How to Start an Online Business

You want to learn how to start an online business, but don’t really quite know what to do first. You’re not sure if you should even attempt to do it because you don’t know the costs or risks versus the reward of running your own online business. Today, it’s very easy to start an online business and begin making money right away.

If you’re just looking to make some cash on the side while you remain employed full-time elsewhere, you can do that. But, if you want to quit your job and solely focus on creating an online business, then you’ll need to ensure that you do the necessary research beforehand to make the best choice for yourself.

Steps in Starting Your Online Business

Step 1. Know the Market. Before you can even start an online business, you need to know what type of product or service you want to offer to the general public. Take a look online and try to find out what the public wants. What kind of industry is popular and booming? Is the product you want to sell very popular, meaning that you will have a lot of competition? This step will take time. It won’t happen overnight, nor will it happen over a span of a month or two. It can take some people months (perhaps a year) to truly find a product or service that is right for their business.

Step 2. Register the Business. Once you know what type of online business you want to operate, you’ll then need to visit your respective state’s website to register your business. There are many steps within this step as you will likely need to obtain a company name, registered agent, licensing/permits, tax identification number, business accounts, hire a lawyer and accountant, find employees (if applicable), etc.

Step 3. Choose a Website Name. Do you want your website name to be identical to your company’s name? If so, you’ll want to first find out if the domain name is available before even choosing your business name and registering it. A lot of business owners choose to trademark their website name. If you choose to do this, you’ll need to take some additional steps to trademark the domain name.

Step 4. Find a Company to Host Your Site. This company will rent you the space you need on its server to host your website. With a little research, you can find free hosting services, but if you choose to pay for such services, you’ll want one that offers all the services you will need to successfully run your online website.

Step 5. Get Help with Designing Your Website. You could design your website yourself. It’s not too difficult. But, if you choose to hire someone to help you, you’ll want to ensure that this person or company has the experience necessary to increase foot traffic on your site. The site should be user friendly and appealing to the eye. Remember that your website is what brings customers back. For example, if you choose to sell handbags, the visuals must be strong in order for your customers to spend money on a handbag that they haven’t seen in person.

Step 6. Figure Out How to Deal with Delivery. You’ll want to provide a couple of different shipping methods, including expedited shipping choices. Will you use FedEx, UPS, or another carrier? What will that cost you in terms of shipping and overhead costs? Where will your products ship from? If you are offering downloadable products (e.g., e-books), you may want to consider using an electronic fulfillment company.

Step 7. Advertise. Another very important part of the process. Without promotions, sales, specials, and advertising, no one will know that your online business even exists. You’ll have to increase the amount of foot traffic to your website. You can do this in several ways, including registering your company with large search engines such as Google and Bing; content marketing; direct mailing to potential customers that will include specials and coupons; promotional ads that can be found on billboards and other brick-and-mortar areas.

If you need help with starting your online business, you can post your legal need (or post your job) on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.