Building a successful online business can no doubt be a challenging task, but it doesn’t have to be if done correctly from the get-go.
By combining the right approach with a solid plan, along with the vast amount of powerful tools available in today’s digital age, not only can you 100% achieve your goals, but truth be told, it’s never been easier.
Long gone are the days where in order to start a business you need a college degree, vast amounts of capital and resources, or to have the right connections.
Nowadays all you need is a good idea, a laptop (or even just a cellphone), an internet connection, and a free social media account.
Now don’t be fooled. Just because it’s never been easier doesn’t mean there isn’t work involved, or that it’s going to miraculously happen overnight. But in today’s digital age, it can still happen very quickly, and definitely much faster than 10+ years ago.
But where do you start?
I’m glad you asked!
I. Identify Your Niche
I feel like “identifying your niche” has become so cliché in the online business world.
It’s like, “Duh, of course I need to identify my niche.”
But honestly, I feel like so many people get caught up in the idea and excitement of “building an online business and making bukoo bucks!!” that they tend to skip the very first and most important part: figuring out who they’re going to help and how they’re going to do it.
The most successful businesses in the world, whether online or not, all have one thing in common: they solve a problem or provide value for a group of people on a large scale.
So what problem can you solve? Who are the people you can help?
The first, and most important step in building a successful online business, is to identify a specific area of focus.
This is known as your niche.
Having a niche allows you to target a specific audience, which in turn leads to conversions and sales.
But how do you find your niche?
Start by researching different industries and market trends that you’re already interested in or have experience in.
Look for areas where there is a gap in the market or a high demand for a particular product or service.
What problems have you faced in these industries? How did you overcome them? Do you often see people struggling with certain aspects of that industry, or do you often find different people asking the same questions? Do you have a unique way of doing something, or a unique experience you can share?
Once you have a potential niche idea, validate it by conducting market research (also another part people love to skip).
Market research is the process of gathering and analyzing information about a market, including information about consumers and competitors. The goal of market research is to understand the wants and needs of consumers, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of competitors.
Basically what that means is finding out your audience’s problems, and where your competitors are failing to help resolve those problems.
So how do you conduct market research?
Go to where your audience is and see what they’re saying.
What are they talking about? What are they complaining about? What questions are they asking?
This can be as easy as going onto various social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, searching for relevant hashtags for your niche, finding top videos, and reading the comments section.
The same process can be done on YouTube.
Search for high ranking videos (I look for the most views within the last year) or YouTube channels related to your niche, and see which videos have the most views.
What’s the title? What problem is the video solving? What are the comments on the video saying? Are there questions in the comments section people are asking that didn’t get answered in the video? Do you see the same question on multiple videos or multiple channels?
Look for patterns, and write down everything that stands out to you.
II. Build a Strong Web Presence
Once you have identified your niche, the next step is to build a strong web presence.
A professional and user-friendly website is crucial for any online business, as it not only serves as the foundation for your online presence, but it acts as the bridge between your product or service and all of your other various online platforms and social media profiles.
And don’t worry, if you’re now thinking “Uh oh, but I don’t know how to build a website…” the truth is, in the same way building businesses today is 100x easier than they were 10+ years ago, the exact same is true for building websites.
Nowadays, building websites is as easy as drag and drop, plugin and play, and takes little to no time at all. Especially when using easy builder platforms like WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix.
Of course, if you don’t want to take the time to learn and build it yourself, you can always outsource and have one built for you using a service such as Fiverr or by hiring a professional web designer.
“But what if I don’t have the money to pay for a website?“
Well, as Gary Vaynerchuck would say, “If you don’t have money, you have time.” So in that case, perhaps learning is the next best move.
Shameless plug: In my new self-paced online video course I just recently launched, The Full-time Freedom Codex, not only can you learn my organized and streamlined process for creating, automating, and monetizing digital content quickly and easily, but I also teach you how to build websites from scratch in as little an an hour. If you’re interested in learning more about the course, you can click here.
A few things to consider when putting a website together for your business:
- Design: The design of your website should be visually appealing and easy to navigate. Keep in mind that the layout and color scheme should align with your brand.
- Optimize for conversions: Your website should be optimized for conversions, meaning that it is designed to encourage visitors to take a specific action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. This can be achieved through clear calls-to-action, compelling headlines, and using social proof.
- Mobile-friendly: As more and more people are using their mobile devices to access the internet, it’s crucial that your website is mobile-friendly. This means that it should be easy to navigate and read on a small screen, as well as load quickly. After all, let’s be honest: people are impatient.
Once you have an established web presence, the next step is to get traffic to it.
There are no sales without traffic.
III. Establish an Effective Marketing Strategy
Having a solid marketing plan in place is essential for the success of any online business.
I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but once again, things just aren’t the same (or as hard) as they were 10+ years ago.
With all of the free and incredibly powerful online tools such as social media, email marketing, and content creation, you don’t need a huge advertising budget to get seen and make sales. Heck, you don’t need an advertising budget at all!
With the right content strategy that includes consistency, helpfulness, and automation, you can essentially set sales to run, for all intents and purposes, on auto-pilot.
Let me explain:
1. Social media
The ultimate free distribution mechanism.
I would argue social media is the most powerful business tool in existence today (if you don’t count the actual Internet itself).
When it comes to online business, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Twitter can be used to do everything from promote your products or services and interact with customers, to reaching a global audience and building a loyal community around your brand.
All completely for free.
And not only is it free, but it’s targeted.
By using the various platform tools such as hashtags, titles, keywords, and search engine optimization (SEO), your content isn’t just displayed randomly, it’s displayed to the people who are already interested in it.
It blows my mind that businesses still pay for expensive and outdated marketing mediums like Billboards, Radio, or TV when using any of those is like throwing a pebble into a pond and hoping it hits a fish.
The other great thing about social media is that there is a platform for every type of content, there is an audience for every type of content, and the audience for one type of content might be completely different from another.
What do I mean?
Well, the four basic content types are:
- Written Word
- Graphics and Images
And within each of the basic four are subsections:
- Written Word can mean long form writing like this (a blog post or email), or short form like Tweets or Twitter thread.
- Graphics and images can be as simple as pictures of a product on Instagram or Facebook, or infographics that paint a picture of a solution as we often see on platforms like Pinterest.
- Video can be in short form for usage on places like TikTok, Instagram Reels, or YouTube shorts; or long form like YouTube videos or online courses.
- Audio can be in long form like Podcasts, and can be done either live or pre-recorded. There’s also platforms like Twitter Spaces which allow for live audio conversations.
The potential audience who may watch your YouTube videos or listen to your Podcast may not necessarily be the same people who are going to read your blog posts or follow you on Twitter.
This creates incredible opportunity while simultaneously allowing you to start where you feel most comfortable.
You can post the EXACT same content on 4 different platforms, and reach 4 entirely different and unique audiences.
Want to dance on TikTok? Great, have at it!
Too shy and prefer to just write? There’s an audience for that too.
You have the choice to go as wide and vast, or as narrow and specific as you want.
There’s no hard and fast rules, and therefore there’s no excuses.
2. Content creation (with intent)
Once you’ve determined which type of content you want to create and which social media platforms you want to invest your time and energy into, it’s time to actually get into the content creation part.
Yea, dancing on TikTok is cool, and depending on what your niche or product is, can be super effective. But don’t worry, you don’t have to dance on TikTok in order to take advantage of the incredible power that platforms like TikTok and others have to offer.
Content creation from a business perspective, or what I like to call “creating with intent,” involves creating valuable content that educates and informs your target audience.
You want your content to help them.
Content that inspires, gives perspective, helps someone overcome an obstacle or accomplish a goal.
That kind of content not only helps to establish you and your brand as an authority in your niche, which will naturally drive traffic to your website, but it promotes your organic growth as well because people are more likely to share something they got value from.
This can include blog posts, short form videos, long form videos, tweets, infographics, emails, podcasts, etc.
This is also where Part 1 of where the “automation” process comes into play.
Another incredibly powerful and equally valuable aspect of social media is it’s longevity and availability.
Unlike going to a regular “9 to 5” job where you can only get paid based on the hours you work, social media and it’s associated content is running and available 24/7/365, in perpetuity.
You can post a TikTok at 5:00 pm on a Tuesday, put your phone away for the night, and come back on Wednesday at noon to find it was viewed over 2 million times, which resulted in 10,000 unique visitors to your website and 1,000 new purchases made.
All while you were asleep or otherwise busy doing something else.
You can post a YouTube video that gets 5 views in the first 6 months, and then all of a sudden on month 7, something happens in the world that has everyone searching for a specific keyword related to your video, and suddenly get 50,000 views in 5 days for something you did 6 months ago.
Which types of content you’re interested in creating and which platforms you want to partake in is completely up to you, and may be partially based on what type of niche you’re in, but the point is you can do all of them, or you can choose one and just focus on that, but hey can all have incredible both short-term and long-term effects.
You just have to start, do it consistently, and make your content both helpful and valuable.
As they say (I don’t know who “they” is, but…):
“Share your secrets, sell your implementation.“
3. Email marketing
Part 2 of the “automation” process, which is often referred to as “building an email list,” is an extremely common practice in today’s online business world, and for very good reason.
Email marketing is an extremely cost-effective way to reach a targeted audience, to nurture relationships with potential leads or already existing customers, and to claim ownership of your brand’s audience.
What does that mean?
Imagine you’ve spent the past two years creating incredible and helpful content on TikTok for your brand.
You’ve built up a passionate and loyal audience that consists of over 450,000 followers. Anytime you mention a new product release, you instantly make on average ~$25,000 because your audience loves your products and knows they’re good quality.
Because of your consistent content output, you’ve also managed to generate a consistent $10,000 per month in profit through the traffic to your website that comes from your TikTok profile.
Today, TikTok decides to ban your account because they say you violated their terms of service.
You’re in shock!
You don’t think you did anything wrong, you try to appeal, but TikTok decides they’re going to stick with their decision and your account is now gone.
Your entire audience is gone. All of your videos and content are gone. Your monthly income is gone. All in an instant.
What do you do?
Technically, you could start a new account, yes. Hopefully you could reach out to some people, and try to help speed up the process of building up your followers again. But even that will take time, and nothing is guaranteed.
If you had gotten your 450,000 followers to sign up for your email list, not only could you inform them of what happened to your account, but you could also reach out and ask them to follow your new one. You could still launch products and not have to worry about how you’re going to connect with your fan base.
It’s a fail-safe to the fact that we as creators have absolutely zero control over 3rd party platforms and what they decide to do.
Even if our account isn’t banned, what if the platform goes out of business? Or gets hacked?
This example just shows one reason why having an email list can be extremely beneficial from a safety perspective.
“Whoever is closest to the customer has the leverage.”Gary Vaynerchuck
In a more positive and less dramatic example, an email list also allows you to continue building a relationship with your audience and customers.
It gives you the ability to send out time-sensitive information, additional helpful info that perhaps can’t be found on your social media accounts, give special discounts on products or services, make additional sales, and gives you the ability to do all of this on auto-pilot.
By setting up what are called “sequences” or “funnel campaigns,” you can set certain emails or messages to be sent to different people at different times based on a multitude of variables such as (but not limited to):
- Which form they used to sign up
- Which product they bought
- If they clicked a certain link in one of your emails
- If they’ve completed one sequence or another
Probably the #1 most common method of using this powerful process is called The Free Lead Magnet.
This is where you offer someone something for free in return for their email address.
Usually the entire purpose of The Free Lead Magnet is simply to get someone to join your email list in the first place. Then what happens after that varies from business to business based on their long-term goals and what they want their “free lead magnet” to achieve.
Some people just use it simply to get the person on their list, and then leave it at that and don’t do anything additional. Again, kind of like having it as a back-up fail safe in the event they run into a disastrous issue like the TikTok example above.
Others, myself included, use it as a method to promote additional products or services.
For example, on my own business website, Apex Haus, I have an offer for people to download my free passive income ebook, which gives an overview of how passive income works and explains the process of affiliate marketing. It’s simple, nothing too extensive, but is a way for me to get people to sign up for my email list.
Once they have signed up to get the free ebook, they are sent a link to download it, but my system also assigns them a tag, and the automation begins.
Once they are assigned that tag, my auto emailer system knows to begin sending them a sequence of 5 emails over the course of two weeks.
Within those emails is additional, valuable information. But there are also links to some of my personal or affiliate products, which creates the opportunity to make additional sales.
Once they have gone through the entire sequence (meaning all of the emails have been sent and they haven’t unsubscribed), they are then assigned a new tag which indicates to me they’ve completed the sequence and have been moved to a new funnel.
This process happens over, and over, and over again without my having to do anything other than the initial setup, or updates and changes as needed.
Now don’t get me wrong, you still want your “free offer” to be valuable, you don’t want it to be just some useless thing (otherwise why would the person downloading it trust anything from you in the future?).
But this is your opportunity and a great way to make a good first impression as it pertains to the value you place in your products, which can be the deciding factor as to whether or not someone decides to buy from you in the future, while simultaneously generating additional passive income.
If you’re interested in learning more about an auto-emailer system, I highly recommend checking out Kartra.
I used Aweber for several years, and while it served it’s purpose, I didn’t love it.
However I can’t say enough good things about Kartra. Not only does it have an incredible emailer system, but it’s a complete, all-in-one online business system that allows for everything from hosting and selling digital products, to membership sites, and more. It’s extremely powerful, and they have an amazing educational system with tons of resources and videos to teach you how to go through the entire process.
IV. Provide Exceptional Customer Service
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that satisfied customers are more likely to return, and more importantly, recommend your business to others.
I myself very recently left a web hosting service that I’ve been using for almost a decade because of the multiple times I’ve had to deal with bad customer service from them.
Providing excellent customer service is crucial for building a successful online business, or any business for that matter.
A few quick tips to good customer service include:
- Respond promptly: Make sure to respond promptly to customer inquiries and complaints. This shows that you value their time and feedback.
- Be empathetic: Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and try to understand their perspective. This will help you respond in a way that addresses their concerns.
- Offer solutions: When dealing with customer complaints, it’s important to offer solutions rather than just acknowledging the problem. This shows that you are actively working to resolve the issue and improve the customer’s experience.
- Follow up: After resolving a customer complaint, make sure to follow up with them to ensure that they are satisfied with the outcome. This shows that you care about their satisfaction and are committed to improving your business.
V. Continuously Monitor and Improve
Last, but not least, the final step in building a successful online business is to continuously monitor and improve.
Regularly analyzing data and making changes can help you stay ahead of the competition and improve the performance of your business.
Track data using tools such as Google Analytics (a great plugin if you’re building websites with WordPress is Google SiteKit) and social media analytics to track website traffic, conversion rates, and customer engagement.
Analyze the data you have collected to identify patterns and trends. This can help you make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts, where your customers are coming from (and where they’re not).
Based on the data you have analyzed, make changes to improve the performance of your business. This can include changes to your website design, marketing strategy, funnel setup, or customer service approach.
Continuously monitor and analyze data, and make changes as needed. This is an ongoing process that will help you stay ahead of the competition and improve the performance of your business over time.
In conclusion, building a successful online business requires a clear focus and plan, a professional website and strong online presence, an effective marketing strategy, exceptional customer service, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
With a little consistency, dedication, effort, and an open mind, building a successful online business will happen in no time!
But in all honesty, the most important thing is simply to start.
Learn as you go, make mistakes, and try again.
You can read a million blog posts, or watch 1000 YouTube videos, but knowledge without action is just information.
And information on it’s own is useless.