These 24 Hours

How to Start an Online Business: Why 2024 is The Golden Year for Entrepreneurship

how to start an online business
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I get it; everyone says, “This is the time to act, or it's too late!”. Most of us ignore that false sense of urgency that marketers bombard us with.

Please understand that this page title is not merely clickbait; there is great significance to starting a small business at this particular time in history. The barrier to entry in starting a small business is lower than it ever has been.

Allow me to throw some stats at you – we all love that!

Why “NOW” is the best time to start a business:

  • The global e-commerce market is expected to reach $8.1 trillion by 2026.
  • Internet users worldwide have surpassed 5 billion.
  • Starting a business is cheaper than ever. Many businesses can be started for free!
  • COVID accelerated the shift to online shopping, and remote work has made it easier than ever to start and run a business from anywhere.
  • Social media platforms provide a free and effective way to connect with potential customers.

In contrast – I started my business in the Dark Ages

online business from home

I can tell you from experience that starting a business or side hustle is ten times easier than a decade ago!

For context, I began freelancing graphic and web design services right out of college in 2001. It was primarily just word-of-mouth business that eventually grew so that I could sustain our newly growing family (check out my full story here).

When I would tell people I owned my own business and worked from home, they would express their pity for my sad state and say the same old things:

  • Do you actually make money doing that?
  • I can't do that; I need a steady paycheck.
  • How do you get anything done at home? I could never stay focused!

10 years ago, being “self-employed” was code for “I have no job.”

It was an extremely uphill battle to make my business work starting when I did, but I stuck with it. After 20+ years of successes and failures, I want to equip the next wave of entrepreneurs with the right strategies, tools, and tips to get your business started quickly and make it stick.

In 2024 – you have the greatest chance of succeeding with a small business than at any other point in history!

The Steps Needed to Start an Online Business

One thing I should clarify from the start is that when referring to a “small business” or “online business” I am speaking to a variety of different types of small businesses you could operate. Here are some examples:

  • A small business where you provide a specialized service.
  • A small business that only sells products online.
  • A small business that has a physical location.

If you operate almost any type of small business, you must understand and work through the following steps.

1. Establishing the Business Owner Mindset

Let me start by saying not everyone is meant to own a business!

Seriously, some people are not wired to work from home, manage a team, or handle all the details of a small business.

Not many people write about this because they just want you to buy their products, and they don't care what you do beyond that. But, it must be addressed because this is a major part of why most businesses fail within the first few years.

I have encountered many people in my life who were not equipped to start their own business, even some who owned a business but really shouldn't.

There is nothing wrong with working for someone

Many need to hear that message!

Being employed is a structure that often works best for most people. It provides for them, and they are fully satisfied with their work. It's a totally fine way to make a living.

So, before you pursue starting your own self-employment, I highly recommend you first assess whether you have the right type of personality to own a business. Though, you may be unable to do that because of your own confirmation bias.

Ask someone close to you if they could see you running your own business.

Simple solution: ask someone close to you if they could see you running your own business. If you think they will laugh at that idea, you likely are not a great fit now. It is still doable, but it will take more intentional self-work.

What it takes to own and operate a small business

So, what type of personality and skillset do you need to own a business? Let's dig into that!

It all begins with the right mindset to own and operate a business. I can't stress enough how essential it is to be persistent, flexible, and brutally honest with yourself.

steve jobs

“I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”
Steve Jobs

Persistence

There will be times when the path ahead seems insurmountable. Challenges will mount, competitors will emerge, and failures will occur. But the key is to keep pushing forward, to persevere even when the odds seem stacked against you. Every setback is a setup for a comeback.

If you're not wired to push through, you will need to develop some grit!

I'm not sugar-coating perseverance and persistence, because this is the main reason I was able to get through the “up in the middle of the night” stressful times and enjoy the promised land on the other side.

Flexibility

In the business world, change is the only constant.

From evolving market trends to shifts in consumer behavior, you must adapt to stay relevant. Being flexible doesn't mean compromising your core values, no, you will lose yourself that way. Instead, it means understanding the landscape and pivoting your strategies to align with the current wave.

Web design has changed significantly from when I began in 2001. As long as I kept learning and adapting to new technologies, the same foundational principles of design and human nature applied.

Beyond just technology and medium, you need to be flexible with a client's individual needs. Those who only want to do it their way will struggle greatly with owning a business.

Don't just run away from a slightly difficult person, learn ways to connect with that type of personality – It will stretch you in good ways!

Brutal Honesty

Being brutally honest with yourself is critical to owning and operating a business.

Also, how do you accept criticism from others? Just ask a few people who know you well “How well do I hear and accept criticism?”. That's a fun activity for the dinner table 😂

It's not always easy to admit when you're wrong or when your initial idea needs refining.

Assess your strengths and weaknesses, recognize when you need help, and most importantly, understand when to persevere and when to pivot.

If you're not brutally honest with yourself, you'll find out the truth very quickly while operating a small business.

2. Choosing The Right Business Niche

COVID-19 has spiked the demand for digital products by 27% (GlobalWebIndex). If you don't fill the gap, someone else will.

What to Do:

  • Research Market Trends: Use tools like Google Trends or SEMrush.
  • Identify Customer Pain Points: Look at customer reviews in your chosen industry.
  • Test the Waters: Start small—sell a mini-product or service to gauge demand.

3. Creating A Small Business Plan

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Act Now Because:

Small businesses with a business plan are 30% more likely to succeed. Do you really want to gamble with those odds?

What to Do:

  1. Write Your Business Plan: Include your mission, vision, and financial forecasts.
  2. Clarify Your ‘Why': Why should customers care about your business?
  3. Review Quarterly: Your business plan should evolve with your business.

4. Understanding Permits, Licenses, and Taxes

Governmental post-COVID initiatives are simplifying business setups (World Bank). Don't miss out.

What to Do:

  1. Check Local Laws: Requirements differ by state and country.
  2. Apply for an EIN: It's usually free and can often be done online.
  3. Hire an Accountant: Seriously, don't try to DIY your business taxes.

5. Crafting Your Marketing Strategy

53% of all website traffic comes from organic search (BrightEdge). Your future customers are searching for you. Are you visible?

What to Do:

  1. Master SEO: Learn it or hire someone who does.
  2. Leverage Social Media: Build brand loyalty and customer engagement.
  3. Implement Email Marketing: It's old but gold for a reason.

6. Mastering Customer Service

“It takes months to find a customer… seconds to lose one.”

Vince Lombardi

Bad customer service can cost you customers and money. 89% of customers have switched because of a poor experience (Harris Interactive).

What to Do:

  1. Set up a Customer Service System: Use tools like Zendesk or Freshdesk.
  2. Train Your Team: Even if it’s just you, act professionally.
  3. Collect Feedback: And act on it.

7. Planning to Give Up

Only 50% of new businesses survive for five years (SBA). Having an exit plan is not defeatist; it's practical.

What to Do:

  1. Identify Exit Triggers: Under what conditions will you sell or pivot?
  2. Value Your Business: Know your worth before negotiating.
  3. Consult a Legal Advisor: When drafting your exit strategy.

The Next Steps

FAQs

The clock's ticking, the world's moving, and opportunities are sprouting everywhere in 2023. Are you going to be a part of it, or will you let another year slip away?