In the era of Post COVID – Pre Recession, I’m sure you’ve been thinking about starting a business now more than ever. Or at the very least, creating a second stream of income.
Likewise, now more than ever, friends are approaching me to help them start their businesses, and if that makes you feel overwhelmed, don’t be, because you’re reading this, it means you’re in the right place at the right time. Complexity is the enemy of success and with much information out there and an overwhelming amount of opportunities; we created this guide to cut out the bull shit and give you a clear step-by-step guide to starting your own online business.
Step 1: Find a need in the market and fill it
The mistake most beginners make is looking for a product first and then the market after. If you want to boost your chances of success, you must identify a need in the market and fill it. What problems can you create a creative solution for? What industries need to evolve?
Once you have a few ideas down, use tools such as Google Trends & Amazon to do your research. Check out your potential competitors and find out what needs they are filling and how they are doing it. Use what you learn to create a product for a market that already exists – but then do it better than your competitors.
Step 2: Why are you doing this?
This is the next step – the mission and purpose behind what you intend to do. If you have no intention of pursuing your startup and keeping it going, why waste time and money on it?
There are no overnight successes, but if you want to have last success you need to create a brand around your interests, life and expertise if it’s not something you have a genuine interest in, you’ll end up feeling like you’re living a double life and burn out.
While you may already have an exit strategy in mind, when you lack passion and drive to see your business grow, you will not go far!
It is important to ensure that you have what it takes – skills – to handle your new online business. When your business revolves around your hobby or skill set, then you know in and out, which gives you level expertise you can leverage. It will help you build clout among your target clients and offer familiarity; you can fall back on as you learn to manage and grow your business.
You must also ask yourself whether your business can function solely online. Does it require physical infrastructure for it to operate -like physical shipping and distribution? This is mostly the case if you intend to run the business from home.
Step 3: Validate your business startup idea
This can be as simple as engaging your potential clients in conversation to find out their needs and whether the solution you offer interests them. Other methods you can use to test your target market include looking through client reviews. Look at your competitor reviews and how their clients respond. Check the overall feedback to get an idea of the active market size and whether your business concept has a strategy to avoid all the pitfalls of the current offerings.
You could also set up a landing page without necessarily setting up a full website. This is aimed at teasing your business – products, and services. Ensure that you give your potential clients a quick rundown of the pricing, features, and subscriptions to help you create a mailing list. Run a couple of social media ads that specifically target your audience to drive traffic to your site.
Realize that validation here is really up to you. What do you base interests upon – number of visitors to your site, email subscriptions, or social shares? Whatever it is, have a couple of metrics that will help you set goals and measure success.
Step 4: Design your business plan.
Now, you know who your target clients are, and the next thing is to develop a business plan. The good news is that having gone through the first three steps, you have already laid out your initial business plan pieces. The next thing is to put in a format you can use to pursue funding, forecast the financial bit, and revise as the business grows.
The first bit here is to do lean planning, which you can do in 30 minutes instead of a month. The point here is to distill your plan into essentials. Then conduct a market analysis alongside a SWOT analysis. This way, you confirm your target market and identify competition. You also get to know such things as pricing models, means of distribution, and what you can use to have the upper hand in the market.
It is also necessary to determine your startup costs and how you intend to fund your business. Even if you consider it a side hustle, the best trick is to think through the sales metrics and keep track of them, so you have a better idea of what direction you are headed. You can review the metrics regularly to compare your forecasts with actual sales. Use a business dashboard to help you stay on top of your finances – QuickBooks will make things automated, so you don’t have to do it manually.
Download our Business Plan Template here
Step 5: Design your website
This should be simple, and you can do it yourself, considering you have already created landing pages earlier. You have at least three options to choose from; hosting companies with free website building tools, WordPress for websites or standalone blogs, or others that use high-end programs such as Dreamweaver that will do everything you need – but not with a steep learning curve!
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire a professional designer – on Upwork.inc, Craiglist.com, or Fiverr.com – to help you.
Step 6: Figure out Online payments.
Gone are the days when you had to print, fax, or mail a check. When you start an online business, you should embrace online payments and process transactions directly on your website. This way, your clients can act on an impulse to obtain immediate gratification.
Some of the most popular platforms for online payments include PayPal and Stripe. Once you advance in your sales funnels and upsells, among other shopping cart experiences, you can upgrade to such software as an infusion, Samcart, and 1ShoppingCart.
The most important thing is to review their terms and conditions to ensure that the monthly fees payable do not affect your startup business. Start with basic ones, and once you have an increase in sales volume, you can upgrade.
Step 7: Find a suitable product delivery method.
Your product delivery system can be simple or complex, depending on the nature of your product. If you sell downloadable products, you can use electronic fulfillment companies such as Clickbank or E-junkie.
If dealing with physical products, consider working with an online drop shipping business model so that you don’t necessarily have to deal with an inventory.
Step 8: Drive traffic to your website.
If your products or services are buried under millions of other websites, then even the most cutting-edge design or incredible products will not generate any sales revenue. The most important thing is that you promote your website as much as possible. Register with such search engines as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. You can also do content marketing, podcasting, video marketing, online marketing – Twitter ads, Google PPC, or Facebook ads – or do offline marketing using billboards, print ads, company vehicles, or promotional products, among others.
You don’t have to get overwhelmed with all the choices. Simply choose a few, you can focus on maximizing the source of their traffic. As you monitor their performances, you can continually bring others on board to drive even more massive traffic. Most importantly, ensure that you know where your target audience likes to congregate – the websites or magazines they read.
If you don’t have a budget, start with free methods, and then as you start turning profits, you can invest in paid methods of driving traffic – considering they are free and scalable.
Step 9: Track growth
There is a wide range of tools you can use to know who clicked where and when. Check if your Web hosting company offers traffic analyzing tools. You can also use Google Analytics, which is free to track popular pages and keywords, location of clicks, and traffic sources.
You can customize these reports with a wide range of variables like page views, date range, and length of time spent on the site.
You also want to know how many people are opening emails and clicking your website links. Remember, what you are after is not just the visitor traffic, but also transactions. Success is always measured in sales!