Are you thinking about starting an online business? These days, most people go online first when they’re looking for any type of product or service — so starting an online business is a smart move. It’s also one of the lowest-cost ways to get into business, since you can run an online business from home without the expense of a physical location. Here’s how to get started:
- Decide what type of online business you want to start. While an ecommerce business is the most common and most popular type of online business, it’s not the only one. You can also start an online business to provide an app or sell a service. For example, a personal trainer could start an online business that hosts workout videos customers can subscribe to, sells DVDs they can buy online, or offers one-on-one nutrition and workout consulting delivered via videoconferencing. If you have software development skills or know someone who does, can start an online business providing web-based and/or mobile apps to consumers or businesses.
- Name your business. A catchy name that’s memorable, conveys what your business does and is easy to say and spell is a must for an online business. You don’t want a name that’s too long or too awkward. It’s also important to make sure that your business name translates well to a domain name. You may not be able to buy the exact name of your business as a domain name if someone else already has it, but you should try to get as close as possible. Also remember that .com isn’t the only domain name extension out there — you can also try the extension .net, .biz or .online, among others. Using a different extension can give you more flexibility in your domain name. Search for domain names.
- Choose a web host. Selecting a web host is a critically important decision for an online business. You want to ensure that the web host you choose has the capacity to grow with your business as it expands, with plenty of storage space so yo ur website will load quickly. You also want to make sure your business is always available to customers — to prevent your website from crashing, look for a web host that offers guaranteed uptime.
- Go beyond the basics. Of course, ensuring your website doesn’t crash is the minimum you should settle for. Look for web hosting that goes above and beyond by providing services that make it easier to develop and maintain your website. For example, free website creation, automatic backup of your data, FTP and the ability to customize your website with plug-ins or a WordPress blog are all features that will give you more flexibility as your business grows.
- Design your website. Whether you want to design your own website or have a website design company do it for you, start by planning out all the elements you’ll need for your online business’s website. In order to sell products online, you’ll need some type of shopping cart system; you may also need an online reservation system and an online customer service application. Explain your needs to your website design company, and they should be able to help you find solutions. If you’re not comfortable building a website yourself, a good website design company can take your input and create a custom website that meets your needs.
- Test it out. Before you launch your online business, make sure to run some usability tests of your website with people who fit the profile of your target customer. How do they like the website? Is easy to navigate? Can they make purchases, make reservations or view content easily? Get input from these users and make any necessary adjustments to your website before you open for business.
Continue to fine-tune your website as you go, and your online business is sure to see success.
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Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.