Pretty much anyone can start a business online, even with very few technical skills of your own. Online entrepreneurs are popping up everywhere, with new ideas and dynamic ways of selling their services or products.
Sadly, throwing together a website, setting up a few social media pages, and creating a smart logo, isn’t going to make you a millionaire (although you might able to launch it as a hobby side-business). So what should you do to start an online business?
Which online sales platform is best for you?
Even if you’ll be selling entirely online, you don’t necessarily need a website of your own. Online marketplaces (like Amazon, or Etsy) allow you to set up your own shop on their platform, and use their payment processing systems to manage your sales.
The distinction of products and services is an important one – some platforms are better suited to particular types of item. For instance, Etsy is great for handmade goods, whilst Fiverr is better for freelancers providing short projects.
There are lots of advantages, including better security, and a simpler route to potential customers who search the platform for products or services likes yours. Our guide to online marketplaces explains the pros and cons in more detail.
Building an online business with credibility
Whether you’re selling products through a website, or providing a digital service, it has a better chance of success if it looks trustworthy.
A well-designed website certainly goes a long way. As consumers and services users we’re primed to trust providers which look more presentable. You can also improve your online reputation by:
Making sure your website has a security certificate (such as SSL) so that visitors don’t see security warnings.
Offer different payment methods/ways to sign-up/book you. It lets customers use the method they feel most comfortable with.
Inviting customers to leave reviews across a variety of review sites. It lets other potential customers research you, see what you’re good (or bad!) at, and how you deal with issues.
Provide different contact methods – again, so that customers can choose the one they feel most comfortable with. It also reassures buyers that they can contact you if something goes wrong.
Creating an online presence
Your online business starts the moment you begin building your website or online store, not when it goes live. Before you start, research who your competitors are and what is working for them. You could even trial what the buying experience is like from their website or shop, and see how you can improve it.
Whilst opening a physical shop on the high street gives you natural visibility from passing traffic, the same isn’t true about launching a website. To help things along you might use online adverts through a search engine or on social media, or position yourself as a result for relevant searches (known as SEO). If digital marketing sounds overwhelming, take a look at our guide to learn more.