Data from the National Entrepreneurial Assessment for the United States of America found that in 2017, 27 million Americans were starting or running new businesses, with this figure expected to grow in the following years.
If you’ve always had a revolutionary business idea, there is no better time for you to take the plunge. Setting up your business online opens up your business to an array of potential customers that cannot be found if you stick with a traditional brick and mortar store.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to start an online business. From finding your niche to creating your marketing plan, we provide an ultimate guide so that you have what it takes to become a successful business owner.
Finding Your Niche
The first thing you need to do when starting an online business is to come up with an idea. No matter what type of business you choose, one thing remains the same: To be a successful small business owner, you need to be passionate. Below are a few tips to help find your business passion.
Identify Your Passions
When opening your own business, start by identifying your interests and passions. Sit down and make a list of your 10 biggest interests. Odds are, your online business idea will come from this list since these are the things you know and love.
Identify Solvable Problems
The other way to come up with a business idea is by identifying a solvable problem. Talk with your target audience and identify what problems they’re having and what solutions can fix them.
Even if you are passionate, you won’t be a successful business owner if you don’t make money. Do some research on websites like ClickBank to determine how profitable your idea can be.
How To Start an Online Business
Now that you’ve identified your niche and have an idea to create your successful online business, you’re ready to get started. Below is a guide that provides you with the know-how to get going.
Register Your Brand Name and Domain Name
Once you select a name, you’ll want to register your business with your respective state. Each state has a unique website that you can use to do so. You can typically find your state’s website by Googling “[State Name] Business Registration.” The National Association of Secretaries of State also provides a database that allows you to search by state.
You’ll typically declare your legal business name and your “doing business as” name, which is the name you use for marketing purposes.
You will also need to register a domain name for your website. When registering a domain, make sure that every variation is available, including .com, .org, .net, .info, and .edu. Use sites like Bluehost or GoDaddy to register a domain.
Set Up a Website
Now that you have a domain, you will need to start your website. WordPress is one of the go-to platforms for setting up websites. Not only can you set up an e-commerce store, you can also blog and host other site components.
Depending on what you want to do, you may not need to use WordPress though. For instance, if you would just like to set up an e-commerce business and sell goods, you can use platforms that have already been established.
Common e-commerce websites include:
You can establish a storefront at any of these e-commerce sites. These sites make it easy for you to host your products. They have built-in shopping carts and process customer transactions so that you don’t have to worry about a point-of-sale system. These sites also have built-in credit card processing apps, making it easy for customers to buy your product.
However, you should still set up your own website that links customers out to these other sites for purchases. That way, if a customer searches for your business, they have a landing page to go to.
You can also look into using Shopify. Shopify is another e-commerce site. The difference is that you can set up your entire website through the Shopify platform, instead of having to set up your website and then a storefront on a site like Etsy or eBay.
Remember that starting a business is a full-time job. Although you can come up with a business model and marketing plan now, it will need to change over time.
Make sure that you are flexible and always looking to improve your company. Evaluate what’s working and what you need to change. Feel free to make changes to your business plan to better reflect your evolving company values and needs.
Market Research and Creating a Marketing Plan
When establishing an online presence, you need to have an idea of the type of customers you are chasing. When you sell products online, you will have access to a broader customer base than you would if you just created a traditional storefront in your local neighborhood.
Start by defining your target audience. Who are you targeting with your product? What is the expected persona of one of your buyers? Consider things like the person’s age, gender, and income.
Having said that, you still need to have a marketing strategy. Marketing can improve your profits, but it can also be expensive. It’s a reasonable expense if you have a strategy and know who you’re targeting.
From there, you can set your budget. You’re going to need to think about using various types of marketing activities like:
- Content marketing, including blogging and using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques
- Hiring a social media influencer
- Using email lists for outreach
- Using affiliate marketing
- Setting up online marketing through services like Google AdSense
- Starting a YouTube channel
The amount that you have in your budget will directly determine the type of marketing activities that you can do.
Now that you have an idea of who you would like to reach and how much you would like to spend, you can set up a marketing plan. HubSpot offers professional marketing plan templates that you can use to get started.
Your marketing plan needs to clearly define your business’s value propositions and your target market. It should also include a strategy that clearly defines how you are going to approach your market. Lastly, your marketing plan should include your budget. Think of it as a step-by-step marketing guide that you can refer to at any point.
FAQs About How To Start an Online Business
Still unsure about starting your business? Below are some of frequently asked questions about starting a company.
1. I’ve heard about corporations, partnerships, and LLCs. What are these? Are they relevant?
Corporations, partnerships, and LLCs are a few different types of business structures. When you register your business with your state, you will need to select a business structure. Each business structure has its own perks. Be sure to check out our guide to selecting the right business entity to learn more.
2. How do I come up with a business name?
Coming up with a business name can be both fun and challenging. Start by brainstorming a few different names that you think may work. Then, do a Google search to see what is already taken. You’ll be surprised that this may cut down up to 90% of your brainstormed options.
Remember that you want your business name to be something that is both memorable and easy to spell.
3. What are the startup costs associated with starting an online business?
The startup costs associated with an online business depend on numerous factors. For instance, if you have an office, you are going to need to find a space and buy furniture. If you maintain an online store, you don’t need an office but you will need to buy your domain name.
The United States Small Business Administration provides an online calculator that you can use to calculate your expected startup costs.
Start Your Online Business Today
Whether you’re a freelancer looking to expand your side hustle into a small business or an individual who has always had an excellent business idea, there’s no better time to start your online business.