Getting your own online small business off the ground has never been more accessible. The steps that you need to go through are well-determined, and in most cases, financial investments are either minimal or completely unnecessary. The most important resources you’ll need to invest are your time, effort and determination.
There are many other advantages to running an online small business such as access to a global audience, process automation, remote work, and overall flexibility, to name a few. In terms of which type of business you would like to run, opportunities are vast and numerous. However, it doesn’t matter whether you’re offering a professional service, getting involved with dropshipping or something else entirely. You’ll always need to go through several verified steps before getting started, and they all work regardless of the online small business idea.
Mark Thomasson, a business development expert, shares five steps on how to start an online small business with little or no money.
1. Define a Product or Service You Can Deliver
Before starting a business, you’ll need to look inward first. What is it that you can offer to the market? Will it be a product or a service? Are you going to be working alone, or as part of a founding team? It’s good to keep ideas broadly defined at this stage and not get caught up in the specifics. This assessment will allow you to be flexible when you take into account information and data coming from the next stages.
Pay attention to your strengths and focus on what you can produce in regards to high-quality standards. For less experienced individuals or first-time entrepreneurs, a good approach would be to choose a domain in which you could actually improve at a rapid pace. Sometimes it’s better to go in a direction that’s slightly outside of your comfort zone if it’s going to assure exponential growth.
2. Determine and Analyze Your Market Niche
Since you’re starting a small business, the idea of servicing large portions of the market is unattainable. It would help if you focused on a section of the market, which is most likely to pay for your product or service. While discovering your own market niche is a requirement for online small businesses, it is also an advantage. The competition is lower, and the flexibility will allow you to service the needs of your potential customers better.
What you need to do at this point is figure out:
- Who are your ideal buyers?
- What are their characteristics?
- How many of them are out there?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- How can you reach out to them?
Based on the data you acquire in your research, you will be able to create customer profiles which will serve as a foundation for your marketing strategies.
3. Differentiate Yourself from the Competition
Reflecting on the first two steps, you need to ask yourself the question of why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. The answers you get are something more commonly known as the company’s mission and vision. They are a starting point for all marketing endeavours and will allow you to make a coherent marketing strategy later on.
Defining your mission and vision will be an introduction to the branding process. Your brand is a way of making yourself distinct from your competition. The most significant emphasis is being placed on choosing a memorable name and a great business logo for your company. Aside from an apparent aesthetic appeal, your brand needs to communicate a message that will resonate with your customers.
While all of your marketing assets will contribute to your brand development process, the most important one is your website. Every website conveys the most practical information about a company and its operations, but it also has the potential for a much more significant role. For example, if you’re starting an e-commerce business, your website will be the foundation of your business since people will use it to browse and purchase your products. That means it will need to have specific features and requirements, and you can check out what they are, here.
4. Develop and Implement a Marketing Strategy
After you determine what you’re going to sell, whom you’re going to sell it to and why you should get to work on the “how”. By now, you should have figured out who are your audiences and where to connect with them. Getting your target audiences to care and be interested in your product or service is essentially what you’re going for here. There are a plethora of possible actions to choose from at this point, but it’s also crucial to organise them into a coherent plan which also adheres to certain company principles. This is how we define a marketing strategy.
For an online small business, marketing is another one of those advantage points. Most of your assets, resources, and data are already online, which means all you have to do is build on what you already have.
Again, several approaches work well across most industries, albeit each industry functions under a different set of rules and have unique requirements. Nevertheless, processes such as social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, SEO and advertising are present in most marketing strategies in some shape or form.
5. Setting up for Legalities, Finacial Documentation, and Administration
The least glamorous aspects of setting up and running a business are definitely related to administrative work. Still, there’s no running a business without it, and if done right, it can also save you from potential worries in the future.
Registering your business, opening up a separate bank account and getting a license is probably common for all types of small online companies. However, some industries might have special requirements, and these are something you’ll need to prepare for as well. Also, administrative obligations and legalities will most likely differ from country to country, and state to state. These differences will affect some of your business processes such as the way you do your accounting, or even more specifically, how you calculate your taxes.
Final Thoughts and Tips
You’re bound to have to go through all of these steps before starting a successful online small business. This guide will get you on the right path while hopefully help you avoid the most common reasons why small businesses fail. However, once you’re there, don’t shy away from getting creative especially if it will help you distinguish yourself from your competition.
Although the steps might make sense chronologically, don’t be afraid to go back a step or two in order to adjust or even pivot your initial idea. You need to be comfortable with using information gained in one stage to improve the work you’ve done in the others. Going backwards is always justified if it will help you go further forwards in the long run.
AuthorBio: Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus – a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.