Internet businesses are virtual storefronts that allow business owners to market and sell their products or services to a large number of customers. There are many types of Internet businesses, from reselling goods to providing services and even information. There are also many markets for Internet businesses and just as much competition. Internet businesses can be easier to start and sometimes require less startup capital than traditional businesses, but they require the same amount of work and commitment. The following steps will guide you in starting your Internet business.
Choose the type of online business you would like to start based on your interests, time and funding.
- Affiliate businesses are an easy way to get started, because you receive commissions when customers click through your website to make a purchase on an established e-commerce site.
- Informational websites or blogs can be developed into an online business by adding revenue streams such as advertising.
- Selling your own services or products is another option with a lower startup cost, since it is based on your time and skill and, potentially, some raw materials.
- Becoming a retailer/reseller is another Internet business choice. Although there are more costs associated with purchasing products to resell, there are options such as drop shipping (shipping products directly from manufacturer to customer) that can reduce up-front inventory costs.
Research the market.
- Use Google Keyword search to help you decide on a website business focus or to find a niche within your chosen market. Just search using keywords that relate to your intended business. Any businesses relating to the keyword will show up in the search.
- Find a niche or a market that is not over-saturated with online businesses.
Develop your business plan.
- Your business plan will include an executive summary (overview of your business), market analysis (research on your market and competition), a company description, your organizational structure and plans for management, the marketing ideas and sales management plans, a description of your service or product and your funding plans and budget.
Finalize your funding options.
- Financing options may include loans, equity lines or credit cards.
Create a legal business entity for your Internet business.
- Apply for a business license locally. You can find state and local business license requirements on the Small Business Administration website.
- Choose the type of official business entity (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, partnership) and submit the paperwork with your Secretary of the State’s office. If you are selling products, you will need a reseller’s license which is also available at the state level.
- Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is a number you will need to identify your business entity.
Establish your online presence and get ready to sell.
- Will you be selling on a group website with storefronts such as Etsy, Amazon or eBay or on your own website (this should be determined in your business plan)? Group sites have the advantage of a quick, inexpensive set up, but establishing your own website will give you more freedom and space for expansion.
- If you are creating your own website, choose a domain name and a web host for your business.
- Choose a domain name that promotes your business but that will be search-friendly.
- Consider web hosts that have self-design options and E-commerce solution packages, such as Yahoo Small Business. You will need a way to process payments online if you are selling physical goods online. E-commerce packages will help you quickly set up a shopping cart and online payment processing options.
Design your website.
- If you are creating the website yourself, the quickest way to do it is by using your web hosting service’s design options.
- Contact a web designer for large upscale projects. Some designers will recommend a specific e-commerce shopping cart software they prefer to work with.
- The website for your online business is considered your storefront, so the visual design and ease of use for the customer is very important.
- Promote your website business.
- Market your website online through pay-per-click advertising, search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, emails, newsletters and even commenting on other sites.
- You can also advertise your website business through traditional advertising methods such as local and national magazine and newspaper ads.