Start Your Online Business (QUICK STARTER GUIDE) 12 Actionable Steps
Do you dream of owning a business? Why haven’t you started one yet? Chances are, one of the biggest things that are holding you back is a lack of clarity. The number of steps involved in the process can be overwhelming.
Hey, everyone, I’m Ghani Mengal
and in This guide, we’ll solve that problem for you! No longer will start a business to be a confusing and back-breaking dream. Instead, you’ll understand the exact steps you can take to turn your vision into a successful business.
Step 1: Select Market and Target Audience
Who will be your business help?
If you already have a product or service in mind, the answer to this question might be obvious.
However, it’s important to get as specific as possible. First, what market are you in? Bookkeeping,
weight loss, computer programming, art instruction, etc.
Create two lists:
- Your Skills:
- Your Interests:
My Skills: Website Developing, Designing, Cooking, writing, child care, social media, marketing,
My Interests: Fitness, movies, mystery novels, baking, hiking
Step 2: (STUDY THE MARKET) Market Research to Define Product & Value Proposition
Now that you know who you want to help, the next step is to figure out how you will help them. Don’t just try to think of the answer to this question though! Ask people who are actually your target audience.
How? Well, there are lots of ways to find them, but the easiest is generally forums or online groups (such as on Facebook). You can generally join these groups quite easily. Once a member, you can either post a general question to the group, or you can send private messages to several of the members.
Step 3: Write Monetization Strategy & Basic Sales Funnel
How will your company make money? Selling products, selling services, promoting affiliate products, advertising, consulting…?
There are eight different ways to make money online, and each of them has unique advantages and challenges. Many businesses are monetized in more than one way (for example, selling a service and also promoting an affiliate product, or offering both consulting and done-for-you services.
While sales funnels can be extremely complex, the basic idea is simply a description of how your audience turns into paying customers. How do they hear about you initially, what draws them in to learn more, how do you pitch them, and what makes them buy?
For example, customers could hear about you through word of mouth, then read your blog articles (which cause them to view you as an expert), see on your website that you offer services, then decide to hire you when a need naturally arises. That would be absolutely the simplest, most organic sort of funnel.
However, there are many ways you could add to that funnel to make it more effective and produce more results. Instead of relying purely on word of mouth you could advertise (and there are numerous different options of how to do so).
Getting the word out, establishing yourself as a credible expert in your field, and convincing people that what you have to offer is really valuable: these are the real struggles. Anything you can do to show your value and get your name out there is very valuable to you.
Step 4: Will you Need Help? team & Funding
Solo, Service Businesses
Many online businesses are started with just one team member (YOU!) and provide a service. These businesses require very little start-up capital. If your business falls into this category, then you get to skip finding a team and funding! (At least for now. Later, you might choose to hire help.)
Here are a few examples of businesses like this:
- Meal planning service
- Freelance app developer
- Freelance article writer
- Life coach
- Etsy seller
- Family Counselor
- Branding specialist
- Social media strategist
- Virtual assistant
- Affiliate blogger
Estimate Your Startup Costs
Regardless of what type of business you are starting, it’s always a good idea to at least estimate how much starting and running your business will cost. You might have almost no costs, which you can easily cover out of pocket, or you might discover that you’ll need some outside help. Either way, you just want to make sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you jump in with both feet.
Here’s a short list of expenses you might need to consider:
- Legal fees: _______________
- License/certification/trade organization fees: ____________
- Bank fees: _______________
- Bookkeeping support: ___________
- Taxes: _____________
- Hardware (computer, microphone, camera, etc.): ______________
- Software (Photoshop, Office, Publisher, Lightroom, etc.): ______________
- Website domain: _____________
- Website hosting: _____________
- Email service provider/autoresponder: ____________
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software: ______________
- Cloud storage: _____________
- Website design: ______________
- Branding/logo design: ______________
- Photo shoot: _____________
- Advertising: ____________
- Childcare: _____________
- Employee wages & employment taxes: _______________
- Freelancers (design, copy writing, editing, photography, etc.): ______________
- Training: _____________
- Business coach: _______________
- Inventory: ________________
- Product listing fees: _____________
Most online businesses will NOT need to spend money in all of these different areas. Especially when you’re first starting out, you may only really need to spend a little on your website. However, it’s still important to give thought to expenses that might arise, just so that you can be prepared.
Step 5: Legal
While it’s generally entirely possible to start doing some freelance work without taking any legal measures, you’ll quickly discover that many things are actually much simpler when you take the time to tell the government exactly what you’re up to. Banks, insurance companies, and bookkeepers have certain restrictions (some mandated by the government, others self-imposed) about working with businesses of different legal structures.
Step 6: Brand Your Company to Appeal to Your Ideal Customer
The next step for starting a successful online business is to determine the look and feel of your brand. Branding is extremely important because it creates the first impression that potential customers have of your business, which in turn determines who you attract or repel.
There is a type of customer who is ideal for YOUR business; the type of person you will enjoy working with and can be greatly helped by your offerings. Successfully attract those people, and your business will naturally thrive. Attracting the wrong people, on the other hand, will be frustrating to everyone involved.
Step 7: Commission or Create a Conversion-Focused Website
Once you’ve figured out what your business is all about, what your product is, your ideal customer, gotten legal aspects taken care of, and figured out how everything should look and feel, you’re ready to make your first appearance. In the world of online business, that means you need a website!
There are infinite ways to establish your presence online, depending on your unique needs. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll likely choose to design your website yourself, since professional web design is a significant cost.
For a product-focused business, Shopify offers professional, easy to set up sites that provide a positive experience for your customers. If your business is service or information focused, Squarespace could be an easy solution.
Step 8: Create a System for Collecting Leads (Email Subscribers)
One of the most important steps you can take towards creating a growing, sustainable business that provides you with consistent income from one month to the next is to develop a targeted list of the email addresses of leads. This will give you direct access to potential customers who you know are already interested in what you have to offer.
Finding email addresses is easy, but they won’t do you any good if they aren’t the addresses of your target audience. Fortunately, it’s quite simple to attract the right people. Basically, be upfront and clear about what you provide, offer a small amount of the goods for free, and give your visitors a way to sign up to get a bit more.
For example, let’s imagine a school teacher that sells pdf lesson plans and teaching ideas on her website. First, she attracts teachers to her website by writing blog posts about her teaching methods and what she finds that works.
When teachers visit her site, they see three things: 1) the blog post they came to read, 2) a clear statement about how she helps teachers connect better with their students and create better results, and 3) an offer for a free ebook on connected more effectively with elementary school students.
If the visiting teachers are the ideal customer of this business then they will be interested in this free ebook and will be happy to provide their email in exchange. They will WANT to receive more communications from the business about more ways they can become more effective teachers.
Step 9: Create Content to Attract Leads
So how do you get people to visit your site? Content! Nobody will come if you don’t give them a reason to! By creating content, such as blog posts, videos, and other free resources, you can give your ideal customers a little something to so they have a reason to visit (and then visit again), you can start to build a relationship with them, and you can show off what you have to offer. Free content is a great way to show your expertise and advertise your product.
Free content can attract traffic in two different ways:
organically and directly. Organically means that people naturally find you online through search engines. They type in something specific, and your content pops up. Direct traffic is people who you send to your site yourself by connecting with them and telling them what you have to offer. Direct traffic generally comes from interacting with people on social media or by collaborating with other online businesses to reach their audience.
How much should you give away for free? Generally, when in doubt, give more away. The more you give away, the more people will talk. They’ll share your stuff and you’ll get more traffic.
More traffic means more leads who will later want to buy your premium offerings. The more you give away for free, the more people you’ll have on your list, and the more “premium” offerings you’ll be able to sell.
Step 10: Network, Network, Network
You’re almost there! At this point, your business is basically set up and you have created some quality content to offer to your audience so you’re ready to start really connecting with people and driving traffic to your page.
Organic, search engine traffic will take time (and more content) to really turn into a significant, reliable source of traffic, so when you’re just starting out you can’t depend on it for generating leads and sales. That means that you need to step up and hustle, hustle to share what you’re doing!
The internet has made it so incredibly convenient to connect with people around the world. This is such an amazing opportunity! Since your business is online, that’s where you’ll generally find most of your customers hanging out anyway.
Plus, you’re able to connect with many more people, because it only takes a few minutes and clicks to have an engagement (rather than a few hours spent meeting someone for lunch). You’re also able to reach more people at once by posting to social network feeds, rather than just talking to one person at a time.
The advantages of online networking are practically endless, so definitely don’t overlook this powerful opportunity you’ve been handed. Use it to take your business to incredible heights that would have been much more difficult to achieve just a few short years ago.
Step 11: Establish a Presence on Social Media
Once you’ve started to network with your audience, you’ll want to create pages and accounts on social media platforms so that the people you’re connecting with have something to discover when you make them curious about the help you provide.
While you can make an account on any and every social media platform out there, the reality is you’ll probably only be able to effectively build a strong presence on three or four platforms (at most) if you still want to have time to work on your business in other ways as well.
So, here’s the general rule of thumb: create a profile on any platform that you are actively connecting with people one, but then choose just one or two to focus on growing initially.
For example, you might create profiles on Facebook
, Periscope, Instagram
, and Pinterest
, but initially, you’ll only focus your efforts on growing your Instagram following. You can’t effectively focus on all of them, and by choosing just one, you’ll be able to create much greater results.
If you build up a strong presence on one platform, you can then leverage that audience and your authority onto another. 10,000 followers on one platform are much more powerful than 10,000 divided across three or four different platforms.
Step 12: Start Selling
Your business is finally ready to start making money! At this point, all that is left to do is to create product listings and set up payment processing systems on your website. You may have even already done this when you built your site. Either way is fine, but if it’s not done yet, now is the time.
Once your products are listed and you’ve created a way for customers to purchase them, you can start doing some specific marketing efforts, such as promotional posts on your social networks and paid advertising.
However, be aware that when you’re business is young, your time and dollars are generally better spent on building up an audience that will support your business in the long run.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pay for ads. Start testing ads on Google, Facebook, and other platforms to discover what is effective. When you find a type of ad that connects well with your audience and consistently generates sales then pursue that! Just remember it’s important to keep engaging with your audience and growing your relationship.