If you read my post on 13 Ways You Can Make Money Online, you probably realized that there are actually quite a few different opportunities out there if you want to learn how to start an online business.
In fact, it’s pretty normal as a new entrepreneur to feel not totally sure of what path you want to venture down. There are so many options, that it may feel kind of overwhelming. Or you may feel like you’re being pulled in multiple different directions! That’s normal, too.
Such is the life of an entrepreneur.
Don’t worry, every person and business evolves over time. It’s so fluid that I might actually go so far as to say that what you do is not even really that important. The crucial part here is that you’ve made the mental leap into this new stage of your life. And now you want to learn how to start an online business!
That’s exactly why we’re here, so stay tuned to learn more about this process.
Curious about me and how I know so much about how to start an online business? Learn more about me and how I can help you here.
How to Start an Online Business (And Actually Make Money)
I thought it was pretty important to add the second part there: “and actually make money.”
Besides the fact that I thought it sounded like a more attention-grabbing title, the “making money” part is something that we really want to focus on.
You would probably be surprised by how many businesses I come across that simply aren’t making money. And there are tons of other business that are making money, but they’re making such a small amount that it doesn’t even cover their expenses.
It’s true — 50% of businesses fail within their first 5 years.
But I don’t want that to scare you! I truly believe that failure is totally avoidable. When I come across a business that is failing, I can almost always see a clear reason why.
Basically — all you need are 3 things to be a successful entrepreneur. If you have those things, you are set!
The businesses that I do see failing always lack one of those things.
One of the most important steps in learning how to start an online business is being prepared. So I’m not going to hide the truth from you. Yes, a lot of businesses fail. But as long as you stick with me, yours will not end up in that 50%!
Don’t worry — I have a plan for you.
Step #1: Discover Your Area of Expertise
The list of things you should do if you want to learn how to start an online business is so long. Before you get ahead of yourself (trust me, it’s so easy to let this happen), let’s step back and take a breath.
Before you buy a domain name or start trying to get clients…what are you even selling?
Maybe you already have an idea. If so, that’s great! Move along to the next section.
But there’s probably a bunch of you that aren’t quite sure what you want to do. Or maybe you have an idea, but aren’t sure about it. Or perhaps you’re trying to decide between a few different options.
Allow the Discovery Process to Work Its Magic
The important thing here is to spend time in this step. Although you totally have permission to change and grow over time, it’s easier if you start off with a concrete plan. At least for the first 3 months or so.
Now, there’s a reason I used the word “discover” up there instead of “find” or “choose.”
Unlike other areas of your business, the process of discovering your area of expertise isn’t really up to you, even if you may want it to be.
Your natural talents are strong, and although you may be good at a lot of things, there’s probably one or two things you excel at. It’s important to listen to yourself and try to draw out those talents.
Running a business is hard. If you’re not naturally good at the thing you’re selling, it’s going to be a long road.
Just because you love to eat does not mean you should open up a restaurant. What happens if you get sick of eating? When it’s your business, you can’t “get sick” of it. That’s called bankruptcy. The service you provide needs to be something that you’re so passionate about that you can ride the tough ups and downs of this whole “business” thing, and still love what you do at the end of the day.
Those of you who know me know that I’m not one to give out nice-sounding advice without something to back it up. It may be hard to figure out what your business should be, so join my bootcamp if you need more help with this.
Step #2: Choose Your Niche
Now, a lot of people confuse “niche” with what we just talked about in Step #1. And that is partially right. But, really, a niche can be one of two different things — it’s either what you do or who you sell it to.
(I guess technically it could be both, but unless you really want to sell something like whistling lessons to boy scouts, we’ll assume you’re going with one or the other.)
When you “niche yourself,” the goal is to make it so that you’re selling to a very small, specific audience. This is called your “target market” which is (hopefully) made up of your “ideal clients.”
So, there are two ways to go about this.
You can either (a) sell something extremely specific to everyone, or (b) sell something general to a specific group of people.
When dealing with online service-based businesses, most of the time you are going to be doing it the second way. But in rare circumstances, you’ll come across someone doing it the other way, like Elizabeth Goddard, who has an email marketing/tech business, but she only works with ConvertKit.
How you want to go about this is totally up to you!
Need help figuring out exactly how to niche yourself down? Join my bootcamp!
Step #3: Picking the Name of Your Business
I go into a lot more detail about how to choose the name for your business in the bootcamp, but I’ll give you some of the basics here.
Basically, there are two options: (a) use your name, or (b) use something that’s not your name.
For example, my business is Miranda Nahmias & Co. Obviously this is a case where I have chosen to use my name, and a lot of other service providers do this as well.
But there are also plenty of other really popular service-based businesses that have chosen not use their name, such as: Peppercorn Creative, Coded Creative, and Freelance to Freedom Project.
One key to remember here is that your name needs to be available as a domain name and on social media. A lot of common names or popular keywords aren’t going to work, so definitely keep this in mind when you are picking a business name.
Step #4: Set Up Your Website
Some people would argue that you don’t need a website to run a successful business. And while that’s true, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Eventually, if your business does well, you obviously will need to get one at some point. And the payoff of having a website (building traffic from social media and search engines) is mostly a long game. So starting one sooner rather than later is going to help you in the long run. It’s okay if it’s just a work in progress for now.
One important part of figuring out how to start an online business is setting yourself up for success. Having a website in general is a big part of that, but it’s also about what kind of website you have.
Websites can be built in a variety of different ways using a variety of different tools. And pretty much every “guru” or “mentor” out there is going to have their recommendation for how you should do it.
Well, I’m not going to be left out. I have a recommendation, too.
In order to maximize your potential for profitability, I recommend that you set up a self-hosted WordPress site with a customizable theme. You’ll probably want to have some sort of page building and/or lead generation tool, too.
Don’t worry if that sounded like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to you. I explain exactly how (and, more importantly why) to do it this way in the bootcamp.
Step #5: Join a Few Social Media Platforms
Yes, I really mean a few platforms.
It’s tempting to bite off way more than you can chew (trust me, I’ve so been there). But you’ll regret it if you try to keep up with 9 different platforms every single day. And that means we’re talking dozens of hours of work every month to keep them all active and growing!
So, do yourself a favor, and start with 1-3 platforms at first.
Actually, the very first step is to go and secure your business name on every single platform you can think of. Just because you’re not using it yet doesn’t mean you won’t later. And you’ll want to make sure you have a spot there when it’s time.
Now that that’s done, you can take some time to decide which social media platforms you want to focus on in terms of being active and publishing content.
Going back to when we talked about niches earlier, that step is really going to help us here.
Each social media platform has a certain demographic that it appeals to. Certain types of people are going to be more active on one platform vs. another. It’s up to you to discover which platforms your audiences like best, and then start showing up there.
Step 6: Profit
Once you have all of these pieces into place, it’s time to start selling!
For now, I hope these first 5 steps on how to start an online business helped you along your journey.
My recommended next step for you? Join my free Build Your Biz Bootcamp to go in-depth on everything we covered today. If you think you’ve got these things covered already, hop on over here to learn how to start booking clients.