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How to start an online business: Be your own boss

Starting an online business

07 October 2019

1933

Several numbers to start with

On the march 2017 amount of internet users worldwide has reached 49.7% of the world population or more than 3.7 billions of people. Moreover, in developed countries this number already exceeds 80%. And as you may know, developed countries have the richest markets with the biggest business possibilities. Good news is that now during Information Age your business can easily reach potential customers on these attractive markets. Thus idea of starting an online business today sounds that amazing. 

BE YOUR OWN BOSS: BENEFITS OF STARTING AN ONLINE BUSINESS

There are many advantages of having your own e-commerce business project. One of the most obvious - you will be working for yourself and maybe even from your own home.

Working for yourself is a dream worth achieving 

  1. Much less spendings for renting premises, if not their absence (at least until your company grows big). Meanwhile for regular "offline based" business a rent often takes a very solid part of monthly budget. 
  2. Competently designed website works for itself: promotes your goods or services, sells and delivers the product in case of digital goods. Here again we come to conclusion that successful online business needs less spendings to maintain it, however may demand an initial investment to make start of your business possible.
  3. An online business is not tied to a specific place and time and don't depend on it. You can easily work worldwide if you want to. Your potential customers get a global access to your business at any time: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
  4. You by yourself are not tied to specific place and time! In the modern global world when many countries became close to each other as never while borders between them are blurred, by doing successful online business you will be able to live where you want to. That's probably the most attractive advantage of having your own e-commerce business project in the internet.
  5. E-commerce is much more easier to scale. This is especially true when it comes to electronic goods and services. If you want to increase production of furniture by 2 times, you probably will need to build another factory. If you want to increase sales of copies of your Software then it all depends mostly on the quality of your product and promotion. However, if you want to provide, for example, SEO services then in order to increase scale of your business you will need to hire more SEO consultants. The above examples are a simplification, but they are designed to show the difference which exists.
  6. And the final one - you will be your own boss! The good news is that no one will be above you, the bad news - you will be responsible for everything (especially when it concerns success of your business) and will have to take all risks on yourself.

FINDING ONLINE BUSINESS IDEAS

If you want to be your own boss and just decided to start an online business then the first step will be finding your business idea. If you are still in the search for new ideas then starting from brainstorm will be useful.

Brainstorm is the process when one person or usually a group of people suggests a lot of ideas for a future activity very quickly before considering some of them more carefully.

Cambridge Dictionary

You can invite your friends into brainstorming to help you find your idea or do it alone with a pencil and notepad. It's better to choose a business niche which you know or which you like at least. Think about what you are good at and it will be a great point for the beginning of your search. 

IDEAS FOR NEW ONLINE BUSINESS

While internet of things is becoming real people are receiving more and more opportunities in the sphere of online business.

Business starts from business idea which gradually evolves in a certain business plan.

Let's list some of them, despite the fact that few ideas may sound obvious, it still can be a good starting point in seeking your idea for starting an online business.

BECOME A BLOGGER: START WITH NO MONEY

Works simple as ABC. A popular blog looks attractive as a promotion platform for advertisers. But achieving success in that sphere is not that simple. That's a long way on which you will have to constantly support your blog with fresh and actual articles. Some of them may bring a lot of traffic, some of them can become a time waste. Also it's very important to learn SEO to write your articles in a right way and optimize your website for search engines.

On other hand, in the video blogging sphere, especially on YouTube, success may depend on a pure luck. One day one of your videos suddenly becomes viral and then you wake up as famous YouTuber. We don't in any way claim that everything in video blogging depends only on luck. Many popular YouTube bloggers achieved their success over time with daily based efforts. Obviously, you will to achieve success in that sphere you need an actor talent and ability to speak freely to large group of people you do not know. 

By the way, Astratalk accepts guest posts from talented bloggers. If you have great writing skills and want to promote your blog then you're welcome.

SELL WHAT YOU KNOW: START SMALL BUSINESS WITHOUT INVESTMENTS

Having a valuable knowledge is the one of the best ways to success. Or at least for the beginning of success. Knowledge based business doesn't need much spendings, it's easy to start small (even if it would be one customer at the very start) and all your investments you invest in yourself. As Benjamin Franklin said:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth: Ben Franklin on Money and Success

However, you will need a time for a self-education before you will start to look for your first customer (if you don't already posses any knowledge that is in demand).

Let's list some of popular professions which can be scaled later in a full functional online business but at the same time started from scratch: 

  • SEO consultant - search engine optimization is simply necessary for anyone who wants to bring his business to the internet. The higher position of your website in search engines (mostly in Google since it dominates in the nearly all countries) the more potential customers you have. You can learn SEO to start as a freelancer consultant for a few customers, gradually building a fully functional business service by hiring other SEO specialists. For clarity we provide a google search trend which shows as the need for Search Engine Optimization increased with time:
  • Web-designer - anyone who wants to create an unique website needs a web-designer. This profession is as much in demand as it is competitive. While the volume of trade through the Internet grows you always will be able to find the job. Due to competition you have to be really good at what you are doing to become truly successful (however as everywhere in business). On this way your aim is to establish your own design studio.
  • Translator - knowing foreign languages are valuable, especially knowing languages of countries whose economy is on the rise. For example, right now China is the second or even the first world economy. However, despite the fact that a lot of people using chinese as their first language, relatively little use it as the second which puts knowledge of Chinese in a high demand. Since world became global, online service which translates texts/websites to different languages or provides support during video conferences became a decent idea. Online services that hire translators and where you can start your journey:
  • Content Writer - main idea is simple: good content can bring traffic to any website and as a consequence there are many people who are ready to pay for the content. If you have decent writing skills you can start as freelancer on the websites which provides text writing services and maybe founding the same kind of service when you will learn all necessary things:

That's only some of professions you can start with, there are much more which can be converted in a full functional online business: SMM manager, web developer, video editing providerAdwords specialist, tax preparer etc. Just seek for your business opportunity!

FREELANCE SERVICES TO START

Many of ideas listed above can be started from scratch. If you want to try yourself as freelancer first, we are recommending you a few platforms when you can start from scratch your way to own online business:

  1. Freelancer
  2. Upwork
  3. People For Hour

There are many of such platforms, including the local ones. It's better to represent yourself at least on several freelancer platforms.

DEVELOP OR RETAIL SOFTWARE

In case you are already a software developer, consider the possibility of becoming a coder or you have a team which is ready to launch an own IT start up then developing and selling software can be your way to success. But the task is complicated: you have to develop a software that will be in demand, properly promote it and organize tech support for your customers. All of these task are not easy to complete.

Our team chose this specific way. We developed a live chat software for e-commerce projects called Astratalk which allows to provide a customer service.

According to Gartner's forecast for 2017, global spending for enterprise software will be $394.8 billion. The market will reach $521.8 billion in 2021.

If you are just considering to become a software developer or retailer then this guide about myths that hold you back will be handy for you.

CREATIVE BUSINESS IDEAS FOR INSPIRATION

If you are person who don't want to go through common ways but want to have more or less unique business then it's better find your idea by yourself. However, we will list a few which we consider as the creative ones.

RENT OUT YOUR 3D PRINTER ONLINE

We meet usual copyshops daily. By using them anyone can print or make a copy of your documents by request. But what about the same idea with 3D printing? What if your potential customer will be able to rent your 3D printer through your website and later come for the ready product or get it by delivery?

3D printers are much more rare than usual ones due to higher price which means that for your potential customer will be much more easier to rent a printer than buy his/her own. 

However, 3D printing is less popular than usual one, but it's also true that there is less competition.

If you are in doubt and doesn't consider such idea as realistic then we you can visit website of this 3D printing service to see that it's very possible. 

BECOME AN ART COLLECTOR

If artistic aesthetics feel attractive and you have a great taste then take a closer look to an art collector position. You can find the extraordinary pieces of art and sell via your online service. Working this way you can even make new stars shine by helping unknown artists become famous!

To make a carrier as art collector you can use such service as RiseArt, this makes start small possible.

IMPROTANCE OF FINDING BUSINESS IDEA

Finding your business idea may be difficult but you have to remember that it's never so important to be sure of yourself as when you start a business. Even if dream of being your own boss sounds amazing you have to know that to do business is not easy, moreover it can be very risky sometimes. Therefore you should be 100% sure of what you are going to do and inspire confidence in others.

MARKET RESEARCH FOR YOUR FUTURE ONLINE BUSINESS

Before you will start to put efforts in your business you have to research market of your future niche. This will help you to decide if is it worth to begin making investments in the form of your time and money. 

The collection and examination of information about things that people buy or might buy and their feelings about things that they have bought.

Cambridge Dictionary

However, there is the specificity and factors you have to consider when it comes to the internet business  One of the such factors is the organic search traffic (the visitor flow brought to your website by natural search in search engines). This kind of traffic is the main source of potential customers for the most companies which are working in the internet.

If we started to speak about search engines then should be said that there are no search engines - there is only Google. Right now Google dominates most markets with only a few exceptions (on the Russian market google compets with Yandex while Chinese market is taken by Baidu). Remember: when people need something what they can get through internet - they just google it. Other search engines like Yahoo and Bing still can bring bring visitors but usually it much less in total than Google does. 

ESTIMATE THE DEMAND OF YOUR GOODS OR SERVICES

As previously said Google is a King thus we recommend to use different Google Tools to analyze size of the market and your potential competitors. Here we will speak about tools using which you will be able to scan surface but not dive deep. If you want to have a detailed analysis of certain market then you will need to find your own ways to make a precise research. That's because every business niche is pretty unique. However, work with these tools will give you a general idea of the picture in the business niche you are looking for.

GOOGLE TRENDS FOR BASIC MARKET RESEARCH

Google trends is a nice tool to start with. Using it you can see how the certain keyword popularity was changing over the time. For example, this trend shows how bitcoin popularity was changing across the world over the last 5 years:

Google trends helps you quickly check popularity of goods or services that you want to sell. So if you are just looking for an idea for your online business then this tool will be handy since using it you can find out what people are searching for (including geo data).

KEYWORD PLANNER TOOL FOR ADVANCED MARKET RESEARCH

When you need a more advanced research then Google's Keyword Planner Tool comes into play (you will have to register an Adwords account). Using it you can learn the next important data:

  • Average monthly searches per keyword - how often people search for certain keyword. Can be equated to popularity.
  • Competition by keyword - gives a rough vision of amount of competitors and how hard it will be to get in the google top by certain keyword.
  • Search trends month by month for all related keywords in total and for each keyword separately - inclusion of google trends functional.
  • Broadly related ideas (keywords) - great function which shows search statistics for similar keywords. This way you can find an online business idea of which you didn't even think. Or at least it will provide you with valuable keywords which you will use during SEO optimization of your website.
  • The overall amount of searches by all proposed keywords - very rough and not precise data which doesn't value much, because usually there are many third-party keywords which do not concern your niche directly.

Google's Keyword Planner Tool panel

Most of this data is valuable and gives an idea of the situation in a particular business niche. Use it to get an idea of what is going in the business industry you chose.

USE GOOGLE ITSELF TO EXAMINE YOUR COMPETITORS

When Coca-cola launches Fanta - Pepsi answers with Mirinda. Business is an endless race with constant competition. A good start in such race is is very important. To make a such start you need to examine what other players in that race can offer to their customers and what you will be able to offer your customers at the beginning. Very likely that you won't be able to provide the same amount of services/goods at the first day thus you will have to choose carefully what exactly to prepare for the opening of your online business.

Business is an endless race with constant competition

But before starting to make a business plan you need to check amount and quality of competitors in your niche.

CHECK AMOUNT AND QUALITY OF COMPETITORS IN YOUR BUSINESS NICHE

In "offline" business you usually compete with your neighbors. In online business you often compete with the whole world. The good news is that you can get an idea of what is going on in your niche pretty fast using just Google.

However, because Keyword Planner Tool shows amount of competition very rough you need to check everything by yourself. It's hard to give a certain advice here because a lot depends on the niche you chose. If to speak in general you need to analyze amount of competitors and services they provide and decide if you will be able to take a worth part of the market over time.

TAKING YOUR PART OF THE MARKET

Probably, we will write a full article about this topic later, but now we will touch on it very superficially giving you an initial introduction.

CREATE MODERN AND ADAPTIVE WEB-DESIGN FOR YOUR WEBSITE

Unlikely that good looking design will bring you more visitors but it will improve your conversions (transition when a visitor becomes customer) for sure. Despite the fact that mobiles devices came into our lives several years ago, many companies and entrepreneurs still having outdated web-design on their websites. So sometimes starting an online business from scratch can be for good.

OFFER PRICES CHEAPER THAN YOU COMPETITORS HAVE

If you are behind from your competitors you can attract new customers by lowering prices. This way you will lose a part of profits or maybe will even work for zero at the beginning. However, it might be necessary to have a good start in a high competition market and get your "initial audience".

USE BLOGGING TO ATTRACT CUSTOMERS INDIRECTLY

It can be sound funny and at the same time strongly in the spirit of ruthless marketing but some of your customers may not know that they need your product. Good blogging can be an important part of your SEO and also can bring people to your website. Write articles on topics related to your business and unobtrusively promote your goods and services. Don't expect much from this but some people may be interested in your business.

BE ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

It's not a secret to anybody that social networks long ago became part of the lives of a huge number of people. But the certain numbers are just staggering.

Social Media Network sites by active users. Statista, August 2017.

In this list, you should be primarily interested in Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram (and some of local social networks like Sina Weibo or VK, in case if you want to start working on local markets). Your online business must be represented in all popular social networks and actively work with your customers there, since a lot of people prefer to communicate through social media sites.

At the beginning, you probably will be able to complete all work related to social networks by yourself, but later you will need to consider hiring a Social Media Manager.

INVENT NEW SERVICES OR GOODS

This part is the hardest one but more often than not, it brings success. No specific advices, you will need to think how to surprise your customers with new types of services, goods or the way of their promotion. Anyway a fresh idea gives you only a time until your competitors won't bring their analogues on the market. "When Coca-cola launches Fanta - Pepsi answers with Mirinda". However, time can be very valuable in the business.

pitfalls OF ONLINE BUSINESS

At the very end, to show the whole picture honestly let's speak about drawbacks of an online business. Actually, there is no big difference in drawbacks between online and usual business.

THE COMMON RISKS

First of all, as in any business you will face risks. And these risks can be really huge. According to Fortune 9 out of 10 startups fail. Forbes call the figure of 8 out of 10. We recommend you to read both of these articles:

Your success in an online business can depend on many factors: competition in your niche, your seed money, knowledge, talent and even luck.

THE RESPONSIBILITY

Being your own boss means that you are responsible for everything. Especially hard it can be at the beginning, when you will be alone or won't have many employees to share responsibilities. Thus you will have to follow every process of your business: communication with customers, promotion, developing, price-list formation, hiring new employes, financial management etc.

Chance that your business will lose relevance

Today, when technologies appear one after another and many of them becoming trend-makers, there is a risk that your business can suddenly became outdated. Just think of obsolete data storage formats like DVD and VHS or outdated devices like Faxes and Pagers.

Not only due to new technologies, but because of high competition your business can lose it's relevance. Good examples are Yahoo and ICQ, both were market leaders at their good times, but now they are far away from that spot. We can recommend you to read Forbes article "Why Yahoo Lost And Google Won" to learn how and why did it happen.

We do not in any way try to dissuade you from doing business, but risks are big part of any business including online one. And you need to be ready to deal with it before you even start investing your money and own time.

in the end, a BUSINESS-cat for good luck

Good luck on your way to become your own boss! 

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