“Starting a business” sounds like an expensive task, doesn’t it? It might call to mind images of brick storefronts, employees, and complicated paperwork.
But in today’s special guest post, Callum Mundine is breaking down just how simple (and cheap) it can be to start a business—if you do it online.
Starting your own business is never an easy endeavor—you need loads of courage, grit, and diligence to actualize your entrepreneurial goals.
Nowadays, many are venturing online to get a business started. Whether you want to sell products or promote a service as an ecommerce brand, running operations via the internet is certainly more cost-effective than establishing a brick and mortar store.
About 25% of small businesses invest in online marketing. It helps that the investment is quite affordable: half of all online-driven small businesses spend less than $300 per month on online marketing!
How to Start an Online Business
So what does it take to build your brand online?
A whole lot less capital, in case you were wondering.
In fact, for less than $100, you can get started on your path towards introducing your products and services online and ultimately gaining a profitable return from it.
Here are the four key steps of how to start your own online business.
1. Target a Need
Most people who are starting a business spend a lot of time thinking about their product and not enough determining their market.
However, it should be the other way around. For your business to thrive, you must have a viable market. To do that, you have to find a group of people who have a problem that they need solved. Then, you can choose to focus your business on a product or service that will be a solution to their problem.
Market research is quite easy to do online. These involve:
- Visiting online forums and getting a feel for what questions people ask and what concerns they are trying to solve. Also, think about what you would consider helpful. For instance, if you’re a new parent who’s thinking of selling baby products online, try to join groups and discussions about what type of items and equipment parents would appreciate.
- Doing simple keyword research on Google or other free platforms to find keywords that a lot of people are searching and not many sites are competing for.
- Checking out your potential competition—visit their sites and social media accounts to see how they are filling the demand. This can help you think about what might make your brand stand out, or what type of messaging works for your intended audience.
Cost: In terms of money, it’s practically free! You just have to invest a lot of time and legwork doing the research about what type of business you want to pursue.
2. Write Engaging Copy
Being an online business doesn’t mean you can stop trying to engage consumers. In fact, this is where you’ll spend most of your time and effort (it just won’t be face to face!).
In order to get started, you have to craft sales copy that attracts visitors right from the beginning—from the moment they visit your site or social media account until they make a purchase and become a customer.
Here are some key components that should be seen in your copy:
- A compelling but brief headline that instantly arouses interest in what you offer
- Description of the problem your product or service solves
- Your credibility as a solver of this problem
- Two or more testimonials from people who have benefited from your product or service
- Offer and strong guarantee
- Strong calls to action
If you have a passion for writing, you can craft these statements yourself to get customers noticing you. Otherwise, you may want to invest part of your marketing budget on hiring a copywriter.
Aside from written messages, you can also post photos, videos, and links to other reputable sites. You can even repost news and other articles that are relevant to your brand. As long as they are trusted sources that provide value for your overall identity, you can totally use them!
This is where the power of content marketing lies. With blogging and continuous posting of share-worthy content, you can build a name for your brand. Your target customers will recognize that you are legitimate and in turn, you’ll gain their trust.
Cost: If you are able to write captivating copy on your own, then essentially it’s free other than time. But you would have to pay for keyword ads that get your blog posts a wider reach. According to Wordstream, the average cost-per-click spend in Google Ads is $1 to $2.
Of course, there are expensive keywords and cheaper ones as well. It’s better to try out cheaper, long-tail keywords when you’re just starting with your online business. From there, you can adjust and track if it’s worth the investment.
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3. Design and Build Your Website
Once you’ve established what product or service your business will be offering, and what sales process and messages you will adopt, now you’re ready to create your virtual storefront.
Here are some important tips to consider when building a website:
- Keep things simple and streamlined. A tacky website will lower trust in your brand.
- Make navigation clear and consistent on every page.
- Include an opt-in offer so you can grow your mailing list and continue marketing from there.
- Make your checkout process simple, ideally no more than three steps. And always have trust badges (Norton, MasterCard Secure, etc.) to ensure safety in transactions.
- Use graphics and video if they enhance your messaging.
Cost: Websites can be built DIY-style. Open source systems like WordPress and Wix allow you to dabble in website development even if you have zero experience with coding. The expenses you would have to prioritize are your domain name, hosting, and security badges. These will run you anywhere from $3 to $20 per month.
4. Build Your Community
Running an online business is not so different from other types of small businesses. You’ll need great communication skills to gain customers and network with people both in person and online.
When you’re a startup, you have to foster a community that not only recognizes the value of your service, but also provides you with helpful recommendations on how you could push your business higher.
Community-building can be divided into four basic categories of activities.
Network and collaborate
This is less about the money, and more about investing your time and effort engaging people around you. Start with friends, colleagues, ex-business partners, etc. You don’t have to be salesy; simply inform them of your new venture and chat about it.
You could also join local community organizations, business networks, and other similar groups existing in your area. These enable you to connect with collaborators, potential clients, and even competitors that will provide insights about the business.
Focus on referrals
When starting a business online, your connections will be one of your most important resources.
A friend of a friend, a distant relative, a former coworker—these days, everyone knows someone who needs (or may need) your services.
To sweeten the pot, you could offer an incentive for every referral. It could be in the form of cash, say, $50 for a certain amount of sales, or 10% of the service fee you’ll earn if your product or service brings a relatively big figure. Incentives are a good tactic to get your business off the ground, because it gives people a good reason to keep you in mind and spread the word.
Whether it be a charitable event, an industry conference, or any other local happening, these events are where you can meet fellow business owners to talk to about your service.
Check out relevant Facebook groups or sites like meetup.com to learn about any activities you could participate in.
Since this is your opportunity to make your impression, don’t be afraid to approach people. Fear not; they won’t bite!
Talk about your business and explain what you do. Have some short “elevator pitches” ready for those who express interest. And don’t forget to give out business cards if the person asks for it. After all, what’s a good sales pitch for if they don’t remember whom to contact afterwards?
Join freelance sites
The good thing about these sites is that you can be directly matched to potential clients without the hassle of having to do meet-ups and networking. However, you could get lost in a sea of competition, as there are a lot of people all over the world who might be applying for the same jobs.
Just be prepared to make concessions about pricing, and always put your best foot forward to land those coveted clients.
As you can see, you don’t necessarily need thousands of dollars to establish an online business. As long as you reach out to the right people and use free or cost-effective tools, you’ll be on the right track.
About the author
Callum Mundine is part of the marketing team at oneegg.com.au. He is an Amazon Marketplace & white hat link building specialist, and has launched multiple successful brands on Amazon.com.