How to Start Your Own Online Business
Starting your own online business isn’t as hard as you might think. To make it even easier, I’ve outlined the basic steps… like how to get a no or low-cost web site, getting a merchant account, and registering your site with the search engines. And I’ve included lots of links and other resources to help even more.
So let’s get started…
Step 1: Decide what you want to sell
If you don’t know what you want to sell on-line here are some questions to help you decide:
- Do you want to provide a service? Examples of service businesses include consulting, proof reading, bookkeeping, coaching, dog walking, music lessons, party planning, teaching teleclasses, writing personal biographies, writing resumes, or being a professional copywriter, etc.
- Do you want to sell a product? Examples of products include gift baskets, an eBook, custom golf clubs, clothing, your famous cheesecake or salsa, and so on.
- If you want to sell a product… will you create and sell your own product or products or will you re-sell other people’s products on a wholesale, drop-ship, or affiliate basis?
- Do you want to do what I do and provide both a service and offer products created by yourself as well as others?
What if you still don’t have a clue about what you’d love to be doing? You could start by:
- Learning more about creative alternatives to having a job
- Scheduling an appointment with one of the many “Outside the Box” Career Experts who I have personally trained and certified to use my unique 5-step Changing Course Formula to work one-on-one to help you turn your interests into income. Here’s a short list of Creative Career Consultants who are also currently accepting new clients. Contact them individually for information about rates and availability. Best of all, when you book a session with any one of these gifted consultants, you’ll still receive a free copy of my eBook Find Your Calling (a $19.95 value).
- Subscribing to my free twice monthly Changing Course Newsletter. Each issue includes option-expanding articles, practical resources, workshop listings, and inspiration to help you to change course faster. And speaking of fast…
- Joining the Changing Course Club filled with dozens of life-changing resources, ongoing Teleclasses, and an online community of people just like you who are ready to fast track their dream of taking control of their life by turning their passions into profits!
Step 2: Get your own domain name
Once you have your business idea – even if you don’t plan to launch your website right away – one of your first steps is to come up with a name for your website and grab a domain name/URL.
There are lots of domain name registration sites. For your convenience, use the box below to check to see if the name you want is available. If it is, you can register your own unique URL in less than 5 minutes.
Other domain registration sites:
Step 3: Find a provider to host your site
You can also purchase your domain name through many web hosts. There are thousands of website hosting companies. Search the web or check out:
- Dot Inc Solutions (This is the one I use.)
- 5 Dollar Hosting
- Apollo Hosting
- InMotion Hosting
- NetFirms – Hosting for Small Business
Step 4: Design your site
Unless you’re a graphic designer, I highly recommend that you not create your own homemade site. I know you’re trying to save money but remember, your website is your store or office front. You may have great products or services inside but if the place looks well, amateurish, a lot of people (myself included) will just keep moving. Stick with what it is you do best and leave the web design to a professional designer.
Don’t have a lot of money? Don’t worry. Here are 3 ideas for how to get a professionally designed website that will fit any budget. Whichever way you go, do your homework by 1) finding sites that have the kind of look and feel you’re going for and 2) what you want on each page.
Avoid costly website mistakes. If you are new to the Web, or uncomfortable with technical stuff, building your first website can beoverwhelming. Quickly learn to make the best decisions for your business website with ease. The Almost Everything Website Guide for Newbies and Non-Techies 2008 bundles together the technical and marketing advice that Web Experts Tod Abbott and Karen Nierlich share with their clients.”
After reading The Almost Everything Website Guide—about 2 hours of your time—you’ll have:
- a basic understanding of domain names, hosting, websites, photos, and traffic; what they are, what to do and what NOT to do
- 5 simple criteria that will help you pick a web designer who is a good fit for your industry and your web project
- Best of all, a step-by-step checklist for your WHOLE web project including all the technical and marketing aspects.
Why do “newbies” and non-techies make so many costly mistakes? Often it’s because they don’t know enough about websites to know what questions to ask or where to start. When they do try to read up on something they find a lot of “free” but confusing information and misinformation on the web. Learn more about The Almost Everything Website Guide for Newbies and Non-Techies 2008.
Get Your Website Designed for Free! If you’re starting your web business on a shoe string budget, do what I did with my first site – get students to design it for free. Lots of community colleges offer web design courses and the students are desperate for projects they can include in their portfolios. Click here to search a directory of community colleges in the US, Canada, and a dozen other countries including Australia, Iceland, Belgium, and China. Once you find a school near you, search their site for web design courses. Then contact the professor to see how to go about having your site chosen as a student project. The students who worked on mine were both 40-something career changers who did a fantastic job all for free! The best times to contact schools are early September, January, or June.
Another option is to barter with a website designer. If you don’t know any you can almost always find the designer’s name and a link at the bottom of a website you like.
Get a professional website template for as low as $15 Don’t have to let a lack of funds or tech savvy keep you from having a professional looking website. Check out these high quality website templates for Front Page, Dream Weaver, Golive, and Swish. You can’t beat the quality or the price. Another template website to look into is Template Monster.
Go to a full-service pro I’ve used a small company called Dot Inc Solutions to design two sites and have been extremely happy with theprice which was very reasonable, the quality (they do top notch work)and the service which, in a word is outstanding! Decide for yourself. Visit Dot Inc Group. If you like what you see, contact my “web guy” Peter Gelinas for a complimentary quote and be sure to tell him you want the 15% Changing Course discount! Peter also knows all about registering your site with the search engines, setting up your shopping cart, and much more.
Don’t forget a logo Not all web designers are skilled at coming up with a logo that will capture the image you want your new business to project. Two good solutions are:
Gotlogos.com You can get a professional looking logo for the amazingly low price of $25.
1800MyLogo.com This is the group that designed my logo. They’re a more full service shop offering logos, slogans, jingles, stationary or total company identity packages. You pay more but you also get to pick from many custom options designed just for you and then work with designers who will continue to tweak it until it is just the way you want it.
99Designs.com You provide information and a “prize” amount and designers from all over the world compete for your prize. You can provide feedback along the way so your design can get better with each day.
Step 5: Hire a professional to write your web copy and watch the sales come in
I’ve seen too many great business ideas flounder because otherwise smart people rely on mediocre copywriters… or worse, attempt to write their own promotional copy. Before I really understood that there’s a real science to writing effective sales copy I would have said I was a pretty good copywriter… and I spent seven years in corporate marketing.
Little did I know that the difference between an amateur (me) and a professional copywriter can be literally thousands of dollars.
As you start looking for a really good copywriter be forewarned that, like me, everybody and their sister says they’re a copywriter. Don’t believe me? Go to eLance, Guru or another freelance site and you’ll have no trouble finding someone who says they’re a copywriter and will only charge you about 50 or 100 bucks to write your copy. And, that’s probably about how much that copy will generate for you in sales. Bottom line… you get what you pay for.
On the other hand, few of us can afford the very top copywriters in the field… some of which charge their corporate clients as much as $10,000 for single page of copy! I know that’s way out of my range. But I can tell you that I have paid as much as $2500 for eight pages and easily received 20 times that investment in sales.
If that’s still too much of a stretch starting out, find someone who’s received professional training in the direct marketing field BUT who’s also just launching their copywriting career. Why? Because newly trained copywriters are often willing to charge less early on in their career because they’re looking to build their portfolio.
So where do you find an affordable yet well trained copywriter? I’ve been so impressed with the freelance writers I’ve worked with – all graduates of the AWAI and Michael Masterson’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting Program – that I’ve asked the AWAI to set up a special Copywriter Matching Program just for visitors to Changing Course. (Read my review of the AWAI’s copywriting course.)
To be matched with a skilled writer, just send an email to Louis Hartdetailing: 1) What exactly you’re looking for. Is it, for example, copy for your website, a four-panel brochure or sales letter, promotional copy for eBook or other product or service? 2) As much information as possible about your business, your product or service, your target audience, and what you want the copy to accomplish (get prospects to contact you for more information, hit the buy button, etc.)
3) Your budget for this project.
4) Your contact information (an email address is sufficient).
The AWAI will put your request out to students enrolled in their Advanced Mentor Program (these are course graduates who signed on to work one-on-one with a highly-experienced and successful senior copywriter). Interested students will email you a sample headline and the copy lead. Then it’s up to you to pick the writer who best captures your message.
Learn How to Write Your Own Winning Marketing Copy Let’s face it, the secrets of how master marketers and copywriters conjure up promotions to bring in millions of dollars could hold critical answers for you in your own career. When it comes to copywriting, nothing matters more than your ability to be a seller. Each month, Monthly Copywriting Genius uncovers the secrets behind the strongest direct-response promotions in the mail, in space advertising, and on the Internet today. Now you can learn directly from the masters, as they give you a rare, first-hand look at one of their most successful controls and break it down for you element by element. But Monthly Copywriting Genius doesn’t stop there. Along with theses interviews, you’ll get a PDF copy of the winning promotion. Line by line, you’ll get a critique of the format, headlines, subheads, product positioning… every element that goes into a package.
Step 6: Get set up to accept credit cards and get a shopping cart
1Shoppingcart.com This the one I use. Not only can you apply for a credit card merchant account right there (you don’t even have to be from the United States), you can also set up your own affiliate program, auto-responders, ad trackers, and more. Not only have I not lost a single sale due to technical problems, whenever I have a question, a knowledgeable customer service rep actually replies within 24 hours. My last cart was a nightmare on both fronts.
PayPal If you aren’t quite ready for a full shopping cart, check the new merchant services available through PayPal.
Step 7: Register your site with the search engines
Just because you have a website doesn’t mean your prospective customers or clients will be able to find you. Bottom line is you need to submit your site to the top search engines. How?
Rather than trying to explain meta tags or the constantly changing tricks and trends in the search engine submission game, I suggest you go to a small business-oriented site like Entrepreneur, do a search on “search engines” and follow the advice of the experts.
Or, if you have your site designed by a company like Dot Inc Solutions, they’ll handle this for you.
Step 8: Establish Yourself as an Expert
Establish Yourself As an Expert and Boosts Sales With Your Own On-line Newsletter Need content for your ezine? Here’s a few options:
- Take advantage of a whole host of free articles from Changing Course and Ezine Articles
- Increase Your On-line Sales for $1 a Day Find out how easy it is to add audio to your web site or on-line newsletter. By adding audio you can deliver your personal message, email audio post-cards about sales or upcoming events, allow visitors to listen in to past teleclasses or listen to actual client testimonials, and more.
- Find an assortment of tips and resources for your ezine at Ezine-Tips.com
Step 9: Tools to Maximum Online Sales
When it comes to starting an online business, too many people put up a web site and then hope someone will find them and buy. They won’t. If you want to run a successful Internet business, you have to be willing to invest in yourself and your business. When compared to a $20 eBook, some of the tools here might be considered expensive. It would be a mistake to think of them an “expense.”
Things like file folders, sticky notes, and bookkeeping software are business expenses. In contrast, as Barbara Winter, author of Making a Living Without a Job, reminds us, when you spend money on training or resources that will help you grow your business, it’s an investment.
If you plan to promote a service like consulting or coaching, or you want to create and sell information products like books, CDs, eBooks, courses, etc., then investing in the products listed here can help you generate significantly more money faster than you ever could on your own.
How to Make Money Faster Using Affiliate Marketing Affiliate marketing is a risk-free form of advertising through which an online merchant (like Amazon.com) rewards an affiliate site. Say, for example, you want to sell organic dog treats. Instead of viewing other pet related businesses as competitors, you actively seek to “affiliate” with these businesses in a “win-win” marketing partnership. Your new affiliate partners put up a special link directing customers your site. If they buy your product or service, the affiliate earns an affiliate fee for referring business to you.
Think of it as cooperative marketing for people who hate aggressive or “winner takes all” competitive selling. Affiliate marketing is like having hundreds of enthusiastic sales people in the field helping you sell. The problem with most affiliate programs is that online business owners or merchants like me set up their affiliate programs and then hope people who like their products sign up and start selling.
Unfortunately, this “if you build it, they will come” approach generates little to no revenue. That’s where this new affiliate manager training program comes in. There are far too many resources to outline in detail here so let me just hit a few of the highlights…
The program comes with a dozen-plus CDs dispensing priceless advice from a range of experts on topics like “Secrets to Developing Powerful Upsells” from one of THE top internet website masters in the world, “How to Get the Most from Network Partnerships like Commission Junction and Linkshare,” and “How to Launch an Affiliate Program Through Clickbank” just to name a few.
As an aside, I have to admit I was especially intrigued when I listened to interview with Deborah Carney on “The Secrets to Motivating and Engaging the Affiliates You Recruit” and heard how she herself “changed course.” Like a lot of people, Deborah started out looking for a more flexible schedule that would allow her to spend more time with her kids. Today, she works from home as the affiliate manager for CafePress, a highly successful online business with a whopping 20 million unique products.
You also get lots of templates and checklists including tracking and other spreadsheets, letters proven to work with affiliates, cheat sheets, and more. You also get a thick binder called “How to Build and Manage an Unstoppable Online Sales Force” that covers such topics as:
- the fundamentals for building a strong and stable affiliate sales team
- how to teach your affiliates to maximize sales
- how top managers get the word out and recruit an unstoppable team of affiliates
- how to write an affiliate newsletter
- what every affiliate manager needs to know about legal and ethical marketing issues – just to name a few
Click below to:
- Watch a 14 minute video demonstrating some great tips for generating sales through affiliate marketing
- Learn more about the Affiliate Manager Training
- Get a free Self-Assessment Checklist for Affiliate Managers
Surefire Marketing Tools Yanik Silver’s site may look a little, well, cheesy, but I have heard him speak and seen far too many success stories to doubt that when it comes to knowing how to help you generate significant profits online this well-respected internet marketing guru definitely knows his stuff. With the “100% Bullet Proof, No Risk Guarantee” you get a full 6 weeks to check everything out. If for any reason you don’t feel you’re on the right track to making money with your own “online money machine” – you can return all the material for a “prompt and courteous refund.”
Tax Savings Every Freelancer Should Take As an independent contractor, you’re your own boss. You call your own shots. But with that freedom come responsibilities — quarterly taxes among them. Find out where you can save… what the IRS really needs to know… how to make the most of those deductions for travel, meals, entertainment, home office, and more… To get answers to hundreds of tax questions along with practical worksheets you can use to make sure you’re paying as little as possible to Uncle Sam, click here.
Get into your home or office PC from anywhere in the world. If your dream is to tele-commute, hit the road on a cross-country speaking tour, spend a month in the south of France, or any number of other portable occupations, read on… This handy service allows you to actually log into and use your very own home or office computer from hotels, airports, satellite offices, Internet cafes – anywhere with Web access. I use this service myself when I’m on the speaking circuit and it’s been a lifesaver when I need to get a file or an email I left on my home PC. A definite Val’s Pick!
Open Your Own On-Line Bookstore Say you have a website for your doggie day care. When you join the affiliate/partner programs atAmazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell or AbeBooks (they specialize in rare and out-of-print books), visitors click on the dog-related books featured on your site which take them to one of these online book stores. The bookstore ships the order and pays you a small referral fee. You won’t get rich this way but you’ll be offering a valuable service to your customers and earning a little extra money at the same time.