Even though it seems like everyone has one these days, there’s a lot of things to know before starting a business online. It’s a large investment of your time and energy. And just because it’s a popular move right now doesn’t mean everyone’s “nailing it” as an online entrepreneur.
Keep in mind: starting an online business is a very broad thing. Depending on your product, experience, and how you plan to grow, some things will be different. But a handful of best business practices apply to all online businesses.
In this article, we’ll look at 10 things you need to know (and do) before starting a business online.
1. Research Your Niche
A ton of research is necessary on the front end if you want your venture to be successful. Too many people these days start a business without doing their homework, and their results are rarely successful.
Finding your niche, or a small corner of the market to occupy, can help this not happen to you. Becoming known for one product or service that specifically helps one group of people seems like it will only limit your sales—but in reality, this is how new small businesses grow.
For example, say you wanted to sell coaching online. Coaching is too big of a niche, and too many people call themselves a coach already. So instead, narrow your scope.
Perhaps your niche is that you’re a coach for young entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s that make less than five figures per month. Now you have a demographic to serve.
2. Research Your Competitors
Now that you know who you want to serve, find the people that are already doing what you’d like to do. There’s surely already someone doing what you’d like to do, and you can cut out hours of guesswork and years of wasting money by simply taking notes of what’s worked for them.
Researching your competitors is something people often skip. They think their eCommerce business plan is strong enough and don’t do it. But the truth is most business plans include a section on competitor research; so don’t gloss over it.
3. Set Goals
Goals can always change, but starting your new venture with a target in mind gives you a firm foundation to build on. Setting goals is essential because it helps you figure out how much money you’ll need to start your business, and also how many months it will be before you can expect a profit.
You wouldn’t enter the woods without a map, right?
4. Determine Prices, Expenses, and Logistics
The last bit of groundwork you need to lay involves a dose of research and some organization. With your product in mind, competitors scouted, and goals in mind, you’ll need to find:
- How much it will cost to create your product
- How much you will sell your product or service for
- Logistics, like how much shipping will cost, if you can ship internationally, etc. (Shipping freight LTL versus truckload, for example)
After you’ve done extensive research on these items, the fun can begin.
5. Buy Your Website/Domain
Naming a business is always fun, but don’t go overboard. Your business domain name matters, and if it’s confusing, people will be less likely to visit your site or buy your products.
Things to consider:
- If you’re building a business around your personal brand, should it include your name?
- Is the .com version of your company’s name available? (.com’s are always preferable to other domains, even .net or .org).
- Where will you host your domain (Bluehost is an affordable option that many people use)
6. Determine Your Marketing Strategy
Digital marketing is how you’ll sell your business online to other people. Through targeted ads, influencer marketing via podcasts or guest blog posts, or other channels, you need to determine one or two primary focus points for how you’ll spread the message about your product.
Consider things like fit (for example, if you’re selling a visual product, don’t advertise on podcasts), cost, and your long-term goals.
7. Focus On Your Website’s SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, is about the most reliable way to generate new business online now. To sum it up, SEO is about making Google and other search engines like your content enough to rank you high in their searches. When they do this, you get a bunch of free traffic to your site, some of whom may buy your products.
If you’re new to SEO, take the time to learn how to build a website or blog that helps you rank higher. This will help now and in the long-run.
The internet gets more saturated by the day with content. As a new business owner, it’s your job to strategically plan out how you’ll make a splash and get people to notice your new online business.
Just announcing it on Facebook barely makes a ripple these days. Get creative by posting on forums, contacting your local community pages on social media, and asking friends and family to share your page.
9. Gather Testimonials
You’ve been in business for a while and things are going well. Good job! Now that you’re starting to bring in clients, be sure to collect testimonials and anything from them that will help grow your business further.
Remember that the internet is a big place, and people rely on social proofing (through written testimonials, Yelp reviews, etc.) for a lot of their buying decisions. If they don’t know you or feel like you’re credible, business is more likely to dry up. Be proactive about this from the beginning.
10. Test and Restest
Well, you’re a business owner now. You’re past the point of thinking about opening an online store. The only thing left to do is, well, run your business.
Good business owners are lifelong learners. They’re also tinkerers. It’s your job to constantly be innovating and finding new ways to grow your business online. It’s the internet, and things are more accessible than ever before; but that also means competition is fiercer than ever before, too.
Things To Know Before Starting A Business Online: Wrap Up
As you can see, there are a lot of things to know before starting a business online. Selling stuff online is pretty great, but it takes a lot of hard work, research, and patience to make a sustainable business.
But by being diligent, doing your homework, and putting in the work, you can totally build a successful business.
For more business-related content, check out our blog.