How to start an online business


It is very attractive to start an online business. You can build websites cheaply and have them run from your home while you build momentum. Ecommerce sales have seen a significant increase post-COVID. The advantages of an online-only business are clear, especially with rising overheads and the current economic climate.

We'll help you navigate every step of your online journey, from market research to setting up social channels and dealing avec regulations.

Are you ready to launch your business? Continue reading to learn how to start an online coaching business.

Website templates that are professional for less than PS100 per annum

A website developer doesn't have to cost thousands of pounds if you want a professional looking website that will impress customers and build trust. Modern, professional-looking website templates make it easy to create your own. The ongoing costs are usually under PS100 per annum.

If you are looking to sell online, here is our top tip...

We recommend our top choice of free ecommerce website builders Square Online if you are looking to start an ecommerce company on a tight budget. The PS0/month plan lets you sell unlimited products for free - which will help reduce your setup and running costs.

1. Do market research

Create an online business plan

You're likely to have an idea for your online company if you're reading this. If you are still looking for inspiration, the first thing to do is look for a need.

Ask your family, friends, peers and forum members if they know of any products, services or content that they would love to have access to on the internet.

You should also think about your own experience. Have you ever searched online for something and not found a satisfactory result?

Test the market and research it

You need to make sure that your idea is viable before you commit to spending money and time on it.

These market research techniques will help you refine your idea and determine its potential success.

1. Perform a competitor analysis

Consider all possible competitors. Take note of their work practices, how they do it, how successful they are, and who they serve.

This will help you to identify your target customers and get you thinking about ways you can do things better than your competition.

2. Define your target audience

Knowing which internet users to target will allow you to make informed decisions about how your website looks, functions and feels. Are they in a certain age bracket? Do they have particular hobbies, income levels, or professions?

This guide will walk you through the steps of calculating your target market.

3. Get feedback about your idea

Ask your target audience members what they think about your idea and whether they would visit it. Also, ask them how they might improve it.

You can ask your friends (though they should be honest about their feedback), or you could run focus groups or online questionnaires.

Expert Insight – Gina Farran, Glaize

Gina Farran is the founder of Glaize, a disruptive startup in nailcare. She says that while it's easy for people to get caught up in the romance of an idea and forget about the reality of running a business day-to-day, it's important to consider the realities.

"We all hear the gossip on social media about the glamour of being a founder and the "girl boss" lifestyle.

"I can tell you that I am not glamorous at the moment, even though I love what my job entails.

"In reality, on most days, I am covered in sticky nail glues while wearing a camisole and thermal socks in an archway at Camberwell.

Be careful not to start a business for wrong reasons , especially if you are a female founder.

Jargon buster

Sessions are Individual visits to a specific web page. Traffic is usually measured in sessions. A higher number of sessions indicates more traffic.

2. Select your online business model

Now that you have established the purpose of your online business, it's time to start thinking about how to make money.

If you are opening an online shop and selling products, downloads, or services through your site, you will operate under an ecommerce model. You'll make revenue from sales.

• Take a look at our step by step guide to starting your own ecommerce site

• The dropshipping option is an option. However, it's important to also choose one of the best UK dropshipping providers to integrate with any ecommece platform.

If your website has a different purpose, such as to entertain visitors or provide informational resources, there are three main methods to make it profitable.

• Advertising. Businesses pay to advertise on their site (usually through visual ads or sponsored material). Clients can pay you more for more traffic. Customers can access the content of such websites for free.

• Subscription. These websites are often ad-free and make money by charging customers a subscription fee or one-time fees to access their online services.

• Fremium. This business model allows customers to access a basic version your online service free of charge, but they must pay extra for premium features and privileges.

You will find the best model for you based on your online business and your goals. However, you can also base your site around any combination of these.

What do you need to help your business?

Project Planning How to create a website How to get a business loan Business Bank Account

3. Your website is built

Although you may think this is a huge technological undertaking, it can be quite simple to build a website.

It's also unlikely to break your bank: domain names are typically less expensive than PS10 per annum, while many website builders can easily be paid for monthly with manageable subscriptions.

There are three main methods to get a website online:

• Make it yours

This is not an easy task and you will need to have a lot of coding knowledge. However, it will save you time and allow you to keep complete control over your website. You will need to have a domain name and a hosting provider if you choose this route.

We highly recommend Bluehost, a very affordable option for hosting almost any type of website. You can also compare other hosting services by visiting our top small business hosting providers.

• Use a web builder.

These tools are simple to use and will guide you through the entire process of building a website, including registering a domain name, to designing your site using templates or drag-and drop tools.

• Hire a developer

This is a great option if you need the advice of an expert. However, it could mean that you will have to rely upon them for any fixes or changes. The costs vary. Top developers are expensive. However, you may find a student or graduate willing to pay a lower rate for the experience.

• Are you unsure what option is best to build your website? Take our quiz to find out!

Our Grow Online team created this website quiz to help you find the right web building solution for your needs. Based on your time and budget.

You can find more information about setting up a website including costs and steps, in our comprehensive guide How to Create a Website With a web builder or web design service, or by yourself as a host!

This page contains a complete guide to the best website builders for small business owners.

Rachel Watkyn is an expert in online business. After winning Dragon's Den, her SME packaging Tiny Box Company grew to a PS12m turnover. Now, she's back at it, launching Aire, an activewear brand that is sustainable.

" This is the biggest mistake that start-ups make. They build websites and assume that traffic will follow.

"When you build your first website, assume the site is located in an industrial estate backend with no passing footfall. This is reality until you are known.

"It takes consistent effort and hard work to let people know about your amazing site, and years of hard work to position yourself on the equivalent of Oxford Street."

4. Optimized copy will fill your site

Your website's purpose will be to entertain or inform users, share information about your offline company, sell products or do other things. The written content on your site must:

• Write well, and avoid making unprofessional mistakes

• Explain clearly and instill interest in what you are selling or doing.

• Find out what user is looking for on your site/on this page.

• SEO is a must-have

This applies to all written content, including 'about us' pages, product information, and full-blown articles.

Jargon buster

SEO is Search Engine Optimization - a technique that makes your copy rank higher in Google search results pages. Your ultimate goal is to rank at the top of Google search results pages when a particular valuable or relevant phrase is searched.

Key SEO techniques include:

• Be sure to incorporate relevant search terms that are high in volume into your website copy. This is possible with the help of free keyword research tools.

• Backlinks are a way to get quality publications to link back your website. This can be done by a PR or outreach professional. See Section seven to learn more.

• You must ensure that your website's user experience is smooth, fast and easy. When building your website, this is something that you must always remember.

Google values relevance so make sure your content is readable and useful.

Include a blog

If you are doing something other than writing copy, such as an online store, it might be worthwhile to include a blog where you (or guest authors) share information about your business or related topics.

If your online business sells pet collars you might consider starting a blog about caring after animals.

Your website could be benefited in many ways by a blog section:

• High quality blog posts demonstrate that you are knowledgeable and can build your reputation within the sector

• Blog posts offer more content that can be indexed by search engines.

• Blogs are a great way to keep your customers coming back to your site for longer periods of time

• Blogs are a great way to discuss your products and services in a more casual manner.

Expert Insight - James Badgett, Angel Investment Network

James Badgett co-founded the Angel Investment Network. This website connects entrepreneurs and angel investors. He knows firsthand how important SEO for online businesses.

"Organic Discovery is crucial before you have a customer base and don’t want to spend on paid ads.

"In an age where Google's algorithm rules, SEO must be one of your foundational building blocks.

This must also be dynamic and flexible to adapt to changes in search behavior.

5. Follow the online business laws

Online businesses must comply with several legal requirements if they want to avoid being sued.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR, which came into effect May 2018, gives consumers greater control over their personal information and requires businesses to be completely honest and consenting in the way they use data.

Online businesses must obtain explicit consent from customers before they can process their data under GDPR. Online businesses must be open about what they plan to do with it and give customers access to the data. They also have to comply with any requests for the deletion of the data.

This regulation is very strong - the Vinci Works guide on GDPR points this out: Grindr, WhatsApp, and Amazon have all been hit with large GDPR fines over the past few years.

It remains to be seen how the UK's departure from the European Union will impact data protection regulations. At the end of last year, a government consultation was completed on the overhaul of GDPR. The UK is eager to create a new regulation that balances privacy with business innovation.

If you do collect data from non-UK custoners, even if this happens, you might still need to comply with GDPR.

Our GDPR guide provides more information about current regulations and how they may benefit your business.

Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (EC Directive) 2003

These regulations cover electronic marketing. They also address the use cookies (data files that allow website owners to track users' activities) and how they can be prevented from being used for illegal purposes.

If your site uses cookies, you must:

• Inform visitors to your website that you use cookies

• Inform users how to disable cookies from your website

• Make sure your privacy policy clarifies how cookies are used

You might have visited a website in 2012, in which case a popup will inform you that cookies were in use.

To make sure that this happens on your website, you can install the 'Cookie Law' plugin. Some web builders such as Wix already have this feature built in to their platforms. All you need is to click to activate the cookie banner that allows users to accept or reject cookies.

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Published on March 25, 2023

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