How to start an online business
If you’re thinking about starting an online business, you may be looking into industries that are still in high demand at the moment, such as telemedicine, online retail, and communications.
Once you’ve narrowed down the industry, there’s another important question you need to ask yourself. How are you going to set yourself apart from the competition? A good way to break into a new industry is to solve a problem or fill a gap within the industry.
Consider the example of entrepreneur Irene Agbontaen. She is a London-based fashion designer and founder of TTYA, a fashion label that makes clothing for women 5’11 and taller. She created a successful business model around the need for more brands that serve taller women. Her business is successful because she saw a need – tall women don’t have many clothing options that fit their proportions – and filled it.
If you are looking to start an online business right now, use these steps to help you get started.
Pick a name
Once you’ve established what kind of business you are starting, it’s time to choose a name. Get creative and come up with something that no one else has. Choosing a unique name will help you brand your business because people have an easier time remembering something catchy. If you can tie your name into your product or service, even better.
Buy a domain
A domain is your business’s address on the internet. In order to build a website, you need to purchase a domain first.
Hopefully, you chose a name that is unique enough that it hasn’t already been taken. Whatever you do, don’t settle for a domain that doesn’t end in .com. If the name of your business is already being used as a .com domain, you may see an option to choose a different ending, like .net or .org, but this could come back to bite you. Service providers and network companies primarily use .net, so it is not appropriate to use if you are trying to conduct businesses online. And .org is typically used by non-profit organizations. A .com address will make you appear more professional. It’s also the most common, making it more likely that customers will get straight to your site.
Register your business
Now you need to register your business. The simplest way to register your business is as a sole proprietorship. In fact, if you don’t register your business, a sole proprietorship is the default business structure that your business will fall under.
Just know that if you choose a sole proprietorship, your business is not considered a separate entity; you will be responsible for all of the business’s debts and liabilities. So if your business faces a lawsuit or goes bankrupt, your personal finances will be on the hook.
A way to avoid this is by registering as an LLC. In this business structure, your business and personal finances are kept separate.
Create a website
Now you’re ready to build a website for your online business. Consider hiring a web developer, or you can look into one of the many DIY website building tools, such as GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace. When deciding on the design, here are some factors to consider.
- Simple is better. Users will have an easier time navigating your site with a simple design. So save the bells and whistles for a later date.
- Make it easy to buy. Ideally, it should only take two clicks for a user to purchase something from your site. For example, once to click on the product they like and once more to purchase.
- Mobile responsive. Many people use their phones to make purchases these days. So make sure that your website has a mobile-friendly design. If you work with a website developer, he or she will know how to do this.
- Have a call to action. A call to action (CTA) is a string of copy (text) that entices a user to buy or learn more about a product or service. Make sure each page of your website has clear and engaging CTAs so that users are motivated to make a purchase.
- Online payments: Make sure you have a way to take credit cards online, including mobile. To make purchasing easier for returning customers, consider allowing users to create accounts and save payment info.
Market the heck out of your online business
There is a lot you can do in this arena, but keep it simple to start with. Here are three steps to follow.
- Create business accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
- Post about your business’s products and services through special offers, customer testimonials, videos, and more. If your company has a blog, you can also share blog posts on social media.
- Sign up for Google Ads. This is a quick way to get your business front and center for some of the keywords associated with your product or industry. You can find out more on the Google Ads website.
Don’t forget insurance
Successful businesses plan for the unexpected. That means looking into the right insurance coverage for your business. To make it easy, Hiscox offers small business insurance for those that operate 100% online.
As an online business, you will want to look into a professional liability and/or general liability policy. A general liability policy will protect you from claims made by others, including bodily injury, damage to property, or personal injury. A professional liability policy will protect your business if you are sued for negligently performing your services, even if you haven’t made a mistake.
For more tips on how to get a new business up and running, check out articles on our Start Your Business page.