Nowadays, online businesses are becoming increasingly popular, and with the rapid innovation in technology, it’s now easier and cheaper than ever to start an online business; most can be started in a few days or less at little to no cost.
But among the tens of millions of ecommerce sites, countless digital services, abundant affiliate platforms, and innumerable SaaS tools, it’s important to remember that starting a profitable online business is not easy. Just like any other business, it requires lots of effort, time, and resources. In this article, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to start your online business journey in 2023.
1. Decide What Type of Business to Start
The first step in starting your online business is deciding what type of company you’d like to launch. Usually, this will be a logical decision based on your previous expertise. For example, an editor or copywriter at a full-service marketing agency might decide to start an affiliate website or begin their career in freelance writing. In general, the best businesses to start won’t require much money to set up. Some examples include:
- Affiliate marketing
- Digital service provider (web design, graphic design, copywriting)
- Dropshipping or Amazon FBA business
- Online training or coaching programs
- Social media (content creation on TikTok, YouTube)
- SaaS (Software-as-a-Service)
- Ecommerce store
Digital services, coaching, and consulting are usually the best places to start because they require the least overhead cost while allowing you to make money from home. Plus, you can use the knowledge and skills you already have to launch your business quickly. Especially if you don’t have any business experience, freelancing is often the best gateway to entrepreneurship.
Social media content creation has the potential to make people lots of money. Still, it requires significant time and effort to grow an audience (not to mention competitive knowledge of the platform).
Ecommerce and dropshipping stores can be highly profitable, but they usually require business owners to purchase inventory upfront. Some models don’t require this, but the trade-off will be a significant amount of the profit; if you’re dropshipping, you’re essentially running an online store on a supplier’s dime. SaaS businesses can be highly profitable and require little to no upfront cost, but they usually require significant technical expertise and business acumen.
2. Name and Register Your Business
As soon as you decide on the type of business you want to start, it’s time to name and register your company. This is an important step because it will determine how customers perceive your brand and whether or not you can acquire certain licenses and/or permits. When choosing a name for your business, make sure that it:
- Is unique and memorable
- Is easily searchable
- Reflects the values and mission of your business
Once you have a name in mind, make sure to register it with the appropriate authority. Each jurisdiction has its own rules, but usually, this involves filing an application and paying a fee.
When filing, you will have to decide on the type of business entity you want to form. Generally, this depends on factors like tax implications and liability protection. The most common types are sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation. You may also need to register for a business tax ID number or obtain certain permits/licenses depending on the type of business you’re starting.
3. Create and Design Your Website or Online Store
If you plan to sell products or services online, the next step is to create a website or online store. You don’t need a fancy website when you’re just starting out; you just need something that’s functional and looks professional.
Fortunately, there are a few options for creating an ecommerce site on a budget. For consultants and digital freelancers, a simple website built with Carrd or Webflow will suffice. For ecommerce entrepreneurs, a simple dropshipping site from Shopify has everything necessary to get started.
No matter which option you choose, make sure your website is well-designed and user-friendly. It should also reflect the values of your brand, so take time to think about the visuals and messaging you want to present.
4. Find Your Customers
Once you have your website or store set up, it’s time to find customers. This can be the most challenging part of starting an online business, but there are a few strategies that typically lead to success.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is an organic marketing strategy that helps to improve a website’s ranking in search results. As an online business owner, SEO is critical to success. However, new websites almost always fall victim to the “Google sandbox,” a phenomenon that Google hasn’t confirmed, but SEO experts and website owners unanimously agree to be true.
The “Google sandbox” describes the period of adjustment that new websites go through where their rankings are suppressed. This is why SEO should be a long-term goal rather than an immediate strategy, and it may take several months (or longer) before you start seeing results.
Social Media Marketing
Creating content, engaging with customers, and leveraging influencers are just a few tactics that make social media an invaluable tool for marketing your business. Before diving into social media, it’s important to identify the networks where your target audience is most active. Then, create content tailored to their interests and start engaging with potential customers. You can also consider running paid campaigns on select platforms depending on your budget.
Once you have a few customers, the best (and most cost-effective) way to grow your business is through word-of-mouth. Ask them to leave reviews on Google, Yelp, or any other relevant platform where potential customers may be looking for information about your business. You can also incentivize customers to spread the word by providing discounts or other rewards.
Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other forms of paid advertising can be effective for generating leads or sales. And without a major social following or Google’s algorithm on your side, paid ads can be the fastest way to get your website in front of an audience.
The best thing about paid ads is that they are performance-based and you can easily adjust your budget and targeting. That way, if one campaign isn’t performing as well as expected, you can quickly switch gears to something else that may yield better results.
5. Build Your Brand Organically
Organic marketing strategies typically take longer to pay off, but over time they can be more profitable and effective than paid ads. That’s why investing in organic tactics like content creation, email marketing, influencer outreach, and PR is important.
If you want to see the most results, you should also build your brand on social media by posting relevant content, engaging with followers, and establishing thought leadership. Not only will this drive customers to your business, but it can also open the doors for additional online revenue streams and partnerships.
6. Scale Your Business
Once you have the fundamentals of your online business down and you have money put aside, you can consider scaling your business. This can involve investing in additional services, hiring employees or freelancers, and even exploring partnerships with other companies.
By scaling your business, you’ll be able to reach more customers and generate more revenue, allowing you to expand your operations and continue building a successful online enterprise. The trick to scalability is to outsource the right tasks to the right people so you can focus on the core of your business while automating as much as possible for efficiency.
The world of online business is constantly changing and evolving. To stay competitive, you’ll need to keep up with the latest trends, tools, and strategies, and never stop learning. If you follow the tips mentioned above and stay open to new ideas, you should be well on your way to success.