While it doesn’t take an MBA to start a successful small business online, it does take hard — and smart — work, dedication, and dead-on self-honesty.
How to start…
The first thing to consider when picking the small business that’s right for you is where your passions lie.
What do you enjoy most in life?
This is what’s meant by “dead-on self-honesty” being a top requirement for establishing a successful small business. You’ve got to be able to isolate those things that not only fill you with the most joy, but are easy to build a business out of. In other words, you need to find a passion that can be repackaged into profit. Evaluate who you are — your values, your beliefs, your core motivation — and what gives you the greatest satisfaction out of life. What you’ll find is a business opportunity that you can both earn a living from and simply have fun with.
Once you decide which one of your passions can naturally convert into a business, your next step is developing a valuable product or service commensurate with your passion. When it comes down to it, this is really the most important part of starting a successful small business: choosing a product or service that you feel good about and distinguishing it from your competitors. You must also determine whether or not a demand for your product or service already exists, and if not, is it feasible or even useful to create one.
Next steps for a successful small business…
…build a focused and compelling Web site to serve as the virtual headquarters of your business. The faster your Web site successfully addresses the concerns of your readers, the more likely your readers will be converted into customers. Even better, if their experience was enjoyable, the more likely they will return as your customers for the long term.
Your Web site is the portal through which you invite prospects into the unique and valuable world of what you have to offer. Invest in user-friendly Web page builder software to create an effective Web site for your small business. You don’t have to spend too much — in fact, you can find one for free that doesn’t even require you to learn HTML.
The next and probably the most time-consuming step of starting a small business online is formulating a business plan. A business plan is an operational blueprint that will map out the course of your small business for both the short and long terms. Write down your goals and develop a step-by-step process for achieving them. You don’t have to stick to it exactly, but it helps to have a general sense of where you’ve been and where you want to go. Determine your small business budget, and allow it be multiplied by three — just in case.
Marketing is where you need to get creative when you’re starting up a small business online. The Internet offers all sorts of free alternatives to marketing your small business Web site. Start a blog, distribute free press releases, create a Facebook or other social media site profile — the sky’s the limit. Before you apply any of these marketing tools to your small business, make sure you spend a lot of time developing a hard and fast brand message.
Focused branding is key to any successful marketing campaign — neglect this and it’s likely that your entire small business endeavor will turn to dust. Finally, the most important lesson to take away from this is: the smarter you work now, the less hard you’ll have to work later. Smart work always trumps hard work at the end of the day, both in productivity and in pleasure.
If you follow these steps, compiling as much information as you can on each, you’ll have all the tools you need to carve out a solid niche for yourself and your small business, doing something that you love to do. Starting a successful small business online is not for the small-hearted. It’s for those who think simple, do smart, and persevere, and persevere some more.