Launching an online business makes way more sense than going down the old-school route of having a physical presence somewhere, with premises that are an additional drain on resources. With the right idea you can do the same thing on the internet and shave off all of those unwanted overheads, free up spare cash (if you even had it in the first place) and run a much tighter ship.
Conventional businesses can drain cash from your bank account in no time, whereas an online venture has the potential to be successful while also only requiring a reasonably small outlay. Obviously that’s not true if you’re aiming to be a major player, but if you’re launching a business on a much smaller scale then the time is ripe for getting your idea online and out there to the masses.
What you need?
Assuming you have a solid business idea - and that's easier said than done - you’re halfway there, but you’ll also need the means to keep it going once you’re up and running. If you rely on stock then it’s worth keeping that in mind. You don't want to launch a business only to find that you encounter supply chain issues soon after. However, if you’ve got an idea that doesn't require physical items of stock then you’re in a much better place.
One good example is that of tuition. Imagine you’re a guitar teacher who can't currently get out to customers, for whatever reason that might be. Health scares, bad weather; the list of potential hazards seems to be growing all the time. If you're a guitar teacher though, it can be business as usual. That’s just one example, but if you’ve got skills that can be transferable via the internet then you might be in a pretty good place.
Breaking it down
If you start to think about what you’ll actually need to carry out something like teaching guitar classes online then there’s really not much to it. You’ll clearly need an internet connection, as that’ll give you access to your window on the world. Broadband would be the preferred connectivity level, but there’s no reason mobile broadband wouldn't be okay too assuming it allows for video calls. There’s all sorts of tech here at TechRadar that will help you along that path.
Naturally, you’ll require hardware, which’ll need to be a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. That will also need software and a camera to allow you to do your teaching to customers. As for software then video conferencing tools are plentiful, with Skype being an obvious first port of call for many but there are others. Setting up the system should be straightforward enough. You’ll also have access to internet calling, as well as email so all communications bases are covered.
Then comes the provision for getting paid for your services, which is also thankfully way more straightforward than it used to be. There are various options for setting up a payment gateway or simply for credit card processing. If you do plan on any bricks and mortar element, you will also need to ensure you have a Point of Sale (POS) in place.
So, back to our example of a guitar tutor, he or she could offer digital services by simply sending emails with payment requests through Paypal or similar for payment. This could apply whether the tuition is provide through online resources or via one-on-one tutoring.
While the everyday nuts and bolts of your new business venture are important, another area that will need to get close scrutiny is promotion. There’s no point in setting up a virtual shop window if nobody knows about you. If you’ve already been running a existing physical business then doubtless you’ll also possess lots of existing customers. For those people the answer is to simply send them an email, text or other digital communication to update them.
If you're starting from scratch though then you’ll want to consider spending some quality time profile building. The first port of call will be to build a website. This task has never been easier and even if you have no technical skills and little in the way of creativity, there are countless online options that can do much of the work for you. Online options include simple drag-and-drop website builders, which often come with the all-important web hosting backbone. Web hosting too can cost peanuts if you shop around.
For our guitar tutor, they could easily set up an online ecommerce website and take payments for digital bookings rather than for products - something a lot of vendors now support.
Using an online website building service is brilliantly simple in many cases. You can pick and choose from site styles or themes and then populate these pages with your own content. You’ll need some decent images, which can come from a smartphone or digital camera, while you’ll also need to come up with some decent text. Think less is more for this task, as too much text and people will get bored. A simple but effective message is all you’ll need in most cases.
You could also get an individual to put a site together for you, or get a design outlet to do it for you. That said; if you’re starting out small then it’s a good idea to stick with something cheap and basic. After all, if things start taking off you can always expand. If, incidentally, your new business is more about selling products rather than services then be sure to pick a website creation tool that allows you to integrate e-commerce functionality into your pages. Again, this is super-easy to implement these days.
Having built the website you’ll also need to start social media promotion. In fact, getting in early with that makes a lot of sense, so start building the foundations with the usual social media options, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among others. This will take time, so you need to work at it and post regularly. It might seem like a chore, but this can really pay dividends. Of course, if you have spare cash or a marketing budget you can also opt for content marketing as well as online marketing services and advertising.
Hopefully, with all of those component parts in place your new online business should soon start to tick over nicely. There’s no easy answer to doing this, unless you have a brilliant idea that nobody else has yet thought of. It could take time. Nevertheless, it can be fun seeing a new business grow and, if money starts rolling in, then you also have access to lots of software tools online that’ll help you manage your finances.
In fact, if you search for things like best accounting software within TechRadar then you’ll soon see that there are packages available for businesses of any size. It’s vital that you keep track of your incomings and outgoings too as, eventually, you’ll need to pay your taxes and other overheads (dedicated tax software can also help here). Needless to say, those chores can be done online too. So, what are you waiting for?
- Don't forget to keep track of your personal finances as well!
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Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.