Get started with this easy guide!
The following sentence is a major understatement: Launching a new online business takes a huge amount of time and commitment.
As someone who is in the process of launching your online company, you probably feel like one of those circus performers who tries to keep multiple plates in the air at one time.
Fortunately, with the help of a thorough checklist, you can tame your seemingly endless list of tasks, turning them into an organized and cohesive list that you can tackle, one item at a time.
Not sure where to begin?
Start an Online Business with our 8-Step Checklist Template Below
Niche Down Your Online Business Idea
Of course, the first thing you need to do is decide what kind of business you want to start, and what that business is going to sell. Once you have a basic idea you’ll then want to consider “niching down”.
What does this mean exactly?
Let us assume you are an incredible baker and would like to launch an online bakery where people can place orders for delicious treats. “Niching down” is essentially going one step further and deciding if you want to focus on cookies, cupcakes, wedding cakes or artisan breads.
Take some time to research local online bakeries to see what they are selling; if there is a glut of shops selling cake pops and cookies, and you are skilled in breads and rolls, you may want to focus on these products.
In addition, look at social media posts for your local area to see what types of baked goods people are looking for; if you notice multiple requests for fancy cookies for baby showers and birthday parties but no one seems to know where to get them, this may be your niche.
Having trouble deciding what kind of business you want to start? Take a look out our recent post that covers the 10 Best Online Business Ideas For Introverts
Identify Your Ideal Customer
In a perfect world, buyers of all ages and interests will flock to your new online business to purchase your products. You probably realize that in the real world this will not be the case.
Think about who your ideal customer is. The kind of person you would like to work with. A person that needs or wants what you are selling.
Are they male or female? How old are they? What does their life look like?
Identify their goals, their problems, their habits. What do they like and dislike? How much money do they make? How do they make their buying decisions?
Go as deep as you like, but once you have come up with your ideal customer avatar, you can begin to build your business in a way that will grab the attention of people who closely match this description.
Get Your Legal Documents Ready
Before you launch your online business, make sure to have all of your legal ducks in a row. This step is going to vary depending on which country, and even which state you want to base your business in.
One thing that won’t change is that you will need to register your business in one form or another.
For example, if you are doing freelance work and are based in Australia, you may only need to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and conduct your business as a sole-trader. If in the United States it may be that you want to register your business as an LLC or C-Corp.
The main thing is, you want to make sure you are conducting business and managing your tax in a way that is 100% legal, so that you do not run into any issues moving forward.
To get information specific to your unique situation you should consult your local government and council websites. Most will have pages that cover everything you need to know in your location.
Get Your Finances in Order
Another important entry for your “Starting an online business” checklist is to determine how much money you will need to create and launch your business.
Break down the costs for every step of the way, making sure to add in a bit of a buffer to cover unexpected costs that may arise.
Getting this step wrong can make or break your business. You’ll need to make sure you have enough money to cover all startup costs as well as the possibility of running at a loss for a little while at the beginning while you build your customer base and figure out what marketing avenues work best for you.
If you do not have enough funds saved and need to get a loan of some kind, then do not forget to consider the loan repayments in your calculations.
Depending on what your business sells, your start-up costs may be extremely low. For instance, if you are a graphic designer you wouldn’t need to factor in anywhere near as much as someone who is selling physical products.
At a minimum, you will be looking at the costs to register your business, buy a domain name, build a website, host your website and possibly some kind of business insurance.
Create a Website
Instead of looking around for a brick and mortar building for your company, your “store” will be an eye-catching and appealing website where your customers will shop for your products and services.
Option 1: Create the website yourself
These days, it is much easier to create a website all by yourself, with many drag and drop website builders allowing anyone to create a website without having to know any code. If you have a good eye for design then this could be a great way to keep your startup costs down.
Consider looking at options like Shopify, WordPress or Squarespace.
Option 2: Hire a professional web developer to create the website for you.
Hiring a web developer to build your website will be an extra expense but can save you a lot of headaches in the long run.
Pricing will vary greatly; you’ll find people willing to create full websites for $200 and others with prices going well over $10,000.
Web Design is an artform, so quality will also vary from one developer to another. You’ll also have your own preferences of what styles you like and dislike, so before choosing a developer, make sure to look over their public portfolio to see the quality and style of past work. Shop around until you find someone that seems the best fit for your requirements and budget.
Regardless of which route you take, your website must look professional and enticing to customers, while also being easy to navigate and complete the checkout process.
Create Your Social Media Pages
Social media is a great way to get the word out about your new online business, as well as keep your customers updated on things like upcoming products, sales, promotions and more.
Create your accounts as soon as you’ve decided on your business name in order to secure the matching username on each platform before someone else does.
You will want to create your online business social media pages. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are a great “starter trio” of platforms to focus on, at least for now.
In addition to letting people know about your new business, social media is an outstanding way to add a very personal touch to your work with interesting photos and entertaining posts about you, your products and/or your staff.
When potential or current customers reach out to you via social media to ask a question, replying to them quickly and in a friendly and helpful way will not only show them that you care about them, but it will also show anyone else who reads the exchange that you are a dedicated online business owner.
Carefully Choose Your Partners or Suppliers
This step is for any business that is dealing with physical products as well as those using 3rd party software or services as part of their business.
Selling Physical Products
It is never too early to start vetting supply companies; using the earlier example of an online bakery selling customized desserts, in addition to making sure you have all of the equipment necessary to make the products, you will need to find vendors who sell flour, sugar, spices, eggs, dairy products, piping bags and myriad of other related items.
If you are selling products that have been made by another company—for instance, you want to specialize in selling TV and movie memorabilia—you should also be sure you have vendors lined up who are reputable, reliable and can get you products in a timely manner.
Using 3rd Party Services or Software
If your business is going to be relying on a 3rd party service or a piece of software maintained by someone else, then you want to make sure you choose brands that have a good reputation.
The last thing you need is for your business to grind to a halt because a pivotal part of your infrastructure has gone down for an extended period.
Inspect and Test Your Website
After spending countless hours getting ready to launch your online business, the last thing you want is for things to go wrong.
- Make sure there are no bugs by testing the checkout process works as intended
- Check your product pages are listed with the correct titles, images, prices and descriptions
- Proofread your website to make sure there are no pesky spelling mistakes
- Inspect how long it takes each page to load. Slow load times can drive customers away.
- Test all emails and notifications. Make sure they are being delivered correctly without formatting and spelling issues.
You’ve Got This!
As you can see, starting an online business checklist—and then working your way through the list—can help take a seemingly overwhelming process and make it more manageable.
By putting in the effort prior to your online business launch, you can rest assured on Grand Opening Day that you have done everything you can to create a successful online business.