A business, by definition, exists to make profit. So before going online, you need to have a solid business model in place. This should outline how you plan to make money. Is it by buying items from others and selling them at a higher price? Or selling your own products? Perhaps even making money off your services? The business plan should outline this clearly.
‘Online’ means your operations will be done through the internet. If you are into e-commerce, that would mean selling electronically. Depending on what you sell, you may also to have to buy online. Sometimes, the ‘sale’ is not of a product, but of a service. This still entails accepting payments digitally. So you might need a merchant account if your customers are to pay you using credit cards. There are still some credit card processors who let you do this without having a merchant account, so it is advisable to do your homework beforehand. This way, you can integrate the right payment gateway into your website or page.
How to make money from your online business
Anyone can start an online business. The point of this article is not how to start one, but specifically how to do so and sustain itself in a way that will be economically profitable.
Before you start, it would be a good idea to ask yourself the following questions:
Does it meet an important or unanswered need? This is important. If you don’t differentiate yourself from the competition, but only ape what they do, is there any reason why potential customers should buy from you?
Is the timing right? YouTube became successful because it was launched at the right time, when high-speed broadband internet was beginning to pervade homes and businesses. Video-sharing/hosting sites that were launched earlier failed because internet speeds and/or bandwidth were not yet sufficient at the time for an impressive user experience.
Is it something that excites you? Make no mistake, there will be lean periods. This is part of the business cycle. Only enthusiasm can help you tide over these dark, gloomy times when there are hardly any customers. Some of those who start online businesses with only revenues in mind give up when the money stops flowing. But that also means they waste whatever effort they had put into their business.
How high are your expectations? If you are expecting it to be a walk in the park, you have gotten it all wrong. Building a successful online business requires a lot of hard work, and this is a slow and painful process. The chances of you starting your online business, and then kicking back and relaxing as sales skyrocket, are extremely slim.
Do you plan to go it alone? You are going to need to need support from a lot of people – this could be your suppliers (when a customer needs something urgently, but you are out of stock, only your supplier can help you), your web developer or the people at your credit card processing company when there are delays or failures in electronic card payments (so much that your customers quit trying, out of sheer frustration), or fellow entrepreneurs and businessmen who can share their experiences and provide you with valuable insights on what to do and what not to do. It could also be your friends and family, whom you can count on for moral support. Digital marketing experts could tell you how to expand your online business, making use of new-age tools like social media and search engine advertising.
Once you start an online business, you will realize that for more business, you need greater inbound traffic. Only if people are interested can you convince them to buy from you. For this, things like SEO come into play. This is when you understand that a dedicated website scores over a simple web page. Domain names can be had for as little as a dollar. Your web design could also be based on WordPress, and these are attractive enough, but they are based on templates and there is little you can do to customize the code to bring in more visitors. A professional web developer who has experience building attractive sites and optimizing it for search engines could help you more in this regard.