Nov 17, 2023
Tashia T. & Nadia D.
How to Start an Online Business That Makes Money in 10 Steps
With the rapid growth of eCommerce, starting an online business to get another revenue stream is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, getting your small business online comes with many benefits, including lower cost and easier scalability when compared to a physical one.
However, you will need a solid business plan and a marketing strategy to turn it into a long-term profitable business.
Keep reading as we will provide a step-by-step guide to starting an online business and share tips on making it a successful one. Let’s start by exploring why it would be a great idea to start your own online business today.
How to Start an Online Business – Video Tutorial
Find out how to start an online business to make extra money.
Reasons to Start an Online Business
Many people find it challenging to start a physical business since it requires lots of resources. It might take a large investment and a long time to scale.
To avoid this, you can start your own internet business to make money online. Here are the top benefits an online business can offer.
Low Cost and High Margins
When starting an online store, you won’t need to rely on a geographical location to showcase your products. Furthermore, there are online business model options, like affiliate marketing or dropshipping, where you’re free from stocking items yourself. As a result, you can comfortably operate your small business from home.
In fact, small online business owners in the United States earn more than $60,000/year on average.
Great Scalability Opportunities
One of the best things about starting an online business is scalability. When your website outgrows its resources, you can simply switch to another hosting plan.
In comparison, an offline business owner might need to open a new store, which is much more expensive and complicated.
With an online business, there are no fixed business hours – your potential clients can buy your products or services 24/7.
Additionally, it is possible to run your business from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection and your device. Therefore, you can balance work and your personal life easier while your store keeps running all day.
To have your website up and running 24/7 it’s important to pick the best web hosting company that offers an uptime of no less than 99.9%.
Thanks to social media platforms and digital marketing tools, you can reach a broader target audience with an online business.
In fact, global retail eCommerce sales are forecast to reach $7.4 trillion by 2025, meaning its demand will only grow.
How to Start a Successful Online Business in 10 Steps
After discussing the eCommerce advantages, it’s time to cover the essential steps to starting your own online business.
1. Conduct Market Research
The most important step in starting a business is defining your target audience. To accomplish this, you will need to conduct market research. Doing so will validate your business ideas, showing whether there’s a demand for a product you want to sell online.
First, you need to decide on your business niche. Then, conduct keyword research to determine whether the niche is going upward. For a new small business, entering a popular niche with a wide market will be easier, so try to look for niches with a high search volume.
Use Google Trends to measure this. For example, if you want to sell beauty products, type in the keyword “beauty.” Then, compare it with specific keywords or sub-niches like vegan skincare and luxury makeup.
2. Solve a Problem
It is always easier to sell products or services that solve your customers’ problems. To do so, identify a missing product from the market or simplify a certain process. For example, financial management companies make mobile apps to help people efficiently manage assets from home, or an online store might sell women’s clothes from organic materials.
Aside from Google Trends, social media is a great place to find a problem to solve. TikTok is one of the most popular platforms where you can find various tips, product reviews, or stories that let you know what people are into nowadays. You can also dive into online forums and engage in discussions.
Here are a few online business ideas to try:
- Online learning – creating an online course is a low-cost and profitable business idea, but you will need specific teaching skills.
- Clothing store – despite changes in trends, the fashion niche is always popular. You can start a dropshipping business or your own clothing line.
- Affiliate marketing – as many people trust recommendations more than brand advertisements, joining affiliate or influencer marketing plans might be a profitable idea. Especially if you have already established a following on social media platforms that could be your target market.
3. Examine the Competition
Analyzing your competitors can help you determine their unique selling points, understand the target market, and create a successful business strategy. Try listing similar businesses in your chosen niche and look at their unique qualities.
Compare your competitors’ business models, pricing, marketing strategies, and technical elements on their websites. Then, do a SWOT analysis to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to find out what you can do better.
To conduct the competitor analysis and design a business plan easier, we recommend using the following tools:
- Semrush – using this SEO tool, you can compare the online performance of up to five competitors at once. Semrush will provide data on their online marketing strategies, top keywords and articles, backlinks, and site traffic.
- Sprout Social – track important social media metrics, and measure the reach and engagement through your competitors’ hashtag performance.
- Mailchimp – check how your emails perform. You will see your open, click, and unsubscribe rates compared to your competitors.
- iSpionage – analyze other companies’ copywriting strategies, profitable keywords, and landing pages to optimize your ad campaigns and improve website traffic.
- Buzzsumo – learn competitors’ content marketing strategies. You can track their most performing content and find the best practices for your business.
- Whatagraph – collect and visualize the performance data of all your marketing channels. If you use tools like Mailchimp or Semrush to track your competitors, this tool helps you easily present your findings through actionable reports and dashboards.
4. Select Your Business Model
Before starting your online business, it is essential to consider how to make it profitable.
A business model helps you define your products and services, target market, and spending, so you can calculate your pricing more accurately to increase profitability.
Here are the most common online business models to consider:
- Business-to-Business (B2B) – a company sells their products or services to another business. Examples include Amazon Business.
- Business-to-Consumer (B2C) – in this transaction, a company sells their goods and services directly to consumers. For example, online bookstores and subscription models like camping tools rental.
- Consumer-to-Business (C2B) – this type involves individuals selling products or services to companies. Affiliate marketing, blogging, and freelancing are famous examples of C2B.
- Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C) – a consumer sells goods and services to another consumer, usually through online marketplaces like eBay.
5. Determine Business Licenses and Laws
Whether you’re running a traditional or an online business, you need to meet the legal requirements.
In this part, we will go over the online business laws in the United States. To help you understand better, we have created a step-by-step guide small business owners should follow,
Define Your Business Structure
Your business structure will affect the role of parties managing the business, taxes, shareholders, paperwork submission, and personal liability. The most known business structure types include sole proprietorship, general partnership, limited liability partnership, limited partnership, corporation, limited liability company, and nonprofit corporation.
Create and Register a Business Name
Choose a unique name to distinguish your brand from existing ones in the market. Use a brand name generator if you’re struggling to come up with a creative name for your new business. To avoid legal issues, make sure no one uses the name you want. You can search the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark database to find out if someone has already registered a trademark over a name.
Once you’ve picked a name, register it to protect your brand. Here are four common ways to do so:
- Trademark – as a trademark owner, you will get protection for your business name so that no other businesses in the same or similar industry can use it. Trademark registration complies at a national level.
- Entity name – this registration protects your business at the state level to prevent multiple companies from running under the same name as yours.
- Doing Business As (DBA) – registering a DBA won’t provide you with legal protection. Still, you can benefit from it since many online businesses aren’t allowed to use the owner’s bank account to process payments.
- Domain name – with the domain name registration, you will get the website address you want to identify your business and services with.
Apply for Federal and State Tax ID Numbers
A federal ID, also known as an Employer Identification Number (EIN), allows your business to pay federal taxes, open a bank account, hire manpower, and apply for a business license. To get one, you can apply for it free of charge after registering your business.
For state tax purposes, not every business needs to pay. Therefore, you should find out whether you need to get a state tax ID for your business. Also, note that some states may require a different application process.
Obtain Business Permits and Licenses
As in offline business, you will also need to get licenses and permits for your online business. In some cases, you may need to obtain them at federal and state levels, depending on your products or services.
For more common businesses like restaurants, farming, and construction, you can get a permit and license from the state. However, the federal government has a list of regulated business areas, including agriculture, alcoholic beverages, and commercial fisheries. Additionally, you may need a license to sell products or services in regulated industries like financial services and health.
Create a Business Bank Account
Once you’ve got an EIN for your business, gather other requirements like business paperwork and licenses to open a business account.
Having one lets you manage all payments for any business transaction. Also, a business bank account offers benefits such as more robust legal protection against business risks and access to better funding options you may not get with a personal bank account.
Consider Relevant Digital Regulations
Some businesses may involve transactions of creative works such as books and clothing lines. While trademark registration can protect your business name, you may want to apply for a copyright or patent for your products.
Also, customer privacy should be your priority when running an online business. Ensure you comply with privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The latter will be relevant if you’re offering products and services in the EU.
6. Get a Domain and a Web Hosting Plan
Now that you’ve learned the steps to develop a good online business idea and comply with the regulations, it is time to plan your business website.
The first step is to buy a web hosting plan and a domain name.
Look for these factors when you’re deciding to buy a hosting plan:
- User-friendliness – some plans require more advanced technical knowledge to manage, while others offer an easy-to-use interface suitable for beginners.
- Compatibility – if you are building a WordPress website, we recommend opting for WordPress hosting since it will smoothen the process of integrating the CMS into your site. Alternatively, check for website builders.
- Space and bandwidth – calculate how many resources you may need to store your website files. Also, consider the size of site traffic you expect to avoid problems.
- Speed and optimization – fast load speed is essential to improve your website SEO and user experience. Consider using a reliable web hosting service to optimize your site.
- Security – check if a hosting provider offers multiple layers of security to protect your website from malicious activities.
To help you save money, some web hosts, like Hostinger, offer a domain free of charge for 12 months together with a hosting plan.
Ideally, your domain name should be short and unique. Avoid using numbers and hyphens, so visitors can memorize your website address easier.
We recommend using the domain name checker to make sure your desired domain name is available. In case it isn’t, the tool will offer you some alternative titles or different domain extensions.
Domain Name Checker
Instantly check domain name availability.
7. Make a Website
Finally, it is time to make a website. A well-designed site helps create a great first impression of your business, letting potential customers learn more about your brand and services. You don’t have to be a graphic designer – it is enough to find a suitable WordPress theme.
Don’t forget to also add all the relevant information about your business, like the contact, legal, and About Us pages, if you wish to have a fleshed-out eCommerce site.
Alternatively, you can use a website builder to create your own website. This method is quicker and easier. However, it comes with fewer customization options. Usually, you have to choose from ready-made templates.
For example, Hostinger’s website builder comes with over 100 customizable templates for various types of businesses. The tool has an easy interface and a drag-and-drop page editor.
If you’re creating a store, opt for Hostinger’s website builder online store plan, which gives you access to many eCommerce features, including:
- All-in-one dashboard – manage your inventory, tracking, orders, reports, and customer service in one dashboard.
- Cross-channel selling – connect your store to Amazon, Instagram, and Facebook to increase your sales.
- Shipping options – choose your preferred shipping company from various options available in your location.
- Ads automation – launch tailored Google and social media ads to attract more customers.
- Customer relationship management – send emails, customized codes, and discounts to maintain your customers’ satisfaction.
- Payment gateways – add the most popular payment methods to your online store.
Additionally, as an AI-powered website builder, this platform comes with tools like a business name generator, a heatmap, and a content generator.
Whether using a CMS or a website builder, run some tests before you start selling your products online to make sure everything works as planned.
8. Create SEO-Friendly Content
Organic search makes a great source of website traffic. Therefore, improving your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to get a higher ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Search engines rank sites based on several factors, including content quality. Therefore, adopt the best SEO practices for your content strategy. Use SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs to analyze keywords with high volume and spread them in your content. Also, consider matching keywords to search intent to increase your chances of attracting potential customers.
When people search for “sunscreen” on Google, search engines will show many different results like tips, shopping ads, and product pages. This is because this keyword doesn’t show the intent clearly. However, when they use “affordable sunscreen,” they intend to purchase a sunscreen product. Therefore, choose the keywords to optimize wisely.
9. Establish a Social Media Presence
Aside from SEO, you should use other eCommerce marketing strategies like social media marketing. Doing so will help grow your customer base and engage with your target audience.
With many popular social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter, you should choose the most suitable one for your new business.
Given the different functions, user engagement differs on each platform. For example, Instagram is more popular with users under 35, while many people use Tiktok search to look for products. Therefore, you will need specific strategies for each platform you’re using. These strategies might include incorporating valuable small business marketing tips to effectively engage your audience and promote your products or services.
Alternatively, create multiple social media accounts to reach your target audience better. However, this will take more time.
10. Utilize Email Marketing
Email marketing is a great way to engage with your customers, build customer loyalty, and increase sales. You can do so by sharing discount codes, special offers, and newsletters, as well as collecting feedback from new and existing customers.
With tools like Mailchimp, you can create your email marketing campaigns easily – simply import your contact list and choose a message template. Then, divide your contacts into different segments to reach your target audience. Finally, add a brand logo and images for your campaign and check the email content preview.
Don’t forget to track metrics to see how your emails are performing. Knowing your customers’ needs will help you improve your overall business strategy and increase sales.
Starting an online business is affordable, highly scalable, and gives you access to the global market 24/7.
However, whether you’re building a brick-and-mortar business or an online store, you will need a proper business plan and a marketing strategy to make money.
To help you out, let’s recap the 10 steps to starting a successful business online:
- Conduct market research to validate your new business idea.
- Ensure your business is solving a problem.
- Analyze the competition to build a better product and apply a more efficient marketing strategy.
- Select a suitable business model to gain more profit.
- Get business licenses and permits to run your business online legally.
- Get a reliable web hosting service and a domain name.
- Make a professional-looking website.
- Create SEO-friendly content to drive more traffic.
- Build a social media presence to engage with customers.
- Use email marketing to build customer loyalty.
We hope this article helps you understand how to start an online business. Good luck!
How to Start an Online Business FAQ
If you’re still wondering how to start an online business, check out our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
How to Start an Online Business With No Money?
You can start with online businesses that don’t require stock inventory and manufacturing, like dropshipping. With this business type, you will only have to maintain your online promotion strategies while your wholesaler will take care of your product orders and logistics.
What Is the Most Profitable Online Business to Start?
Affiliate marketing is one of the most lucrative business options to make money online since it requires little investment and is easily scalable.
What Is the Easiest Business to Start and Run Online?
Freelancing is one of the best online business ideas for starters. A service-based business allows you to pick your projects and clients, choose your working hours, and develop your skills. All you have to do is register on one of the freelance websites and understand how freelance work taxes function.