Taking the leap to start your own business is very rewarding!!!
You feel confident and excited about this new opportunity, and the type of freedom being your own boss can create.
It’s fun to plan your brand’s font and colors, marketing materials, and website, and to really put your creativity to work on something that not only reflects your company but also you as a person.
On the flip side, starting an online business is a lot of work!
Let me repeat that, a LOT of work!
You don’t just throw up a website, put up a couple of social media posts and call it a day.
No! You need to plan, set goals, and take the necessary steps to lay a solid foundation that will set you and your business up for success!
You may have a few questions as you begin this journey:
- How do I start an online business?
- What is the easiest business to start?
- Do I need a business plan?
- Do I need a website?
- Should I be a sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation?
I am going to cover each of these in the steps below and provide you with a few resources to get you started.
What Is The Easiest Business To Start?
I have built several businesses during my time as an entrepreneur in both the E-commerce space and as a service provider/consultant.
I can honestly say the easiest business to start from scratch is an online service-based, coaching, or consulting business.
While there are several steps that go into setting one up, which we will discuss further in this article, this is by far the easiest business to start.
It will allow you to get up and running quickly with little to no overhead.
When someone asks me how to start a business with little to no money, I always suggest an online service-based or coaching business.
While it is unrealistic to believe you can start a business completely for free, this type of business does have the lowest overhead of any business model I’ve encountered.
10 Steps To Starting Your Online Business
Following is a list of key steps to follow in order to start a business the right way.
1. Plan For Success
Do I need a business plan?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked from someone when inquiring about building an online business.
My answer is yes and no!
For most of us, when we think of a business plan we think of a 20-page document, drafted with financial projections, forecasts, profit and loss statements, etc.
When you are just getting started you don’t need to spend time putting this information together.
Wait until you start making some money and actually have data you can pull from to analyze this information.
With that said, I do believe you need to have a business plan in the sense that you need to lay a solid foundation for your business and have a plan for who you will work with, where you will find clients online, and your goals for the beginning stages of your business.
If you are reading this post you more than likely have an idea for a business; however, you may not know what to do with that idea.
Asking yourself a few simple questions to narrow down your focus can be helpful in the business development phase.
- What type of client would you like to work with (niche)?
- How much time can you dedicate to your business?
- What are the reasons you want to start a business (other than to make money)?
- Will your business be solely online, or will you have an opportunity to work with clients in person?
- How will you market your business?
- What are your income goals?
- How many clients can you work with each month?
Answering these questions will assist you in laying a solid foundation for your business.
2. Choose A Company Name
Once you have your business plan narrowed down, it’s time to create a name for your company.
If you are starting a service-based, coaching or consulting business I believe you should use your name as the business name.
This makes it extremely easy for people to refer work to you, and find you online and it gives you an opportunity to grow and evolve your business without worry that your business name no longer reflects what you do or who you serve.
With that said, I understand a lot of people do not want to use their own name, and if you fall into that category here are some best practices and ideas on how to name a business.
- Your company name should convey the main purpose and key elements of your business. Referring to your why and mission statement will help you decide on a name.
- Your business name is the core of your branding. It will be the base for everything else (font styles, colors, website, print materials, etc.). You want to choose something that makes your company stand out among the competition.
- A good company name will be simple to pronounce and spell, not be overly cutesy, appeal not only to you but potential customers, and convey what your business or service is.
- Before finalizing your name, check to make sure it is not being used by someone else. A quick Google search will give you this information. You should also check to make sure the name you chose is not currently trademarked. You can look this information up on your local state website as well as through the national database at https://tmsearch.uspto.gov/b
- Also check to make sure the domains .com, .net, .biz are available, even if you don’t want to have a website at first (although, in my opinion, all businesses should have an online presence). You don’t want to start a business and then a year down the road find out you can’t get a website registered under the same name.
3. Register A Domain Name
Websites like GoDaddy and Bluehost are great places to get a domain at a reasonable price.
Bluehost offers a $3.95 per month web hosting package that comes with a free domain and is a great option to start a website on a budget if you are planning to use WordPress to build a website (more on that in a minute).
I have also used 1&1 and cheapdomainnames.com.
You will want to get a .com if it is available; however, with the number of websites on the internet today sometimes they are hard to find.
If .com is not available then try .net or .biz.
The domain .org is usually for a non-profit organization so unless that is your situation I would recommend not registering a .org.
A .co domain is also becoming quite popular, especially with small businesses.
Securing a website domain does not mean you have to build a website immediately, however, it is important to secure your domain so as you are building your business you can make sure you have a domain name for your company.
4. Determine Your Business Structure
Should I be a sole proprietorship, LLC or a corporation? This is a common question when building your online business.
Do your due diligence in this area and research each business structure type thoroughly.
If you have questions it is wise to consult with a tax specialist who can guide you in making the right decision for your business.
The business entity you choose will ultimately determine your legal and tax obligations.
Once you have determined the type of business structure, you will need to complete the necessary tax registrations and legal documents before beginning work.
5. Set Up A Payment Processor
When you start working with clients you will need to have a way for them to pay you.
The two most common payment processors for online businesses are Paypal and Stripe.
Each has its own benefits and drawbacks so you will want to make sure to research each thoroughly.
Things to consider:
- Fees charged per transaction?
- Are payments available in your country?
- Is the processor reputable and secure?
- Does it offer multiple ways for your clients to pay?
- Do your funds become available immediately or after a certain period of time or balance requirement?
6. Become Visible Online
Many service providers, coaches, and consultants fall into the trap of believing they need a website when they are first starting out.
Let me relieve you of that burden by saying you do not need a website to start making money and in fact trying to build a website when you are just getting started can actually be a distraction.
With that said, you do need to have an online presence.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are excellent places for you to start sharing your expertise and building authority in your niche.
You can also link to your booking calendar and highlight your services in the About section or through using link.tree (Instagram).
Once you have started working with a few clients and are ready to officially launch a website, I 100% recommend building it on your own.
There is no need to hire a fancy design firm when there are so many options available for drag-and-drop website builders on the market.
These options are perfect for people who have little to no design skills.
My personal favorite is an all-in-one platform called New Zenler.
This amazing platform features a drag-and-drop website builder. However, if you are feeling less creative you can use one of their pre-set templates and just drop your information in.
If you need a bit more hand-holding as you are building out your website you can check out my DIY website course ‘Website In A Week’ which will have your website up and running in just a few days.
7. Build an Email List
Many business owners make the mistake of failing to collect email addresses because they don’t understand the financial impact it can have on their bottom line nor do they know how to start an email list.
An email list consists of the contact information of people who have given you permission to, via email, send them updates and promotions from your business.
Why is this important?
First of all, other than your website, it is the one online marketing tool you have complete control over.
Social media platforms change continuously and ultimately decide who your content is going to be shared with.
With an email list, you get to land directly in the inbox of your perfect audience member; and statistically speaking, email subscribers are more likely to buy from you because they are engaged and interested in your business or products.
In addition, it is the easiest way to keep in touch with your audience. Not everyone will check your website or social media sites, however, most people check their email daily.
There are a lot of options when choosing an email service provider to go with.
Several factors to consider when choosing the right one for your business are:
- Cost (free is not always better in the long run). Look at the subscriber cap and what it will cost after the free plan is over.
- Subscribers included per tier
- Features available such as scheduled broadcasts, segmenting, tagging, etc.
- Email design templates
- Good customer service
My favorite email service provider for entrepreneurs is Convertkit.
Convertkit is a stand-alone email service provider and is what I currently use in my business. They have a free plan to help you as you are getting started. It is easy to use, extremely versatile in its capabilities, and with its wide range of landing page templates and the ability to sell products and services through Convertkit it’s perfect for service providers and coaches just starting out.
8. Get Social
When starting your service-based, coaching, or consulting business it is important to have a social media presence.
When people want to learn more about your company, Facebook and Instagram are two of the first places they will look.
At the very minimum, I would recommend creating accounts on Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram.
You don’t have to start using them all in the beginning, but you want to make sure you are able to get accounts in your business name.
Start promoting your business on one social media site, and then as you master using it, add engagement with your customers on another site.
Not sure what to post? Relevant articles to your niche, service promotions, and behind-the-scenes looks into your business are all great ways to engage with your customers.
9. Build Brand Recognition
There are many factors that go into creating a strong brand.
Your visual brand will consist of an eye-catching logo, engaging tagline, beautiful type fonts, and colors that will all help your brand stand out among the competition.
The key to visual branding is keeping it simple and consistent across all forms of marketing.
Choose two font types (one serif and one sans-serif), three complimentary colors (a main color, and two accent colors), and a logo that represents your company style.
Take your time with this process as your branding will be the first impression people have of your company.
It will be used on your website, business cards, promotional materials, product packaging, social media sites, etc.
Customers will begin to recognize you by your brand and be able to pick your business out of the crowd.
But branding goes much further than that.
It is also your content messaging, how you present yourself online, and the feeling someone gets when they encounter you for the first time.
When you are a service provider, coach, or consultant you become the face of your brand.
Showing up consistently online and having a strong and clear message will help your audience connect with you and identify you among the competition.
10. Set Future Goals For Growth
Having a goal to work for is important in moving your business forward.
Set short-term goals you would like to achieve weekly and monthly, and long-term goals you will work towards bi-annually and annually.
Achieving both short and long-term goals gives you the confidence to succeed and assures your company is moving forward in the right direction for growth.
You will be able to tweak things as they come up, see what is working, and areas you may need to change in order to better serve your customers.
Last but not least, Celebrate!!! You deserve it! Working through these steps may take some time, but you will lay a solid foundation to build a company with unlimited earning potential.
If you would like help getting your service-based business up and running fast check out my Client Accelerator program. It is a comprehensive course and coaching program that will provide you with everything you need to build an online service-based or coaching business!