There has never been a more enticing time to start an online business than right now. More people are home than ever before, which in turn has led to an increase in the services and goods available online. So whatever business you decide to start now, it has to be online-first if not entirely on the Internet.
While starting an online business seems straightforward, there is more to it than having a laptop and internet connection. Just like with owning a traditional business, starting your own online business is a process that must be taken seriously from numerous perspectives if you want to set yourself up for success.
Here is a step-by-step guide to starting and maintaining your own online-based business.
1. Choose a Business Idea
While it may seem like an obvious step it still needs to be addressed. Choosing your business idea is one of the most important steps, and one of the most difficult ones as well.
As you think about what your online business may do, make sure that there is an actual market need for your product or service. Offering a product or service that consumers do not need is the second most common reason that small businesses fail.
Thinking of and creating a completely unique business idea is going to be difficult, but there are some steps you can take to help get the ideas flowing.
Address Something That Inconveniences You
If something has inconvenienced you recently and you wished that there was a product or service that addressed it, there is your business idea. Be the change you want to see and come up with a good solution.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel, Find a Niche
Far too often, we think that a business idea has to be completely new and unique. That is not the case. Find an industry you are passionate about, and carve out a new niche that hasn’t been explored yet.
Investigate Newer Industries
Certain industries will be ripe for new competition. If an industry is still rather new, there likely is an opportunity for new businesses to take part in that industry.
2. Draft a Business Plan
Now that you have a solid business idea in place, you need to establish a plan for making your business profitable.
A business plan can take many forms, but should always include a few main components.
An Executive Summary
The executive summary should be a complete overview of your prospective business. An executive summary is typically one to two pages long and should detail why you are starting your business and explain the value it is going to provide to target customers.
Business Description and Goals
As you think about how your business is going to operate you will need to give it some organizational structure. In this section of your business plan start to list out what your company’s mission statement and vision statements are.
In this section of your business plan, you will need to list out any person that will be part of your business’s executive team.
Conduct Market Research
For a business to be profitable there needs to be a demand for that business within a specific industry. Conducting deep market research and competitive analysis will allow you to visualize where your business will fit in amongst the rest of the industry.
Your Target Customers
You need to also identify your target customers and check how they feel about the problem you will be solving for them.
This is where you prove that your business is going to succeed. Provide forward-based projections that detail how your business will profit for years to come.
There are many more steps that can be included when drafting a business plan, but these are the most common. If this is your first time drafting a business plan, we recommend that you use a template to help make the process easier.
3. Get the Business Started
After you are done with planning, projecting, and strategizing, it is time to get the business up and running. Here are some of the steps that will come in this stage and will be necessary to ensure that the start of your business is well done.
Make Your Business Legal
Whether you operate as a sole proprietorship or an LLC, you will need to choose a business structure that will make your business a legal entity. Before choosing an entity, make sure that you do your research about the advantages and the drawbacks associated with them. Consult a legal professional about the local and global legislation you need to abide by when running an online business. For the USA, the SBA website has an overview page that details the differences between each type of business.
Choose a Brand Name and a Domain Name
One of the most important steps when creating an online business is choosing the right company and brand name and the respective domain name for the online operations. Finding the right domain name will be more difficult than choosing a name as most short domain names have already been purchased.
Set Up Your Business Finances
Now that you have a legal entity, you can apply for an employee identification number (EIN). An EIN is a number given to your business by the US Federal Government and it is used to track taxes and other financial data about your business. Also, if you ever need to apply for business financing solutions, lenders will require your business to have an EIN. An EIN serves almost as a business’s social security number.
Now that all of the clerical work is taken care of, you can start getting to the online portion of starting your business.
4. Building Your Website
Probably the most important step in regards to opening an online business is building the website. Since all of your business will be done through the website, it should be the main focus of your research and development.
Today, technological advancements have made creating a website easier than ever before. When building a website, there are a few different routes that you can take, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Here are the choices you have to consider:
Using a Web Builder
Web building platforms have advanced to a point where you do not even need to know a single line of code to build a powerful website. However, these are standard solutions and with an online business that solves a particular problem, web builders might not be good enough. Do be wary of their restrictions and research what businesses use them and how. They are great for startups and companies that do not rely on the internet too much, however for an online based-business platform, they may lack the features that you are looking for.
Trying a Content Management System (CMS)
Content management systems are similar to website builders, but offer more robust features and have a steep learning curve. Using a CMS will allow you to combine both website building tools with back-end coding allowing you to make a more customizable site. If you have ever used WordPress, you have used the most popular CMS available. Using a CMS, such as WordPress, will come with its own issues. To ensure that you are creating an optimized website, tailored to your business idea, we recommend using a WordPress consultant.
Partnering With a Web Developer
When you want to go online the right way you need to know how. Professional web development should be a significant part of your business plan. Web developers are well-versed in multiple types of coding and can build a completely customized website from scratch. They will be able to best consult with you on how to create your online platform that will correspond to your business goals.
No matter how great your site is when it is finished, always remember to test every page of the website before publishing it to the web. Nothing turns a consumer away from a business more than an unresponsive or buggy online experience.
5. Market Your Business
If you make it to this step, congratulations! You officially have a legal business that is up and running. But the work does not stop there.
Just because you created a powerful website that is selling a product or service does not mean that people will see it. You need to take the time to market your website so that people’ll know about it, and so that Google can index it in the rankings.
When owning an online business, digital marketing becomes much more important over traditional marketing methods. Some types of strategies that will get your business seen are:
Search Engine Optimization
It would be an understatement to say that Google is the most important tool on the internet. With billions of searches happening daily, it is extremely important to be ranked high on Google for specific keywords. SEO is an extremely complex and nuanced field so it is best to hire professionals. It will be good for you to learn its basic principles so that you know what your website needs and can help your business benefit from optimization.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is a great way to connect with your consumers on a more personal level. As a new business, you need to plan how to break onto the social media scene and build your audiences. Make sure that you create pages only on platforms that make sense for your business.
Anytime you open a new business, creating trust in your competences is vital. Content marketing will allow you to prove that you know well your business and what your customers need. Your website’s visitors will be encouraged to trust your brand, link with it on a more emotional level and be willing to convert as leads for future sales. As your business grows, so should your marketing efforts.
6. Scale Your Newly Formed Business
As a business owner, you know that your work is never fully completed and you should take every opportunity to scale it. Small wins are great, but there is always going to be another hungry business trying to edge out the competition. It is up to you to make sure that your business is always one step ahead of the others.
Maintaining an online business will come with its own unique situations and circumstances. The digital landscape is constantly changing, and if you do not keep up with the trends, you could get left behind.
For example, your website will need to be constantly updated and optimized. If you study carefully user behavior and do a lot of A/B testing of your ideas, you will know how to improve it and move up. Make sure that you are constantly evaluating your product offerings, your website, marketing efforts, and anything else that drives your business.
Do You Need a Partner for Your Online Business Development?
If you need help building and maintaining your website, we are here to help! Contact DevriX anytime to learn more about our WordPress retainer services.