Everyone can start an online business. No massive bank balance, college degree, or extensive work experience is necessary.
All that’s required is an excellent idea, the right systems, and the motivation to become financially independent. Now, since you’re currently searching for ways to start an online business, odds are you already have the drive and the idea part down (if not, that should be handled by the end of this piece).
What you are interested in finding out is how to begin the building process of your online empire. In this article, we will discuss the exact steps needed to start a business online, so that you can ensure that the right systems are in place.
Steps Required for Starting An Online Business
Step 1: Pick a Business Model
Before you launch an online business, it helps a great deal to know about the current tried-and-tested web business models. That said, there are 6 primary types of online business models that you can be a part of:
- Affiliate Marketing: This is a business model that involves you promoting other people’s services and products online, and in exchange you receive a commission for every sale. Ultimately, with the right traction, this can turn into a passive income business model.
- Freelancing: In the freelance business model, you simply need to provide a service to other businesses or individuals, using a skill that you possess such as programming, designing, writing, or advertising.
- Consulting and coaching: If you’re up for this business model, it involves coaching and offering consultations based on your expertise, in exchange for payment. This business model usually works great if you already have an established name in your field or target market. But even if you don’t, you should have a rare skill that’s currently in demand.
- Information Products: With this, you can package and market your expertise in templates, online courses, ebooks, and worksheets. The trick behind this kind of business model is to ensure that the knowledge that you intend to sell isn’t easily accessible on the web or widely known.
- Software-as-a-service: Roadblocks abound these days, and apps are created to solve everyday problems, whether in business or personal life. So with this business model, you create an application or software that satisfies the needs of users in the target market, and charge them a recurring subscription fee in exchange for access to your software or application.
- E-commerce: There are so many ways you can sell products online. You can go through the process of using e-commerce platforms to create an online store and sell your products from there, or you can simply resell already existing products on the web, without having to create a store.
Step 2: Choose a Target Market
Identifying or choosing a target market is a vital step. There is just one winning strategy, and that is to carefully identify your target market and send a superior offering to the market.
Here’s a no-brainer trick – ensure that you are a part of your target market.
Think of it. If you have been fishing all your life you’ll know and understand the desires, language, and problems of other fishermen. The result – it’d be a lot easier to sell fishing products online.
Additionally, your marketing endeavors will be a lot more successful, as you would have a better grasp and understanding of the best mode of communication with other fishermen.
But if you have never gone fishing in your entire life, there will be a lot of struggle to sell fishing products online.
So, as you choose your target audience or market, answer the following questions:
- What are my interests and hobbies?
- What do I spend a large amount of my time reading, talking, and thinking about?
- What do I know a lot about?
Step 3: Find a Problem to Solve
When considering launching an online business, you must note one major thing: every business solves a problem.
Hollywood movies eliminate boredom, fulfill curiosity and interest, as well as grant the desire to escape and relax. Plumbers fix broken pipes. Fashion brands help people feel good and express themselves.
Here’s the rule of thumb: The larger the problem you fix and the better you fix it – the more cash consumers are willing to pay for your services or product.
Take healthcare services, for instance – they solve a huge problem, which is the reason why almost everyone spends money on it.
Alternatively, not a lot of people will be willing to pay you to fix their wobbling table. It’s not a massive problem, and most times they won’t need help fixing it.
The bottom line is that, if you want to start a business online, you must find a worthy and sizable problem to solve.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Target Audience: Fashion-conscious teenage girls
- The Problem: Fashion-conscious girls want to stand out in clothing from their colleagues, without spending a lot of money.
- The Solution: Start an online clothing line that’s budget-friendly and flamboyant.
Here’s a second example:
- Target Audience: Single moms with toddlers.
- The Problem: Many working single moms would love to work out regularly, but can’t seem to find the time.
- The Solution: Produce a time-saving fitness schedule and program.
That said, how do you know what problem to solve? Easy. Join online forums and Facebook groups and find out what people need help with, or can’t do without. You can also use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to know what people are currently searching for. Alternatively, you can search for successful online businesses and identify the problems they offer solutions to, then find a better way to do it and offer that as a solution.
Step 4: Evaluate Your Idea
Every business starts with an idea. If you already have one, you can hop over to the next step – but if not, you’ve got to begin brainstorming.
Here are some steps to help:
- Think of how to stay ahead of the curve.
- Brainstorm how your service or product can impact the market landscape, especially with the continuous technological advancements of our world.
- Offer a fresh perspective that gives you a competitive edge over competitors.
- Think of how to make your approach cheaper, faster, and better if your idea isn’t fresh.
- You can gather perspectives by conducting surveys, or simply researching online reviews to come up with a better way of executing a business idea.
Step 5: Competitor Analysis
Anyone who intends to start an online business must not sleep on analyzing the competition. Competitor analysis helps you to remain at the cutting edge of what consumers in your niche want, anticipate market shifts, and identify winning tactics. It also helps in defining your positioning, messaging, and total business strategy.
So how do you carry out competitor analysis? Here are some ideas:
- Subscribe to the blog of your competitors.
- Purchase a service or product that they offer
- Become their followers on social media
- Subscribe to their newsletters
As you take these measures, ensure that you record your findings with information on each approach. You need to be able to find relevant insights when needed.
By analyzing your competitors’ customer experience, as well as how they engage with their target audience via content, you can discover tactics that your competitors use to push sales.
A SWOT analysis is also worth considering, as it can help in accompanying the discoveries from your research. The SWOT analysis is a blueprint that looks into your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths to define areas that require improvement.
Step 6: Carry out Market Research
The goal of carrying out market research is to understand average consumer behavior and pain points, as well as relevant market trends in your niche.
This is a great way to determine how your online business will fit into the current industry landscape. So, find the answers to the questions below as you carry out your market research:
- What service or product is currently in demand in your particular niche?
- How many consumers make up your target audience, what is the market volume?
- How many competitors have a concept similar to your idea?
- How much are consumers willing to pay for services and products in your niche?
- What is the average consumer engagement in your niche?
One of the easiest ways to gain accurate insight is to interact with consumers directly. Make questionnaires, take surveys, and carry out one-on-one interviews.
Step 7: Cover the Legal Aspects
Every business that you start has to be adequately aligned with the regulations and laws of your region. So ensure that you read up on the online business legal requirements before starting a fresh web business.
Here are a couple of legal bases that you need to cover:
A Structure of a Business
You may have to register as a sole proprietor or an LLC. Carry out the research and choose the one that’s best suited for your current and future needs. But it may help to get the advice from a tax specialist.
Permits and Licenses
Depending on the kind of business you intend to start, you may have to get a license to operate it. This differs based on where you reside, so ensure that you reach out to your local state department to know more.
A lot of online business owners are required by law to pay income tax. Also, you may have sales tax obligations if you decide to offer products to people in particular countries. So before you begin your online business, make sure that you speak to an attorney to understand the applicable taxes and the Internet business documents that you must possess to file them.
Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights
You’ll want to cover the above legal elements to limit or avoid trouble in the future. For instance, registering your trademark will stop all the businesses from using your company name, which saves you the cost and hassle of rebranding.
Step 8: Resell or Develop Your Service/Product or Promote a Skill
When it comes to online businesses, there are 3 ways you can bring your idea to life: promoting your skill, creating your product/service yourself, or simply reselling.
If you decide to go with the third option, all you need is to find a product or an e-product, based on step 3, that’s relevant to your niche to resell.
Next, find a marketplace to resell the product. To make the process easier, you can use a cross-listing app that allows you to post your product on numerous marketplaces such as eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, etc. all at once. And that would be all, you then need to jump to step 9.
But if you decide to go with the second option, you need to hire extra hands. For instance, if you want to create an app, you need someone with technical experience to help you out; if you intend to mass-produce an item, you need a manufacturer.
Product quality and simplicity must be your top priority. Instead of developing the cheapest product, create something that captures your target audience’s attention.
Ensure you do the following:
- Avoid enlisting generalists – choose specialists.
- Always stay within your budget.
- Supervise production all the way through.
For service-based offers, your main focus should be on hiring people with the necessary educational and certification requirements. You can use online job portals like ProBlogger and Upwork as a start.
If you simply want to offer your skill online, based on your market research in step 3, promote your skill in places online where they are needed.
For example, if you have copywriting skills, you’ll want to start promoting them through online job portals such as Freelancer or Upwork.
Step 9: Generate Sales
To generate sales, you have to start by understanding your potential customers – knowing what their dislikes, likes, wants and needs are. After this, understand the art of requesting commitment without coming off as too pushy.
Simply put, don’t coerce people to buy goods from you or they won’t come back.
You have to prepare yourselves to hear “no” as well.
People may listen to your pitch even though they have no intention of purchasing, simply because they are nice. If they don’t end up buying from you, don’t feel bad.
At this point, your goal should be to grow a customer base online via social media promotion, Google ads, and SEO (search engine optimization). You must also identify the right sales funnel and methodology for your business to generate leads and successfully convert them into loyal customers.
Marketing and sales are the strength of a successful business, so ensure that you have an amazing strategy.
Step 10: Grow Your Business
You need to have a growth plan if you want your online business to scale. Fortunately, there are so many ways to boost your company’s growth.
A great recommendation is the use of the power of social media through paid, influencer, and organic campaigns. Email Marketing also works great to foster and nurture a loyal customer base.
One of the primary aspects of sustainable, long-term growth is having a dedicated customer base and cutting down customer churn. Every effort you put into nurturing your current customers can be profitable in the long-run, when they become returning customers – which ensures revenue long-term.
Online Business Ideas
1. Teach a Skill
If you have a teachable skill, you can turn it into a profitable business: you can create an online class on anything, whether it’s how to get out of debt, learning how to do splits in 25 days, content marketing, etc.
To get started, simply identify profitable skills that you possess and are excited to teach. For the start-up cost, you just need a hosting platform like Kajabi or Teachable for your course. Depending on the provider, prices run between $39 to $119. With regards to profitability, you can sell your online course from as little as $37 to $4000, depending on your social proof and audience.
Reselling is one of the easiest ways to start an online business. You don’t have to own the product or even have a website or landing page where you sell from. All you need is a product to sell from someone else, and a marketplace to list the product.
As mentioned above, there are apps that can help you list your products across numerous platforms easily. Apart from subscribing to a listing software, there are little to no start-up costs involved, especially if you aren’t purchasing the product.
The profitability depends on the cost of the product you intend to resell, and the margin of profit you sell at.
Podcasting will not be the simplest way to make money online, but if you’re in it for the long haul – you may pull in the big bucks. For example, if your audience gets large enough you can sell ad reads, and use your podcast to promote your products/services or affiliate products.
The startup cost is primarily your microphone and podcast software – if you decide to use a paid one. The profitability of this business for new podcasters can be little to nothing, but if you build your customer base, you can expect to make up to $100,000 per episode if you play your cards right.
That’s a wrap! We’ve covered all you need to know to start a business online. So get started right away: taking the first step can be intimidating, but take the plunge without fear and launch your business.