If you’re thinking about starting an online business, here are some fundamental ideas to help you stay focused and grow.
1. Learn by Helping Others
An easy way to learn about online marketing is to help a friend, family member, or organization set up a website to promote their product or service. As explained in my story about how to learn by helping others, this is a low-pressure way to learn the basics, and it usually costs only your time.
2. Find the Right Product Idea
The first step in starting your own business is to come up with a new way to help people solve a problem. Your idea should make you feel excited enough that you’ll have no problem spending nights and weekends building a business around your concept. As detailed in my articles about your product idea, the challenge is to solve a problem where the current state of competitors’ service stinks.
3. Start with a Simple Website
There’s no need to spend lots of money creating an impressive website before you start selling online – especially since your first goal is to prove your product idea by acquiring your first happy customers.
If your products provide real value, and if the information on your website is useful and original enough to inspire confidence, then you can probably close your first sales without an expensive website design.
4. Focus on What’s Important: Winning Your First Customers
As you start setting up your first online store, focus on the needs of your customers – and don’t get too distracted by everything else.
The basics of what you’ll need to communicate online are the same regardless of the size of your business. The keys are to publish helpful and original information about your product; show some good product images; and provide the expected details about your company contact information, warranty and service terms.
As discussed in my article about evaluating your product idea, if you’ve thought out your unique selling proposition and know your competition, it should be easy for you to demonstrate your product’s advantages online.
5. Respect Other People’s Money
Consider opening an online store only if you can be guided by a real respect for other people’s money. Your online reputation and good word-of-mouth require you to always hate disappointing customers. You’ll find tips for keeping your customers happy in my article about giving great customer service.
6. Minimize Your Starting Costs
Your very first goal should be to spend as little money as you can while you prove your product idea. Don’t be lured into paying for an expensive website design, buying costly office equipment and software, or renting office or warehouse space until you’ve proven that you have a solid idea that can keep customers happy.
My article about how to keep starting costs low gives more of the details.
7. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
I believe that the best way to start an online business is to work nights and weekends while you keep your day job. That’s because:
- By keeping your day job you eliminate the pressure to immediately turn a profit. This gives you time to start small, develop good online content, create the right service processes, learn from customers’ feedback, and make better long-term decisions for your business.
- Without the pressure to immediately turn a profit, your work can be more for fun and less for survival. In this mindset you’re able to take sensible risks and even allow yourself to fail some of the time. In other words, you’ll be able to think like a CEO.
If your product idea excites you enough, you should have no problem finding the energy to work nights and weekends while you prove your idea.
For ideas to help juggle your daytime and moonlight jobs, see my article about moonlighting tips. And, for information about special tax advantages you can get while working two jobs, see my story about how to manage your money.