Since 2003, I have run my own online business, one that entails ghostwriting, editing and website content management. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve certainly learned quite a few things about how to start and run a successful business. If you’re looking into the idea of starting an online business, here are my top eight tips for getting the ball rolling.
Tip # 1: Focus On What You Love
Truth be told, life is entirely too short to do something that you don’t like for a living. If you start an online business, you’re going to be creating, doing, selling or talking about what you do for pretty much your entire working day. So choose something that you’d do on your “day off.” Trust me, your sanity, and that of your family’s, will thank you.
Tip # 2: Make a Plan — and Act On It
An online business is only as good as the people who create it, and the plan that they implement to do so. Before I started my freelance writing business, I sat down with a pen and paper and drew up where I saw the business and myself in six months, a year, three years, five years, and 10 years. I sat down and thought about who my client base would be, what services and products I would be offering, how much I would charge, how I would get paid, what I would do when things went wrong and how I would handle it when things went right. It was a daunting task, but one that was necessary. But more that that, more than having a plan, I knew that I had to take action. So for each goal in my plan, I set action items. Things that I needed to accomplish to reach that goal. These included such things as creating a website, networking with area businesses, obtaining a ledger book and registering the business as an entity.
Tip # 3: Set a Schedule
One of the most attractive things about an online business is that you can often set your own hours. It can also be tempting to be available for your customers at any time. I tried that idea at first. It was a disaster. Do not do that. Decide from the beginning where and when you will be available, and stick to your guns. To run a business successfully, you need time to step away from it and recharge your batteries. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be everything to everyone, all the time.
Tip # 4: Watch the Trends, But Follow the Clients
There are many online business gurus that claim that in this fast-paced internet world, you have to be quick on your feet, adjusting to what the trends in technology allow you to accomplish. I disagree somewhat. I agree that you should keep abreast of the latest trends and advancements, but the real thing you should pay attention to is what your clients and potential clients are striving for. As an online business owner, you are selling something more than products or services. You are selling an experience. Therefore, making sure your customer has a good experience, regardless of the various new gizmos that are out there, should be a priority.
Tip # 5: Realize that You Will Fail
I know. It sounds harsh, but the truth often does. Every day, your business will fail at something. That sure-fire inventory that was going to make you a mint won’t sell. That new accounting software will not do what it claimed. Your website will go down. Your online shopping cart will be buggy. Things like this are going to happen, so it’s best to be prepared for it. Don’t wallow in pity or panic, but rather implement that part of your plan that you drew up for when things go wrong. Have an alternative payment system for when your shopping cart goes wonky. Have a return system in place for when your products don’t measure up.
Tip # 6: Ask For Help
There will be times that you have to accomplish something, and you simply don’t know how to do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. For me, the idea of doing accounting during tax season simply hurts my brain. So I have hired a certified CPA to help me with that. When I have technical difficulties on my website, I have a superb web designer and web developer whom I hire. Remember, though, you get what you pay for, so be sure to budget a proper amount for such things.
Tip # 7: Be Willing To Adapt, But Keep Your Core Strategy
In order to be successful at an online business, you need to be able to adapt to what your client and business require. However, you don’t want to be a feather in the wind, blowing every different direction. Instead, be flexible enough to change to meet your needs, but still keep your core strengths. If your online business is selling handmade natural soaps, and you find that your customers want lotions as well, consider expanding, but still keep that natural ingredients that your company is known for.
Tip # 8: Pay Attention To Legal Issues
In truth, this is one aspect of an online business that I don’t like. The legal stuff. However, being mindful of what your legal obligations are when it comes to selling online can vary widely depending on what you’re selling, where you are located and even where your clients are located. So be sure to do the research needed, and keep abreast of the various changes that may come your way.
Do you run a successful online business? What other tips for people just starting out would you add to this list? Share them below!