Step by step - how to start an online business

Are you an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to build an online business but not sure where or how to start? There’s so much conflicting business advice out there and it can be pretty overwhelming. This is why I decided to write this blog to share a step-by-step action you can take right now to start your own online business.

 
 Business Tips: Step-by-step how to start an online business - for aspiring entrepreneurs 
 

My journey to entrepreneurship started when I completed my Yoga teacher training a couple of years ago. All my friends from teacher training were getting a few slots in various Yoga studios to teach, but I didn’t like the idea of running around London working for numerous Yoga studios.

I wanted to have my OWN class where I could pick the day and time I wanted to teach! I completed my training in July and by mid August I had hired a space in a gym and was running a weekly class as well as corporate classes.  I created my own website, Facebook business page and started blogging. It happened quite quickly and I was proud and certain that I could build a business on my own.

So when I started my own coaching business, it was natural for me to think that I wanted to do everything myself.  But soon I hit the wall. I had people interested in what I was doing but I had no idea how to turn my followers into paying clients. I had no idea how to grow my mail list. I had no idea how to use social media properly.

For months, I was subscribing to all the newsletters and free webinars I saw on the newsfeed and learnt how I was meant to set up an online business. The more and more I read and watched those webinars, the more confused I became. When I hired my own success coach, I realized that I had missed out so many steps to building a successful online business.

I know how frustrating it is to figure out everything alone from the million sources out there especially where some information can be conflicting.

Here are the exact steps to take when you are starting from zero knowledge and want to start an online business.


let's get started!

 

STEP 1: YOU HAVE A BUSINESS IDEA(S), NOW WHAT?

If you’ve already narrowed it down to one from all of your amazing business ideas, congratulations! You can skip this step :)

If you are still figuring out which business idea you’d like to pursue, ask these questions:

QUESTION #1:

What is your true passion? What really lights you up? What makes you excited? What makes you happy? What activity do you love doing all day that doesn’t feel like work?

QUESTION #2:

What are you really good at? For example, if you have your friends often asking for advice, you may be good at giving advice or coaching others. Once you identified what you are good at, research if you need a specific qualification or specific training to become an expert in that field in order to run a business. When you are truly in alignment with your passion and your zone of genius, that’s when the magic happens!

QUESTION #3:

What do you value in your life? What is your lifestyle desire?  Do you desire freedom & flexibility so that you can spend more time with your loved ones, wake up anytime you want and have a break anytime you like? Would you like a business that can provide you with income while you sleep? Would you like a business that allows you to work from anywhere and at any time? When I completed my Yoga teacher training, I never wanted to teach loads of classes like other Yoga teachers. Although I love teaching Yoga, running around London teaching classes in different gyms and studios just didn’t appeal to me. I wanted to be able to travel the world freely while doing the work I love, so I chose to focus on my online coaching business.

QUESTION #4:

Is your business idea aligned with all of the above?

Take some time to ask these questions everyday to help you get clearer. If you still feel stuck, it may be a good idea to look for a coach or mentor who can support you in the process.


STEP 2: MARKET RESEARCH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA & NICHE BEFORE YOU LAUNCH

Once you’ve figured out which business idea you’d like to pursue, the first tool you can use is the Google Keyword Planner to research your idea and narrow down your niche market. This is a great way to find out if anyone will be interested in your service or product and how much competition there is out there. Be specific with your keywords.  For example, if you decide to become a Health Coach, think about the area you’d like to focus on – for example weight loss, reducing stress, eating better etc. To do this you need to open an account – but the good news is that its free to do so.

If you type in weight loss in the Google Keyword Planner, you’ll find that the average monthly search is between 100k – 1m and “high” in competition.  You’ll also see a list of keywords relevant to weight loss. It’s a great way to find out what topics people are interested in related to weight loss.

For example, you want to focus on vegan weight loss programs. An average monthly search for “vegan weight loss” is between 10k – 100k and “low” in competition. Next, you want to check if your niche is trending up or down. You can use Google Insights to check the trends.

The best scenario is high traffic (lots of searches), upward trend and lower competition.

Once you’ve narrowed down your niche, you can use our favorite search engine tool, Google to learn about your competitors and ideal clients by searching for those keywords. Brainstorm initial ideas for the services or products you’d like to offer.

You can also interview people who might be interested in the topic or create a survey. Useful tools to create these surveys include Typeform (which I use) or Survey Monkey. You can ask specific questions to find out WHY someone would be interested in your services or products.  

HOW DO I FIND PEOPLE TO SURVEY OR INTERVIEW?

The best way to find people for an interview or to survey are to access and use Facebook groups where your ideal clients hang out. To find the right groups follow the steps below:

STEP 1: Type in keywords related to your niche in the Facebook search bar.

STEP 2: Be sure to select “Groups”.

STEP 3: You’ll see a list of groups related to your keywords.

STEP 4: Click the group you are interested in and read the description and make sure your ideal clients are in the group.

STEP 5. Join the group and wait for the creator of the group to accept your request.

STEP 6: Observe the group for a few days to get the feel of the group and to make sure that your ideal clients are there.

STEP 7: If you feel the group is the right fit for your brand, introduce yourself to the group and ask if anyone would be interested in participating in your market research interview or survey.

You can also interview your friends, colleagues and family members (and their friends) who may be interested in the topic.

STEP 3: DEFINE YOUR BRAND

So what exactly is a brand? Your brand isn’t just about your logo or a visual representation.

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” - Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

It’s people’s perception toward a brand that defines it. This is created by your business through your marketing message, content you share and how your business treats your audience.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy how it makes them feel” – Bernadette Jiwa

Before you build a website and start marketing yourself, it is essential to brainstorm how you’d like your brand to be.

YOUR BRAND SHOULD:

  • Attract your ideal client
  • Clarify what you stand for in the world
  • Communicate in a consistent, unique voice

You’ve done some research on your target audience in Step 2 so you must know by now what they are struggling with, need help with and are looking for.

I've written a super detailed blog post about how you can build an authentic brand that stands outs from the crowd to get you started. 


STEP 4: YOUR PRIORITIES

Now that you have your brand defined, you have two options as to which direction you’d like to go:

OPTION 1: SET UP YOUR WEBSITE

If you are not fussed about getting your first paying client in the next month and want to have your website set up before you launch your business, you can then go on and develop your website. You could either outsource it or build it your website yourself.

You may want to develop your website first if you chose to blog, host a podcast or video as part of your marketing strategies. This is because Search Engine Optimization (SEO) takes months to kick in. The earlier you have your website developed and optimized, the faster you can start getting traffic to your website.  


Should I DIY my website or hire a web designer? 

I have a perfect quiz for you to help make up your mind!


If your priority is to get your first few clients and start generating income from your business, then you can postpone your website development and go to Step 5. 


STEP 5: CREATE A LEAD MAGNET (FREE PRODUCT)

I believe that every business owner whatever niche or industry they are in should be focusing on growing their mail list.

Lead Magnets are an irresistible bribe, offering a specific chunk of value to a prospect in exchange for their contact information
— www.digitalmarketer.com

The best way to grow your mail list, especially when you are starting out, is to create a lead magnet (free product).  You can even start growing your mail list without a website. All you need is a landing page.

For landing page, I highly recommend LeadPages* (a monthly subscription fee applies) which I use for my own landing pages and sales pages for my services and products. You can design pretty sophisticated landing page with LeadPages!  As an example, here is a link to my landing page for one of my free products.  Alternatively you can try Instapage as they offer 14 day free trial. 

For email service provider, if you are just starting out and absolute beginner, I recommend MailChimp (you can start with a free account) although MailChimp doesn't have a great automation feature which you will need to automate your marketing.  In contrast, ConvertKit* and ActiveCampaign* have a great automation feature but they are slightly more advanced (a monthly subscription fee applies with both providers). If you are good with tech stuff then ConverKit and ActiveCampaign would be sufficient for you. 

Before you brainstorm your free product ideas, think about what service or product you’ll be offering. Your free product content should be relevant to your paid service or the product you will eventually be offering to your leads.

I’ve written a full blog about creating and promoting your lead magnet. Click HERE to read the blog.

Note: In this blog, I also share ways to promote your free product.  However, there are couple of steps you need to take before you start promoting your free product so when you have created your free product, move to Step 6.


STEP 6: CREATE AN OFFER

You don’t need to have a long sales page for your offer if you don’t have a website yet. I suggest mapping out the benefits and results your potential clients and customers will get when they purchase your service or product. This is when your market research comes handy. Go back to your notes from your research, interviews and/or survey responses and make sure your offer is solving their problems or struggles.

The next stage is to map out the features. For example if you are a coach, think about how many coaching sessions you will be offering and whether they will get email access to you etc.

The final stage is pricing. I suggest researching your competitors to find out what they are charging for a similar offer to help set the context, however I think the best thing to do is to price your offer at a level that feels comfortable for you. If you are offering a digital product, I suggest the price range between $7 and $97 for your first product.  If you are offering a service, decide on your hourly rate and start from there. Make sure to have at least 2 payment options – full payment and a monthly payment plan.

Now, you can draft a “mini” sales page:

  • Title of your offer
  • Tagline (that explain who it is for and how it will help them)
  • 3 or 4 bullet points of your ideal client’s pain points and challenges
  • 5 or 6 bullet points of benefits & results
  • Features
  • Price
  • Call to Action (a link to book a discovery call or to a payment page)

STEP 7: CREATE A SALES FUNNEL THAT CONVERTS

A sales funnel is a marketing system. It’s the “ideal” process you intend your customers to experience as they go from Prospect to Lead to Customer to Repeat Buyer.
— www.convertwithcontent.com

Picture an ordinary funnel. It is basically that! 

STAGE 1: ATTRACT THE PROSPECT

Your sales funnel starts when people opt-in to your free product.  Therefore it is important to make sure that your free product is relevant to your overall sales funnel and end product or service that would attract your ideal client or customer.

STAGE 2: DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR NEW LEAD

Your new lead is added to an automatic email sequence. 

YOUR EMAIL SEQUENCE: 

EMAIL 1 (to be sent out immediately after someone opts-in): The Welcome Email. The purpose of this email is to deliver your free product and a brief introduction of who you are and how you can help them. You could also tell them what they can expect to receive over the next few days. As a call to action, I suggestadding a P.S. “Hit reply if you have a question” or “Hit reply to let us know what you think of the <insert free product name>”

EMAIL 2 (to be sent out 1-2 days after Email 1): Your Story. The purpose of this email is to connect with your new lead at a personal level by telling your personal story, journey and turning point. Tell them your story in a way that will help them relate to you by sharing about the struggles or problems you used to face and how you overcame them, and show that it is possible for them to overcome these too. 

EMAIL 3 (1-2 days after Email 2): Build the ‘know, like and trust’. The purpose of this email is to build trust with your new lead. Share some valuable tips or advice related to your free product.  

EMAIL 4 (1-2 days after Email 3): Position yourself as an expert. The purpose of this email is to share more valuable tips & advice and to tell them why they should believe what you have to say. Why you are different from other competitors and share your uniqueness.

STAGE 3: SELL YOUR OFFER

EMAIL 5 (1-2 days after Email 4): Share your offer. The purpose of this email is to introduce your service or product. Start with your story and then share your offer with a call to action to either book a discovery call with you or a link to a sales page/payment page for your product.

EMAIL 6 (1 day after Email 5): Social proof – share past success stories and testimonials. If you don’t have any testimonials yet, you could break down any myths they might believe about the topic and/or objections they might have.

EMAIL 7 (1-2 hours before an offer expires): Share your offer with a bonus or limited time offer. Start with your ideal client’s pain point and then share your personal journey about why they need to take action now. Then share your offer with juicy bonuses with a strong call to action.

If you want to run a limited time offer, I highly recommend using Deadline Funnel (a monthly subscription fee applies) which provides an evergreen countdown timer. You can embed the countdown timer in the email and set up the trigger to start the timer when the person receives an email. The trigger will need to be set up within your email service provider where you set up automation for your email sequence.

If you created a sales page for your product, you can also embed the timer into the sales page using either Deadline Funnel* or LeadPages* if you don’t have a website yet. It also allows you to re-direct potential clients to a different page after an offer has ended. For example, you could re-direct them to the sales page with a standard price or a simple page that says “offer expired!”. Scarcity is a great way to get people to take action and buy your products. There is a great article about scarcity by SumoMe.


STEP 8: CHOOSE YOUR MARKETING METHODS

My philosophy for building a successful business is all about balance and to ensure that the business is in alignment with your passion, values and purpose.  I always encourage my clients to choose their own marketing methods that are enjoyable and fun for them.  If they don’t want to create their own Facebook group and would rather use blogs to generate their leads, that’s absolutely fine! If you prefer videos to writing, you can focus on webinars and vlogging instead.

There are plenty of marketing strategies to choose from and here are some suggestions if you are just starting out. I suggest limiting yourself to 2-3 strategies and 2 social media platforms to start with.

#1 EMAIL MARKETING

This is a must! Your primary focus should be to grow your mail list. 

Read my blog post 9 ways to grow your email list from zero to get started. 

 

#2 Blogging/vlogging on your website

Read my super detailed blog post about how to write a successful blog for your business to get started.

 

#3 YOUR OWN FACEBOOK GROUP

Read more about getting more clients from Your own Facebook Group

 

#3. Other social media platforms

Such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube (you can read more about growing followers on Instagram and grow your mail list at the same time)

 

#4Guest blogging + podcast interviews

You can get a list of guest blogging sites & podcasters right here

 

#5In person workshop/seminars

I talk about hosting an in person workshop/seminars in my blog post how to get first clients for your online business.

Finally, before you get started, I highly suggest creating a business plan! The business plan will help you gain clarity, validate your business ideas, understand what your business is about, define how you operate and what your goals are. You can click the image below to download your FREE business plan workbook. 



*Please note that any links marked by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click them and make a purchase (at no cost to you). 

Do you have any questions? Share your questions in the comments below!