How to Start and Grow a Small Business Online

Consider yourself lucky. In today’s world, you have the option of owning and operating a small business right from the comfort of your home. You no longer need to rent a commercial space, commute to an office on the other side of the city, or manage employees. Awesome, right? We have the technology to thank for making this happen. It has connected and enabled us to become more flexible and creative in our home-based businesses. Of course, they come in a variety of forms, and there are various ways to start a small business online.

But first, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of starting a small business online. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding before you decide to start your own online business.

Pros —

  • Flexible work/life balance, especially if you’re a stay-at-home parent
  • Lower cost to actually set up your business online
  • Ability to reach more prospective customers from all over the world
  • Reduce stress! No more waking up early in the morning and rushing to work

Cons —

  • You might have to convert a part of your home into an office space/ inventory area, depending on what sort of online business you will be running
  • There is no secure salary or health benefits and insurance. And on top of that, you need to deal with laws and taxes pertaining to your business
  • Lack of face-to-face interaction with clients makes it difficult to excel at customer service
  • Working on your own can get lonely. You might feel isolated after a while

Types of online businesses you can start

There are many different ways to start a small business online. But the following are some of the most common paths that entrepreneurs have taken:

  • Turn your hobby into a business. If you’re the crafty type and enjoy making products (such as candles, soaps, jewellery, paintings, etc), you can store them in your home and sell them online. The best place to start selling your own items is Etsy.
  • Start a dropshipping store. This is when a third party produces, stores and ships your products on your behalf. All you have to do is take care of the marketing side of the business. You must find a trustworthy supplier that will provide fantastic customer service after the sale.
  • Start a blog and monetize it. Passionate about something? Start blogging about it! But don’t expect money to roll in right away. You should create content regularly and either inform, educate or entertain your readers. On top of great content, you need to sell products or services, like adspace, sponsored posts, e-books, coaching, etc.
  • Speaking of great services … you can sell your expertise! If you’re a creative professional and have experience as a marketer, designer, tutor, dog-walker, house-cleaner, you can set up a business online and offer your services for a set fee of your choosing. Keep in mind that such businesses usually take a lot of time, patience and usually require a lot of networking and word of mouth referrals
  • Become a YouTuber! In the age of short attention span, videos are growing ever so rapidly. Always wanted to be behind the camera? Now is your chance. You can start a Vblog and receive revenue by selling products to your audience. You won’t even need a fancy camera, as long as you have a smartphone with a quality lens.

How to start a small business online

Once you have figured out what sort of online business you want to start, you need to follow some steps for guaranteed success. Here’s what you should do:

Validate your business idea

Now that you have chosen the type of online business you want to start, you have to validate your business idea. To do so, you need to create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and use it for validation. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on this (a big mistake that a lot of people make). There are two ways to do this: build a website, or talk to people! For the website part, build a landing page and advertise your product. Then see if people are actually interested and are willing to pay money for it. You can also create a survey on SurveyMonkey, and ask people in your social circle to fill it out. Based on the information you gather, you can get a better sense of whether or not your business idea is worth it.

Take your idea to social media

No matter what sort of small business you decide to start, you will need to do some social media marketing and promotions. The rules are simple: post quality content and post consistently. Two of the best and easy to use social media scheduler tools are Buffer and Hootsuite. When your brand is more established, you can use analytics to keep track of posts and manage multiple channels at once.

Design and build your business website

You have your market and your product ready. Now it’s time to build up your business website. Keep it simple. You only have fewer than 5 seconds to grab someone’s attention. So choose one or two types of fonts, make your web navigation clear and simple, include an opt-in to collect email addresses, and make the overall feel of the site very customer-friendly. Try and treat your website as your business’s storefront!

Write killer copy that sells

There is actually a proven sales copy formula that takes prospects through the entire selling process. You first need to figure out how your product or service will make people’s lives better or solve their problems. Then come up with a compelling headline. Write about how your product or service will solve their problem. Next, include testimonials of customers who have already used your product/ service.

Use search engines to drive traffic to your website

The easiest way to get traffic is Pay-Per-Click. This is because PPC ads show up on the search pages right away, and also allow you to test different keywords, headlines, and prices to see what is the best selling approach. You can then use PPC ads to figure out your best keywords. Spread those keywords throughout your website copy, which will help you rank higher for organic traffic and send more people to your site!

Become an expert in your industry

We all use the internet to find information. You can go on websites such as Quora and Reddit to answer people’s questions that relate to your business niche. This way you can set present yourself as an expert in the industry. When you provide that information to others, be sure to include a link to your website. The key here is to provide free, expert advice that people will find valuable. Then on your own website include a “share with a friend” button.

Use email marketing to turn visitors into sales

The opt-in form is essential to your online business. This is because it enables your business to ask website visitors for their information, which gives your business the ability to start sending them emails. This is a great way to turn website visitors into leads, which can then be nurtured into sales-ready customers! With this, you can begin developing a relationship with them and provide them with something they find useful. You can then measure their engagement with your emails and determine when it is best to try and close the sale! These are leads who expressly opted-in to hear from your business through email communications, so you need to ensure you are consistent with your emails and following up with these leads any chance you get!

There are several email marketing tools for small businesses. If you want to start an e-commerce, blog or digital marketing business, the most powerful tool to use is Drip. This tool has smart features such as email segmenting, list groups, and visual workflow builders, which allow you to reach your targeted customers and make more sales. It’s a bit pricey ($49/ month) but you get all the useful tools to take your email marketing to the next level! But perhaps the most popular email marketing service provider is MailChimp. It’s cheaper ($10/ month for 500 subscribers) but also includes an easy email builder, segmenting contacts into groups, simple tracking analytics, and autoresponders. It’s a great option for small business owners who aren’t familiar with email marketing, as it’s very user-friendly.

Ultimately, today’s technology has closed the space between you, your business, your suppliers and your customers, which makes it a great time to start a small business online! But remember to do your research before diving into it. Think about your goals and motivations and consider what you enjoy working on. This way you can create a small business online that works well for you.

Need a loan to start your small business online? We can help. Apply today!