Beginner's Guide to Starting an Online Business

Starting an online business is an alluring venture. The Internet connects approximately 3.5 billion people and that number only grows with each passing day. Increasingly, in this digital age, our lives take place online.

From shopping to socializing, everything can happen in digital space. Because of this, online businesses have become a very viable alternative for self-motivated entrepreneurs. There are virtually no startup costs, you have access to an almost unlimited market and the growth potential is staggering.

Why pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a brick-and-mortar business when you could instead spend a few hundred dollars on building your own website instead?

Starting an online business is by no means an easy endeavor, to be sure, but there's no reason such an affordable option should remain esoteric to you.

There are simple steps that can be taken to get your online business up and running, if you're willing to endure the concomitant challenges of online business ownership.

Determining if an online business is right for you

Owning an online business is a lucrative way to generate your own income in a far more flexible manner than a traditional company might allow. By the same token, this flexibility can very easily lead to your company's demise. It's tempting to procrastinate when there's less pressure with no loans to pay off. But, in order for your online business to thrive, it will need your constant attention.

If you lack the self-starter attitude and time management skills required of you, you'll find operating an Internet business to be fruitless. Before going any further, you must ask yourself this difficult question: Will I put in the time and energy necessary to make this business profitable? If you believe you have the unique temperament and the exceptional discipline to work on your company day in and day out, then you are already well on your way to creating a successful one.

Crafting a business plan

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, "Plans are useless but planning is indispensable." This quote will be important to keep in mind as you outline what your business is about, either formally or informally. Often, small business owners will skip over the planning process because they believe things are bound to change. They may shy away from market research or even fail to complete a simple summary out of fear of wasting their time on minutia. While it is true that you are likely be forced to face unforeseen events, the possibility that you may be wrong should not preclude you from planning altogether.

No one, no matter how wise they may be, can predict how things will play out with pinpoint accuracy. Your projections and predictions are not expected to be prophecy, however. Crafting a business plan is about going through your idea at multiple angles, thinking clearly and concisely about the future, and finding a means to a profitable business within it. In other words, the plan is worth more than the plan itself. Creating a business plan will have manifold benefits (as thorough research often does), such as alleviating your fears about your enterprise's profitability.

You don't need to worry about making completely accurate projections about how much money you'll be generating eighteen months down the line, but you'll certainly need to make your best guess. Ultimately, committing to a monetization strategy and focusing on your target market will be more important than fixating on facts and figures. Remember: your business plan will never be set in stone. It will be a living document that must be revisited and revised time and time again.

Buying your digital space

After carefully writing your business plan, you'll need to set about securing your digital real estate. First, you'll want to settle on an available domain name. You'll need to purchase it from a certified registrar. This process is fairly straightforward and costs very little. In fact, completing all the paperwork for registering your business will most likely be much more expensive. Oftentimes, domain registration will be bundled with Web hosting services, which makes this process even more convenient.

You'll need to weigh your Web hosting options for your needs as this will be an extremely important aspect of your business. If you plan on building a large site, you may require an enterprise-ready Web hosting service. According to HubSpot, your site's pages should load in under 1.5 seconds. It's important to keep in mind that how quickly your customer can access your pages is a major concern since overlong load times can degrade your brand's credibility and customer loyalty as well as increase the number of customers who abandon your site. Therefore, it's of paramount importance that you acquire the best Web hosting services you can afford.

Designing and marketing

You've created a plan, purchased your domain name and Web hosting services and have registered your business. Now you can begin tailoring your website to your brand's image. Whether you're offering a product or a service, you'll need to garner fans as soon as you can. It's crucial, especially in your business's beginning stages, to cultivate a strong brand by committing to the design process. In fact, brands that invest in creating an impressive image consistently outperform those that don't, regardless of the brand's objective quality.

This means you'll need to harness the power of Web design to create impactful impressions and wield social media platforms to help get the word out about your business. Ideally, you will have the funds to hire experienced designers and marketers to do this legwork for you. If not, you still have many options available to you to get the ball rolling. You can use prebuilt themes within WordPress, for example, and leverage social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook for your initial marketing efforts.

Building a Successful Business

Starting an online business is not for the faint of heart. It requires unbelievable dedication, constant forethought, and indefatigable will to make the dream of owning your own business into a reality.

Opening up an online business has low startup costs, but demands the same amount of attention as a traditional brick-and-mortar business. Although you do not have to take out a massive loan to build your company's space, you will have to invest in effective Web design and online marketing.

While the work is no doubt challenging, if you are willing to create a plan and respond to failure as quickly and efficiently as possible you will undoubtedly find success. Continue to research your idea for an online business, seek out the advice from others and learn from your mistakes to ensure your online business is profitable.

About the Author
Charles Dearing is a veteran tech and marketing journalist with over 15 years of experience using words to move people to act. He has written for various publications such as ProBlogger, Big Think, Apps World, to name a few. You may connect with him on Twitter.