If you have an idea for a business, starting one online could be a way to enter the digital market and earn extra money from the comfort of your own home. Here’s how to start an online business, plus five business ideas to get your wheels rolling.
How to start an online business
Before you put the shingles of your business online, some preliminary planning can set you up for success. Here are eight steps to get you started:
1. Identify a product or service to sell
Whether you plan to sell physical or digital goods, or you can offer a service, like consulting, the best online businesses strike a balance between what you’ll love to sell and what people are interested in buying. Start by researching different niches and industries to find gaps in the market that you could fill with your business.
2. Learn about your competition
When you have a few product or service ideas in mind, start analyzing what competitors have to offer. Check competitor prices and read customer reviews to identify areas where your product or service might stand out. But don’t feel obligated to come up with a completely new concept.
“While innovation is always good, having a completely unique product can actually do more harm than help,” said Andrei Vasilescu, co-founder and CEO of coupon website Don’tPayFull. that helps consumers find deals. If there’s no demand for a product, you could end up spending most of your time explaining what it is and convincing people to buy it. On the other hand, launching a new version of an existing product might be easier to sell and more profitable.
3. Write a business plan
A business plan is a document that describes what you sell, who you serve, how you operate, and your unique selling proposition. Think of your business plan as a living document that you can update as your business grows and your goals change.
4. Know your audience
Defining your audience can help you create a brand image that cuts through the noisy internet and attracts the right customer.
“When you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one,” said Meyr Aviv, founder and CEO of iMoving, a tech platform that helps people plan their move. If you focus on a specific group of people instead, you can better meet their needs and wants, and you’re more likely to convert them into customers, Aviv said.
5. Build your business
The administrative and legal steps to take to start your business will depend on the type of business you wish to create. If you are self-employed or a consultant, you can operate your business as a sole proprietorship.
However, forming a separate business entity, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or S Corporation (S Corp), could limit your personal liability if your business is sued. If you’re unsure of the best route to take, an accountant can guide you on how to set up your operation legally.
6. Find your platform
There are many website builder options you can use to build an online database. Drag-and-drop website builders like Squarespace, Shopify, and Wix make it easy to set up business pages or stores without coding. However, if you want to get up and running quickly, you can also sell digital and physical products on marketplaces like Creative Market or Etsy.
7. Plan your brand and marketing
Your brand is reflected in your marketing materials, including your logo, company slogan, color schemes and tone of voice you use on social media and your website.
If you don’t have a big budget to hire a designer for branding, you can create your own logo and brand assets using affordable design tools like Canva, Looka, or LOGO. com.
You will also need to develop a plan to market your business. You may have to fight the urge to start promoting on all social media platforms. “When it comes to marketing, if you have a limited budget or resources, start with [marketing] channels,” said Meg Prejzner, owner of Hackett Brand Consulting. This way, you can hone your marketing strategy on a few platforms first and then expand it as your business grows.
Outside of social media, think about how you will grow your email list and how you will build a relationship with the people on that email list through regular broadcasts, promotions, and product launches.
8. Promote your business
When you’ve laid the groundwork to build your business, it’s time to promote. Creating a monthly content calendar for social media posts and emails can help you stay organized.
You can also consider experimenting with paid advertising through social media ads, search engine ads, or influencer marketing. If you don’t know how to write social media ad copy or create an ad campaign, Coursera and Udemy have affordable courses that can help you learn more.
5 online business ideas to get started
You do not know where to start ? Here are six ideas to consider:
Being freelance as a writer, designer, consultant, graphic designer, or artist and working on projects for clients is one way to earn income that could eventually replace your full-time job.
However, how much you could earn depends on the type of service you offer and the rates you set for your work.
Give lessons online
If you are a subject matter expert in a field, you can create and sell online courses that teach the subject. Udemy is a platform you can use to market and distribute your courses, or another option is to sell courses directly from your own website.
creation of websites
Web design is a service that many professionals and small businesses need. If you have some basic skills, a company that offers website design, consulting, and maintenance services could be lucrative.
Dropshipping is a unique business model where you create a storefront but don’t stock your own products. Instead, the products are kept in a warehouse and you pay a third party to handle the logistics of sending the goods. A dropshipping business requires less initial capital. However, the trade-off is that profit margins may be lower due to third-party costs.
Affiliate marketing is a business model where you refer people to products and services and earn a commission when they make a purchase. If you’re creating a popular blog or building a large following on social media, affiliate marketing is a way to monetize your audience.
The bottom line
The beauty of starting a business today is that you can get started without a lot of money, but it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Building a brand and finding customers often takes time, so don’t be discouraged if your business doesn’t catch on overnight. Experiment to see what works, learn as you go, and enjoy the process along the way.