Nowadays, everyone seems to be talking about starting their own business. Thanks to the internet, creating a business, reaching your audience, and selling your products has become a real possibility for anyone willing to put in the work. But ensuring your business is a success isn’t easy, and many entrepreneurs fail early on from lack of experience, planning, or basic understanding of their market. The struggles of entrepreneurship are real, and often stem right back to the creation of the business model or even the core idea itself.
In this ‘How to Start a Business’ step by step guide, we run through all the steps you need to consider when setting up a new project. These include how to…
- Understand What It Takes To Run A Business
- Find Your Business Idea
- Refine your Business Idea
- Choose A Business Name
- Validate Your Business Idea
- Write a Business Plan
- Organize Funding
- Manage Your Finances
- Develop Your Product Or Service
- Determine Your Legal Business Structure
- Register Your Business
- Understand Your Taxes
- Find A Business Location
- Purchase An Insurance Policy
- Build Your Team
- Choose Your Vendors
- Create a Website
- Grow Your Online Presence
- Start Advertising
- Grow Your Business
By the end of reading, you will have a clear idea of the steps you will need to take, the strategies you will need to implement, and the tools available to use, to help you create a profitable business. Let’s get started…
1. Understand What It Takes To Run A Business
Starting a business is a huge commitment, and one that you must be prepared to dedicate time, money and energy into. New entrepreneurs often don’t realize just what goes into running a business and what it can really take. The biggest challenges and struggles of starting and running a business include the following…
- Coming up with a new idea, product or service
- Having a strong business plan
- Securing funding and finances
- Finding the right employees
- Managing your time efficiently
- Understanding rejection is inevitable
2. Find Your Business Idea
Finding a business idea that can earn you good money over a long period of time sounds easier than it is. You’ll need your business idea to be popular enough to be able to sell your product or services, but you’ll also have to think about the competition that is out there already.
Fortunately, there are some tips on deciding on your business idea. The things to pay most attention to are…
Potential Size of the Business
You’ll want your business to be as big as it can be, so the best opportunities will come from product areas where you can encourage repeat purchases. It’s also important not to dismiss the idea of business in a small market. Going after small markets doesn’t necessarily mean your business won’t grow to be big or successful. For example, even if the business is niche, the product may be expensive or require repurchase, which can create a potentially large income in a small market.
Popularity of the Business Idea
If you want your business to go the distance, it’s important to think about not only how popular the business may be today, but how popular it will be in the future. If your product falls into a stable market, you may find it doesn’t grow over time but it also doesn’t decline. Growing markets may see your business increase in the long-term and see a permanent market shift.
You need a strong understanding of your competition, and the products that are already being sold. This will help to ensure that when you set up your business it stands out from the crowd, offering something different to what is already out there.
Before you choose your business idea, think about whether there are any restrictions. These usually relate to where you live; for example, there may be restrictions around food or beauty products in the country you live in. You should also think about any issues you may encounter with shipping and imports to other countries.
Note: Choosing a business idea around a trend or fad that is “in” at the moment may make you money in the short term. However, think about your business idea in the long term and whether you can still see your business continuing to grow in five to ten years.
3. Refine Your Business Idea
For your business to be successful it will need to add something new to the market. Think carefully about what you are offering – are you going to provide new products or services, or will your merchandise be cheaper or in some way better than what is already available?
To help you refine your business idea, you will need to do your research. This should include…
It is a good idea to know why you are starting your business. This can either be a personal why or a marketplace why. Why is your business needed? Why are you the right person to start it?
Researching Your Target Market
It is crucial to understand who your customers are and what they need. Identify through quality market research what your audience may want, or the problems they may face in relation to your niche. This will help to ensure your products or services cater to your customers’ needs as well as determine if there is actually a gap in the market for your business.
Researching Costs and Prices
Look carefully at the money side of your business before you get started. When it comes to business finances, you need a grasp of how much your products will cost to make, how much will they sell for, and how much profit will you make on each? Do you need any specific business licenses for your proposal, and how do these factor in to your costs? Crucially, you need to determine if your business has long term earning potential.
Licenses and Regulations
Look into what licenses and government regulations you need to operate your business legally based on where your business is being run. You don’t want to end up in legal trouble, so check on laws in the area and in your industry. For example, there are food regulations for businesses that cook and sell any type of food. If you are confused at all, consult with a lawyer.
As you research your market, you can refine your business idea, altering your products or services to ensure they have unique selling points, match the needs of your customer base, and are financially feasible.
Note: Having what you consider to be a ‘great business idea’ isn’t enough – you need to be sure that your idea is viable. Doing the research at the very beginning of your business journey will ensure you don’t waste time and money on an idea that just won’t work.
4. Choose A Business Name
Your business name is going to be the first thing that people see and hear. Whether the business name is spread via billboard or by word of mouth, it needs to be eye catching enough and never dull or boring. You don’t want people to be put off your business immediately because the name is uninteresting. You also need to ensure that the name doesn’t come with any legal hurdles, so is completely unique to you and your business and hasn’t been used before.
The name you come up with for your business when you are still in the early stages of developing can be changed, and nothing needs to be set in stone. However, you need it to be memorable, simple, and in line with your business’ mission statement.
Start by brainstorming some quick and easy names off the top of your head. You can also use online name generators to help you or further develop the name. There are no rules, but the right business name should have the following characteristics…
Short and Simple
A long word is never going to stick in someone’s mind, so ensure your name is short and sweet. Similarly, ensure it’s a simple name; something complicated that is difficult to spell won’t work, because people won’t be able to remember it, or, even worse, will type it wrong and never find your business. You should never make people work to remember the name of your brand. One to two words is ideal, but you could make it up to four if the individual words are short and snappy.
Brands in similar markets often have similar names. Therefore, look for something different, that is going to make your business stand out from the rest. Choose a distinctive name that hasn’t been used before, and you can always include your product category in the title so you make it clearer.
This goes without saying, but your business name should be original. Not only is your brand new and original and therefore deserves an original name, but you’ll avoid any legal trouble. To ensure your business name hasn’t been used before, run a free trademark search in the countries you’ll be doing business in, and make sure to check Google and social media sites. You can also check for domain names before you register your business, so you know the name hasn’t been used anywhere else.
Note: Conduct a thorough internet search of your business name before you decide on it. This will ensure no other business already has the name, and that the name is not associated with something else, such as a brand, activity or person.
5. Validate Your Business Idea
You may have an idea of where your business is going, and validation from your friends and family alongside some market research you carried out. However, you won’t really know how successful your business is going to be until you make some sales and see how people respond to your products.
Understanding how people react to your business by letting some early customers try your product can prevent you from making mistakes or missing gaps further on in your business plan. You can ensure you’re selling a product people really want, and adjust your idea as needed.
A few of the best ways to validate your business idea are as follows…
Pre-ordering products is something we have become used to, and it is something you could try out to see the reaction to your product. You will be able to see if there’s a market out there before going out and making your product, which could save you a lot of money if nobody bites. Just remember, don’t promise a product you can’t follow through with – you must be able to produce the product customers have pre-ordered.
Sell Products In Person
Depending on what your product is, you can try selling your product in person locally to see the reaction. This works well for products such as homemade goods, and you could try selling them at your local fairs and markets.
A popular way to get funding for a new start up, crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter will enable you to gain investment from multiple backers. This is a great way to ensure some funding before your business launches, so you can start pre-orders or selling products in person. It can also show you whether your product is one that people want to put money into.
Come Up With Your Elevator Pitch
Practicing your elevator pitch can be a great way to validate your idea and see if people are interested. An elevator pitch is a concise summary of your business that introduces what your business is, who you are, and why your business is important. An elevator pitch is vital for pitching quickly to people you might meet, wherever (ie. in an elevator!). It is a good idea to have your elevator pitch ready before you launch your business, so you have it on hand should you need it. Keep it under 60 seconds, start out strong, and remember to pitch the problem you are solving with your business.
Note: Don’t rush into selling your product before it is ready just to validate your business idea. If you sell a bad product or a product before it is ready, all you will learn is that people don’t like bad products! However, if you’re unsure if your product is ready, try selling it anyway. If it’s not, your customers will soon tell you.
6. Write a Business Plan
Whatever your business idea, whatever your niche, and however small you are thinking of starting, writing a business plan is a must. A business plan will help you to define your business model, business aims, and clearly lay out the necessary steps to help you set up and grow your business.
A business plan should provide answers to these questions…
- What is the purpose of your business?
- What are the unique selling points of your products or services?
- Who is your target market?
- Who are your competitors?
- What will your costs be? (Consider start up and ongoing costs)
- How will you finance your startup costs?
- When will your business make a profit? (Estimate revenue and profit for the first 1-5 years)
- What are your end goals?
To ensure you write the best business plan, ensure you…
Conduct Market Research
Market research will help you to understand your target customer, as well as the market and your competitors. You can conduct your market research through surveys, focus groups, and researching SEO and public data. Market research will also allow you to adjust your business to fit a gap in the market, or alter your business if it is too similar to one already out there.
Consider An Exit Strategy
An exit strategy forces you to look at how you’ll eventually exit the business. While you may be thinking ‘but I’ve only just started my business!’, it’s always a good idea to look to the future and what may be to come. You don’t know how the business is going to pan out, so it’s always worth having some kind of plan just in case.
A well-written business plan will help your business stay on track, and ensure you don’t get distracted with aspects of your company that really aren’t that important in the big scheme of things. Take your time writing your business plan and then refer to it on a regular basis – this will help to ensure your business achieves its goals.
Note: Your business plan will change and grow as your business develops, it isn’t and shouldn’t be set in stone.
7. Organize Funding
Not all businesses will need funding to get them started. Many people that start a business do so on a small scale and grow slowly over time. However, there are plenty of startups that do need an initial injection of cash to get them off the ground, especially if they want to grow quickly. (Startup costs should include all outgoings for the first year).
Depending on your business, initial start up costs may include…
- Market Research
- Business Licence and/or Permits
- Manufacturing Equipment
- Computers and Software
- Product Inventory
- Property Lease, Rent and Utilities
- Staff Costs (as well as your own salary)
Often, small business run out of money before they get going because they don’t organize their finances properly and never make a profit. One way to determine how much money you need is to perform a break-even analysis. The formula is as follows:
Fixed Costs ÷ (Average Price – Variable Costs) = Break-Even Point
This formula helps you to understand the minimum performance your business must achieve to avoid losing money. Look at your profitability, how you are going to price your product, and how much of your product you are going to need to sell to be able to make your profit.
Many people use their own savings to start a business. However, if this isn’t an option for you, then there are a number of other ways to secure funding for your new business. Let’s take a look…
Commercial Bank Loan
One of the most common ways for new businesses to acquire funding is through bank loans. There are numerous types of bank loans available, helping you to raise the necessary finances to get you started. From small business loans to those designed for bigger enterprises. Lenders will require you to complete a detailed business plan to be considered for a loan, another good reason to spend time on getting your business plan right.
Government Business Loan
There are a selection of Government loans available for new and expanding businesses. These loans are guaranteed by the federal government, and can be a good choice for those struggling to get accepted for a bank loan. One such example in the USA, would be a business loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA)
one or more business partners or investors, who can contribute the extra cash you need, can be a useful way to raise funds. Ensure you have a good investor pitch deck prepared, with around 15 to 20 slides explaining why they should invest in your company.
We mentioned this above, but crowdfunding is a great way to raise smaller amounts of money, and there are dozens of reliable crowdfunding platforms designed for different types of businesses.
Using your own savings, or a personal loan or credit card, are viable alternatives. However, try exhausting the above options first, before using a private revenue stream.
Note: If you are based in the UK, then all of these options are available to you, just via UK banks and UK government start-up loans.
8. Manage Your Finances
Once you have secured funding and developed your product, keeping on top of your finances needs to be one of your biggest priorities when starting a business. Too often, business don’t keep a record of their income and expenses, and find themselves running out of money. To manage your finances in the best way, ensure that you…
Choose The Right Bank
Choosing the right bank can make or break your business. You may find that smaller community banks are in tune with the local market conditions and will work with you based on your overall business profile. Assess your banking needs and see whether a smaller bank is going to work better for you, or whether you can manage with a big bank. Don’t forget to schedule meetings with potential banks too, to see how they are going to help you.
Keep Personal and Professional Separate
Obtaining a business credit card will allow you to keep your personal and professional banking separate. This makes doing business much easier, as you can differentiate between the two and view your in-goings and out-goings in a simplified way.
Ensuring you don’t overspend when starting a business is extremely important. It can be easy to spend and think you are going to make the money back quickly, but this won’t help you reach your business goal. Keep track of everything you spend and, if it’s not really needed, don’t buy it!
You can also use accounting software to help you stay on track of money coming in and out of your company. There are a number of accounting software options that will enable you to keep your finances organized. Here are two of the best…
- Freshbooks – An easy to use accountancy system, Freshbooks will not only save you time, but also take the pain out of managing finances. Perfect for new and small businesses, with Freshbooks you can send pre-designed invoices, record expenses, take payments, and much more. Prices start at $6 a month, for unlimited invoices and up to five billable clients.
- Quickbooks – This powerful accounting software will help you efficiently manage all of your finances from one intuitive dashboard. You can connect to your bank account and automatically import and categorize transactions, sync with popular apps, and photograph receipts, to name a few features. Prices start from $12 for unlimited invoices and billable clients.
Note: Keeping on top of your finances will later make for a smooth transition to working with an accountant or bookkeeper later on when your business requires it. If you can afford it, this is one of the best and easiest ways to ensure your business is properly managed in the money department.
9. Develop Your Product Or Service
Now you’ve come up with an idea, a name, validated your business and got your finances in order, it’s time for you to actually develop your product or service. This can come in three different forms…
Creating Your Own Product
Developing your own product can help you to stand out in the market. You may make your product by hand, or source an original product from a manufacturer. Think about similar products that already exist out there and how you could make them better or alter them to work for your business. You should also prototype your product, so you can eliminate any issues before you start creating your product in batch. Nowadays, this can often be done with 3D printing at a much cheaper cost and much quicker, too.
Customizing An Existing Product
Your business may require you to customize an existing product, for example printing on mugs or t-shirts. This is especially true for content makers who are creating merchandise; people are buying these products for the slogan, and not for the mug or t-shirt themselves.
Dropshipping A Selection Of Products
Dropshipping is when you partner with a supplier of existing products who ships and fulfils your customer’s order only after you’ve made a sale. This is a great way to sell products without actually having to hold inventory, and makes it very accessible to many different people. Be mindful that this method is competitive in certain markets though, so check your competition before you develop this any further.
Note: When creating your product, keep in mind of how much it is costing you. This is important no matter how you create it, but it will help to ensure you aren’t spending too much and will allow you to price your product accordingly.
10. Determine Your Legal Business Structure
Before you can register your business, you need to decide what kind of structure it falls under. The legal structure and registration type you choose for your business will affect how much you pay in taxes and your personal liability, so it is important that you understand the options available. Let’s have a look at some of the most common business structures…
The default business type for small business owners with no employees. If you are a sole proprietor then you have complete control over your business. This is the easiest option for small new businesses, but it does come with risk as it means you are personally liable for any debts that the business incurs.
If there is more than one of you in the business, then a partnership may be the way to go. Like a sole proprietorship, a partnership structure can be a good way for a small business to get started – you can then register a more formal business structure as your business grows.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
A common choice, LLC allows business owners to pass profit through to their personal income without having to pay any corporate taxes. Owners are also not liable in most cases for any business debts, so their personal assets are safe.
There are a number of different corporation structures that business owners can choose from. A corporation is a legal entity, separate from its owners, and is a good option for larger businesses making good money.
Note: If you’re having trouble deciding which structure your business falls under, then it is a good idea to discuss the decision with a business or legal advisor.
11. Register Your Business (and other legal requirements)
You will first need to register as an official business before you can start trading. Registering your business will make it legal, and protect your brand and business name. The business structure you opt for, as well as your location, will determine how and where you need to register your business.
For most new and small businesses, registering will be as simple as registering your business in the states where you conduct your affairs. Most states will require you to register with the Secretary of State’s office, a Business Bureau, or Business Agency.
There are also some other legal requirements that you many need to consider. These include…
Federal Licenses and Permits
Some business activities and industries are regulated by federal agencies and may need a license or permit. Industries include agriculture, alcoholic beverages, and transport and logistics.
State Licenses and Permit
sStates generally regulate more heavily than the government, but these regulations vary greatly. Always check what local government requirements are in place in the state in which you are doing business.
If you don’t have articles of incorporation or an operating agreement, you will need to register your business name, which can be your legal name, a fictitious DBA name (if you are the sole proprietor), or the name you’ve come up with for your company. This is required in most states.
Employer Identification Number
If you plan on hiring employees, you will need to contact the IRS for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in the USA. If you will be the sole proprietor you wont need this (your Social Security Number will suffice) but if you plan on scaling to include employees, if you want a business bank account and to keep business and personal taxes separate, then you will need to apply for an EIN.
Note: You will also need to get a federal tax ID number from the government, as well as a state tax ID (state dependent), which enables your business to pay state and federal tax. (We will discuss more on taxes further on in this article).
Registering a Business in the UK
If you want to start a business in the UK, you have slightly different options when it comes to setting up and registering a business. Here are the most common business structures…
- Sole Trader – This is the easiest way to register as a business. However, you will be liable for any debts your business incurs.
- Partnerships – Another simple way to register as a business, a partnership is a good option for new businesses with more than one owner. However, in the same way as a sole trader, you are liable for your business’s finances if anything goes wrong.
- Limited Company – A limited company means that the business runs as a stand alone entity, so your personal assets will be safe if your business goes bankrupt.
New businesses need to be registered with HM Revenue and Customs. You may also need a license or permit for certain business activities (eg – trading in the street). There are also certain situations where businesses are legally obliged to have insurance – if you are an employer, if you have commercial vehicles, and certain professions.
Note: For more information on registering a business in the UK, check out www.gov.uk.
12. Understand Your Taxes
As mentioned earlier, when you register your business you will need to apply for a federal tax ID number, as well as a state tax ID number in certain states. (Tax obligations differ from state to state, so you will need to do your research to make sure you get it right).
Tax returns can be confusing, and if you fail to file them, there are serious consequences, including losing your business and even criminal charges. Therefore, paying an accountant to ensure that all the tax forms are present and correct may be a good option.
For more information on how to get your taxes right, check out this checklist for new businesses from the IRS.
Note: If you are based in the UK you will need to fill out HM Revenue and Customs tax forms. These will differ depending on the type of business you set up. From experience, making head or tail of UK business taxes is complicated and time consuming – if your budget will stretch to it, employ an accountant.
13. Find A Business Location
You will need the correct space to run your business from, and your business plan can help you to decide the type and size of space this might be. This will depend greatly on whether your sales are going to be conducted online or in-person, and how many employees you will have. When looking for a business location think about…
Space You Need
How big is your product and how much space will it take up? If you need a lot of room for inventory, your business isn’t going to be able to be run from your bedroom or living room. You must ensure you have the space to accommodate your product accordingly.
How many employees are you going to have? The number of employees and whether they need to work on site will help you to determine your business space. If you have many employees and need them all to work from an office, then your area is going to be much bigger than if you have a few employees or employees working from home.
If your business requires in-person retail (for example, a clothing store), then you aren’t going to be able to run it out of your garage. You will need space not only for the clothes, but for customers to come and browse the items and try the clothes on.
Depending on how large your business is, you may need space to organize shipping. This is particularly true if your product is large or you’re expecting many customers as once. You may not be able to pack and ship all of your items out of your home.
Note: Don’t go out of your way to find a new business location if you think the space you already have will work. This is especially true if you are not planning on selling in-person. The space needs to work for you and your employees, but you don’t need a whole new building to make your business work.
14. Buy An Insurance Policy
Purchasing an insurance policy may not seem like an urgent matter when starting your business, but you’ll want to insure you’re covered in case of property damage, theft or even a customer lawsuit.
There are a few different types of basic insurance plans that most small businesses can benefit from, and you’ll need to think about workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance if you have employees. You may also need different types of insurance depending on your location and industry.
The main type of insurance that business’ often need are…
- General liability insurance
- Product liability insurance
- Professional liability insurance
- Property insurance
- Worker’s compensation insurance
- D&O (directors & officers) insurance
- Health insurance for employees
- Business interruption insurance
- Commercial auto insurance
- Data breach/cybersecurity insurance
- Key man life insurance
Note: Think about the deductibles, whether the coverage limits high enough and what items and occurrences are excluded from coverage. You want to make sure you are prepared no mater what happens.
15. Build Your Team
You may be your only employee, but the chances are you will want to build a team to help you out. It’s important to give your employees and team just as much thought as the product itself, as you will benefit from working with others who inspire you. When building your team, don’t forget to…
Check Before You Hire
Perform a comprehensive reference check before you hire to ensure that the employee is going to be the right person for the job. Look at their previous employment, their education and their strengths and weaknesses.
Always ensure your employees sign a contract that details their job, their responsibilities, their salary and start date. You may also want your employees to sign a confidentiality and invention assignment agreement if you will be requiring your employees to come up with new ideas and products. This prevents them from taking their ideas and starting their own business with the ideas they came up with for your business.
Hire Consultants and Freelancers
Hiring consultants and freelancers is a good way to find specialized experts to help you out with your business without taking on employee costs and benefits payments.
There are many different areas in which hiring employees can be beneficial and can help your company to grow in the best way. The most common areas are…
Hiring those in charge of design will help you to decide on your logo, colors and website design for your business. These elements can really make your business stand out from the crowd and increase business traffic.
Marketing can have a huge influence on your business, so you’ll need an employee to work out which marketing techniques are going to work best for your business. The type of marketing you decide on will also determine who else you hire, as paid online ads are very different to social media marketing and will require a different set of skills.
You need to know how your product is going to be shipped once it has been bought, otherwise your business may be pretty useless! Hiring someone to be in charge of shipping can help to determine factors such as shipping costs, packaging and shipping locations. From here you can decide how much you are going to charge your customers, how you are going to package your items and whether you will ship nationally or internationally.
You’ll also need to learn how to manage the workload within your team. Having the correct management in place will make your life easier and ensure everything is done when needed and no jobs or tasks are forgotten about.
You can use a time management tool like Trello or Asana to write down, assign, and track tasks, which is great for keeping teams on schedule and seeing everything that needs to be done in a simple and easy way.
Note: Ensure you define each of your employees roles and responsibilities clearly. This will prevent overlapping and tension between employees and will make for a nicer and more productive working environment.
16. Choose Your Vendors
You and your team will probably find you can’t do everything, which is why third-party vendors can be such an asset. Vendors will partner with you and help you to run your business better. For example, they can help you take payments from customers by offering multiple payment options, or they can help you to manage your finances using different types of software.
You should be careful when choosing your vendors because they will have access to potentially sensitive information, such as customer data. You’ll need to make sure you can trust your vendors and that they have enough experience in the business to show you that they know what they’re doing.
17. Create a Website
Whether you have a physical business location with bricks and mortar premises, or your business is strictly online, building your online presence will be key to your success. First things first, you will need to create your website.
Although you can pay a web designer to design a website for you, this can be an expense that new businesses don’t need. Luckily, there are numerous tools and software that you can use to quickly and easily help you create a stylish and professional website for your new business.
So let’s now find out how to set up your new website…
Buy Web Hosting
The first step in the process of creating a new business website is to buy hosting. A web host will ‘host’ your website’s files and database on one of its many servers, ‘serving’ your site to your audience when they type its URL into their browser.
There are many different hosting companies, all offering a wide assortment of plans and packages. Here are a few that we recommend…
Always our top pick, Bluehost provides affordable yet powerful website hosting. From fast loading times, to top security features, Bluehost will ensure that your website is kept safe and secure, whilst consistently maintaining optimal performance. Shared hosting plans start at just $2.95 a month, with features including unmetered bandwidth, a free SSL certificate, one-click WordPress install, 24/7 support, and a free domain name for one year.
If you are setting up an eCommerce store, then you may be interested in SiteGrounds’ Managed WooCommerce hosting plans. Starting at $3.95 a month, plans include an easy WooCommerce set up, installing WooCommerce in just a few clicks along with the WooCommerce Storefront theme. You can also benefit from free Cloudflare CDN, smart WooCommerce caching, daily backups, and free pre-installed SSL.
Resources: Siteground Review
If your business and customer base grows quickly, then you will soon find your website is receiving a high volume of traffic on a daily basis. At this point, it may well be worth transferring to a high end hosting company, that will ensure that your site remains fully functional, even when traffic numbers spike. WP Engine provides managed WordPress hosting, with prices starting at $35 a month. Features include a free migration service, access to 35+ StudioPress themes, premium support, global CDN, free SSL, and much more.
Note: If you choose to create a website with an all-in-one website builder solution like Wix or Constant Contact (both discussed further on), then you won’t need to purchase separate hosting as it is included in with these tool’s subscriptions.
Once you have decided on the right hosting company and plan for your project, the next step is to choose a domain name for your new site…
Choose a Domain Name
Getting your new website’s domain name right isn’t always straightforward. Ideally, you want your domain name to the same as your business’s name. However, due to the sheer number of domain names that have already been registered, this isn’t always possible.
If you are yet to settle on a name for your business, then researching domain names for your website at the same time is recommended. That way you can ensure that your business name is available with a .com extension – ie, mynewbusiness.com. (The .com extension is generally the recommended TLD for any online business).
If you have already set up your business before registering a domain, and then find that the name of your business isn’t available, you have a couple of options…
Use a Domain Name Generator
A domain name generator will help you to find a domain name that is not yet registered. Lean Domain Search is a popular domain generator that will match your keyword or phrase (in this case it should be the name of your business) with other potential words to create a new domain name. By using Lean Domain Search, you will be able to browse and select from thousands of potential domain names, ensuring that you end up with a name that best represents your business.
Don’t Use .com
The .com extension is the favored option for most websites, as it is widely reported that sites using this domain are more preferably ranked by Google. However, this is changing over time, with more and more TLDs being released. So if your chosen domain name using .com is taken, it may be worth considering a different extension. If your target audience is based in just one country, then using a country code TLD may be a good option – for example, .co.uk for the UK, or .fr for France). Equally, using a TLD domain that is relevant to your industry or niche can be the way to go – for example, if you own a shop or online store, you could use the extension .store. Other cool domain extensions include .ninja, .wtf, .io and many more.
Once you have decided on a domain name, you next need to register it. We recommend using Domain.com, as they are user-friendly, offer a quick check out process, and sell domains at a very reasonable price. Domain.com will check to see if your domain name is available and display the prices for all available extensions, as well as show you a selection of other alternative names. Prices start from just $2.99 for a .me TLD, $9.99 for .com, and $12.99 for .net.
Use coupon code Sitehub to get 25% off your domain purchase.
Note: Hosting providers often offer a year’s free domain name, or allow you to purchase a domain name directly with them. However, check the prices before you decide to do this – it often works out much cheaper to purchase a domain name with a third party registrar like Domain.com.
Build Your Website
Once you have registered your new domain and chosen a hosting plan, your next step is to create your website. There are many different tools and software available to help you with this task. Here are three options that we recommend…
This free open-source software is always our first choice for creating a website. Although WordPress does have a bit of a learning curve, once mastered this content management system will enable you to design a unique website to your exact specifications. WordPress is currently used on over 33% of the world’s top websites, and is supported by a global community of developers, designers, and enthusiasts. One of the main benefits of using WordPress are the extensive tools, products, and services that are available. So whatever customizations, alterations, or extra features and functionality you want to add to your website, it is all possible.
An all-in-one website builder solution, Wix is another great option that will enable you to design a beautiful and fully functional website for your business. Although Wix does offer a free version of its platform, if you want to create a reputable website with all the essential features that your business will need, then you will need to subscribe to a Wix plan. (Business plans start from $23 a month, which includes hosting). The main Wix selling point is its impressive website builder, which enables you to easily create a website by simply dragging and dropping design elements around the page. Wix also comes with an extensive range of templates, built-in-features, eCommerce functionality and much more.
Another user-friendly all-in-one website builder, Constant Contact is an ideal tool for both businesses and eCommerce stores. Unlike Wix, Constant Contact allows you to create an eCommerce store for free, and then upgrade your plan and features as your business grows. You can also use the Constant Contact AI to get a custom-designed site in minutes, without having to shoulder any of the design process yourself – perfect for beginners, or those short on time or design inspiration. Overall, Constant Contact is cheaper than Wix and provides a wider assortment of free features, including being able to connect your own domain name and setting up an eCommerce store, making it a great option for those on a budget. However, if you have the money, and are keen on using an up-market all-in-one website builder, then Wix may be a more appropriate tool.
Whether you choose to build your website with WordPress, Wix, or Constant Contact, it is important to get your site right. It needs to appeal to your target audience, be user-friendly, optimized for the search engines (SEO), and set up to convert traffic into leads and sales. A fully functioning website can be the difference between a successful business and one that fails.
18. Grow Your Online Presence
Once you have set up your website, you will next need to grow your online presence, which will ultimately help you connect with your target audience and drive traffic to your new site.
So let’s check out some strategies for growing your online presence…
Get Your Branding Right
Creating a consistent brand for your business is a must. Having clear, eye-catching branding will help your business stand out from the crowd and importantly, establish an online presence.
When branding your business, think carefully about your logo, the visuals, and colors you use on your site, and the voice of your online business. The more on-point you can be with your branding, across all areas of your business, the more likely your audience will be to recall your company over your competitors when they need your services.
Branding can be difficult to get right, especially if you are branding a business from scratch. If you are struggling to get the right style for your business, consider paying for a marketing agency to do the job for you. A good marketing specialist will be able to create a solid marketing plan, and in turn a brand that spans both the online and offline aspects of your business. And importantly, that appeals-to and connects-with your target audience.
Going off-site and using social media to gain exposure for your brand is key to successfully growing an online presence. However, social media can be time-consuming and may not reap the rewards you were hoping for unless you have a clear social strategy in place.
Sendible is a social media management tool that can help you to organize your social content, promote your new business, reach new potential customers, and much more besides. Let’s have a look at some of the features that Sendible offers…
- User-Friendly Dashboard – Manage all your social media channels from just one dashboard.
- Preview Your Posts – Personalize your posts for each social media channel and check how they look before you publish them.
- Content Strategy Calendar – Organize content creation and publishing using Sendible’s visual calendar.
- Social Listening – Track brand, competitor, and key industry terms to ensure you stay up-to-date with what is happening on all your social channels.
- Analytics – Find out how your social campaigns are performing, what is working, and what isn’
By having a consistent content strategy across your social media channels, that is well organized and managed, you can quickly build up your social presence and drive traffic to your website.
19. Start Advertising
Advertising is vital to any business’ profit, as it will help to drive customers towards your product. How are they going to know it’s out there if you don’t tell them it’s there?
Start a Blog
Blogging is an effective way to appeal to your target audience, as well as help your website rank in the search engines. By starting a blog or adding a blog to your website, which is regularly updated with content that is useful and relevant to your niche, you quickly build up a loyal fan base.
When blogging, always pick significant topics that are industry related – news, announcements, explanations of key issues, or how-to tutorials. By writing articles that are directly targeting key topics in your niche, you will immediately appeal to your target market, and ensure regularly returning visitors to your site.
Updating your site with dynamic blog content will also help your posts and pages rank in the search engines. This will help your content gain exposure to a wider audience and bring new potential customers into contact with your business.
Building an email list is an extremely effective way to keep in contact with your customers and website visitors, as well as anyone else who has expressed an interest in your business. By sending emails to those on your mailing list, you can reconnect with the receivers, share news, promote products and services, and encourage people back to your website.
There are a wide assortment of email marketing platforms and tools available. Here are two that we recommend…
A leading email marketing provider, AWeber has everything you need to help you grow your mailing list and run successful email campaigns. Add responsive sign up forms to your website, create and send emails using AWeber’s drag-and-drop editor and email templates, manage and segment subscriber lists ensuring that you target the right people with the right emails, and much much more. AWeber starts at just $19 a month, for unlimited emails and up to 500 subscribers.
Another powerful marketing tool, Constant Contact has much to offer. As well as customizable pop-up forms, email templates, and a user-friendly email editor, Constant Contact also provides advanced eCommerce tools. These include automatic abandoned shopping cart emails and integration with WooCommerce, Shopify, Big Commerce, and more. This makes Constant Contact a great choice for anyone looking to set up an online store. Prices start from $20 a month for unlimited emails and up to 500 emails.
By using an email marketing provider, you can automate your emails and target specific groups of people based on their behavior on your site. This will lead to higher opt-in rates, a boost in traffic to your website, and consequently an increase in sales or conversions.
Another effective strategy for reaching a wider audience and driving traffic to your website is to advertise online. For a new business, although advertising will cost, this is a great way to get your name out there and become known. Online advertising also allows you to target your key consumer base, boosting conversions and increasing your ROI.
To get started, we recommend Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Let’s take a look at these two options…
With Google Ads, you can promote your business to people as they search for products and services related to those that you offer. This ensures your ads are targeting the right people at the right time. You can also set your ad budget, and as you only pay when someone clicks on your ad, you will find that with Google Ads a little actually goes a long way.
If your target audience mainly hangs out on Facebook or Instagram, then you should consider utilizing Facebook Ads. Here you can target ads at people who have already visited your website or shown an interest in your social content. You can also create custom audiences, so your ads are shown to groups of people with the same interests or demographics as those who are already existing customers. This ensures that your ads are relevant to those who see them, increasing the likeliness that your adverts will achieve their objectives.
Note: It is important to track ad metrics so you understand how the ads are performing and if they are paying their way. If your ads aren’t converting against your marketing goals (eg – growing your social following, driving traffic to your website, generating leads, or selling products) then you may need to re-think the type of ad campaigns you are running.
20. Grow Your Business
Launching your business is only the beginning – if you want your business to be successful, you will have to continue expanding and growing it. Some of the best ways to grow your business after you have launched it are…
Collaborate with successful brands in your industry. You can reach out to other brands and ask for promotion in exchange for a free product sample. You could also partner with a charity or another organization so more and more people get to try your product and you can continue to get your business seen.
You can reward early customers by offering discounts on your products. Make sure the discounts fit with your profit margins and you’re not making a loss. This is particularly useful when your brand is new and you are trying to encourage customers to buy.
Use Your Network
Use those around you to help you grow your business. This can be as simple as sharing your website with your friends and family, and asking them to share a link on social media. The more your own network gets your name out there, the bigger your business will become.
Great Customer Service
From time to time, you’re going to come across customers that aren’t happy. Offering these customers exceptional customer service might be the difference between them buying from you again or not. Plus, by smoothing things out with an unhappy customer, you won’t get a reputation as having bad customer service which is not good for any business.
Note: Pay attention to the market as your business grows, and be prepared to change your path or stray from your business plan a little. It won’t necessarily be easy, but with the right determination you can be sure to see your business boom.
Final Thoughts on How to Start a Business
Evidently, there are numerous points to consider when setting up a new business. But don’t let that put you off. When you start a new business, especially transforming from idea – even a small business idea – to reality, there always going to be a sharp learning curve. However, if you are driven and dedicated, you could quickly be running a profitable and successful company. Good luck!
Any questions on how to start a business? Please feel free to ask away in the comments below…