads (GTmetrix offers free website speed tests).
- See what your website looks like on both desktop and mobile devices. Don’t have a phone nearby? Use Google’s free mobile-friendly tester.
- Double-check your website for properly sized images and videos.
- Give your website’s content another quick look.
It might seem like you’re going overboard, but testing your website before it launches is a smart move. These tests help ensure your website visitors have a great experience.
Marketing your new company
Marketing is how you let the world know about your new online company. These days, you have a ton of ways to market your business.
If you want immediate results, consider paid advertising on Google or social media. Paid ads will generate immediate leads and sales so you can grow your business fast.
If you have time and budget, consider investing into SEO to get results that scale over time.
If you don’t mind being in front of a camera (or smartphone), you can also try video marketing. 86% of companies currently use videos in their marketing strategies. TikTok is one popular channel where you can turn views into sales quickly.
Offer amazing customer service
According to Zendesk, 81% of shoppers make repeat purchases from businesses providing top-notch customer service.
But how do you offer customer service that’s head and shoulders above the competition? Try these tips:
- Have a fast response time – You don’t have to wait by the phone or computer every minute of your life. Just set notifications and respond to questions as they come in.
- Thank customers for purchases – This super simple action can foster tons of customer loyalty. And it’s as simple as creating a quick thank you page.
- Ask your customers for feedback – Sometimes, you might not know what you’re doing right or wrong. Find out by nicely asking customers for general feedback.
Taking a deeper dive with analytics
So far, you learned a lot of info about marketing your business. Now, it’s time to learn how analytics make running your company even easier. No need to spend thousands of dollars; Google Analytics, a powerful tool, is 100% free.
Getting started with Google Analytics is super simple. Here’s how to get started:
- Sign into Analytics using your Google account.
- Place a Google tag on website to verify ownership.
- Let Google confirm the tag is correctly placed.
Once you do the above, you will see where your website visitors come from, how long they stick around, and more. This makes it easy to focus on important traffic sources (e.g. social media) and pages that convert site visitors into customers.
4. Legal compliance: protecting your online business
Here’s how to protect your online business and products in a few easy steps.
Protecting your brand and intellectual property
Registering copyrights and trademarks protect your company’s original ideas, products, and services from being stolen.
Registering copyrights in Australia is both free and easy. Once your idea is online, it’s copyrighted.
It’s also free to register a trademark in Australia, but you’ll need to submit a form to the Australian government to officially register it. You can use this link to do so.
- Writing it yourself
- Hiring someone to do it for you
Here’s a template from Business Victoria, an official government website: template link. If you’re not in Victoria, find a local template.
Creating a terms and conditions document
Again, you’ll have the same three options to create this document: do it yourself, use a template, or hire someone to draft it.
Here’s an example of a T&C template from Western Australia’s Small Business website. If you’re not in Western Australia, find a local version.
5. Scaling your online company the smart way
Use these tips to scale up into a larger online business.
Invest in paid advertising
Want to get customers fast? Paid advertising should be your go-to tool. You can show ads to as many people as you want (budget providing) and get traffic to your website fast.
Provided you followed our instructions above and have a solid website, this traffic will convert into leads and customers.
Where should you run ads?
Google is the #1 advertising platform in the world, and an incredible way to put your goods and services in front of Australians. Google Ads can be a little hard to use – but the ROI on them can be incredible (our customers often see 800%+ ROI).
Ads on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are another good choice. With billions of monthly visitors viewing ads, they’re a smart way to reach a massive audience; especially younger people.
Create social media content
Marketing on social media is another way to get website visitors to your online business quickly. You can…
1. Create your own content on a company or personal account. It helps if you’re already an influencer on some level – or are able to create quality video content that entertains or educates.
2. Pay influencers to market your goods and services. This is easy and doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re smart, you can see a high ROI on influencer spend starting at just thousands of dollars per month.
3. Megaphone’s sister company Trend.fm, is Australia’s #1 TikTok agency. You can talk to us if you’d like us to create profitable TikTok content that drives leads and sales for you.
Use Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation takes a lot longer to work than paid ads. It involves creating more content around popular Google keywords; this can take 9-12 months to work, sometimes longer.
The upside is that you can get lots of free traffic this way. There are 3 main aspects to SEO for an existing website.
1. Create more content
Create more useful content. For example, if you find that “how to clean toilet pipes” is a popular topic and you’re a plumber, write an article to help people. Add images and try to be as useful as possible.
The more you do this, the more traffic you get. The more traffic you get, the likelier you are to convert some of that traffic into paying customers.
If you need more keywords, use our instructions from the “Building a Website” section to find more useful ones.
2. Audit your website
Look at your Google Search Console data.
1. Remove or edit poor-performing posts and pages. Either make pages more useful to people so Google ranks them higher, or remove them (if they’re not useful).
2. See if all your pages are indexed! If they’re not, ask Google to recrawl them so people can find them using Google Search.
3. See if any pages are failing Google’s usability and/or speed tests. If they are, it might be time to optimise images and website for speed and UX.
3. Repurpose content
Creating new content isn’t the only way to reach more readers. You can also repurpose the content you already have.
Repurposing content can mean a lot of things. But the main thought behind repurposing is giving content new life, usually in a wide range of formats.
Here are a few ways experts repurpose content:
- Turning podcasts into blog posts
- Transforming a video script into a blog post
- Taking website content and turning it into an infographic
Why should you open an online business in Australia?
Not sure opening an online business is the right decision? Here are some of the main benefits of starting and running one.
1. Working from home
Chances are you spent time working from home during the pandemic. Now, many companies are asking workers to come back to their offices – but not everyone’s ready to do that.
Selling products or services online lets you keep working from home. An online business can also let you live anywhere you’d like while doing business in Australia. Perfect for people who don’t like working in offices.
2. Setting your own hours
Another perk of owning an online company is setting your own schedule. You clock in and out as you please. Want to start working at 11 am? Go for it!
Online-based business models are great for those who:
- Have families of their own
- Prefer to work from home
- Don’t like working traditional business hours
- Want to spend time more working and less time commuting
3. Saving money
Running a physical business can cost a small fortune. An average commercial lease in Australia costs about $1,350 per month.
But unless your business is a massive operation like Amazon, you don’t need to rent or purchase commercial space to do business online. By working from home, you can save a ton of money and help your business at the same time.
4. Staying open around the clock
Another advantage of being an online business owner is having a company that is always open. Websites, apps, and product listings on sites like eBay all make sales around the clock. Your business is always working – even when you’re not.
So What Did We Learn?
The main aspects of starting an online business in Australia are:
1. Setting up an online domain and registering your business
2. Building a website and populating it with content
4. Legal compliance and protecting your intellectual property
5. Scaling with SEO and SEM
Ready to launch and scale your online business? Talk to Megaphone. As Australia’s top marketing agency, we’ve helped hundreds of business owners grow their businesses – and would love to do the same for you.
Frequently asked questions about starting an online company
Do you still have some questions about starting an online business in Australia? We have the answers!
1. Do I need a business license to sell items in Australia?
Australian law requires that only companies with annual financial turnover of A$75,000 or higher need to purchase a business license. If you expect your business to earn more than $70k, you’ll want to register for an Australian Business License (ABN).
2. Can I run an online business from home?
Yes, of course! That’s one of the main reasons why people love starting online companies. As long as you have a computer or smartphone and a reliable internet connection, you’re ready to work!
3. How much money does it cost to set up an online business?
Unfortunately, there’s no magic number. But Megaphone can give you a quick estimate!
Here are the base costs of starting your new online company:
- Domain name registration – A$10-20 per year
- Website hosting – A$5-10 per month
- Registering your business – A$39-55 per year if your business isn’t already registered through the Australian government. For more info on exact costs, visit the Australian government’s official website.
Right now, Megaphone is offering a free consultation for your current or future online business. Megaphone’s team of expert marketers is ready to start your business off on the right foot. We’re also giving all new customers $600 in free credits to use on Google Ads!
Max Hertan, Megaphone’s founder, knows a thing or two about launching online companies. He’s also the mind behind Silvi, a revolutionary product changing the way people deal with acne.
By joining Megaphone’s family of customers generating over $100 million per month, your business will be in good company. Several of Megaphone’s many customers include Lululemon, Make-a-Wish Australia, Goalrilla, and Natvia.