There’s an easy – and important – answer to this question. The truth is, online entrepreneurs need protection just as much as traditional brick-and-mortar (B&M) businesses. Specific coverage will vary somewhat, but commercial insurance is still a must. Here’s why:
- Your physical assets, whether inventory or equipment, still need protection.
- You are not immune to lawsuits simply because you never see your customers in person.
- You may suffer cyberattacks that cripple your business.
With this in mind, online business owners should discuss with their insurance agent what types of insurance coverage are appropriate for their operations. And soon.
Typically, online business owners should carry:
Commercial property insurance: Many home-based business owners assume their homeowners policy will cover their business assets. This is generally not the case. For proper protection of inventory, tools, materials, or equipment, you should have a commercial property insurance policy. This will provide coverage in case of theft or damage. Without it, one storm or one criminal could bankrupt your operations.
Commercial liability insurance: What happens if a customer sues you? Any lawsuit related to your business operations will not be covered by your homeowners policy. You need commercial liability insurance to provide coverage for the settlement and your defense costs. Even if you win the case, attorney fees add up quickly. Some companies are more likely to be sued than others, but anyone who provides a service or a product (either online or via B&M) is vulnerable.
Cyber liability insurance: Internet security is essential in today’s online marketplace. Even with the best protocols in place, you are still at risk. If your system is hacked, you may lose sensitive information about your business and your clients. You may suffer costly downtime. And it may impact your customers as well. With so much at stake, you can’t afford not to have cyber coverage.
Workers’ compensation: Do you have employees? Even if they don’t work in a B&M location, both full- and part-time employees must have workers’ compensation coverage. Consult with your insurance agent on exactly what coverage you need based on your operations and employee responsibilities.
Professional liability insurance: Those who don’t sell a product can still get sued. If advice provided in a consultation causes harm, or is perceived to have caused harm, you might get sued. This policy will cover you in these potentially costly cases.
Products liability insurance: This coverage is only needed by those who sell a product rather than a service. Even if you believe your product is completely benign, it’s a good idea to have coverage in place. You might be surprised at how children (or even adults) can hurt themselves. As they say: Better safe than sorry.
Loss of income: Do you have a backup plan for a business interruption? Loss of income insurance offers coverage if your online business ceases due to a fire or other covered disaster. With it in place, you can bridge the gap and get things flowing again. Without it, you might be up the creek without a paddle.