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How To Start A Shareware Business

Generally, the goal of the shareware developer is to write software and give it to people in return for money. This is what is commonly referred to as a business. Alas, once you start a business, you open yourself up to all sorts of new paperwork, responsibilites, and tax liabilities. These are ignored only at your extreme financial peril.

There are several questions fledgling shareware developers invariably ask (most information is skewed towards options in the United States ... your nation may differ):

Do I have to get a business license?

Well, sure. You're trying to run a business, after all.

How do I get a business license? What sorts of forms do I need to fill out?

This varies from state to state and country to country. There are always some forms and fees, but the quantity of both varies widely.

There are two places to start looking for information: local bookstores and the local city hall. The business area of any decently sized bookstore should have a few good books on what it takes to start a business in your area. The local information line for the local city hall should able to give you a list of what you need as well. I recommend buying a book - it will put solid information in front of you, in black and white, where it can be pondered at leisure.

In the United States, I recommend the "Starting & Operating a Business in <your state here>" series. They're easy to find, easy to read, and very clear.

There are several forms of businesses given. Which should I use?

The usual choices a small business owner has for small business are : sole proprietorship, partnership (several varieties), and corporation (several varieties). When starting out, you probably want a sole proprietorship. It's very easy to start and maintain.

As time goes on and your business grows, however, it would be a very good idea to evaluate the other business form options. The best person to help you do this is an accountant. You should find a good accountant. No successful business is complete without one, and, should you decide to incorporate, you definitely should have one (you can incorporate by yourself - it, like a lot of other stupid things, is very possible).

Do I need to pay sales taxes?

Sure. You're selling stuff. However, interstate sales (the bulk of your sales) are exempt. Again, refer to your local laws.

All this is overwhelming me!

Don't panic. Many, many thousands of people have gone through this process before you. It's really not that hard. It usually only involves a few forms and a trip to city hall or two. And, if you are really scared, you can always find an accountant. He or she will know what you should do.

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