The Beginners Guide to Starting an Online Business

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Whether you are an awesome painter, a creative designer or a professional photographer, you are doing what you love. You come to a decision that you want to tell the world about it. You resolve to create a website to show everyone what you are capable of. You have all kinds of cool plans for the future, like selling your paintings in an online webshop or putting ads to your site to generate some side money. But you have no idea where to start. Well, let me show you what it takes to starting an online business.

First off, let’s build up a checklist of the things you need.

Checklist for Starting an Online Business

  • Name
  • Web hosting
  • Domain
  • CMS
  • Webdesign
  • Logo
  • Content
  • Mandatory pages
  • What’s next?
The Beginners Guide to Starting an Online Business

The first thing you are going to need is a name for your business.

Name

If you are a company, you can come up with your company’s name. If you are an individual, and you want to be famous with your own name, why not use it for your website? If you can come up with a fancy name, check if it is already taken, if not, go for it! Go creative with your company name, in case you get world famous in a few years, make people easy to remember your name.

Web Hosting

There is a handful of web hosting companies out there who can handle your needs to store your site on a server. Most of them cost some amount of money but you’ll get quality services and customer support in return. You can try looking for a free provider if you are low on budget, but even the best free web hosting companies will display banners or advertisements on your site. Some well-known hosting providers to consider (worldwide):

Domain

Most often, ordering a hosting service also yields you a domain name. If not, you have to buy it separately. This is something that cannot be done for free. Domain names don’t cost too much, it’s like $10-$15 a year, and it really worths to have one for your online business. Don’t know what name you should use? Try Dot-o-mator. When you have your idea, you can register your domain at any hosting providers.

Note: In case you order your domain name from a different source than that of your hosting, you’ll have to ask your domain name provider to set some DNS’s to link the domain to your server. It’s kind of a tedious process, but you have to do it yourself.

CMS

Now that you have your domain and a server set up, you have to think about your website. The easiest and also the fastest way to set up your new website is to use a CMS. CMS stands for Content Management System, and there are plenty of them on the Internet. These systems are all free to use, so all you have to do is choose the right one for you, and start using it. Here are some of the well-known ones to choose from.

I prefer using WordPress, since it is definitely the most versatile of all. In fact, if you register on wordpress.com, you can sign up for a free hosting service. They give you 3GB of space, a “.wordpress.com” subdomain, and some basic customization options for Free! That means if you are totally zero on budget, you can still be starting your online business with WordPress. The backside of using WordPress’ hosting service is that you can’t get access to the server via FTP. You can, however, edit just anything from themes to plugins through WordPress’ built-in editor. So, it’s all good!

Web Design

Your website is up and running, but it looks stock. You should now search for downloadable themes over the Internet. WordPress has a whole bunch of themes created for it, you just have to look for them. One good source is the WordPress Theme Directory, where you can find free themes for download.

There are also premium quality themes with lots of customization options. They are going to cost you some money, but they definitely worth all the money you spend on them. If you have cash separated for a professional theme, try looking on ThemeForest.

In case you use Joomla, Drupal or any other CMS, you may want to look for appropriate themes.

If you know something about web design and want to go unique, you can design the site yourself. You should check out the web design-related tutorials on my Blog to learn more about how to create a proper website design.

Logo

Same thing as web design. You can either use an online logo maker tool (there are some free!), download a logo creator program, or design it yourself. Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are your friends here. If you have no idea what logo you should create, then head out to the following sites to gather some inspiration from some amazing artists around the world.

The Beginners Guide to Starting an Online Business

Content

You now have a super-cool website that looks better than a Ferrari and loads even faster than google.com… okay, maybe the last one is not true, but still. You are very happy about it, which is perfectly allowed and encouraged. But what will your visitors see? You have to think about the actual content of the site. For example, if you are a creative person, upload your works into a portfolio.

Tell your users who you are. Create an About page, and tell a few words of yourself. Who are you, where do you live, what have you done in your life, how did you come up with the idea to create this website, anything that you can write of yourself.

If your website (is not a blog, so, for example it) offers a service to your clients, or it is purely for informational purposes, then why not start a blog? Write about some exciting affairs that happen to your company or your professional career. Is there a new type of paintbrush you just tried? Photoshop CS7 just came out? You invented a new light source? Blogging is fun, because it can get the creative out of you. Plus, abundant blogging reflects that your site is maintained regularly.

In addition, providing unique and nowhere-else-seen content also ranks you higher in search engines.

The Beginners Guide to Starting an Online Business

Mandatory Pages

You have uploaded the best of your work, so now visitors can actually see what you are capable of. This is all good, but think about how will they contact you in case they want to order something from you. Make sure you include all the following pages in your website.

  • Contact Page – Your users won’t be able to get in touch with you unless you give them your email, phone number, or encourage them to email you through a built-in contact form. The contact page is a MUST on every single website, it doesn’t matter what that particular site is about.
  • Terms of Use – It is a good practice a put down how your visitors can use your content. For example, if you produce freebies, you should let them know how they can use them. Can they use your stuff in commercial projects or just in personal ones? If your users can register to your website, let them know the terms. You can look for a terms of use generator if you can’t think of any of your own.
  • Privacy Policy – In case you want your users to register, or give you their email address for a newsletter subscription, it is paramount to have a privacy policy pages that state how you handle your visitors’ sensitive data. You can find a privacy policy generator online, too.

What’s next?

This is it, your site is now in a perfect condition to get started with. You should consider a couple of important steps to make your website stand up from the crowd.

  • Search Engine Optimization – To rank high in search engines, you have to, above all, keep producing quality content. You should make sure that your site’s markup is a SEO-friendly as possible. Always give images alt and title tags, etc.
  • Social Media – Register your website as a page on Facebook and Google+. Make sure you create a Twitter account and tweet about your posts regularly. Use trends (hash tags) to find similar people to you on Twitter, connect to Groups on Google+ to engage with people that have the same interests. Social media is a whole lot of fun, too. You can make friends, or even find collaborators!
  • Advertising – As your site gets more and more visitors, you can place some advertisements on your website for some additional income. You may try Google AdSense, or try to friend up with similar sites.
  • Newsletter – As traffic gets higher and higher, you may want to consider gathering emails to spread out weekly/monthly newsletters to your subscribed users. This is a great way to inform them about company news, new blog posts, and stuff like that.
  • Spam protection – There are specific plugins for content management systems that prevent robots spam your site with unrelated comments. Using a captcha service and a spam-filter will pretty much reduce the chances of getting unwanted spam on your blog.
  • Language – Be sure to proof-read your content before you make them live. Having grammatically correct content and not misspelling words help you a lot!
The Beginners Guide to Starting an Online Business

Conclusion

It is a long process to get a site up and running, especially if you weren’t born with a laptop in your hand. In the end, however, it will all worth it. Having a site that is all about you is just great!

Got any tips?

If you have a killer advice to newcomers on starting an online business, why not share it with us? Tell us how you achieved a successful online career yourself! Thanks for reading, and I wish you a good luck with starting your online business!

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Written by

Web designer, web developer, UI/UX designer 9-5. Energy drink consumer, video game addict, avid blogger 5-9. Owner of Szaboka.com.

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