Starting a business online can be a life-changing experience, that perhaps you’re already dreaming about. More free time to pursue your hobbies, working from the comfort of your own home, and being your own boss. It all sounds like a dream come true, and it can be. However, there are still a few hurdles and things to be aware of.
Having more free time is a viable goal, once your business is running smoothly. But in the initial stages, a lot of your “free time” will be tied up with getting your business off the ground. I know online business owners who spend more time working than they ever did in the 9 - 5 office world!
With that said, though starting an online business can be a challenge, it’s worth it when things fall into a groove. In this article, we’re going to discuss some key points of starting a business online, and things you need to know.
Domain name vs company branding
An important part of SEO (search engine optimization) advice given to new website owners is to choose a domain name that reflects the nature of your company. So if you start an online business that sells baby apparel, you would want a domain like “Baby-Apparel.com”. Of course, “Baby-Apparel.com” is probably already owned, and so you’d need to do a little research to figure out the “perfect” domain name for your business that reflects what your company is about.
However, your domain name isn’t the end all be all of getting traffic. There are tons of successful online companies that don’t use this approach. If you've never heard of Spotify before, would you know what Spotify is just by seeing “Spotify.com”? Of course not, “Spotify.com” says nothing about their business. So why isn’t Spotify using “Streaming-Music.com” as a domain name?
Because when you’re a recognized brand, little things like having an “SEO-friendly” domain name become infinitely less important. And so thus needs to be your focus - your branding. We’re not saying that SEO isn’t important, but your focus should be on becoming a reputable name in your industry.
As another example, look at Casumo, which is an online casino. Would you guess that just from the name Casumo? Probably not, although Casumo does look similar to ‘casino’. So it kind of flows together off the tongue - Casumo casino! But again, they’re not “Casumo-Online-Casino.com”. So basically, don’t focus too much on scoring the “perfect” domain name for your new business, put more effort into growing your brand recognition.
Invest in a reputable accounting software
You don’t need to go and spend $600/mo on a top-of-the-line business accounting software. But you definitely shouldn’t be record keeping in Excel, or heaven forbid, an actual physical notebook. Why would you do that to yourself? I thought you wanted more free time?
You can find great accounting software like QuickBooks, Zoho, Wave, and others, which offer great affordable plans for small businesses. In most cases, for less than $30 a month, you’ll get features like Paypal and Shopify integration, sales and tax tracking, inventory management, and more. If you plan on expanding your business, you’re going to need this stuff sooner or later, so you might as well start using it now.
Finding a good supplier
There are two main ways of selling original goods, and it depends on what you’re doing. If you want to create a t-shirt business with your own designs, for example, then you need a supplier of wholesale, blank t-shirts. And if you’re starting a dropshipping business, then of course you need a relationship with the manufacturer, or a supplier very close to the manufacturer.
In either case, there are a lot of resources to check out (aside from going directly to the manufacturer). Websites like Alibaba, Global Sources, EC21, Bizbilla, Chinabrands, and even eBay can help you find what you need. Be prepared to invest a bit, as many wholesale distributors have a “minimum order” requirement. So going with the “t-shirt business” example, most suppliers would require that you purchase a minimum of 100 plain white t-shirts to receive wholesale prices.
Hire VAs early
Many websites recommend hiring VAs (virtual assistants) to assist with certain elements of your business like inventory management, email responding, etc. The thing is that many of these websites suggest you hire VAs when your business grows and you’re too busy for that stuff.
Here’s the problem - if your business grows to the point where you’re too busy to respond to all of your customer’s emails in a timely fashion, you’re really not going to have the time to interview and train a proper virtual assistant. Then they’re asking you for advice or similar in the middle of the work day. I’ve seen this before!
It’s far better to hire virtual assistants early on, perhaps on an “as needed” basis, so that they can grow along with your business. Then, by the time your business starts booming, your VAs already know everything.