It’s always a smart idea to look for sources of income wherever possible. Extra sources of income can help increase your earnings and help you pay for extra expenses such as college, loan or credit card debt, or even just help you save up for a new car you want. If you’re like most Americans, working a traditional job from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. can leave you with little time and energy to do much else. How, then, can you start making extra income?
Running an online business is a great way to make extra income, or even support yourself financially full-time. An online business can consist of anything from an eBay account that you use to sell and trade items, an online book publisher such as Amazon, a boutique, and anything in between. Running an online business doesn’t have to be difficult, and if you’re transitioning into owning your own business, can be a great stepping stone.
It’s important when running an online business to understand simple business concepts, and also delve into the more detailed aspects of online businesses in general. After all, if you experience legal issues, you might have to hire a bail bondsmen to get you out of jail. Knowing where to start — and the legalities of running a business — are key. Here are 15 tips you can use to get your online business up and running and successful.
1. Stick with What You Know
Running an online business is the same as running a regular business, in that you need to stick with what you know. It wouldn’t make sense to begin selling, for instance, guitar parts online when you know nothing about music! Online businesses consist of online shops, blogging, drop-shipping, creating digital products, and also even online books such as Amazon. It’s important to stick to what you’re familiar to in order to more easily research and develop your online business. Consider writing, technical services you offer such as fixing computers or IT services, and anything in between.
2. Develop a Business Plan
Now that you’re aware of how vast and varied online businesses can be, it’s important to sit down and develop a smart business plan in order to organize your priorities. Business development consultants can help you have an idea of what your business can be, and eventually help you grow it as well. You must consider how much time you want to dedicate your business, the expenses and loans that you will require to open your online business and run it, and also if you will attempt to live solely off of this online business. Though running an online business can be a good financial source of income, asking for business consulting help can make you realize how feasible this goal really is.
3. Conduct Marketing Research
Marketing research is incredibly important for any business, either online or in-person. Marketing research consists of conducting surveys on future customers, product research, and overall getting a good idea on how to make your product or service successful. Consider what kind of brand your customers would like to buy from, also known as brand awareness. For instance, do your customers want a green product that’s environmentally friendly? When you deliver your product, is packaging important? What are your competitors charging for similar products and services? It’s important to research all these aspects first and foremost to know what strongpoints customers are looking for in an online business. You can do these surveys and research yourself, or get help with the assistance of marketing consultants as well.
4. Make a Stand-Out Product
It’s not just enough to conduct research on your product, but also to work hard to make it the best product available on the online market. Because running an online business is competing with huge markets such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target, a superior product is crucial if you want to make any sort of money and make a loyal customer following. Even if your product is, for instance, a weight loss book, having good reviews and knowing your customers are getting the very best work will help your product stand-out and sell quicker, even online. If need be, seek the help of a lawyer to help you with patents, copyright, and merchandising.
5. Make a Good Website
A good website is the difference between customers looking at your page, staying on your page, and ultimately buying your product or services online. It’s important to utilize modern website design methods, such as minimalism, clean modern lines, and bright colors, and even utilizing artistic concepts such as color theory. Running an online business will require you to make use of your website on a daily basis, so it’s important to make it as organized as possible. For instance, consider having a section where customers can schedule appointments, make their own accounts, and organize your products in an easy-to-read way.
6. Begin Hiring for Help
Whether you’re setting up your website, utilizing shipping and logistics, or any other part of your business, you might need to start hiring extra help to keep your online business running. If this is only your side business, and you work full-time, it might be a good idea to hire a part-time assistant or secretary to inventory, schedule meetings, send things in the mail, and other small duties. However, if you feel your business is getting too big to handle, it might be time to sit down with your family and discuss the possibility of making it a career. Not to worry, this is a great scenario and can be extremely rewarding and profitable.
7. Consider Extra Costs
As we mentioned above, sometimes it takes some extra employees to help you in running an online business. The extra costs of employees should be considered, along with extra costs of buying new products, legal fees, licensing fees, and the costs of running your business online. Consider getting a small loan that can help your business. Smaller banks might be able to provide a more personal ear, and listen to your concerns about running your online business. With a good credit score, a good product, and good customer reviews, a loan for extra expenses can help you keep your business afloat, gain profits, and put those profits back into your business to grow it.
8. Market on Social Media
A website is a great option for hosting your services, products, and allow your customers to get more information on your business. However, no tool is as important or beneficial to you as social media. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and especially Instagram are all great tools to not only utilize digital marketing but also to reach out to customers on a daily basis. Post pictures of your products, or projects, and even just what you, the owner, are doing throughout the day! The more followers and likes you get, the more people will flock to your page, go to your website, and grow your business. A social media editor can be beneficial in this case, but feel free to try one of these apps out on your own.
9. Consider an App
If you’re running an online business, consider utilizing the help of an app to help you run your business. PayPal is one example, but so are newer apps such as Square and Quickbooks that can help you track expenses. Evernote, Trello, Asana, and Basecamp can help you when it comes to project management and organization. There is a plethora of apps out there to help you in running an online business. All it takes is a simple Google Search to help you get organized, plan your projects, and ultimately make your online business successful.
10. Consider an Office Space
You don’t have to have a full office space to make use of the IRS’s tax write-off for an office space! It’s true, you can set-up an office space that is dedicated strictly to your work and write it off on your taxes. For example, if you have a den that you use to write free-lance articles, meet with clients to consult with them about online services, or any other business transactions, you can write-off this space using a square-footage formula the IRS uses. In addition, having an office space that has great home air conditioner service, relaxing furniture, is in a nice neighborhood, and other good qualities could also help you attract more customers that will think highly of your business and the services you offer.
11. Track Expenses
We mentioned that you can write-off your home office space when running an online business, but other expenses can also be written off. Internet services, computers, and laptops, even the cost of tax preparation service itself can all be written off. It’s important to keep a detailed log of your profits, losses, and other business expenses in order to maximize your tax return at the end of the year.
12. Network with Other Businesses
When you’re running an online business, it’s important to still network with other businesses in order to spread the word about your products and services. Book clubs, dieting clubs, even local printing and UPS shops are all great options. Networking with other businesses can also be beneficial, as your businesses can work together to be able to expand, share customer followings, and even split costs. Remember social media? How about following other pages of online or in-person businesses around you? A “shout-out,” where a business lets its customers know about another business, can go a long way on various platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and even blogging websites.
13. Use SEO marketing
SEO marketing is essential when running an online business, as it can help people surfing the web to run into your business on the internet. Various SEO strategies can help, such as local SEO that lets your business be visible in local internet searches. SEO, known as search engine optimization, is the method of inserting keywords into your website to have it pop up in searches on websites such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. With the help of an SEO company, your business can be successful and attract the attention of customers. Consider incorporating helpful articles into your website to make SEO easier.
14. Be Efficient
Everything, from your internet speed to your shipping methods, phone systems, and anything else need to be efficient in order to help you fulfill orders and get back to your customers on time. Without the help of efficient tools, your business might suffer and be unable to handle new growth, customers, and keep existing customers. It’s important to keep this in mind when preparing your online business. For instance, consider using a VOIP business phone system installation in order to make your calls more efficient and handle a large volume once your business grows. Or, get the best internet speed services in order to make your life, and your business, easier to run!
15. Have a Great Customer Service Team
A good product is nothing without a good customer service team. Even if it’s only you fulfilling orders, it’s still important to know how to handle customer service inquires in order to get back to your customers on time. Remember, it’s always best to hire good help for customer service rather than bankruptcy attorneys.
Whether your business involves simple goods, written books, digital services, or any other products, it’s important to run your online business how you would any other business- with dedication and adequate time devoted. With the help of consultants, research, and a little bit of tech savvyness, you can turn your online business from a tiny source of extra income to a full-on successful, thriving business! As long as you continue to keep up with trends, market, and network with other business, your online presence can continue to grow and attract more customers.