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What you didn’t know about online businesses.

1. Identify Your Target Market

identify your target market

In 2014, it was discovered that 42% of failed startups were from the result of a poor market for products and services. This didn’t mean that the ideas themselves were bad, but that the immediate market had no use for the business.

For example, it would be difficult to sell air conditioning units to people living in Alaska.

From the perspective of an online business, this will be more centered around marketing. If you offer a specific service or product, you need to make sure the right people are getting those advertisements.

This may take a bit of research as you need to identify who will be the most interested in what you offer.

Thanks to the various marketing tools available on the Internet, this process can be easier than you might think.

2. Social Media is Your Friend

social media

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent platforms for marketing. First of all, it costs nothing to create profiles specifically for your online business.

You can start using these immediately to focus on engaging your target market.

Nearly 80% of people in the United States have a social media profileof some kind. Depending on the type of online services you offer, you have access to literally millions of potential buyers through these hubs.

However, this doesn’t mean you’ll access all of these people instantly. It takes a bit of strategy and planning to get their attention when you post something new on your profile.

Luckily, you have access to a myriad of excellent tools for social media marketing.

3. Know Your Skill Set

skill set

It doesn’t take much for anyone to identify a skill that can be offered online. Many freelancers make their living from providing services ranging from filing online documents to writing.

If you have a marketable talent to offer, then you don’t need an investment for products.

In 2015, approximately one-third of the entire workforce in the USparticipated in freelance work of some kind. A large portion of this was due to online business operations.

When you don’t need anything but your skills and an Internet connection, it’s possible to develop a degree of success.

The hardest part about offering yourself in such a manner is realizing the amount of competition you’ll face.

4. Crowdfunding May Be a Source of Finances

crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is when you post your business idea on sites like Kickstarter or IndiGoGo and receive donations from others. These platforms have helped a lot of people get their projects off the ground.

What makes these platforms ideal is that you don’t have to worry about paying back a loan.

Unfortunately, not all projects can reach their goals. For instance, only 28.7% of projects on Kickstarter actually reached their monetary amounts. Since most platforms like this will deny a payment if a goal isn’t reached, you can’t assume you’ll have success raising revenue.

On the upside, crowdfunding costs nothing to join and has potential to be a worthwhile venture depending on your idea.

5. Google Analytics Can Be Enlightening

analytics

Knowing how people visit your website can help you focus your ideas about the online business. One of the things that makes Google Analytics reporting one of the most used analytical applications on the Internet is the fact that it’s free to use.

If you’re investing in eCommerce, it can show you what products are hot. If you offer various freelance services, you can see what people are more interested in.

It all comes down to the data collected by Google Analytics and what you do with that information.

Depending on how the site is set up, you can even identify specific demographics such as gender and location. This can be greatly beneficial when creating a marketing plan later.

6. Don’t Underestimate the Competition

your competition

Because it’s easy to get the ball rolling for an online business, you need to be aware of the competition. You’re not the only one trying to make a living off of the Internet without an extensive bankroll.

In fact, this is often one of the top 10 reasons why many businesses failaccording to many experts.

Starting an online company without money doesn’t guarantee failure. It doesn’t guarantee success, either. It’s worth your time to perform your own kind of reconnaissance to discover how the other guys are working.

Don’t try to copy the competition, though. Do what you can to make your company better.

7. You Don’t Really Need Staff

staffing

While having an extra set of hands would be beneficial in some cases, it’s not a necessity. Don’t worry about trying to pay someone to perform a task that you can do yourself.

If you don’t have any money to begin with, you can’t really pay this person, right?

Some owners believe they need to delegate and have a strong workforce in order to be successful. For a startup, it may be putting you on the hook for paying someone when the coffers are limited.

Besides, there are many ways to outsource small tasks to other freelancers in the event you are dire for some help later on.

8. Start Small

start small

You don’t have to step into the world of business with an extensive portfolio or a vast array of goods to sell. When you have no money, starting small gives you the chance to build up the company.

Some owners started with just a few items to sell out of their basement and expanded into larger facilities.

Again, this centers around how well you market the brand and how much effort you put into the business.

Even the smallest of online startups can attract a consumer base with the right ads or the perfect comment in social media. It’s all about building a reputation for excellent service.

Let the income of the business provide its own expansion.

9. Do You Really Need a Business Loan?

business loan

For a traditional startup, a business loan may be ideal to get the equipment and products needed for the company. However, not a lot of funding is required when operating an online organization.

While you might need a few pieces of equipment to get started, it may take less money than you realize.

If you’re looking to start an eCommerce business and need money for inventory, be smart with it. Essentially, you can run the business out of a room in your house using an old laptop.

Keep your expenses as low as possible and you won’t need a hefty loan that will loom over your head for the next several years.

You may be surprised with what you don’t need for the business just by using some of the things you have laying around your house.

10. You Don’t Need a Commercial Office

commercial office

One of the best things about an online business is that it doesn’t necessarily require a physical location. You don’t have to worry about rent or overhead expenses such as utility bills.

In fact, some online businesses can travel with you regardless of where you go.

The home-based business makes up approximately 52% of all small businesses in the United States. Should these individuals decide to move to a new part of the country, it’s possible the company can move with them without a hassle.

However, this will also depend on the type of online organization you develop. Something like an eCommerce store may take a bit of effort to move.

11. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn and Grow

grow

If you’re new to starting a business, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a trouble-free experience. There is a great deal to learn ranging from customer service to marketing.

A large portion of this education may wind up coming from trial and error. That shouldn’t stop you from learning how to adapt.

Learning is also about keeping your thumb on the pulse of your industry. Things you thought were ideal 10 years ago may be obsolete today. It will be in your best interest to keep up with trends and technologies.

After all, it’s safe to assume that your competition is doing just that.

12. Understand the Usefulness of a Business Plan

business plan

A business plan is a document that is instrumental in securing loans from banks and investors. However, it can also be helpful to you as a way to visualize where you want your company to be in the future.

Even if you’re starting this venture without a dime to your name, developing this plan can be a great exercise to get you in the right frame of mind.

Be realistic with your plan as it will help you keep focused on what you’re trying to accomplish.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate to be used as a positive focal point.

13. Don’t Quit Your Day Job

day job

If you already have a job, you’ll want to keep it. As you’re going into setting up an online business with no money, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to keep your own bills paid.

It could be months or even years before you get to a point where you can comfortably quit your regular job.

This shouldn’t dissuade you from trying, though. Some online ventures have been known to deliver quick results depending on the industry. Just make sure your own debts are covered before you cut ties to your current job.

Think of it more like a part-time job that has excellent opportunities for future advancement.

14. Maintain a Good Budget Plan

budget

Once the money starts coming in, you need to set up a comprehensive budget plan. After all, putting money back into the business could increase your income.

Focusing more on purchases that can further your business is ideal. Expanding inventory, adding services or even increasing advertising could all be beneficial.

You don’t want your success to become stagnant. You don’t have to set up an extensive research and development section of your online business, though. Put a few extra dollars into something that will boost your success.

According to statistics, approximately 75% of business owners stated how marketing was effective. This doesn’t mean you need to put in thousands of dollars in something like Google Adwords.

However, it does show how setting up a good budget plan can help your online business grow by setting aside a few dollars for advertising.

15. Be Confident In Yourself

be confident

Having confidence plays a major role in just about anything you do. Without being confident in your abilities and decisions, it may be difficult to achieve success. Doubting yourself can influence your decisions.

Don’t think of negative situations as a failure. Instead, view them as a way to learn and grow. If you apply what you have learned today, it can make you a stronger person for tomorrow.

It also doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with people who can support you when things look tense. What you may view as bad today may actually turn out to be a blessing later on if you keep a cool head.

Don’t Let a Lack of Funds Crush Your Dreams

Although there is nothing wrong with having a bit of cash to start an online business, it’s not an absolute requirement. Tenacity, exploration and diligence will be your greatest tools when trying to make a mark for yourself.

Keep in mind that more than 14 million people are self-employed in the United States, and not all of them had money to start.

Find your own potential to help you discover financial freedom by owning your own business.

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Guideline on the pros and cons of online offline business opportunities

Benefits of doing business online

You don’t have to run your entire business over the internet to benefit from online business opportunities. Small businesses might only need an email address to communicate with their clients, customers and suppliers electronically. Other businesses might use their website to conduct their entire business online.

The many benefits of online business include:

  • global access, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • improved client service through greater flexibility
  • cost savings
  • faster delivery of products
  • increased professionalism
  • less paper waste
  • opportunities to manage your business from anywhere in the world.

Customers may prefer to visit your website to find out about your products and services, instead of visiting you in person. They will also expect to see your website address and your email on business cards and other promotional materials.

Online business opportunities

How you manage your business online will depend on the products or services you offer. You may be able to use the internet to:

  • run an online shop
  • manage your suppliers
  • communicate with your customers, and get their feedback on your business
  • offer services online
  • allow customers to make reservations or appointments online
  • manage your finances, such as online banking, tax and employee pay
  • research competitors.

Future opportunities

Keep in mind that your business, as well as the variety of online tools available, is constantly changing and evolving. While you might not plan to have a website immediately when you start operating, it’s still a good idea to think about whether you will need one at a later date and what you will use it for.

When you are planning the online aspects of your business, you should:

  • research your competitors and other businesses that use online tools
  • decide what aspects of online business will benefit your business
  • review your budget to work out what you can afford
  • familiarise yourself with any laws and regulations that will apply to your online business activities
  • consider your requirements, including what software you need and what types of computer equipment you need to run it
  • plan for risks, such as computer viruses, scams, data theft and loss of or damage to hardware
  • think about what training you or your staff might need
  • be realistic about the time and budget you will need to manage the online aspects of your business

DISADVANTAGES

Now let us see what can be the possible cons of running an online business:

• Your business idea is comparatively more highly prone to duplication. Someone might cheat your business idea until you do not have copyrights bought for it.

• A lot of training and patience is required to see real profits coming your way.

• Punctuality and self realisation of importance of work are important aspects of online business as there is no boss to guide you or make you realize of the deadlines.

One thing that is to be kept in mind for sure is that you should keep a check on flow of emotions as success generally comes only after few failures. So once you are through the how to start an internet business phase then patience and passion holds a lot of importance in determining the life of your online business.

Related: 10 steps to get your internet business off its feet.

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Do you really need that Website?

There have never been more ways of communicating with people online, aside from actually having your own website. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Board Game Geek, Reddit; the list goes on.

In the distant far-flung past (early 2000s) an internet user would want to know something, choose the relevant website and read its content. Nowadays, more and more content is now pushed dynamically at people, without them even needing to go looking for it.

Very clever algorithms are used to generate “recommended” videos or posts that users will be interested in even though they haven’t asked for it. (How many hours have you spent watching YouTube videos that you had no intention of viewing?) The world of social media enables this kind of intelligent linking in a way that a single business website can never replicate.

So with all the other clever and popular options out there to get your content to your customers, do you really need your own website?

Let me give you 5 reasons why–despite the ever-changing online landscape–a website is still essential for getting your message across.

1. Be trusted

Anyone and their pet gerbil can start a Facebook page, record a YouTube video, or post obsessively on forums. To create and regularly update your own website (with your own domain name) takes a degree more investment. Users know this. If I come across a business (in almost any market) that doesn’t have its own coherent website, I’m instantly cautious.

Here in sunny Britain, we are apparently twice as likely to trust mainstream news outlets over social media. News is a unique industry but the prevalence of sharing “fake news” and misleading “clickbait” via social media has resulted in the general lowering of trust in these sources of information.

A website by itself is not enough to instill trust; but the lack of a website is a sure-fire way of causing your customers unease.

[Jamey: I think this is an incredibly powerful point, especially for crowdfunders. So much of Kickstarter is about trust and credibility.]

2. Be found

Search engines, such as Google, work very hard to generate results from a lots of different sources such as news, micro-blogging (Twitter) and video (YouTube). Because of this, someone can find out about you from searching even if you don’t have a website. However, your SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) presence will be in much better shape if you’ve also got a website with top-notch content thrown into the mix.

Doing a Google search “Stonemaier” brings up lots of relevant results (Board Game Geek, Twitter, Facebook) but nothing is going to carry the kind of SEO weight that stonemaiergames.com does, which is precisely why it ranks in first place.

[Jamey: This is why I recommend routing people through your website to your Kickstarter project page using this method. That way, when the project is over, search engines weight your website over Kickstarter for the long run.]

3. Be read

The next two reasons to have your own website essentially boil down to the same thing: control.

Firstly, you need to be able control your content and organise it how you want. The fancy web designer terminology for this is information architecture but you can also call it (probably more helpfully) structure.

For as long as you are leaning on third-party websites and services you are bound by their structure and system. For example, what content do you want on your Facebook page and how do you want it organized? Can you change how users navigate the content? Sure, you’ve got options but they’re limited.

Whereas, with your own website you have a new plot of land with no planning restrictions. Build your website just how you need it to be structured to get your message across to your customers. The quite brilliant A List Apart commends us:

We need to teach people to look past the way the rest of the web is structured and consider instead how their corner of the web can be structured to support their own unique intentions.

Your product is unique (if it isn’t, you’ve got bigger problems) and so your website needs to be uniquely structured to showcase it. This can only be done in the context of your own beautiful, distinctive site.

[Jamey: Beyond organizational beauty, I think this touches upon why I believe every creator benefits from creating some kind of ancillary content, whether it’s a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, etc.]

4. Be admired

Your brand is your perceived identity and as such you surrender it at your peril.

Social and third-party websites will let you add your logo and if you’re lucky a colour scheme but they can never be the kind of stage that will allow you to comprehensively showcase your business identity.

This is also the point where I will warn you to avoid any platform that will let you build your own website. Let me warmly encourage you to use the services of a competent and experienced web designer who can give you the website you need. “Drag and drop” templates will give you a website but not one that is truly yours.

Just like structure, your visual style shouldn’t be squashed into a predetermined mould. A good web designer will work with you from a blank sheet, making every decision on the basis of what’s best for you and then code you a bespoke website that is as unique as it is robust.

Just as no two people are the same so every good website is tailor made.

[Jamey: I agree with Dave that effective web design is best served by a professional. However, don’t let that serve as a barrier to prevent you from starting a website to get your feet wet. I really like WordPress, and it’s fairly easy to transition from WordPress.com (free, super easy to set up) to a custom WordPress.org website when you’re ready.]

5. Be central

What’s the latest social media hotness? Snapchat was a flash in the pan, Twitter is ancient and Facebook is now only used by cats. I jest, but what one minute can seem like a firmly established platform is the next ghost town. Yahoo! anyone?

The world of the internet is an ever-changing landscape but that doesn’t mean you can’t establish solid structures, and your landmark structure should be a website you have complete control over. That website will change and adapt with the internet, but it’s existence should never be in doubt.

By having a firmly established, beautifully unique website, you can then have a central hub which all your online spokes connect to.

For example, use Facebook to get likes but you want to lead those fans back to content on your website. Facebook might one day be a closed book and you don’t at that point want to have lost half your audience.

A spoke on a bicycle wheel can brake and the bike will still work fine, but if the wheel hub rips clean off you’ll find yourself in urgent need of a helmet.

[Jamey: An extension of this is the power of using your website as a way to convert one-time visitors into e-newsletter subscribers. That’s called “permission marketing,” and I would put it really high on any priority list, even if you’re just starting out.]

Conclusion

The internet is not what it once was as a collection of static individual websites. Those days are long gone and will not return. Embrace the new means of dynamic, social communication, but don’t forget you need a home to welcome people in to.

***

If you don’t have a website or want to improve your current website, feel free to reach out to Dave to find a solution. I mention this not because I get any benefit from new clients Dave gets, but rather because I want you to benefit from a web designer as good as Dave.

What do you think about Dave’s points? Do you think a website significantly increases your chances of success as a creator or entrepreneur?

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Reasons Why Your Website should be simple!

Simple websites…

1. Don’t make people think

Or guess. Or hunt for the meaning. Or have to use a dictionary to understand what it is that you actually do.

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of having a clean, minimal website. Awhile ago, our very own Melinda introduced me to the book “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steven Krug. This book is essential reading for anyone who has a website, as it clearly outlines the important usability conventions in web design. If you make people think too much about what they need to click on, you will lose them. I hear what you’re saying: rules are meant to be broken! Well, yes, it’s OK to break some rules, but you really need to know what those rules are before you can break them!

2. Showcase content

If you read anything about creating content for the web, you will have come across the phrase “content is king.” Your content might be the written word, a product you’re selling, your company logo or a photograph. While everyone wants a nice-looking website, if your content isn’t good then people won’t stick around. Your website’s design should look great, but a more important consideration is that it supports the content well. Otherwise it’s just fluff.

Noon Solar is a great example of how an online store can use simplicity to showcase products.
Noon Solar is a great example of how an online store can use simplicity to showcase products.

3. Are timeless

Just like classic furniture design, fashion design or architecture, simple websites hold up to the test of time. I remember the first website I ever created. Like many people’s at the time, it was on Geocities. This was the age of “more is more,” as the web was still pretty new and everyone was putting everything they could on their site. This meant textured backgrounds, tables, multicoloured text, different font sizes and weights, animated gifs, styled mouse pointers and pop-ups galore. These gimmicks were like the shoulder pads of web design: very popular at the time, but looking back we wonder why we didn’t notice when our taste left the building.

4. Are tools for learning

Clean websites are easier to deconstruct than fussy, decorative ones. This is great for those who are learning how websites are put together, as the modules that make up a site are often more clearly designed. Now, as a web designer it might not be your primary goal to make your site easy to pull apart, but it is certainly a benefit for students!

5. Are accessible

Did you know that there are people using the Internet who can’t see very well, or at all? They might be viewing your site in inverse colours, with bigger text, on a special device, or they might even get the content read aloud to them by special software. Don’t leave them out! The simpler your site is, the easier it will be for everyone to be able to access your site.

6. Are scanned more easily

When was the last time you read every single word on a website? Yep, I didn’t think so. Web visitors scan your site just as they scan the newspaper, picking up headlines and keywords to see what they want to read more. Check out some website heat maps to get a better idea of how people scan online content, and make your site clean and easy to scan – your visitors will thank you for it.

The software company Sofa‘s website is easy to scan. You can see a lot about the company at a glance.
The software company Sofa‘s website is easy to scan. You can see a lot about the company at a glance.

7. Have less, but say more

Less is more. We’ve heard it related to many different things, and the Internet is no exception (tell that to Geocities!). Think about making a statement with the simplicity of your site. You could even make it a game to experiment with removing things from your design. How much can you strip away and still retain functionality?

8. Leave room for imagination

You want visitors to your website to contribute in the knowledge-making in some way, not to just passively consume. Minimal, clean web designs leave room for the visitor’s imagination, to feel free to explore at their own pace and not feel like they’re being “sold to.”

Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits practises what it preaches.
Leo Babauta’s blog Zen Habits practises what it preaches.

9. Are fast

We are an impatient lot, and the web is bursting at the seams with content. So how do we process it all? Like changing channels on a television, most web surfers bounce from site to site, taking in whatever they need before heading off to the next one. So what if yours is slow to load, because it’s bloated with graphics, animations and other bells and whistles? Well, unsurprisingly, people aren’t very likely to have the patience to stick with it.

10. Bring some drama

With empty space and design built on a grid, minimal websites often pack a dramatic punch. One central concept or graphic can take centre stage, and the eye is drawn to this one idea. Without a lot of conflicting messages and ads and links competing for the visitor’s attention, simple websites can give their content more drama by directing the user experience.

Chama Inc‘s site dramatically features their logo and a stimulating headline.
Chama Inc‘s site dramatically features their logo and a stimulating headline.

11. Are easier to change

OK, so you’ve just spent all this time and money on a new design. And now you want me to change it? Well, not necessarily, but one of the beautiful things about the web is that it’s dynamic. A change in design keeps things fresh, keeps people engaged and keeps up with the times. You can change your website as often as you like. But with a more complicated design, you might find it more time-consuming and off-putting to change things around. So keep it simple, and the change will flow.

12. Help to create thoughtful architecture

When a site is minimal, it’s easier to be straightforward with the way information is structured on the site. Remember, you don’t want to make people think too hard about how to get to the information they want, so structure your site in a logical and clear way. Hold off on the tricks: you might think they’re cool, but to the average visitor they are annoying and counterproductive.

13. Aren’t easy

It’s a myth that simple, minimal and clean designs are always easier to create. It’s actually a challenge to distil your design and your ideas down to just a few words of text and a punchy graphic. Good design is edited design. Your favourite minimal website may well have been a lot more cluttered until it was edited and restrained down to its current form.

14. Are inspiring

I’m always inspired when I see a minimal, clean website that does just what it’s supposed to do – and nothing more. It’s fresh, clean and exhilarating, unlike the bogged-down feeling of visiting a site with loads of flashy ads, animations and buttons everywhere.