how to start an online business

How to start an online business

This epic guide on how to start an online business will give you a great start if you’re planning to sell something online.

From idea to market analysis and social engagement strategies. We will cover a little of all the key points, as well as some useful resources of where to go next. Starting a business is an easy way to end up working for no money, with a lot more stress.

There is a 99% likelihood you could be poorer in 5 years by starting a business today. The odds aren’t in your favour. So make the right decisions beforehand.

David Mason | The Editor

Consider these tips as a checklist and an essential tool to create a brand from scratch and bring it into a profitable, successful business.

So let’s see the essential steps you should have in mind when starting an online venture. If you enjoy this how to start an online business guide, then check out our deep dive on setting up an online retail company from someone who has done it before:

Decide the area you like

Whether it’s products or services you want to sell online, define your strengths and focus on the topics you’re most interested in. Pick a niche you enjoy spending time with so it’ll give you motivation every single day. That’s really the essence of how to start an online business, or any venture. Do something you love.

Well, do something you don’t hate.

Fill a need

Find the market for your business and make some research on the people who might want to buy from you.

By defining your target audience, you’ll have a great understanding of their needs. And not only you’ll know where and how to reach them, but you’ll be able to talk in their language too.

They’ll make your business profitable, so treat them as your best friends. If you are prepared to ask how to start an online business, you need to be okay in asking, if the world needs this new idea.

Learn from your competitors

Spend some time identifying your competitors and analyse what they do well and what can be done differently. Learn from both to make your business stand out.


Have a plan

Think forward. Make plans, set up goals and keep your deadlines. Don’t just go with the flow, but make sure you control the happenings of your business.

There is an old army phrase:

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

HM Armed Forces Maxim

Choose remarkable brand elements

Choose your brand elements wisely which describe your brand. Great brand elements are easy to understand, memorable and aesthetic.

Brand elements include:

  • Name
  • Logo
  • Website URL
  • Slogan

How your brand looks says as much about your attitude to developing a real business, but also how it speaks to people. Clever branding that has a distinctive audience is more likely to be remembered.

REMEMBER: You can do none of the above, if you don’t know who your target customer is likely to be.

Design an awesome website

Put some energy into designing and developing a website which is easy to use and represents your brand properly. It might be online, but it’s your store. You don’t want your customers to feel like in a labyrinth, right? Make it clean and give them a great experience.

There are some great tools out there, we have used in the past to ensure that what you put out is working.

Heatmaps are one such tool, they let you monitor the user journey across your site. You can see recordings and snapshots of visits to your site, which show banners they click on and ones they don’t.

  • Crazy Egg – Works with WordPress and Shopify
  • Lucky Orange – As Crazy Egg, it works on a range of platforms

Create SEO optimised text

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is all about writing online in a way that helps users find what you are saying. It’s also about ranking, but the words you use for a product, may not be what your customers type.

One example is on our own e-commerce site, we found that while we used one phrase, the most common search query was entirely different. If you don’t consider the words you use based on historic search volume, you may never get traffic online.

Want a tool to help you with that?

SEMrush do a free trial and it will help you spot the right words to use for your niche.


Create a buzz with social media

Don’t get to bogged down in worrying which social media platforms to use. Consider how you might advertise and what kind of social media posts sells you best.

If you sell beautiful designs or clothes to an audience of 40 and under, then Instagram may be the one for you. If you sell dance classes, then what about Insta AND Tik Tok.

In the first instance, if you have done the work to create a strong brand name, lock down a host of social media profile names. Later you can always focus on the ones you feel most able to pursue.

Knowing how to start an online business, means understanding your social media strengths too. Leverage what you have and don’t fret over what you don’t. There’ll be a new Twitter soon enough that you can be a pack leader in.

Local PR and building connections

Talking with outsiders comes handy when you’re out of ideas or facing challenges in fields you’re not comfortable with. Build relationships, talk to your friends and use your network to help you promote your idea.

Local media is always on the hunt for small business stories. It makes their writers feel warm and fuzzy. I have had businesses where the only marketing we could afford to do in the early days, was next to nothing. We found the local business features writer and just being in the regional newspaper, got us footfall. Free and worked like a charm.

In the same vein, make sure you set up a Google business page. Get some reviews from people who know your skills and services, and there you have another free avenue of advertising. The local map pack as it’s known is vital to the success of any small business these days.

If this approach fails, read our guide on starting a gang. Then you are guaranteed people being dragged to your business.

Reciprocity – Give something to your customers

I discussed this in depth here, in our flyers section:

But in short, don’t just focus on selling things. First, make a connection with your visitors.

This is what reciprocity means. I am asked a lot about how to start an online business with little marketing budget. My answer is the same. Give away as much as you can afford to, so prospects can sample a bit of what you offer. If it’s your labour or skills you are selling, then the only cost to you is time.

Once someone has entered your domain for the first time and been happy with the process, they are much more likely to come back and be a customer.

Offer them something valuable to turn them into buyers. Give away free things and spoil them a little. An entertaining video, an informative ebook or a gift enclosed to their first order make a good impression!

How to Start an Online Business Final Step – Belief

Look, if you don’t believe in yourself, no-one is going to.

Self-belief is paramount to the mindset of success. You are going to question yourself, you are going to have imposter syndrome BUT picking the right niche and something you have passion in will keep you coming back to the fight.

There isn’t a business that has not had it’s troubles. there certainly isn’t a business person, who hasn’t questioned whether they are doing the right thing or not. Remember, if you can see that the wind has changed, don’t flog adead horse.

There is a great quote we heard a while back:

Fail Fast, Fail Often

Ryan Babineaux

Essentially it means if something isn’t working and you can see why, don’t carry it on.

Learn from it, and go again with this new insight. We recommend the book too. Check it out on Amazon below: