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How to Start an Online Business in 5 Steps – A Beginner’s Guide [2019]

Should I start an online business? That’s a question many people ask themselves. I’m not making this up. Just look at the related searches for “start an online business” in Google. It’s right up there with how to start an online business for free, from home and with no money.

start an online business google related search results

One thing that is clear from this is that the interest for striking out on your own and earning money online is high. That’s no wonder — doing so offers many advantages.

If you are also considering creating a virtual business for yourself, this post is for you. Together, we will go over the reasons to create an online business, practical steps on how to do so, and online business ideas you can use for inspiration.

Ready to get started? Then let’s go.

Why Start an Online Business?

When thinking about going into business for yourself, many people do so with the idea in mind of sitting on a beach, drinking piña coladas while earning thousands of dollars from their laptop.

While that is absolutely possible, this type of lifestyle is not the only reason to consider building your own online empire. There are other, quite practical reasons why doing business on the web is a good idea.

Increase Your Personal Freedom

Here are a few points on why becoming a web entrepreneur is a good idea:

  • Low cost — Starting an online business has very little overhead. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores, you don’t need an office, storage, capital, inventory, employees, or similar stuff. Instead, you can theoretically (and practically) start your business from the kitchen table. The tools to do so are readily available and many of them (like WordPress) are free.
  • Flexible in location— Unless you specifically build a business that constrains you to a certain location, you can work from pretty much anywhere. Almost every place in the world is now connected to the Internet. As long as you have a portable computer, you can work. For example, I once worked on a six-hour bus ride from Istanbul to Ankara and got a lot of stuff done, thanks to mobile Internet!
  • Time flexibility — In addition, if your online side hustle becomes your main hustle, you can also make your own hours. That means getting up when you want and working when you are most inspired. Also, a website never closes so you can continue earning money in your sleep.
  • Scalable — Physical businesses are usually limited to the people coming to their location. With an online business, you can sell to anyone in the world. With over 4 billion people currently online, that’s a lot of potential customers. Translate your site and you can be in business with anyone.
  • Be your own boss — One of the most frustrating things about working in corporations is that you often have little control over your time. Meetings, requests from higher-ups, distractions all lead to inefficiency. Even if you want to be a good employee, it’s not always easy because of the environment. All of that falls by the wayside when you work for yourself.

Sounds good, right? But of course, it’s not unicorns and rainbows in self-employed land.

Yet, You Need to Put in the Effort

So, if starting an online business is so great, why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, because as with everything, it has downsides attached to it.

A successful online business takes a lot of hard work. Getting a start online takes blood, sweat, and tears. It’s simple but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

You need to take responsibility for your success since it’s completely up to you. Nothing will happen by itself. If you don’t do something, it doesn’t get done.

Are you tired of haphazard, unprofessional-looking content? Dissatisfied with the mixed formatting of your blog posts? Trying to corral multiple writers into producing one coherent online publication? A blog style guide is the answer to all of these problems and more. Below, we will discuss how concrete content guidelines can help with the creation process. The post will cover questions like Add New). I also put file names like functions.php. You might have or need similar rules. Of course, there is more stuff to take into account in this area, so don’t feel limited by the list above. 6. Talk About Image Use Since they are a very prominent feature, defining what visuals should look like in your content is part of a blog style guide. Especially, since they are also an issue for page load time (for a solution, check our post on lazy loading). Here are a few questions to consider: Which file type should people use? Use self-made or external featured images? If self made, is there a template? Which format do you prefer (rectangular, square)? How to annotate screenshots (colors, arrows, underlined)? Optimization guidelines? Use captions or no captions? What should they include? How to attribute images? It can also make sense to have a few defined color choices for images or annotations in order to create a congruent design. You can use your official brand colors as a jump off point. The important thing is to figure out what you would like images to look like and put it into writing. 7. Don’t Forget SEO While the audience is your most important recipient, your blog content also needs to appeal to search engines in order to get organic traffic. For that reason, most reputable blogs have an optimization process. If you want your writers to be part of that, it’s necessary to lay it out for them. Are you using an SEO plugin? Do you want writers to fill in the information? If so, what guidelines do you have for the meta description and title? Where to use keywords (slug, headings, image ALT tags, etc.)? Do you care about keyword density? Should they include categories and tags? How to correctly link internally and externally? All of these are important questions for the search performance of your posts. If you are unsure about any of the above, read our article on on-page SEO. 8. Put It All in Writing Once you have figure out your content style guidelines (or while you are doing it), be sure to put them all together in one central document. Whenever you need a refresher on blog formatting or bring on a new writer, this will be the go-to resource. However, just like a blog post, it’s more effective if the guide is not an all-text experience. To help yourself and others, it’s best to include plenty of examples in both text and image form. [screenshot] This will demonstrate more effectively what you are driving at than only describing it. Also, it makes sense to use the same guidelines in the document that it advertises. When done, you can either turn it into a PDF or a (non-editable) Google doc that you send to your staff or guest contributors. 9. Keep Your Content Style Guide Updated Once your blogging content style guide is finished, it’s important that you don’t, in fact, consider it that. Over time, some things in your blogging process will likely change. Maybe you will use new types of media and need rules for that, maybe you learn additional techniques (like keyword clustering) and want to incorporate them into the rules. This is normal and to be encouraged. The important thing is that your blog style guide reflects those changes and you make sure to update it accordingly. It’s possible to do this as things evolve or to review the file regularly at set intervals. Either way, just make sure to stay on top of it. Blog Content Style Guide Examples In case the above isn’t enough, here are a few examples of blog style guides for your inspiration: The Economist MailChimp Buffer BuzzFeed A List Apart Blog Style Guide – Final Thoughts A content style guide for your blog is an important document. It extends your business’ branding and is a central tool to keep the content quality high and the look consistent. It’s also a great way to help staffers and guest writers hit the ground running. Above, we have gone over the most important questions and rules to think through when creating content guidelines. By now, you should have a pretty clear picture of what your blog style guide will look like. Once established, your will soon see the effect it will have on your content. Do you have a blog style guide for your website? What else did you include in it? Let us know in the comments section below!” width=”335″ height=”335″ srcset=” 335w,×150.jpg 150w,×300.jpg 300w,×296.jpg 296w,×115.jpg 115w” sizes=”(max-width: 335px) 100vw, 335px”>

You will also have to get outside your comfort zone, learn new things, find time to work on your biz, wrestle with doubts, deal with failure and more. It can be uncomfortable.

However, persevere and you will extend your skill set, grow as a person, become more confident and, not to forget, make some money on the side.

Over time, you might actually be able to work from the beach (or anywhere else you want, like a bus!).

How to Start an Online Business

Alright, now that we have settled why opening your own web business is a good idea, let’s go over the practical steps of doing so. In the following, we will give you some tips how you can go from zero to 100 with your own online business.

1. Decide on a Business Model

The first thing you need to understand is that there is more than one type of online business. Making money online can be accomplished in many different ways. Which one you take depends on your plans, skills, and personality.

Here are the few online business examples to choose from:

  • Freelancing — One of the easiest ways to become an entrepreneur is to take your existing skills and start hawking them on the web. This works best if you do work that is location independent like writing, web design, web development, or similar. Consulting can also a viable option. Get some freelance clients besides your day job and then scale up from there.
  • Selling (digital) products — Selling stuff is the most classic form of business. By now, it’s easy to open an online store. Some alternatives are solutions like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy. Here, you can sell anything from vegan beef jerky over temporary tattoos to e-books and other digital wares. For physical products, look into dropshipping if you don’t want to deal with storage or outsource the fulfillment completely.
  • Affiliate marketing — This method is very popular among bloggers. It means that you advertise products on your site and get a cut of the sales when visitors make a purchase. We have a whole article on that topic.
  • Online courses and membership sites — Two other business models are about creating educational online content. This can be in text, image, video or mixed form. Clients then get access either via one-time payment or recurring fees.
  • Apps or SaaS — If you are a developer (or have the money to pay one) you may also create mobile or web applications. Here, too, it’s possible to charge once or use a subscription service to earn money.

These are some broad categories of online business examples. You will find more concrete ones below. Do some research into the direction that interests you so you know what you are getting into.

2. Find Your Niche

These days, starting an online business is all about specialization. It’s much better to find your niche and cater to a defined customer group than trying to market to a broad audience. It allows you to be much more precise in your efforts and come off as less generic.

This approach is best exemplified in the post 1,000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly. So, narrow down which industry you want to be active in and who you want to work with/sell to. Market research will help you with that.

The best thing you can do is to try to find a need and fill it. For that, it helps to think through which niches and industries you are already part of.

When you are passionate about something, it’s much easier to dive deep and understand your target market. This, in turn, makes it easier to build a business in contrast to an industry that you are completely unfamiliar with and uninterested in.

For finding your niche, I recommend this post.

3. Build Your Site

No matter what online business you end up with, you pretty much always need a website. After all, for building an online business, you first need to be online.

Here, WordPress can help you tremendously and offers many benefits. If you are a complete newbie, the Getting Started Guide will help you get a WordPress site up and running.

wordpress beginner guide to help you create an online business

After that, you can use the tips below to start building it into a business.

Yes, it will take some time to educate yourself but it’s worth it. These are skills nobody can ever take from you and that are in high demand in the current working environment. So, get over yourself and just do it.

4. Start Marketing It

You know what they say: you only have a business when someone pays you for what you have to offer. Until that time, you only have a hobby.

So, one of the most important and time-consuming parts, when you start an online business, is marketing. Luckily, the Internet offers many ways of doing so with many of them free.

  • SEO — This means creating and optimizing your site, pages and content so that they perform well in search engines. Doing so increases your chances to get (free) organic traffic. If you need help with that, check here, here, here and here.
  • Email marketing — One of the most important things for any website owner is to build an email newsletter. It’s the marketing form with the highest ROI. It also helps to create a personal connection to your audience. A useful article is this one.
  • Social media — Social platforms have become alternative search engines with billions of users. Pretty much all of them are free to use. Here, it’s important to figure out which platform you should be on and then get educated in how it works to get the best results.
  • Content marketing — The most successful form of marketing in recent years is all about creating and distributing helpful content to attract members of your audience. It integrates well with other forms of marketing and, thanks to WordPress, is open to you at the cost of a domain and hosting account.
  • Paid advertisement — Of course, if you have the money, you can also use paid forms of marketing. This includes ads in search engines, social networks, and display networks. However, each of these needs a bunch of research to use them effectively.

Aside from the above, we also have an article on how to drive traffic to a brand-new WordPress site.

5. Turn Visitors Into Clients

Getting people on your site is one thing. However, in order to have an online business, you need to get at least some of them to pay you.

The requirement here are different depending on the business model you have chosen. However, in the end it all comes down to conversion optimization.

This means getting people on your site to do the the thing you want them to do. It could be to fill out an online form to get in touch, click the buy button, pick up the phone, you name it.

Important things to get into here are learning about analytics and tracking your stats. In addition, you need to learn how to craft calls to action and general copywriting.

Online Business Ideas (For Beginners and Beyond)

Finding the right online business for you to start is probably the hardest part. Maybe you don’t feel like there is anything you could do or don’t know where to start.

In that case, the posts below will provide you with dozens of online business ideas and examples to get you inspired:

Ready to Start an Online Business?

Setting out to start an online business is a worthy endeavor. It can not only lead to financial, location and time independence but also teach you valuable skills on the way.

The technology and means to become an online entrepreneur are readily available. You can get started in literally minutes (though often it takes a little longer).

On the most basic level, striking out on your own on the web consists of only a few steps:

  1. Settle on a business model
  2. Decide on a niche or industry
  3. Build your online presence
  4. Market your site to get visitors
  5. Turn visitors into paying clients

While it really is simple, that doesn’t mean the whole thing is easy. However, with persistence, time and a willingness to learn, you can do it. Others have done so before.

What’s your biggest challenge about learning to start an online business? Where are you struggling? Let us know in the comments section below!


Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur, online marketer, and professional blogger from Germany. He found WordPress when he needed a website for his first business and instantly fell in love. When not building websites, creating content or helping his clients improve their online business, he can most often be found at the gym, the dojo or traveling the world with his wife. If you want to get in touch with him, you can do so via Twitter or through his website.

The post How to Start an Online Business in 5 Steps – A Beginner’s Guide [2019] appeared first on Torque.

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