Every day sees people working to create their own online businesses. In more recent years, these new entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to the online realm.
This is partly due to the rise and maturation of an entire generation of “digital natives,” meaning people who have grown up never knowing a world without the internet.
Another cause is simply that for everyone, even digital non-natives, shopping online is now as normal as shopping in a physical store.
Best of all, and luckily for everyone, it is now easier than ever to start an online business. If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, you just need to know and follow the right steps.
Create a Solid Business Idea
If you don’t already know what products or services you’d want to provide, then why are you interested in starting a business? Having a definite idea of what your enterprise would offer is the first step for any entrepreneurial endeavor.
Everything else rests on this foundation.
This may — and, in fact, should — require a great deal of research. For starters, once you hit on an idea, you should evaluate how practical it would be.
Would you make the products yourself or purchase them from a supplier? If it’s the latter, can you get a good bulk discount from the supplier and make a profit from each sale? If it’s the former, can you find a supplier to provide the required materials?
Moreover, is there even a market for these products or services? If so, is there any room for a brand-new store to break in, or is it already oversaturated?
If you can’t answer any of these questions, then you should go back to square one.
In addition to being practical, you should also be interested in your own idea. Contrary to what some might say, your business does not need to be your life’s passion.
With that said, it will consume most of your waking hours, including a hefty amount of your idle time, potentially for years.
The more interesting it can be for you, the more you will enjoy running it.
Write a Business Plan
Once you come up with the idea that is practical enough to be profitable, you need to take steps to make that idea more concrete.
This means you will need to create a business plan. The document will outline precisely how your business will operate, including the expected expenses and sources of revenue.
This is not just for your own reference as you work to reach your goals, but for the reference of potential investors.
If you want these people to bankroll your project, they must first see how you plan to allocate your resources and earn back more than what you spent.
You have specific goals when writing a business plan. You need to convince them that you are serious and committed enough to have a strategy in mind already.
You also need to describe and demonstrate what makes your business different from the rest.
Writing a business plan also entails deciding what structure your nascent company will have. There are a few kinds, ranging from a sole proprietorship to a partnership to a limited liability company (LLC) to a full-on corporation (either type C or type S).
When you get around to writing your business plan, keep in mind that your ideas may change and develop as you move forward. You will not know everything at first, and that is okay.
A business degree is not a requirement for starting an online business. You will learn so much during the process, and you must maintain an open mind.
Brainstorm Your Branding
Your business plan will entice banks and lenders, but your branding is what will attract your customers.
Branding is essentially the overall style, tone, and aesthetic of your website. Refining these aspects may require just as much work as planning more functional aspects.
Branding largely affects the visual presentation of your websites.
The choices you make for the colors, fonts, and graphics you use must complement each other in line with this aesthetic. It will also affect any marketing materials you release, including advertisements and newsletters.
The color scheme is integral to defining the tone of your site and marketing. You may want to research color theory and consult with or even hire graphic designers to assist you.
Branding also extends to the tone you will use in your writing. Some businesses can get away with using idioms and slang terms, while others may be so serious in a tone that they do not even use contractions.
As with everything else, all writing related to the business, from Ad copy to blog content to product descriptions, should be uniform in tone and style.
As for how you decide your branding, it all depends on your target demographic. Customers of different genders, ages, and geographic locations will respond to different tones and styles.
You need to determine what your desired customers will find most appealing and gear everything around it.
Starting an online business is not as simple as grabbing a pitcher of lemonade, setting up a stand, and putting up a sign. That approach might be just fine for children, but fully-grown entrepreneurs will need to file the appropriate paperwork to legally run a business.
To stay on the right side of the state, you must register your business with them. The exact steps required may vary depending on the state in which you live and the type of business you wish to operate.
People in charge of the process might ask certain licenses or permits to perform certain activities, file for them.
Additionally, you may produce entirely new intellectual properties, designs, or inventions through your business.
If you want to make more money off of them — and prevent others from stealing your ideas — then register them appropriately.
Your concepts and creations may qualify for trademarks, copyrights, and patents.
Lastly, online businesses have at least one more quality that needs registration: their website’s domain name. Ideally, it should be the same as the name of your business, or a short phrase containing that name or otherwise related to the company.
No matter what you use, keep it short, simple, and memorable.
Build Your Website
Everything you have been doing was working up to this. Now that your business is all set up, it is time to set up your digital storefront.
Your website’s design should function smoothly with your business plan and fit perfectly with your branding ideas.
You can find plenty of website-building platforms online, but you should stick with one specifically designed to help entrepreneurs build an online store.
In addition to meeting your budgetary needs, it should offer any tools and features necessary for the kind of store you wish to run. Choose your platform carefully.
Your business and website should be flexible. Offering more options in just about every way will substantially increase the number of customers you could reach.
It should also be convenient: customers should be able to complete the ordering process with little difficulty. Plus, anyone who wants to succeed as an online business needs to enable strong security measures.
As you construct your website, you must consider how you will spread the word. This does not simply mean running a marketing campaign or activating social media accounts, though both are excellent.
This also means applying Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices, which help your website reach high positions on search engine results for certain keywords.
When creating the design and writing the copy for your website, try to refine everything in ways that help it rank for the most widely-searched terms.
Today, no serious online business can afford to ignore the importance of a strong SEO value.
Just like at any point time in history, creating a successful business requires hard work and planning. With that said, starting an online business is easier than ever before, thanks to technological advancements and greater familiarity with the online sphere.
If you keep these steps in mind and hold firm to your vision, you can achieve your goals in this and any other time.
This is a guest post by Gonzalo Gil. He is the founder and CEO of 3dcart. Follow him on Twitter for online business related tweets. If you would like to write a guest post for Daglega, please contact us.