Do you want to start an online business? Great! But do you know that 98% of people who start an online business fail?
This blog post will give you 6 steps to starting a successful online business.
You can be part of the 2% who succeed by following these 6 steps on how to start an online business that makes money:
- Find a need to fill
- Make that need your niche
- Register your business
- Register your domain name
- Get a web hosting service
- Create your platform
That said, let’s see how to start a successful online business step by step.
Step 1: Find a Need to Fill
If you want your online business to be successful, don’t proceed like most newbies who, when they start to build an online business, look for a product first before trying to find a market for it. That is putting the cart before the horse!
Concerning the 6 steps to starting a successful online business, the best way is to start with a market first. That is, look for people who have a particular problem and are searching online for a solution to it.
Now, how do you find these people?
- Visit online forums to see problems for which people are trying to find an answer. These will provide clues as to what to offer in your online business.
- Visit Yahoo! questions for which problems people are asking the most questions.
- Visit WikiHow to find which things people are trying to find out how to do.
- Do keyword research to find search terms that many people are using to find solutions to their problems, and select the ones that pull in lots of traffic but for which not many sites are competing.
Now choose what people want or require most as the basis of your business.
In making this choice, take into consideration what you are passionate about. You’d succeed most if you base your online business on that passion.
Step 2: Make That Need Your Niche
The internet has levelled the playing ground for all. Besides, social media allows us to have access to billions of potential customers all over the world.
Running an online business offers you the opportunity to reach this huge global market, so does it for millions of other online entrepreneurs. Working online will therefore pit you against a lot of competition.
But you should not be discouraged by this.
The secret to facing, or even beating, the rivalry is to let buyers know what differentiates your product from similar ones. To get your product to stand out, you must simply look for a niche.
A niche is a small but profitable part of a larger market.
But how do you go about finding a niche?
Here are 3 suggestions:
- Visit potential competitors’ sites to see what they’re doing well and what they are failing to do satisfactorily or not doing at all to fill the demand you found in step 1. This will reveal an opportunity for an existing product or one that you can create to fill that gap.¹
- Offer your own point of differentiation: You are not the only online business to offer a given product as answer to a certain problem. The question is: what makes your offer particular? Make this differentiate your product from others.²
- Offer your expertise in an area. Your product need not be forcibly that unique, your expertise could be enough to serve as a strong selling point.³
¹ When Harvard-trained finance whiz Bob Martin and domain speculator Marc Ostrofsky suggested to Rabin, manager of a private fund called Jacobson Family Investments, that they form a business, Rabin, not knowing much about the business, did some research. What he found astounded him. Type-in traffic was a growing phenomenon; it demanded minimal fixed costs, and U.S. advertisers were expected to spend $26 billion on the Internet by 2010—roughly double the level then. “We’ve only just begun the roll-up phase,” Rabin says. “This market will likely be in the billions.”
² Although Tracy Raftl was inspired by acne blogger Frank Kerr (see interview with acne blogger Fran Kerr) to create a similar blog, she had her own ideas about how to cure acne using her own experiences from curing the condition herself with alternative methods. This made Tracy confident that if she shared her advice, she could build her own presence in the niche. And she did.
³ The fact that Total Money Magnetism is created by Dr. Steve G. Jones, a world renowned hypnotherapist, multimillionaire and celebrity success coach, helps sales on the ClickBank platform.
Step 3: Register Your Business
Now you must found a business to register (see Register your business) in conformity with your country’s or state’s laws to use it to put your idea out on the market. This registration requires an official business name and other details.
Here are a few ideas to help you:
- Heed Benjamin Franklin’s warning that “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail” and so, even before registering your business, HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN LAID OUT. This will help you sort out matters as your production, advertising, and shipping costs; running expenses, taxes, web hosting fees, etc.
- Since ignorance is no excuse of the law, make yourself conversant with the business regulations in your country or state so that you don’t fall foul of the law when you begin to run your business.
Step 4: Register Your Domain Name
Check Register a domain name
(Much of the following are some of the things I wished I knew before starting my online business)
The domain name is the name of your website. Mine is secureyourfuturewithus. If possible look for something short and catchy and hopefully that which is linked to your type of business. The name should be easy for people to remember.
It could be a good idea to make your domain name a search term that easily comes up in an online search. This will make it possible for the search engines not only to rank your webpages but also your website very easily.
To find a keyword-based name, you may plug your tentative name into a keyword research tool and choose the appropriate ones.*
Then contact a domain registration company and check for which of your chosen names are available and which are already taken. • Choose the best (the one which pleases you most but especially which receives the highest search volume) among the available ones and go ahead and register it.
Generally an appropriate keyword-rich name should command a high monthly search volume but little competition.
- Initially you must not settle on a single name because it could be already taken by someone else.
Step 5: Get a Web Hosting Service
A web hosting service is a place on the internet where your website files (texts, images, videos and audios) will be securely kept on a server.
There are free hosting services like blogger.com. It was on this platform that I created my first blog. But someone told me that if I wanted to be taken serious as an online business, then I needed to opt for a paid one.
So when I had the means I created this site on a paid web hosting service, and I get all the premium services I need.
You too must choose a hosting service that allows for security and growth since your business is for the long term.
Also look for highly structured hosting services which offer you myriads of templates to choose from to create your website not only quite easily but also to suit your personality and niche. You may even decide to buy a WordPress template as I did for this blog.
Basic web programming: You don’t necessarily have to be a pro programmer before making it big online. But a basic knowledge wouldn’t hurt.
So, if you can do your own programming, choose hosting services which offer that, because it would give you greater flexibility.
Step 6: Create Your Platform
A brick-and-mortar business has a geographical location materialized by a street address. An online business however has a web presence and a web address (URL) from where you will offer your products and make the money.
This platform can be a website or a blog.
It’s no longer difficult to create a blog. You can use Google’s free blogging platform to start with if you are hard on cash. But it’s advisable to utilize the paid WordPress.
Many resources exist on the Internet to teach you to create a blog. Right now you can create two stunning blogs on WordPress free.
Designing and building your website
Keep your online business web design simple. Don’t complicate matters which may make you lose visitors. This is because you have fewer than five seconds to keep a visitor who has landed on your website.
Here are some important tips to keep in mind:
- If you can’t design a good website yourself, entrust it to a professional designer.
- Preferably choose one or two plain fonts on a white background and install not more than 4 plugins so that your site can load fast. Nothing makes a visitor click themselves out of your site faster than a site that takes forever to load. If you have dark background, use light text.
- Make sure your logo at the top of the page always links to the homepage.
- Your navigation should be clear and simple, on every page, please.
- Use only audio, graphics or video if that’s what enhances your message.
- Have an email opt-in campaign on your site to collect subscriber’s e-mail addresses.
Creating Your Online Store
If you are selling online, create a stylish and functional website. The style of your website (classical, elegant, funky, hipster) should indicate what you’re selling. For example, if you are selling healing products, an untouched environment with calm unpolluted waters meandering their way through greenery with bright flowers in bloom and snow-capped mountains in the background would attract and keep visitors.
The professional look of your website is also important. This will make it earn people’s trust and do the selling for you.
Your site should also be engaging.
Here are some extra tips to help you:
- Your website is your online storefront, so make it customer- and user-friendly.
- If you are selling on the site, don’t have more than 2 clicks between the buy button and checkout to make it easy for visitors to buy on the site.
- Set up an online portfolio. Whether you are a website teaching people how to sing, how to do email marketing, how to do affiliate marketing, allowing potential clients to evaluate your offer would be crucial to your online business success.
- If your site is an ecommerce store, the top of every page should display a link to your shopping cart.
- Make buttons large and clear to read and input boxes large and easy for people to enter their information.
- Less can be more. So if it’s not absolutely necessary, don’t be wordy on payment pages.
- Be interactive with the customer. Ask them about the products, offer them post sale service, offer them discount as returning visitors, etc.
Get ecommerce software
Installing this software on your online store will enable your customers to view your products, enter their information and make a secure purchase. The software safely stores customer information and therefore makes them feel secure about buying from your store. Know that people feel strongly about such matters because of the rising incidence of scams online. It is up to you to reassure them.
Most hosted ecommerce shopping cart providers offer free trial periods which you could make use of to build your web store and learn how to run it.
It is also recommended to use an all-inclusive ecommerce web service. Ecommerce web services make it easy to sell your products online, without huge overhead costs. Also, you don’t work with custom interfaces or templates; you simply create an online store within the framework of the service.
Set up a merchant account
Brick-and-mortar businesses use cash or check—setting up an entire credit card processing system.
As an online business, you will use a payment processing services like PayPal, Payza, Payeer, Perfect Money, Solid Trust Pay, Ego Pay, Ok Pay so that you can accept virtually any form of credit or debit card for payments. Their services include dispute resolution. This saves you headaches should the need arise.
And it certainly will.
But when it does, handle matters professionally. Nothing pleases a customer as much. But a protracted dispute will surely be bad publicity for you. And online, your reputation—good or bad—spreads like wildfire. Don’t ever forget that if you want lasting success online.
Do you know of any other step to start an online business successfully? Or do you have anything at all to add to this discussion? Then kindly add your voice.
Now that you know how to start a successful business online, click here to learn the 7 steps to running an online business successfully.
Your personal guide to securing your future online
Editor’s note: This piece was part of How to start and run an online business successfully. It has been slightly revised for those seeking only this type of information.