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.
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.
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
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
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Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com