We're excited to announce new products and $15.7M in new funding. Learn more on Product Hunt!
Learn more
How to start a small business online

Small business basics

How to start a small business online

Mastering online entrepreneurship starts with understanding the nature of online business. This post gives you a step-by-step guide to starting your small business online.

February 11 · 9 min read

So, you’re thinking about starting an online business? With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing millions of Americans out of work, many of them are looking for ways to create their own e-commerce business.

Many startups don’t realize an online business is a full-time commitment, requiring all your energy and resources to turn it into a success.

Whether you’re starting an online store on Amazon, Etsy, or eBay or an affiliate or lifestyle blog, there are plenty of opportunities online to build a new business.

Mastering online entrepreneurship starts with understanding the nature of online business. This post gives you a step-by-step guide to starting your small business online.

#1 Identify your target market

The first step in your market research is writing your business plan. The purpose of the exercise is to identify your customer and buyer persona.

By identifying your target market, you can figure out what problems they have that your product or service can solve.

You create a buyer persona by looking at the demographics of your potential customers. Whether you want to sell products or services, you need to know who is buying from you and what they are searching for online.

#2 Do you need funding?

Funding your small business won’t cost much. Your highest startup costs are going to be your website development and marketing budget.

You might also need funding for inventory if you’re thinking about opening an e-commerce store selling products online. There is various way to find financing.

You could start a side hustle to raise the money you need or speak to an investor. Small business owners should avoid using the bank as a funding source.

The bank requires collateral for a loan, and if it goes bad, they could repo your assets to cover the outstanding debt.

Depending on your business model, you might need a large amount of seed capital, or hardly any. To build a successful business, it’s always a good idea to run your company as lean as possible, especially in the startup phase.

#3 Choose your domain and design your website

Your e-commerce website is your online touchstone between your product offer and your target market. It acts as a lead-generating machine, bringing you a steady flow of qualified prospects.

Before you design your site, you’ll need to choose a domain name and extension for your e-commerce site. After settling on your domain, sign up with a host, and choose a shared or VPS hosting plan.

After that, you’re ready to start your website design. There are three ways you can build your website, and each of them has its pros and cons.

Web-builders

These free or paid software programs let anyone develop their first website with a DIY strategy. These programs included useful web tools and drag-and-drop UIs that help you build your online presence fast.

They’re popular with platforms like Shopify and online storefronts, where you don’t need many pages.

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Affordable or free.
  • Fast development times.

Cons

  • Lacking in customization options.
  • Limited marketing and SEO tools.

WordPress websites

WordPress CMS is the most popular website format online. It’s a good choice for entrepreneurs that want a comprehensive site with multiple pages and customizations.

WordPress sites are ideal for large e-commerce businesses that want to integrate any tech into the site, such as CRMs and sales funnels.

Pros

  • High levels of functionality.
  • Unlimited customizations and templates.

Cons

  • Expensive development and management fees.
  • Challenging for DIY unless you have coding know-how.
  • You’ll need to hire a firm or freelancers to design and maintain your website.

B12 websites

B12 is a new player in the web design arena for professional online businesses. With a B12 site, you get all the customizations and tech integrations of a WordPress site, as well as built-in marketing and SEO tools.

With B12, you get affordable pricing, with a monthly subscription that takes care of your development and management costs.

Pros

  • Fully managed end-to-end website solution.
  • All development costs and management fees in one easy monthly payment.
  • It integrates with tech solutions like CRM and sales funnels.
  • You get an AI-assisted design process for faster turnaround times.
  • Optimized sites with in-dashboard approval of fixes.
  • Attractive templates and design features.

Cons

  • No other providers are offering a similar product.

Choosing the right website solution is critical to the success of your company. Unless you have coding know-how and experience settings up and configuring websites, we recommend going with B12.

With B12, you don’t have to know anything about web design or management. All you need is to execute your marketing and SEO strategy.

It’s the ideal solution for startups. B12s affordable pricing model and monthly subscriptions meet and budget requirements.

Visit the B12 website right now, and get a free AI-assisted template draft for your website.

Build your free draft

#4 Create a content strategy

Defining your content strategy is a critical part of setting up your online business. The content you produce attracts attention to your site in the eyes of your prospects and the search engine algorithms.

Your content is all the sales copy CTA text, blogs, product descriptions, and page copy found on your website. Each type of content requires optimizing for the best reach and attraction with your target audience and the search engines.

Keyword research is the crux of your content strategy. It helps you understand what your target market is searching for in your niche. Whether you’re a blogger or a marketer, your keyword research defines your marketing campaigns and your strategy’s success.

Creating great content isn’t for everyone. Some website owners just don’t have natural writing ability, and that’s okay.

There are plenty of freelancing forums like Upwork and Fiverr where you can find talented writers available for hire. Freelancers can build your content for your sales copy, webpages, and blog for an affordable cost.

Your content isn’t limited to blogging and the written word.

Audio and video are making a comeback with the introduction of the podcast. Podcasts are the new talk radio and a great way to promote your knowledge and business.

For example, you could be in a niche of selling running shoes. Chances are you’re a passionate runner yourself, and that why you decided to launch your business.

Creating a weekly podcast on your website and publishing it through your YouTube channel is an excellent way to build quality content.

Webinars talking about customer pain points are another excellent content format for marketers to use, especially if you’re selling information products like e-courses.

#5 Develop your marketing plan

Every online business needs a solid marketing plan. Your marketing plan discusses how you intend to sell your products.

You’ll need to include all the platforms where you’ll market your business and your products, as well as all the tactics you intend to use.

Social Media marketing

Social media offers you the best bang for your marketing buck. Advertising on social networks like Facebook lets you capitalize on its captured audience.

With more than 2-billion active users, all your prospective customers are on Facebook. Learn how to create targeted ad campaigns and start trending using the Facebook Ad Manager and Facebook Pixel.

With the Facebook Ad Manager, you can create custom campaigns designed for conversion or brand awareness.

Enter the demographics of your target market, and set a budget for your ad. Facebook finds the best prospects for your products following the information you leave in your campaign data and the Facebook Pixel.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing on social media is hot right now. Make a spreadsheet of the top 20 influencers in your niche with followings between 10,000 and 25,000.

Reach out to these influencers in their DMs, and ask them if they offer marketing opportunities. Many influencers will promote your products, blog, or website in their content for a small fee.

Shares are also important to drive eyeballs to your content. If you run a professional business like a legal firm, accounting practice, or financial firm, use LinkedIn to grow your online reputation.

LinkedIn is the largest professional network. It also happens that content published on LinkedIn gets the most social shares on any platform.

Email marketing

Email marketing is another crux of your marketing plan. Your email list is the heart of your business.

Your list contains prospects and customers that opted-into your email marketing campaign.

To attract people to your email marketing campaign and sales funnels, you’ll need landing pages with lead magnets. A landing page contains a sales copy presenting your prospect with a value offer and a call-to-action (CTA).

If the copy and CTA are strong enough, and the value offer is sufficient, the prospect will leave you their email details and opt-into your marketing campaign.

From there, your sales funnel takes them through an email campaign designed to convert them into a customer.

Affiliate marketing

Many new businesses trying to create an income stream look to affiliate marketing to build income fast. With affiliate marketing, you sign up to sell other people’s physical or digital products. You’ll earn a commission for every sale you make.

If you’re selling digital products like courses and eBooks using an affiliate, it’s possible to get high commissions.

Some producers will pay you up to 60% of the sale for your commission.

#6 Create an SEO strategy

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a collection of best practices designed to drive traffic to your website or dropshipping business. SEO strategies accomplish this by improving your ranking in SERP and search results.

An SEO strategy takes time to start paying off in your marketing results. In some cases, it could take you longer than 6-months to start ranking for your keywords.

Persistence is key when implementing your SEO strategy, and the best idea is to do something every day to improve your ranking.

Whether it’s reaching out for a guest post opportunity, arranging a link-building partnership, or listing your company in a directory – keep doing something every day to get your webpage’s ranking.

Eventually, after enough time and effort, you’ll start to see your content ranking in search.

Proper SEO requires you to know your target audience and your competition. Make sure you do thorough keyword research in your initial due diligence phase. Target those keywords strategically using as many tactics as possible.

The heart of your SEO strategy involves building backlinks to your site from domain authority sites. Domain authorities are websites with a high ranking in search.

These sites are typically the industry leaders, and they have an extensive track record that the bots favor when ranking their content. You can leverage the ranking of these authority domains with your SEP strategy.

Reach out to your target authority domain’s marketing department and ask for an advertising rate card.

Look if they have an option for guest posting or logo linking. The authority allows you to leave a permanent link on its site embedded in your logo or a guest blog.

That link connects to a webpage on your site, creating a connection between you and the authority. Google and the search engines like to see these links. The more backlinks you have to your site, the higher you rank in search and SERP results.

#7 Hire an accountant

Every e-commerce business needs an accountant. Unless you enjoy working with numbers, you’re going to need professional assistance with your bookkeeping.

Your business will need assistance with filing tax returns, paying employees, and auditing your financial statements. A CPA can help you with all these requirements.

It’s challenging to find a good account, so we recommend working on a friend or business associate’s referral.

#8 You’re ready for launch!

Congratulations! After following the steps in this guide, your website and business are ready for launch. Taking control of your own business gives you a chance to create unlimited income streams that bring you passive income.

Remember to keep your exit strategy in mind when you write your business plan. What are the end-goals for your business?

Most business owners found a company with the intention of selling it for a profit later in the business cycle.

What do you want to achieve with your company? Think about that during the planning process, and set your business goals.

Read next

See all
how to start a mortgage company

Your handy guide to starting a mortgage company

Learn the setup process and the most important considerations for starting your own mortgage company.

how to start an architecture firm

A practical guide to starting your own architecture firm from scratch

Learn all about what it takes to launch a startup architecture business and the best practices for managing the process well.

how to start an insurance brokerage

A guide to starting your own insurance brokerage

Learn the basics of starting your own insurance brokerage from scratch and how to position your business for success.

crm for accountants

We’ve reviewed the top CRM software for accountants in 2021

Find out which accounting CRM software is the most suitable for your firm.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best browsing experience.  Learn more
I agree