Hundreds of new online businesses go from idea to reality every day. While statistically most of these businesses are destined to go belly up, there are those that will grow and ultimately become very successful. Everybody who learns how to start an online business obviously hopes to be in that select category of success stories.
The question is how to start an online business that will beat the odds and succeed.
Table of Contents
- 3 Essential Steps to Start an Online Business
- 10 Effective Tools For Starting an Online Business
- 1. LivePlan for Business Planning
- 2. Siteground or InMotion for Web Hosting
- 3. WordPress or Squarespace for Content Management
- 4. Weave, Mailchimp or MailMunch for Customer Communication
- 5. Hootsuite or Zoho Social for Social Media Management
- 6. Upwork for Outsourcing Tasks
- 7. Trello or CoSchedule for Project Management
- 8. Shopify or Stripe for Shopping Cart Software
- 9. ShippingEasy or AfterShip for Product Shipping
- 10. Freshbooks for Bookkeeping
- More Tips for Starting an Online Business
3 Essential Steps to Start an Online Business
Here’re the steps of starting an online business that will bring you success:
1. Becoming the Master of ‘ONE’ Trade
Most successful online businesses are the master of one trade. And that’s why beginning with a niche is always a good idea.
A niche market is a focused segment within a larger market. Imagine a men’s shoes market and then, imagine handcrafted brown Italian leather shoes for men. While the previous one is a bigger market, the latter one is simply a more focused segment within that market.
Knowing the niche helps a lot to start an online business and if you are feeling a bit lost, here are some self-queries that will act as a perfect guide:
What Speaks to Your Heart?
This first way of discovering the niche is perfect for those who want to do what they love. Working in a market that you love will ensure that constant excitement and drive to do better, eventually leading to ultimate prosperity.
Decisions Based on Knowledge
The second way is perfect for those who have a lot of untapped knowledge about a specific industry. Utilizing the insights on a specific industry is a great way to find a niche. This way, you’ll already know all the ins and outs of the industry and can easily get ahead of all the competitors.
Lastly, conducting research into various industries and finding an untapped segment is another amazing way of finding the right niche. This practice will require you to come up with a new and unique solution for uncatered audiences.
2. When Is Your Idea Valid?
All the great ideas for starting an online business needs to be valid. And once you have found the niche, this validation process is what comes next.
Proving the soundness of the idea is not at all hard. A detailed industry examination is all you need initially to understand the value of the concept and recalibrate it to turn into a great online business.
Market research is a systematic unraveling of the target market. This research will include all the information on the product/service you are about to sell, the target audience, and how the competitors are operating in this crowded market.
This in-depth research will give you the initial idea of how the products can make an impact in the outside world. And once the small online business ideas are validated, it will be time to move on and craft a plan and start working on establishing the business.
3. Crafting the Map to Success
Having a proper plan for an online business is like having a map when you travel to an unknown city. This is a document that includes all the factual information on the business and crucial business data.
To help you out, here’s a list of all the information online business plans must include:
- An idea of objective – The best online business plans always have a clear outline of the business goals and intentions. Having this clear outline will increase the efficiency of business functions later on. The target demographic, business model—all kinds of information needs to be a part of this document.
- Taking stock of available resources – A startup needs to utilize all the resources it has, and that’s why the plan needs to have an in-depth outline of the financial resources in use as well as the employees and their expertise. With a better idea of all the resources in hand, starting an online business will be an easier process.
For those who have decided to create their own site, the design is of paramount importance. With a great design, you will be able to engage and interact with the visitors better and encourage them to make a purchase.
Determination and hard work, of course, are the coal that fuels the engine, but that engine will have trouble staying on the tracks if the right tools aren’t used to keep it moving.
10 Effective Tools For Starting an Online Business
There are plenty of tools out there that can help your online business perform more efficiently to save you time. Thankfully, a lot of them offer a range of plans that are quite affordable for business owners just starting out.
The goal is to shoot for tools that get the job done in the best way possible and won’t put your online business in the red before it’s up and running.
1. LivePlan for Business Planning
Having a good idea for an online business is the first step to launching your career as an online entrepreneur. Making a solid business plan for that killer idea is second. There are a number of great tools out there that can help you make a business plan and lay out the blueprint to turn your idea into a profitable venture.
For example, LivePlan starts at $11.66 per month and walks users through each step of the business planning process and has over 500 different business templates to ensure that users find the perfect one for their business venture.
2. Siteground or InMotion for Web Hosting
If you’re going to start an online business, establishing a website is going to be one of the first steps. You can get free web hosting, but it’s often lower-quality, and you’ll probably find that spending even a couple of bucks a month makes a world of difference. When it comes to web hosting, it’s important to look at your business’ needs.
For a small business, a shared hosting plan like Siteground is probably your best bet. You’ll be sharing a server with other websites, but it’s affordable at often less than $12 a month and is easy to use.
If you’re expecting a huge amount of traffic, a dedicated hosting site such as InMotion may be a better choice. This type of web hosting will be more expensive, but it is highly secured and won’t get bogged down easily by a lot of visitors.
This article can help you learn what to look for when choosing a web hosting provider.
3. WordPress or Squarespace for Content Management
Now that you’ve got your web hosting in place, it’s time to choose a content management tool to build and maintain your online presence. WordPressis obviously the best-known and for good reason. It’s incredibly customizable and comes with an array of free resources, tools, and plug-ins that can be applied as your business grows.
Squarespace is another popular website content management platform that many newbies will probably find a little easier to use than WordPress. No coding required! Both products have several levels of pricing, with Squarespace starting at $12 a month and WordPress at $8 per month. Really, you can’t go wrong with either one.
4. Weave, Mailchimp or MailMunch for Customer Communication
In regards to communicating with your customers, there are far more ways today than there were even 15 years ago. The online businesses that excel at customer communication are the ones that are going to succeed. Communication for online businesses needs to be both streamlined and natural, which is what makes Weave such a great tool that allows you to automate your customer communication with texting, appointment scheduling, and payment reminders.
For email, Mailchimp and MailMunch are two wonderful and affordable online business tools for growing and maintaining your email list. Both have customizable features, such as allowing for custom landing pages and automatic syncing of email and newsletter campaigns.
5. Hootsuite or Zoho Social for Social Media Management
Yes, social media management is customer communication, but it’s really its own animal, too. We all know about Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, but how about tools that utilize those social media platforms in the easiest way possible?
One of the most popular tools for businesses in regards to social media management is Hootsuite. From scheduling online posts to tracking the customer engagement of those posts, the tool is well worth the $29 a month subscription fee. An even cheaper option that has good reviews for being easy-to-use with similar functions is Zoho Social, which starts at just $10 a month.
6. Upwork for Outsourcing Tasks
There are going to be parts of your online business that you’re just too busy to dedicate the required time or aren’t quite skilled enough to handle. In the beginning, hiring a full-time employee to handle those tasks might not be feasible.
Whether it’s logo design, copywriting, software development, or SEO strategy, you can probably find a skilled freelancer to tackle the job on Upwork. The platform guides business owners through the freelancer hiring process all the way up through job payment and has qualified candidates around the globe.
To get started with outsourcing, check out this article.
7. Trello or CoSchedule for Project Management
Regardless of the size of your online business, keeping projects on track and proper calendar management is going to be key. Two valuable online tools in this category are Trello and CoSchedule.
Both products utilize a sort of bulletin board format with lists and cards for projects that make for easy team collaboration and communication. Trello is the cheaper of the two at $10 a month, but CoSchedule may offer quicker troubleshooting should any issues pop up.
8. Shopify or Stripe for Shopping Cart Software
If you’re going to be selling any goods or services through your online business, you’ll need a way of accepting payment from customers. This is one area of your online business where making things as easy as possible for your customers is going to literally pay off.
The second customers run into a glitch while trying to make a payment, you can expect a loss of sale. If your online business is going to be something in the retail sector, you really can’t go wrong with Shopify. At just $29 a month, it will provide tools to cover everything from social media management to website design, and, of course, payment processing.
Other sorts of online businesses may want to look into Stripe. It has a strong reputation for making payment processing easy and secure, and with a flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, and it doesn’t saddle business owners or their customers with a bunch of hidden fees.
9. ShippingEasy or AfterShip for Product Shipping
While eCommerce isn’t something that’s going to apply to all online businesses, for those that do fall under this category, a smooth delivery of the product is crucial. Two tools that online business entrepreneurs should consider using are ShippingEasy and AfterShip.
Both services help business owners find the best shipping rates, manage inventory fulfillment deadlines, as well as provide customer reassurance like automated tracking and SMS notifications about order updates. Even better, for businesses with fewer than 50 shipments a month, both tools are free.
10. Freshbooks for Bookkeeping
Your online business is up and running like clockwork, and it’s starting to make some real money. Now time for the fun part — bookkeeping. Accounting might not be as exciting as launching an inventive email campaign, but it’s still essential if you want to stay in business.
Freshbooks is an all-in-one online business accounting tool that will handle everything from payment acceptance to invoices and expense reports. With plans as low as $6 a month, it’s one of the most affordable bookkeeping tools on the market when first starting an online business.
Because every business is unique in its own way, not all of these tools will apply to your online business. As your business grows, you’ll likely find that the tools needed to get the job done will change. For starting an online business, though, the above categories and their respective tools are a great place to start.
More Tips for Starting an Online Business
- 10 Reasons Why You Should Invest In An Online Business Today
- Useful Tips to Start Your Online Business Successfully
- 7 Wonderful Ideas to Start Your Online Business Today
Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com