How to start an online business | For beginners | Donna Townsend | Skillshare

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How to start an online business | For beginners

teacher avatar Donna Townsend, SMM | VA | Entrepreneur

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Why choose to setup a business online


    • 3.

      What are you good at


    • 4.

      Coming up with your business idea


    • 5.

      Refine your business idea


    • 6.

      Is their a market for your business


    • 7.

      Planning your website


    • 8.

      How to market your business


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About This Class

Welcome to my beginners course on starting an online business! This course is designed to help you think of an online business idea by looking at various aspects about who you are and what your good at.

Throughout the course, we will cover a range of topics related to starting an online business, including:

  1. Why choose to set up a business online: We will explore the benefits and drawbacks of online business, and discuss the various types of online businesses that exist.

  2. What are you good at: We will help you assess your skills and interests to identify potential business ideas that align with your strengths.

  3. Coming up with your business idea: We will discuss strategies for brainstorming and refining your business idea, including researching the competition.

  4. Is there a market for your business?: We will teach you how to evaluate the potential demand for your business idea and conduct market research to identify potential customers.

  5. Planning your website: We will provide you with tips and best practices for planning and designing your website.

  6. How to market your business: Finally, we will discuss various strategies for promoting your online business.

By the end of this course, you will have a solid understanding of the key factors involved in starting an online business, and the skills and knowledge necessary to make your venture a success.

Let's get started!

Meet Your Teacher

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Donna Townsend

SMM | VA | Entrepreneur

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Welcome to this course on how to start an online business. And this is for beginners. So if you're very new to this type of thing, then this is the course for you. In this course, I'm gonna go through all the aspects of setting up an online business and how to market yourself. My name is done at Townsend is a picture of me in the bottom corner, and I'll be your teacher throughout this course. So what will you learn about in this course? We're going to cover a wide range of topics when it comes to online business that will help you think of an idea, how to get started with thinking about your website and then how to market yourself. Some of the topics we're going to cover. Why choose to set up an online business? Figuring out what are you good at coming up with the business idea, refining your business idea, researching competition. Is there a market for your business because it's really important. Planning your website and how to market yourself. Let's get started. 2. Why choose to setup a business online: Why choose to set up a business online? So first of all, we're going to look through the reasons why you should do it. So first of all, low start-up costs. There are no big financial commitments here. As there's no premises to favorable. You're not paying for rent. You don't pay for gas, electricity, any that you're not paying for that. The only thing you will have to pay for will be the Internet, your website costs, and the advertising you do. So these are very, very small things that you'll be paying out for that don't won't cost you a nominal like just to set up. Number two, long opening hours as your businesses online 24 h day, your customer can see your business no matter what time of day it is. Which is great for you because people go on neatness at 06:00 at night or turn or 2AM and they'd come across your business, whatever you're selling or the services you provide, they can see what you do. Anchors sign up there and then which is really good for you, your business is available. It doesn't just shut down. They end at 05:00. That's the good thing about having online business. It's open all the time. Never three scale because this is online. It can grow to what suits you. E.g. if you're working full-time, you business can be a side hustle to let grows enough for you to quit a full-time work. You probably had it in the news on linkedin and that type of thing. People mentioning that side hustles and then quitting their full-time job because their side hustle is something that they're passionate about and it's grown. This is the point. This is actually the main point of an online business is to grow so that you can take it on as a full-time job. Number four, quick to setup. Depending on how quickly you can build a site, your business can be up and running in a matter of weeks. All depends on how quickly you can build your website ready, which is amazing. So you don't have to wait months or anything like that fit everything to fall in place or any leases or anything, you can get up and running very, very quickly when it comes to online businesses, which is fantastic. So we're going to look at the drawbacks to an online business. The first one is the lack of face-to-face interaction. Online businesses lack that personal touch that comes with a face-to-face interaction. This can make it difficult to build trust and establish a personal connection with your customers. So when you doing any promotion side of things, when it comes from online business, it's so, so important to add that personal touch into it. Try and humanize your business because this can help counteract this drawback, basically, because businesses are going to miss out on that face-to-face interaction. Not everyone's going to trust you straight away, but if they see a lot of video content, they see those great reviews. Your faces out there as much as possible, establishes that personal connection. But this is just one drawback, basically. The second drawback we're going to look at is the limited customer service. Online businesses often rely on emails. Chatbots are automated systems for customer service. While this can be efficient, they can also be impersonal leads to frustration for customers who have more complex issues. Have a click way of communication. Your customers. Make sure that you're able to respond quite quickly, will help this drawback because I don't know. You've probably experienced it where you've gone a chatbot and you're not getting anywhere. It's the same responses. You're not really talking to somebody. So that's one drawback to an online business. And if you're starting out, it might be a bit difficult to answer those questions really quickly, but maybe just explain to your customers. You've got a 24 hour window and basically I'll respond to so give them that understanding that you won't respond straightaway, but you will do your best day. So basically that's trying to solve the drawback to this issue. Number three, increased competition. There's often increased competition, which can be really challenging to stand out and attract customers. So there are loads of businesses online. They're probably be very similar to what you're creating hoping to promote. So you've got to find your way to stand out and track those customers away from those other businesses basically. But that can be really difficult. It depends on your budget, depends on what offers you have. But what we're gonna do is in a few lessons time, we're going to look at competitor analysis. We're going to look at what your key benefits to what you're doing so that you can help your business to stand out more. So this will help that drawback. So I'm just going to go over briefly, the types of online businesses that are currently on. With creating an online business. It's so easy to do, but it's hard to work out what kind of business to create. So here are some of the most popular online businesses that are. You've got eco my shop services, subscription site, membership site, online coach, Podcasts, Network, blog, and plenty more. So there's quite a few on this list. So I'm going to pop this in a PDF document that's going to be part of your projects. So you can refer back to this. It will help inspire you as well. I always find, looking at some of these. I always think, Oh, I like the idea of that. And then it helps me think, oh, what could I do in that sort of online business sort of idea? So we'll put that in the pdf fy to look at later on. So hopefully we will see you in the next lesson. 3. What are you good at: What are you good at? Before you start to generate specific ideas is helpful to look out what sort of business would suit you. It's rarely good idea to start a business without having an interest or knowledge of e.g. if you started a web design company basically online, then if you have no skills for it, you're not really invested. You thought it would be a good earner. Your business is likely to fail because you don't have the experience or the knowledge and you don't have the passion for it. You have to think about what kind of business would be suited to you. You have to also think that you're going to be spending a lot of time and energy in your new business. So it's important to joy really creating when you're building up your website, your website, your social media, thinking about business ideas, you should feel excited. You should feel really positive about what you can achieve, that success, it could generate that type of thing. That's the feeling you're looking for when creating an online business. It's important to think about the business and you as a one. So what are you good at is a really good starting point to think about your business ideas. So a good idea to get started is to write down your skills and your knowledge. So you can do them in little columns if you aren't on a bit of paper. I will put this in the project folder for you to do at the end of this. So you don't need to do notes right now, but you will do it later on. So a few tips to help you find your talents and your strengths. So it's not natural to some people to think about these things. So the three things that you can look at. First of all, you can look at the things you do in your spare time. So your skills and knowledge could be saved from your work life. But the things that you do in your spare time, all things that you're actually interested in yourself. You might actively look at classes for creating business cards, that type of thing. So you might find that there's a huge list of the things that you're interested outside of work and things that you've built up over the years. So look at the things that you've done over the past, say five years, anything stands out, the types of things that you're really drawn to, write them down in your list, you will need this later on, I promise. The next thing you need to do is figure out what people around you, your friends and your family think that your talent. So they're really good. They're the ones that are going to notice things you won't even notice about yourself. There might be like, Oh, you're really good at this and you're like, I am. And you've never realized, maybe it's just something actually you do need to think about. So ask your friends and family and write this on the list as well. Then last one is taking an aptitude test is really interesting as well. You can learn a lot from these. Type it into Google. There are plenty out there that you can find that are free to use. But it's really great idea just to see what it generates at the ends of it. So makes sure to write all these pants down. As There'll be really useful when you're brainstorming your business idea. But this will be in your projects folder to do at the end of this lesson. So don't worry, at this precise moment in time, if you've not written anything down, you will be going through it later on as well. 4. Coming up with your business idea: In this lesson, we're going to look at coming up with your business idea. Now's the time to think about that million pound idea. So you've thought about your skills, we're passionate about your talents, everything in the last lesson, what we're going to look at doing is creating a mind map. Mind mapping is a powerful tool for generating ideas and organizing your thoughts. So that's what we're gonna be doing in this lesson. So here's how we're going to create one. First of all, we're going to start by writing down in the central idea of online business. So draw a circle with online business in the middle. So that's the first step. Step two is to think of subtopics related to that online business. So these are things that you feel about, that you're passionate about or actually really good ideas business-wise. And you're going to write them branching out from the middle. So you're going to have say 56, however many you can think of branching out from that center. Then what you're gonna do is then you're going to break down those topics into other ideas that are associated. So the reasons this is huge, thinking outside the box, you're breaking down those ideas in different ways just to get a different perspective. So e.g. if one of your ideas is to be an online coach, you could break that down into what type of online coach do you want to focus on? Businesses? A. Looking at teens? Are you looking at small businesses, that type of thing? You just need to break it down a little bit more. By thinking about this, this can actually help narrow down what kind of business you want to be involved in. Then just keep branching out basically so you can have more potential ideas. Once you've done it, review your mind-map, identify the areas that seem to be more promising and the ones that are interesting. So we've got a highlighter, or you get a red pen and circle around the ones that you think, oh, she really liked that idea. So these are gonna be like your starting point ideas basically. Then from this number six point is we're going to research the market for each of those promising ideas. Because there's no point jumping into anything if there's no demand for the product or service. And if the, if there's too much competition in the market, it's important to try and narrow down those ideas even further. Then what you need to do is choose the online this idea that has the most potential. And you can start planning your business strategy. You've had a look into App, see everything. You've looked into the ideas that you're passionate about, you're breaking it down. And the point at the end of this lesson is to actually have a bible idea. I'm just going to quickly show you what a mind map kinda looks like. Basically. In the center you have basically what the topic is. And you'll branch out. Just a reminder. You can branch out as much as you want if you have, say, 20 ideas. Fantastic. What you're doing is just putting all those ideas onto one better paper. For me, I'd probably get the biggest piece of paper I can find. And then just start writing all those ideas down branch, branch, branch, and then working our way through those. And then circling ones I think are promising. But this is a great way just for you to come up with a business idea that's viable, something you're passionate about, and has a market for. 5. Refine your business idea: In this lesson, we're going to look at refining your business idea. So it's so important to refine your business idea as it's an essential step in launching a successful venture. So here are a few steps that you can do. First of all, you can determine who your ideal audience is and what their needs and their pain points are. So this will help you determine what kind of services to offer, how to word things. Basically, how you're going to reach those customers that you really need for your business. Number to use market research to validate your business idea and gain some insights from the industry, competitors, and potential customers. This can include surveys, focus groups, and online research. So you just take the time to find out as much information as possible about the industry, your competitors. Because this will provide a valuable insight into whether your business idea is going to be successful or not. The next thing you should do is you should clearly communicate the benefits of your products and services and show why they're different from your competitors. Continuously refining and testing the value of your proposition to ensure it resonates with your target market. So you're basically looking at what you provide and basically adapting it to your target audience. Basically, you need to show why your product is better than say competitor 12.3. You need to show why it is. So have a think about that as well when you're thinking about your business idea as a whole. The last thing you need to be doing to refine this business idea is to develop a business plan. What will include in that is your goals, your strategies, your financial projections. This is a little bit much. Just start with the goals and use your strategies when it comes to marketing. And have a think about maybe your budget is overrule at the minute. So if you're very, very, very small, freshly starting out, it can be a bit hard to do if financial protection, but that can come down later down the line when your businesses growing. This can also help refine your business idea and identify any potential challenges and opportunities that there are. Things are going really well in your business plan with one strategy but not with another, then you know how to focus your energies and you can adapt this plan. It's worth doing a bit of a Google search on how to create a business plan overall. And getting started with that, once you know what kind of business you're doing, benefits that you're giving to your customers. You've done all your market research so you know exactly who you're targeting. It will really, really help you keep a target on what you want to be doing and accomplishing from this business online. So hopefully this has provided you with a bit more refinement and your business idea and look forward to seeing you in the next lesson. 6. Is their a market for your business: Is there a market for your business? So determining if there's a market for your business isn't important step in the business planning process. Here are some steps you can take to assess the market potential for your business. So first of all, identify who your ideal customers are and what their needs and preferences are. This will help you determine if there's a market for your business. So this points already been covered and the researched for competition is also being covered in previous lesson. But there are some more main points that we can go through to understand if there is a market. The next point is just covering, researching your competition, which in a previous lesson that I think you've already done, you would be looking at the pricing, marketing strategies and the customer feedback to understand the market landscape. So if you haven't looked at customer feedback, it's worth looking at, look at the reviews on say, social media or trust Pilot. Definitely have a look around. It's definitely worth figuring out. If there's a lot of reviews, you can understand that there's a large audience. Also, the customer is what they say in their feedback. And if they say, I really want this or I really liked I did this, but this product doesn't offer this. Then that can help you. Number three, conduct market research together insights into your target audience and their preferences. This can include surveys, focus groups, and online research. So for me, I would spend some time doing some polls on different platforms. If you do have a social media platform, you're on the multiple ones. Linkedin's a really good place to ask questions. Seeing if there's an audience out there, some people in the industry might be able to help you answer these types of questions. So it's worth doing. Number four, analyze industry trends, look for the trends and changes in the industry that could affect the demand for your products or your services. So this can include changes in the consumer, imagine technologies or the shift in economy. There might be things that you can factor in, e.g. your service might be out there, but e.g. it may be redundant if something else emerges. So it's worth keeping an eye out for long term if your business is going to be viable for years to come. Basically. Number five, use available data and research to estimate the size of your market for your business. This can determine if there's enough demand to sustain your business. Little trick on this. I would go on to Facebook if you've got it, go to Facebook ads. And what I would do is create an ad basically for your business and type in say, the United Kingdom or specific area, that type of thing. Then limit it down to what your industry is about. And that can give you a general idea of the size of your audience. I do it for some of the ideas that I have and I think it's worthwhile just to seed size, um, of the market that's out there, the reach that it can do. So it's worth doing. You've probably got enough information from understanding your customers, your ideal customers, the age, demographic, that type of thing. So you can fill that out, but it is worth giving it a go. So by assessing the market potential for your business, you can determine if this is a viable market for your products or services, which is really important, There's no point creating this business. Put your heart and soul into to find there's actually no market for it. So it's a really important part of creating your business from the ground up basically. So hopefully this has provided a lot of insight. Some of the stuff on here we will be adding to your project to make some notes from this, do some of the activities that I've mentioned about industries, trends. Looking at the market size, e.g. but I will put them in the project to do as well because I think it's worthwhile kind of research to do. I'll see you in the next lesson. 7. Planning your website: So this lesson is looking at planning your website. So this is just the basic overview of what to introduce into your website and make sure that you definitely, definitely have. You've got your business idea. Fantastic. You've gone through all the process, you've gone through all the lessons, you know exactly what you want to be doing. Next, your business needs a website so that you can generate sales and get your brand noticed. So it's so important to have this up and running. However you choose to build website drag-and-drop. So that's like Wix websites or through web designer. Your site needs to have the following is so important to have these. First of all, a homepage. All websites should have a homepage. I don't think I've come across one where there isn't one, but this is a really, really vital page to have designed properly. This needs to have a very positive impression on your new customers. I need to be clear about what the site is about from the minute they can work on it. They need to know exactly where they are. If they see something that's a bit irrelevant to what the business about, they will go out of your website, they'll go. You need to make sure that you've designed it in a way that's nice and clear and crystal of what it is you do, how you can help them. So I provided an example on the right. This is from buffer, so this is the homepage. As you can see, it's there. It's got a nice, clean design. It's really bold writing, It's got pictures. It's nice to look up to be honest. That's kinda the brushing you need to do. You don't want it to look too clunky. What was that button read? You don't want that. You want it to be easy for a customer to scroll down and find everything that they need to know before they click on a service or product. So making sure that this has a lasting impression is really important. The next page you need to think about is the about us. We actually mentioned something related to this, actually a second I'll explain. This adds a human element to your business and you should provide visitors with a sense of who you are. So when we talked back in another lesson, we mentioned about one of the drawbacks of having online business was that human connection, the personalization, that trust. This actually helps anyway, to add that element of personal, personal approach. You understanding who's behind the business, that type of thing. So by adding in about us, try and include a picture of you. Not everyone's photogenic, but it's nice to see your face. Joe, mean about who you are, how you got started, what the businesses both to represent that type of thing. People love it and it's such a nice thing because as the element of trust when they're about to click on my service or anything. So do do include this. The next three things that you need to add in. Contact us, very important. This doesn't do place to ask questions and should include a contact form as email address. If you don't want to include an email address, don't just add the contact form. It should send it to your email address anyway. But this is important for the fact that sometimes a customer just has a really simple query and they just pop your quick question and if you don't really respond, then you've lost that customer. So it's nice just to quickly respond back to them. Using contact forms is an easy way of doing it. The next thing is you need a privacy policy. Visitors need to know that your treat their details respect. If they purchase something from you, then it's important to know that you're not going to give their details to a third party. It's really important. Then the next one is your products and services. A list or cut log with your products and your services should have its pricing as well with it. If you're offering anything, it's important to add pricing. It puts people off not knowing how much something is. I provided examples for all three of these on the right hand side. So as you can see at the bottom, there's a clothing brands and this parsing and every little information there. So it's really, really important to include those types of things as well. And think about the structure of how you're going to show off the products and your services and how you're going to share the benefits to them. Or if you're selling products, include what kind of things you want to add to it, like descriptions, colors, that type of thing. Another final one that we need to think about is delivery policy. This is properly only for more e-commerce sites or anything that requires shipping. You have this. Potential purchasers wants to know when their products will be delivered. This is really, really important. I've shown you an example on the right-hand side explains the type of delivery offers there are. I think it's FedEx and UPS, isn't that just basically saying pricing for each of them as well? It's really important to give as much information as possible to a customer. The more you give, the less likely they can actually come and message you on a contract from going, where's my things? Whereas if they knew where this delivery information is, they can find it themselves. So the more information you put on your website about this type of thing, the better is. Another final point that I want to say is throughout the design, try to use a range of content from videos, images to audio. Just try and add a bit of mixture of everything into it. Because what I'll do is I'll keep people more engaged. It also shows e.g. if you're doing a service or something, you're trying to sell one, then you can show your expertise in a video. Then you can enter text. Because sometimes people don't look at texts. It's a lot of social media has changed the game a lot when it comes to the way people absorb information. So people probably lean more to videos and they ever used to, but it's good to have that balance if you can audio. It all depends on what kind of online business you're on. But it's worth trying to add those kinds of different content ideas. And hopefully this has given you some insight. Obviously, there are tons of other pages that you can add into your website. But these are the key ones that you need to really think about. 8. How to market your business : So this is your last lesson of this course. And in this, we're going to look at how to market your business. Marketing, your online business can be so daunting, but with the right strategies in place, you can reach your target audience and attract potential customers. Here are some steps to market your new online business. Develop a strong brand identity. What this will do is it'll help you stand out in a crowded market, basically, develop a logo, brand colors, and messaging that reflect your business. And it's five. So it's important to have this very different from every other brand in the same industry. Because it will make you seem unique. It does make you stand out trying to choose a logo that's quite simple. Logos that are quite busy looking when they're added to social or anything like that, they just get lost. Basically, you need a logo that's going to look at it go, oh, I know that. I know that logo, which I mean, that's what you want. So that's what brand identity is. Number two, create a website. A website is the foundation of your online presence. So make sure it's easy to navigate, visually appealing, and it's optimized for search engines. So we briefly covered on the last lesson about websites and about the types of pages you now need to focus on. Not just the creation of it, but making sure that it's optimized for your customers. So you will have to have look into SCI, which is a completely other lesson. So if you go back onto Skillshare, you'll find that I've done a course, a very beginners course on SEO. So it's worth looking at that. It will help its links to this in such a, a big way. But it's really important way of marketing yourself. When I say search engines, basically what I mean is when you go onto Google and you type in such a business, any business, basically, it will come up in those search terms. And what you want to do for your website is to try and get people on that fast or second page of Google searches. So that's what SEO is linked to. But you can have a look at that or even do a Google search on your own to figure out more about that if you're interested. The next thing you can look at is using social media to market yourself. So social media is such a powerful tool to promote your business. You can do it. There's so many platforms to use. You can use just two or three and tug on those. But it's entirely up to you. First of all, I would say is identify which platforms, your target audience users, and create a presence on those platforms. You may already know the answer to this through competitive analysis. If you didn't look into this, then I suggest looking at this again and actually figure out where where your audience is going to be. Because there's no point using say, Instagram. If none of your audiences on that, then what you need to be doing is sharing engaging content on a regular basis and interacting with your followers. This is really important. The more active your accounts are, the more likely your posts are gonna be seen by more people. So it's really important. The next point is develop a content marketing strategy. It's just a great way to stab yourself as an expert in the industry and attract potential customers. So when I say this, content marketing is around creating blog posts, videos, email marketing, it's just about creating content. It's accreting. You can even do podcasts, that type of thing. But what the content has in mind is it provides value to your audience. So there's a purpose for it. So have a think about that as well. I've just briefly mentioned this next point. Use email marketing. Email marketing is such a cost effective way to stay in touch with the customers and build up relationships with them. So the way to kind of build up an email list is to offer sent spies, offers, deals. Use the word subscribe, subscribe with a twist, glycol subscribe now and get 10% off those types of things and start trying to build them up. Basically, what it is is from your e-mail marketing. You can then do newsletters, updates, promotions. You can send out a lot of information to people in the industry and her interest in the industry on irrelevant to what you offer. Which is more important basically, and it builds up the relationship between you and them. It's one of the best ways. It's really hard way of building up email lists the minute. But it's a really good way if you can figure out how to do it. I would suggest doing some research in Rome for this. Once your social media and wraps you've built your website, I would then start looking at email marketing. But on your website, try and include a subscribe but newsletter button on there. Because it's really important and see if you can maybe put an offer or something or a freebie or whatever it is to make sure that you can collect those emails because they will benefit you long-term, honestly. The next one is offering promotions, discounts. I've briefly mentioned this on email marketing, but you can do that across apps, everything. So you can include on your website like a banner at the top, or you can include it in your social media posts. It's a great way to build up a large audience. Audience quite quickly, encourages people to buy your products, even try them so you can even do trials and stuff. And then once they hoped, then the product is really good value for money and you notice high-quality than the, more than likely going to stay. So it's really good idea to market yourself through that. And remember, marketing is an ongoing process. So it's really important to continually evaluate and adjust your strategies based on what works best for your business and your audience. So if e.g. you're spending loads of energy on email marketing but not really getting much from it, then don't waste your time. Try focusing your energy on something that is working, say e.g. if social media is kicking off and one particular platform is doing really, really well, then concentrate your efforts on that. Because otherwise you just find yourself spread so thin across all of the different ways of marketing that it's a bit too much, especially if you're starting a new business. I hope you've enjoyed this course. And then what I'd like to do is complete the project. The project is going to be based on everything you've learned. It's gonna be about researching. It's about everything we've kind of covered. But in a bit more depth. I just want you to complete the booklet. And then at the end of that, I love to hear what your ideas are. You know, I'd love to hear what people have come up from. With learning everything. You've learned, what you've come out the other end with. So if you can pop what your business idea is in the comments section, I would love to hear about what it is you come up with. And if you've got any more details or if you want any advice about any part of that, put it in the comments section as well.