Having thoughts of starting an internet business? Don’t know where to begin? In this guide we’ll help you understand how to take your idea & turn it into a money making website.
Pre step 1, this journey begins with hunger. You’ll need a burning desire to A) change your life or B) change the lives of others. Quitting your job, taking control of your career, there can be a multitude of reasons. Whatever your reason is, remember that the most important ingredients are hunger & desire. As you’re reading this right now, we can tick that off the list. Lets get into the 9 stages to creating a blossoming stream of internet income.
1. Take a step back & look in the mirror
So you’ve got the hunger, now take a step back & assess your abilities. Look at yourself as both CEO & Employee #1. Do the due diligence from both parties; from the business point-of-view & from your personal standpoint.
The most important questions to ask yourself include:
- What particular set of skills do I have to build a business?
- Do I have any contacts I can utilise to help me?
- How can I strengthen the business in areas I’m not so good at?
- Can I dedicate the time required to build a business?
- How much money do I have to start with?
- Which of my interests can I make into an internet business?
- What is missing in the market? Is there a crossover with my interests?
- How can I financially support myself while building the business?
- What am I trying to achieve long-term?
Once you’ve answered these types of questions, you can see where you are now & where you want to be, clearly laid out. You’ll start developing an idea of what you need to do to get there.
2. Start planning your business
This is the most difficult & important stage of your new internet business. Take your time here. Most people get bogged down & waste years in this stage, the truth is that you don’t have to invent the next Amazon or AirBnB. There are plenty of proven business models out there, you just have to make slight changes and adapt them how you see fit. I repeat, you do not need to come up with a brand new innovation. Even Amazon/Facebook weren’t the first version of the business they started as. Think of how many successful replications there are in business, cafes, retail stores, restaurants, construction… the list goes on. Picasso once said “Great artists steal”. Businesses copy each others ideas far more than artists ever could. Originality is not a top priority for a business idea. Sometimes something works because the market demands it.
Now, we think it’s better you focus on the market itself instead of what you are into, but it’s a good place to start. Bare in mind you are going to be working through to hard, early days before you see any rewards, so it helps to be interested regardless of reward. That’ll help you stick it out. Ask yourself:
- What am I super good at?
- What do I know in great depth?
- What do I want to learn passionately about?
- What website do I wish existed already but doesn’t?
Don’t be stumped if you don’t have a eureka moment, you’re still feeling it out. To re-purpose a Frank Westheimer quote; “a month of good research can save years of bad business”. Do your research.
3. Research & find your market
Ok. So you’ve gone away and decided on what your internet business is going to focus on. Great. Now your going to nail down exactly what the business will look like once it’s running. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Who is my ideal customer?
- Where are they located?
- Who is my competition?
- What can I do different to the competition?
- Are there enough people in my market to make a profit from?
- How much are people willing to spend on my website?
- How will I market the website?
- What is success for this business?
- How big do I want to get?
These are macro questions, the big ones. As you go through these, you will probably mould your business idea into something the market wants. If you discover your business isn’t as viable as you initially thought, don’t sweat it. Rinse and repeat until you get a clear winner.
If you’re having trouble answering any of the questions, ask someone who has already set up a successful business to give you a run down; don’t be nervous, they’ll think it’s their dragons den moment and will likely give you some good, honest feedback. Take it all onboard as their experiences are valuable to learn from. (with a pinch of salt, of course). If you don’t know anyone, try a small business advisor or local accountant.
4. Develop your iBusiness plan
Now, if you’ve done steps 1-3 well, you’ll have a decent structure for your business plan. Having a business plan is only 100% necessary if you need a loan or outside investment. If your starting without funding, you’ll still want a business plan to refer back to when reviewing how your site is performing & making sure you’re staying on track towards your targets.
All you need to make sure you have written down is:
- A summary of what your website does and what it offers it’s customers.
- The ultimate goal of your website.
- A description of your ideal website visitor.
- Key details on your competing websites.
- How you intend to market your website. (tag lines, USPs & branding; the stuff that makes your site unique)
- Who in your team is responsible for what, if you starting it’ll all be down to you, but if you have suppliers and partners make sure to have them recorded so it’s clear when referring back.
- How much you intend to spend.
These might seem straightforward but you’d be surprised by how many people skip these elementary steps. If you are borrowing a business plan from an existing internet business, just write down the plan from their perspective. It will help you to understand exactly how they operate the business and you might even see some gaps in their offering. Either way this step is about developing your understanding of how your company fits into the market.
5. Come up with a name & buy your domain
You probably know exactly what you’ll call your business, most people know that before they even develop a business model. If you haven’t got a clue, don’t overthink it. Here are a few tips if you’re struggling:
Two words maximum. A 1 word name is best for a website domain, the shorter the better. Have a play around with your branding next to the market leaders in your industry, see how your brand stands up.
Make it relevant
If you’re running a small business type website with local/national appeal, make sure to include what you do in the name.
For example, if you run an Audio Visual Company, go for something like “Specialist Audio Visual Services” or “www.specialistaudiovisualservices.com”. It broadly describes the services you offer in a keyword friendly manner.
If your internet business is going global, go for a more commercial, modern tech-friendly name. Less descriptive but still has resonance with your service or products.
For example, changing example 1 to “SAVS” gives the company global appeal & also the flexibility to adapt around the market.
Don’t be an imposter
Make sure you check if someone is already running a business with your name. What can start as a relatively small issue can develop into a lawsuit that closes your operation entirely.
In other cases, if you call yourself specialist audio visual services & there are 3 other firms with similar derivatives of the same name, be sure to encounter some issues with search engines, confused visitors & annoyed competitors alike.
If your going down the more commercial route and lets say you chose “SAVS” as your site name, you could be encroaching on a registered trademark. Don’t build a business around a brand name that can be taken away from you.
Run a domain name check
This is your opportunity to purchase some digital real estate, you’ll want to invest in the best possible domain for your business. The availability of your domain should factor in your choice of business name. Yes, the domain name is that important. We’d even go as far to say that unless you can get a straight forward .com (Top Level Domain) name, change the name of your business.
The easiest way to search for your domain is to use our domain search tool. The more original your business name, the easier it will be to find a solid domain name. You will need to be flexible, we prioritise domain name over business name & would always suggest you put the domain first. In other words if your desired name isn’t available, choose another name. Don’t settle for something like www.special-audio-visual-services.net just find another way around it. Your domain originality is going to have long term effects on the traffic you can generate. Develop a domain around a keyword or go for a completely unique brand name. Short & sweet, .com is the top tier.
6. Time to register
Ok, you’ve got your domain, now register the legal business in your country/state. This information is easily available in your location with a quick google search of “register a business”. For US information look no further & for the UK, its here.
Depending on how unique your exact business is, protect your intellectual property. For free, a local IP law firm will let you know whether you need to or not at this stage.
Hire an accountant. A good one won’t charge you until you start making a profit. Make your early connections now. Choose wisely, these contacts will support you along the way.
7. Design your website
The complexity of you site will depend on the kind of business you run. Nevertheless it needs to be planned out meticulously. Imagine yourself as a users, draw it on paper, keynote or powerpoint. Map out the navigation, features and required pages. Draw a website map (below).
If you’ve never done this before, start by asking these questions:
What do users need the website to do?
Is the website just to inform the world that your service exists? Or will you need a fully functional site build with hundreds of pages? You’ll already know this but create a short plan for your site short term, medium term & long term. It will help you keep platform growth high & expectations low.
If your website will eventually be complex & large, pick a platform that scales with you as you grow. Understanding exactly, in detail what you want will help you pick the correct platform.
You can hire a web designer or build it yourself. If you choose to build it yourself, you’ll pick up the skills & it will be useful moving forward. Best option for a small budget & not much time will be building a site using a site builder tool.
Hiring a website designer can be expensive but its up to you. We’d suggest hiring one that will teach you how to manage the site yourself as nothing beats possessing a deep understanding of your own platform.
It will take a while to understand, so be patient or pay someone.
Plan your keywords.
You should do this even before your site is built. Its that important. This will be the major difference between your site being a success 5 years after launch or you closing it down.
Plan your content & make sure you have space to deliver this content on your website. If you want to learn more about keywords.
Set a budget for your website
If your a website virgin, this might be hard to determine. Make sure to shop around if you go to a web designer. If you get a website builder, you’ll be paying an affordable fixed price which makes it easy to keep an eye on your costs as they increase. Help along the way is usually free.
Don’t forget to budget for unexpected costs. They will come.
You can learn more about website builder platforms here.
Use analytics from day 1.
Accurate site data, website visitors, where they are from, what they search for, how long they stay for, is very important to running your website efficiently. Make sure to create accounts at Google Analytics & Google Search Console. Integrate these into your building phases, they will help you tailor your business.
Once you’ve made it this far, you’ll have an internet business waiting for potential customers. It’s time to market yourself. Learn more about promoting your business the right way here.
Promotion styles will depend on the type of platform you’ve built. But we’ll run you through the digital techniques used in internet marketing to get you started.
SEO: Search Engine Optimisation
If you have built your website around keywords, as we suggested earlier then you’re in the perfect position to start you’re SEO journey. It takes months to get the results from SEO, so don’t be discouraged if you see no traffic in the first few weeks, just don’t ever stop. Never stop optimising. Make it the bread and butter of your marketing efforts. SEO Beginner? Look no further.
If you’ve build a local service such as a pub or electrician, you’ll need to look at local SEO. Google & Bing maps listing will allow your business to appear in search on the map, (for the “pubs near me” search)
Local SEO beginner? Here you go.
SEM: Search Engine Marketing
SEO takes a while to appear, but is the best ROI as it’s only required investment is your time. If you are competing for difficult keywords or you are looking for faster results, you’ll be looking at SEM. SEM can get you in front of people quickly, but never let this become your bread & butter. SEM can drive some serious traffic to your site, but as soon as you stop paying, you stop being seen. It can be expensive, so be careful & make sure you set clear budgets on all your campaigns. It’s possible for this to cost more than you make in sales, so you’ll want to be effective & not relying on it for long. When you have enough profit, go for it. Until then be frugal. Play about and develop your understanding or have an ad agency run ads for you, again make sure to learn as much as you can while you’re paying them. You will need this knowledge so don’t just leave it to them.
SEM Beginner? Learn more here.
SMM: Social Media Marketing
Social media is the number 1 way to engage and interact with potential customers. Like SEO, it isn’t going to happen overnight but you’d be amazed at what consistent effort can bring your pages. They also offer paid advertising to get you in front of people right now. Remember it’s best to budget as your conversions from views to sales is likely to be low single digit percentages.
SMM Beginner? Here you go.
EM: Email Marketing
Email marketing isn’t going to attracted new customers but it gives you direct access to your customers. People who sign up are genuinely interested in your products, so email marketing has a great sales conversion rate. Creating the campaigns is pretty easy, even if you’ve never done it before. I’d suggest making them yourself if you’re just starting out, if your mailing list is greater than 1000 address, subscribe to a service like Mailchimp or GMass of you’re more advanced.
9. Rinse & Repeat
It might feel you’ve climbed a mountain to get here. You have. Now you’ve got to come down. More people die on the way down mountains, so don’t relax now. You’ve just joined the ranks of internet entrepreneurs, your next moves will determine whether or not you make it to the upper echelon of successful ones. You are only just getting started.
Keep trying & testing various methods of steps 8. Even the biggest internet businesses in the world treat step 8 like beginners should. Always be testing. You will find what works.
Ok. That’s a great deal of information to take onboard. You do not have to do this all at once. It should take 3-9 months. Remember this quote.
Break down the steps into a month or a few weeks each. Dedicate your time and work through the steps. Small steps are how you make long lasting progress towards your vision.
And, of course, if you need any help when it comes to getting your new business venture online, Cloudrovia are always here to help.