8 Practical Steps to Starting a Successful Online Business

Starting your own online business has never been easier, or cheaper than it is today. With a laptop, a good Internet connection, some time, and a great business idea, you can be earning money within a matter of days. But like every commercial venture, launching your products or services online should follow a well-planned process. This article explains that process, and with the help of our eight practical steps, you can get your business online in next to no time at all.

1. Research your market

The first step is to research different business ideas and decide which kind of venture you're going to start, then make a list of the pros and cons of each of the ideas that appear most viable and attractive. One idea might stand out as having a lot more pros or not having a specific con that you're worried about. Another thing you can do is look for an intersection of your interests and your abilities.


For example, if you're a writer who enjoys cooking, you could start a food blog or write for food magazines. If your skill is web design and your hobby is music, why not specialise in making websites for music businesses? If you can combine things you are good at with the things you are interested in then you'll not only make money, you'll have fun doing it too.


2. Clarify your business plan

Business plans can be anything from one to a hundred pages long, but when you're just starting out, it's best to keep them as simple as possible. Basically, all you have to do is clarify exactly what your business is going to offer, who your customers will be, what the main benefits of your product are, how much you will charge, and how you'll deliver them to the customer.


3. Decide on visual branding

Again, try to keep this as simple as possible. Google your competitors and take a look at their logos and the colours they are using on their websites, and use this as inspiration.  You can also check out the dedicated branding boards on places like Pinterest to get some inspiration for your own branding ideas. Remember, once you choose your logo, the colours and text fonts for your web and social media pages etc. you should keep it consistent. This will help keep your brand recognisable for years to come.


4. Create a website

With services like Wix, Squarespace, and Wordpress, (and others,) building your own basic website is easy and can be done by following simple step-by-step instructions. Don't worry about making it too fancy or complicated; you can always come back and improve upon the design and layout once your business is turning a profit. For now, keep it simple and easy for your site visitors to navigate. A home page, an about page, a service or product page, and a contact form are all you really need to get started.


5. Create an accounting system

Step 5 sounds complicated, and you'll probably be tempted to skip it all together, but don't. You need to keep your business finances organised, and you also need to have a process in place for customers to pay you. Popular payment methods include third-party services like Skrill and Paypal, and although opening an account does require registration the process is usually relatively quick and hassle-free.


You can find easy to understand tools online, such as Quickbooks or Waive.app, that can help you keep a record of how much you are spending, how much money is coming in, and to balance your books in general. If you can afford it, however, investing in a good accountant is highly recommended and could protect you from some very nasty financial surprises further down the road.


6. Begin marketing

Now that you've done most of the work to get your online business up and running it's time to let people know who you are and what you do. For most lay people, marketing seems to be a science all of its own, but it doesn't have to be. A good way to begin your marketing strategy is to create a list of all the people you can tell about your business. Note, this is not a list of people who might want to buy your product, just people you can talk to and mention the fact that you have started a business and explain what you are offering.


The goal is for you to feel more comfortable when you're marketing your business and to improve your confidence when you're broadcasting your brand message. You can start with family, friends and people you know at work, and then move on to the 'sort of friends' you're connected with on Facebook. This will put the wheels in motion towards getting your first word-of-mouth referrals.


7. Start networking

Networking is a vital part of your marketing strategy. Begin by finding and joining groups on social media that are related to the industry you are going to be working in and then joining in with the conversations and discussions. The reason you should start networking at this early stage is that you need to build a network of people who could potentially refer clients and customers back to you. The chances are that you will not have such a huge audience when you're just starting out, so building your network early will create a solid foundation for promoting your business in the future.


8. Create a marketing plan

So, you've contacted all the people on your list and told them about your business. You're engaging with industry-related groups and forums online. These are good things, and you should continue to do them as your business grows. But these methods are a little slow. Your marketing plan should set out how you are going to find new customers, how you are going to contact them, and how you can persuade them to buy your product. The hardest part is usually 'where' you can find customers, but with a little brainstorming and a by doing the necessary research, you're sure to come up with a ton of ideas.

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