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We’ve all seen it: the inspiring story of someone who felt lost and found success after starting a business on a whim. Especially in today’s age, understanding how to start a business online can make you a millionaire. Even if the business you start today doesn’t earn you millions immediately (and it likely won’t), you never know where it might lead you.
Take, for example, Ben Simkin. He was kicked out of high school at 16 for hacking into the school’s computer systems. As a self-taught programmer, he started an IT company at the age of 20. At 24, he was able to sell that same company for seven figures. Now, he’s the founder of the marketing company BusinessNET, which earns $2 billion in sales yearly.
Before you start your own business
Before you get started, you’ll have to figure out what product or service you’re selling. You might have several interests and aren’t sure which is most profitable. According to Elaine Pofeldt, a researcher who studied solo-run million-dollar businesses, most successful businesses fell into one of these categories: e-commerce; informational content creation; personal services firms that offer expertise; manufacturing, professional-services and creative businesses; or real estate. If any of your interests fall into those categories, that’s a good place to start.
Of course, your business will only thrive if you are truly interested in and care about the product or service you sell — so be sure it’s something you love. Once you find something that meets that criteria and is an asset that someone will want to buy, you’re in business.
Related: Need a Business Idea? Here Are 55.
How to start your own business
1. Decide on a platform
How will you sell your product? You might start your own website or create a Shopify store. Some find success selling on a third-party platform, like Etsy for products or Upwork for services. If you choose the latter, be sure to research what fees and percentages of sales these platforms take from your business. It might be a great place to start and then eventually transition away from.
2. Source and test your product
If you’re selling a product, you’re either making it yourself or sourcing it from somewhere else. If you’re making it yourself, you’ll need to nail down where you’re getting supplies from and ensure that you won’t run into any shortages or delivery issues. If you’re sourcing it from elsewhere, be sure to order a few to test for yourself. Either way, it’s helpful to get feedback on the product from friends and family. You can even get reviews from them to list on your website as social proof.
3. Create a marketing strategy
Having a solid marketing strategy in place is incredibly important for your business’s success. You can’t rely on word of mouth to make money. That means you’ll need to have a plan in place for building an email list and an email marketing strategy. Creating a social-media presence will also help you gain organic traffic. Paid ads can also help drive traffic when done properly. For your own website, make sure you do keyword research and utilize SEO to help people find it.
4. Develop your branding and website
Once you do get that traffic to your website or social-media accounts, you need to make sure your branding is consistent; 38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if the layout or content is unattractive. Additionally, 75 percent of shoppers say they make judgments about a brand’s credibility based on website design. So take your time developing your branding and website. User experience is incredibly important to build trust with your customer.
When you’re ready to launch, be sure that you go through your website (if you’re creating your own) and test out every page, button, link and action. Test the checkout process so you can fix any issues before your customer experiences them.
5. Set goals and do the administrative work
Goal setting is important to your success. Set both financial and product goals. How much do you expect to earn in the first six months? Break that down and figure out how much you’ll need to make in sales monthly, weekly and daily. Be sure to track progress so you can analyze what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. You should set goals for your products or services as well. How can you improve? Do you want to add products in the future?
Apart from goal setting, work on your overall business plan. Create a mission statement, write product descriptions and do market and competitor analysis. You’ll also want to take care of the various administrative work that comes with owning a business — do you need to create an LLC or will you act as a sole proprietor? Check with your local government to see if you need to register your business. Will you pay taxes quarterly or annually? Create a plan for saving for those taxes.
6. Start now
Too many people get stuck in the research phase. While all the steps highlighted here are important, don’t let yourself get hung up on one. Your brand voice doesn’t have to be just right to get started. Your marketing strategy should change and evolve — don’t get stuck on perfection. You’ll learn, adjust and grow as you go.
Starting a business is scary, but oftentimes the things that scare us are the most worthwhile. You’ll never create a million-dollar business if you don’t get started. So do your research and create your plan, but don’t let perfection get in the way of starting.