I remember the first time the idea of starting a business online popped into my head. Pumped and full of enthusiasm, I was scared but also ready to jump right in and make myself a whole load of money.
Well, despite all the hype about getting rich off the 'net, it turns out that starting an online business is in many ways just like starting one in the 'real' world. Here are a few things to consider before jumping into the Internet business world:
1. Take a Personal Assessment.
What type of skills and interests do you have? Many people start businesses in areas in which they already work - for example, someone who works as programmer might start an Internet business writing custom scripts.
Identify the types of businesses you think you'll love to do; after all, there's no point in leaving a job you hate for a business that makes you miserable!
2. Conduct Market Research.
It would be a real shame to pour your heart, soul, and funds into a product or service that no one wants!
Trilogy Education Services is a great example of a company that knew their market and what the demands were. They rode this wave to a major acquisition.
All too often, usually out of sheer enthusiasm, people create a product or service that *they* want or like. Then they try to find a market for it.
You can't force an unwilling market to buy your product or service. Instead, through research, you can find out what your market wants - and then create a product to satisfy that want.
Every business contains an element of risk. Researching your market will help to reduce that risk, by helping you to make an educated judgment on whether or not people are willing to pay for your product - and at a price that will allow you to make a decent profit.
3. Research Your Competition.
I've often heard people say that they want to be the first into a market. The risk you take with this approach is that perhaps there *isn't* a market -- which is why you have no competition!
Entering a market where there's plenty of competition, on the other hand, probably indicates that there's sufficient interest to sustain at least some of these businesses. The risk is that there might not be room for *you*.
Find out what your competitors are doing, how they're doing it, what appears to work well for them and what doesn't. What can you offer that they can't? The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to make the right decisions for your business.
Ever heard the saying, "No one ever plans to fail... they just fail to plan." Some things to consider include...
Costs - startup costs, recurring fees such as web hosting, and marketing costs. Building a business takes money, plain and simple. How will you fund your business?
Business plan - if you intend to apply for a loan, you will likely need one of these. Even if you don't need a loan, a business plan helps to give your business some 'shape' by setting clear goals. Some great tips on writing a business plan can be found at the small business association. Another option is to hire an experienced freelancer to help you prepare your business plan.
Time commitment - it's tough when you hold down a "day job" and still have to find time to build your business. But businesses take time, and unless you actively set aside time to work on it, it probably won't happen. There's a world of difference between "spare time" (which no one seems to have these days) and "part time".
Space commitment - do you have a dedicated computer that you can use for your online business? How about a room where you can concentrate? The risk of sharing a computer with others is that someone may accidentally delete, corrupt, or misplace your important files.
A great product just isn't enough. Your potential customers have to be able to find you first before they can buy from you!
Your Internet business may benefit from a combination of online and offline marketing. It's a continuous learning experience; read and learn more every day to find the marketing techniques that work best for you.
There are many resources available online to teach you the basics of marketing and copywriting.
This includes the investigation of zoning regulations, business structures, registration of a business name, licenses and permits, bank accounts, insurance... all that boring but necessary stuff. The US Small Business Association is a good place to start. Also check locally; many cities have organizations dedicated to helping small businesses.
Research, planning, and preparation can help you to avoid headaches and mis-steps later on - and help you to make smart decisions for your business. Good luck and good planning!
7. Value Your Employees.
Expectations for a solid work environment are growing every year. Gone are the days where employees are just grateful for a paycheck. They want fulfilment and an environment where they can thrive.
Be in tune with what your employees are thinking about your company, and you will cultivate a team that is instrumental to your growth.