I have started several online businesses since 2006. One question that I’ve always been asked is, what are the steps in starting an online business. In this article, I will discuss the various steps I would have taken if I were to start another online business. Hope it helps.
1. Come out with a business idea
If there is a formula in creating successful business ideas, I would say it’s Technical + Business knowledge.
Business knowledge refers to an understanding of the various strategies that webmasters use to make money from their websites. You can get this knowledge through observation as well as from ebooks and courses.
You don’t need to be an expert in everything, but generally, the more you know, the better your business idea will be. As the saying goes, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. As you build your technical and business knowledge, more and better business ideas will come to you.
You may ask, what makes a good business idea?
Generally a good business idea solves a problem that many people are experiencing. Many of my businesses are created to solve my problem, and I make the system available to other people and make money out of it.
2. Design the USP
USP refers to Unique Selling Proposition. If you are new to this term, simply google it to learn more.
Why is USP important? A strong USP makes it easier for you to make an impact in the market. In business, you need to assume that your prospects have short attention span. If you can’t arouse their interests in 10 seconds, you will lose them. A strong USP, if communicated effectively, will make your prospects think twice about your product.
In fact, having just one USP is not enough. The more USP you can include into your product, the stronger your product will be. You need a strong USP that can quickly engage the prospects, but you should have a few more USPs that can give you more competitive edge over a longer period of time.
3. Determine the traffic sources
Many years back, I spent 3 months developing a website only to realize that I had no idea how to get traffic. The site was ditched as I pursued another more promising business idea.
You may wonder why can’t I just promote the site anyhow? You see, different traffic sources require different preparations. For example, if you want to tap into search engine traffic, you should add a blog or forum to your website. If your intended traffic source is advertising, you should have an opt-in and follow-up system that can convert well. You also need to know exactly where you are going to advertise. If you are aiming for referral traffic, you need a viral system and a good reward program. Everything has to be thought out before you start building the website.
4. Determine the income sources
Are you going to make money from advertising or you are selling a product? Is the sale a one-off income or it’s recurring? If it is one-off, do you have any other recurring income sources?
What about the price structure? It is low entry but high maintenance, for example, $7 for the first month and then $37/mth thereafter? Or perhaps it’s high entry but low maintenance, for example, $197 to sign up, $9/mth thereafter? Different strategies have their pros and cons and they will cater to different niche.
One good strategy is to have different pricing packages. A low-end package that targets those with little budget and a high-end package for the rich. In any niche, there will be people who are willing to may more for extras. This is the group of people who will make you rich.
5. Break down the various components of the new website
Let’s do a quick summary. Now you’ve got a business idea that has some attractive USP, feasible traffic sources and you know exactly how to make money out of it. Next step is to break down the website into various components. You may have a main product component, a traffic generation component (which may include a blog, a referral system and a viral system), a payment component (perhaps a Paypal integration system) and a support system.
If possible, you may want to purchase a ready-made script that come with everything you need except the product component. Products like membership-site scripts, e-commerce scripts can be purchased for a couple of hundred bucks and all you need to do is to prepare the product and you are ready to go. If you are getting such a script, make sure that you get one that come with the source code, i.e. the script should not be encrypted. As your business grows, you will almost certainly see a need to modify the script or do further customization.
6. Work the hell out of it
Once you know what is needed for your new website, the next step is to work.
2 things can lessen your workload:
i) Ready-made script, which I already explained earlier,
ii) Outsourcing - get one or more freelancers to work with you.
The challenge in using 3rd party solutions is integration. If you are technically savvy, it will be easy. But if you are new, treat it as a learning curve. I’m not trained as a programmer, but I learnt about web programming from those scripts I purchased and the programmers I worked with. The process is fun if you ask me.
7. Set up a checklist for the product
Towards the end of the development process, you should prepare a checklist and monitor what has been done and what is outstanding. It’s basically project management.
8. Testing, testing and testing
Remember, programmers are only good in programming. It is your responsibility to make sure that the program works under all kinds of scenarios. Even for purchased scripts, I often found bugs in them.
There is no shortcut to testing. You literally have to walk through every inch of your website as a user and try every possible option to make sure that it works. The testing process may be boring, but it is necessary.
9. Product launch
Finally your website is ready.
Assuming you have your traffic strategies all planned out, what you need to do is just execute your plan accordingly. Assuming you have a good product USP, the product should hit a home run. It’s as simple as that!