How to Start an Online Business — And Actually Get Customers

If you’ve ever thought about starting your own small business online, there’s never been a better time to do so. In today’s business climate, it’s estimated that up to 70% of small businesses are owned and operated by a single person.

It doesn’t matter if you’re starting your own custom jewelry business with beautiful pieces made from aluminum components or building custom sheds and selling them online or even running a seafood restaurant, there are plenty of benefits to doing business (at least partially) online.

It’s important to be realistic about your expectations, but for many online businesses all you need is a reliable Internet connection and a computer or tablet to get things up and running. Chances are you may have seen commercials about how easy it is to start an online business and in many ways it’s true; starting an online business can be easy and very fun.

The benefits of online business

If you’re souring on your day-to-day office job, running an online business has never been easier and you may be able to very easily turn an idea for an online business into a profitable side-job.

What are some of the benefits of running an online business? For starters, you can work from home and have your home office be your business office. You don’t have to put up with traffic, you can set your own hours and you are essentially your own boss.

As if that wasn’t enough, you can literally do business from anywhere and everywhere, you’ll have less paper waste than you might find in an office and you can present a professional front—social media, websites, etc—that will be attractive to customers.

Managing an online business

It doesn’t matter if you’re a successful wrongful termination attorney or you run an online advertising agency or you sell things like protective pads or stainless steel clamps online, how you run your business is largely going to be determined by what you’re doing online.

Let’s say you are artsy and you want to sell jewelry or paintings online. With the Internet as your biggest tool, you can successfully run your own online shop, easily communicate with your customers and respond to feedback, manage your finances, manage your suppliers, order needed supplies and even research what similar businesses are doing.

If you’re got something cool and unique to offer, people will take notice, but don’t be afraid to use the power of the Internet to your advantage. These days, you can find just about anything you need online, find programs and apps to manage just about all you need to manage and do business whichever way you see fit.

Attracting customers

Bottom line: if your business has no customers or can’t get them to do business with you consistently, you’re going to have a hard time making money and your business might not last.

If you’re starting a new online business, creating a client list may seem like a daunting task. Make no mistake, getting a steady customer stream doesn’t happen overnight, by taking some essential steps, you should be able to attract new clients and customers and keep them coming.

Before you try and appeal to any customers, you need to know, in and out, exactly what your business is. Understanding your products or your services will help you know and understand exactly how it can help potential customers.

The next thing you need to do is hone in on who your ideal customer is. If you know who you’re trying to appeal to, it’s going to make it that much easier to find new customers. Think about all the emotions a customer feels whether they’re happy, sad, mad or scared. Now think about how your business can help them and make their lives easier. The reality is that your business isn’t going to appeal to everyone, so don’t market it to everyone.

Once you’ve honed in on who your ideal customer base is, find out where they come from and appeal to them directly. This can be done through email, social media and even offline message. Ultimately you want to position yourself as the answer to a customer’s problem. You want to provide value and knowledge to a customer and solve their problem.

The benefits of SEO and online marketing

One of the best ways you can grow your business and appeal to potential customers is with good search engine optimization (SEO). This will help your website rank higher in online searches, build your brand and ultimately help you attract new customers.

Why does your online business need SEO? There are a multitude of good reasons. One of the biggest is that it helps small business owners of all kinds build fast, smooth and user-friend sites customers can have no problem navigating. It’s true that SEO is all about getting noticed online, but in an ever-changing business climate, it’s also about optimizing the customer experience. When a customer visits your site, you want to give all the information they need to decide whether or not they need your product and answer any questions they have.

Surveys have shown that small businesses with SEO-optimized sites can bring customers in and help businesses grow fast. With time spend building an SEO-optimized website, you’ll be able to bring in the kind of targeted customers you’re looking for.

A full service SEO agency can also help you grow your brand. You may think that a small business can’t have the same kind of impact as a national company, but don’t sell yourself short. When your customers are searching for something online, chances of them trusting your brand are better if they come across your website on the first page of a search.

SEO can also help your small business bypass the competition. Even if you have a great idea for an online business, there’s a chance that someone else has an idea just like yours or very similar to yours. With a fully SEO-optimized website, you can attract customers and stand out from business who may take some short cuts trying to bring in business.

Planning for the future

Just like preventive maintenance can be an effective treatment for your health, planning for the future can be healthy for your small business. Even if you’re starting a business in your living room, you never can tell how successful it might be.

With so many online tools at your disposal, you might find that your business grows faster than you might think. Even if it’s not growing by leaps and bounds every month, there’s still plenty you can do to keep your business humming along like a well-oiled machine.

As you go along, you shouldn’t be afraid to tweak various aspects of your business. Remember that things you did in the first month of business, might not be the same way you do business a year down the road or even two years down the road. It’s also prudent to monitor your budget, keep up to date with different laws or regulations concerning your business and to plan for any risks that might pop up in the future such as data theft or computer viruses.

Planning for the future also means keeping an eye on your website and any social media sites you maintain. Keeping up with the latest trends, especially with social media, ensures that you are always thinking of new ways to attract customers, that your company information isn’t updated or that you don’t get overshadowed by similar businesses.

Finding success online

While there are ample opportunities to run a successful online business, you might be a little unsure of yourself if you’re trying to start from the ground up. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to find success and you don’t even have to quit your day job.

If you plan to have a website for your business, one thing you’re going to want to do is register a domain name. If you can register an email and website with the same domain name, it makes it very easy for customers to remember. The important thing to remember though is that domains are first-come, first-serve when it comes to being sold, so if you’ve got a name for a business, don’t hesitate to register it. Thankfully, there are many sites where you register a domain name free of charge.

If you have a particular set of skills that you think people would seek out your services for, you can very easily become an online consultant. Doing this allows you to really tap into what your good at and using it to help people. If you have multiple skills, that’s even better, particularly for companies that are looking for jack-of-all-trades types of employees. If you’re wondering what you can be a consultant for, the answer is just about anything. You can help companies with social media management, SEO or even sales, graphic design and website construction.

If you’re artistic, don’t be afraid of technology. Actually, if you’re artsy, technology can be one of your best friends. How is this possible? It’s possible because sites like Etsy allow you to showcase your artistic talents whether you paint or sew or knit or draw. If you’re unfamiliar with sites like Etsy, look around at the site for a few minutes. You’re likely going to be surprised by what you see and you’re likely to find out that your wares can fit right in on a site like that.

Let’s say you’re an independent fashion designer. Another way you can be successful with selling your wares online is open a dropshipping store. If you’re unsure of what that is or how it works, it works like this: you create a website and sell your products, but, unlike a brick-and-mortar store, you don’t have to ship products or keep inventory. Both things are instead handled by a third party and they are the ones who ultimately ship a customer their products when they order something from your store. By using dropshipping stores, you’ll save money, resources and plenty of time.

Another way to make money online—especially if you don’t want to open your open business—is to become a freelancer. If you’ve got skills as a writer, proofreader or even a graphic designer, you can make money by working from home and connect with businesses across the globe on websites like Upwork. The great thing about freelance jobs is that you set your own hours and work as much as you want or as little as you want.

Those are just a few bigger ideas that are available. These days you can do just about anything online from brokering business deals to bookkeeping to language translation to running an online store to self-publishing. If you’ve got skills that businesses can use, there’s a good chance there’s an opportunity online to showcase yourself.

Summing it up

If you’ve got the next great business idea, don’t be afraid to take it online. With plenty of digital tools at your disposal, you can sell just about anything online and use a variety of mediums to attract and retain lots of loyal customers who can help your business grow by leaps and bounds. The key for you as a businessowner is to identify what kind of clientele you’re trying to appeal to, what the shopping habits are and how you can offer them something that will make their lives better in some way.

Don’t be afraid to think big and plan for the future. That home business you’re running out of your living room right now might seem like small potatoes at the moment, but who knows? Perhaps one day that home business will grow into a booming online venture, thanks to all the hard work you’re putting in now by appealing to online shoppers and improving and strength and visibility of your brand.

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