Today, it’s never been easier to set up an online business, regardless of your professional background or previous entrepreneurial experience. With low start-up costs and instant access to a global audience, there is a lot to gain and not very much to lose.
To put it simply, an online business is one that generates revenue through selling some kind of product or service online, such as:
- Freelancing services
- Consultancy and caching
- SaaS (software as a service)
- Memberships and subscriptions
The good news is that the digital world is expanding year on year. In fact, NASDAQ anticipates that by 2040, 95 percent of purchases will be made online, emphasizing that now is as good a time as ever to get involved and stake your claim in the digital world.
Creating a Business from Scratch
If you’re ready to get started, here are four steps to building a successful online business from the ground up:
1. Choose a niche that aligns with your passions
Let’s face it, becoming an entrepreneur is hard. Even if you don’t have to deal with renting out an office space or dealing with customers face to face, there are still many challenges involved with establishing an online business. At some point, you are very likely to struggle with motivation, especially once the novelty period wears off and the day-to-day grind is staring you in the face.
This is why it’s highly recommended to come up with a business idea that aligns with your passions. One that matches your values and gives you a reason to get out of bed every day.
As Richard Branson said, “launching a business simply to make money is likely to result in failure. Passion is one of the most effective motivators when it comes to launching a business – and often one of the strongest predictors of whether an idea will lead to success.”
Of course, this is far easier said than done, so if you’re still struggling with ideas, here are a few questions to get you thinking:
- What do you like to do in your spare time? What excites you?
- What do you like to read or research by yourself?
- What topics do you feel passionate about?
- What is it about the world that you would like to change?
- What are the areas where you are most skilled?
- What topics do people come to you for advice on?
2. Do your research and get knowledgeable
Now, before you jump headfirst into the business world with your new idea, it’s important to take a step back first and analyze the situation so you can see if it has the potential to be successful. Here are a few research techniques you need to carry out:
Conduct market research
What industry will you be participating in? Is there a genuine need for your product or service, and if so, what makes your offering different from what is already on the market? What are the current trends, size, life cycle, and growth direction of the industry? The more you know about the sector that your business will operate in, the better.
To properly assess the market conditions, you must first understand your competition. Make a list of the main competitors in your sector (businesses that will be relative in size to yours and the larger players that dominate the market share). Then, compile a list of their strengths and weaknesses. After you’ve discovered them, you’ll be able to use this knowledge to map your business’s advantages and market position.
Seek feedback on your idea
Ask people within your target demographic what they think of your idea. You need honest (and sometimes brutal) feedback at this stage, so make sure you take a survey of people outside of your friends and family.
Choose your business model
How are you going to monetize your idea? While it’s still early days, you need to have a firm grasp of how you will turn your traffic into dollars once your website gets rolling.
The road to success in the business world is a difficult one. If this is your first time entering into space, it’s a good idea to seek out coaching or enroll in a course to help you realize your goals.
Mike L. Murphy, Founder of The Visionary Planner, an online course for people who want to monetize their passions and build a successful online business from their current expertise, says, “Just like you’d be crazy to attempt to travel through the wilderness without a map (and preferably a tour guide), you’d be equally crazy to attempt to do something as risky as starting up a business! That’s why you absolutely must find a process and mentor to save you time, money and heartbreak by doing things the right way, from the get-go.”
3. Set up your website
Many people find setting up their own website to be a daunting task, but it doesn’t need to be that way. These days there are tons of tools and guides out there to help you do it on your own (which is the cheapest method). However, if you still don’t fancy taking the project on yourself, you can hire a developer who will create one for you. The rates for this vary depending on the complexity of your site, but you will likely be surprised at how cheap you can get one set up, especially if you use freelancers.
With that said, here are the steps you need to take to get your site up and running.
Domain and hosting
Go and buy your domain name and set up a hosting account. If possible, try and secure the domain that is an exact match to your company/brand name.
Build your site
You can either build it yourself, use a website builder, or hire a developer.
Fill it with copy
Your site is going to need a well-written copy that clearly states the purpose of your website and what the value proposition is to your customers. In other words, tell them what you are offering, why they need it, and how they can purchase it.
Start a blog
A blog is a must-have for any business, regardless of industry. Once you establish an audience, you can sell your own products or services, promote affiliate products, and run sponsored campaigns with other brands. It also gives you a platform to demonstrate your expertise and establish authority within your niche.
4. Bring in the traffic
Last but not least, now that you have everything set up and your infrastructure is ready to go, it’s time to start bringing in the customers. With an online business, the only way you can do that is by attracting traffic to your website and converting them into sales. Here are a few of the most popular ways to do that:
As we just touched upon, a blog is a fantastic way to build an audience and draw people to your site. The great part about blog traffic is that it is 100% organic, which means that you don’t have to pay a dime for any sort of advertising costs (other than the cost to write the article).
To make the most out of your efforts, you will need to become a proficient writer and learn (at least) the basics of SEO. This will help your website rank for search times in search engines, increasing traffic to your site and giving you more opportunities to generate revenue.
It’s estimated there are around 3.8 billion active social media users today. That’s a whole lot of potential customers that you can gain access to relatively easily. Of course, you are not required to launch on every available platform. However, it’s worth experimenting with most of the popular platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) to see which ones perform best for you, and then devote more time to the ones that generate the most interest (such as followers, likes, comments, shares, etc.).
PPC (Pay-Per-Click) marketing is when you place ads on social networks and search results pages. It’s one of the quickest ways to improve brand awareness and drive traffic to your new website. However, you will need to set aside a marketing budget.
Build an email list
Over-relying on one source of traffic is a recipe for disaster. All it takes is one algorithm update or a Facebook moderator to shut down your page, and your ability to generate an income will disappear overnight. This is why it’s important to build an email list, as it gives you direct access to your audience without the need to rely on any sort of third party. Once you’ve accumulated a large enough list, you can send regular marketing emails (such as e-newsletters) to your customers and followers to keep them informed about new products and special offers.
Now that we have covered all the necessary steps it takes to go out and build your very own digital empire, it’s time to go out and do it. While it may be overwhelming at first, just take one step at a time, and before you know it, you could be the owner of a thriving online business in an industry that you are truly passionate about.
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