Deep down, you know you want this. You want to taste the freedom that other entrepreneurs have. You want to follow your passion and hopefully also make a living at it. You want to…start an online business.
But here’s the thing: Instead of jumping on the bandwagon to start an online business, make sure you do your homework first. Most people launch a product and market it later. Big mistake!
You want to do the opposite – study the market first, launch next. How? Since it’s going to be an online business, start looking at online forums, comment sections of your competitor sites and what people are searching in Google (using Google Keyword Tool).
Once you pass stage one successfully, you can think about launching a website/product/service. That’s where the real magic happens.
Here’s what comes next:
- Writing content
- Starting a blog
- Having a presence on social media
- Establishing an expert status for yourself
- Email marketing
- Outsourcing tasks you don’t have the time or inclination for
- Following influencers closely
- Launching a product or paid service
The list is unending.
It’s easy to get burned out in the sea of tasks and strategies when starting an online business. Thankfully, there are tools available to help you get off the hamster wheel and launch a successful online business.
The best part? You don’t have to spend a fortune on these tools. Here are eight tools to start an online business without breaking the bank:
An online business needs a website domain name and space to “host it”. Hosting is an ongoing expense for your business and it usually incurs a monthly cost with an option to pay it upfront on a yearly basis.
And that’s where Hostt.com is revolutionizing the hosting world. What I love about Hostt is that it offers free hosting for all your websites. They also have a 24/7 tech support and a cpanel that makes website management quick and painless.
There is no catch – no ads. The hosting is 100% free. They only ask you to have one domain name with them (which costs $13.95 a year).
Once your website is set up and hosted, you’re ready to install a CMS or a platform on which your web pages and content will sit.
WordPress, originally a blogging platform, is the most popular solution in existence today. Most top bloggers use and recommend WordPress. The best part? It’s free to use.
Once you have your website hosted (see #1 above), your hosting company’s cpanel should let you install WordPress using the “1-click install” functionality.
WordPress is great for any type of website; but, if you want to create mainly an e-commerce store (in other words, an online store with a checkout shopping cart), you have better options out there.
Although WordPress is pretty flexible and a full-blown CMS now, it was originally built for blogging, not for e-commerce purposes. If you predict having a large product catalog and lots of e-commerce relevant features, try a service such as Shopify.
Most e-commerce experts will advise you against WordPress for an online store. Shopify is highly customizable, robust and affordable for a professional shopping cart. There are other alternatives available in the marker too, so make sure you do your research before launching a web-store.
Once you have a platform ready, you need content. And not just any content but good, solid content one that your readers find educative, interesting and engaging.
BuzzSumo is a neat little tool that analyzes what works for your readers. It helps you find content and topics that will do best for your type of audience.
Just open their webpage and enter your main keywords in the top search bar. You can also add a domain name to see what’s working well for them.
BuzzSumo returns a list of articles with the number of shares (so you know what is popular and can get ideas from those topics for your own website).
Super-helpful from SEO perspective also. So go on, give it a try!
But you can’t just stop after creating juicy content. The next step in line is to promote your content and one of the best ways to do it is email marketing.
Mailchimp is an email newsletter service that is used by more than 7 million people. You can get started with their “free forever” plan if you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and send less than 12,000 emails per month (which is very likely when you’re starting out).
To get add-ons such as autoresponders and delivery by time zones, you can upgrade for as little as $10 per month. I’ve been using MailChimp for years now for my own websites and that of my clients, and have no regrets.
Apart from promoting content and educating your readers via email, you can also use social media to share and push your new posts out there.
Buffer is a nice little tool to schedule all your posts across different social media. The clean and easy to use interface is one of the reasons it’s so popular. What I personally love is their “Suggestions” tab on the dashboard.
Buffer scours the web for best posts on other websites that you can instantly use to share with your own followers. When I’m low on the shareable content reserve, this feature is super-handy – all I have to do is read the suggested article and (if I like it) click the link to share or schedule it for my own channels.
If you are in a freelance/service-provider business model like I am, you have a constant need to communicate with your clients or collaborate with your team all over the world.
ClickMeeting is a platform to meet and record audio and video conferencing with your clients (for up to 25 participants). It’s perfect for briefing and presentation purposes. You can also brand all your meetings and impress your clients like a pro. Plus, they have a translation service if you’re exploring international markets.
They also offer a sister-product called ClickWebinar to conduct virtual trainings (for up to 1,000 participants) and webinars with your audience.
Let’s face it – despite all the tools in the world, you will still need external help. That’s where services such as FancyHands come into picture.
FancyHands brings you a team of virtual assistants who can do a lot of things at less than $1 a day, if you’re using their basic plan that costs $29.99/mo.
Here are some services for which people have requested in the past (as per the company’s website):
My co-worker is in the hospital after a bad car accident. Can you call the gift shop there and ask them if they sell fun things to do to pass the time that they could send in a gift basket type of thing to him? Crossword puzzles, trashy magazines, stuff like that. I’d like to spend about $50. If they don’t do that sort of thing, please find a place that can.
Please make a lunch reservation at Barolo under my name for Friday at 1pm and call Jennifer Wilson’s office and let her know that the meeting is confirmed. Please add it to my schedule as well.
Please fill me in on the top 5 trending topics on Twitter today, both worldwide and locally in Los Angeles.
A fun way to get your time back, right?
I saved the best for last – getting paid. Xoom is a perfect alternative to Paypal. Where Paypal is notorious for charging hefty transaction fees (try this calculator to find how much you’re being charged), Xoom charges a flat fee of $4.99 for up to $2,999.
With their 24/7 customer support and faster money transfers, Xoom is one of the easiest ways to send money.
Are you starting an online business? Which one of the above tools is your favorite? Would you like to add more? Tells us your thoughts in the comments below!
Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com