Want to know how to start an online business without overwhelm and confusion then you’re in the right place.
I love creating systems around everything I do. And having started several online businesses in different niches as well as having a business degree, I know there typically isn’t one way to start and grow a successful online business.
However, there are logical steps you can take to organise what you do and when you do it. Then in each of those logical steps you simply choose your unique path to success.
Having a logical framework ensures you don’t miss any steps, that’s why I created the Rise to CEO Blueprint, which is the Step Up Boss Up Society’s business starting success framework.
In today’s post, I’ll be walking you through the 9 steps to starting your online business using our framework.
What is an Online Business?
First things first, let’s define what an online business is. Since it’s post-pandemic it’s highly likely you know this already, but just in case, let’s get it covered.
Essentially, an online business is any kind of business that operates primarily on the internet.
This could be selling products or services, creating and selling digital products like ebooks or courses, or even offering coaching or consulting services.
If you don’t have an office or a physical store and all your sales are done online even if you have stock in your house or a warehouse you are operating an online business.
Benefits of Starting an Online Business
There are so many benefits to starting an online business.
For one, you have the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. You can set your own schedule and work on your own terms.
Plus, with low overhead costs, an online business can be more accessible and affordable to start compared to a brick-and-mortar business.
But before you jump in headfirst, it’s important to have a plan, or as I like to call it, a game plan.
Having a clear strategy and roadmap can make all the difference in the success of your business. It can help you stay focused, make informed decisions, and stay on track towards your goals.
So, whether you’re looking to start a side hustle, transition to full-time entrepreneurship, or just curious about what it takes to start an online business, this guide will walk you through the key steps and strategies you need to know. Let’s get started!
How to Start an Online Business
Step 1: Choose & Validate Your Business Idea
First things first, you need to come up with a solid business idea that you’re passionate about and that has a viable market.
Think about your skills, interests, and experience. What are you really good at? What do you love doing?
Can you turn that into a business idea that can solve a problem or meet a need in the market?
Once you’ve brainstormed some ideas, it’s time to do your research and validate your idea.
Look at similar businesses in your industry and see what they’re doing right and where there might be gaps you can fill in your potential niche.
Talk to potential customers and get feedback on your idea. This will help you refine and improve your idea and ensure that there is a demand for it.
You can do this by joining Facebook groups where your potential clients are and asking some simple market research questions.
It’s also important to consider the financial potential of your business idea.
You don’t want to invest time and money into a business that won’t be profitable in the long run. Look at the potential revenue and costs associated with your business idea and make sure it’s a sustainable and profitable business.
Remember, your business idea is the foundation of your online business. Take the time to choose and validate a solid idea that you’re passionate about and that has a real demand in the market.
With a clear and viable idea, you’ll be on the right track towards a successful online business.
The important thing to remember at this stage is that this is the big picture idea, next you’ll need to niche down to have complete clarity on;
- Who you want to serve [Your Ideal Client]
- How you will serve them [Service + Products]
- Is there a need for what you will offer in the market? [Market Need]
What’s the easiest business to start?
The easiest and quickest business to start is a service-based business.
Start thinking about the types of services or products you’ll offer.
Are you going to offer coaching, courses, consulting, eBooks or a membership site? [we’ll dig deeper into this in step 6.]
Next, you’ll go find out if who you want to help needs what you want to offer, by doing some quick research. Facebook groups are great for this. You can jump into a group and search for terms like “need help” or “struggling with” to see what people are struggling with.
Coach’s Tip: Don’t worry if you don’t feel like an expert in the market or thing you want to do, ask yourself is it a skill I can learn and implement or teach others? Am I willing to write, talk and learn more about this subject for the next 3-5 years of my life?
Step 2: Clarify Your Target Audience & Niche
Once you have a solid business idea, it’s time to get clear on who your target audience is and what niche you want to focus on.
This will help you tailor your products or services to meet the specific needs and desires of your ideal customers.
Start by creating a customer avatar. This is a detailed profile of your ideal customers.
Think about their age, gender, income, interests, and pain points.
What problems do they have that your business can solve? What needs or desires do they have that your business can fulfil?
Once you have a clear idea of who your ideal customer is, it’s time to focus on your niche.
This is the specific area of your industry that you want to specialize in.
For example, if you’re starting a printables store on Etsy, you might focus on educational printables for children or you could sell wedding printables.
This will help you differentiate your business from your competitors and appeal to a specific segment of the market.
By clarifying your target audience and niche, you can create a more effective marketing strategy and build a loyal customer base.
This step is also essential to the viability of your idea. You should make sure that you have chosen a target audience and niche that are willing and able to pay for your services and products.
If you have a niche where everyone needs and wants your solution but none is actually able to pay for it, your business will fail.
Remember, it’s better to be a specialist in a specific area especially when you’re starting out than a generalist in a crowded market where no one knows you.
So take the time to really get to know your ideal customers and carve out a unique niche for your online business.
Step 3: Research Competitors & Your Business Model
In order to succeed in your online business, you need to have a solid understanding of your competitors and your business model.
Start by researching your competitors, both direct and indirect, and see what they’re doing right and where there might be gaps in the market.
Look at their pricing, products or services, marketing strategies, and customer reviews.
This will help you identify areas where you can differentiate your business and offer something unique to your target audience.
Next, think about your business model. This is how your business will generate revenue and make a profit.
Will you offer a one-time product or service or will you have a recurring revenue model like a subscription service?
Will you sell physical or digital products or will you offer a service?
Think about the costs associated with each option and the potential revenue you can generate.
It’s important to have a clear understanding of your business model and the costs and revenue associated with it.
This will help you create a sustainable and profitable business that can support you in the long run.
Remember, research is key when it comes to building a successful online business.
By understanding your competitors and your business model, you can create a unique and profitable venture that stands out in the market.
This is your opportunity to get a clear understanding of the industry you’re about to enter, so you can better position yourself.
At this point, you should know who you’re going to help, how you’re going to help them, how you’ll make money helping them and how you can position yourself differently in your new market.
Step 4: Brand Your Genius & Develop Your Brand Identity
In this step, you’ll take everything you’ve learnt so far and create your unique brand strategy and brand identity assets.
Developing a brand that stands out and people connect with is essential in a competitive market.
Your personal brand is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for.
It’s not just your logo, colours and fonts. It’s about your brand voice, the language you use, and how you want people to think about you and your business.
What would your ideal client say about you to someone looking for your service or product? How do they feel when they think about your brand?
It’s important to develop a brand that is authentic, unique, and consistent across all platforms. This includes your website, social media profiles, marketing materials, and products or services.
Think about what makes you unique and what sets you apart from others in your industry. What are your values, beliefs, and passions? How can you incorporate these into your brand? By doing this, you’ll be able to create a personal brand that resonates with your ideal customers and builds trust and credibility.
It’s also important to brand your business identity.
This includes your logo, colours, fonts, and imagery.
Your brand identity should be visually appealing and consistent with your personal brand and the message you want to convey to your audience.
By branding your unique genius and developing your brand identity, you’ll be able to create a strong and memorable brand that stands out in the market.
This will help you build a loyal customer base and establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.
Remember, your personal brand is your secret sauce, so take the time to develop a brand that truly reflects who you are and what you stand for.
Step 5: Register Your Business & Set Up Your Financial Systems
Registering your online business is an important step in establishing it as a legal entity.
This includes registering for a business license, tax identification number, and any other necessary permits or licenses in your state or country.
Doing this will protect your business and personal assets and ensure that you’re operating legally and in compliance with local laws.
Setting up your financial systems is also crucial for the success of your online business.
This includes opening a separate business bank account, setting up an accounting system, and implementing a budget.
By doing this, you’ll be able to keep track of your expenses, revenue, and profits, and make informed decisions about the direction of your business.
It’s important to keep your business and personal finances separate, as this will help you track your business’s financial performance and ensure that you’re paying the appropriate taxes.
You may also want to consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper to help you manage your finances and ensure that everything is in order.
By registering your business and setting up your financial systems, you’ll be able to create a strong foundation for your online business.
This will give you the peace of mind and confidence you need to focus on building and growing your business.
Remember, taking care of the legal and financial aspects of your business is crucial for its long-term success.
Step 6: Outline Your Client Transformation
When it comes to starting an online business, it’s important to focus on the transformation that you’ll provide to your clients. Because people buy results, not products.
So you have to be able to define what is it they’ll be able to achieve or experience as a result of working with you.
This is the foundation of your business and the key to attracting and retaining loyal customers.
Take some time to think about your ideal client and what they’re struggling with. What pain points or challenges are they facing that you can help them overcome?
Once you’ve identified these, think about the transformation that you’ll provide to them. What will their life or business look like after working with you? How will they feel?
By outlining your client transformation, you’ll be able to develop a clear and compelling message that resonates with your ideal clients.
This will help you attract the right people to your business and establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
Remember, people buy results and outcomes, not just products or services.
So, take the time to identify the transformation that you’ll provide and communicate it clearly to your audience.
Step 7: Outline Your Signature Framework & Minimal Viable Offer
In order to deliver the transformation that you promised to your clients, it’s important to have a step-by-step framework that guides them through the process.
This framework should be based on your expertise and the unique approach that you bring to your business.
By developing a framework, you’ll be able to provide a consistent and high-quality experience for your clients and differentiate yourself from your competitors.
And this is not just for service-based businesses, digital product businesses can create a framework and sell products created around that framework.
For example, you can create:
- A Productivity Planner based on your own specific Framework
- Create stickers that support the use of your framework in the planner.
- Create a course teaching the framework.
- Create a membership site to give further resources and support for getting more productive, using the steps in your framework.
- Create a group program around your framework.
- Consult with a business about how to implement your framework in their business.
To create your signature framework, start by taking the transformation identified from the previous step and identifying the key elements of your framework and how they’ll help your customers achieve their goals.
Think about the steps that they’ll need to take, the tools or resources that they’ll need, and any other important elements that will help them succeed.
You may want to map out your framework visually or create a written outline to ensure that it’s easy to follow and understand.
Once you have your framework in place, it’s time to create a minimum viable offer that delivers value to your customers.
This offer should be based on your framework and provide a clear and compelling solution to your customer’s pain points or challenges.
It should be something that they can implement immediately and see results from quickly.
Remember, your minimum viable offer doesn’t have to be perfect or comprehensive. It’s simply a starting point that you can use to validate your idea and get feedback from your customers.
As you continue to work with clients and refine your framework, you can continue to iterate and improve your offer.
By outlining your signature framework and creating a minimum viable offer, you’ll be able to provide a clear and effective solution to your clients’ needs.
This will help you establish yourself as a trusted expert in your industry and attract more clients to your business.
Step 8: Create a Business Game Plan & Marketing Game Plan
Now that you have your framework and minimum viable offer in place, it’s time to develop a roadmap for achieving your business goals.
This involves setting measurable targets and creating a plan to achieve them.
Your game plan should include specific action steps, timelines, and milestones to help you stay on track and make progress towards your objectives.
In addition to your business game plan, you also need to develop a marketing strategy to attract and convert your ideal customers.
This involves choosing the right channels and tactics to reach your target audience and communicating the value of your offer in a way that resonates with them.
When developing your marketing game plan, start by identifying your target audience and the specific pain points or challenges that your offer addresses.
This will help you craft messaging that speaks directly to their needs and motivates them to take action. Then, choose the right marketing channels and tactics to reach your audience, like social media, email marketing, or content marketing.
Remember to set specific goals and metrics so you can track your marketing efforts, like the number of leads generated or the conversion rate of your landing pages.
This will help you measure the effectiveness of your tactics and make data-driven decisions to optimize your results.
By developing a clear and effective business and marketing game plan, you’ll be able to stay focused and make progress towards your goals based on facts not just feelings.
This will help you build a sustainable and profitable online business that provides value to your customers and supports your personal and professional growth.
Step 9: Launch Your Business
Congratulations! You have made it to the final step of starting your online business – launching it!
Here are the steps to follow:
- Keep developing your minimum viable product or service (MVP) that delivers value to your customers. Version 1 can be beta tested in a soft launch. Then gather feedback, and testimonials, and improve to launch with version 2.
- Set up your website that showcases your brand and offers. Your website should reflect your brand’s personality and values. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown website, a simple landing page or sales page will do. This also includes setting up platforms like Etsy. Make sure it is user-friendly and easy to navigate, with clear messaging and a call to action.
- Set up the necessary systems and tools to manage your business, including email marketing and customer support. Your customers need to feel supported and valued, so ensure you have systems in place to respond to inquiries, manage orders, and provide customer support.
- Set up and Implement your marketing and sales systems to attract and convert your ideal customers. This includes setting up your social media channels, scheduling tools and creating any initial marketing content and assets you need for launch. Your sales system should be easy to use and guide customers through the process of buying from you.
- Develop a delivery system to deliver your products or services to your customers. Your delivery system should be easy to use and ensure that customers receive their products or services on time and in good condition. This is your course platform, membership site or email marketing software if you’re delivering instructions for coaching and consulting services.
- Launch your business and celebrate your achievement! Once everything is set up, it’s time to launch your business and start serving your customers. Don’t forget to celebrate your achievement and share your business with your network.
- Continuously iterate and improve your business based on customer feedback and market trends.
Starting an online business is a continuous process, and success will come with persistence and effort.
Listen to customer feedback and adapt your business to meet their needs. Keep an eye on market trends and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Remember, starting an online business is a journey, and each step is important.
By following these steps, you can launch a successful online business that meets the needs of your customers and helps you achieve your goals.
Starting an online business can seem like a daunting task, but with the right strategy, tools, and mindset, you can achieve your entrepreneurial dreams.
Remember, success requires dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to learn and adapt along the way.
If you’re ready to take the next step and turn your idea into a reality, I encourage you to download my Rise to CEO Roadmap below.
This free resource will guide you through each phase and step of the framework, providing you with the tools and guidance you need to launch and grow a successful online business.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s do this together!
What kind of online business should I start?
Answer: The best online business to start is one that aligns with your skills, interests, and values, and addresses a need in the market. Do your research, identify gaps in the market, and create a unique solution that can differentiate your business from competitors.
How much does it cost to start an online business?
Answer: The cost of starting an online business can vary widely, depending on the type of business, industry, and resources required. Some businesses can be started with minimal investment, while others may require significant upfront costs such as website development, marketing, and product development.
Do I need any special skills or training to start an online business?
Answer: While certain skills and training can be helpful, such as marketing, sales, and product development, you don’t necessarily need any special skills or qualifications to start an online business. Many successful online entrepreneurs have started their businesses without any prior experience or formal training.
How do I find my target audience?
Answer: To find your target audience, start by identifying the problem you are solving and the benefits you are offering. Then, create a customer persona based on your ideal customer, including their demographics, interests, and pain points. Use market research, surveys, and social media to gather data and insights on your target audience.
Do I need to have a website to start an online business?
Answer: While having a website can be beneficial for most online businesses, it’s not always necessary to have one to get started. You can start by creating a social media presence, using third-party platforms such as Amazon or Etsy, or building a landing page to test your idea and validate your market.
How do I market my online business?
Answer: There are many marketing strategies you can use to promote your online business, including search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, email marketing, content marketing, and paid advertising. Choose the channels that best suit your business and target audience, and create a marketing plan that aligns with your goals and budget.
How long does it take to start a successful online business?
Answer: There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the time it takes to start and grow a successful online business can vary widely. Some businesses may see success in a matter of months, while others may take years to build. The key is to stay focused, consistent, and open to learning and adapting your strategies along the way.
How do I manage and grow my online business?
Answer: To manage and grow your online business, you need to have a clear understanding of your business goals, metrics, and systems. Use tools and software to automate and streamline your processes, track your performance, and gather feedback from your customers. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and strategies in your industry, and continue to iterate and improve your business over time.