Articles, Starting a Business

10 Steps To Start An Online Business

Empowering Your Entrepreneurial Journey: A Step-by-Step Guide to Launching a Successful Online Business
Written By: Gilles Couvreur
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated December 20, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  1. Selecting a Business Model: It highlights the importance of choosing an appropriate business model, like affiliate marketing, dropshipping, or creating your own product or service.
  2. Creating a Business Plan: Emphasizes the need for a well-thought-out business plan, including market research, target audience identification, and financial planning.
  3. Building an Online Presence: Stresses the significance of creating a strong online presence through a professional website, engaging social media, and effective digital marketing strategies.
someone looking to Set Up a Dropshipping Business

Everyone can start an online business. No massive bank balance, college degree, or extensive work experience is necessary.

All that’s required is an excellent idea, suitable systems, and the motivation to become financially independent. Since you’re currently searching for ways to start an online business, odds are you already have the drive and the idea part down (if not, that should be handled by the end of this piece).

What you are interested in is how to begin the building process of your online empire.

In this article, we will discuss the exact steps needed to start a business online so that you can ensure that suitable systems are in place.

Steps Required for Starting An Online Business

Step 1: Pick a Business Model

Before you launch an online business, it helps to know about the current tried-and-tested web business models. That said, there are six primary types of online business models that you can be a part of:

  • Affiliate Marketing: This is a business model that involves promoting other people’s services and products online, and in exchange, you receive a commission for every sale. Ultimately, this can turn into a passive income business model with the proper traction. 
  • Freelancing: In the freelance business model, you need to provide a service to other businesses or individuals using a skill that you possess, such as programming, designing, writing, or advertising.
  • Consulting and coaching: If you’re up for this business model, it involves coaching and offering consultations based on your expertise in exchange for payment. This business model usually works well if you already have an established name in your field or target market. But even if you don’t, you should have a rare skill currently in demand. 
  • Information Products: With this, you can package and market your expertise in templates, online courses, ebooks, and worksheets. The trick behind this business model is ensuring that the knowledge you intend to sell isn’t easily accessible on the web or widely known.
  • Software-as-a-service: Roadblocks abound these days, and apps are created to solve everyday problems, whether in business or personal life. So with this business model, you create an application or software that satisfies the needs of users in the target market and charge them a recurring subscription fee in exchange for access to your software or application.
  • E-commerce: There are so many ways you can sell products online. You can hire e-commerce developers or you can use e-commerce platforms to create an online store and sell your products from there, or you can resell existing products on the web without having to create a store. 
  • Dropshipping: Dropshipping is a specific e-commerce business strategy that doesn’t require supply chain management or creating products. Instead, the seller contacts the manufacturer or wholesaler to ship goods to the customer. Sellers can use several strategies to optimize shipping processes. For example, with EDI 856 (advanced shipping notices) or eCommerce automation software. While the retailer is primarily responsible for marketing and selling the product, they must also ensure they partner with trusted suppliers and sell high-quality goods to make a profit.

Step 2: Choose a Target Market 

Identifying or choosing a target market is a vital step. One winning strategy is to carefully identify your target market and send a superior offering to the market.

Here’s a no-brainer trick – ensure that you are a part of your target market.

Think of it. If you have been fishing all your life, you’ll know and understand other fishermen’s desires, language, and problems. The result – it’d be a lot easier to sell fishing products online.

Additionally, your marketing endeavors will be much more successful as you will better grasp and understand the best mode of communication with other fishermen. 

But if you have never gone fishing in your entire life, there will be a lot of struggle to sell fishing products online.

So, as you choose your target audience or market, answer the following questions:

  • What are my interests and hobbies?
  • What do I spend a lot of time reading, talking, and thinking about?
  • And, what do I know a lot about?

Step 3: Find a Problem to Solve

When considering launching an online business, you must note that every business solves a problem. 

Hollywood movies eliminate boredom, fulfill curiosity and interest, and grant the desire to escape and relax. Plumbers fix broken pipes. Fashion brands help people feel good and express themselves. 

Here’s a rule of thumb: The more significant the problem you fix, and the better you fix it – the more cash consumers are willing to pay for your services or product. 

Take healthcare services, for instance – they solve a huge problem, which is why almost everyone spends money on it. 

Alternatively, few people will be willing to pay you to fix their wobbling table. It’s not a massive problem; they usually won’t need help fixing it. 

The bottom line is that you must find a worthy and sizable problem to solve if you want to start a business online. 

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Target Audience: Fashion-conscious teenage girls
  • The Problem: Fashion-conscious girls want to stand out in clothing from their colleagues without spending much money. 
  • The Solution: Start an online clothing line that’s budget-friendly and flamboyant. 

Here’s a second example: 

  • Target Audience: Single moms with toddlers. 
  • The Problem: Many working single moms would love to work out regularly but can’t find the time. 
  • The Solution: Produce a time-saving fitness schedule and program. 

That said, how do you know what problem to solve? Easy. Join online forums and Facebook groups and find out what people need help with or can’t do without. You can also use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to know what people are currently searching for. Alternatively, you can search for successful online businesses and identify the problems they offer solutions to, then find a better way to do it and offer that solution.

Step 4: Evaluate Your Idea 

Every business starts with an idea. If you already have one, you can hop over to the next step – but if not, you’ve got to begin brainstorming.

Here are some steps to help:

  • Think of how to stay ahead of the curve. 
  • Brainstorm how your service or product can impact the market landscape, especially with the continuous technological advancements of our world.
  • Offer a fresh perspective that gives you a competitive edge over competitors. 
  • Think of how to make your approach cheaper, faster, and better if your idea isn’t fresh.
  • You can gather perspectives by conducting research surveys or simply researching online reviews to develop a better way of executing a business idea.

Step 5: Competitor Analysis

Anyone who intends to start an online business must not sleep on analyzing the competition. Competitor analysis helps you to remain at the cutting edge of what consumers in your niche want, anticipate market shifts, and identify winning tactics. It also helps define your positioning, messaging, and total business strategy. 

So how do you carry out competitor analysis? Here are some ideas: 

  • Subscribe to the blog of your competitors. 
  • Purchase a service or product that they offer
  • Become their followers on social media
  • Subscribe to their newsletters

As you take these measures, ensure that you record your findings with information on each approach. You need to be able to find relevant insights when needed.

By analyzing your competitors’ customer experience and how they engage with their target audience via content, you can discover tactics that your competitors use to push sales.

A SWOT analysis is also worth considering, as it can help accompany the discoveries from your research. The SWOT analysis is a blueprint that looks into your competitors’ weaknesses and strengths to define areas that require improvement.

Step 6: Carry out Market Research

Market research aims to understand average consumer behavior, pain points, and relevant market trends in your niche.

This is a great way to determine how your online business will fit into the current industry. So, find the answers to the questions below as you carry out your market research:

  • What service or product is currently in demand in your particular niche?
  • How many consumers make up your target audience, and what is the market volume?
  • How many competitors have a concept similar to your idea? 
  • What is the average consumer engagement in your niche?
  • How much are consumers willing to pay for services and products in your niche?

One of the easiest ways to gain accurate insight is to interact with consumers directly. Make questionnaires, take surveys, and carry out one-on-one interviews.

Every business you start has to be adequately aligned with the regulations and laws of your region. So ensure you read up on the online business legal requirements before starting a fresh web business. 

Here are a couple of legal bases that you need to cover:

A Structure of a Business

You may have to register as a sole proprietor or an LLC. Carry out the research and choose the one that’s best suited for your current and future needs. But it may help to get advice from a tax specialist. Before you make a decision, make sure that you are dealing with reliable LLC companies.

Permits and Licenses

Depending on the business you intend to start, you may have to get a license to operate it. This differs based on where you reside, so ensure that you reach out to your local state department to know more.

Tax Requirements

Many online business owners are required by law to pay income tax. Also, you may have sales tax obligations if you offer products to people in particular countries. So before you begin your online business, make sure you speak to an attorney to understand the applicable taxes and the Internet business documents you must possess to file them.

Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights

You’ll want to cover the above legal elements to limit or avoid trouble in the future. For instance, registering your trademark will stop all businesses from using your company name, which saves you the cost and hassle of rebranding.

Step 8: Resell or Develop Your Service/Product or Promote a Skill

When it comes to online businesses, there are three ways you can bring your idea to life: promoting your skill, creating your product/service yourself, or simply reselling.

If you decide to go with the third option, all you need is to find a product or an e-product, based on step 3, that’s relevant to your niche to resell. 

Next, find a marketplace to resell the product. To make the process easier, you can use a cross-listing app to post your product on numerous marketplaces such as eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, etc. And that would be all, you then need to jump to step 9. 

But if you choose the second option, you need to hire extra hands. For instance, if you want to create an app, you need someone with technical experience to help you; if you intend to mass-produce an item, you need a manufacturer.

Product quality and simplicity must be your top priority. Instead of developing the cheapest product, create something that captures your target audience’s attention. 

Ensure you do the following:

  • Avoid enlisting generalists – choose specialists.
  • Always stay within your budget.
  • Supervise production all the way through. 

For service-based offers, your primary focus should be hiring people with the necessary educational and certification requirements. You can use online job portals like ProBlogger and Upwork as a start. 

If you simply want to offer your skill online, based on your market research in step 3, promote your skill in places online where they are needed.

For example, if you have copywriting skills, you’ll want to start promoting them through online job portals such as Freelancer or Upwork.

Step 9: Generate Sales 

To generate sales, you must start by understanding your potential customers – knowing their dislikes, likes, wants, and needs. After this, understand the art of requesting commitment without appearing too pushy. 

Simply put, don’t coerce people to buy goods from you, or they won’t return. 

You have to prepare yourselves to hear “no” as well. 

People may listen to your pitch even though they have no intention of purchasing, simply because they are lovely. If they don’t end up buying from you, don’t feel bad.

At this point, your goal should be to grow a customer base online via social media promotion, Google ads, and SEO (search engine optimization). You must also identify your business’s proper sales funnel and methodology to generate leads and convert them into loyal customers.

Marketing and sales are the strength of a successful business, so ensure that you have a fantastic strategy. 

Step 10: Grow Your Business

You need a growth plan if your online business wants to scale. Fortunately, there are so many ways to boost your company’s growth.

An excellent recommendation is the use of the power of social media through paid, influencer, and organic campaigns. Email Marketing also works well to foster and nurture a loyal customer base.

One of the primary aspects of sustainable, long-term growth is having a dedicated customer base and cutting down customer churn. Every effort you put into nurturing your current customers can be profitable in the long run, when they become returning customers – ensuring long-term revenue. 

Online Business Ideas

1. Teach a Skill 

If you have a teachable skill, you can turn it into a profitable business: you can create an online class on anything, whether it’s how to get out of debt, learning how to do splits in 25 days, content marketing, etc.

To get started, simply identify profitable skills that you possess and are excited to teach. For the start-up cost, you just need a hosting platform like Kajabi or Teachable for your course.  Depending on the provider, prices run between $39 to $119. Regarding profitability, you can sell your online course from as little as $37 to $4000, depending on your social proof and audience.

2. Reselling 

Reselling is one of the easiest ways to start an online business. You don’t have to own the product or even have a website or landing page where you sell from. All you need is a product to sell from someone else and a marketplace to list the product.

As mentioned above, some apps can quickly help you list your products across numerous platforms. Apart from subscribing to listing software, there are little to no start-up costs involved, especially if you aren’t purchasing the product. 

The profitability depends on the cost of the product you intend to resell and the profit margin you sell.

Related read: Invest in Art like the Ultra Wealthy Without Spending Millions

3. Podcasting

Podcasting will not be the simplest way to make money online, but if you’re in it for the long haul –  you may pull in the big bucks. For example, if your audience gets large enough, you can sell ads and use your podcast to promote your products/services or affiliate products. 

The startup cost is primarily your microphone and podcast software – if you decide to use a paid one. The profitability of this business for new podcasters can be little to nothing, but if you build your customer base, you can expect to make up to $100,000 per episode if you play your cards right.


That’s a wrap! We’ve covered all you need to know to start a business online. So get started immediately: taking the first step can be intimidating, but take the plunge without fear and launch your business.

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