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How to Start an Online Business

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As children, many of us flexed our entrepreneurial muscles with lemonade stands or went to all our friends and neighbors selling candy or cookies for one fundraiser or another. In this day and age, the lemonade stands, cookie boxes and candy boxes of yesteryear have gone digital. Online companies and global e-commerce are a regular part of life, and in some cases, a necessity. Global retail e-commerce sales are expected to grow more than 200 percent and reach $4.48 trillion by 2021. Whether you are involved in B2B or B2C sales and plan to be fully digital or also have a brick-and-mortar location, there’s no time like the present to grab a computer and set-up shop on the internet superhighway.

Why Start an Online Business

If you’re hoping to keep up with the increasingly high-speed wired nature of our world, an online business is a way to go. Nearly eight in 10 Americans are shopping online and more than half are using mobile devices. Globally, online shopping accounts for 8.8 percent of all retail shopping.

Online companies can also be more cost-effective than a brick-and-mortar store or office space. Rather than spending money on rent, overhead and maintenance, everything is housed offsite and you are only responsible for shipping, manufacturing and/or web-hosting costs. An online company also gives you the power to reach people all over the world at any time, as opposed to being relegated to one location, specific business hours and a set clientele. Digital businesses can make shopping for or using a product more convenient for customers which can make your company more appealing and increase your sales potential.

How to Start an Online Business

First and foremost, starting an online business means finding a need or market that you can fill then creating a product to fit that market. Whether you’re selling a physical product or your expertise as a writer, consultant, tutor or anything else, your business goal must be clear to both you and your customers. You also need to include relevant keywords to optimize your company for search engines and check out your competition to see how you can improve upon what they have done. When deciding on prices, you should know whether you have “pricing power,” which means you don’t necessarily have to slash prices to be competitive. If your service is superior and the price is worth it, your customers will pay.

Once you’ve identified a market and decided on a product, you have to select a platform to house your company. All platforms aren’t appropriate for all businesses. If you’re opening an online store; Shopify, Squarespace and Wix are excellent options. If you are offering intangible services or want to start a blog, WordPress may be a good fit.

Your business should have clear and vivid descriptions of your products and services and be easy to find via search engine. Your copy should be compelling and “click-away-proof,” address a problem, explain how your business solves it and give visitors and potential customers a reason to purchase your product.

What are the Best Things to Sell Online?

The online business market is rife with opportunities. But it’s also important to make sure you aren’t overlapping so much with other companies that you don’t stand a chance of making an impact. A good starting point for deciding what your business should be is to write down your interests and think of all the possible businesses that can come from them. Or, you can speak to friends and associates to determine what companies/services/products they'd like to be able to access online.

However, if you’re still having a little trouble deciding, here are a few of the hottest online business options that could also be winners for you:

  • Publishing a book online.
  • Creating an online course.
  • Affiliate marketing.
  • Starting an online store.
  • Being a virtual assistant.
  • Freelancing in graphic design, writing and social media management.

The possibilities are endless as a virtual entrepreneur. Keep in mind, you will need to make extra considerations to ensure that your customers’ needs are being met and that they don’t miss brick-and-mortar stores. Once you’ve found your niche, there’s nowhere to go but up. Your ideas, interests and passions are the keys to your next money-making venture.