Many people who decide to start an online business think it’s fairly simple. After all, you don’t require anything special other than a place to work with a desk, computer, and Internet connection. And this is true. These are the basics you need before you start an online business.
So, then, I ask you… why isn’t everyone with a desk, computer, and Internet connection an online business owner? And why aren’t all these business owners millionaires? If you believe all the hype, you would think we’d be tripping over them.
The simple answer is it’s really not that simple and you need a lot more to succeed. To begin with, you need a plan and you need knowledge before you start your online business.
Now let’s get down to business.
Questions to Ask Before Starting Your Online Business
Ask yourself these next few questions. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. If you can answer them with clarity and honesty, then keep reading.
Are you launching this business for the right reasons?
Sometimes people will start a business because they think it is expected of them or because it is a family tradition to do so.
But let’s be honest; the main reason most people start an online business is to make more money than they could working for someone else. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Of course you want to make money!
You want financial security for you and your family; you want to live your life as you see fit. What you don’t want is the stress of worrying about the state of the economy, whether good or bad.
Do you have the discipline to start and maintain an online business?
For many, they just don’t want to work for someone else. They don’t want to live under the thumb of someone else telling them what to do and when to do it. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that.
You just need to know if you’re the type of individual who has the discipline to make rules and stick to them. Not everyone is suited to working alone for hours on end; not everyone is suited to becoming an online business entrepreneur.
Are you willing to put in the work required to open an online business?
Contrary to what you may have heard, there is no magic button to overnight riches. There is no secret formula to success. I wrote Are You Starting a Home Business? back in 2012. In fact, it was the first article I posted… short but to the point. It’s just as true today as it was back then.
Success won’t come overnight while you sleep; it will, however, come if you have a plan, knowledge, and lots of patience to deal with the ups and downs of business ownership. You need all three for your business to succeed.
You Need to Get Organized Before You Start an Online Business
Right from the beginning you must organize your business. It is important that you keep records so that you can pay your bills and bill your clients correctly. To be organized effectively you need to set up your home office properly. This means having a comfortable working space along with room to work.
You need a filing system, be it on your computer or a physical set up. And, of course, you still need office supplies. Going paperless is great but there are times when the printed document is required.
Backup your business
Another thing to consider is how you will back up your files on a regular basis. Computers can and do crash; hard drives fail, and you don’t want to lose important information.
External hard drive is a great option or you can use USB flash drives. And there are many cloud services you could, and should, look into. Your business records are important so take the time to ensure you won’t lose them.
Keep your records and important information organized
Whether you are making money or not you must still keep records for tax purposes. You can purchase software to keep financial records or create your own spreadsheets. It is advisable to set up a separate bank account for your new business. Your bank may even offer a free checking account for small businesses.
As you begin to work online you will find yourself creating numerous accounts. This means you will have lots of usernames and passwords to keep track of, so you need a system for that, as well.
When you are starting, a simple spreadsheet will work just fine. You just need columns for the website name, username, password, login URL. If you want to be more organized, you can even enter the websites according to category.
As you get busier you can look into software specifically for the purpose of saving your usernames and passwords. RoboForm, LastPass, and Dashlane are tools that save this information for you. They come with free and paid versions, and make organization of your information relatively easy.
In case you are unaware, the most popular browsers used today already have this function built in. However, you certainly don’t have to use it if you choose not to.
Keep your learning materials and research organized
As you begin your journey into the world of starting an online business and learning the ways of Internet marketing you’ll find tons of information you’ll want to keep for reference, and you’ll want to keep it all organized.
Evernote is a tool that will help you do this. You can download the free version then decide if you want to upgrade to a premium account.
Use an online calendar such as the Google Calendar to keep track of appointments and deadlines. As your business grows and becomes more “complicated” you may want to use other planning software. For now, when you’re just starting, this calendar will meet your needs.
You will be spending more time than ever before on your computer. It is vital that you take steps to safeguard your files. Take the time and effort to install good Internet security/antivirus software. Your software should have the capability of scanning any incoming emails as well.
There are many programs on the market from which to choose. If you already have good antivirus software installed, which you should, then you’re good to go. If not, then I suggest you do your homework and take the products you are interested in for a spin with a free trial before you pay for the software.
And now you need to start thinking and acting like a business owner. If you don’t take your business seriously, no one else will, either. That’s a big mistake if you really do want to succeed.
Being determined to “make this work” just isn’t enough if you’re not willing to put in the work. There is no magic wand you can wave to make your dreams come true. You need to be prepared to put in the effort and you need to be prepared for setbacks.
This means you need to learn stuff.
It doesn’t matter if you are working full or part time you need to think like a business person. When it is time to work your business then don’t spend precious time arranging your desk or files on your computer. Get down to the business of growing your business!
Basics You Need to Think About When Planning Your Online Business
As mentioned above, before starting any business, you need a plan. You need to spend time planning how to structure and grow the business.
Below are important questions that you must be prepared to answer before starting any business, whether a traditional brick & mortar business or a home-based business. The principles are still the same.
Are you providing a product or service?
Do you have a product to sell? Do you create crafts for your family and friends? Have you considered selling your products as a business? Alternatively, have you considered selling products by others as an affiliate?
Or, perhaps you possess a skill or talent you can sell as a service such as writing or graphic design. Take stock of what you know and what you are really good at doing. Then you need to determine if there is a market for your particular skills.
Is there a market for your product or service?
Take a look at Freelance.com or Upwork.com or even Fiverr.com. Check out all the different services provided on the freelance websites. I suspect there is a market for whatever service you can provide.
But you still need to do your research. Is there enough demand for the product or service you are providing? If you discover the competition is fierce, can you put a new twist on something that is tried and true?
Competition doesn’t necessarily mean failure. It just means you need to think outside the box so you and your business will be noticed. This article on brand identity will further explain how branding is crucial to your business.
A major component of planning a business is developing a marketing plan. You see, you don’t just wake up one morning and decide to hang an “Open for Business” sign somewhere. You need a plan… you need to know where you’re going and how to get there.
More Questions to Ask and Decisions to Make
And then there are more pesky details to consider, such as:
Do you have a business name?
Do you have an operating budget for your business?
Do you know how to market your business?
Do you know how to set goals for your business?
Do you know you need to come up with a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your business?
The list goes on. There is much to do and much to learn before you open your doors. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a plan. This article will give you a little more insight and help you better understand what you need to prepare for.
Domain Name & Hosting
If you want to do business online today then you need to have an online presence. While still in the planning stage, you need to think about the tools and services required to get your business up and running.
This is not as expensive as you might think. A domain name is relatively inexpensive and costs around $10 per year.
You will also require a hosting account which gives you space on the web. This can cost as little as $7 per month. If you use WordPress as a foundation for your website or blog then you can easily learn how to install and set up your own site quickly.
Communicating with Your Customers & Clients
You will need a professional way to communicate with your clients and customers. For this, you should set up an email account with your domain name. It would look something like this:
Of course, there are variations you could use. The point is to present a professional face to the world. While using a service provider such as Gmail is great for your own business transactions, email@example.com doesn’t look all that professional when communicating with your customers.
To make your life easy, you would redirect your domain email account to your Gmail account. Sounds complicated? It’s not really. But, like I said, there’s much to learn.
Taking Payments & Delivering Products
Whether you are offering services or selling a product you will need to set up a payment method. There are many ways to receive money online and the one that most people are familiar with is PayPal.
Most people know and trust PayPal and are happy to do business this way. People can even pay you with this method without having to set up their own account; they can purchase with their credit card if they don’t have a PayPal account.
PayPal even allows you to send invoices to your clients for payment. This makes it super easy for them to pay you. PayPal provides a wide range of financial records of your business for accounting and tax purposes.
If you are delivering products to people you may wish to set up a shopping cart on your website. Again there are many different ones to choose from. Two free ones that are easy to use are WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. Both allow you to sell multiple products and you can even set up a store front if necessary.
The best thing about working from home is that your schedule can be flexible and tailored to your needs. You can work in the early morning hours or late at night if you wish. This frees up your time during the day to spend with your family.
Once you have developed a basic schedule paste it somewhere your family can see it. This way they will know when you are working and can or cannot be disturbed. And you need to learn to say no when necessary.
Starting and growing your online business will take time and effort. It won’t happen without hard work and dedication so you may have to work harder in the beginning to achieve the level of success you desire.
Remember if you treat your business as a business it will grow. If you treat it as a hobby that’s all it will ever be! Creating your online business and working from home can be very rewarding.
Starting with a plan and knowing all that is required of you before you begin is essential to your success.