How to build an online business in 8 simple steps – 99designs

Want to learn how to build an on-line business ? There ’ s a distribute that goes into creating an on-line business—and if you ’ re fresh to the game, it can be hard to know where to start .
Should you start with developing a merchandise ? Identifying your prey customer ? Building your web site ? There ’ s therefore many things to do !
Starting an online businessIllustration by OrangeCrush
We ’ ve got you covered. Let ’ s take a spirit into how to create an on-line clientele so you understand the bit-by-bit process of launching a successful on-line venture :

The 8 steps of building an online business:

1. Decide what type of online business you’re going to create

There are a huge diverseness of on-line business types—and before you take the steps to build an on-line business, you ’ re going to want to figure out what type of business is right for you.

here are the 5 most common types of on-line businesses you might want to consider :
Illustrated icon of smiling person on computer screen There are lots of different types of businesses you can build using nothing but your computer. Design by Gumrega.Std.

  • Ecommerce. Ecommerce is the business of selling physical products online. If you’ve got products to sell, building an ecommerce shop can be a great business model.
  • Digital products. Physical products aren’t the only products you can sell online! Digital products—like ebooks, educational courses, or design templates—can be a great way to drive revenue online.
  • Affiliate marketing. Don’t have any of your own products to sell? No worries! With affiliate marketing, you can sell other people’s products—and get paid a commission every time you make a sale.
  • Freelancing or consulting. If you have an in-demand skill, building a freelance or consulting business—and then promoting that business and finding new leads online—might be the business model for you.
  • Social media-based businesses. If you have a large social media following (eg. Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Twitch…), there’s also an opportunity to build a social media-based online business. You can monetize your social media following in a variety of ways, from brand partnerships to subscription groups to premium content.

once you ’ ra acquit on what type of clientele you want to create, it ’ s a set easier to flesh out a strategy to bring that business to life .

2. Identify a need in your market—and create an online business that satisfies that need

It doesn ’ t matter how big your mind for an on-line clientele is—if it doesn ’ thymine fill a necessitate in the market, it ’ s not going to be successful .
book cover design on customer understanding with scale and heartUnderstanding your customers is crucial if you want your business to succeed. Book cover design by Courageous.
There are a few different ways to figure out if your business idea aligns with a actual indigence in the market, including :

  • Competitor research. Look at what your competitors are doing. What products or services are they providing to their customers? What needs are they fulfilling? And how does that align with the need your business idea fulfills? While you never (ever!) want to rip off your competitors, identifying the needs they’re fulfilling in the market will give you insights into what your customers are looking for—and how your business can fulfill that need.
  • Market research. Market research can give you insights into what people are talking about in your industry—which can then give you insights into which direction to take your business and whether your current idea is going to connect with that market. For example, you can look on Quora and see what questions people are asking in your industry—and then reverse engineer how your business can answer those problems. Or you can research what complaints customers have about your competitors—and then figure out how you can improve and deliver a better customer experience with your business.
  • Customer surveys. If you want to know what your customers need, the best thing you can? Ask them. Customer surveys will give you first-hand information on what your customers want, what they need, and how your business can deliver on those wants and needs.

illustration of online consultingFind out what exactly your customers want and need. Illustration by Magicnolia.
once you ’ ve gathered all that information on your customers and what they need, you can use it to clearly define your customer annoyance points, how your business provides a solution to those pain points, and create an ideal customer avatar or exploiter persona ( a composite character that acts as a representation your ideal customer ) .
Knowing who your ideal customer is will help you drive your business scheme and make sure that the on-line clientele you ’ re construction truly speaks to the customers you ’ re building the business for .

3. Develop your product or service

illustration of exchange of shopping bag for moneyIllustration by DreamMaster
You can ’ t have a business if you don ’ t have anything to sell. so before you get started, make sure you put the time, feat, and resources into developing an alone product or service .
This footfall of the work is going to look different for every commercial enterprise. If you ’ re looking to sell your products online, that could mean investing in inquiry and development. If you ’ re launching a digital products business focused on ebooks, it could mean hiring a ace editor program to go through your copy and make sure it ’ s up to par before you go exist .
If it ’ s an affiliate market business, it could mean taking the time to truly research the affiliate opportunities available in your niche—and make sure that you ’ re merely promoting the highest timbre products to your audience .
The point is, your on-line business is reliant on your ability to efficaciously sell your merchandise or service—so don ’ t cut corners and make surely that whatever product or service your sell is something your customers are going to be excited to buy .

4. Build your brand

Your stigmatize is what ’ sulfur going to help you stand out, break through the clutter, and grab your ideal customer ’ s attention—so it ’ randomness significant to take the meter to put some good thought into what kind of stigmatize you ’ re trying to build .
clean and simple brand design with business cards, letters mug and stationery on a flat surface A beautiful, eye-catching brand design by nnorth
To start off the brand process, first, actually shot deep on who you are as a brand. What are your mission and values ? What makes you unlike from your competitors ? What ’ s your brand personality ? What do you do better than anyone else ?
once you have a clear idea of who you are as a brand, you can use it to drive the other separate of building your brand : your ocular brand identity and brand design .
There are a few key mark design elements you ’ ll need to launch a successful on-line business, including :
All of these elements are what make up your brand identity. They ’ re the elements that are going to tell your customers who you are and broadcast your brand message to the world—and it ’ s important to have them in place then, when you do launch your business, you ’ re in command of the message .

5. Build your website

Because you ’ re building an on-line business, your web site is arguably the most crucial element in your stigmatize identity ; it ’ s the identify where customers will get to know your brand, explore your products and services, and ultimately decide whether you ’ re a brand they want to do business with .
modern web design for a men’s fashion web shopEvery ecommerce business needs a professional-looking website… Web design by Janki14modern app design for a women’s fashion web shop…and app. App design by 7plus7 indeed, it ’ randomness authoritative to get it right .
When you ’ rhenium building the web site for your on-line business, there are a few things you ’ ll want to keep in mind, including :

  • Keep your design on-brand. Your website is the hub of your online business; you want your customers to get to know you and your branding—so it’s important that you keep the design on-brand. Feature your logo prominently, use your brand color palette in your design, showcase your brand typography…whatever you need to do to brand your website thoroughly and consistently, do it.
  • Make it responsive. Just as many people are going to be viewing your website on a mobile device as they are on a computer—so it’s important that your design looks just as good on an iPhone as it does on a MacBook. When you’re creating the website for your online business, make sure it’s fully responsive—and make sure to view it on both a mobile and a desktop device to make sure the design is on point before you go live.
  • Make purchases simple. The purpose of your website is to drive sales for your online business—so it’s important to create a great user experience and make purchasing your products or services as simple as possible. For example, if you have an ecommerce website, organize your product categories in a way that makes it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for—and then simplify the shopping cart process so they can add the product, enter their information, and make the purchase in a few quick, easy steps.

Want more details on how to build a web site from the flat coat up ? Check out our article on how to create a web site .

6. Take care of the legal side of forming a business

You want your on-line commercial enterprise to be successful. But you besides want it to be legal ; differently, you run the risk of dealing with a draw of thwart, expensive headaches down the line .
Before you launch your on-line clientele, it ’ south significant to take any necessary steps to ensure your business is legally compliant. While every business is different, some common steps you might need to take include :

  • Legally forming your business. If you decide to form an LLC or a corporation, you’ll need to file the appropriate legal paperwork to establish and register your business with your state.
  • Apply for your tax identification number. As a business, you may be required to pay separate taxes. Check with your government to see if you need to establish a separate tax identification number—and, if so, apply for that TIN before you start your business operations or collect any money.
  • Setting up a business bank account. It’s important to keep your personal finances and your business finances separate. Setting up a business bank account—and funneling all your business profits and payments into that account—will make that process a lot easier.
  • Talk to an accountant about your tax responsibility. It’s important to understand your tax responsibility before you launch your business. Do you need to charge sales tax to your customers? Do you need to pay quarterly estimated taxes to your federal or state government? What tax paperwork do you need to file? Talking to a qualified small business accountant can help you get clarity on your tax responsibility—and make sure you don’t run into any issues come tax time.

7. Get your logistics in place

There ’ s a fortune of logistics that go into running a business—and when you ’ re creating an on-line business, it ’ randomness authoritative to get a logistic strategy in station before you launch.

Isometric illustration of logistics processGet your logistics in place. Isometric illustration by Fenhrir.
again, the actual logistics you need to get in plaza are going to depend on your business type. But some logistics you may need to explore include :

  • Manufacturing. If you’re selling physical products, you need a way to manufacture those products—and, as you grow and scale, to manufacture those products in larger quantities.
  • Shipping. Again, if you’re selling physical products, you need a way to get those products into your customers hands—and will need a reliable, affordable shipping solution in order to make that happen.
  • Packaging. If your products are going to be packaged in branded packaging, you may need to partner with a professional printer.
  • Digital platforms. There are a variety of digital platforms you may need in order to effectively manage your online business (for example, a learning platform to host your online course or an ecommerce platform to sell your products).
  • Payment processing. You need an easy, safe, and reliable way for your customers to pay you—so before you launch, it’s important to get a secure, user-friendly payment processing option in place.

8. Develop your marketing strategy

You have your product or service. You have your logistics, legal, and branding in topographic point. now, it ’ south clock time to get your brand out into the universe and start marketing your on-line business .
banner ad with illustration of people chatting with each otherAd design by Adam Muflihun
There are a huge variety of ways you can connect with your customers and market your on-line business .
hera are 5 different ways to market your clientele on-line :


ad can be a great way to reach your ideal customers, build hum and interest, and get the word out about your on-line business .
There are a long ton of ways to advertise on-line ; you can use Google AdWords to advertise your products when your customers run a relevant Google search. You can use Facebook ads to target your competitors ’ followers—and show them why they should actually be doing commercial enterprise with you. You can buy expose ads on high-traffic websites where you know your ideal audience spends meter on-line .
Do ads cost money ? Yes. But if you do it good, it ’ second worth the budget. ad is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your website—where you can then convert that traffic into paying customers .
banner ad with illustration of people chatting with each otherAd design by Adam Muflihun

Email marketing

illustration of a big envelope in landscape with dogEmail is one of the best tools the marketing landscape has to offer if you want to stay in touch with your customers. Illustration by spoon lancer.
Most people check their e-mail on a day by day ( or sometimes hourly ! ) basis. so getting into your customer ’ sulfur inbox is a great way to build awareness around your occupation, lay the foundation for a solid business kinship, and, ultimately, to drive sales .
Add a pop-up book to your web site to collect visitor emails—then, follow up with those potential customers with a adept mix of relationship-building, informational, and incentivized selling emails. indeed, for example, you might send a welcome e-mail when person signs up for your electronic mail list introducing your business. then, a few days belated, you might send an e-mail that showcases your best-selling products—and then last, follow up with a 25 percentage off coupon to incentivize them to purchase those products .
The more contacts you add to your e-mail list, the more opportunities you have to continually market to electric potential customers—and the more opportunities you have to drive sales for your on-line occupation .
Check out this article for more tips on designing emails that bring .

Content marketing

People do clientele with brands they trust. And a great means to show your customers that your business is worth that reliance ? contented marketing .
classic modern web design for entrepreneur and public speakerSharing great content is part of any good marketing strategy. Web design by krstatzar.
Creating educational content—like web log posts, ebooks, or Q+A ’ s—helps to establish you and your brand as a subject matter technical within your industry. It helps show your customers that not only do you know what you ’ re talking about, but that you ’ rhenium committed to providing value—even if they don ’ t make a purchase .
But the thing is, by creating helpful content, you ’ re besides creating value for and build reliance with your audience—so when the time comes when they are cook to make a purchase, you ’ ll be exceed of beware .

Social media marketing

If you ’ re building an on-line business, you want to target your customers where they ’ re already spending their time online—and for many customers, where they ’ rhenium spending their time ? social media platforms .
pastel instagram ad design for bath productPresent your business in the best light with great social media marketing. Instagram ad design by Shejal.
As mentioned, sociable media advertising ( like Facebook ads ) can be an extremely effective way to market to your customers. But there are other ways you can leverage social media branding to connect with your audience—and, ultimately, to drive sales .
Create a presence on the social media platforms your target consultation uses most—and then publish message on those platforms regularly. Offer incentives for your customers to follow you on social media ( like exclusive discounts or previews of raw products ). Engage with your followers and answer any questions they have about your clientele, your services, or your products .
social media is all about conversation—and using social media to have meaningful conversations with your customers is one of the most effective ways to commercialize your on-line occupation .


If there are early businesses in your space that aren ’ thymine competitors—but have similar audiences—you can besides explore partnership opportunities. For example, you might offer their customers a special discount on your products or offer to write a node post on their blog .
marketing is all about getting the bible out about your business—and the more customers you can reach, the more successful your on-line business will be .

Get out there and start your online business

There are a draw of things that go into creating a successful on-line occupation. But now that you know how to build an on-line business from the earth astir, all that ’ s left to do is get out there and start creating !

Need a logo, ad, packaging or website designed for your online business?
Our designers can help you create just about anything.

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