Creating an online business: where to start?
You have decided to go online, but you don’t know where to start? I give you my three-step start-up method.
Is this your case?
If you have long planned to start your own business on the Internet, to create your own business by selling your products, but you have never taken the plunge, it may be because you don’t know where to start. And that’s normal!
An online business is like a classic business. It requires some preparation, prior reflection, and an action plan. The only real difference is in the resources: you will need fewer resources if you go online than if you build a physical business. And that’s good!
So how do we do it? First, you will think about your project, in order to make the right decision. Then you will establish a business model and then an action plan. It’s not that complicated. Here’s how it’s going to work.
#1 Key questions to ask yourself
There are 1000 possible reasons why your online business project could go bad. I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s the truth. However, if you take the time to think about your project before launching it, you can eliminate 990. It’s worth it, isn’t it?
Thinking about your project means asking yourself the right questions:
- Am I interested in this project?
- Do I have the necessary skills?
- Do I have the necessary resources?
- Do I see myself working on this project every day? For several years?
- What more can my project have than others? How can I stand out?
You must answer these questions by being honest with yourself. Your worst enemy is you. Do not spare him. If you feel deep down inside that it’s not going to work, change your project.
At the end of this first step, you will know if your project matches your profile.
#2 Create a clear business model in 2 hours
Doing a business model is simply answering the question “How will I make money?”.
The questions to ask yourself to create your business model:
- Who will be my customers?
- What value will I give them?
- What channel will I send them?
- What kind of relationship will I establish with my customers?
- For what and how much are my customers willing to pay?
- What resources will I need?
- What will be my main tasks/activities?
- Who will be my partners?
- What will my costs be (distinguish between fixed costs, those you will have to pay, regardless of your sales volume, and variable costs, which vary according to your sales volume)
The easiest way to answer these questions is to draw a matrix of the economic model, which you will find in the book Business Model Generation.
My advice: Download the matrix and print it in poster format OR draw it on a large piece of flipchart paper.
Then take some square post-its and complete the boxes by pasting one post-it for each element.
The advantage of this method is twofold:
- First, it will give you an overview of your business model, so you will have clear ideas. You will immediately identify problems and be able to correct them.
- Secondly, you can modify or evolve your business model at any time by replacing it by adding post-its. Sometimes paper is good.
Take a good 2 hours to create a meaningful matrix before launching your project, and you will save a considerable amount of time.
#3 Establish an effective action plan
This is it: you have your online business idea, and a viable business model. What do you have to do now? Get started!
But be careful, once again, you shouldn’t do it anyhow. We are human beings, and we have strengths as well as weaknesses. When you start your business, our strength is our enthusiasm, our starting energy. Our weakness is often the lack of motivation that wins us over after a few months.
Once again, by using the right methods and tools, it is possible to work better, and to overcome these weaknesses.
Before you get involved in your project, you need to know where you are going. To do this, it is necessary to make a precise action plan. Making an action plan is simply listing the next steps of your project, dividing them into major areas and subtasks.
What is the difference between an action plan and a business plan?
An action plan is essential for you. A business plan is useless for you, but essential for others.
Let’s be clear: when you make a business plan, it’s only to convince others that our project is viable. Most entrepreneurs never review their business plan once their project has been launched. It is mainly used to convince bankers to lend you money, showing them that you have matured your project. But they know full well, and so do you, that your turnover and profit forecasts are totally invented.
Unlike the business plan, you will use your action plan throughout your project. You will place your recurring tasks and unique tasks, which you can check when they are completed.
It will show you how fast you are moving, and what you still have to do, in the short and long term.
What is the best tool to make an action plan?
Of course, you can use a simple text file, or an Evernote note. But there is an ideal format for the action plan: the mindmap!
The mindmap, or mind map, or mental map, is in my opinion the best representation that can be used to translate concepts. Why? Why? Because it works in the same way as the human brain.
It’s beautiful, it’s clear, and it’s easy to hold on to. Why not do the same with your action plans?
To create mindmaps, you have 2 choices:
- Draw it on paper
- Create it with software
Unlike the Canvas Business Model, I much prefer to create my mindmaps with software, for 3 reasons: it is faster (the formatting is done automatically), you can modify it as much as you want, and you can create an infinite number of branches (where the paper is limited by the size of the sheet).
I use the Mindmeister online service, which has the advantage of being accessible on all platforms (including iPhone/iPad), and is extremely easy to use without compromising the richness of its functions. The only disadvantage is the relatively high rate, per subscription.
Each task is grouped by domain, which is itself linked to a global mission, which is product creation, and which is part of my online business strategy.
I therefore strongly encourage you to create a visual action plan for your online business, in the form of a mindmap, which you can constantly have in front of you.
Creating an online business is as simple as that
I remind you of the 3 essential steps:
- Ask yourself the right questions, to know if your project is serious
- Create a clear and visual business model using the Business Model Generation matrix
- Establish an effective action plan through mindmapping
#4 And then what?
Do you want to create a profitable company on the Internet? I give you 5 online business ideas to implement today!
Starting an online business is a dream shared by many people. It is a way to achieve financial independence by working from anywhere, without a boss on your back, with total freedom. The Internet offers many advantages for this:
- No need for business, therefore lower initial investment
- Possibility to start alone, without any particular expertise. The web now offers turnkey solutions to get started, such as the WordPress CMS.
- You potentially reach 60 million consumers, or even more if your company is open to international markets
- High flexibility, process automation, economies of scale… The Internet is the ideal playing field for setting up cost-effective systems.
But then, how do we do it? Creating your business online, OK, but which business model to use? I give you 5 business ideas to start on the internet.
Idea #1: Create an online store
You all know the principle of the e-commerce site. You have a range of products to sell, and you use a website to promote them. Each product is presented on a card, with its characteristics and a button “Add to cart”. You can create an online store with Prestashop, WordPress or Magento.
Advantages: + flexible and – expensive than a physical shop
Disadvantages : Today there is competition from “big fish”, such as Amazon, Cdiscount, La Redoute, who offer a little bit of everything on their site, cheaper… I worked 3 months for an e-commerce site and the threat of these web giants is very present, and continuously reduces margins. In addition, there are orders to manage, delivery, dissatisfied customers..
The solution: The only way to succeed in your online store on a small budget is to specialize! Sell a unique product, see your own production (vegetable garden vegetables, wine…) and you will have a chance to grow.
Idea #2: Create an innovative service
As we have seen, selling physical products on the Internet is not easy, unless you specialize. But there is another growing online business model: the sale of services.
When I talk about service, I include software, online tools, networking services and personal services. And the best way to sell them is by subscription. The subscription will provide you with a certain security, and will allow you to establish a provisional turnover.
- Recurring revenues
- Customer loyalty
- High margin, especially if you sell software or an online tool, which will not cost you more if you have 10, 100 or 1000 customers.
Disadvantages : Requires initial resources, such as skills (coding skills in the case of software) or investments (if you hire a developer)
If you have the necessary resources, an online service is an excellent business idea on the Internet, which has already made many millionaires. Examples of innovative online services: BlaBlaCar, Netflix, Facebook, AWeber, LeadPages..
Idea #3: Selling services
The idea is simple: you have skills in a field, you use web tools to sell yourself. The Internet has made it easier for many people to start freelancing and find customers.
You have the choice: create your own agency, and set up a showcase website with a portfolio to showcase your work, or use the platforms to connect providers and companies.
Examples of skills you can sell: Graphics (platform: 99Designs), writing (editor.com), code (coder.com), SEO (your own agency)..
Advantages: The tools of the web are at your service and will help you to make yourself known
Disadvantages : Competition is fierce and it is not always easy to find a contract. Finally, word of mouth remains the most effective means of promotion. In addition, you sell your time, which, by definition, is not expandable. Your turnover is therefore limited.
Idea #4: Create a site with content monetized by advertising
It is the business model of most press sites, news blogs and buzz sites: content published regularly, relayed on social networks and referenced on Google. The only method of payment is advertising, usually Google Adsense inserts.
Some smaller sites use this strategy, searching for frequently searched queries on Google, and creating articles by using these keywords. This is the case, for example, of WikiHow, which writes articles of average quality on all research starting with “How…”. It is possible to create your business online by using this concept.
Advantages: Very easy to set up (a simple WordPress blog and a Google Adsense account are sufficient), accessible, possibility to delegate the writing of articles that do not require demanding skills.
Disadvantages : Requires a lot of writing work and the income generated by advertising is low. This article from Le Monde reveals the difficulties of the BuzzFeed France website based exclusively on this business model.
Idea #5: By far the easiest way to create a profitable business on the Internet
It is the least known, but most accessible idea. This is the business model of this blog. And that’s what allows me to live off it…
This idea is: Create a content site and sell training or tools.
This online business idea takes idea #4 and improves it.
This time, instead of publishing mass content of average quality, it is about publishing high quality, in-depth articles that will help people achieve their goals. The articles will encourage readers to subscribe to a mailing list via a capture form, and they will continue to receive quality content. From time to time, they will be offered the opportunity to purchase paid content, in the form of training or a tool that can help them achieve their famous objectives.
Advantages: Accessible and easy to set up (WordPress website or blog), and very profitable if used properly
Disadvantages : Requires skills in a field, can not always be delegated. Avoid saturated markets and recurring themes, and focus on niche markets by differentiating yourself.
In any case, this powerful business model will have to be constantly optimized and improved through web marketing strategies.