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Your Guide To Starting Your Own Online Business

Starting an online business has never been easier.

For those of you looking for a cost effective way to start your own business, without costing you too much money, then an online business is for you.

People looking for flexibility and freedom in their lives are turning to online businesses as great way to make money, on their own terms – they work where they want, at the time that they want, when they want.

This guide provides you with an overview of what is an online business, steps to starting an online business and tips for running a successful online business.

Table Of Contents

What Is An Online Business?

Types Of Online Businesses

Steps To Starting An Online Business

Tips To Running A Successful Online Business

Resources To Help You Start Your Own Online Business

WHAT IS AN ONLINE BUSINESS?

There is a huge scope for the definition of an online business. At a basic level…

An online business refers to any type of business that is done using the internet.

A business owner or entrepreneur that does most of their business on the internet is running an online business.

Anyone can start an online business and it is just like a bricks and mortar store or service but your office or shop is online.


WHAT IS AN ONLINE BUSINESS?

WHY USE AN ONLINE BUSINESS MODEL?

There are hundreds of reasons why an online business model is best.

My top 4 reasons include:-

 #1  - Trading time for $$ will wear you out

#2 - Uncapped earning potential

#3 - Ability to scale quickly and easily

#4 - Flexibility – in where you work, the hours you work, the type of work that you do

"Start and Build An Online Business You Love"

TYPES OF ONLINE BUSINESSES

There are a number of different types of online business that you can start.

Below is a list of the most popular ones that people are running.


#1 – ECOMMERCE STORE/ONLINE SHOP

By far the most popular version of an online business that is currently operating today.

You can do 1 of 2 things.

Firstly, you can design, create and manufacture your own products.

This would involve researching potential product ideas, design the product, source a manufacturer then pay for someone to make your products.

Then you need to import your products and find somewhere to house or store them.

Create a website and then start to market to your potential customers.

Manage customer service, warranty issues or concerns, compliments and complaints.

OR

You could sell someone else’s products.

Although you don’t have to do all the work described above, you will still need to source your products, house your inventory and then create your website and so on.

#2 – DIGITAL PRODUCTS

Many businesses are beginning to add digital products to their product suite in order to create a passive income.

Digital products can take many forms including checklists, templates, eBooks, designs, invitations or any other type of digital file.

In a world, where people are wanting instant gratification after making a purchase, a digital product is a great fit.

It gives you the ability to give your customer or client what they want, straight away.

You will need to create your digital product, or find a supplier to outsource your digital product to.

Add your digital product to your website and then spend time to market, promote and advertise your product, and then sell it.

A membership site is a gated or secret online community that people can subscribe to, and pay a monthly or annual fee to access the content.

Membership sites can offer a variety of content including checklists,videos, training, articles, webinars, software, apps and so on.

When membership sites are done well i.e. providing regular content and helping their communities – they can provide a regular, recurring income for you.

For example, a membership site that charges $50 per month and has 500 members, is $25,000 per month.


#3 – MEMBERSHIP SITES

#4 – FREELANCE SERVICES

Have you got a skill or qualification that is in high demand?

More and more people are looking to selling their skills and expertise as a form of income.

A freelancer is someone who offers their skills and expertise for a fee with no expectation of ongoing work from any particular client or customer.

Freelancers are self-employed and their clients are usually other businesses who are looking for a particular service or need to outsource due to workload, lack of education or just freeing up time.

The freelance economy has grown significantly in recent times due to sites such as Fiverr, Upwork and TaskRabbit connecting freelancers to businesses.


The advantages of freelancing include:-

 - Being able to pick and choose the clients that you work with,

- Flexibility in regards to setting your own hours and where you work

- Choose your own rate of pay

- It is easy and affordable to get started


The disadvantages of freelancing include:-

- Inconsistency of work

- Trying to manage multiple clients at multiple times

- It takes time to build a reputation

- You need to ensure that you pay your own taxes, wages and benefits such as superannuation

GETTING STARTED AS A FREELANCER

Starting an online business as a freelancer is quite easy to do.

It is a simple as starting to network with existing people that you know to find your first couple of clients or by signing up to one of the freelancer websites mentioned above.

Work out who your target market or niche is.

What are the needs, wants and problems of your target market?

Once you have determined these, it will assist with your branding, marketing and advertising to your potential future customers.

Create a portfolio of your work so that potential customers or clients can view your work.

This can be displayed on your website or on your profile on freelancer sites.

An online directory is a website that houses a list of businesses or websites.

There are a number of directory websites on the internet, that charge businesses a fee to list their business on their website.

Directory websites can be niche-based i.e. focused on a particular area or they can be location based.

An online directory website is an easy business model that you can automate.

Inclusions of sign-up forms and payment gateways provide businesses with access to joining your site with limited need for interaction.

Your focus can then be on ensuring that your website ranks well through SEO, and attracting new businesses to your website.

 


#5 – ONLINE DIRECTORY

#6 – ONLINE COURSES

An online course or ecourse is training delivered over the internet. This training can be accessed at any time, from anywhere.

This means this is easy to access, convenient and portable.

Almost anyone can write and teach an online course.

Choose a topic, become knowledgeable in this topic and then teach what you know to others.

Some quick steps to writing an online course include:-

- Decide on a topic. The best way to do this is to ask your audience what is their pains and frustrations, and then try to solve them.

- Research other courses on the topic and see what they are offering

- Create your course outline

- Write your content. Ensure to include different elements – text, voice, video as people learn in different ways.

- Research your topic in detail.

- Determine where you are going to host your course. Examples of great platforms include Kajabi and Teachable.

- Create a marketing plan to promote and sell your product.

"Start and Build An Online Business You Love"

STEPS TO STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS

There are a number of steps to starting an online business.

This guide takes you through the sequence of steps needed to start an online business.

Many thousands of people have followed these steps to set up and run their own online business.

 


#1 – BE READY TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR

Before you start spending time and energy on starting your own online business, you need to make sure that you are ready to become an entrepreneur.

The road to being a successful entrepreneur or business owner can be full of twists and turns.

There will be good times and bad times. Being able to navigate these ups and downs, and learn from your experiences is the true secret to success.

There are skills that successful entrepreneurs have such as growth mindset, resilience, confidence, great communication and networking skills. These skills can all be learnt and developed over time as your experience grows.

There are other skills that cannot be learnt – these include a strong work ethic, passion, desire to help and serve people.

If you have possess these skills, you will find it easier to run your business.

Related article: 23 Good Habits That Female Entrepreneurs Have

#2 – DETERMINE WHO YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE AND WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE

Studies show that entrepreneurs running an online business who have a crystal clear picture on what their customers look like, are more successful.

One of the benefits of running an online business is having the opportunity to run a business about things you are passionate about.

Your niche will play a core part in deciding what are the products or services that you will sell.

What does your target market or niche look like? If you need help in helping to work your niche out, then you read more here.

Once you have decided on your niche, you will then need to validate it. Things that you can do to validate your niche include:

- Google your niche. What are the websites, products and services currently offered in your niche? Who are your competitors? Is there a lot of competition in this particular area

- Check out Amazon. Are the products you are thinking of selling available here? Are there many sellers?
What do the sales and reviews look like?

- Use Google’s keyword planner to see how many searches your nice is getting per month. Is your niche popular? Can you niche down any more. For example, women’s shoes could niche down to sandals or flats.

#4 – DECIDE ON WHAT YOU WANT TO SELL

#3 – UNDERSTAND YOUR COMPETITORS – WHAT MAKES THEM GOOD AND HOW YOU CAN BE BETTER

Understanding your competitors is important when starting an online business.

You need to know what or who you are competing with for the attention of your potential customers.

There are some key questions that you need to consider when researching your competition.

These include:-

~Do you know who your competitors are?
~What products or services do they offer?
~What makes them stand out from others?
~List their strengths and their opportunities
~How can your leverage from their opportunities to make your business different?

Being able to answer these questions will help you to formulate your business plan and strategy.

Related article: Why You Need A Business Plan (+ FREE Business Plan Template)

Once you have determined what your target market or niche looks like, you can then start to look at what products or services that you can sell to them.

By identifying your niche first, you can then spend time understanding what their needs, wants and problems are.

And then finding a solution that you could potentially sell to them.

There are a few easy ways to find out these problems or issues. Some simple ways include:-

Just asking them. If you already have a following on social media, or an email list, ask them what they are struggling with at the moment.
Join online forums and networking groups and find out what questions people are asking
Search through FaceBook Groups and see what questions, solutions and advice are offered there
Look at your competitors – what are the solutions that they are offering? This doesn’t mean that you can copy their ideas, but you can use them for inspiration as to what else is missing.
Once you have determined what your problems are, you will need to look at your proposed solutions.

What does the product that you want to sell look like? Is it :-

~ A physical product
~ A Digital product
~ A service/s
~ Coaching or consulting

#5 – SOURCE OR CREATE YOUR PRODUCT
 

Once you know what you want to sell, you need to either source your product or create it.

Both involve a number of learning curves.

You want to create a product that people want to buy. What does this look like?

Start basic,and then start to add to your business as you start to understand your customers. They will tell you what they need.

#6 – CREATE YOUR WEBSITE

Any business that is operating in today’s society, must have a website. When starting an online business, your website is your number one important digital asset.

Once you have determined your market and your products, then you can turn your attention to your website.

Your website is your number one chance to appeal to your potential customers, and you have about 10 seconds to do that, so you need to ensure that you get it right.

The key to a successful website, is to use the K.I.S.S method – Keep It Simple Stupid.

There are some important elements that you need to consider when creating your website. Some of these include:-

Easy to read language
The fonts are simple
Your colours and branding reflect your business
Simple navigation
Your website speed
Ensuring that your website is mobile friendly.

Related: article - How To Set Up A Website Or Blog

#7 – FIND YOUR CUSTOMERS
 

Once you have your products ready and your website up and running, it is time to start to find your customers.

The internet has over 1 billion websites on it, and approximately another 500,000 set up every single day.

When starting an online business, how do you get discovered in amongst all of the other websites.

There are a few different things that you can do, to start to drive traffic to your website. These include:-

Grow your following on social media. Work out on which social media platforms your potential customers hang out, and start to build your profile and following there. People connect to people, and more likely to buy from people that they have a connection with.

Set up a business account on Pinterest. Pinterest is a free way to drive traffic to your website or blog
  
Write blog posts for your website. Blog posts help you to build authority in your niche and can drive organic traffic to your site..

#8 – BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST

Your email list is one of the most important assets of your business.

You may have a large amount of followers that you may have on your social media platforms, but unfortunately, you do not own these followers.

These followers are owned by the platforms.

However, you own the email addresses of the people who have signed up for your emails.

You will need an opt-in or bribe that you offer in exchange for a potentials customer’s email address.

Once a customer has confirmed that they wish to receive notifications from you, you can contact them as little or as often as you like.

#9 – CREATE SYSTEMS FOR YOUR BUSINESS

Ensuring that you set up systems when starting an online business is crucial to being able to automate and eventually scaling your business.

In a world cluttered with messages, your potential customers need to see your message between 8-10 times before you will secure a sale.

How do you do this when trying to live your life, run a business, have a family etc?

The answer is through systems. Some of the systems that you need to establish at the very beginning of your online business include:-

~ Social media – scheduling your social media posts all at once

~ Email marketing – invest in a email marketing provider such as Active Campaign, MailChimp or ConvertKit.

~ Receiving payments- setting up an online payment system to take payments, collect email addresses and sell products

#10 – SCALE YOUR BUSINESS

Once you have done all of the above,and you have started to see results, it is then time to scale.

Although this is not one of the first steps to take in starting an online business, it is important to see where to from here.

Some tips to help you scale your online business include:-

~ Maintaining consistent presence across your social media platforms and with your email list

~ Create sales funnels for your products

~ Set up affiliate programs to incentivise people to promote your product

~ Increase your prices

~ Outsource parts of your business that takes up your time but doesn’t require you to do the work

Related article - How To Create An Awesome Lead Magnet

10 TIPS TO RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL ONLINE BUSINESS

ORGANISE YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS
 

This extends much further than just organizing your business and keeping your files in order.

Your web assets are everything from your website to your social media profiles to your hosting account.

All relevant assets should be reflective of your brand.

For example, your social media and webpages should have the relevant and similar keywords.

They should all look the same – text, images, fonts and colours.

This should form part of your integrated marketing plan.

And they should be completely updated with the latest information about your company.

RETAIN EXCELLENT BUSINESS RECORDS

All successful businesses keep detailed records.

By keeping detailed records, you’ll know where the business stands financially and what potential challenges you could be facing.

Just knowing this gives you time to create strategies to overcome those challenges

MAINTAIN CUSTOMER RECORDS SECURELY

One problem business owners have is that they need to be able to keep records safely.

You have a legal obligation to protect any customer information obtained online.

For example, you should store information on separate devices and have a number of secure backups.

Your systems must be kept updated and controls should be implemented and access should be restricted only to specific employees.

You should have a system in place to destroy things like credit card details securely when they’re no longer needed.

RESEARCH & UNDERSTAND YOUR COMPETITION

Any good business will know its competition.

You need to know who you’re competing against so that you know why customers choose you over others, or vice versa.

Nowhere is this more important than in the online world.

You should be aware of social media channels your competition is using.

And you should inspect keyword usage from all your competitors using the variety of tools Google provides.

Starting an online business that is successful is hard work – check out these tips to help set you up for success.

PROTECT YOUR BRAND ONLINE

Online business is all about reputation.

The slightest mistake can taint your brand forever.

The key is control.

Setup a Google Alerts notification for your brand.

That way, you’ll be able to inspect any mention of your brand.

Have a firm set of branding and social media guidelines, so anyone posting on behalf of your brand is aware of what you expect from them.

Learn to deal with customer complaints and adopt a mindset of solving problems; even if the customer is wrong.

They’ll be more inclined to come to you the next time they need something instead of going to your competition.


STAY IN THE LOOP ON LATEST TRENDS
 

This extends much further than just organizing your business and keeping your files in order.

Your web assets are everything from your website to your social media profiles to your hosting account.

All relevant assets should be reflective of your brand.

For example, your social media and webpages should have the relevant and similar keywords.

They should all look the same – text, images, fonts and colours.

This should form part of your integrated marketing plan.


BE PERSISTENT

Few businesses become overnight success stories.

This is something you’ll have to accept if you want to enter the business world.

Persistence will pay off in the end if you continue to do all the right things. You need to be consistent and stay focused on your goals.

Did you know most startups take three to five years before they start turning in a profit?

BE FLEXIBLE AND READY TO EVOLVE

You will need to be able to go with the flow.

A successful business owner also has a growth mindset.

This means that they have the ability to grow, try new things and learn from their mistakes.

PROVIDE OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE

There are many successful businesses that forget that providing great customer service is important.

If you provide better service for your customers, they’ll be more inclined to come to you the next time they need something instead of going to your competition.

BE PREPARED TO WORK HARD

Success will come from hard work.

Although running an online business can lead to creating flexibility and freedom in your life, you need to work at it.


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