This guide shows you the key steps to starting an online business, including how to build your website, engage on social media, build your mailing list and more. Anyone, from the early stages of starting up to a seasoned online entrepreneur, can benefit from this guide when it comes to getting your business started online.
THE PROS AND CONS OF STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
Before you launch into your new business, it is worth weighing up the advantages and disadvantages. There are many highs that come with running your own business, but there can be some tough lows too. Here are some of those pros and cons:
- Cost – You can start an internet business from your home with a laptop and broadband connection. You don’t need to pay rent for a shop and, in most cases, you are exempt from business rates too.
- Greater Customer Reach – With a business based in a physical location, you only have a certain catchment area from which to draw your customers. Online, the world is your oyster.
- Data Collection – When customers make internet purchases, you can gain data from what they buy and the way they use your website. Analysing this data allows you to streamline your processes going forwards.
- Time Restrictions Lifted – One of the biggest advantages of running your own online business is that you have the flexibility to work the hours that work for you. You are not confined to the 9-5 life, you work around your own diary, commitments and family allowing you, what I like to call,f FREEDOM.
- Ability to Pivot – The Covid-19 crisis has shown us that the ability to adapt can make or break businesses. If you have a physical shop, you can’t adjust your approach as easily as you can online if the market takes an unexpected turn. It is much cheaper to redecorate a website than a whole shop.
- Customer Service Issues – It is easier to deal with a customer problem face to face. Using email and messenger could more easily lead to misunderstandings.
- The Beginning Means No Traffic Or Customers – When you first start up an online business you are letting the world know that you are there and ready to do business. This isn’t something that just happens, you will need to attract customers and clients via marketing efforts, you have to be making noise to let people know you are there. Test various marketing strategies to see what works, you can use social media sites, SEO strategies via blogging, directories and more.
- Visibility – When you have a shopfront on the High Street, people can always see who you are and what you do. Online, it is easy to get lost in the noise. You have to put a lot of effort into ranking on search engines and building a social media following.
Ultimately, it is your decision whether starting your own online business is the right move for you. Not quite sure what business to start online?
I’ve compiled 45 Online business ideas to help you – GRAB YOUR COPY FREE just pop your details in below.
SPOTTING A GAP IN THE MARKET
The early stages of any business idea requires you to do your homework. Don’t jump the gun and decide on your offering just because your heart tells you too, you need to make sure there is a need for it. Research your industry and niche (if you have one at this point). You need to know what product or service is needed in the market instead of trying to sell something that will not serve your customers/clients, or worse not needed.
The internet is your best friend. Use this to your advantage to learn more about the industry and market you intend to step foot in. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Scour your rivals’ sites and see what they don’t provide or what they provide that you can improve on.
- Visit online forums in your niche, or question and answer sites such as Quora to see which questions related to your business fail to receive satisfactory answers.
- Ask people, the best way to find something out is to be direct, people want to share their pain especially if it’s a problem that’s not resolved
There are other ways to discover which angle you need to take with your business to stand out from the crowd. These are good questions to ask yourself as you gather more data. What is your USP (unique selling point) what makes you different? What do you need to fulfil? You need to know the answers to these questions to ensure that you can carve as large a portion of the sector out for yourself as you can.
TIPS FOR DECIDING ON YOUR BUSINESS NAME AND WEBSITE DOMAIN
Deciding on your business name and website domain go hand in hand. You could have the best idea for a business name, but if someone has already nabbed the website address, you have to think again and go back to the drawing board.
A business name should be:
- Easy to spell
- Not already in use, particularly in your industry.
- You might want to expand your business into other areas eventually so don’t paint yourself into a corner by being too specific about what you do.
Before you commit to the new name, check that the domain is available and affordable! Make sure you register the domain before you get too far through the process of building your business. You don’t want someone to buy it before you have got round to staking your claim. The name and website domain will form most customers’ first impression of your business so make sure you are happy with both before you launch your online business. My go-to is siteground but there are many affordable hosting providers out there, just make sure you shop around, quality means everything here especially communication and customer services.
BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS WEBSITE: HOW TO DO IT RIGHT
Your business website is your shop front and is where you conduct your business. It is certainly possible to get it up and running on your own if you are tight on budget, but there are a number of steps to getting it right. And I just want to emphasise, it is really important to get it right.
- Register Your Domain – Make sure the domain is yours. You can do this through a domain registrar such as GoDaddy, Siteground or 123 Reg. You might want to also look into getting hold of variations, such as having both .com and .co.uk.
- Hosting Your Website – There are several website builders, such as Squarespace and WordPress.com, which will host your website too. Others, like WordPress.org, require you to host it yourself. This allows you more flexibility but requires some technical knowledge. If you choose the self-hosted option, you will need to work with a company that provides the space for it on the internet.
- Building Your Website – Depending on your skill levels, you can try and build your website using coding, themes, or by using a simple drag-and-drop program.
You need to look at the website building options that suit your skill level, fits in with your available time, and will help you create the best and most inviting website. For an online business, you need to get this right if you want to attract and engage customers and clients. If you can afford to get professional help, it will be worth it in the long run, you need to look at this as an investment. If you don’t have the budget you can get started by doing the work yourself and investing in this later. Never consider your website complete it will always be a working progress.
“Your website is the centre of your digital eco-system, like a brick and mortar location, the experience matters once a customer enters, just as much as the perception, they have of you before they walk through the door.” ― Leland… Click To Tweet
THE IMPORTANCE OF ONLINE BUSINESS SEO
There are 3.5 billion searches on Google every single day. People are looking for information. However, at least 71% of clicks go to websites that turn up on page one, and some experts have estimated that might even be as high as 92%. Websites on the second page receive a paltry 6%. And this is why online business SEO is so important, especially for new businesses looking to compete with established names.
If you want to compete with your rivals, you need to rank as high as possible on search engines. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to boost your chances of improving your position:
- Optimising your content to show search engines that you can answer questions with authority.
- Thinking mobile-first. Most people access websites on their phones or tablets. They may bounce back out if your website doesn’t make sense on their device, which raises red flags with search engines. Search engines like Google will proactively check how optimised you are for mobile and that could affect your ranking.
- Building good quality links. The more links to your site from authoritative sites, the more search engines will believe you to be a site that can solve users’ questions and fulfil their needs. However, spammy links can have the opposite effect.
There are a number of great tweaks you can make to your website to try and get a leg up on your competitors, and I can help you implement them. Never underestimate the power of SEO.
LEGAL STEPS TO STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS
In order to begin trading, you need to take some legal steps to ensure you are doing everything by the book.
- Decide whether you will be a sole trader, limited company, or in a partnership.
- Register your business through gov.uk. This is how you get a company registration number. Alternatively, there are company formation agents who perform these tasks on your behalf, taking a lot of the paperwork out of your hands.
- Business insurances.
- Set up your Internet Merchant Account.
Don’t try to skip these steps, in order to set your business up right for success you can’t cut corners, it will only cause you headache and heartache later.
BUILDING YOUR BUSINESS BY ENGAGING ON SOCIAL MEDIA
There are 45 million social media users in the UK alone, which is two-thirds of the entire population. If you are not actively engaging potential customers on the various networks, then you are missing out big time.
People spend a lot of time scrolling through their timelines, if you can draw them in with your content, you could turn them into a customer. There are some key elements that you should have in your social media strategy:
- Plan your goals – what do you want to achieve with your social posts?
- Choose your networks – where does your target audience hang out online?
- Consider what interests your target audience and plan your content around this.
- Engage your audience – ask them questions, answer their queries, reply to their comments. This builds up interaction, which all the networks value. It increases the chances of their algorithms showing your content in their friends’ timelines.
- Illustrate your posts – images are a big thing on social media. They interrupt people’s scrolling and help your posts stand out if they are striking and interesting enough.
- Post regularly – keep your business in people’s minds by posting regularly. You can use a scheduling tool to make sure you remain present, even when you are too busy to post. Spend an afternoon creating a whole load of posts for the week and then set them to post over the next seven days, freeing up your time.
- Analyse your engagement – which posts worked well? Try doing more in that style.
Remember social media is not everything when it comes to your overall marketing plan, it is only a portion of it. Try out various methods and then focus on the one that actually brings in business. Don’t be busy on things that don’t matter.
BUILD A MAILING LIST
A mailing list is a great way to build a relationship and nurture your warm leads. Social media posts are easy to lose as you scroll through, but having a presence in their email inbox, with the notification that lights up is a much closer connection. Once people sign up for your mailing list, you can target them directly and at the perfect time.
You are not relying on the ever-changing algorithms of Google or the nuances of Facebook. The email is directly from you to them. That intimacy is all-so important in turning someone interested in your business into a customer or client.
To begin building your mailing list, you should:
- Add a call to action on your blog posts, telling people to sign up to your list.
- Create a pop-up or slider to invite them to sign up when they visit your site.
- Offer some value for signing up. It could be a discount voucher or an ebook or other free guide that you send out to everyone who joins the list.
- Promote the link to your list on social media and in your email signature.
- Include a link in your signature
Once you have put your mailing list, you can create beautiful emails thanks to sites such as Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign to tell your subscribers about your latest news, services, products, offers, and more.
STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS FROM HOME – ALL YOU NEED TO DO
The internet makes starting a business without any physical premises easier than ever. You can run your empire from your kitchen table, the garden, wherever you want and all you need is a computer/laptop, phone and a very good internet connection.
Whilst your business is still small, the saving you make can be the difference between it being viable and not. However, with the benefit of not having to pay rent and business rates, starting an online business from home does have its limitations. You can’t store a large amount of stock in your home without disrupting family life, for instance. This is why you need to think carefully about the kind of work that is viable from a private home.
You should also look into the allowable expenses that you can claim against tax for working from home as a self-employed person. HMRC lists the expenses as flat rates depending on how many hours you carry out your business from home every month.
I can take you through all of the details you need to know about starting an online business from home.
WANT TO START AN ONLINE BUSINESS?
I can provide help and advice for making the most of your start-up business. I have launched multiple businesses utilising my years of experience supporting business owners as well as online platforms to solve people’s problems. If you are looking into starting your own business, make sure you talk to me and I can guide you through the huge number of different elements that come together to create a successful online business.
Contact me today to find out more about what I can do for you to step out and start up strong with all the tools and motivation you need to boss it from the beginning.