Founding a business, online or physical, can seem like a daunting task, this guide will give you some ideas to get you started quickly and painlessly.
One of the primary reasons behind the globalization of markets has been the mass adoption of the internet by businesses. Small and medium scale companies that would otherwise be restricted by their geographical location, today have access to a seemingly inexhaustible breath of consumers and the financial benefits that it brings.
After the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and early 2000s, certain online business models have proven their long-term viability while other less feasible ones have completely disappeared.
Although making money online might have seemed dubious in the past, today many models can generate income. This gives you the ability to choose the type of online business that best suits your interests and knowledge base.
Some requirements are universal when starting an online business which will be covered in the first section of this guide; the second section will examine various proven business models, giving successful real word examples.
Online businesses use a universal platform to conduct their operations; the internet, so certain things hold true no matter what type of online business you choose to start. Some of these items are in fact universal for any business - physical or online.
Use Your Business To Solve A Problem
In a highly saturated market, it can seem like a Herculean task to assess and find something that the market is lacking. To add to the difficulty of this task, as an online business, your scope is now the global market. Luckily the problem you are looking solve is, in fact, a problem that no other company has solved and the consumers may not even be aware of it.
For example, the internet’s largest retailer Amazon.com was started because it was impossible for a physical bookstore to carry almost every book in print. A virtual store though had essentially unlimited space to sell books from, because it didn’t need to store them physically. It fulfilled the consumers’ need to go to a vendor and be almost sure that the product they are looking for, a book title, in this case, was available, instead of going to a physical store and not finding it.
Jeff Bezos solved a problem which many consumers didn’t even know they had until they actually saw the solution.
Of course, we can’t all be Jeff Bezos’, after-all he was on Wall Street watching the trend of the internet unfold in front of his eyes, thus the decision to quit his job and found an online business wasn’t a hard one to make. Since then, though, the Internet market has grown and with it the market share that each online company can claim. There are multiple companies on the web that share or have an identical business model and are equally successful.
Start a Website
It could be argued that all companies online or physical require a website and a strong online presence, but our focus is starting an online business. It is probably the most important requirement for an online business; your website is your shop, storefront, the forum you will use to communicate and more importantly find customers.
Before you do anything else, you need to choose a domain name or the address where your website will be hosted. This is actually part of your branding, so extra consideration needs to be invested in choosing your domain name. Would Amazon be as successful if it went by the other names Bezos was considering including Cadabra.com or Relentless.com (which Bezos still owns and redirect to Amazon.com)?
The ideal domain name would be www.yourbrand.com. That way you can use the domain name in your marketing material without detracting from your brand name. Beyond the domain name, you also need to consider what hosting company you will use to host your website. Avoid completely free web hosting, because these companies often have damaging bandwidth limitations or force “customers” to populate their sites with advertisements of the host’s choosing.
Most paid website hosts will only charge a few dollars for simple website hosting. Paid website hosting also allows the client to add services and extra items for an additional charge. Some of these services include extra bandwidth, website building tools, and content management systems like Worpress. Other website hosts also give you the ability to use various free web building tools like Wix. All of these are factors you should consider when deciding on a domain name and website host.
The great thing is that there are numerous platforms available for user created websites, or content management systems, which allow even users with rudimentary computer knowledge to create attractive, functional websites.
User Agreement For Web Hosting Services
This Agreement is made between the Provider and the Customer.The Provider agrees to provide web hosting services for the Customer and the Customer agrees to retain the Provider.
Content Marketing Website
Circling back to the initial step of starting an online business, let’s take a look at the various types of online business you can start. The oldest of the internet’s websites, the first in fact was content based, due to technological restrictions. The first website was info.cern.ch and basically explained what the W3 (as the internet was called on the website) would do, which at the time was designed to help users access documents from all over the world.
Today as billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch once stated: “content is king.” There are many subsets under the umbrella term “Content Website” or “Content Marketing Website” which can be utilized in many different ways to create income online.
The most straightforward content website is a blog. Essentially it is an online magazine with periodic updates to the text by the author or content creator. Blogs create revenue by advertising on their websites or with affiliate links. Of course, there are multiple considerations and requirements before you can monetize a blog.
First, you need to have a relatively large amount of monthly visitors and when choosing affiliates, make sure that the products they sell correspond with the market that your blog is targeting. To illustrate, imagine going to a blog dedicated to luxury lifestyle and finding an advertisement for financial products on it. Although it seems that those two items might be perfect together, the possibility of people buying financial products on a blog is minimal. If you combined a luxury blog though, with a consumer electronics retailer, then both wealthy individuals and people with more moderate incomes can be potential buyers.
Blog Business Idea
A further consideration you need to have before starting your blog is finding a subject to write about that has niche interest. This might seem counterintuitive; you’d think that a wider audience would channel more viewers to the website, thus create more ad revenue, which is true, but the fact is that you will make much more money targeting a very specific market, who are more likely to purchase products from your blog’s affiliates. On average affiliate links, or your visitors purchasing from these affiliates will provide a blog with much more than ad revenue.
A great business idea for a blog and something that fits perfectly with affiliate links are review blogs. This is a great idea due to the ability to review the product available on your blog from your affiliates. This functions in two ways, one it is a form of content marketing which we will cover in the next section of the guide and second it creates affiliate revenue for you. If you become popular enough, manufactures or retailers might even send you free products to revue, even though the ethics of this is contested.
According to Forbes Content Marketing is defined as
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Essentially content marketing is offering the customer content that they will not only want to read but engage with resulting in the purchase of either a product or a service. At the same time, much like traditional media in the past, there is a lot of competition, so it is important to concentrate, much like creating a financially viable blog, on a very specific audience.
It is better to be known within in a niche than not known at all. Great examples of successful content marketing websites or companies which used content marketing successfully are LinkedIn, Monster, and Expedia. If you are unfamiliar with these websites LinkedIn is a social network for professionals, Monster is a job posting and recruiting platform and Expedia is a travel package booking service. These websites have a two-tiered approach to content marketing. First, all of them are free to use for basic users, which generates ad revenue, but they also have premium paid membership options which they promote via their content.
The content is also an effective way of funneling a specific audience to the website. Monster, for example, relies heavily on career orientated content, since the website is a platform for recruiters and job seekers. LinkedIn has a similar thematic focus in its content but with a heavier emphasis on networking.
It’s is a general and vastly accepted misnomer that content marketing is exclusively written content. But when talking about content it can, and should include, videos, images, infographics and blog entries to be most effective. If you do not have the in-house talent to create such content, you can also hire freelancers to do the work for you. Remember to never underestimate the power of multiple social media platforms to boost your unique monthly visitors.
Content Provider Agreement
An Agreement made between the Internet Service provider and the Content provider that sets out the terms and conditions of a service or service segment.
Information Content Marketing
Content Marketing can be broken up further into information marketing. This type of content marketing is probably the most engaging for the online consumer because it revolves around specific interests and gives information and news regarding that industry. Successful examples of information content marketing are Forbes, Businessinsider and The New York Times. Most of these content purveyors started as traditional printed media publications but have transitioned into online publication.
Content Marketing Business Idea
When attempting to make income online with a content marketing business, it’s always a good idea to have a product which you can direct traffic to. These products can be a service, subscriptions or even physical items. Like every other online business mentioned in this guide, defining a specific market will maximize your chance of selling the products that you are marketing. A very straight forward business idea for a content marketing company is selling advice within your field of expertise while talking about that same subject in the content that you create.
Freelance/Service Providers’ Platforms
Numerous online businesses act as liaisons between clients needing a service and the people that can offer these services. Websites such as Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr allow clients or freelancers to post jobs and then they charge a small (or large) commission for the transaction.
Although much more technically intensive, there are online businesses which offer services such as data mining, cloud storage, and security solutions. This type of online business requires both specialized knowledge and equipment.
Another type of business within this category is websites that either offer affiliate programs or websites that collate and share coupon codes and various online deals. The second type of website that offers coupons and codes, could even technically fall under the content marketing section since they are frequently affiliated with the websites that their codes are used for.
Purely in terms of implementation, a coupon code or affiliate website is much less technically intensive than a freelancer or service provider business. Essentially you will need a domain name, website and the time to collate and publish the coupons and content on your website.
Freelance/Service Providers’ Platforms Business Idea
As mentioned above the easiest type of service provider website to set up, is either an affiliate website or coupon or discount code website. It is important to cater to a specific market or interest as it will give you a much better chance of reaching your intended audience. Having too wide of a scope when creating this type of business can have a negative effect not only on your branding but also confuse your target market.
The online business most people think of when speaking about online entrepreneurship is e-Commerce. Not without reason, Amazon completely redefined the well-established and long-lived paradigm of retail sales. E-Commerce is also the most obvious way to make income online and it's relatively easy to get started.
Although it used to take a lot of money and technological know-how to create an e-Commerce website, today most CRM and CMS providers also offer e-Commerce templates. Much like any form of retail, though, marketing and advertisement are necessary for success, and the competition is fierce. Although it might seem like an ideal and easy income creating venture, it still requires large amounts of time and energy initially.
The benefit of creating an e-Commerce business is the ability to cross-market other online businesses you might create. Many online retailers maintain blogs, social media accounts, and other revenue creators that they use to promote and market their online stores.
E- Commerce Business Idea
One of the biggest trends in e-Commerce recently is the sale and distribution of consumables that are used up and need to be renewed with relative frequency. Amazon has in fact capitalized further on this trend and introduced “Amazon Dash” which are buttons that have disposable or consumable products assigned to them. When the button on the “Amazon Dash” is pressed it automatically re-orders a predetermined amount of one of these products.
Although you probably won’t offer your target market that option you could make a website which offers daily use items, in combination with a blog that offers manufacturers’ discounts. This way you are driving traffic to your blog and your blog is funneling business towards your online store.
Of course, no matter what type of business you choose to create, you will need a business plan, financial plan, and a market analysis. Online business can be a significant source of income, if developed, built and maintained correctly, but many fail. The downfall of most online business owners is that they underestimate the amount of work associated with their businesses. Even well-established businesses need to be constantly ready to pivot and adapt due to the rapidity and fluid nature of the internet.
Although a tired and old cliché, pursuing your passion or your field of expertise has proven to be the most effective way of making money online. The man behind “Humans Of New York” started the photography blog as a passion project, but within just five years, it garnered 16 million followers on Facebook, 4.7 million on Instagram and the book that resulted from the blog has been a best seller for 29 weeks. Brian Stanton, the creator, originally just intended it as a street photography project.
Generic Business Plan
This is a Generic Business Plan. It is a formal document that is used to outline all the aspects of a business including a Company Summary, a Market Analysis Summary and a Financial Plan.