Starting your own business is no longer a pipe dream. This is the information age, the computer age, the digital age. Whatever you want to call it, modern society’s transition to connected living has created opportunities on an unheard-of scale. The average person is perfectly poised to take advantage of all that the digital world offers.
I’ve been running my own online business for over three years now. I’m not a veteran entrepreneur by any measure, not even in internet years, but I’ve had a successful start and learned plenty along the way.
Check out my top 5 tips for starting your own online business.
1. Make The Obvious Choice
People generally associate business with the physical; convenient corner stores, trendy inner city cafes, the skyscrapers of Wall Street. Starting a brick-and-mortar business requires a lot of capital. You have to lease a storefront in an ideal location, design the interior, maintain the property, establish an inventory, hire employees, and hope the store gets enough foot traffic to keep you in business. For the individual, traditional business is often a huge risk.
You need to go digital.
Many facets of online business contrast with traditional business. You can start your own online business without a dollar to your name. You can create a website (digital storefront) easily and for free, and an infinite number of services offer access to website builders, simple ecommerce, and more. You can interact with a global audience at the click of a button. Profit margins are high, and you don’t need to keep an inventory of products to sell.
Is it really possible? Check out these regular people that started an online business and now make a living doing what they love.
Food blogging duo Lindsay and Bjork made $22,280 online in a month
Read their income report »
Affiliate marketer Matthew Woodward made $16,400 online in a month
Read his income report »
Teacher-turned-entrepreneur Jennifer Bland made $4,230 online in a month
Read her income report »
With time and effort, these online business owners turned their passions into their career. All they need to make a living is a laptop and an internet connection. When you run your own online business, you can work on anything you want, whenever you want, from anywhere in the world…that’s my definition of true freedom.
Starting your own online business is not only viable, it’s life-changing. As long as you’re knowledgeable about a topic, have a skill, or are willing to learn, you can realistically start your own business by choosing digital over traditional.
2. Know Your Niche
Entrepreneurs have been doing business online for decades so you can expect to find plenty of competition in the digital world today. If you want to stand out from the ever-growing crowd, you need to find a new or underserved niche market and make it the center of your online business.
You’ll find it so much easier to get your business off the ground if you have a niche to thrive in.
My niche is HTML5 game development. Using a relatively new web technology, I create simple web games which I license to companies across the world. I run websites about HTML5 game development, and have published a book about the topic. The HTML5 games market is both a new and underserved niche so I’m able to capitalize on the limited availability of content. I made over $100,000 online in my first two years of business by focusing on this niche and using it to kickstart my business.
Finding a good niche is not as hard at it might seem. Sit down with a pen and paper and sketch the links between your passions and new trends, technologies, and products. Conduct research and determine which topic is the most interesting and the most underserved. Optimally, you want to be able to create more than just an information resource based around your niche, but even that is enough to get started.
If you can’t find a niche that matches your interests or skill set, aim to give an existing niche a new spin.
Don’t start an online business based on just anything. You need to do your research and combine your passion with a niche that allows you to stand out. Then you need to own it.
3. Networking Is King
Bill Gates popularized the saying “Content is king” in a 1996 essay of the same name, and internet marketers have been parroting the Microsoft founder’s words ever since. The reality is that content only gets you so far and oftentimes will not be the biggest factor of success online. Since the global proliferation of social media, the human element has become the most important one in the digital world.
Social media offers unparalleled networking opportunities for business owners. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter enable you to reach new readers, clients, and customers from around the world…all without leaving your chair.
In the past, if you wanted to broadcast a message to thousands of people, you’d need to advertise on billboards, the radio, or television. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.
By proactively adopting social media you can build an audience to engage with repeatedly, instantly, and freely.
Instead of dismissing social media as a short-lived fad, make it a central part of your business. The size of your platform will generally correlate with your ability to generate an income online.
To grow your social platforms, you need to find people who share your interests, then interact with them and provide value of some kind. Take a genuine interest in your followers and they will do the same with you.
4. Marketing Is A Mindset
There’s no point building a platform if you’re not willing to use it. You can’t be timid when it comes to marketing and self-promotion. Do everything you can to get your content and products in front of as many eyes as possible!
My approach to marketing is quite aggressive, and most of my readers are well aware of that. But this proactive stance has also been a driving factor in the development of my online income and reputation.
I share my content on a variety of websites and forums, link to my own products at every opportunity, and make my achievements public to help establish credibility. Marketing is such a significant part of my average work day that I even have sales pitches mapped to hotkeys.
So many talented people could be successful if they had a basic grasp of marketing and a willingness to embrace it. This is especially true in my field of work. Some of the most skilled game developers I know have absolutely no understanding of marketing and promotion. As a result, their work goes unrewarded and they miss out on the success they deserve.
Naturally, promoting yourself online requires some finesse. It’s very easy to hit the wrong note or appear arrogant if all you’re talking about is yourself, so be sure to involve others in the conversation.
5. Diversify Aggressively
Once you’ve established your first significant income stream, stop and think about how you can expand upon it. Relying on a single source of income for an extended period of time can be very dangerous. If that income stream suddenly dries up, you’ve effectively “lost your job” and have to start over again.
Diversification is critical to the long-term survival of your online business.
Let’s say you’ve built a useful information website that generates revenue from advertising banners. You could diversify by adding tutorials, converting the tutorials into videos, then starting a premium support forum to convert readers and viewers into paying customers.
You could offer a personalized consulting service, publish an ebook, or become an affiliate by promoting other people’s products for a share of the profits.
Often, pursuing new sources of revenue will require you to turn your attention away from an established income stream; diversification comes at the expense of guaranteed income. Despite this, you absolutely have to spend time building more revenues streams. When you have an established platform and audience, diversifying is as easy as taking action.
The same can be said for starting your own online business: take action.
Thanks for reading!