A 10 Step Guide: Starting An Online Business

Fulfill your entrepreneurial potential by beginning an online venture.

The dream of starting a business is one that can be found in the minds of many people. However, in reality, it’s realized by very few. 

There are roadblocks and barriers in every potential entrepreneur’s journey. Perhaps it’s the initial investment or the time it takes to get a business established. Maybe it’s the fear of failure or that overwhelming feeling that they don’t have what it takes. Either way, most people quit before taking the first step.

Fortunately, these roadblocks can be overcome. First of all, we must answer two simple questions: Why? And, How?

Why do you want to start an online business?

When tough decisions have to be made, it’s important to look at the reasons why we are making them in the first place. Simplify and evaluate, but don’t jump the gun. 

The freedom of working for yourself is one of the most common reasons behind starting a business. Punching a clock and working 40+ hours per week in a dead-end job can be exhausting. This alone is reason enough for many. 

For others, it’s about their personal goals, anticipating a growing market, or scalable opportunities.

These are the right reasons to start a business. There is substance and thought behind them.

There are also wrong reasons to start a business. Here are some red flags to look out for:

  • You’ve had a rough week at work.
  • You’re in it purely for the money.
  • You want to prove someone wrong.
  • You want to work from home.

Many have established successful businesses from these ambitions, but they are the root of even more failed ventures. These can be part of the reason you want to start, but they shouldn’t be the main drivers.

How do I start an online business?

You’ve given yourself the green light. You know for sure why you want to start a business, and you’ve justified your reasons. Now you must figure out how it’s going to happen. 

There have never been fewer barriers to starting a business. The online market space has low set-up costs, and there are endless information resources to help you. Although the internet can be a minefield for finding reliable information, there’s a wealth of knowledge out there if you do diligent research. Alternatively, a paid course can guide you step-by-step. 

Where a brick-and-mortar business can take a substantial initial investment, and significant start-up time, an online business can be cheap (even free) to launch, and you can work on it in your spare time. 

To help answer the “how” question, here are 10 key steps for anyone starting an online business.

  1. Find your niche

Every business must fulfill a need of some description. If you want to sell a product, ensure that your product is useful and can benefit a number of people. If you’re offering a service, it must also be of use to the user. 

Find your niche market, and look to solve a problem that exists in it. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid entering a market that is already saturated or is dominated by major industry players.

  1. Do your research

In-depth market research can help prevent a lot of hardship down the line. Research everything from the marketplace, to potential customers, to competitors, to industry trends. Get up to speed on all that you need to know before making your first steps into the industry. 

Seek counsel from a legal representative or research any laws relating to your industry, if you are concerned. 

From here, the foundations are laid for a successful business.

  1. Know your target market

A mistake that many new businesses make is failing to identify their target market. Your product or service may be of use to everyone, but it’s vital to know who is most likely to buy/use it. Create customer profiles so that marketing activities may align with your target audience. 

  1. Have a business plan

Business plans are essential. They force you to plot every step of the way carefully. They also help you to foresee potential banana skins. 

If the idea of a business plan is completely alien to you, take an online course, or research what one entails. It might seem daunting at first, but it’s easier than you think, and it’s an essential step.

A solid business plan creates structure and helps you to focus on the short and long term objectives of your business, one step at a time.

  1. Importance of I.T.

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll understand the importance of an “I.T. guy” or an I.T. team. 

Although you might manage to troubleshoot your way out of common I.T. issues yourself, you may not realize the necessity for I.T. security.

Why is I.T. security important? Running an online business may require you to hold confidential or sensitive information regarding you, your customers, or finances. Cybercriminals target this type of information. The main areas vulnerable to cyber-attacks are software programs, downloads, apps, and the cloud. 

Taking a course in I.T. security or outsourcing I.T. to a reputable organization is paramount. 

  1. Launch your website

Your website doesn’t have to wow your customers. Your site should be user friendly with a clean look. Ensure that all copy is clear and concise. 

Don’t overcomplicate things and let every function of the website have a purpose.

Include an opt-in form where people can give you their e-mail addresses or contact information. This will help expand your customer base and increases the reach potential for advertising.

  1. Set goals and markers

All businesses should have crystal clear targets and deadlines. Goals help prioritize tasks and are measured easily. 

You should have goals for all aspects of the business. For example:

  • Sales goals.
  • Revenue goals.
  • Social engagement goals.
  • Social reach goals.
  • Market share goals.
  1. Drive traffic

With a good website in place, you now need to drive customers to it. There are several ways to do this. Here are some excellent options:

  • Pay-per-click advertising (PPC).
  • Use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to create content.
  • Be active on social media.
  • Paid social media ads (e.g., Facebook ads and Instagram ads).
  • Utilize influencers.
  • Spread the word using e-mail marketing.
  • Post useful information on online boards, like Reddit.
  1. Monitor successes AND failures

Every success and failure adds to the growth of your business. Keeping things measurable and scalable makes analysis easier and more effective. Establish KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), and monitor them. 

Continue to progress with successful activities, but more importantly, learn from your failures. Developing a good business sense can only come from a reaction to unsuccessful endeavors. Always remember that failure is part of the process.  

  1. Communicate with your customers

Customers are the most essential part of any business. Treating your customers well and showing your appreciation develops good rapport. Increased customer satisfaction can lead to repeat business. 

Customer engagement creates an emotional bond between a business and its customer base. Highly engaged customers tend to buy and promote more. 

Reaching out to customers can also give incredible insights into your business from an outside perspective. Use e-mail marketing to send follow up messages. Ask for input from your audience on social media. Or try developing a survey to find out what they really think. 

Bonus tip

In modern business, one of the most important traits a company can have is adaptability. Throughout each step of the above guide, it’s crucial that you are flexible and adaptable. Circumstances can change in a heartbeat, so you have to be ready. Anything can be overcome once you are prepared and willing to adapt to change.

Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

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