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How to Start a Successful Online Business

The entrepreneurship wave has finally hit India, and people are increasingly more invested in the idea of “hustle culture”. The COVID-19 pandemic witnessed a major exodus of the global workforce from full-time employees, especially in the US. Although the pandemic is not fully accountable for the same, it has certainly propelled the governing factors – lack of democratic workforces, decreased incomes and benefits, long work-from-home hours, and a general dissolution of work-life balance.
The will to become an entrepreneur normally stems from two feelings – you either feel dejected at work, or you would love to create change. Starting a business always aims to make a change that society will value. And I think we can all imagine why the surge in pharma-tech startups and the mass workforce exodus coincided.

Should I leave my current job?

Before gauging whether you need to start a business or need to climb the corporate ladder, it is important to understand what your goal is. These goals can be highly subjective, so there really isn’t any point in following the teachings and commandments of life and career coaches. Your professional (and personal) trajectory will always be incredibly different from someone else’s, and if you can’t figure out what your aspirations are, can you really expect valuable suggestions from someone who knows nothing about you? The answer: no.

Letting go of the security of full-time employment, wherein you know when you’ll get paid and how much, should not be underrated. This is a massive move, and it sometimes comes with privilege. If you’re young, you’ll have ample time to get back on your feet if things go awry. If not, you have two paths: gather a fantastic team that is committed to your vision and will ensure that you set up a profitable company (highly unlikely), or create a side hustle that you work on after-hours. Don’t feel disheartened if you were planning on seizing the first option: the second one is also a rare privilege because most times, people have extremely long shifts that do not leave them any time to work on something additional.

Am I better suited for business or for a job?

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell.
It is okay to doubt. This reminder is necessary to be put out because many people doubt themselves because they doubt their decision of starting a business. Many times this is attributed to lacking that ‘industry touch’, or that ‘business school’ confidence. But these are not the defining markers of whether or not you’ll be successful at starting your own venture. Focus on the following questions that you need to ask yourself instead:

Question 1: What’s missing?

is it money? Is it excitement? Self-respect? This question is crucial to ask, especially if you plan on foregoing your current job to start your own online business. What do you expect your business to bring in, ultimately? Know that you’ll develop a true passion for your work if you’re thoroughly invested in the idea of the returns you’ll get. If you’re mostly satisfied with your job, you will almost definitely feel like going back to your 9 to 5. Being a founder is a round-the-clock job.

Question 2: What’s my goal?

if your goal is to spend more time with your family, a hybrid-model job would be better suited for you. Do not assume that being the founder of a company, you can simply delegate tasks to employees and the company will run of its own volition. Remember – your employees may be feeling the same feelings as you about work.

Question 3: How will I start?

is the most baffling question. There are numerous legalities involved in starting your own business, and if you’re a new entrant to the professional workforce, you’ll most likely feel extremely overwhelmed. In Australia, it is compulsory to register yourself as a business entity even if you’re only working as a freelance content writer and are paid by the hour. Thankfully for online business modes, there’s a basic set of tools you’ll need to get going, and you’ll figure out the rest along the way.

How to start your online business

Tl;dr – you’re going to need some tools and you’re good to go.
A business begins not when it gets incorporated, but when you perceive a business idea you’re serious about. If you plan on becoming a sole proprietor, setting up your online business will be easier than you think. It is the planning part that will take a toll, and this involves inception of an idea, determining its feasibility, calculating revenues and expenses, and finally an execution strategy.

Step 1: Identify a need or problem

Guess what – a business can be built on any idea. There’s no idea too good or bad for a profitable venture. Because if you feel that a business idea is a good one, there are probably others who feel the same way. You simply need to identify these people – your target clientele. Conduct surveys and float in your network about what kind of problem you aim to solve. Leverage platforms like LinkedIn to talk to people who fall under the gamut of your target clientele. You can also add posts, polls, questions, and quizzes pertaining to the problem you wish to solve.

Step 2: Decide your kind of business

So you sat and brainstormed and came up with a list of problems that you can tackle. This would resonate with you on a personal level – this will be a problem you’re familiar with, and you have some nuance of what it would take to resolve it. Now you can decide what it would take to set up your offering – will it be a product? An app? A software? A service? Depending on this, you can shape your online business’ silhouette. There are a great many industries you can choose from, and get personal and creative in the niche of your choice:
  • eCommerce: Making crochet tops you want to start selling? Any product you develop that can be sold in units is called eCommerce.
  • Freelancing: If you’re good at certain skills that are in-demand (such as marketing), you can prepare a website (or register on a freelancers’ marketplace) to monetise your skills.
  • Social Media: Extend your knowledge either through creative pages, or by becoming an influencer. The focus has to be on being proactive with content creation and focus on creating value.

Step 3: Develop an online business plan

Whether your setup be small, big, online, or offline, there is much that goes into creating a side hustle. The first thing to do at this stage of creating your online business is to develop your product. Plan it, design it, and sample its experience on people you know. Ask them to be critical with feedback on your product. Test it well on people before launching it.
Next, the focus should lie on how you plan on delivering your product. Will you need to use a delivery service like Delhivery? Or do you need to buy a Shopify domain? Or perhaps both? The delivery of your product is part of the overall buying experience for your clients. This will also impact the pricing of your product and/or service.

Step 4: Create a brand

Now that you have your B-plan in place, name your business. Ideally it should be a name that your product resonates with, but more important than that is your business name’s “staying power”. Staying power refers to how memorable the name is – it should roll right off the tongue. Example: Google does not signify anything related to IT and tech through its name. But its a strange sounding word that is easy to speak and simple to retain. Similarly we have The Boring Company. You may not know what The Boring Company does, but the name is unique, and so you remember it.
Other aspects of creating your brand are creating a logo and brand color palette. You can use Canva’s free design elements to do this. When you market your product, make sure to stick to these brand colors so that it can be easily identified.

Step 5: Figure out the legalities

Although you can start a micro-business without incorporating yourself initially, you will need to register your online business as a legal entity recognised by law. This requires you to specify what kind of firm you will be starting – this can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, an LLP, or a private company. You must also open a Current A/c with a bank to collect profits and proceeds from the sale of your products and/or services. This account has to be opened in the name of your business (note that the name of your brand can be different from your online business’ name).

Step 6: Logistics and pricing

First figure out which companies you may need to partner with. Get quotes, finalize deals, and calculate your complete fixed and variable expenses. Depending on how unique and/or how in-demand your offering is, you can set a profit margin – anywhere between 30%-100%, maybe even more.

Step 7: Launch and market

Announce your brand online, and always leave an alternate space for information about your online business. This is where having a website for your online business comes in handy. Whenever you create posts, videos, TikToks, or reels to promote your product, mention the link to your website. For a holistic digital marketing approach, it would do you well to complete a few online courses. The one course you definitely should do is “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” by Google. It’s free, easy, and extremely relevant for an online business. The course will teach you everything about listing your business online to launching paid campaigns for marketing your product.

Value creation and client retention

Once your online business is up and running, know that all firms and enterprises aim to create value. For this, it is important that you actively interact with your existing and potential clients to know their wants, needs, and preferences. Keep feedback forms and surveys handy, and float at least once a month, if not in every 15 days. People’s preferences change regularly, so its important to keep yourself up-to-date about what they like and what they don’t, and you can expect a profitable enterprise to cook up.

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