Are you dreaming of starting an online business and being your own boss? But you don’t know where to get started and how to get it off the ground on a low budget? We’ve got some strategies and techniques for you that don’t require big investments and help you build your network of clients.
It’s a big leap turning your passion into getting paid for what you love to do. Reflection on your ideas and research around your niche market should be the first tasks on your list to determine whether there’s a need for what you can offer. Once you’ve settled on an idea you can start looking into creating a business plan and planning your budget.
Take advantage of the many cost-effective ways to promote your new business online. It’s a steep learning curve exploring all the tools available to you but there’s room for testing to help you tweak your campaigns and improve your business skills. Learn more about strategies and techniques you can use to help you find the ones that are right for you.
Choose Your Niche and Create a Business Plan
Before you dive into the world of online businesses, reflect on your ideas and the niche market you want to conquer. The best way to get your ideas in order is to brainstorm and jot it all down in a mindmap tool or on paper.
Here are some of the questions you can ask yourself to find your niche are:
- What do you enjoy creating or spending your time on?
- What are you particularly good at?
- Is there a topic or area of interest that your friends or colleagues often come to you for help or advice?
Narrow down your answers to find a couple of areas you feel confident with. To decide which one to go for, do some research into whether there’s room for you in these particular target markets and how great the demand is for what you can offer. Have an idea about what kind of service or product you want to offer and look at potential competitors. See how they’re doing in that niche market and how your solution could be different.
This research helps you with creating a business plan. Business plans usually include the following:
- Executive summary: What will make you successful?
- Company description: What is your company about?
- Market analysis: What niche are you going for and who is your target market?
- Organization and management: Who’s running your online business?
- Service or product line: What are you offering?
- Marketing and sales: What’s your marketing and sales strategy?
- Funding request: How much funding do you need and what will it be used for?
- Financial projections: What’s the financial outlook for the next five years?
Apply for Funding and Grants
It can be tricky to get funding when you’re only starting out. You have to prove that your niche business idea will work without having proven it yet. Any research you’ve done before getting started comes in handy again here. Have your impeccable business plan and convincing pitch ready for the multiple applications you want to submit.
Depending on where you are in the world, several grants or funding can be available for online or small businesses. You just need to find out what’s available to you in your area. Thorough research before you even start applying will save you a lot of time. Not every grant-issuing organization is the same and you should only apply for funding that’s right for your type of business.
Start by checking out what’s available in your industry. Make sure you read eligibility requirements carefully before you get your application ready. You don’t want to waste time on applications that aren’t going to be a fit for you. Make it clear how you’re different from competitors, how you’re going to scale your business, and how you’re going to stay innovative.
Develop Your E-commerce Store or Website
Determine what you need from your e-commerce platform and what your timeline is for getting it set up. This informs your research on the various platforms you can choose from and helps you to look specifically for the features you need.
Check out the following options to find what’s right for you:
Select one of these depending on the needs of your business or whether you’ve already created a website with one of these tools. Find out what the limitations are and how customizable you need your store to be. Scan the packages on offer and ask yourself questions like:
- How does product and order management work? Is it user-friendly?
- Does this platform include responsive design?
- What are the built-in SEO capabilities?
- Can you add any third-party system integrations down the line?
- How does reporting and analytics work or what insights into your data can you get?
Sign up to Google My Business
After you’ve created your website and e-commerce store, make sure Google has the correct information about your new online business. Sign up to Google My Business to get the opportunity to create a virtual storefront on the search engine. Add all your contact details and write a description that entices searchers to click through to your website.
Include high-quality photos of your products or services. To give your potential customers as much information as possible at a glance in their search results, create categories for each product or service and add descriptions and price ranges.
To optimize your listing further, add attributes. These are additional details you want to highlight. When you’re setting up your business profile, you can choose a category for your online business. Pre-defined attributes come with this category that you can select and make part of your listing in the Info tab in your Google My Business account. Essentially, they are the perks you offer and can range from free delivery to the payment options you offer.
Use Royalty-Free Images and Videos for Your Marketing
A cost-effective and quick way to create marketing visuals for your social media and advertising is to use royalty-free images and videos. Particularly when you’re managing everything around your business, there won’t be much time or budget to create large amounts of content.
On PikWizard, you can choose from over one million high-quality images and videos that are free to use for your ad and social media creatives. Pick your favorites by signing in with your email. Any image you choose, you can customize in Design Wizard. If you’re considering creating video ads, explore the vast library of premium video footage and use the search bar to find what fits your ad campaigns.
Or you can explore the template library in the Design Wizard dashboard to find a design you can modify in just a few clicks. Adjust the text, colors, and images to apply your unique branding. Resize your final design for various social media platforms and ad dimensions to comply with image size specs. To get a crisp image on every platform, download your designs in different sizes.
Explore Affiliate Marketing Programs
Joining an affiliate marketing program can be an easy way to earn income for your online business. When you’re part of an affiliate marketing program, you promote third-party products or services on your website via a link. If your customers make a purchase through that affiliate link, you get a commission.
Next to affiliate marketing platforms, you can also check out if there are any businesses that would work well in tandem with your own products or services. Find out if they offer affiliate links. Pick your main competitors and analyze their affiliate programs to see which programs might be a good fit for you or what you can do differently.
Once you’ve been an affiliate for a while, look into creating your own affiliate network and get other websites to include a link to your products or services. If you manage your network well, it’s a good option to promote your business without having to create a ton of ad material.
Build Your Network and Tap into Word of Mouth
Even if you feel like you need to figure it all out on your own when starting your online business, it’s always good to have someone to go to for advice. People like you who are trying to make their way on the World Wide Web have created communities that you can join for support. Finding a group of like-minded people in your niche on social media platforms to ask questions is invaluable when you get stuck.
Engage in those communities regularly and not just when you need assistance. Help others and they’ll remember you when recommending services or products like yours to their friends. Establishing yourself as an expert is one of the best ways to start building a network for support as well as gaining more clients.
Tap into word-of-mouth and ask your first few clients if they could leave a review about you on Google or your social media. On your Google My Business account, you can generate a link for your clients that adds their testimonials directly to your virtual storefront on the search engine. Happy customers can also turn into brand advocates on social media without you having to prompt them. If they post about your business, be sure to thank them and share their enthusiasm with your other followers.
Grow Your Social Media Presence with Authentic Content
When you’re just starting out with your online business, there’s a lot of potential to grow your presence through social media. The likes of Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter provide you with free access to a huge number of people including your target audience. You just need to target and reach them with the content they’re looking for.
To establish your brand, begin by posting top-quality content about what you have to offer regularly. Be social. Engage with new followers and follow thought leaders in your niche. Be sure to know who you are and what you stand for. This way, you'll engage in your unique brand voice with your followers. This way you’re creating an authentic profile that radiates professionalism and trust. It also sets the foundation for successful and cost-effective advertising, as users check out your profile before they decide to buy from you.
Being authentic is key and comes across best in the short video content that has become the norm on social today. Consider having a live launch or dropping some behind-the-scenes footage on your feed. If you’re uncomfortable in front of the camera, take some time to get used to it by creating stories first. Stories are only 15 to 20 seconds long and vanish from your profile after 24 hours.
Target Your Niche Audience with Email Marketing
Get started with email marketing by acquiring a list of subscribers first. To start growing your list, you need to get potential clients or customers to opt into receiving emails from you. Offer incentives that entice them to sign up.
Create a specific pre-launch page with copy that entices your new audience with the benefits of your products or services. Combine this with a discount that pre-launch subscribers can get once they agree to receive updates from you via email. To give your website visitors more opportunities to opt in, be sure to offer this discount via a pop-up across your website.
Another way to get email addresses is to create lead magnets. This can be downloadable educational content that shows your expertise and is helpful to customers like an e-book, cheat sheet, or infographic. Another way is to offer a giveaway for the first customers that sign up.
Get Your Promotional Strategy Right
Have a look at how you can provide more value and incentives to your customers without draining your budget. Create a promotional strategy that fits with your type of business and that can include special discounts, seasonal sale offers, bundle deals, or loyalty programs.
An easy and traditional way to go for is to offer a discount tied to seasons or to major retail holidays like Black Friday. You can map out your strategy easily by marking relevant dates in your calendar. Prepare your discount codes in advance and leave enough time for the way you want to communicate your special offers. Determine when you’re going to let your customers know via channels like email or social media.
If a loyalty program makes sense for your online business, consider every tier of it, what actions customers need to take, and what you want to offer at different stages. Incentives you might want to include could be:
- Exclusive discounts
- Access to VIP content
- Early-bird sales
Monitor Results and Improve Your Online Business Skills
A few months into running your online business, use the goals you created in your business plan to check back and see if you’re on the right track. Monitor results with the help of tools like Google Analytics or Insights on social media platforms to get an understanding of what’s been working well for you and what hasn’t. To avoid getting overwhelmed by data, create an overview first before diving into the finer details and numbers.
Investigate why some campaigns haven’t done as well as others. It will tell you whether an idea can be tweaked or needs to be discarded. If you’re not sure what needs to be adjusted, take a guess at what might be expected in your niche. To get inspired, have a look at your audience and competitor research.
Trial your guess by creating an A/B split test and confirm which of the variants is more popular with your target audience. Taking the plunge and testing various theories is the only way to improve your skills as a business owner. Learn from the data and tweak campaigns until you’ve found techniques that work well for your business.
It takes courage to take the plunge and venture into the online business world. There’s a lot to learn. But if you’re passionate about your idea that will shine through in all you do and make it a fun and interesting journey.
Make sure you do your research into your niche to gauge whether there’s demand for your idea. Flesh this out further with a business plan and start applying for funding. To set the foundation for your business, get the basics of your website, virtual storefront through your Google My Business account and e-commerce store as well as your social media presence set up.
Once you’ve built this solid foundation, you can look into low-budget marketing techniques that help you spread the word and grow. Network with other business owners and find your community. Building a network like that will prove invaluable when you start seeing results and need help with improvements.
Lizzie is a Content Writer at Design Wizard. She's been passionate about SEO and content marketing ever since a life-changing internship at a digital marketing agency while completing her BA in English and American Studies.
Having graduated with a Professional Writing MA with distinction, Lizzie set out to gain her currently five years of copywriting and digital marketing experience in Cork City.
An Austrian living in Ireland, Lizzie loves exploring Irish folklore and storytelling and weaving the wisdom of stories into her writing and life.