Building a Business

How to Start an Online Business in 11 Simple Steps

Updated on May 18, 2020 Updated on May 18, 2020
Listen Money Matters is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. How we make money.
laptop and coffee mug

    We want to motivate all of you to start creating online businesses. In one year, you can build one that earns $1,000 or more per month with part-time, focused effort. Follow these steps to learn how to start an online business right now.

    There is no worse feeling than the feeling that you don’t have control over your life. No one who works for someone else is immune from a job loss.

    It’s been predicted that around 47% of jobs could be automated by 2035 or 2040. Do you want to be late to the party or arrive early and get the best seat?

    We want all of you to have security, freedom, and fulfillment. The best way to get those things is to be your own boss and create passive income.

    Why are we advocating for online businesses? Because a brick-and-mortar business only goes so far. You have to physically be present, and there is a maximum you can earn based on space restrictions.

    The internet is infinitely scalable, and you aren’t tied to a location. You can work anywhere that has an internet connection. I’m working right now, writing this from the comfort of my couch with the help of my cats. Beats a cubicle!

    If you’re ready to take the plunge into online business, these steps will give you the framework you need to be successful.

    How to Start an Online Business

  1. Commit to a Business Idea
  2. The first step can be both the simplest and the hardest. All you need is an idea to get started. Finding the idea is the tricky part.

    Maybe you already have an idea in mind. If not, here are some suggestions of popular, profitable, online business ideas:

    –Be a consultant in your field of expertise

    –Become a freelancer

    –Sell your creations

    –Start a blog

    –Create an online store for reselling or dropshipping

    Once you’ve settled on an idea, the real fun starts. It’s time to commit yourself to your business. Nobody’s saying it’s easy, but the payoff can be well worth the effort.

    Not having time and energy to devote to a business is probably the biggest obstacle for most people.

    Cut down on your Netflix and chill. Get some of your best and most creative thinking done while you’re exercising. Try to wrangle some flex time at work.

    For starters, I challenge you to get up an hour or two earlier than usual and use that time to work on your business for one week. There will always be plenty to do.

    We found you the time, now get off social media and get to work.

    Starting a business is hard. Always remember it’s okay to ask for help. With 35+ online courses and weekly live coaching sessions, Fizzle is a great resource for budding entrepreneurs who want to increase their chances of success.

    Lasso
    We built this to monetize Listen Money Matters and now we're sharing it with you. If you want to make money online, you need this tool. It's the best plugin you'll ever use, if we do say so ourselves.

  3. Educate Yourself
  4. Just as there’s always plenty to do, there’s always plenty to learn. Consider things like:

    –Business laws

    –Tax laws

    –Rules for other sites you’ll work with (like Etsy, Upwork, or Fiverr)

    –Business-specific knowledge

    Don’t get lost in this phase, but do your best. There are so many people who never make it past this point because they just keep researching.

    Ditch the analysis paralysis. Cover the big topics that you need to get started, and learn the rest as you go.

    Research Your Small Business

  5. Study the Competition
  6. Unless you have the most novel idea in all of creation, you’re not the first person to do what you’re doing. Use this to your advantage.

    Find the people you think will be your competitors in your type of business. Study all the top Google hits in detail.

    What seems to be working for them? What do you think they could do better?

    Look for similarities between all of them. These are probably industry standards. Will you need to follow those to be successful, or will your business succeed by breaking out-of-date trends?

    Everything you learn in this step will help you with the next.

  7. Find Your Niche
  8. You’ve finished studying your competitors. Did you notice anything missing? This is probably the gap you can fill when you start your online business.

    The beautiful thing about finding your niche is you don’t have to be #1 in your entire market. You don’t have to be the best at everything; you just have to try your best and find a way to provide value to your clients.

    Do you think Amazon is the only online retailer that makes money? No. They make the most money, but Walmart and Apple are doing okay in that arena too.

    Take our niche for example. There are dozens and dozens of podcasts and websites devoted to personal finance. But there wasn’t one with two kinds of nerdy guys talking about money while swearing and drinking beer.

  9. Learn Your Audience
  10. Time for some good old-fashioned market research. Consider some of the following questions:

    –What is your target market?

    –How will you attract new customers?

    –What do your customers need from you?

    –How will you make money from them?

    Every one of your potential customers will have a pain point. This is where you’ll (ideally) come in.

    Once you know your audience’s needs, you’ll need to figure out how to solve them. Then you have to learn where they are.

    Are they younger? You’ll want to be on Instagram. Are they older? You’ll want to have an active business page on Facebook.

    Get our best strategies, tools, and support sent straight to your inbox.

    Create and Implement Your Business Model

  11. Make a Business Plan
  12. This step can be as plain or detailed as you want it to be. You can make a business plan to cover the essentials:

    –Settle on a clear business name

    –Decide if you’re going to make it a side hustle or a full-time gig

    –Consider the necessary startup costs

    –Create a mission statement or statement of purpose

    –Think of your business goals

    –Create a strategy to meet those goals

    –Forecast reasonable financial projections (best-case, worst-case, and most likely scenarios)

    online-business-evaluate

  13. Design a Website
  14. Even if you’re not running your online business straight from your website, you’ll want to have one. It’ll be the hub where your clients can learn everything they need to know about you and your product or service.

    It all starts with a good domain name. A good strategy is to pretend you have to tell it over the radio. Think of listenmoneymatters.com. Not to brag, but it’s clear, concise, and informative. You can easily tell it to someone without confusion.

    Pretend it was something like listen-monee-matters.com. Can you imagine explaining the hyphens and the improper spelling, even if the spelling was intentional? It would be a nightmare.

    If you don’t know how to build a website, our previous podcast co-host Thomas has you covered. He created a guide in such minute detail that anyone can follow it and successfully build a site. It’s cheap to do too.

    Earlier, we mentioned Fizzle as a great resource when you’re starting an online business. What makes them even more valuable is they provide managed WordPress hosting with Flywheel. That’s one less detail you have to figure out and more people in your corner to help you succeed.

  15. Become an Expert Marketer
  16. Whether you have an eCommerce store, are blogging with affiliate marketing, or are providing a paid service, you need marketing. Unlike your morning commute, you need traffic for an online business.

    SEO (search engine optimization) is crucial. This will help your audience find you organically.

    It doesn’t matter if you have an incredible product. If your audience can’t find you, you won’t sell a single thing.

    You’ll need to grow an email list and master the art of email marketing. If you completed the step about learning your audience, this step will be a little easier.

    You’ll already know what they need, so all you have to do is show them why they need you.

    And if your business is already humming, Andrew and Matt created a WordPress plug-in to increase conversions and find new affiliate link opportunities. Check it out here.

    Make More Money Online

  17. Scale Your Business
  18. You don’t want your own business because you want to keep working long hours with no payout. I’d wager one of the goals from your business plan is the maximum profit for minimum work.

    Online business is great because the nature of the internet is not linear progress but exponential growth. As network effects deliver your message to ever-larger audiences, you should grow at a faster rate in year two than year one, and so on.

    You just don’t get the same kind of return when you have solely a brick-and-mortar operation.

    So how do you scale your business? Start batching similar processes and do them together to save time. Automate as much as you can.

    Continuously create new content. When you can afford it, hire people to create this content for you. Then sit back and watch as your business makes money while you sleep.

  19. Evaluate
  20. Congratulations, you’ve started your online business! Now that you’ve taken the plunge, it’s time to evaluate your progress up to this point.

    You’ve likely learned some valuable information along the way. Can you find a way to put it to use and make your business even better?

    Reevaluate your business every now and then, possibly quarterly or annually. A self-audit can cover a range of topics, but try to answer some of these questions:

    –Are your financial projections accurate? Do they need tweaking?

    –What products, services, or blog articles seem to be doing well? Which aren’t?

    –Do you notice any new business trends (either for your business or among your competitors)?

    –Do the answers to the above questions call for a change in web design or web presence?

    –Can you quit your day job yet?

  21. Stay Committed
  22. At the end of the day, many small business owners are successful because they tapped into something that’s available to any of us: discipline.

    Motivation waxes and wanes. Discipline is what keeps it going.

    Tweet This

    Not every episode or article on LMM hits it out of the park. We always put forth our best effort, but no one hits a home run every time. But we have produced so much content that some of it is pretty awesome.

    That’s the Equal-Odds Rule. The more output you have, the better chance you’ll create something great.

    So push it out there as much as you can. This is all a pretty fancy way of saying you need to practice. Practice when the stakes are low, in the beginning when no one is watching and no one will be disappointed by failure.

    Final Thoughts

    Starting a successful online business means creating uncommon value, which means it requires uncommon effort. It’s going to be hard, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s beyond our ability to do it.

    We all have excuses. The marketplace is too crowded. It’s already been done. There are already such big players. I don’t know anything about building a website, and I don’t have any extra money to start an online business.

    Whether you’re a freelancer, blogger, influencer, or seller, you have what it takes. Ask yourself: Why not me? You deserve success as much as anyone else does, so go out and take it.

Caitlin Ward - Contributor
Caitlin Ward works as a tax accountant at a small-town Virginia CPA firm. When she isn't writing about personal finance, she's studying for the CPA exam. She has a B.A. in Business Administration and a slight obsession with all things money. She contributes to Listen Money Matters to share what she's learned with more than just her husband and their cats.
learn course podcast popular toolbox