What is an online business?
Every business needs a shopfront - the place to which your customers go to check out whatever you are selling. If you have an online business, your shopfront is on the internet. Your main 'shop' is usually your business website. Your main tools for doing business with customers are email, telephone, your website, and social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Whilst you may also meet with local customers or clients face to face, your customers find you online and you provide or sell most if not all of your goods or services online.
So, you want to start up an online business?
Whether you're selling goods or services, let's assume you have done a bit of research and thought about the pros and cons of traditional types of businesses with actual offices or shops, and face-to-face meetings with customers, versus online business with virtual shopfronts on the internet and online dealings with customers. Let's assume you have decided that an online business will work best for the goods or services you want to sell, who you want to sell them to, and the way that you want to do business.
If you want your online business to be competitive, you'll need these skills and qualities:
You'll also need to have an office (either at home or in a separate building) from which to run your business, the usual office equipment and services such as phone, internet, computer, printer etc., and a slush fund or back-up source of income in case you need a bit of financial support during the first year or two of managing your business.
When I decided to start up a business, I launched myself into it straight away without any training in small business management. In retrospect, this was putting the cart before the horse. It was only once I was managing my business and up to my neck in expenses, income, bank statements and BAS that I realised I needed some formal training or the business would go down the drain. In between managing clients and bookings and earning money, I learned about business plans, marketing, book-keeping and other business practices. Trying to learn the basics of business management whilst flat out working in my business was really exhausting and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
If you want to start up an online business, I suggest that you first undertake at least a short course in small business management. This will make it easier to start up and manage your business and end up saving you time and money.
This article is based on my own experiences since starting On Time Typing as a small (sole trader) online/onsite scribing business in 2002 which has evolved into an online transcription, scribing, writing, editing and proofreading business.
Keep posted for future articles about starting up and managing an online business.