How to Start an Online Business

Are you interested into a step-by-step guide on how to start an online business from scratch? You are in the right place. In this post we cover:

  • Successful Online Business Models (and Which Ones are the Best to Start With)
  • How to Find a Profitable Online Niche Market
  • How to Validate Your Online Business Idea (video tutorials including the approach and examples to model)
  • How to Build Your Online Presence (including setting-up your own website within 20 minutes)
  • Step-by-Step Action Plan to Develop Your Online Business (even if you are an absolute beginner)

1. Successful Online Business Models

Let me ask you a question: how many types of online business models are you aware of? There are lots of ways to make money online. In this post I will share with you the ones that I consider the best. Check out the video below! We go through examples for each of the following online business models:

  • Advertising. The easiest to start with is Google AdSense. But there are hundreds of advertising options you can choose from.
  • Affiliate Marketing. This is where you take a cut from selling someone else’s product. In the case of digital products, your commission is usually higher than 50%.
  • Lead Generation. A lead is a potential client for a product or service. See the video for more details.
  • Saas: Software as a Service. Fancy name, right? This means that people pay a subscription fee in order to access a service that is usually hosted in the cloud. For example, instead of purchasing a WordPress plug-in that enables you to build opt-in pages, your you may sell a subscription-based service that enables clients to set-up their opt-in pages.
  • eCommerce. Think about Amazon.com. This is the best eCommerce example there is. Of course, Amazon.com is a beast. But there are lots of smaller companies that have developed a successful e-commerce business.
  • Consulting / Other online services. Consulting is a huge industry. Maybe you haven’t considered this option yet. However, you do have an expertise. Don’t underestimate this resource. You can teach others what you know best and you can make money out of it.
  • Information Products. This is by far my favorite digital business model. You can turn your knowledge into income in a scalable way. I’m sure you’re wondering which one should you start with. There are a number of elements to consider in order to answer this question. Each of us can get to a different answer. But to give you some perspective, here are a few considerations:
    • You can get started immediately with making money via capitalizing on your specific expertise. You can start offering coaching / consulting services. Your challenge then is to promote your services effectively, so that your potential clients find you.
    • If you start a new blog for example, the easiest monetization model to start with is Advertising. More specifically, just place a Google AdSense code on your site, write posts and start building traffic.
    • Affiliate Marketing is more lucrative, but slightly more involved. You need to get targeted traffic and be familiar with the customer conversion basics.
    • My favorite model is Information Products. Coaching for example is great, but you are trading your time for money. Therefore, there is an upper limit to how much you can scale this. Information products, such as for example an online course, enable you to develop a huge leverage and scale your online business massively.

2. How to Find a Profitable Online Niche Market

A common question is: how can I find a profitable niche online? Well, the better question is how can you find your tribe.

What does this mean? You need to provide an awesome solution to a group of people who are confronted with a specific problem. Or to get more pleasure out of something. And then you need to be able to connect with those people.

Also, they should be looking for a solution and they should afford to pay you for providing that solution.

In order to identify an area in which you can add significant value to a group of people, think about your passions and about your expertise. Can you find a common ground between the two? Good. Now you are ready to start a more in-depth research.

If you’re stuck and can’t really find an idea you are excited about, here is a list of market places to check out. If you plan to develop a digital product, just browse the sites below to see what others are up to.This is a kind of brainstorming to get your brain juices flowing and find your inspiration:

  1. ClickBank
  2. Amazon.com
  3. Google Search Auto Complete. I included a tutorial on how to use this in the full start an online business course, which you can access for free.
  4. Google Keyword Tool. You can find a free tutorial covering this, here.
  5. Udemy.com

3. How to Validate Your Online Business Idea

In order to validate your online business idea, try to find proof that there is both supply and demand for what you plan to offer. First, you should make sure you do have competition. This means that there are people in this market looking for that solution.

For now, your competitors are the ones providing solutions. No worries. I’ll cover a bit later how to differentiate versus competition and win customers. When you find your online business start-up idea, you’re not done yet. As you need to put in a lot of effort to start a business, we need to make sure that it’s worth it, right? Thus, in order to validate that you idea has great potential for developing a profitable business online, you need to double-check that:

  • This is a profitable niche that allows you to make money
  • You can develop an unique selling proposition that positions you well versus competition.

I prepared for you two quick tutorials, to get you through the process of double-checking the two mentioned elements.

3.1. Is there Money to be Made in Your Chosen Niche?

Let’s take a few examples, to get you through the process I use to understand if a niche entry has good potential to be profitable.

3.2. Assess Competition and Your Right to Win

Check out what your direct competitors are doing. Are you able to come up with something better? In order to give a positive answer to this question, you need to do a bi of homework. What you need to succeed is a strong unique selling proposition (USP). Read on and watch the tutorial at point 4.2 below. You’ll see a few examples of irresistible USP.

4. How to Build a Presence Online

Once you have developed a vision of what you want to do, you need to start building your online presence. But wait! Before setting-up your website, there is something else you need to do first. Make sure you develop a strong USP, i.e. Unique Selling Proposition.

4.1.Develop Your Unique Selling Proposition (This is Key!)

So what is this Unique Selling Proposition? Briefly, this is what differentiates you versus competition. You need to find something that is unique to your offer. Like mentioned before, competition is good. Don’t run away if you see that there are others who offer solutions to the same problem.

But you need to identify an unique angle to approach the problem and deliver your solution. You need to develop a hook, that will make the members of your tribe resonate with you and become interested in hearing more about the solution you offer.

You do this via understanding really, really well the members of your tribe. What is their biggest frustration? What is the root cause of that frustration? How can you add to them more value than your competitors? In order to understand the concept better, watch the online marketing tutorial below, to discover a number of strong USP examples.

4.2. How to Start a WordPress Blog Step-by-Step

Let’s get now to the website. I recommend that you setup a WordPress blog. This is a very easy to use platform and you can get started in no time. When I say blog, I mean a website that hosts your business.

You will not be blogging just for the sake of it. Your posts will add a lot of value in the niche you enter. However, never forget that your goal is to run an online business, remember?

Anyway, let’s get back to starting your blog. Click here to get your hosting package from Site5 and setup your WordPress blog.

4.3. Get Started with Your Social Media Accounts

Nowadays social media plays an important role in growing an online business. My recommendation is to develop a social media presence from the beginning. You shouldn’t spend a huge amount of time on social media at this stage though, as there are other areas of your business that can provide higher leverage.

But it’s important to be present on the key social media venues where you can find your tribe. This is actually the first step to take. Set aside some time to understand which social media channels are used in your niche. What are the ones that bring you the most value-added? Why should you do this? Because although some people advocate a “be everywhere” communication strategy, it’s very challenging to do this.

An alternative approach is to identify the one, two networks that work best in your niche and focus on them. In principle, the ones you should definitely take a look at are the following:

  • Facebook. This is the biggest social network out there. No matter what business you’re in, this is a must.
  • Google Plus. This is one of my favorite networks. While it’s not as big as Facebook, it’s growing and it has a lot of great features. Make sure you check out Google Plus Communities and the Hangout feature.
  • LinkedIn. This works best if you are into B2B. It’s a network skewed towards professionals. But again, even if you are not into B2B, double-check if it’s a popular venue inside your niche. LinkedIn Groups are similar to Facebook Groups and to Google Plus Communities. Use them to engage with members of your tribe. Provide value first and you can boost your website traffic and conduct effective influencers outreach.
  • Twitter. I recommend that you get on Twitter from the beginning, irrespective of your niche. It’s also a platform that you can use to easily engage into real-time conversations with members of your tribe. And also, to get in-touch with influencers within your niche.
  • Youtube. Video marketing is huge and Youtube is THE platform when it comes to video. This is a search engine in itself, with it’s own eco-system. It has a huge potential to drive targeted blog traffic. As soon as you are able to produce your own videos, get on Youtube.

If your niche is a “visual” one, then make sure you also check-out:

  • Pinterest. This social network works best for niches in which visuals play a big role. For example, think about the cooking market. However, if you are creative, you may find ways to make Pinterest work in your niche, as well.
  • Instagram. I would prioritize this one only if you are active in a “visual” niche. It works well in conjunction with Facebook.

I recommend to choose two, maximum three social media channels and focus on those in the beginning.

5. Let’s Get Started: Your Step-by-Step Online Business Action Plan

In order to succeed in your online entrepreneurial endeavor, you need to get to work. To summarize this guide, here is a step-by-step action plan to help you succeed:

  1. Choose Your Business Model. How will you make money online? Will you go for advertising, affiliate marketing, lead generation, SaaS, eCommerce, consulting / coaching, information products?
  2. Find Your Tribe. Identify a Profitable Niche. If you need inspiration, you can browse marketplaces such as Clickbank, Amazon, Udemy and use tools such as Google search and Google auto-complete.
  3. Validate Your Online Business Idea. In order to do so, you need to answer two questions: (i) Is there money to be made in your chosen niche? and (ii) Do you have a right to win versus competition?
  4. Build Your Presence Online. After completing the steps above, you are ready to start building your online presence. First, develop your USP, i.e. your unique selling proposition. Then setup your website and then your social media accounts.

Once you have built your presence online, you need to drive targeted traffic, to make your business known. You need to add value to the members of your tribe and make your value proposition known to them. If you’ve followed all the steps above, congratulations! You are well on your way to building a profitable online business.

In order to succeed, the key is to focus and take action. Just get started and go through the steps above, one at a time. You can do this. Now it’s time to take the first step towards setting-up a rewarding lifestyle business online.

Depending on your ambition, you can develop a passive income stream or full-time income business, to gain financial FREEDOM (and maybe escape 9 to 5, if this is would make you happy). Here you are! Please let me know what you think in the comments section below. Let’s connect on +Google, Twitter or Facebook. And don’t hesitate to get in-touch! I’m happy to talk to like-minded entrepreneurs.

how-to-start-a-blog

How to Start Blogging

There is no limit to where you can take your blog. The possibilities are endless. This being said, there are a number of elements you need to take into account in order to make your blog a success. I summarized below for you the key ones:

Find Your Niche

This is a crucial step. In order to be successful with blogging, you need to find that fine balance between going too broad or too narrow. If you go too broad, your message will get diluted in the huge noise of the blogosphere, as there are lots of other blogs covering the same topic. If you go too narrow, you will not have a genuine right to succeed, as there is not enough audience available.

The best approach is to choose something you are passionate about. If you are an expert and you know all the ins and outs of a certain topic, go for it. This is a great scenario, but it’s not the only one. If you are a complete beginner at something, just start a blog and document your journey to becoming more kn§owledgeable.
Additional reading
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Choose a Domain Name

Once you have decided what your blog topic is, you are ready to choose a name for it. I recommend you go for a brandable, catchy name. Or you can choose to go for your own name. In any case, go for a .com, unless you have a specific reason to choose something else, like for example a .net, an .org extension and so on. The .com domain names have the best recall.

In order to get hosting, a domain name and have your WordPress blog setup with one click head over to Site5. They offer 24/7 support and 45 days money back guarantee. For the price of a coffee per month, you can have your blog up and running in less than half an hour. Start now!

Make Sure Your Blog is Setup Properly

If you followed the guide shared on this site, your WordPress blog should be setup well. Make sure that you regularly update WordPress to its latest version and back-up your site before you do that. There is a list of base Plugins that I recommend: Akismet – to protect yourself from spam, WordPress SEO – for various website optimizations, Contact Form 7 – to easily publish a contact form. You can watch my WordPress settings guide here.

Publish Great Content Consistently

There are tons of blogs online and there are more and more started each day. The only option to cut through the clutter is to offer massive value to your readers. A good idea is to write a few pillar articles that really go in-depth into a topic, and link to them prominently in the sidebar. This will show people that you are serious about providing quality and value and their trust level for you will go through the roof.

Then, your content needs to provide value consistently. This means that it should be informative, entertaining, or both. Give people a reason to follow you. What is it that your blog can offer to make them come back?
Additional Reading:

Use Engaging Headlines

The headline is a critical element you need to pay attention to. Try to ignite the curiosity of the reader, as the decision to read or not your post is made based on the headline. Spend some time to see what are the type of headlines used by top bloggers and you will soon start to get a feeling on what drives higher readership. Additional reading: How to Write Captivating Titles

Use Images to Spice Up Your Posts

How do you find a long post that is made out of large blocks of text only? It’s pretty discouraging to start reading something like that, right? Images help a lot in keeping your readers attention, set the tone for the post (when used in the beginning), illustrate a “how-to guide” (when used as screenshots) and so on. Make sure you have permission to use the pictures. One great source for free to use images is Flickr – look for images licensed for Creative Commons use. Follow the instructions on how to attribute the picture.

Alternatively, you can buy pictures from stock photo sites. For example iStockPhoto is a great such source for example. You can find there a huge selection of great photos, searchable by keywords.

Photo: Lemsipmatt

Video

Video is a great tool to share information in an engaging way. It is therefore a good idea to include videos in your posts. It may feel a bit overwhelming to start with videos in the beginning. But as soon as you have get a grip on the basics, I suggest to look into video. This is the future. Video traffic is on the rise and you can get a part of it as well, when you share your content on platforms such as Youtube, Vimeo and Metacafe.

Build Relationships with Other Bloggers

Resist the tendency to view the other bloggers in your niche as competitors. Try to view them as allies, as your success depends to a large degree on the support you get from them. So don’t be afraid to reach out to them. You can start by becoming a subscriber to their blogs and via posting thoughtful comments regularly. You can also engage with them via Facebook and Twitter.

Start with small steps, as relationships need time to develop. But if you put aside some time to do this daily, you will see great results.

Additional reading: How to Develop Relationships with Bloggers

Email Marketing

You have probably already heard that building a list is highly praised in the online circles. Many people tend to ignore this in the beginning. However, most bloggers declare that they should have started building a list right from the beginning. So what is all this about? Well, one of the objectives of your blog is to establish a relationship with your readers. You don’t want someone to just quickly scan your post and then never come back to your blog.

You want to turn as many readers as possible into subscribers. These people get notified when you publish new posts and you can also send them other messages via email. It’s a great way to build regular traffic and to develop a deeper relationship with your audience.

Additional reading: Bloggers and Email Marketing

Drive Traffic

In my experience, this is the biggest roadblock you face in the beginning. However, the good news is that there are so many possibilities out there. If you are determined to make it and put in some work, you can definitely succeed. You can get organic traffic via Google, video traffic from Youtube videos, social media traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, referral traffic from partner blogs, paid traffic from Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, Pay-Per-View Advertising, Solo Ads and so on. One strategy you may follow is to be everywhere. However, you need to manage the risk of losing focus if you try to run after each and every traffic source. I would rather identify what are the strategic traffic sources that are best to focus on in your niche and then go all out on them.

Additional reading: How to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog

Social Media

Social media is something you need to definitely look into as a blogger. Think about Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and so many other social media venues. They offer great opportunities to engage your audience beyond your blog. Think about each of these channels as a separate audience touch-point. It is much more effective to build and grow a relationship if you stay in-touch with your readers across several communication platforms.

This being said, it is challenging to build a strong presence on each and every social media platform. I support the approach of choosing up to two strategic platforms and focusing on those. In most cases, you can build on synergies. For example, when you publish a new post, you can share it both with your Twitter and Facebook followers. Not to mention that you can take re-purposing your content even further.

  • Think about making an infographic summarizing your article.
  • You can share it via Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.
  • Turn your article intoa a pdf and share it via doc share sites.
  • Then turn it into a slides and post it on slide sharing sites.
  • How about turning that Powerpoint presentation into a video? Then you can capitalize on the huge reach of Youtube and many other video sharing sites.

In order to manage everything easier, you can use services such as HootSuite and Buffer.

Additional reading: Strategies to Measure Your Social Media

Photo: fredcavazza

Monetize

If you are interested to monetize your blog, there are lots of options to do so, depending on the topic of your blog, on your preference and on the level of involvement and work you want to have.

  • You can monetize almost any blog with Google AdSense. In brief, you set a place of your site where Google can place ads. The beauty of this is that Google automatically detects what each page is about and it displays relevant ads. Advertisers pay Google a price for this advertisement and in turn, Google shares a part of this revenue with you.
  • You can write for example a Kindle book or develop a digital course on a topic related to your blog. Are you blogging on a topic you’re an expert at? Then, why not develop such a more advanced training that your readers will be happy to pay for?
  • Yet another option is to go for affiliate marketing. This means that you can sell digital products that are developed by other people or physical products sold by big retailers.

Let’s say you have a blog about Social Media. You can sell a Social Media Digital Training developed by a well-known expert and you get a percent of the price. Say the training sells for $100 and you get a commission of $50.

Or let’s suppose that you blog about baby care. You can review cribs, toys, various baby care products and then refer the potential buyers to Amazon. When a potential client buys a product, Amazon pays you a commission.

This is a very comprehensive topic and we’re just touching the tip of the ice-berg here. These are just a few of the main monetization models and there are many variations of each model. What is your main roadblock? Feel free to contact me and share what is the number one barrier that prevents you from taking action and starting your blog right now. I’m happy to provide perspective and point you to resources that may help in solving the problem. There are lots of people starting blogs everyday and Internet offers all the opportunities in the world. It is definitely possible and it’s up to you to start the blog you’ve been dreaming about. So go ahead! Start right now!

To your success!