You’re well on your way to setting up your business online! You’ve worked hard for this, but with all the ideas swirling around, you’ll need some strategy to take the leap.
Don’t fret, because doola’s right here with you breaking down the whirlwind one step at a time.
Without further ado, here are 9 steps on how to start a business online:
1. Match your “why” and your skills with a need.
Starting a business without the “why” is like driving without a destination. Sure, you can fill your gas tank up with some gas, but unless you have your directions, you’ll be wasting all of it driving in circles.
The “why” is what instigated you to create an online business, and it’s what drives you ahead every day— even if it’s just 25 feet in front of you.
But a “why” isn’t enough. You’ll also need a skill and a need.
The why is what brought you to this point and how you’ll continue through the good and the bad.
The skill is what makes you qualified to start this business.
The need is how you can show people are itching for exactly what you can give them.
Sallie Krawcheck was putting on her mascara one morning and had an a-ha moment that had built up after years of working in finance. She realized that women retire with only two-thirds of the money that men retire with, even though women live an average of 5 years longer. Sallie’s now the co-founder of Ellevest, a digital investment platform to help women navigate financial responsibility easier.
The three factors to starting her business:
The skill— She’s worked at Merrill Lynch and Citi Wealth Management, with decades of experience as a research analyst.
The need— Women don’t make the same money as men do, nor do they know what to do with it.
The why—To close the gender and wage gap.
2. Identify your offering and do competitor research.
Now that you have your “why,” you can identify what it is you’re actually going to sell. Zero in on the need: why do people need this, and how can you best provide it?
There are three categories for your online business setup:
A product— Ellevest, toilet paper, silent vacuum cleaner
A service— Yoga instructor, marking agency, online course
An experience— Lifestyle influencer, food blogger, Youtube content creator
Once you identify the best way to offer your “why,” do some competitor research. If there are others who are doing it already, you’ll know it’s a valid offer, but you’ll need to stand out. If there aren’t others who are doing it already, you won’t have much competition, but you’ll need to be confident people will buy it.
3. Prepare to niche down.
Niches are tricky; some business owners get overwhelmed, thinking that if they start with a niche, they’ll have to stick with it forever. The good thing is, as long as you stay targeted, your business will eventually lead you to where you want it to go, even if it changes a bit (if you listen, track metrics, and stay receptive). In the 2000s/2010s, few bloggers had a niche and could write about everything from pets to traveling to home decor to sports. But as blogging became more popular, they learned that sticking to one niche would help them bring in a targeted audience and not get lost in the noise.
Think of products from Treeline Cheese— a company that specializes in plant-based and gluten-free cheeses.
Or services like Sales Kiwi— a service-based business that staffs outsourced VAs solely for sales organizations.
Or Youtube channels like How to ADHD— a content creator who makes videos on the science and navigation of dealing with ADHD.
By knowing your niche, you’ll know who to reach!
4. Develop a brand identity.
Who Gives a Crap made toilet paper fun (and eco-conscious).
The company’s brand identity is clear: whimsical, punny, and super light-hearted to reflect the fun patterns on their toilet paper and sunny disposition for living life with a chuckle. They likely identified their target audience as earth-lovin’, joke-cracking, eco-conscious families, and leaned in on that approach when building their brand identity.
Read “Building a StoryBrand” by Donald Miller, and find some free branding resources on the web to start writing down how your business will present itself. It’ll put your own voice to your business so your niche can be clear, and so your identity can be as potent, as, well, toilet paper.
5. Establish a marketing strategy.
At this point, you’re ready to let others know what your business is, and what it has to say. Since you’re starting small, you can set your eyes on a few spots where your audience is hanging out (Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, or Google) and expand from there once you’re ready to scale.
Once you know where you’ll focus, develop a basic marketing strategy so you can find a simple way for clients to funnel into your business. Think about the last thing you purchased online— what was your journey? Did you search for a question on Google and find the answer as a Google Ad? Or did you find out about it from someone’s Instagram story? Did you get the answer in a Facebook group, or was it listed in a product roundup on an influencer’s blog?
Knowing your audience will be the first step to this. Create allocated social media accounts, and make a plan for what type of marketing you’ll do, whether social media, newsletter, SEO, or a bit of everything.
6. Make your business official.
Once you have the ideas down, form your business. (You can do a celebration dance in the meantime.)
An LLC is great for when you’re just getting started, and aren’t ready for big corporate tasks like hiring out.
A C Corp is great for when you’re getting funded from others or a start-up.
Using a company like doola will not only help you decide which type of company to form but will actually form it for you. Our team will walk you through everything you need to check off the boxes, including business banking and tax tools, so you can maintain your strong stride into professionalism.
7. Monitor your progress.
There’s no way to grow unless you’re learning from what you’re doing right (and wrong). Use tools within the marketing tactics you’re using, like Google Analytics or tracking email open rates, and monitor what your audience is responding to. If you’re selling a product or service, you can try beta testing or offering some free samples to friends in exchange for feedback so you can tweak your offering as needed.
9. Manage the financials.
A big part of ensuring your business scales is having a strong grasp of your budget. Our platform helps you break down the three biggest setups to start when launching your online business:
Opening a doola bank account will help you separate your personal finances and expenditures from your business ones. It’ll help you easily analyze your income and spending, prepare for tax season, and some banks even offer business credit if you need some start-up or extra funding.
Taxes get complicated, but when you’re working with a tool like doola, you can get quick, accurate, and expert filing for a flat, yearly fee, saving you thousands of dollars in potential penalties and fees.
A flat yearly fee gives you monthly categorizations of your business expenses, reconciliation, a monthly financial report, and expert customer support so you’re always in the know about what’s going on. Never lose track of your finances again.
(BONUS) 10: Have a support system that sticks by you.
With doola, you can launch your online business with ease, plus have a team of experts, supporting you alongside every change, question, and celebration. Get a custom formation packing in 3 minutes— simply click here to start!
Which online business is best for beginners?
It depends on your skillset; write down a list of what you love and what you’re good at, and chances are, you’ll find something online that will complement both.
How can I start my own business online for free?
Start by planning it out using our 9 steps to start a business online. From there, you’ll want to form your business. You can do it manually through your government’s website, or go through a site like doola to walk you through everything while setting you up with business banking, bookkeeping, and tax packaging.
What is the most profitable business to start online?
A business’s profitability is based on your passion and your skill. You can become profitable from something you love, while the next person can try that same tactic and fail.
How do I start an online business with no experience?
Go through a site like doola to help you form your business. They’ll walk you through what type of business to start, ensure you have all the proper documents, and then help you manage and scale it through business banking, bookkeeping, and tax assistance.