Most people think of online business being nothing more than a “side hustle” that supplements their regular day job. But doing business online has too much potential to be treated like a second-tier or an afterthought business. For starters, it allows you to create endless streams of passive income and gives you the freedom to work from anywhere and, in most cases, at your own convenience. Most importantly, online businesses necessitate extremely low startup costs: You can start one with literally no money.
If you are a future-oriented and ambitious businessperson, online business can be your path to financial independence; a reliable source for your full-time income. But that doesn’t exclude it from challenges. Generating targeted online traffic in the ever-evolving digital market, converting traffic into paying customers, and retaining the customers you already have, will always be challenging. The reward, however, supersedes the challenge, and that is why you should keep reading to learn how you can overcome the challenges of doing business online to achieve the elusive financial freedom.
This article aims at helping you start a profitable long-term online business by suggesting a proven sequence of 6 simple steps to launching a successful online business.
1. Find and interrogate your business idea
This might seem like a no brainer, but we have to reiterate its importance. You will never succeed online without a firm business idea right from the outset. By a firm idea here we mean an idea that is sellable online, that solves a pressing problem for a substantially large online population, that you are sufficiently equipped to execute, and that gives you a reasonably high level of expertise to leverage. A skill that solves no real-world problem will rarely find a market online. And because online competition is very stiff, you must be ready to fight for your place by providing better solutions than what existing online providers offer.
2. Decide which business structure to adopt
There are many business structures you can adopt for your online business, but as a beginner, your best bet would be either sole proprietorship or Limited Liability Company (LLC). Sole proprietorship is great because it requires almost no paperwork, you can run it with the help of friends and family members, and is basically the simplest type of business structure to adopt both online and offline. The main downside of sole proprietorship is that you are not shielded from the debts and obligations that the business might accrue. An LLC, on the other hand, doesn’t make you personally liable for its debts or obligations. It involves more paperwork than a sole proprietorship, but the extra layer of protection it provides makes it a better choice. If you want to bring in investors, you will have to try a third option which is to register your online business as a corporation.
3. Comply with set legal requirements
Read up on online business laws and regulations and comply with every one of them. Online business laws are slightly different from traditional brick-and-mortar businesses because of these factors, among others:
· You have to guarantee the security of the data customers share with you online.
· There are intellectual property regulations to worry about.
· If you opt for an LLC structure, you have to understand your country’s or state’s LLC compliance requirements. They vary from state to state.
· If down the road you plan to carry out an international expansion, and thus hire workers from other regions, you need to adequately address the specificities of the local labour market.
· Understand the sales tax requirements in your state as well as the online sales tax obligations for the markets you will be serving. Of course, online customers are scattered all over the world, so you probably will be dealing with different tax collection agencies.
4. Create a website
The look and feel of your website will determine how your target audience perceives your business. That is why you should hire a reputable web developer to help you build a top-notch website. Remember to choose a unique business name (website/domain name) that best describes the main focus of the business. Patent that name to ensure that no other business will ever register that name after you.
If you are on a tight budget, use an inexpensive and user-friendly hosting platform such as SquareSpace, WordPress, or Wix.com to design your website without needing to hire a web developer. Just ensure that the website is well-structured, fast, and mobile-friendly.
5. Invest in SEO
You will need search engines such as Google and Yahoo to drive targeted buyers to your site. To achieve that, optimize your website for SEO by:
· Leveraging pay-per-click advertising
· Post high-quality content that convinces potential clients to choose your products or services.
· Try content marketing tactics, e.g. posting informational blog content on high-traffic, high-authority websites.
· Invest in local SEO.
· Invest in positive customer reviews and testimonials.
6. Market and monetize your website
Leverage the power of social media to get the word about your business out there. Form a community around your online brand. Push your brand using hashtags and sponsored ads. Create shareable and engaging visual content with your online community. Use the power of email marketing to attract, convert, and retain online visitors as loyal customers. When you create enough traffic, monetize your website through affiliate partnerships and on-site ads. Be careful with what you advertise on your site to avoid diluting your brand.
You’d be surprised how far your noble business idea can take you if you take it online, your small budget notwithstanding. Remember to constantly outsource or bring in other skills on board to supplement your already established skills as your business grows.