With more and more people turning to the web to research and shop for services and products, the idea of starting an online business has become appealing to many. This guide will walk you through the steps to start an online business and begin making money.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything from creating a winning online business idea to promoting your business and making it successful with customers. Follow the links below to visit a specific section.
- How to Find Winning Online Money-Making Ideas
- How to Structure Your Business
- How to Set Up Your Website
- How to Market Your Business
How to Find Winning Online Money-Making Ideas
1. Ask others what kind of businesses they want to see. Ask people you know to tell you what kind of online service might be helpful to them. Be sure to ask people from different walks of life and in various careers to get more diverse responses.
2. Notice current trends. What’s trending in the online business world right now? What kind of online services or brands do you see discussed on blogs, in magazines, or on social media? The trendiest business ideas could be good ones to use as inspiration for your online business idea.
3. Expand your hobby. Take a hobby you love and monetize it to create a small business that gets you excited to get out of bed each day. You’ll enjoy what you do while potentially helping others share your passion, too. As an example, Amazon began as a small online bookstore but is now a leader in global eCommerce.
4. Come up with a solution to your own problem. Is there anything that you could use to make your life or job easier? Lead with that as you brainstorm online business ideas. What kind of product or service could you offer that could counter that problem?
5. Browse online job boards. Use online job boards as places to find other businesses that you could draw inspiration from. Browse the boards and research businesses you find. See what they’re doing and consider improving what they’re offering with your own online business.
6. Find a way to improve something in your own industry. Think about the industry you currently work in. What weaknesses does it have, and what problems could your own business potentially solve?
7. See what people are talking about on social media. Scroll through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to see what kinds of services and brands people are talking about and enjoying. If these brands are already making people happy, you could make money with a similar kind of business.
8. Always carry a notebook. Keep a small notebook or a digital note in your phone handy at all times to jot down business ideas as they come to you. Your daily commute, your job, appointments, and events can all spark creative business ideas you’ll want to remember.
9. Browse lists of online business ideas. A list of online business ideas is a good place to start your research as you work to find the right business model fit. These lists generally include businesses that have proven successful for other entrepreneurs, so they have the potential to also work for you. Use them as inspiration to place your own spin on a product or service.
10. Try to improve a current product or service. Consider an online brand or service you use frequently. Is there anything you would do to improve it overall or make it better for a specific group of people? Consider using your ideas as the foundation for your online money-making opportunity.
How to Structure Your Business
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11. Sole proprietorship vs. LLC. If you plan to operate your business on your own, you’ll need to consider whether a sole proprietorship or LLC is the better choice. Sole proprietorship is the easiest formation, with many states requiring no more than a Doing Business As (DBA) name registration to start. However, an LLC offers financial protection for debts and liabilities accrued by your business. In other words, your personal assets are off the hook if your company goes into debt, provided you’ve followed all the rules and kept your business finances completely separate from your personal finances. An LLC also allows you to have one or multiple partners, whereas a sole proprietorship is for one person only.
12. When to form a corporation. You might also consider a corporation, which may give your business some extra tax deductions you can’t get with a sole proprietorship or LLC. However, corporations are more complex to form and have more yearly requirements for compliance. You’ll also pay more to form a corporation in most states.
13. Write a business plan. A business plan allows you to outline your goals for your business. Your plan should include your mission statement, information about your products and services, information about your team, and your marketing plan.
14. Bring in the right people. Decide whether you need to bring in others to help you grow your business. Whether it’s a partner to share most business tasks with or a few freelancers to help with miscellaneous tasks until you grow, spend time looking for the best fit for your new venture.
15. Apply for licenses. Determine if your business requires a license. You can do this by searching your state’s website for businesses. You should have all necessary licenses in place before operating.
16. Get insurance. Not all online businesses need insurance, but it usually can be a good form of protection, even when it’s not necessary. For instance, if your product accidentally harms someone, your insurance coverage can help you pay for damages and court costs. Most businesses can benefit from general liability insurance, at minimum.
17. Learn your local laws. Check with your local business governing agency to ensure that your business is legal where you live. Your locality might also require licenses in addition to your state’s licensing requirements.
18. Organize your finances. Create a separate checking account for your business to keep business and personal funds separate. This makes it easier to review your accounting throughout the year and when it’s time to file taxes.
How to Set Up Your Website
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19. Get a domain name. Before you purchase a website, think about your domain name. It’s best to make your name something that’s easily memorable and relevant to your business. Check with your domain registrar to make sure the domain name with the extension you want to use, like .org or .com, is available.
20. Get website hosting. Many hosting companies offer domain registration, too, so you may be able to purchase a hosting plan and register your domain together to save money. Choose a hosting company that’s known for its fast and responsive services to give customers a positive experience.
21. Choose an ecommerce platform, if necessary. If your business involves selling products from your website, you need an eCommerce platform, like Adobe Commerce or Shopify. Read our guides comparing Shopify and WordPress, Wix vs. Squarespace, and Wix vs. WordPress to learn more about each platform and find a suitable option.
22. Find the right theme. Platforms like Wix, Shopify, and Squarespace come with various themes to fit your business website. Other platforms, like WordPress, offer more customization for you to add a theme you love. Look for business-focused themes catering to your specific type of business to make your site easy to navigate.
23. Or, get help from a professional designer. A professional website designer can be an excellent investment if you have some money to spare as you set up your online business. After a consultation, your designer can create a tailor-made theme for your business. Find a designer on Fiverr, Upwork, or other freelance marketplaces, or use your social media network to find recommended designers.
24. Make navigation user-friendly. Limit your navigational menus to just a few options, especially if you have a multi-product company. When customers click a link to go to a page, you can use the sidebar for more options and filters to help them find what they need.
25. Let others know more about your company. Don’t forget to add an About and Contact page with information about your company and how to get in touch. A 2015 report from Huff Industrial Marketing and KoMarketing found that 52% of people want to see an About page on a business website. Another 64% also want a Contact page to be available.
26. Don’t forget a blog. Blogging is an excellent marketing strategy for online businesses. Set up a blog on your website, and keep it updated at least once a week with relevant content optimized for search engines. Blogs drive traffic to your site and help position your company as an industry leader through helpful and informative content.
28. Optimize it for mobile, too. With more and more online shoppers using their mobile devices to access websites and buy products and services, it’s crucial that your website is as mobile-friendly as it is computer-friendly. Learn strategies to make your website mobile-friendly.
29. Create a content plan. Will you keep your business content strictly blog-based, or do you want to branch into social media, YouTube, or even podcasting? Develop a plan for your content outreach to follow as you build your business. While it’s acceptable to start small by sticking to one avenue for a while, eventually spreading into other content areas can help you grow your business by marketing to new audiences.
31. Add social media links. Add follow buttons to your website to let your visitors know where to find you on social media. You can also add share buttons to your blog to make it easy for blog readers to share your content on their social media channels.
32. Work on getting backlinks. Build backlinks to your site to improve your SEO and strengthen your site’s authority. Create helpful content that other sites will want to link to, like pillar pages filled with helpful statistics or summaries of new research in your industry.
33. Test everything regularly. Your site requires regular updates of its themes, plugins, and hosting-related features, so be sure to check for updates weekly. Some website builders, like WordPress, let you enable automatic updates for convenience.
How to Market Your Business
35. Develop a marketing strategy. With your business idea solidified and your website ready to bring in visitors, it’s time to create a marketing plan that outlines who will be in control of your marketing and what strategies they’ll use. Figure out a budget before brainstorming the best ways to start marketing your business. Stick with just one or two marketing channels to start with, like social media and Google Ads. Then, branch into other marketing forms as your business grows.
36. Write brand guidelines. Brand guidelines outline the expectations you have for anyone working with your business. It includes everything from design elements to key messaging that every team member — from designers to marketers and content writers — should use in your branding to ensure a cohesive brand across all platforms.
37. Ask for feedback. Make your customers feel like they’re a real part of your company by letting their voices be heard. Send out occasional surveys to followers on social media or newsletter subscribers to gather ideas for improvement.
38. Use social media. Social media advertising can spread the word about your business across a platform quickly. Start small with a Facebook or Instagram ad campaign, testing and tweaking your ads until you create a winning recipe.
39. Ask for testimonials. Encourage customers to leave reviews of your business on social media or on your product pages. If you provide services to clients, reach out to them via email to ask for testimonials on a recent project. Get their approval to post their testimonial on your website.
40. Offer promotions and sales. One of the best ways to pull new customers in and keep current customers happy is by offering enticing promotions. Send out information about upcoming or current sales via your email newsletter, post promotions on social media, or go live on Facebook or Instagram to let your audience know when a flash sale hits.
41. Place ads on Google. Google Ads display directly in Google search results above non-paid content. When someone searches your keywords, your advertisement shows at the top of the page, potentially bringing in new customers. Target keywords that are highly specific to your business to attract niche customers.
42. Network with others in your industry. Connect with like-minded business owners in your industry on LinkedIn, in online professional groups, or at networking events. This is an excellent way to generate leads for your business through recommendations from others.
43. Use your blog as a marketing tool. As you learn more about what your customers are looking for, keep crafting targeting blog content to appeal to potential customers who haven’t found you yet. Get some inspiration from these examples of six-figure businesses built on blogging.
44. Cross-promote your content. Talk about a recent blog topic you wrote about on your podcast, share your content across social media, or make a YouTube video about a recent press release or product launch. Make the most of the content you make by repurposing it to attract people on other platforms.
45. Utilize email and texting. Text and email marketing are extremely powerful in today’s business climate because they catch busy people where they are. Some of the best email marketing software also include SMS (text messaging) marketing to help you do both with one product.
46. Add your business to directories. Online business directories used to be much more popular when the internet was still growing, but they still work. Directories like Yelp, Glassdoor, and the Better Business Bureau often come up in search results when people look for companies on these lists. Create profiles on each of them and encourage customers to leave reviews with their positive experiences.
47. Work with influencers. Place some of your marketing budget on influencers in your industry to get your company in front of those influencers’ audiences. Influencers bring a sense of authenticity to the brands they work with by creating content that fits right into the usual content they post.
48. Get involved in online communities. Facebook and LinkedIn communities are ideal for indirect marketing. Get involved in communities that give you room to share your expertise with potential customers. For example, if you sell stock photography, you might join communities for book publishers or web designers, both of which may benefit from your photography expertise at specific stages of their creative processes. You can also join communities for photographers to grow your network.
49. Write articles on other sites. Reach out to other websites in your industry to ask about a guest post spot where you can share your knowledge on a relevant topic. This is a good way to get backlinks to your site while strengthening your authority in your niche.
50. Get help from a PR representative. As you grow your business, you might find that adding a PR representative to your team is a wise investment. They can reach out to influencers, create press releases, or find websites for guest posts to extend your company’s outreach.
If you’re interested in making money online but don’t know where to begin, these tips will help you get started by setting up your own business. Once you’ve built your business website and start creating content, install social media share buttons to make it easy for your visitors to help promote your new business.