Ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit, a lot of things have changed — including the way we work and make money. Whether you’ve been laid off or have ever dreamed about the journey to start an online business, now is the best time to do so.
Something that’s been especially important over the last year is the eCommerce business. Since everyone has been home, online purchases have increased dramatically and it’s only going to keep increasing. By the year 2040, 95 percent of all purchases are expected to be made online.
That’s why you need your own starting an online business checklist.
But where do you start? How are you supposed to know everything you need to know to start your own online business? No one wants to be underprepared.
Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on for the ultimate starting an online business checklist to guide you throughout your entire journey.
FREE RESOURCES: You can download my COMPLETE CHECKLIST here to start your online business and not miss a single step in the process of building a successful online business.
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Choose a Clear Business Name
As the proprietor of your business, step 1 is going to be choosing the name. There are a few things to consider first, though.
First, your business name shouldn’t be easy to remember, and it should be relevant to your business itself.
If you’re having trouble, try conducting a brainstorming session where you write everything you can think of down. From there, narrow down your options and choose the one you like best.
If you still find that you’re having trouble, try asking a friend for their opinion! Sometimes bouncing ideas off another person is more productive than it may seem.
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Verify Your Business Domain Is Free
The second step of starting an online business checklist is to make sure your business domain is free. You can do so with a simple Google search, or you can use a domain checker available for your state.
Sometimes your business name and your website name are going to be different. It’s important to make sure both names are free before you start filing paperwork.
Set up Your Business Email Address
If you have a web host, then you can often go through them to get your own business email address.
Ideally, your business email address is going to be the same as your business name, or at least contain your business name.
Validate your idea with (at least) 10 Potential Clients
To find a customer base, you have to start with market research. While researching things online can get you pretty far, it isn’t the same as meeting with and talking to potential customers.
Some questions you can ask are:
- What would make you choose us over others?
- What is your budget for a product or service like this?
- What do and don’t you need?
- What problems are you facing?
- What are your expectations?
- What can we help you do better?
- What would you view as a success?
- What social media do you use the most?
- What do you look for before choosing to work with a company?
Doing this allows you to find out what a potential client’s pain points are, and how you, your business, or your brand can help them. The best products are the ones that solve a problem, and the better you can do at finding out what that problem is, the easier it’s going to be for you to solve it.
Identify the burning pain your clients need to resolve
Once you’ve interviewed potential clients, you’re going to gather and analyze all of the information they gave you. Some things you can look for are:
- The most common problems mentioned
- A common number when asked about the price
- What are their expectations?
- Things that most, if not all, of the clients, could use help with
Depending on the field you’re entering, there is going to large space for you to fill or a small one. Paying close attention to this research in your field can help decide where you best fit.
It’s also going to help determine your ideal client.
Buyer persona: Define Your Ideal Client
Another term for this is defining your buyer persona. It’s a culmination of all the research you’ve done so far, and it decides the audience or demographic that you’re going to be marketing towards.
Get as specific as you can with this.
How old are they? What do they look like and where do they live? Is this going to be accessible to them?
The more specific you can get with this answer, the easier it’s going to be to create marketing campaigns later down the line.
Where Will You Find Your Audience Online?
This step is where online research does come in handy. Where are you going to find your audience online? What social media are you going to use?
Some examples are:
- Industry forums
The more you scour the internet and rely on any answers your potential clients gave you, the more you can tailor your content. With tailored content, you can track and see your success.
Validate Your Business Idea
The next step in this starting an online business checklist is to go back and validate your business idea.
Whether you reach back out to the people you interviewed or take to social media to ask, you need to fine-tune your idea before starting an eCommerce business. You can even create a prototype and send it to people to try out if you’d like.
Choose the Right Business Model
We’ve come to the point in this starting an online business checklist where your focus shifts from creation to legality.
Choosing the right business model when you start an online business is going to be a personal choice, but it’s one that’s going to define how your business run. Different business structures have different tax laws and employee requirements and each is going to be unique for you and your business.
Luckily for you, out there are a large amount of proven business models that you used to create your own.
Find the Right Web Hosting
Whether you’re running your website on Shopify or WordPress, you’re going to need a great web host.
To help you make this decision, you can start by making a list of qualities you’d like on not only your website but also in a web host. Here are a few qualities to look for:
- Good email
- Secure location
- Standard, fair pricing and payments
While these aren’t the only things you should look for in your web host, they are going to be the things that get you the furthest — especially the space available on your website.
Just like a coffee store has plenty of seating options and space for you to spread out when it’s needed, your website should allow the same. You have to be able to grow with what you’re given, so set yourself up for the long term by investing in more website space.
Build Your Website
There are all kinds of eCommerce platforms. WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace are just a few examples of platforms you can use to start your online store.
When it comes to building your eCommerce site (or any website for that matter) you’re going to want to take design and function into account. Get creative with colors and different fonts, animations, and even your site’s navigation.
User experience is everything nowadays and it’s what keeps your business alive and ahead of the rest. You don’t want to be one of those eCommerce businesses that offer a poor user experience, instead you can rely on powerful eCommerce platforms to build your store.
Did you know color psychology is a thing? By tapping into these small details, you improve your customer’s overall experience with your business and make them want to come back for more.
Your website is even going to act as one of the main channels you use for promoting your business.
Start Creating Content
The next step is going to be coming up with a list of five content ideas to begin building your audience. This content can be posted on your website as a blog post, social media, YouTube channel, or anywhere else you share content.
Content marketing is by far the priority marketing strategy that small business owners should pay attention to to grow their businesses. Be careful though, content marketing is not just a marketing campaign, is a long-term strategy that requires commitment.
It’s a good idea to choose content that’s relevant to your business, but also to make sure it’s diverse enough to decide which your target audience likes best.
Calculate Your Business Expenses
Next, list all your business expenses to get started. Here are a few examples:
- Domain and web host
- Annual business structure fees
- Brick and mortar shop upkeep where applicable
Your business fees are unique to you, but it’s best to make sure you have everything covered from the beginning to avoid any mishaps.
Set a Clear Budget for your business
When setting your budget, you’re going to cover all the funds you have available to invest in your business. Be sure these cover all your monthly expenses, as well as any startup ones.
Your budget should also cover any legal requirements like LLC fees, employer identification number, business license, a business bank account, search engine optimization, coaching contracts, legal disclaimers, and any other things you’ll need to keep your business safe. It’s best to meet with a professional if you’re unsure about this step.
Find out how to collect payments from your clients
How are you going to collect payments? You can use Paypal, Stripe, ConvertKit, Square, and so many others. Deciding which is crucial to running an eCommerce website.
Set up a Business Bank Account
The best thing you can do is keep your business expenses separate from your personal ones. Be sure to set up a business bank account well in advance.
Define at Least 3 Sources of Income to Monetize Your Business
You’re going to need something to put money into that business bank account! Whether you take advantage of social media revenue, sales-generated income, or business deals made with partnerships, coming up with at least three ways to monetize your business is going to generate multiple streams of revenue, which helps you make sure you’re never without money.
You’re also going to need to identify at least five direct competitors, as they can affect your overall business income. You can use these direct competitors to improve what you, your business, brand, or product has to offer. To do this, take a look at what you already have to offer.
How does it measure up? Is it comparable to your direct competitors? Do you offer anything they don’t, or can you improve upon things they already have?
Create a list of these questions to answer and then go from there. Your business is already a force to be reckoned with, but you want to have every base covered.
Start Building Your Email List From the Beginning
You should start building not only your email list but also your contact list from the very beginning.
While both things are best kept separate, they’re both great ways to take advantage of connections you may have and can also help you with things like affiliate marketing in the future — especially if you use email marketing campaigns.
Be Prepared for Setbacks
It wouldn’t be proper starting an online business checklist without mentioning that there is room for setbacks. Remaining flexible so that you can adapt your idea is crucial to being a business owner, and it’s a skill you’re going to have adopted from the beginning.
Once your website and business are launched, create space for conversation about how your business can improve based on client feedback. As we said earlier, user experience is everything, and the more you can tailor it, the more satisfied your customers will be.
Set a Launching Date and Stick to It!
Now that you’ve got everything set up, it’s time to set a launch date for everything. Figure out when your website is going to go live and post teaser content on social media to hype your followers up.
Also, take a moment to congratulate yourself. You went through a process that is by no means easy, and you’re about to take your future into your own hands!
Starting an Online Business Checklist
By using this starting an online business checklist, you set yourself up for success in the long term. When you have every step of your business plan covered before launch day, including your website and necessary documentation, you ensure that there’s no chance for failure or unforeseen circumstances to trip you up.
If you’re interested in embarking on your online business journey, contact me today and we’ll get started.