So, you’re thinking about starting an online business
Good idea! Whether you’re just starting out or are already established, the benefits to working virtually are plentiful.
But with so many tools and options to tackle your business tasks with cloud technology, it can be a bit overwhelming and hard to know where to direct your focus. That’s why we sat down with two online business veterans to ask them their advice on how to start and grow your business in a virtual world.
Our experts and their background
Expert 1: Richard LeCount – managing director at USB Makers International.
Having started his USB manufacturing business at the height of the dot com bubble in 1999, LeCount’s venture began online in the UK. With the savings from starting virtually versus storefront, his company quickly expanded to U.S. customers and now operating on a global market.
Expert 2: Carl Reader – serial entrepreneur, business advisor and author of The Startup Coach.
Having set up an award-winning UK based accounting practice and an entrepreneur coaching business, Carl decided to start TaxGo, an online-only accounting start-up that gives his clients and employees the freedom to work and collaborate anytime, anywhere.
Carl’s top virtual tips
1. Get in the right mindset
Understand that if you’re setting up an online business, that it actually is a business. That sounds like an off-the-cuff comment, but I’ve seen many of people with the mentality that setting up their own business online means set up their website and then just sit back, relax and wait for the action to happen.
You still need to do the stuff you do in a normal business. You need the right people and advice around you and you need a thorough business plan with goals. You still need to develop relationships with key customers and suppliers. Because when you first start out, it’s easy for your business to be taken as just a hobby when you don’t have an office or a staff.
2. Realize that you will be compared to big businesses
Many businesses who want to move online tend to presume that they should carry on doing business the way they’ve always done it. When its online, people expect your service to be equivalent to what you’d expect from a million-dollar business like Google, just because you’re online and your website may have represented you as such.
Look realistically at what you can and can’t do in terms of business loads and the size of the requests you receive, and invest in the systems you need to help you to grow.
Also, be sure to manage your customers’ expectations from beginning to end. They will expect high-quality customer service in every aspect, so you’ll need to be sure you can deliver as expected.
3. Be aware of the traps out there
In the virtual world, there are a lot of sharks claiming to be able to work magic with your website if you allow them to. Also, there are tons of online get-rich-quick scams that ask you to make investments to grow your business with no solid business plan.
Be educated before you invest in any software or service. Having a business mentor is great for new businesses and those looking to expand online.
Richard’s top virtual tips
1. Clean up your website
Pay special attention to your website – it’s essentially your storefront. If it’s not easy to use and informative then people won’t use it and you won’t have a business. Choose a domain name that is easy to spell and fits your brand. Take the time to find a great developer – get a good recommendation and be sure to discuss ongoing pricing for maintenance/changes. Make sure that you are 100% clear on the contract and get a second opinion from a more established business, if possible. Also, pick a reliable hosting service with fast load times and a great reputation.
2. Brush up on basic digital marketing
Once your site is built, you’ll need a solid strategy to get people there. Do a quick online search for free courses on digital marketing, search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) marketing using audience insights. This will help you start your site with technically sound marketing, which will make it easier for duplication and scalability as your business starts to grow.
3. Find your creative zone
The biggest perk of having a virtual business is the flexibility. Not feeling creative in your home office? Take your office with you to a park or scenic area. Take advantage of the mobility and freedom – this opportunity is great for peace of mind and happiness, meaning that you will remain passionate about your business and not become run down.
Ready to start an online business?
If Richard and Carl’s advice has inspired you, why not get started today – all you need is an idea and a smartphone. The power in your pocket gives you everything you need to set up your business and your office right here, right now.
The only barriers are the ones you create for yourself. We are here to help you smash them down on every step of your journey to business success.
Learn more about creating an online business in our latest guide, How to Start an Online Business from Home .
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for relevance.