How To Start An Online Business

How To Start An Online BusinessThis past week, I have received many e-mails asking for steps that a person should take if they are interested in starting their own online business.

I started my business very slowly and I definitely didn’t follow any steps. I made many mistakes and I had to learned things the hard and slow way.

However, hopefully with this post I can help others start an online business. Of course, reading blog posts will not mean that your business will be successful. Even if you have a plan, how you approach your business and the amount of time and effort you put into it is important.

Have a business plan.

If you want to start a new business, then you need some sort of business plan. You need to do research and think about everything that needs to be done in order to have a fully functioning business.

You need to know:

  • What your product or service is. It’s nice to want a business, but what are you trying to sell?
  • How you plan on gaining an edge over your competitors.
  • Who you will sell your product or service to.

Is there a market for the product or service that you want to sell?

Before you change your whole life around and focus on your business, you should make sure that there is a market for your product or service.

If you can’t think of a single person who would want to pay you for your product or service, then it may not be the best idea. Yes, some people start non-profit businesses, but they still have someone out there who is interested in what they are offering.

Do you have a website?

I’m not sure how people start an online business without a website, but I have seen it done. I think that if you want to create a successful online business then you need a website.

It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, just a simple website that details your services and tells a potential customer more about you. Usually simpler is better.

However, you don’t want to have such a bad-looking website that people close out of your website immediately.

The steps in my blog post How To Start a Blog can also apply to starting a commercial website as well. You will need a domain name, a hosting company, a website design, and more.

Have a way to accept payments.

I have seen this happen before. A person starts a business but didn’t think about how they will accept payments. Sometimes they don’t want to start a PayPal account because they don’t want to pay fees, or they try to deal with cash as much as they can.

I think if you want an online business, that 99% of the time you will have to deal with PayPal. About 99.9% of the transactions that I deal with are through PayPal, and I can count on one hand the amount of times that I have received a check in the mail instead.

Make your business legal.

Many people start their business without thinking about any legal or accounting aspects, but it can never hurt to start off on the right foot.

Talk to a lawyer and/or accountant about forming a company (LLC, Partnership, etc.), any licenses that you may need, tax help and so on.

Be polite to your customers.

I think you should always be polite to your customers, but you should really aim to be polite and careful with what you say when you are in the beginning stages of having a business.

For example, the other day I was on Instagram and I saw a company be rude to its customers. ┬áMultiple customers said that they hadn’t received the product. That’s when the owner of the company started calling the customers names and was yelling. I could not believe the things that I was reading from the owner. I immediately unfollowed the company on all social media accounts because I knew it wasn’t something that I ever wanted to deal with.

In the beginning, how you treat your customers will shape your reputation. If you are known for being rude, this can actually lead to your downfall very quickly.

What am I forgetting? What steps did you make sure to make?



How To Start An Online Business — 26 Comments

  1. Hi Michelle,

    Loving the post here, accepting payments would be a big one.. How’s about setting up an autoresponder or way to collect opt ins, a lead page?

    Have you used these personally?

  2. The last one, being polite to your customers, is so huge! It always baffles me when I see companies or freelancers being rude to the people whose money they’re trying to collect. There’s a serious mental disconnect going on there!

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  4. It’s interesting how much power there is in having a blog. It can help you become an “expert” in just about any industry. This credibility can be leveraged to sell products and services. I would love to manufacture a product and sell it online, definitely one of my goals over the next few years here.

  5. Great advice! Going along with being polite to customers, I think it is important to respond to each and every one of them. Whether they send you an email, post a comment on your Facebook page, or interact on Instagram, showing that you are listening to them and wanting to have a discussion goes a long way. I can’t stand it when a customer writes a rave review on a company’s Facebook page, and they do not thank them or show any kind of interaction whatsoever.

  6. Like the discussion Michelle. A big thing for me is that the business (or topic) is something I’m passionate about. If I’m not (at the very least) interested in it…..I will loose interest and the business will fail…..even if it’s in a great niche. Customer and readers can see if you’re sincere also…..and will loose interest if you’re not.


  7. Michelle,
    Great post. I’m in the midst of creating my own business in the way that you did. Slowly and making mistakes. Now I’m just trying to fit in the growth along with my work and school. It’s slow and I had time to find more info on the how to (like this one) and less displaying solely the end result.

    Thanks again!

  8. Have a website – this seems obvious, but to some, it’s not. This means have your own site, not a subdomain on a blogging platform. Not a Facebook page.

    You can utilize those things, but they can’t replace an actual site.

  9. I just stumbled over to your post here and it caught my eye. I think these are all good steps but what I would add is the #1 where you ask: Do I have something of value that I can share with others? My niece was going to start an online business selling wedding accessories a while back. And while she enjoyed looking at such items herself, she lacked the passion to make her site something different and special. So in the end the site went no where and she failed. I think we have to offer something unique and special and that’s where it all starts.

  10. I’ve been a big follow of yours since last year and you are my inspiration for finally getting off my lazy butt (although I think being pregnant with my second child is a decent excuse) to start my blog and my business and I have a question for you. How do you manage your various online identities? You’ve mentioned before that you run six different websites/blogs and I’m assuming you have various social media accounts for each. Is there a way to make it easier? I have two pinterest accounts (personal, blog), three e-mails (personal, etsy shop, blog), two twitter accounts (personal, blog), etc. How do you manage all that?

  11. Then add, “Do you have the determination, ambition and perseverance to do what it takes to succeed?”

    There are literally 1,000s of ways to become a millionaire in the USA. All you need is one. But without the drive, none will succeed.

  12. I want to have ongoing passive income just like you because it will provide me with a lot of retirement options. Can you answer the questions you posted based on your situation during at the start of your first website? What your product or service is…what are you trying to sell? How you plan on gaining an edge over your competitors; Who you will sell your product or service to.

  13. Good points, Michelle.

    I started my blog last summer and I havent paid too much attention to make it a business. I am considering it now – so its a timely post. Thanks for sharing.


  14. I’ve never been somebody who creates a business plan for a website, but my websites have never been solely for business purposes, and also I’ve never sold a good on my websites; they’ve mainly been blogs. Business plans are definitely lengthy, time consuming things, but I think they are probably a good idea if you have the cash, time and patience to create one.

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