How to Start an Online Business

Man Working on a Laptop in a Modern Office
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Edited by Online Business/Hosting Expert Brian T. Edmondson

Eager to launch your online business or start a new blog, but not sure where to start? With improving technology, including excellent online tools and lower costs, there has never been an easier time to put your business online. These 10 steps will get you online in no time.

Know Your Market

One of the biggest keys to success with an online business is to know the market you are (or want to be) in.

What are their biggest wants and needs? Where do they spend their time online and how can you reach them? What are the right words and emotional hot buttons you want to address with them?

The better you know your market, the more success you will have reaching them with the right message and offering them the right products and services.

See Also: The Most Profitable Niche Markets on the Internet

What is your experience with the Internet? Do you still think "MySpace" is your little office under the stairs? Do you raise an eyebrow when your daughter talks about "tweeting"?

Register Your Domain Name

Your domain is your unique address on the Internet. It is your piece of intellectual property, just like a patent or a trademark. There are numerous domain name registrars (companies that register domains) online where you can purchase your domain.

Some registrars even offer "free" domains with a hosting package or another purchase.

One of those companies is Bluehost Web Hosting, which offers a free domain name with the purchase of a hosting account.

While many of these are legitimate, be sure to confirm that the domain is registered in your name. If the domain is registered in the registrars name it may be difficult, if not impossible, to switch to another hosting company without losing your domain.

See Also: How to Buy a Domain Name Without Getting Ripped Off

Find a Web Host

A web host is the company that essentially will "rent" you space on their servers to host your website. These companies usually offer domain registration and it’s often easier to have both with the same company.

Web host features such as storage capacity, uptime percentage, domain based email and server security should be evaluated. Also, the ability to host a blog, provide response forms, marketing tools and tools for e-commerce are important criteria to consider when choosing your Web host.

Web Hosting Providers:

Designing Your Website

This isn’t as difficult as it sounds. You have two options for site creation:

  • Create the site yourself
  • Hire a designer to create it for you

There are at least three options for creating your own site.

  • Many hosting companies offer free website building tools.
  • WordPress is a popular free blogging platform – both for websites and stand-alone blogs. It is a very simple install, with many hosting companies having install tools just for WordPress. You won’t need years of study and thick manuals to use this software.
  • The other option is to use a high-end program like Dreamweaver by Adobe (Visit Adobe's Website) which will do everything you need, but has a pretty steep learning curve. One of the training manuals for Dreamweaver is an overwhelming 1000 pages thick.

Hiring a professional designer may be a simpler option. This isn’t necessarily expensive. By using services like Craig’s List or you can find designers eager for your work. In addition to the visual design work, you'll need to give significant thought to your site content.

Online Payments

The days of printing and faxing an order form, or mailing a check are long gone. Online payment acceptance is the foundation of an online business. This allows clients to act on an impulse.

Accepting Online Payments:


Shopping Carts:


Be sure to check for required features and their terms. Minimum monthly fees can affect a start-up business. Its best to choose a capable service provider that allows growth, so you can start with basic services and low cost and upgrade as your volume increases.

Determine Product Delivery Methods

Depending on your product type, your delivery methods can range from very simple (downloadable information product or an online service) to more complex (shipping of goods via courier, using a fulfillment company). For downloadable products consider an electronic fulfillment company like

Getting Traffic to Your Website

Even the most cutting edge design and amazing new product is worthless if it’s buried under millions of other websites. Consider these basic methods of promoting your new site:

  • Register with the three major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo)
  • List your blog in the major blog directories
  • Content marketing, video marketing, and podcasting
  • Online Advertising: Google PPC, Twitter ads, and Facebook advertising
  • Direct mailing (print, not email)
  • Offline marketing (billboards, company vehicles, stationary, print ads, promotional products)

Publish an Email Newsletter

Capturing the email addresses of your website visitors is critical to the growth of every online business. However, a large and growing list is only valuable when useful and relevant information is sent on a regular basis to these individuals. The goal of an email list is to turn prospects into clients and clients into repeat customers and ambassadors for your company/product.

A great email marketing service provider is (see our complete AWeber review here.)

Track Growth

Easy (and free) tools are available that allow you to see who clicked where and when. Many Web hosting companies offer traffic analyzing tools.

Google Analytics is a free tool – which tracks, among other things:

  • Popular pages
  • Traffic sources
  • Popular keywords
  • Location of clicks

These reports can be customized with a plethora of variables including date range, page views, and length of time on site.

While visitor traffic provides an interesting gauge, what you are really looking for is transactions. Whether you are selling a product or a service, success is measured in sales.

Other Business Considerations

In addition to the specific online considerations, you’ll need to consider:

  • Taxation
  • Banking
  • Licensing and trademarks
  • Legal business structure
  • Business location
  • Product warehousing
  • Product creation
  • Accounting
  • Legal matters, among other things

Notice these items are listed last. Although important you don't' want to let let doing these things hold you back. The idea is to pick your market, get a domain name, build your website, and start generating revenue as quickly as possible and work out the details along the way!

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