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:
- 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.
- Google Keyword Tool. You can find a free tutorial covering this, here.
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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.