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7 Steps to Building an Online Business
Building an online business is an amazing opportunity for entrepreneurs.
When the real estate magazine publishing house I worked at went under in 2008, there was no way I would have been able to start my own small business if I had to have a location. Creating my business online from the very beginning allowed me to reach more customers immediately, keep my overhead very low, and gave me the freedom to have babies and stay home, travel the world, and eventually bring my husband home to work too.
Is starting an online business easy?
It’s no secret that starting an online business is easier than opening a brick-and-mortar business, but it does take a lot of hard work to get a business off the ground, even when it’s online. That’s why I’ve put together this list of seven steps you need to take to build your online business.
How to start an online business step by step
Follow these seven steps to creating a business online today.
Step One: Start the Right Business
It’s easy for a small business owner to think. “I’ll just sell stuff!” and think the money will just roll in, but you need to do some planning before you launch your new online business.
The 1st step to starting your own business is to choose your business model. What kind of business do you want to start? There are many different great business model options out there, so it’s important to choose something that is a good fit for your skills and interests.
You may not want to become a graphic designer if you have no design skills, are not creative, and have never used design software.
Do you want to sell physical products, like shirts or mugs, virtual products, like ebooks or courses, or services like bookkeeping, copywriting, or a consulting business? Any of these are good online business ideas, as long as they solve a problem for someone in your business niche.
You need to find a problem to solve.
The next step to starting any business is finding a need and solving it. But this is especially important when starting an online business. Why? Because there are already so many businesses online vying for attention.
When coming up with online business ideas, you need to find a specific problem that your target audience market is facing and offer them a solution. This could be anything from teaching people how to knit to showing busy moms how to make quick and healthy weeknight meals.
No matter what you choose, make sure it’s something you’re passionate about – because you’ll be spending a lot of time working on it!
Who are you selling to?
Next, you need to identify your target market. Who are you going to sell to? It’s important to have a good understanding of who your target market is and what they are looking for. And don’t make the rookie mistake of saying you’re selling to everyone because when you try to sell to everyone, you are really selling to no one.
Take this example, let’s say you are a realtor. And you decide you are selling to everyone. But are you really?
A Real estate agent could sell different types of real estate, like single-family homes, multi-family properties, or commercial. Each of these types of properties has very different buyers.
What about the type of investor? Are they personally buying their family home, or are they purchasing for investment properties? Or are they looking for properties to flip? Are they young and on a budget or more mature with money to spend? Again these are all very different buyers.
And what about location? A buyer looking for a horse property in the country is very different than someone looking for a fancy condo in the heart of the city.
So you can’t say you are selling to everyone; you really need to dial in your target audience.
Step Two: Analyze the Competition / Find Your Uniqueness
The next step is to take a look at the competition. When you’re starting an online business, there’s a good chance that there are already other businesses out there doing something similar to what you want to do. And that is okay.
Look at how many pizza places or shoe stores there are just in your town.
Do you think Starbucks says, “There’s already someone here selling coffee; let’s go somewhere else.”
That’s why it’s important to find your unique selling proposition (USP). What makes your small business idea different from everyone else? This could be anything from a niche focus to a unique approach or even just having a personality that people can connect with.
Find what sets you apart and use it to your advantage!
Conducting Market Research
Market research is important because it allows all sized businesses to determine what products or services are in demand by consumers. This information is critical in order to make decisions about what to produce, how to market it, and pricing. Additionally, market research can help online businesses to identify new opportunities and threats.
There are a variety of market research methods that businesses can use, including surveys, focus groups, interviews, and data analysis. The most appropriate method will depend on the type of information needed. For example, surveys are well-suited for measuring consumer opinion, while data analysis is more useful for identifying trends.
Market research is an essential tool for your online business. By taking the time to understand the needs and wants of consumers, businesses can stay ahead of the competition and make decisions that will help them to grow and succeed.
Step Three: Design and Build Your Website
Now it’s time to start putting together your website. This is where things can start to get technical, but don’t worry – there are plenty of resources out there to help you.
Your Domain and Website Hosting
The first step is to choose a domain name for your website. This can be your company name or something related to what you do. Once you have chosen a domain name, you will need to set up hosting for your website. Hosting is basically where your website “lives” on the internet.
Build Your Website the Smart Way
There are many different ways to build a website, but the most popular method is using WordPress. WordPress is a content management system that makes it easy to create and manage a website.
Once you have set up your hosting, you can install WordPress and start creating your own website without any coding skills.
Your Website Content
One of the most important aspects of your website is the content. You’ll want to create your core website pages and a blog. These website pages should include:
Your content should be well-written and informative. It should also be updated regularly to ensure that your visitors are getting fresh, relevant information. Most of your content will be on your blog.
Not only does Google like blog content, but potential customers often find your website through your blog posts. So don’t skip this part of your website.
Another important aspect of your website is the design. Your website should have a professional design that reflects the image of your business. You can hire a web designer to create a custom design for your website or use a pre-made theme.
Don’t try to go overboard on this to start; your website is a living part of your marketing strategy, so get up the basics and then go make sales. You can always add more later.
Promote Your Website
Once you have created your website, it is important to promote it online.
Promote on Social Media
First, use social media marketing. Create accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then, post links to your website content on these platforms. Make sure to use relevant hashtags so that people can find your content. You can also use online forums and Q&A sites to showcase your expertise and drive traffic back to your site.
Promote on other sites
Next, submit your website to directories and listings sites. This will help people find your site when they’re searching for businesses like yours.
Use Paid Advertising
You can also use pay-per-click advertising to drive traffic to your website. You can do this with Google AdWords or other similar platforms.
Be Mobile Friendly
Next, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. More and more people are using their smartphones and tablets to surf the web, so you want to make sure they can easily view and navigate your site on these devices.
Use Your Blog
Finally, use the blog on your site and write articles that include links back to your website. Be sure to optimize your blog posts for SEO so that they rank high on search engine results pages.
It’s all about getting more eyes on your online business.
Step Four: Use Search Engines to Drive Traffic to Your Site
Now that your website is up and running, it’s time to start driving traffic to it. The best way to do this is through search engines like Google and Bing.
To get started, you’ll need to optimize your site for the right keywords. This means doing some research on what people are searching for when they’re looking for businesses like yours. Once you’ve found the right keywords, you can use them to write content for your website.
If you are not great at copywriting, there are a few options you can use to get more content on your site:
- Hire a website copywriter or an agency to help
- Take a copywriting course
- Use a freelancer from Fiverr or Upwork
- Use AI copywriting like Jasper or Surfer
- Read Books about copywriting
If you want to know more about how SEO works and how to use it as a tool to get more traffic to your website, check out the SEO for Beginner Series. It’s a great fundamental primer for every small business owner, so they know at least the basics of SEO.
Step Five: Collect Emails and Build Your List
One of the most important things you need to do when starting an online business is collect emails from potential customers. Why? Because it gives you a way to stay in touch with people who are interested in what you’re selling.
There are a few different ways to do this. The first is to add an opt-in form to your website. This could be a pop-up or a sidebar form that asks people for their email address in exchange for something valuable, like a free ebook or discount code. This is called a lead magnet.
Another way to collect emails is through social media sites. You can run ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram that encourage people to sign up for your email list. Or you can use a tool like Kartra to create landing pages that make it easy for people to sign up.
Step Six: Stay in Touch With Your List
Once you have a list of potential customers’ email addresses, it’s important to stay in touch with them! The best way to do this is through email marketing.
Email marketing is a way to send regular updates, coupons, and other information to your list. It’s also a great way to build relationships with potential customers and get them interested in what you’re selling.
You’ll want to use an email marketing platform like Get Response or Constant Contact. These platforms make it easy to create beautiful emails, manage your list, and automate your sending.
You’ll find staying in touch with prospects with email, autoresponders and a newsletter is easier than you think and very effective, even when you’re just starting your online business.
Step Seven: Make Sales and Get Paid
Now it’s time to start making sales! The best way to do this is by creating a sales funnel. A sales funnel is a process that takes people from being interested in what you’re selling to becoming paying customers.
There are a few different steps involved in creating a sales funnel. The first is to create an opt-in page where you offer something valuable (like an ebook or discount code) in exchange for someone’s email address. Once you have their email address, you can then send them regular updates, coupons, and other information about your business.
Once people are interested in what you’re selling, you can then direct them to a sales page, where they can learn more about your product or service.
If they’re interested in what you’re offering, they can then purchase it.
Taking payments for your online business
There are a few different ways to take payments online. The most popular is through PayPal, but you can also use a service like Stripe or Authorize.net. Once you have a payment method set up, you can then start taking orders and making sales!
If you are doing professional services like graphic design or consulting, you can use FreshBooks to send professional invoices and allow your customers to pay online.
Start Your Successful Online Business
That’s it! These are the seven important steps in starting a business online. Just remember to start with a problem that you can solve, design and build your website, optimize it for the right keywords, collect emails, stay in touch with your list, make sales, and get paid.
From Business idea to Success Online
If you do all of these things, you’ll be well on your way to success. Ready to start your online business?
Want to learn more about starting your own business online? Keep reading here.
How to Start an Online Business Faqs
What is the Best Type of Online Business to Start?
The best type of online business ideas are the ones that you want to do, have skills to do, and can actually make you money. I want to pet all the dogs, and I have the skills, but this is not a lucrative business idea. If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of resources available to help you research different types of successful online businesses.
And where passion is definitely the key ingredient needed for a successful online business venture, it’s not the only factor that determines whether an online business will be successful.
There are other considerations such as:
- What skills and knowledge do you have?
- Who is your target market?
- How much time and money are you willing to invest?
- What are your goals for your business?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what type of online business and the right business model for you.
What is the Best Online Business to Start from Home?
Need an online business idea that can be started from home? Wondering which online business is best to start?
The best ones depend on your own unique skills. If you’re good at writing, for example, you could start a blog or become a freelance writer. If you’re interested in selling products, you could start an eCommerce online store or become a drop shipper. And if you’re good at promoting and marketing, you could become an affiliate marketer.
Here are some ideas to get you started finding your best online business ideas to start from home :
- Freelance Writing
- Starting an e commerce business
- Sell Digital Products
- Affiliate Marketing
- Graphic Design
- Social Media Management
- Create an Online Course
Each online business idea can be started with little to no upfront investment, and all can be done from the comfort of your own home.
What Kind of Online Business is Most Profitable?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the most profitable online business for you will depend on a number of factors, including your niche, target audience, and level of experience.
However, there are some types of businesses that tend to be more profitable than others. These include ecommerce stores, blogging, selling digital products, drop shipping, and affiliate marketing.
Online stores or a drop shipping business are often more profitable than other types of online businesses because they have the potential to reach a global audience and generate sales 24/seven.
Blogging can also be quite profitable, especially if you’re able to generate a significant amount of traffic and partner with brands or companies who are willing to pay for sponsored content, but this takes quite a bit of time to get going.
And affiliate marketing can be extremely lucrative if you’re able to build up a large following of your target audience, social media presence, and generate consistent sales.
Ultimately, the most profitable online business for you will be the one that best suits your skills, interests, and goals.
Do some research on each of these online businesses to see if they’re a good fit for you before making your final decision. And remember, it takes time and hard work to build a successful online business, so don’t expect overnight results!
Building an online business is a marathon, not a sprint.
What Can You Sell Online?
The sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can sell online. If you have a physical product, you can sell it through an ecommerce store or drop shipping service. If you have a digital product, you can sell it as an ebook, online course, or membership site.
And if you have a service-based business, you can sell your services through an online booking platform or freelancing marketplace.
Some of the most popular things people sell online include:
- Ebooks or Digital Downloads
- Online courses
- Membership sites
- Physical products
- Dropshipped products
The best way to determine what to sell online is to think about what your target market needs or wants and then find a way to meet that need or want. For example, if you’re targeting stay-at-home moms, you could start an online store that sells baby products or create a membership site that provides resources and support for new moms.
Once you know what your target market needs or wants, you can start brainstorming product and service ideas that will meet those needs. And from there, it’s just a matter of creating or sourcing the products/services, building a website or platform to sell them on, and driving traffic to your site!
How do I start an online business with no money?
You can definitely start an online business with no money. However, it will take some time and hard work to get your business off the ground.
If you’re starting a business from scratch, you’ll need to invest some time into research and planning before you launch. This includes identifying your target audience, coming up with product or service ideas, and creating a marketing plan.
Once you’ve done all of that, you can start working on building your website and driving traffic to it. And if you don’t have any money to invest in advertising or paid traffic generation methods, there are still plenty of free ways to get people to your site, including SEO, social media marketing, and content marketing.
It will take some effort to get your business up and running if you’re starting from scratch with no money. But it is possible – and if you’re passionate about your business, it will be worth it in the end!
Do You Need Marketing to Help Your Business Launch?
No – you don’t need marketing to launch your business. However, it can definitely help you reach your goals faster.
Marketing is all about getting exposure for your business and generating leads and sales. And while there are many free marketing strategies you can use to get started, some paid methods can also be extremely effective (and often have a much quicker ROI).
If you’re serious about growing your business quickly, then investing in some form of marketing is a good idea. However, if you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of money to invest, there are still plenty of free marketing strategies you can use to get started.
The important thing is to just get started and take action to get more eyes on your online business!
Do You Need a Business Plan for Your Online Business?
No – you don’t need a business plan to launch your online business. However, having a business plan can be helpful in a few ways.
First, a business plan can help you organize your thoughts and make sure you’ve thought through all aspects of your business. This includes things like your target audience, product or service offerings, marketing strategy, financial projections, etc.
Second, a business plan can be helpful in securing funding for your business. If you’re looking to get a loan or investment from a bank or investor, they’ll likely want to see a business plan.
And lastly, a business plan can simply be a helpful tool to reference as you’re growing your business. It can help keep you on track and make sure you’re hitting your milestones.
So while you don’t need a business plan to launch your online business, it can be helpful in a number of ways. If you have the time and resources, it’s definitely worth creating one!
Ready to start your online business?
Want to learn more about starting your own business online? Keep reading here.
About Digital Marketing Expert Torie Mathis
Torie Mathis helps entrepreneurs, like you, use digital marketing to grow your business without wasting time, money, or your sanity. She is a best-selling author, Army veteran, speaker + trainer, and your digital marketing coach. You don't need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. In fact, you don't even need a lot of time. What you need is to be SMART.
Torie hosts SMART AF, a show for non-techy entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, with her husband Sean and is the creator of SMART AF Magazine. Learn from Torie at the Smart Arsenal and on her channel.
What do you think? Let's talk! Leave a comment.
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Hi! I'm Torie!
I help entrepreneurs (like you) use digital marketing to get more clients + make more money. And I make it easy!
You don’t need crazy tech skills, buckets of cash, or dedicated staff to market your business. You don’t even need a lot of time.
What you need is to be SMART.
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