With each passing day, there are more modern businesses that operate entirely online (or at least online with shipping operations). This can include anything from a digital store to a subscription blog platform, to a gaming platform — and so much more. Whatever the specifics may be, though, there are now countless companies emerging all the time with the aim of functioning almost completely within the digital world.
This is simply the way of the world today, and often enough, it’s the most convenient, efficient, and ultimately profitable way to run a business today. At the same time, though, an online business comes with its own challenges beyond what you might consider when starting any other kind of company. It’s with that in mind that we’ve decided to offer a few tips for how to start a successful business entirely online.
1 – Prioritize Web Design Quality
It may seem obvious to prioritize the design quality of your business website. But for many people starting internet-based businesses, the priority ends up being getting any website set up at all. That is to say; it can be tempting to want to launch a site simply to get a business underway and then go from there.
It’s conceivable that there are businesses for which that’s an acceptable order of priorities. In most cases, though, effective web design will make a massive, positive difference in attracting and retaining customers. Good web design today means maintaining good loading speed, building an attractive layout, providing contact information, making the design mobile-friendly, and more.
It’s ultimately a fair amount of work, but data regarding consumer preferences for these types of features are clear. The better your web design is in these areas, the better chance you’ll have of making the business work.
2 – Register Your Business Officially
Another temptation when one starts an online business is to make it somewhat informal. Even a very well-designed website and successful operation can exist in a wholly unofficial fashion, such that it is essentially a freelance project rather than — in literal terms — a business. This may work and may even hold a certain appeal. But there are also benefits to turning the operation into a legally recognized business entity.
The easiest option is to set up a sole proprietorship, which is essentially a way of making a freelance operation more official in name and designation. However, forming an LLC is another very popular option that comes with more tangible benefits.
If your online business is registered as an LLC, you will be able to simply add its earnings to your own for tax purposes; you will be personally shielded from liabilities that may come up regarding the company, and you’ll be able to call your company an LLC — which will make it stand out next to all the other dot-com competitors. There are other entity options as well, such as corporations and partnerships. But the LLC option conveys the benefits of taking the time to register.
3 – Make Social Your Store
Lots of people who start businesses online fall into the habit of thinking of a website as a sort of virtual storefront. Strictly from a sales perspective, this may be a fairly accurate way to think of things. If consumers are finding your website and buying products or services there, then it’s perfectly logical to consider the website to be, for all intents and purposes, your store.
On the other hand, a more strategic way of thinking is to consider your site as the point of sale and your broader digital presence as your “store.” Or, more specifically, think of your social media activity as a means of engaging with consumers and attracting them to your products or services — functions ordinarily performed by a store.
Today, there are various smart ways to use social media to grow an online business. These include directly driving traffic to your site (again, as a point of sale), keeping an audience engaged, telling a brand story, and even tapping into influencer marketing. Your own strategy may vary based on your business plan. But the more you think of social media as a digital means of performing store functions, the more business you’re likely to generate as you start your online business.
4 – Prepare to Write (Or Hire Writers)
Our last tip is that no matter what kind of online business you’re starting, you should be prepared to write content or hire writers to do it for you. For plenty of types of online businesses, this won’t immediately seem necessary. However, businesses need blogs for a number of reasons that ultimately don’t have much to do with what said businesses’ primary purposes might be.
Blogs make it easier to attract traffic. They create communities among site visitors or people who share your content on social media. They help you to establish expertise, or at least a unique voice, on topics related to your business. They can even give you ways of generating and analyzing customer feedback. These are benefits no online business owner should ignore, which ultimately means that every online business owner should embrace at least a little bit of writing activity.
Plenty of challenges await anyone starting an internet business, even beyond what’s addressed here. Follow these tips, though, and you’ll be off to a good start.