Nowadays, every second person you scroll past (that you don’t know and happens to be 21 and an overnight millionaire) seems to be riding the online business wave. Perhaps you’re starting to feel like you’re getting left behind, or you aren’t grasping the opportunity that lies on the screen right in front of you.
All around the world, entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the endless possibilities the internet has to offer. Gone are the days when you needed to rent a brick-and-mortar store, hold inventory and manage staff. Here are the days where you can make serious money sitting in your favourite pyjamas, having other people store and deliver your stock whilst maybe bringing on a team of digital assistants from across the globe.
If you want a piece of the digital pie, you’ve come to the right place.
How To Start Your Online Business
You’ll notice that many of the steps that go into starting an ecommerce business run parallel to starting a physical business. There are no shortcuts, even if it exists in the digital world. The same depth of research, planning and organisation applies. Let’s jump in!
(Maybe before we jump in, check out the inspiring reasons people are starting online businesses in this blog: 7 Reasons to Start an Online Business in 2022)
1. Proof That People Need Your Product
It’s all about spotting the best online business opportunities. Market research is imperative to the success of an online hustle, especially considering how congested the space is. Every time you log on to Instagram or Facebook, somebody is trying to sell you something. And be honest, how many times do you scroll past without a second thought?
“The scroll” is online business suicide, and there’s one major way to avoid it: making sure there is a need and want for your product/service. Without accurate market insight, you’re just selling to the void.
Unsure about where to start? We’ve got you covered: How to Test a Business Idea (+FREE Market Research Survey Template)
Dive deep into what people want, what people need and how you can significantly improve their purchase journey. Decide who your target market is - and no, “everybody on the internet” is not a target market.
Are you selling to book clubs? Tik-Tok crazy teens? Single dads? Hone in on who you’re selling to and why they would be interested in what you have to sell.
2. Develop a Solid Business Plan
A business plan is a blueprint for any successful business. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need to view your business plan as permanent. Things obviously change as you grow but it’s important to have something solid to refer to when necessary.
A clear business plan is also going to help you nail down better investments or loans if that’s what you need. It’s also going to give you a wider understanding of:
- Your market and audience
- The feasibility of your idea
- Your objectives
- Your marketing journey
Having a business plan prevents you from creating a business that lacks foresight and direction. There are tons of templates and resources online to help you map out an effective business plan - you can start today with our free template and business plan guidelines!
3. Decide on a Domain
Choosing your brand name is a little bit different in the digital space because there are loads of businesses out there that may have already registered the name you want to use.
Make sure it’s actually available before you build an entire brand concept with a name you’re head over heels with. We don’t want any domain name heartbreak around here.
Once you’ve decided on a name, register a domain. At this stage, you don’t need to worry about building your website. Knowing that your name has been registered is good enough for now. You can use website hosts like GoDaddy, WordPress or Wix to hook up a domain.
Your name needs to work consistently across all of your social media platforms. Take some time to check if there are any other accounts using your name across social media before you pay for a domain name.
4. Choose Your Business Structure
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an online business doesn’t follow the same rules of the “real” world. Because so many people make a living online, tax and registration still apply. Most online businesses follow the structures below:
- Sole proprietorship
- Limited liability company (LLC)
If you’re uncertain on which route to go, we would advise scheduling a chat with a lawyer or accountant to walk you through which structure will best suit your business. They’ll also offer assistance when it comes to registering your business, making sure you have all the correct licensing and ensuring you’re set with a tax number for your business.
5. Build Your Website
We tend to think that things are harder than they really are, but once you start, you’ll see that you’re fully capable of making it happen! Your ecommerce website is the focal point of your online business, and it requires a significant amount of TLC.
That being said, if you have the funds to hire a web developer, go for it. The better your online shop is in terms of aesthetics and functionality, the better your sales are going to be. A strong website must have:
- Copy that converts (written with SEO and your CTA in mind)
- Fantastic design
- An easy point of purchase
- A reliable, speedy web host
In our article, A Beginner’s Guide: How to Build a Website, we show you how easy it is to build your own website in 2022.
6. Choose Your Sourcing and Delivery Method
It’s possible you’ve already heard of dropshipping, which is one of the more popular ways people run ecommerce websites. Dropshipping is a method of selling where you facilitate the sale via your website or social media and send the order to a third-party manufacturer who ships the order to the customer. Now obviously if this is the route you’re going to take, you want to be 100% sure your third party is going to meet the request in a timely and accurate manner.
You may have already had an idea of where you were going to source your products from your business plan, but this is the time to do some final research. Where are you going to source your products? How much is it going to cost? Are there better options out there?
The last thing you need is to launch your business only to find your sources of supply are unreliable. This can be the fine line between making or breaking your ecommerce venture.
Boost your ecommerce vocabulary: 15 ecommerce Terms You Need to Know
7. Plan Your Launch
If you forget to create some buzz about your business before you actually launch, chances are you’re going to be met with a resounding silence. How on earth are people supposed to know that a new ecommerce website has popped its head out amongst the millions of sites out there?
We’ll tell you how: you carefully plan your prelaunch marketing strategy. Now, we know this has been listed as step number 7 but it is never too early to start marketing your business.
Prelaunch strategies could include:
- Email marketing campaigns
- Network marketing
- Word of mouth
- Social media build-ups
- Facebook and Google ads
Whichever way you choose to go, make sure you’re building up a community of eager potential customers before you officially open your virtual doors.
8. It’s Time to Take Off!
Every step leading up to this moment is there to make your official launch as stress-free as possible. All your hard work lays the foundation for a strong, effective entry into the market. Forget worrying about losing momentum because you haven’t taken care of something serious like website function, taxes or using a brand name that already exists under copyright.
Be loud and proud! Let people know you’re open for business and ready to serve them to the best of your capabilities. Don’t be shy - you’ve put in the hustle and you’re here to do business.
Despite the hardships of the past two (or is it three now?) years, there is boundless opportunity to create a life that brings you joy and success, whichever way you define those two things.
So now you officially know how to start an online business!
If you’re an entrepreneur on a mission to learn more about the ecommerce sector, keep an eye on our blogs. We’ll be sharing everything you need to know about striding into the online world with confidence and ease.