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10 Things to Know Before Starting an Online Business



If you’re thinking of starting an online business, it’s vital to arm yourself with essential insights and knowledge that can guide your path. Many people think that setting up social media profiles, a website, or a YouTube channel is enough. Unfortunately, it takes more than that. Those who naively enter the world of online business this way usually get a wake-up call soon after.

In this article, we’ll look at 10 things you need to know before starting an online business. Although you can start a business and learn these things along the way, knowing them and preparing before you launch will make life as an entrepreneur a little easier.

Whether you’re transitioning from a traditional business model, looking to monetize a passion, or taking your first steps into the entrepreneurial realm, understanding the terrain of online business can make all the difference. 


You’ll Need to Treat it Like Any Other Business

One of the first things to know about starting an online business is that it isn’t that much different than starting any other type of business. Although online businesses are often seen as a quick and easy way to become an entrepreneur, there are still steps that are necessary in order to succeed.

For one, you will eventually need to register your business with the state, county, and possibly the IRS if you want a tax ID that is different than your social security number. You’ll also want to create a business plan, financial projections, bank accounts, and more.


What Type of Online Business You Want to Run

When people think of an online business, they typically just think of selling something online without needing a physical store. While that is a simplistic explanation, it doesn’t really cover the depth of opportunity that the realm of online businesses possesses. In fact, there are several types of online businesses to choose from. Here are just a few.

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Dropshipping
  • Blogging
  • Freelancing
  • E-commerce
  • Influencer
  • App development

Choosing the type of online business you want to start is an important decision. The temptation for many first-time online entrepreneurs is to choose the one that can make the most money. However, this is usually one of the worst ways to make a decision. One of the reasons why is that most online businesses have nearly unlimited earning potential. It really does depend on the entrepreneur and the vision.

Take the time to review the different types of online businesses out there. Look at which ones match your resources, skillset, and interests. Then, make a move to launch.


Know How to Handle Technical Issues

Every online entrepreneur will encounter technical glitches, such as website downtime, payment gateway issues, or software bugs. While you don’t need to be a tech whiz, a basic understanding of common issues and potential fixes can be invaluable.

This is because, as a new entrepreneur, you will most likely set up your website yourself. You could pay to get this done. However, if you’re just starting out, it may be easier and more cost-effective to set up a basic site or blog.

If you truly do not want to deal with the technical issues yourself, you can hire a freelancer to handle some of the work for you.


Know How to Stay Focused

The ability to stay focused is paramount when starting and running an online business. This is primarily because of the myriad challenges and distractions that happen when working online. Email notifications, Instagram updates, and YouTube will split your attention. In the infancy of an online venture, entrepreneurs often wear many hats. From marketing and product development to customer service and financial management. Each of these facets demands undivided attention to detail. A lapse in focus, even momentarily, can result in missed opportunities, errors, or misguided strategies.

You’ll have to learn how to stay focused when working on your online business. This may mean setting work hours for yourself. This may also mean that you use apps and website blockers to prevent yourself from losing focus.

Building an online business often involves long hours and consistent effort before one sees tangible results. This period of apparent stagnation will test perseverance. Those who can maintain their focus on the long-term vision are the ones most likely to break through and achieve lasting success. 


Know at Least Some Social Media Marketing

Navigating the world of social media marketing can seem daunting. However, if you want to start an online business you need to familiarize yourself with some of the basic aspects of the platform you will use for branding and sales. Start by regularly reading these blogs and websites that offer tips and tricks for social media marketing. But to learn, you’ll need to do more than just read about it.

Begin immersing yourself directly in the various social media platforms. Creating personal accounts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (X), LinkedIn, and TikTok allows you to understand their unique interfaces, algorithms, and user behaviors. By observing popular accounts and brands on these platforms, you can glean strategies they employ to engage their audience. From there, begin experimenting with your posts and begin tracking engagement rates. Analyzing the kind of content that resonates with your connections can provide invaluable hands-on experience.

You don’t need to master each platform. However, you must be aware of how your chosen platform works and how it can benefit your business.



Know Who You’re Selling To

Truly understanding who you are selling to can mean the difference between a business that thrives and one that struggles.

Start by crafting detailed customer personas. Who are they, really? Dive deep into their demographics: age, location, gender, occupation, income level, and even education. But don’t stop there. Delve into psychographics – their lifestyle choices, hobbies, values, and fears. This holistic understanding aids in crafting tailored messages and products that resonate.

Leverage tools at your disposal. Online surveys, social media insights, and even analytics from your website can provide a treasure trove of information. Engage with your audience directly: host Q&A sessions, webinars, or even one-on-one interviews. Such interactions offer firsthand insights into their pain points, desires, and expectations.

The end goal? To create a symbiotic relationship. When you deeply know your customers, you can serve them better, and in return, they offer loyalty, referrals, and repeat business.


Know Your Definition of Success

Success, especially in the world of online business, is multifaceted. What does success look like to you? Financial milestones? Positive impact? Recognition in your industry?

Setting clear metrics for success serves as your North Star. They guide your business strategies, help in decision-making, and provide a source of motivation. For some, reaching a certain income level is a success, while for others, it’s about achieving a certain number of customer testimonials or case studies. Maybe it’s about work-life balance, being able to travel, or dedicating time to philanthropic causes.

It’s essential to revisit and reassess these definitions periodically. As you evolve, so will your ideas of success. Regularly refining these benchmarks ensures your business remains aligned with your personal and professional growth.


Know Where You Want to Spend Your Time and Money

Every business requires investment, not just in money but also in time. But where should these investments go? Knowing this can significantly influence your business’s trajectory.

Decide early on what tasks deserve your time. As an entrepreneur, it’s tempting to wear all the hats, but is that efficient or even sustainable? Identify tasks that align with your strengths and passion. Maybe you’re excellent at product development but not so much at customer service. Consider delegating or outsourcing tasks that aren’t your forte or don’t excite you. This ensures you spend time where you add the most value.

A common pitfall in online businesses is scattering financial resources too thin. You might be tempted to invest in every advertising platform, tool, or training that comes your way. But it’s critical to prioritize. Where are your customers? If they’re mostly on Instagram, does it make sense to pour money into LinkedIn ads? If you’re selling an online course, would your money be better spent on quality content creation rather than a premium e-commerce platform?

Periodically evaluate and adjust your time and money investments. The digital landscape shifts rapidly. Stay attuned to these changes and realign your investments accordingly.

In essence, understanding where to channel your time and money isn’t just about maximizing returns. It’s about creating a business that’s sustainable, efficient, and aligned with your vision.


Where You’re Going to Sell

Before starting your online business, you should make the important decision of where you are going to sell. Similar to how a great location is a crucial part of a brick-and-mortar business, online location choice should be taken seriously. You may have the right product. But if you choose a platform that doesn’t match your product or service, you’ll have difficulty gaining traction.

Here are some of the places where you can set up shop.

  1. Amazon: For physical products, it’s hard to beat the reach of Amazon. Also, Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service can handle logistics, making operations smoother. 
  2. Shopify: Shopify allows businesses to set up their online store, customized to their brand’s aesthetic and feel. It’s ideal for those who want more control over their store’s appearance, customer experience, and data. 
  3.  Etsy: This platform caters to a niche market looking for unique, artisanal items. 
  4. WooCommerce (for WordPress): For those already familiar with or operating on WordPress, WooCommerce is a natural choice. This open-source plugin transforms your website into a fully-functioning e-commerce store. 
  5.  Direct Sales via Social Media: Platforms like Instagram and Facebook now allow businesses to sell directly through posts or stories. If your target audience is heavily present on these platforms and your product benefits from visual promotion, this might be an avenue to explore. 


Know That It Will Be Competitive

Due to the ease of setup and the low startup cost, there are many online businesses in existence.. In fact, it is reported that over 4.3 million ecommerce sites in 175 countries are built with Shopify alone. But it’s not just ecommerce. Other types of online business sectors are experiencing fierce competition. For instance, the Google Play Store hosts approximately 3.5 million apps.

The attention of the general public is a highly coveted commodity. As more and more people are seeing the potential of starting an online business, the more difficult it will be to grab the attention of your ideal customer. 

To combat this, you need to be ready to be patient, consistent, and unique. Take the time to really understand your business and what value you can offer. Then be prepared to give your best effort to convince your potential customers that they should do business with you.


Starting an online business, while enticing, requires a multifaceted understanding. Prospective entrepreneurs must recognize the importance of understanding what they are getting themselves into. Equally important is the realization that online businesses necessitate continuous learning and adaptation. 

Diving into online entrepreneurship isn’t merely about launching a website or product but committing to a journey of innovation, resilience, and consistent growth. Success in online business often rests on preparation, adaptability, and an unwavering commitment to understanding and meeting consumer needs.

Ralph Paul on Twitter
Ralph Paul
Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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Ralph is the Managing Editor at StartUp Mindset. The StartUp Mindset team consists of dedicated individuals and is designed to help new, seasoned, and aspiring entrepreneurs succeed.

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