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There’s nothing like some time on your hands (thanks Covid19!) to dream up and take the leap of faith and start your own online business. Good for you!

This is an incredible opportunity that can allow you to earn income by providing your services or products to cherished customers, and ultimately provide you with a lifestyle that gives you the freedom and value you desire.

Of course, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done in order to achieve your goals, and trying to do it all yourself on a limited budget can be quite overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you focus on the most important aspects of starting your online business.

1. Choosing your business

This is obviously the most important and fundamental step on your entrepreneurial journey. There are a few things you should keep in mind when committing to your business idea.

  1. You need to care about your business – be passionate, it helps!
  2. You need to fulfill a customer’s need – why do they want to buy your products or services?
  3. You need to be able to monetise your products or services – make sure you know you can make a profit.
  4. You need to be an authority in your industry – you need to know a lot about what you are going to sell – be the expert!
  5. You need to be able to differentiate yourself from your competition – why will someone choose your product over a competitors?

Starting small, in a very focused niche is the best way to keep your business on track in the early stages. This will help you focus on creating a deliberate brand essence, providing the right services and marketing towards your ideal buyers.

2. Researching your industry

In order to make sure your business idea is feasible you need to analyse the industry. This includes researching your competitors and the audience. Google is the best way to get started on this.

Researching your opportunity

Use Google Keyword Planner to see how many searches your products and services receive each month. Be sure to search for keywords and phrases associated with your products/services as well as exact matches. At this stage, only pay attention to the monthly searches column, as the rest of the information (Competition, Suggested bid, etc.) is for paid advertising campaigns. The ideal industry has a high amount of search traffic, with a relatively low amount of competition.

Researching your competition

Start by searching for your products/services. Take a look at the number of search results to get an idea of the scope of competition, and note the top results. Are you going up against giants like Amazon, Woolworths and Bunnings, or are most of the results niche websites and forum posts? If you’re going up against huge companies, you’re either going to have to rethink your market position or come up with a unique marketing method.

If you’re up against other, smaller competition, begin visiting all of the websites and taking notes. Does there appear to be an industry leader? Is everyone offering the same products/services? Note things that you like about each site and brand as well as opportunities for improvement and ways that you can differentiate yourself.

3. Set up your website

Now that you’ve confirmed your business is viable, it’s time to set up your website. This is an absolutely critical step. No website = no business. Some people choose to outsource this job, as it can be lengthy and a bit difficult if you’ve never done it yourself.

However, doing it yourself is perfectly feasible and all the tools and knowledge you need is just a Google search away! Here’s a basic breakdown of the process if you decide to set up your site yourself:

The first step is choosing a domain name. It should match your business, and be short, memorable and marketable (as well as legal – don’t choose a domain that contains a trademark). Once you’ve picked out the domain it’s time to choose what platform you’re going to use to set up your website. There are a number of options and each one comes with it’s own set of pros and cons, as well as costs. Some include hosting in their packages, while some need to be hosted by a third-party site such as GoDaddy or HostGator. Be sure to do a bit of research before committing. Here are some of the top choices used by online businesses around the globe:

  • Shopify – our recommendation for online stores
  • Wix
  • WordPress
  • Squarespace

Once you’ve decided on a domain and platform to set up your site, it’s time to design your website. Here are some tips to make sure your website is as beautiful and user-friendly as possible, in order to maximise conversions:

Simplicity is key

This is the mantra of every web-designer. The more difficult a site is to use, the less likely you’re going to keep visitors on it.

Have a plan

Building a website is like putting together a puzzle. Don’t just dive in. Build out your site architecture and map your navigation menus before you start. Then design your pages.

Optimise for mobile

Consider mobile optimisation in every step of your build. Approximately half of the internet’s traffic comes from mobile phones, and that number is only expected to increase.

Guide your user through your site

Visitors love easy to use websites that help them find the information they need quickly and comfortably. If your user gets lost, it’s most likely that they’ll bounce. Creating an engaging and easy to navigate site will increase your leads and conversions.

Utilise calls-to-action

Calls-to-action are how you tell your visitors what to do. It tells them the next step to take on each page. Your calls-to-action should be clear and provide some sort of value to your customer that helps them progress down their buyer’s journey.

Link your social accounts

Your website should be the hub for your business. All of your social accounts should link to it and vice versa. You want to be able to interact and engage with your audience wherever they “gather” online.

Use your own photos and sincere copy

Avoid stock images as much as possible. Use your own photos and write sincere copy that communicates your core values. This is how you begin to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Optimise for SEO

You don’t have to be an SEO Analyst to cover the basics. Using proper page titles, information hierarchies, and check your meta descriptions will optimise your site. You can always kick up your SEO efforts later.

Set up Google Analytics

This free tool provides valuable insights into your website, it’s position in the market and how visitors are interacting with it.

4. Marketing your business

Once you’ve got your website up and running, it’s time to start marketing. There are a number of different types of digital marketing that you can utilise, but you need to be careful where you spend your time and money. Creating an inbound marketing strategy is the most effective and economical way to market yourself. (For more details read our blog “What is Inbound Marketing?”) Here are three main areas you should focus on when beginning your marketing strategy:

Content marketing

A good content strategy is focused around creating meaningful content that communicates your brand values, answers your audience’s questions, solves their problems and gets them to engage with your business. To do this you need to know who your audience is. Creating buyer personas will help you figure out what type of content is most valuable to your customers. HubSpot is the best tool to put together a comprehensive content strategy and analyse your results.

Email marketing

Email marketing is the best way to deliver relevant information to specific people at significant times. It is the most personal form of digital marketing and allows you to have conversations with your audience. Do a bit of research and decide on an email marketing service such as HubSpot, MailChimp, Constant Contact, Drip or SendInBlue. They all provide tips and tricks for beginners and will help you start your email marketing campaign as well as provide adequate tools for growth.

Social media

Growing and maintaining an active social media presence can be really tough. Plenty of people let it fall to the wayside because they don’t think they can keep up and provide value in such a fast-paced digital environment. But without your key social media accounts created and active, you’re missing out on a very powerful way to engage and interact with your audience. You don’t need to study Instagram’s algorithms and post 10 times a day to establish a professional, personalised and engaging social media presence.

Use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule out one post a day to build your profile and following, and be sure to respond to all meaningful engagements. This doesn’t take up too much time and allows you to develop your brand essence as well as open up a new line of instant and personal communication with prospective buyers.

Speaking of social media…are you following us on Instagram yet??

5. Networking

The best way to develop your products and services, learn about your industry and grow your business is to network with other like-minded individuals. There are already vast networks in place online and in coworking spaces and other types start-up environments. Reach out to respected members of your industry and see if they want to have a conversation. Invest some time and energy attending coworking and entrepreneurial events. It’s amazing the type of inspiration you’ll find when you put yourself out there!

6. Analysis and re-strategising

All of your marketing tools provide insights and can generate automatic reports. It’s foolish not to use them. Schedule your reports and set aside time each week to go through all of them. Take detailed notes and implement your insights into your marketing strategy. Analysing these reports is the best way to see what’s working and where you need to improve.

Hopefully this guide has provided some relevant information for you as you begin your entrepreneurial journey. For more marketing and design tips, tricks and trends, sign up to get our Hustle Email.