How to Start a Successful Online Business

Starting an online business may appear to come easy to some people. In reality, it is very easy to fail, and in the process you will have wasted money, time and resources. You need to understand that a profitable online business is not just about selling products. You can also sell your services, too.

Here are some examples of profitable online businesses that you might want to consider:

Sell your physical and digital products or designs. Are you the creative type? You can sell your creations like handicrafts through an e-commerce store, or you can just upload your design on a variety of pay-per-print sites like CafePress. If you have a passion for photography, you may also sell your photos online, as well.

Build apps: Another good online business is creating and building mobile applications for the Android or iPhone market. Developing and selling apps is a very good online business. It is interesting to note that app development usually doesn’t necessarily cost that much money, while storage and shipping costs are generally very low, as well.

Sell Freelancing Services: If you have a certain expertise, you can easily sell your services online. SEO consultancy, article writing, virtual assistance, graphic designing, web designing, programming, and accounting are just a few of the highly-profitable services that you can offer, provided you are qualified.

Create an E-commerce Store. You can utilize websites such as Woocommerce or Shopify to start your online store. Learn about the ins and outs of dropshipping so that you don’t have to worry about inventory, warehousing and delivery. Dropshipping is also ideal for those who don’t want to make a huge initial investment by stocking up on inventory. One excellent opportunity you might want to consider is the Amazon marketplace. You can create an Amazon FBA account so that you can start your e-commerce business with one of the largest online retailers in the world.

Affiliate Marketing: Another great way to generate profit online is to become an affiliate marketer. Affiliate marketers earn a percentage of the income they generate from the sale of products, services and online promotions. You can build a website or blog and hype up an affiliate’s product or service; if a visitor to your site makes a purchase, you would earn a percentage of the sale.

Six Steps to Start a Successful Online Business

The “trial by fire” concept maybe be your choice, but it is not a good way to go as you will eventually exhaust all of your resources (time, money and effort). Because an online business doesn’t succeed without hard work, here are the steps that will assist you in getting your online business off to a good start. While these tips may seem pretty basic, they are crucial for the success of any online business.

1. Choose your Business Model Carefully

For many startup online entrepreneurs, the most difficult thing to do is to actually get started. Most often than not, people hesitate because of their own excuses, doubts, fears and insecurities. It could also be due to the possibly overwhelming number of opportunities from which they have to choose. Nevertheless, you just have to be determined, choose one and go for it. Once the business has started, it will be a continuous learning process and from there on out, you will need to be able to adapt, as necessary.

If you are not sure where to begin consider the things that really interest you, or that you are passionate about. It would be great if you have a real interest and knowledge about a specific topic, as it will give you a good foundation in building your business. Think about your particular skill set and how you can best use them to your advantage. If you do not have the skills needed to start your desired online business, then acquire the proper training or hire someone to help you get started. Determine which tasks you can do yourself and then work out a budget for the jobs that you would need outside help. The most important thing is be sure that you are passionate about your chosen field; this will help you stay committed in the long run.

2. Thoroughly Research the Market Potential

While it is important to build an online business around your passion, it is vital that you know if a market for your products and/or services actually exists. When you plan to start a business, always first gauge the market potential beforehand. Make sure your potential customers are well-informed of the products and services you intend to sell, even before you invest your time, money, and energy.

Never launch a product or service before ensuring that there is a market for it. The appropriate approach is to find the market before you launch your business. You can use any number of keyword searches or planning tools, such as the Google Keyword Planner, to do market research. These keyword search tools allow you to search for specific words or phrases and will report back with analytical data, i.e. exactly how many people search for those products and services each month. You can check out the local and global searches, as well. Google, specifically, will help you identify competition for the keywords you use and categorize them as low, medium, or high, depending on the number of people searching for that topic. Once you have done this research it will give you an idea as to how low or high the demand is for your proposed products or services.

3. Assess Your Competition

One of the easiest methods of identifying your competitors is to find out which company or individual is advertising for the same products and services through Google. This can be done by undertaking a Google search; from the responses returned, you will see if there are paid results or ads that appear on the results pages. These ads are the companies that pay for placement in the front of the market. If these companies are spending money on ads just to be at the top of the search results, there is a very high probability that they are making money from that particular product. Most companies do not spend much on advertising unless they see a potential ROI (or Return on Investment).

4. Set Up Your Website

Once you have decided which products or services you want to sell online, it is now time to set up your company’s website. First, buy a website domain after you have registered the name of your company or business. The website domain is simply the Internet address where your website can be accessed by potential customers. This is very similar to how a physical store or an office has a location address; an online business should have a website address, as well. It is important to choose a website domain name that reflects, to some extent, your products and services. For example, if your business name is “Alissa’s Art Materials,” you may want to buy the domain, if available. There are a number of hosting providers available that can assist you with your domain registration.

Next is the website setup. Nowadays, setting up a website is relatively inexpensive and easy. You can create a website by paying a website domain provider that is exclusively designed for your business. An exclusively designed website theme is pricier and will take more time to set up, but you can take pride in its uniqueness to your company. The most popular website domain providers for both personal and business websites are WordPress, Weebly, SiteBuilder and Constant Contact, though BigCommerce and Shopify are quickly becoming good choices for e-commerce websites.

After setting up your website, you will also have to set up a system to process payments. This is necessary in selling your products or services directly from your website. A secure and efficient payment system will handle all online payment transactions. Most online business websites process payments through PayPal or Stripe, but make sure you are using a merchant account for all of your business transactions and not your personal account. Once you have set up a merchant account, you can connect the online payment processing system to your website. You can also use Amazon and iTunes to sell your products and services. Just set up an account and use the appropriate links to your sales page.

5. Create Your Signature Products and/or Services

Your online business should identify core products and services which will eventually become your signature products and services. Core products and services are delivered in various ways; in the case of services, you can sell them as online courses such as coaching, consulting, software, or freelance services. The format of your core offer will depend on several factors; these include the niche, audience preference, and price point, among many others.

Before creating your signature products and services, spend time interacting with your target audience in order to determine the appropriate and preferable format. Once you are confident of your signature products and services, you can start working on developing your business concept.

6. Marketing Your Business

An excellent website and a well-researched signature product or service does not guarantee success if a potential customer is unaware of its existence. If no one knows about the website, it will not get traffic, hence, it will not generate sales. Having a marketing strategy is important to ensure you reach your target audience and make them aware of your business.

Here are some business marketing strategies that you can employ to improve your website traffic:

a. Paid Advertising.

Paying for online ads can be a great and surefire way to generate website traffic. That is, if you have the budget for it. There are a variety of platforms available for this; Google Ads, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and many others can help you with targeted ads for the specific keywords you designate.

Paid online advertising is effective because it offers your product and website address right in front of your potential customers as they search for that specific keyword or niche. Your target audience is more likely to choose the ads since they are usually placed on top of the search engine results or else where they will be prominent on the various social media pages.

b. Search Engine Optimization or SEO

SEO is the process of making your website or website pages discoverable through search engines. Search engine results come in two types: organic results and paid results. The paid results are the paid advertising previously mentioned. Organic results, however, appear based on how they rank as the most relevant to the keyword search. Being able to appear in the search results only happens as a result of a well-placed SEO.

If your website’s optimization is good, it will have a higher search engine ranking, thus, it is easier for your target audience to find you. There are several ways of improving a website’s SEO. One way is to create good content and post them regularly to your website.

c. Social Media Marketing or SMM

Social media is among the most popular platforms used for marketing these days. It is a very effective approach because social media platforms promote interaction and discussion, and, at the same time, allow for information sharing. Popular social media platforms used for marketing include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, among many others.

Many businesses, either online or at a brick-and-mortar location, have a strong presence in social media, often cultivating a large fan base. This has become a great opportunity for businesses to showcase their products and services and, at the same time, engage with the audience. Your social media page can also be used as a gateway for your audience to visit your website and generate sales.

d. Email marketing

Email marketing is the communication that takes place between you, the company, and the customers through email. The main principle of email marketing is to market your business by sending emails to potential customers. Email marketing starts with building a database of your target market or people who have given you permission to email them. Keep in mind that sending an unsolicited sales pitch through email is considered spamming and will ultimately do you and your reputation more harm than good.

Final Thoughts

The decision to start an online business can be daunting. If possible, avoid the “trial by fire” concept and stick with the recommended steps. The most crucial step is the first one – start! Take that first step. If you do not take action, there will be no online business to promote and you will never succeed in the field. Continue to take those steps, even the little ones! And be sure you learn from your mistakes; from them, you can slowly make adjustments, and soon you will see your business grow into an online success.

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