You can name many successful online entrepreneurs, from Tim Ferriss, the CEO of Leadership Genius and the author of The Four Hour Workweek, to Arianna Huffington, the co-founder of HuffPost, the one billion-worth company. They have one thing in common: start as a small online business owner.
In this article, I will cover the step-by-step process on how to build your first online business, so you can have a successful entrepreneurial journey ahead.
1. Determine Your Target Audience
A clear target audience helps you prepare what you have to offer, whether about your product or service and content.
The first step is to pick a niche, like traveling or the bullet journal community. A niche aims to limit broad options, so you can focus on gathering other information about a specific audience.
Know their demographics like age and profession and psychographics like lifestyle and values. Also, understand their problems, so your product and content can help them out. For starters, notice the target audience’s pain points by checking online reviews and looking at your competitors.
2. Choose a Product or Service to Sell
After knowing what kind of audience you’re aiming for, determine what products or services you’re going to sell to them. Here are several options to choose from:
- Service. It refers to monetizing your skill like coding, copywriting, and video editing using software like online video editor.
- Selling other people’s products. Reselling other people’s products can save a budget for production. Even a system called dropshipping doesn’t require you to keep the products. You only need to send the buyer’s information to the supplier.
- Selling your product. Here, you have control over the products, from the aesthetics to the price. There are two kinds of products you can sell.
- Physical products. Are tangible and may cost you a lot of money to produce and ship, such as apparel, foods, and toys.
- Digital products. Are one-off cost production and free from shipping fees, such as photographs, graphics, and eBooks. Graphic designing using a good photo editor could also be a lucrative business.
- Selling a website or application. You can make people purchase your application from the AppStore or Play Store. Or, you create an online course website and charge people for the subscription.
3. Select a Name for Your Online Store
A memorable brand name can have a significant impact on your first online business. It can spark curiosity, give credibility, and build positive perceptions.
Keep the name simple and easy to spell. You can get a little help if you use a business name generator to get inspiration by only typing related keywords to get suggestions. For instance, when you want to build a sustainable woman clothing business, type the keywords “woman”, “sustainable”, and “clothing”, and get suggestions.
4. Pick an eCommerce Platform
Many people have made eCommerce their go-to online shopping method. It’s proven by Statista saying the 2019 e-retail sales generated over 3.5 trillion dollars worldwide.
Still, you are highly encouraged to build a business website. You can have complete control over the customization options and reduce cost per sale as the marketplaces charge the users. Websites can also be the one-stop site for the audience to get to know your brand.
5. Register Your Domain Name
This step involves finding the right hosting plan and domain name. Choose a reliable domain registrar like Hostinger and check the availability in the domain checker tool. You can also pick a website builder with eCommerce features to get an all-in-one arrangement ranging from hosting and domain to multiple payment options and a cart.
6. Build a Brand Identity
Brand identity is a set of elements that shape your company’s personality and distinguish it from your competitors. Here are essential elements of brand identity.
- Logo. Creates a unique logo by considering your business’s story and purpose. You can choose a logo that uses only words like Disney or an image like Apple.
- Color palette. Different colors are associated with different emotions. For example, blue refers to security, and yellow represents innovation. Select a color palette that suits your brand personality and use no more than 2-3 colors.
- Typography. Decide which font that best represents your brand. Pick serif fonts to give a classic style or sans serif fonts to create a modern look.
- Tagline. A memorable catchphrase can help people identify a brand. A prominent example is “Just do it” by Nike.
7. Customize Your Website
Whether you design your website with premade templates or from scratch, be careful and avoid these common mistakes a first online business can make:
- Making your website not mobile-friendly. Mobile devices are used by the majority of Internet users to access a website. Make sure your website looks and feels great, as well as loads fast on mobile devices.
- Including too much information. Most visitors tend to skim information when they open a site and are only interested in how your product and service can help them. Be sure to focus on these benefits, rather than features. Additionally, keep in mind that an ideal website has to load within 1-2 seconds, and additional, unoptimized content will slow it down.
- Weak CTAs. Refers to misplaced, vague, and not well-designed call-to-action buttons. Use a clear command like Contact Us or Buy Now. Place and design it carefully to make it stand out.
8. Upload Products and Content
After preparing the website, insert your product and service. Ensure you include compelling photos, graphics, or videos, so the visitors are interested.
When you write the product descriptions, emphasize the benefits instead of the feature. For example, when you sell a sweater, don’t only mention that it’s made from cotton, but also tell the material’s sustainability and comfort.
9. Utilize SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is an effective method of increasing organic traffic to your website. Google or other search engines have the formula to find results for specific queries and rank them based on relevance.
SEO includes various practices and methods that help your pages get to first place on search engine results pages (SERP) and attract more visitors. It can lead you to more traffic, leads, and revenue.
10. Think About Payments and Logistics
Regardless of what platform you choose, here are common online payment options.
- Credit and debit cards
- Apple, Samsung, and Google Pay
- Online payment gateways, like PayPal and WePay
If you use a marketplace, the company often has built-in payments, like Amazon Payments or Alipay. They also have partnered with international shipping companies, like United States Postal Service (USPS) or Global Postal Shipping.
For business owners using websites, you can consider the local delivery or enter into a contract with carriers.
11. Have a Strong Presence on Social Media
A successful entrepreneur Ali Abdaal recommends you to build attention when building an online business. Gain a following by providing valuable content for free on social media.
Abdaal started their career with a YouTube channel, but you can also choose alternative channels like Instagram or TikTok. Know which platforms your target audience mostly used. Once you develop authority, they will likely buy your products because they already know you.
12. Launch Your Store
Before launching your store, build buzz. Publish appealing content on social media and use relevant hashtags. Promote your store to existing connections, then ask them to share your store on social media and tag your business account. You can also engage with influencers or hold online events, such as giveaways or challenges.
13. Use Paid Ads
SEO takes some time to bring a lot of traffic to your website. Use paid ads to reach your audience instantly. Here are several ad campaigns you can choose from.
- eCommerce ads, like Amazon and Etsy ads.
- Google ads.
- Social media ads, like Facebook ads and TikTok for Business
Before you use paid advertising, research the keywords, segmentation, and best time to conduct it. Create a clear measurement like the number of clicks or reach.
14. Leverage Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing refers to a business that rewards one or more people who successfully promote the business’ products. The company tracks the sales via an affiliate link. When a customer purchases a product using the link, the affiliate will get a commission.
This strategy has many benefits. You can increase brand awareness as the affiliates promote your products to their audience. It’s easy to track and, more importantly, brings more revenue. The affiliate program generates 15 percent of the revenue of the digital media industry.
15. Analyze and Improve
Seek every opportunity to grow your first online business by analyzing your efforts. Remember your business goals and check whether you’re still on track. These tools are helpful when analyzing your business performance.
- Marketplace performance analysis. This depends on the eCommerce platform you choose. Look into the marketplace metrics like ratings, time spent on site, and net revenue.
- Google Analytics. This tool helps you understand your website performance from the page views to the audience’s ages.
- Social media insights. Track your followers’ activity like reach, likes, and follows. You can also see their location and age.
To get an impactful second opinion, conduct a customer survey for your existing customers. You can use Google Forms or SurveyMonkey. Keep it short and give the survey respondents a bonus to attract customers to take the survey.
There are many things to be ticked to start an online business. Here we covered the must-dos that should help you with a successful launch. All that’s left to do is you get out there and start building your business!
I hope this article helped you to kickstart your first online business. If you want to appreciate this post, feel free to share it with your friends as well.