Thinking of starting a business on the Web? The Web has opened a whole new horizon of opportunities for small and home-based businesses.
Below is a list of questions and items to consider when thinking of starting an online business.
Step 1: Decide what you will do
There are a number of ways that you can earn money from the Internet. Learn what business model would suit your business goals, objectives and lifestyle.
- Have you done your research on the various ways that you can make money on the Web? Your options include: selling products (ecommerce), advertising-supported information website (including blogs), business opportunities, selling software and apps, or extending your offline business to the Web. There are also opportunities in mobile, such as mobile marketing services and selling apps.
- What will be the platform you will use for your online business? If you want to sell your products, where will you do it? You can sell products on your own website. You can choose online auction sites such as eBay or Etsy. You can sell via marketplaces such as Amazon or iTunes for apps and music. If you are doing an online information site or blog, you can choose to set up your own website in your own domain, or use a hosted platform such as Blogger or WordPress.
- What is involved in selling products or services on the Web? Have you made your list of what you need – from setting up an online shop, accepting payments, fulfilling and delivery, etc.?
- If you prefer to earn from online advertising, how can you generate advertising revenues? What sort of content will attract advertisers and earn you big bucks
- What are ways to generate supplemental income from your web site?
- What are the traps and myths on earning money on the Web that you need to avoid?
- What are the common elements of successful business web sites?
Step 2: View your online business as a real business — and treat it as such:
You may just be sitting in front of your computer at home, but an online business is very much a business. Common rules of business still applies: create great products, find customers, and make money.
- Realize that it costs money to start a business and make money
- Understand how your online venture will make money.
- Develop a clear strategy for jumpstarting and growing the business.
- Plan your goals for the day, and strive to be productive
- Know how to sell
- Provide excellent customer service.
- Be professional
Step 3: Learn the steps you need to take to formally start your business, including government rules and requirements
An online business is just like any other business: you need thorough planning to succeed. You need to learn the general steps of starting a business and the requirements of doing business in your state and in your county. Here are the questions that you need to ask:
- What are the steps to starting a business?
- How do you plan for your business?
- Where do you get the funds to start your business?
- How do you research your market?
- What are the permits and licenses that you need to operate an online business in your state?
- What are the tax requirements that you need to know about?
Step 4: Create Your Online Presence
Having a web site is a key element of doing business on the Internet. Know how to create an effective web site, and the tools that you can use to manage your online business.
- How do you set up your web site? Will you use a content management system to create a database-drive website using systems such as Joomla, Drupal or even WordPress? Or will you buy a website creation software such as Microsoft Web Expressions and create static HTML websites? Or will you use all-in-one webhosting and website creation packages offered by services such as Intuit or Yahoo?
- What is the best way to design a web site? Will you use a web designer to create the design for your website? Or are you going to purchase a pre-designed template, especially if you are going to use WordPress and similar systems? If you are using a pre-designed template, can you customize the template to make the look and feel of your site uniquely yours?
- If you are going to sell on the Web, do you have all the elements needed to run e-commerce business? Do you know what shopping cart you are going to use? Do you have a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate to ensure that your online transactions are safe and secure? How do you accept payments online? Will you open your own merchant account to accept credit cards? Or will you just use services such as Paypal or Google Checkout? Or will you offer all these payment options for your customers?
- How do you plan on managing your site?
- Is your website geared to sell? Do you know how to convert your visitors to buyers and increase your conversion rate?
Step 5: Market and Promote Your Web site
You cannot build a web site and expect customers to simply come: you need to market your web site. Know various cost-effective methods that you can use to build traffic and convert your visitors to sales.
- How do you effectively promote your site without losing your shirt? Have you set clear goals and targets as to what you want your online business to achieve?
- Who are your customers? Do you know how to reach your taget market?
- Is your website visible to the search engines? Does it possess the elements that search engines like and rank high in their results?
- What public relations strategies are you doing? Are you contacting your local press about your business? Are you sending out press releases?
- Are you marketing the business in your local community? Are you making sure that you are visible in local online search engines and directories?
- What strategies must you avoid in promoting your web site?
- What offline promotion strategies work best? Are you doing offline networking?
- What social media platforms and strategies will you use for your business?
- How are you determining and measuring the effectiveness of the marketing strategies that you use? Do you have a web analytics tracking installed in your website? What other measures are you using to gauge how your online business is performing?