Laptops around the meeting table of an online business

How to Start an Online Business and How to Grow it

I’m not going to claim to be an expert in how to start an online business. I’ve done it and I’m actually doing it again at the moment with another venture we are involved with but there are different experts that we involved and I believe you should involve throughout the process.

How to Start an Online Business – Actions to Take

Recommendation 1 – Get advice from an Accountant

One of the first things we did, before we even started our business was to get an accountant and to this day it’s one of the business outgoings I would never even consider cutting, it’s never on the list of potential outgoings that we don’t need. Having a good accountant so that we know all of our business and money affairs are in order is invaluable.

The first thing you need to work out is the structure of your business – are you going to be a sole trader? A limited company? Or have another structure? Laura Macarthy from Now Accounting Services already wrote a brilliant guest post for us on this, so I won’t repeat what she said, but definitely go and have a read because it’s crucial you get that first bit sorted early on.

Recommendation 2 – Get all your legal bits sorted

You need to make sure you have contracts in place between you and anyone else you own the business with. You need to ensure you have the right level of business insurance in place and you need to make sure you have all the policies, contracts and terms and conditions in place between you and your client or customer. Joining the FSB is a great way of getting advice with this and they provide templates for pretty much any legal document you can think of that you might need.

Some of these legal bits affect your website and Laura wrote another guest post for us covering that too (she’s a very handy person to know!). Make sure you give that one a read because it is important you get every part of your website right, especially the bits that don’t feel very interesting. You don’t want to get caught out!

Recommendation 3 – Create an amazing online presence

When you start an online business it’s important to create a great first impression. To do this you need to consider who you want your business to attract, your tone of voice, your brand, your messaging, your social media, your email marketing and most importantly, your website.

Your website needs to be high quality both in look and how well it works. Your website is your shop front or your office and waiting area. Think about how you would want to present yourself if you had a physical business and the effort you would put into making that space appealing and high quality, well you need to do the same for your website.

We believe you should understand your website and create it in a way that you can be in control of it. Businesses need to be able to react to the needs and wants of their clients and so you, as the business owner, don’t want to be relying on someone else to make changes for you and being held to their timescales. But, as with any other area of business, it is useful to have the support of an expert to hand, in case something should go wrong or you need some advice.

This is why we created Ready Steady Websites®. We had worked with so many people who needed the middle ground between the DIY approach to creating a website and getting someone to create it for them.

How to Grow Your Online Business

How you do this is really down to you. It may be that you want to bring a team on board so that you can do more in the same amount of time. It might work for you to create a membership which generates a recurring and in some cases, a semi passive income stream for your business. We have supported many online business owners to go down this route and it might well be the right path for you to take but you do need to do some research and preparation first before you jump into creating a membership. This blog post from our archives will support you with that.

Whatever route you take to grow your online business you need to ensure your website can grow and adapt with it. This is one thing we suggest business owners, like you, think about when you’re planning your website and deciding on the platform you want to use to create it. You shouldn’t choose a platform that is only going to work for your business right now, you should choose a platform that has the functionality you might need in the future as your business grows. That’s something else we have considered with Ready Steady Websites® and chosen a platform (WordPress) to build our websites and membership sites on that can easily be added to.

There are other things to consider as your online business grows too – whether you need to increase your insurance provision, new terms and conditions or contracts may be required as you add in new services or products, staffing contracts may need to be drawn up and other financial and tax implications considered for bringing on staff.

There are a lot of things to get your head around when you start an online business or grow an online business and that’s why we recommend working with or getting advice from professionals in each area of business to help things work more smoothly.

If you are right at the start of creating your business website then we would love to help you. We have a range of free resources or our book, The Website Handbook to start you on the right track or take a look at our website templates. If you are at the point where you think a membership would be a good next step for your business then take a look at our membership site templates. We would love to help you.

And our final tip, whatever stage of business you’re at, always have a good supply of tea, coffee, water and snacks!

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

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