No longer the reserve of computer experts with programming knowledge and web design skills, anybody can start an online business. The digital world is more accessible than it’s ever been and continues to grow, meaning that there are plenty of opportunities for intrepid entrepreneurs.
#1 Choose a niche
First and foremost, you’ll need to determine precisely what your new business venture will do, and there’s a lot of choices. You might choose (as many do) to go down the route of eCommerce.
Even that isn’t as simple as it sounds, and you’ll need to decide whether you want to dropship or are willing to fulfil the orders yourself. Even when you’ve made that decision, there is still a range of different eCommerce platforms to pick from.
Moving away from eCommerce, you could go into the affiliate business or even offer web design services.
Social media agencies are increasingly popular startups, but the list is as long as your imagination. Rather than trying to spread yourself too thin, zero in on one business model and give it you’re all.
#2 Don’t skimp on web design
There are plenty of free web design tools available, almost too many to name. While these are certainly convenient, and many will get your site up and running in a matter of minutes, they aren’t always the best choice.
Many use only basic templates (reserving the more advanced for paying users), and you’ll usually be lumbered with an unprofessional-looking domain extension.
Free web design tools are often lacking in the support department, too, so you’ll struggle to get help if something goes wrong.
Instead, invest in a paid theme or hire a professional web designer. These can be found everywhere, from sites like Fiverr and Upwork to specialised agencies.
They’ll offer a highly professional service, giving your site the upmarket sheen that it needs to stand out in the crowded digital world.
Equally as important is paying for a domain name. Nothing screams “amateur” more than a free extension, and that will deter potential customers.
#3 Optimise for mobile
A frequently overlooked area, many small business owners wrongfully presume that their sites will automatically display well on smartphones and tablets.
That simply isn’t the case. Since smartphones now represent a considerable proportion of internet traffic, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to mobile optimisation.
If you plan to hire a web designer, they will take care of this for you, but there are a few measures you can adopt yourself.
Always choose a responsive theme. These adapt to whatever platform they’re being viewed on, so they’ll display just as well on mobile as they do on a desktop.
Cut down on big blocks of text and be careful about using huge, data-consuming images. Always test your website on multiple platforms to make sure that it’s cross-functional.
#4 Maintain a healthy work/life balance
When you launch into your first business, it’s all too easy to do so at the expense of the rest of your life.
Pouring every hour of every day into the business might seem like a good idea, but it’s likely to hinder growth in the long run.
If you aren’t taking care of yourself, aren’t sleeping enough, or taking any time to relax, your decision-making and concentration levels will be impaired.
It’s important to formulate a schedule that maintains the work-life balance and gives you time to yourself.
Use that time to decompress, relax and adopt healthy habits. That way, when you do return to your desk, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to give your all to the business. Most people find that their best ideas occur after they’ve had time to relax.
#5 Learn about SEO
Search Engine Optimisation is one of the most essential and powerful tools at your disposal. When implemented correctly, your website appears higher in search results (ahead of the competition) and drives traffic.
SEO is a nuanced and complicated process that can take a lot of reading (not to mention trial and error) to perfect. Still, at its core, it involves using carefully selected keywords and phrases.
These are picked up by Google algorithms, giving your site more exposure. Simply stuffing your content with keywords can do more harm than good, though, and SEO requires careful research within your niche.
Location of keywords in headings, subheadings, and meta descriptions is also important, but once you’ve got to grips with it, this practice can significantly impact how your site performs.
#6 Use social media
At the very least, your business should have a social media presence on Facebook. Giving customers the option to like your page often leads to deeper relationships.
Social media gives you a personal touch. You’ll be able to reach out to your customers, appearing on their newsfeeds, answering their questions, and forging links that can result in repeat purchases.
Expanding beyond Facebook brings additional benefits. Instagram is a natural next step, especially for eCommerce and affiliate businesses.
These can showcase your products on the Instagram feed and using stories. Twitter is helpful too (lots of customers use the network to ask questions and look for customer service help), and some businesses will even leverage YouTube.
#7 Consider adverts (especially on social media)
If SEO is designed to maximise organic reach, adverts will bring in traffic at a premium. Depending on your business, there’s a lot to choose from.
Pay per click is popular, but many businesses now get creative with social media. Paying to boost posts on your social media platforms can have quite dramatic results.
A promoted photograph or video can reach well beyond your current followers and significantly grow your customer base.
Social media allows for deep data dives, too. You’ll be able to learn about the age, location, and habits of your customer base, all of which make it easier to target ads. Advertising of any form can be expensive, but effective targeting reduces the outlay substantially.