The Internet has opened up new frontiers for entrepreneurs all over the world. It is possible now to start your own business with very little overhead. If you have the basics—a computer, an internet connection and a business plan—you too can join the millions of people who make money online.
But where do you start? Here are a few tips to help you think through the steps involved in launching an enterprise online.
Your Business Plan
If you're thinking about starting a business online, you probably already have a good idea of what kind of company you'd like to run. Many internet entrepreneurs make a living buying and selling goods on sites like eBay. Others start their own sites and sell goods or services using an ecommerce solution.
It pays to formulate a business plan so you can be sure you've taken these factors into account: How will you reach customers? How will you deliver services? What kind of agreements will your business require? Will you work with vendors or partners? How will you get paid? A business plan helps you set objectives and think through the steps required to achieve them.
Finding Your Place in Cyberspace
Another primary step in starting your online venture is to find a corner of the web to call home for your company. Once you select a company name, you'll want to look into securing a domain name if you plan to run your business directly from your own site. There are numerous companies that handle domain name purchases, and most also offer hosting services, which provide server space for your site.
If you plan to run an ecommerce site—a site that features a system people can use to purchase goods or services online, you will likely have greater hosting needs that a regular website used mainly as a repository of information. There are online vendors who offer hosting and ecommerce solutions that may work for you. There are also many interactive marketing firms that build custom sites with ecommerce features. These firms can also offer assistance with search engine optimization (making it easy for potential customers to find your site) and online advertising.
Your Competition...and Your Customers
An important consideration before you get started is how your business will stack up against competitors. Go online and do a little research. You'll likely find many examples of other businesses that offer similar services or products. You can also learn what works and what doesn't by checking out how your competitors position their online businesses.
It's also important to get to know your audience. If the goods or services you are selling online appeal to a specific demographic, create a website that will appeal to them. An online site that sells vintage baseball cards would probably look very different from a site that sells maternity goods. But the most important thing to remember is that your site needs to convey credibility. Buying online is common these days, but people are still reluctant to do business unless you create a trustworthy, professional image online.
Consider Cyberspace Insurance
Covering your online business with a cyberspace liability insurance policy may be a smart move. These policies cover computer-related losses by other parties and may provide coverage for violations of intellectual property rights, lost data, invasions of privacy and other claims that can arise from doing business online.
Many regular business policies don't cover these online hazards. Also, some cyberspace insurance policies cover damage to your hardware, software and data—damage that might not be covered under your regular insurance policy.
Owning your own business can be extremely rewarding, both from a financial perspective and from a quality of life point of view. Many people find working from their own home and being their own boss very liberating.
But there are many things to consider before you get your online business up and running. Make sure you follow these simple tips and you'll be well on your way.