Starting an online business is amazingly easy today. In fact, it is almost too easy.
All you really need to do is buy a domain name, create a quick website and you are ready to go. Or are you?
That would be too simple, right? It is.
Things are a little more complex than that, so it is crucial that you know what to consider before jumping right in.
Here are 5 such things you really should think about before starting an online business:
1. Understand How You Can Make Money Online
I see a lot of people make this mistake when starting a business backwards, often with a blog first.
Sure, you should try to pursue your passions or use your skills online, but you should also understand how you can make money.
If you have little to no experience in the online world, the ways in which you can make money online are quite staggering. And many of them are not so obvious.
With that in mind, I recently compiled a post on the very topic of online business, which shows you how you can make money with anything from:
- social media
- freelancing services
- digital products
- physical products
and much much more. Within these areas there are also lots of combinations and alternatives you can explore.
So, before starting on your path to online success, first understand how you can make money online. Then head to step 2.
Tip: Below is an infographic summarizing all of the ways to make money online, so you can easily run through them all without having to wade through my very large post.
2. What Is Your Timeline?
Another key to planning your online business is figuring out how you are either:
- going to transition from a job to a business
- start a business with some financing (usually your own)
However you may decide to start your business, you will need a timeframe in which you need to replace your income, especially if you have people depending on you.
So, if your timeline is rather short, you might want to consider something that you can start quickly – like a service based business. That way, you can quickly get some runs on the board, and start earning an income.
In fact, if freelancing is your cup of tea, then check out this guide on going from full-time job to freelancer.
Compare that, to starting a blog, or trying to become the next Youtube superstar in your industry – that can take months, years or….never happen at all. If that is your goal, best to do it as a side-hustle until you see success.
3. What Are Your Strengths and Skills?
Although it is ok to start a business in an area you would love to learn about, it puts you at a major disadvantage.
Trust me, I have been there.
I started out in online marketing back in 2013 with no knowledge, no skills and more importantly no network in the industry.
That is a tough way to start any business. And, it lead to me not being able to earn any significant income for a very long time (while I built all of those things up).
So, rather than have you repeat my mistakes, I want you to have a serious think about:
- what you are good at (skills related to your work or studies)
- what you do a lot of in your spare time (skills related to your hobbies)
- what people often ask you for advice on (skills related to people or skills you have but have not thought about)
After listing all these down, you will start to see what options you have when it comes to starting a business.
4. What Are Your Passions?
It’s great if you are good at something but you also have to consider whether you want to be doing that all day long.
There are two things to think about here:
- Do you really want to pursue your favorite hobby or sport as a job/business (it can ruin it for you)?
- Is your passion something you can truly make money doing?
Of course, there are no easy answers, but it is best that ponder these issues before you start the business. Afterwards can be too late!
Another important thing to put on the table here is this idea of passion. Unlike your job, which kind of runs itself, a business requires a “long haul” attitude from you.
There is far less time to relax, no one to stand in for you when you are on vacation (at least in the beginning). Long hours. Little reward. And many more hardships I won’t de-motivate you with.
So, if you are not at least somewhat passionate about what you do, or who you serve, or the results you see.. .you might bail on your business before it actually gets off the ground.
Check out this useful post from the muse if you want more help with finding your passion.
5. Who Do You Like Working With?
This one might not be possible to answer before you get started, but keep it in mind as you grow into your business (or even just into the idea of a business!).
I started out working with almost anyone, and in some ways we all have to. Especially when there are bills to be paid.
But ultimately, you want to figure out who you are best off working with. For your sake and theirs.
I do my best work while working one-on-one with small business owners. I love interacting with people, discussing their issues, coming up with solutions and seeing them succeed.
When I worked in big companies this was one of my pet peeves: never seeing the actual results of what I did, or getting any thanks for it.
So, it became clear to me over time, as my business grew that I should work with smaller businesses.
Who do you love working with?
Examples of Successful Online Businesses
It’s all great talking about theory, so I wanted to give you some examples of businesses that I know that have followed this path – of knowing who you like to work with and combining it with your skills and passions:
- Ian Anderson Gray runs a website business in the UK, but his real passion is Social Media. His website Seriously Social combines his passion and focus by helping small business owners sort out their social media by finding the right tools.
- Sarah Santacroce of Simplicity Small Biz recently started a side-business with a focus on introverts. Something she is super passionate about. She also launched a podcast that interviews other introverted small business owners.
- Glen Kendall of Concourse Hosting runs a specialised hosting company in Seattle that not only has a specific audience (users of Blackbaud software) but he has combined this with a passion for serving non-profits. The result: a thriving small business.
- Isabelle Litzler is another great example helping managers figure out their next steps in their career at PleiadesHC. Her focus on a niche with a passion for helping people change has helped her quickly grow her business.
There are obviously a lot more examples out there, but hopefully these helped you see the potential and how a tight focus in an area you love working can really get you on the right track. See here for some recommended business books.
Getting Started With Your Online Business
Once you have worked out what it is you want to do online, or even offline, it might then be time to start thinking about a name, a website, a logo (aka branding) and all the other necessary elements to online success.
Just don’t jump the gun and start something that has no chance of succeeding in the first place. Research and serious thinking is key.
And again, take a look at the infographic and understand all the ways you can benefit from having an online business. You will be surprised!
Ashley is an SEO and WordPress specialist who can be found at Mad Lemmings where he helps small businesses, solopreneurs and bloggers get more traffic and clients from Google. When not at his computer, he can be found chasing Heidi in the Swiss Alps.