With job opportunities increasingly slim in the west country, more and more people are working out how to run their own business online. In fact running an online business and catering to a global audience has never been easier.
But saying it’s easy and then actually doing it are two different things.
So, in this article I will explain exactly how you can start a business online by going through all of the steps that it takes to get your company up and running.
Yes, it will take effort. And you will need some startup capital. However, many online businesses can be started with a relatively small outlay.
Enough with the preamble: how can you start your online business?
How To Start A Business Online
Step one: The idea
First, you need to come up with a business idea. This can be as simple as making a list of all the things you’re good at and what others might find valuable. You might already have an idea for the business you want to run, but is it viable?
Some popular online businesses include:
- Selling things online (ecommerce/online retail)
- Selling your professional services (web design, graphic design/illustration, writing, video editing etc)
- Offering training, for example an online course, one to one coaching or teaching
Run an online search to see if your idea has competition. If there is already someone doing what you’re doing, great! That means there’s a market and you can make your niche.
To prepare for running an online business, it’s a good idea to research how to do it. Read books about successful entrepreneurs in that industry or talk with friends who have experience working in the field. Read blogs, watch YouTube videos, whatever you can access.
The more information you have about the market demand for your product or service, the better off you’ll be when launching your business online!
Step two: Outline your product/service offering
Now you know what you’re going to be doing, outline how you’re going to do it.
For example, let’s assume you’re going to sell gift hampers online.
- How will you source your supplies?
- How much will you need to spend to get your initial investment in the company, just regarding stock?
- What will your branding be like?
- How will you take payment?
- How will you dispatch your item?
- Consider how you will deal with problems such as dissatisfied customers or supply issues
Even if you’re not providing a physical product, you still need to outline how you will provide your service. For example, let’s take a fitness coaching business as an example.
- Who are your target audience?
- How will you offer your service online?
- What makes your online service better than another person providing the same service?
- Can you offer a free trial or discounted trial?
Again, if you’ve done your research, you should be able to sit down and come up with a huge list of questions that you will need to answer before you start trading.
OK. So now you’ve got your product or service outlined, it’s time to take your online business seriously.
Step three: Where are you going to sell your service?
There are many online platforms which will help you reach a ready made audience, so do you need to setup your own website?
Actually, the answer is probably going to be a yes.
It is always good to have a domain of your own, if only so you have a professional email address. But you can also sell on third party platforms to start with.
- Etsy: Hand made products, personalised items, downloadable items
- Amazon: Dropshipping, stock items
- Ebay: Also good for dropshipping and stock items, but also great for flipping products
- Fiverr: Online services, anything from graphic design to voice over work
- Upwork: The same as Fiverr
- TaskRabbit: Local services
While selling on Etsy is also a good way to expand your reach and audience, it also helps to have a website too.
Step four: Buy a website and register your domain name
Domain names are the address that you type into your browser to go to your website. They can be anything from [yourbusinessname.com] or [searchterm.co.uk] to [somethingelsereallylongandcomplicatedthatnoonecanrememberwithouttypingitoutagain.net].
The domain name should be something easy for people to remember, but not too short or long (more than 15 characters is probably too long). It also shouldn’t already be taken by someone else!
A website and domain will cost you in the region of £50 to £75 a year.
Some great web hosting companies include:
- Easy Space
Any one of those will offer the ability to buy your domain name (blahblahblah .com) and your web hosting (where the website is based). You can usually then create a WordPress or Wix based website easily for no additional cost.
Setting up a website can be complex, so you can either hire someone to do it for you (check out Fiverr or run a search on Reddit), or take an online course and DIY.
Step five: Emails and autoresponders
A contact form is a great way to gather information from your customers. You can use it to ask for their name, email address, and other details that will help you connect with them. The more information you have on your customers, the better off you’ll be in terms of understanding what they want and how best to serve them.
To set up an autoresponder:
- Buy an email account for your domain name
- Create two more email accounts
- Set up an autoresponder through Google or Microsoft Office 365 so that when someone sends an email through one of these domains, they’ll receive one back automatically within 24 hours asking if they’d like to opt-in for future communications from your business
Step six: Develop A Customer Contact Strategy
The next step is to develop a customer contact strategy. Your business will be nothing without customers, so you need to make sure that you’re keeping in touch with them regularly and building relationships that allow you to sell more products or services.
This is specially important because if a customer is having an issue, a business text messaging service ensures 24/7 access to support staff for your customers; we all know that customer satisfaction is everything – it’s what leads to repeat business!
Here are some tips for doing this:
Use a CRM (customer relationship management) system so that all of your sales and marketing activities are organised in one place. This allows you to see how much revenue each customer brings in, which helps when deciding how much attention each should receive from the company. Hubspot and WordPress are both a good example of CRMs.
Develop emails designed specifically for different types of buyers. For example, those who already know who they want something from versus those who don’t yet know what they need or want from their experience with your brand.
Send them out at regular intervals throughout the year according to specific schedules determined by previous email campaigns’ success rates as well as current trends within industries.
Step seven: Come Up With An Effective Marketing Plan
The next step is to come up with an effective marketing plan. Your marketing plan should be a strategy for how you will promote your business and reach customers, engage them and convert them into customers. It should include:
- How you will reach customers through different channels (social media, email etc.)
- How you will engage with potential customers by providing value or incentives (e-books, free trials)
- What are the conversion tactics that work best for your target audience
Search engine optimization (SEO) will likely be a big part of this. There are plenty of agencies that can help you manage your content strategy, but the basic version is:
- Create content on your site that is useful for your target audience
- Share content on your social media pages too
- Be consistent and regular with your content strategy
Check out this Devon SEO agency for some help.
Step eight: Social proof and sharing
Social media is a great way to get customers. You can use social media to promote your business, connect with your customers and get feedback from them. Social media also helps you come up with ideas for new products or services that people might need or want.
Social proof is also a good way to attract customers. This is basically getting good reviews and testimonials, and proof of your quality service.
The more social proof, the more people will trust you and are more likely to come back. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews, especially in the early days.
Step nine: Set up your business for paying tax
Setting up an online business in the UK means you’ll either be a sole trader or a limited company. Which you choose is up to you, and there are benefits and drawbacks for each.
You may also need to register for VAT – depending on your business and sales volume.
When it comes to setting up any business, make sure to keep accurate records of your trading, including invoices, receipts and pretty much any financial transaction related to your business. No matter how small. Keep this information safe in a folder somewhere.
Depending on your business model you may also need to hire an accountant to manage your complicated finances. This is especially true if you need to process payroll on a regular basis.
The best way to start a business online is by following these steps
- Start with a plan. Before you can start your business online, it’s important to know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to get there.
- Define your goals. What do you want from this business? Is it going to be your full time business or is this a side hustle?
- Make a list of steps needed for each goal (and set deadlines). If one of your goals is “make £5000 per month by selling products online”, then what are all the steps required before reaching that point? Maybe those steps include making an ecommerce website, buying stock (or finding someone who will), creating ads and marketing materials, etc. So break down each large goal into smaller tasks that can be completed over time as well as within certain timeframes (e.g., within one month).
- Focus on one goal at a time; set reasonable deadlines for yourself based on how long similar projects took others in similar industries/fields under similar circumstances; work towards achieving them daily rather than taking days off because “it doesn’t matter” because these small habits add up over time!
The internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunity for entrepreneurs. It allows them to reach customers anywhere in the world and get their products or services out there without having to leave their home office. However, starting an online business is not as easy as it seems; it requires careful planning and execution if you want your website to succeed.