5 Steps to Starting an Online Business

photographer working on online business with camera
JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

In today's hard scramble digital world, you may have come across several great ways to make money online. By and large, these options (e.g. online surveys, affiliate marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, etc.) are good for supplementing your full-time job.

However, if you are more ambitious and want to gain financial independence, the time has come to consider running your own online business.

What does it take to start an online business? Certainly, the niche you choose to operate in will influence some of your early steps and procedures. Yet, as an aspiring entrepreneur on a limited budget, you share the same immediate goal as everyone else.

See also: Most Profitable Niches to Make Money Online

Get established fast via a solid network and generate enough cash flow to stay alive!

To accomplish this, consider the following steps to establish your business presence and begin turning dreams into reality:

1. Market Research and Expert Advice

Getting Mom and Dad's approval (money?) to get off the starting blocks is great, but doesn't it make sense to meet real business people first? What have you got to lose? In a worst case scenario, they will point out important flaws in your plans that force you to delay or perhaps cancel your ideas—for the better! No start-up is perfect, and perhaps your consultations will yield some truly golden advice.

Customer reaction via crowdsourcing websites is very much in vogue these days and may allow you to gauge actual interest for your initial products or services. Traditional customer surveys also remain a staple of evidence-based market research.

2.  A Functional Website

It is funny how many Internet businesses still cringe at the thought of websites.

Still, in spite of the social media explosion taking place today, a solid e-commerce site remains the anchor of your burgeoning business. It helps to establish your brand and distinguishes you from “fly by night” operators.

The basic steps to setting up a website on a minimal budget are:

  1. Consider the popular WordPress platform or other simple Content Management System (CMS) as your base.
  2. Choose a strong domain name and register it with a reputable domain name registrar.
  3. Look for and add simple business plug-ins to your CMS for a professional look and ease of customer navigation.

3. Learn About Your Competition

Chances are that you are not about to take on Google, Ford, or Wal-Mart head on. However, you still need to be aware of your major competitors regardless of their actual market share. This includes both direct and indirect competitors, because this is where your ideal customers likely hang out.

Search engines offer tools that let you customize alerts and trend watches that keep you in the loop.    With time, you should be able to build up a strong list of websites that will key you in on your industry's inside information.

See also: Best Competitive Keyword Research Tools

4. Don't Skimp on the Sales and Marketing!

Set some revenue and cash flow goals (e.g. $100k in sales within 18 months) and include intermediate benchmarks that allow you to properly measure your business growth and performance.

Choose one or two social media platforms to get the word out. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest are among the most popular, but you may also consider smaller, more targeted websites that cater to your particular area.

If you do not have a lot of money to spend. Look for guest blogging opportunities to demonstrate your expertise to the world. In most situations, the web host will allow you to include links back to your e-commerce site.

See also: How to Enhance Your Brand and Reputation With Pinterest

5. Maximize Your Own Effort!

You'd be surprised what one person can accomplish on a limited start-up budget. It's not about being stubborn, just smart about the first impressions you want to leave people with, as well as a desire to control the way in which your company grows.

Once you establish your business strengths and weaknesses, you'll be in better position to know what aspects of your online effort needs outside expertise.

Conclusion

Starting your own online business does not have to rocket science, but its takes real work to make it successful. Tens of thousands of Internet marketers worldwide have already replaced their ‘9 to 5’ employment income within a short period of time. Why not make your move online to a richer future, a better future, by joining them?

See also: 3 Easy Ways to Make Money With a Blog