If your dream is to start an online business and work on it in your spare time, I’ve got great news for you.
This opportunity really exists… and it’s achievable.
Also, there has never really been a better or easier time to start an online business.
Indeed, I believe building an online businesses should be part of anyone’s long term financial plan and a lifetime income stream.
How to Start an Online Business
There are many types of online businesses you can start…
This article focuses on using WordPress as the foundation for your online business.
The first step is to create a blog.
Once you have your blog set up, you can learn how to incorporate your business or get started blogging just for fun.
Once you start, you will find that there is an entire ecosystem of FREE online apps and products to help you make your online business a reality. These apps can help you to:
- Sell information products
- Make money from ads
- Make money from affiliate sales
- Sell online classes
- Start an email newsletter
- Create a membership site
You can make money with any of these things.
But these are just a few of the things you can do to make money with WordPress.
WordPress is a free, open source content management system… And it will serve as the foundation for your online business.
The “blog” portion of your online serves as your inbound content marketing foundation… Content marketing is the marketing foundation behind 99% of successful online businesses!
You can write your own content or you can hire someone to write it for you.
Either way, whether you want a part time side hustle to work on or you want to build a substantial e-commerce business, I’ll walk you through the proven steps for success online.
Follow the 5 simple steps below to start an online business:
Step 1: Know Your Target Audience (aka “Avatar”)
The first step when you start an online business is to define your target audience.
Get a piece of paper and writing down the following:
- Who your customer is.
- What his or her problems are.
Knowing who your customer is means developing a detailed description of who your readers are.
This detailed description is also known as an “avatar“.
When you start an online business, at the very beginning, you won’t actually know who your customer is…
But the sooner you can create a basic description of who you are catering to, the better. Because you are going to write your articles (or have articles written for you) with this person in mind.
Some example descriptions of your avatar might be:
- Someone who is burnt out in his or her job and dreams of building a business from home.
- Someone who is bored at work who wants to be entertained.
- A stay at home mom who is looking for cooking ideas that can help save money.
- A personal finance buff who is interested in learning about cryptocurrencies.
- Couples who love to travel together to exotic places on a budget.
You don’t have to get super specific…
For instance, you don’t need to know that they have 2.4 kids with a median income of $120,000 per year and are planning a Disney World vacation in the next 12 months.
But you need a description of your target customer, aka your “avatar”.
Once you know who your target audience is, you can start to brainstorm all of the potential problems they may be seeking to solve.
Step 2: Know Why Your Avatar is Visiting Your Site
The second step when you start an online business is knowing why your audience is coming to you. A wise person once said that there are only two reasons people go online:
- To solve a problem.
- To be entertained.
When you start an online business, you can either be an entertainer or a problem solver.
If you’re the latter, like me, you’ll aim to be a problem solver.
To help solve your audience’s problems, ask yourself, “What are my customer’s pain points?” and “How can I remove that pain?”
When you have answered these questions, write all of your audience’s hypothetical problems down, then proceed to write blog posts that solve the problems they have.
For example, when I created an online exam preparation business, my target audience was architects, designers and contractors.
My target audience wanted to know the quickest way to pass the LEED exams1 which is a professional credentialing exam for green building professionals.
My audience just wanted to pass the exam. Why? Because there was money to be made in working on LEED certified building projects and in green building projects such as solar, wind and energy efficiency.
Having a LEED credential meant getting more jobs. So I helped them earn their credential in the most painless way possible…
The more you can narrow down who your target audience is, the more you will be able to help them.
Step 3: Choose a Domain Name
The third step when you start an online business is to choose a domain name.
If you already have a domain name, awesome.
If not, I recommend using either Bluehost or GoDaddy to register your domain. I have used both Bluehost and GoDaddy because you can get a domain and WordPress hosting together in one place at a discount.
How to Choose a Domain Name:
If you don’t already have a domain name, there are two common paths to choose from:
1) Make Up Your Own Domain Name:
If you create a name from scratch, consider the following before buying your domain:
- Is it unique?
- Is it brandable?
- Is it protectable?
- Is it memorable?
When choosing a domain name, a domain name generator like NameMesh can help you find a unique, brandable, protectable and memorable name for your domain or new startup.
Also, do a Google search for the domain name you want.
Use quotes around the terms you are interested in and see what comes up. Is the name very common? If so, it may not be protectable (i.e. via a trademark).
Once you’ve chosen the name for your online business, then proceed to check if social media handles are available.
Use a social media name search tool, like “Knowem“, to do a quick FREE search of your name on all the major social networks, domains, trademarks, etc.
2) Use Your Own Name
If you are creating a personal brand “yourname.com” may be the best approach.
Even if you do not want to create a personal brand, I always recommend that people have their own names as a domain name (eg. “yourname.com”).
That said I am always amazed as how few people have actually registered their own names! If you haven’t already done so, do it today!
If “yourname.com” is already taken, you can try adding your middle initial or a suffix like “Jr” or add “Mr”, “Ms” or “Mrs” at the beginning. There are also lots of new top level domains (TLDs) coming out all the time including .work, .science, .tv, .solutions, .tech, .club, .mortgage, .money, .pet, etc… as well as the classic .net and .org.
If the domain you want isn’t available, it may be for sale on the aftermarket.
Buying domains on the GoDaddy domain name aftermarket is easy. Some domains have “Buy Now” prices where you can pay the premium price, and you’ve got the domain. Other premium domains are for set up to be sold at auction.
Step 4: Get Web Hosting
The fourth step to start an online business is to get web hosting. For webhosting, I recommend either Bluehost or GoDaddy. I have used both because they are great for beginners.
Both are great and easy to set up a WordPress blog, which is what you’ll want.
GoDaddy and Bluehost both offer “one click setup” of WordPress and from there it’s as simple as making changes to your theme and appearance within the WordPress dashboard.
Check out this post for a detailed overview of getting your hosting set up on Bluehost. The post makes it very easy to get started:
- Visit Bluehost and get started
- Choose your hosting plan
- Connect your domain name
- Create your account and customize your hosting
- Set a new password
- Pick your theme
- Start blogging
Follow these steps and set up your hosting in about 5 minutes…
Click here to get started, then follow the step by step instructions to start a blog.
Most importantly, you’ll want to start writing posts for your audience to read.
Step 5: Write Posts For Your Audience
The fifth step when you start an online business is creating content. Writing excellent posts is the best way to connect with your audience.
Refer back to your avatar description, and the problems you are solving for your customer. Start brainstorming ideas for blog posts that can help your audience.
Once you have your list, I recommend writing at least 10 blog posts prior to publishing your blog.
Of course, you can do this yourself or have someone else write posts for you.
Set up a publishing schedule. Whether it’s posting once a day, or once per week, write out a plan to follow… And do everything you can to stick to it.
A helpful thing is to create an “Editorial Calendar“. An editorial calendar provides you with a plan for when you will write the posts. This will allow you to tackle solving each of your audience’s problems one by one.
How to Write a Blog Post
Make sure you have determined the goals of your post before you start writing. Each of your blog posts should aim to solve a problem for your audience. In terms of length, there is no silver bullet. A helpful blog post can be any length.
However, I would recommend writing blog posts that are at least 500 words.
To help with your blog post writing for SEO (search engine optimization), you can download the free SEO plugin “Yoast“. Yoast is a great free SEO plugin that will help you to optimize your content for Google:
- Choose a target keyword (this article’s target keyword is “start an online business”)
- Craft a page title and meta description
- Write for the web
- Not overuse your keyword
- Optimize your images
Titles of your posts should be clear and inspire curiosity… Your reader should read the headline and want to click to learn more.
Clickable post titles are sometimes structured in “listicle” style (i.e. a “list” and an “article”) or more of a how to format. A listicle is what you’d expect, with a title like: “Five Ways to Overcome Depression as a Solopreneur“.
Once you have your topic, headline and content for your post, check everything for on-page SEO using Yoast.
You get a “green” indicator if your post is well optimized for your keyword, a “yellow” indicator if it is OK and “red” if it needs a lot of improvement.
Of course, you can spend hours learning and implementing the constantly changing rules of SEO.
There is a ton to learn about both “on-page” SEO and “off-page” SEO. Moz is a great resource. They have an excellent blog and video series by Rand Fishkin.
If you are new to SEO for blogging, check out the video (above) or read the excellent post on SEO for bloggers and how to nail the content optimization process from Moz.
Rand gives an excellent overview of the following steps in the SEO for blogging process:
- Determine the post’s goals (as mentioned above)
- Determine the metrics that matter to you (how will you measure success?)
- Determine the audience you want to reach (this speaks to step 1 above)
- Do your keyword research
- Conduct competitive research
- Create your post – What else can you add to it to make it stand out from the competition?
- Check your on-page SEO and keyword targeting
- Craft an outreach and amplification plan for your post
Once your online business is up and running, you will repeat step five over and over again. Experiment, learn and iterate (i.e…rinse and repeat!)