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6 Steps To Starting Your Online Business

How do you get your business online, quickly and effectively, so you can make your presence felt?

6 Steps To Starting Your Online Business


Written by Louisa Gee

Louisa loves Carl Sagan, noise rock, vociferous online debates, and writing content for websites.

November 03, 2017

digital marketing
website design

When will you start seeing those feet rolling in, looking to throw you their money in return for your awesome startup business products? Help!

Let’s take a look at a few of the things to consider when starting up your business.

1. Why do I want to start a small business?

Often, it’s because you’re sick of working for a boss in a corporate environment, dealing with passive-aggressive office politics, and putting in long hours and Herculean efforts for little reward.

If you’re the type who thrives in that environment – good for you! The world needs and respects your startup business efforts! You probably aren’t that type if you’re reading this blog post though, right?

tired businessman
Seriously, who needs this life?

You might have a passion or hobby, and dream of owning your own startup business in that field. That’s fantastic – entrepreneurship is built on people following their dreams and forging ahead against the odds.

In times past, “successful” people inherited capital generated from cheap serf or colonial labor, then added to their inheritance on their own – probably using more cheap labor.

In more modern times, the trope of “guy dropped out of college, followed his dreams, became a billionaire” is the favorite rallying call of wannabe entrepreneurs everywhere in the world.

As an example of the first, I’ll just mention a certain naartjie-hued world leader and his family, and leave it at that.

As an example of the second:  people, Bill Gates was a computer science prodigy, who started his first tech business at age 17. He dropped out of his rich-white-kid Ivy League university, which was paid for by his rich parents, to devote more time to his ALREADY VERY SUCCESSFUL company that eventually became Microsoft.

It’s not like he threw in the towel in his second year at Klein Karoo Kuns Kollege to follow his dream of opening a gaming store. Sorry to break this to you:  this guy is NOT like you and me. He’s not Annie Average or Middle-Class Malibongwe. He’s not even Fancy Frank or Black-Diamond Babalwa.

So, what’s the point of this tedious history lesson, you’re probably asking (if you haven’t already closed this page)?

The point is that today, plenty of people run successful gaming stores and other types of small businesses. Hell, lots of people even make a huge success of them.

small record startup business
Livin’ the dream, baby!

If you’re still hanging on to that dream of running your own business; be it a gaming store, spare car parts supplier, cookie-cutter manufacturer, or procurement and sales of rare heavy metal vinyl – RIGHT NOW is your time to shine.

2. How do I begin my startup business journey?

Frankly, this is THE question for the millennium. It’s great to keep your special dream in mind and work with the goal of making it a success.

But does your idea have the potential to succeed? You need to run your business idea through a validation process before you go any further.

In order for a small business to be successful, it must solve a problem, fulfill a need or offer something the market wants.

Trump plant sold to niche market
There’s a niche market for just about anything these days…

There are a number of ways you can identify this need, including research, focus groups, and even trial and error. As you explore the market, some of the questions you should answer include:

  • Is there a need for my products/services?
  • Who are the people who need them?
  • Are there other companies offering similar products/services now?
  • What is the competition like?
  • How will my business fit into the market?

Don’t forget to ask yourself some tough personal questions, too, about starting a business before you take the plunge. Are you prepared to put in the hours and take the risks to start small and build up? You don’t want to end up homeless and divorced! Or maybe that’s your thing, I won’t tell you what to do.

3. How do I find a market for my business?

Most people who are just starting out make the mistake of looking for a product first, and a market second.

To boost your chances of success, start with your market. The trick is to find a group of people who are searching for a solution to a problem, but not finding many results.

This might sound back-to-front, and not really what you wanted to read if you’re very passionate about something. But think of it this way – take your passion, and mold it around a gap in the market.

The internet makes finding a market pretty easy, so you can identify what your focus should be.

  • Visit online forums about your subject to see what questions people ask and what problems they’re trying to solve.
  • Check out your potential competitors by visiting their sites and taking note of what they’re doing to fill the demand. Then you can use what you’ve learned and create a product for a market that already exists–and do it better than the competition.
  • Results!

4. I don’t know jack about online marketing. Where do I start?

Online marketing isn’t nuclear physics, but it’s become a pretty well-studied science and an art-form rolled into one. Unless you already have a huge client base who will queue up around the block to spend money on you as soon as you open your doors, and keep coming back to you over and over, ignoring all your competitors – online marketing is the best way to tell people about you and what you do, and keep coming back for more.

shop queue of people
Queue outside Apple store after new product launch – if only this was YOUR customer base, right?

To market your business online, you need a many-pronged approach. The key elements are search engine marketing, pay-per-click advertising, social media marketing, e-mail marketing, and content marketing. Confused yet? Don’t worry, we’ve detailed all the elements of online marketing for you.

Don’t underestimate the power of good copy. If you have great blog articles and landing page content on your site, visitors WILL stick around. Plus you’ll climb up the search results.

An example of good copywriting

5. I want a great website for my online business. What do I do?

Far too many people think that any old web design company can slap something together, overcharge you for it (or charge you reasonably, but deliver a crap product or bad aftersales service), and sales will start rolling in. Those are the people who end up wishing they never thought of their damn startup business idea in the first place.

You can avoid being overcharged by a large firm who then rips you a new one in the fine print – like the guys who charge extra for your site being mobile-friendly, for starters. For seconds, there are web design companies who technically “own” your site if you want to move to a new company – so you have to start right from scratch with a new designer. There are lots of other horror stories out there but I don’t want to give you nightmares.

OK, just the one little nightmare…you ALSO don’t want to “save on expenses” by paying your ex-partner’s geeky college-age cousin whose room is always filled with weird-smelling “incense smoke”, to come up with something that looks like this.

Example of messy starter web designs online
This website is just pure pain to look at, let alone navigate!

You’re well within your rights to shop around for a web designer that will help you make your business a roaring success. The first step is to arrange a face-to-face meeting with a potential web design company. You can probably see their portfolio online (pro-tip: check that the sites on their portfolio are legit). It’s still always best to get a feel for the people behind the sales pitch. 

Relate: read our article on 5 questions to ask a web design company before you choose them, so you’ll be prepared to put them through their paces.

6. Do I need lots of money to form a startup business?

Nope. You don’t need lots of money. Obviously this depends on the kind of business you want to run – if you’re reselling AliBaba products on your own site, you’ll need some initial capital outlay, of course. If you’re selling luxury brand items, you’ll need a whole bunch of capital outlay.

Your best option is to partner up with professionals who can handle your marketing, and get your business to where you want it to be. You don’t have to take a second mortgage to get your business website and online marketing off the ground, and you don’t want to waste money with bad marketing choices.

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