How to Start and Run an Online Business Successfully (Part I)
The following 6 steps recap how to start an online work at home business that makes money:
1. Find a need to fill.
2. Make that need your niche.
3. Register your business.
4. Register your domain name.
5. Get a web hosting service.
6. Create your platform.
Now, let’s see how to start an online business step by step.
Step 1: Find a Need to Fill
If you want to set up yourself for success, don’t do like most people. When they start building an online business, they look for a product first. Then they try to find a market for it. That is putting the cart before the horse!
The trick 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. Remember how I said at the beginning that the internet provides a level playing ground for all? Therefore all you have to do is:
• Visit online forums to see what types of questions people are asking to solve problems that they have. These will provide clues as to what to offer them.
• Go to Yahoo! Questions to see what questions people are asking most.
• See WikiHow to find which things people are trying to find out how to do.
• Do keyword research for search terms that many people are using. Then select the ones that pull in lots of traffic. But they must be those for which not many sites are competing.
N.B.: But in all this don’t forget about your passion. You’d succeed most if you base your online business on what you are passionate about.
N.B.: One very good source to find your future customer pains is Quora.com, the question and answer site.
Step 2: Make That Need Your Niche
Running an online business gives you access to millions of potential customers, so does it to countless other online entrepreneurs. This means you’re going to come up against a lot of competition lurking out there.
Discouraging, isn’t it?
The secret to beating the rivalry is to let buyers know what differentiates your product from similar ones. To help your product stand out, you must simply look for a niche.
How do you do this? Here are 3 suggestions:
• Visit potential competitors’ sites to see what they’re doing well and what they are failing to do to fill the demand. This will reveal a hole for an existing product or one that you can create to fill that gap.¹
• Offer your own point of differentiation: You offer a particular product, let’s say for acne treatment, so do untold numbers of other people. What makes your acne treatment product different? Make this differentiate your product from others.²
• Offer your expertise in an area. Your product need not be forcibly very unique, your expertise could be enough as a strong selling point.³
¹ Harvard-trained finance whiz Bob Martin and domain speculator Marc Ostrofsky once suggested to Rabin that they form a business. Rabin is a man who runs a private fund called Jacobson Family Investments from the 56th floor of the Carnegie Hall Tower. Rabin, not knowing much about it, did some research. What he found astounded him. Type-in traffic was a growing phenomenon. It demanded minimal fixed costs. But then 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.”
Did you hear that?
² 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. This is by 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 Total Money Magnetism is created by Dr. Steve G. Jones. He is a world renowned hypnotherapist, multimillionaire and celebrity success coach. This helps sales on the ClickBank platform.
These examples show that you can always find yourself a place in the sun.
Step 3: Register Your Business
But before you go looking for that place you must register your business (see Register your business). This must be done in conformity with your country’s or state’s laws. To do this, you must choose an official business name and fill out the other details to make your business legal.
Here are a few ideas to help you:
• “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail,” Benjamin Franklin warned. So, before even registering your business, YOU SHOULD HAVE A BUSINESS PLAN LAID OUT. This will help you sort out matters as your production costs, advertising costs, and shipping costs.Others are running expenses, taxes, web hosting fees, etc.
• Ignorance is no excuse of the law. So, make yourself conversant with the business regulations in your country or state. This way you don’t fall foul of the law when things get up and running. Many may not notice you in the beginning. But all eyes will be on you when your name becomes a buzzword on the blogosphere.
Step 4: Register Your Domain Name
That is the name of your website. (Check Register a domain name).
Like the name of a brick-and-mortar business, look for something short and catchy that will be easy for people to remember. It wouldn’t hurt to make it a search term easy to find in an online research.
So, you may plug your tentative name into a keyword research tool and/or Google search. Then you choose appropriate ones.٠ Then visit the website of a domain registration company and see which of your chosen names are available and which already taken up. Choose what pleases you among the available ones and go ahead and register it.
٠ When Kyle, the co-founder of Wealthy Affiliate was creating a site for his affiliate training, he chose the name Ways To Avoid Scams Online. Plug it into a Google search and see.
Step 5: Get a Web Hosting Service
There are free hosting services like blogger.com to be used. I created my first blog on that platform. One day someone told me if I wanted to be taken serious about running a business online long term, I should consider opting in for a paying one.
At that time I saw it as a good enough suggestion but thought it beyond my means. But it’s all a question of perception and seizing opportunities at the flood.
So when I had the possibility I created this site on a paid web hosting service. And I have all the services I need.
Now I’m less likely to have problems when my business takes the Internet by the storm.
Choose a hosting service that allows for growth since that’s what you’re aiming for.
Also look for highly structured hosting services which offer you myriads of templates to choose from. So that you can create your website not only quite easily but also to suit your personality and niche.
Basic web programming: You don’t necessarily have to be a pro programmer before making it big online. But a basic knowledge would not 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 needs a geographical location indicated by a street address. An online business however must have a web presence and a web address (URL). It is from here you will offer your products and make the money you have been dreaming so much about.
This platform can be a website or a blog.
For some years now 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. Many resources exist on the Internet to teach you to create a blog. Click right here for the opportunity to create two stunning blogs on WordPress free.
Designing and building your website
Keep your online small-business web design simple. Mind you, you have fewer than five seconds to grab someone’s attention online. Beyond that they’re gone forever.
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 so that your site can load fast. Nothing makes a site visitor opt out 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 offer 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 be an indication of what you’re selling.
For example, if you are selling healing products and your website has jagged mountains with sprawling barren land with edgy fonts, that would drive away your potential customers. But 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 be inviting.
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. This is to make it easy for visitors to buy on the site.
• Set up an online portfolio. Whether you are a photographer offering products like pet photography, digital fantasy backgrounds, and antique photography; a website selling different products, courses, etc. about how to do your hair; or one teaching people how to sing or play a musical instrument, allowing potential clients to evaluate your work 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. Send them wishes on their Birthdays, Marriage Anniversaries, etc. Offer them discount as returning visitors.
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. This is 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. You could make use of it to build your webstore 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 service like PayPal. This is to enable you 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.
Now that you know how to successfully launch an online business, it’s time to learn how to market an online business.
Before you click down here, why don’t you go down to the comments section and let us know what you think about this topic?
Your personal guide to securing your future online