So You Want to Start an Online Business, eh? (Part 1)

So you recently got the inclination to quit your day job and be an entrepreneur… But you have little to no idea where to start. What do you do? Where do you go? To whom do you turn for advice? Don’t worry, we’ll answer these questions and virtually all of the others you’ll have by deciding to join the wide and wonderful world of entrepreneurship.

Picking a Niche will Get you Started

This is admittedly one of the hardest steps in figuring out exactly how to break out of the nine-to-five prison and join the freedom that is entrepreneurship. Most individuals, I feel, have a particular passion that can be monetized; and this step is difficult because it forces you to be introspective and really take a long, hard look at yourself.

Create your Niche by Turning your Passion into something Monetized - AZMO Marketing

For the purposes of this series, we’ll use a real example that the AZMO Marketing team is working on as an internal project.

Some of you may know this about us already, but we began as a digital marketing agency titled Nerd Bazaar Digital Marketing. We recently rebranded as AZMO Marketing to better focus on a marketing niche that wasn’t as centralized and specific as the name “Nerd Bazaar” implies. Now not only do we have two marketing companies but once Nerd Bazaar was rebranded, it freed up that concept for a new idea… and luckily we have a plethora of passion and experience in e-commerce.

We’re actively in the process of starting an online digital marketplace and e-commerce platform for… you guessed it: Nerdy stuff from the Nerd Bazaar.

Branding your Business the Way you Want It

Once you have an idea in mind, you need to determine your target audience, your imaging, your basic business plan, and set in motion that plan to create a concrete, tangible idea that will resonate with your target audience by virtue of your imaging.

Create a Brand for your Business w/ Colors, Logos, and Imaging - AZMO Marketing

If you are creatively-minded, then you perhaps already have an idea of what you want for a color scheme for your business, which will ultimately guide the formation and creative process surrounding your logo. If you are not creatively-minded, then you can easily hire someone else to determine the best course of action regarding your branding, color scheme, and logo(s), or seek out a competitively priced freelancer for individual parts of the whole that you cannot complete yourself using a service such as Fiverr.

With Nerd Bazaar we have a handful of logos, a color scheme, and basic business plan to sell a number of geeky and nerdy apparel items, electronics, toys, gadgets, and more using Shopify as an online shopping platform to conglomerate orders, inventory, and tons of other merchant information.

(Side note: If you are still seeking a business opportunity, look into Shopify and other online store platforms to easily begin an online store that you can use to sell products to fill a market need… Which will also require research on your end to determine what products to sell, who to target in order to sell them, and the longevity that you can expect to have a successful product line to keep your revenue flowing.)

Buying a Domain Name for your New Website

Some entrepreneurs will suggest that you start with this step to ensure that your idea can be easily pursued. For example, what happens if you brainstorm your business and you have a name, a logo, a color scheme, a business plan, and a target audience in mind, but your perfect domain name is unavailable, or worse, is being sold to the highest bidder for hundreds or thousands of dollars that you simply don’t have due to startup funding?

Don’t worry, there are plenty of workarounds. We may have already owned the domain name for Nerd Bazaar (https://nerdbazaar.com), but what if we decided to change the focus and name of our online platform? This seems to be a much more common example for changing plans than anything else, but alas we have a client story to act as a solid example.

Choosing a Domain Name for your Online Business or Startup - AZMO MarketingWe have a musician client with a very generic stage name. He has a business plan, colors, a growing audience of fans, but he didn’t plan for a domain name; However, considering how generic his stage name is, it wouldn’t have mattered much without changing around his entire stage and online persona. So, what can be done to press forward and get him on track to a sustainable and successful online presence? We get creative with his domain name.

Don’t get me wrong here; for traditional Search Engine Optimization you’ll usually want to go with a dot-com top-level-domain (TLD) because it’s the most popular, especially for commercial use, but you needn’t limit yourself as there are plenty of other great TLDs from which to choose. For this client, we tried .info, .net, .org, .biz, etc, but had no luck finding something unique and SEO-friendly.

Here’s where we get to be the most creative. Because we were having little luck with other TLDs, we got creative (and still SEO-friendly) with his domain name on a dot-com extension. We brainstormed some phrases that real fans might have used to search for him, and landed on trying “artist” and “musician” before and after his stage name, which revealed better luck when including other TLDs to dot-coms. Eventually, the client found the perfect domain name that embodied his vision for his online presence and business model that helped for SEO.

(Side note: If you’re interested in checking out possible domain names for your new online venture, business, or site, check out our affiliate link here.)

Finding a Hosting Solution for your New Website

Choose the Right Hosting Solution for you: Shared, Private, or Managed Hosting - AZMO Marketing

Once you have a domain name picked out and ready, you must then move onto finding a suitable hosting solution. There are many options for hosting, and which one you go with will be determined by your particular business plan. There are three major hosting solutions available for start-ups that have little-to-no experience with web management:

  • Shared Hosting
    • Shared hosting is ideal for a blog that relies on affiliate links to generate revenue as most of the traffic sent to your website is simply perusing site content and reading the material, not sending much workload to the server itself. Your affiliate links send your audience off-site to another domain (your affiliate) in order to do business. (For shared hosting, check out our Dreamhost Affiliate link here.)
  • Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
    • VPS servers are best utilized when you want to host an online store or something requiring more privacy (and thereby requiring an SSL certificate to remain compliant and legal for business purposes). Users will spend large amounts of time on your site viewing products, pinging the server repeatedly for content, and usually aggregating a shopping cart of some sort to purchase directly from your domain. (For excellent VPS hosting solutions, check out our Affiliate link with DigitalOcean here.)
  • Managed WordPress Hosting
    • Managed WordPress Hosting is a hosting solution in which your host keeps your WordPress up-to-date and monitors your server assets for you so that you can take more of a hands-off approach. This is becoming especially popular as WordPress is a powerhouse of a content management system (CMS), which brings us to our final step in getting established for your online presence.
Choosing a CMS or Coding your Own Website

When you have all the pre-requisites in place for getting your website going, the last step is to start building it out.

Most entrepreneurs have some experience in website editing, if not development, but very few of us have web design skills that we put into practice every day. Chances are, however, you have a very good idea of how you want your website to look, even if you don’t have a full plan for your site structure, main navigation, and all the other parts that typically go into setting up a website.

Choose a CMS, Theme, Web Designer, or Web Developer to get a beautiful website started - AZMO Marketing

Start by looking into a CMS that you have experience with, or more appropriately, choose one that most people have some experience with because it will be easier to edit your site and have new developers work on it when and if it’s time to scale. There are tons to choose from such as Joomla, Wix, Weebly, and more, but perhaps the most common and universally recognizable CMS is WordPress. WordPress is an excellent first choice for a website, whether it’s your first website or you’re a web development pro.

Once you choose your CMS platform, it’s time to make the hardest choice of all; Do you install a theme for quick setup, or do you code out a grand website that you drew by hand? That all depends upon two major factors: One, your graphic design ability, and two, your PHP, CSS, HTML, Java, Javascript, and etc skills to adequately code your site for the look and feel you desire.

(Side note: If you’re ready to push onto a theme for WordPress, or possibly some static HTML themes, check out our affiliate link to the Envato Marketplace here.)

In Conclusion: Coming up with a business idea and getting it started online is really quite simple if you’re willing to put in the work to make your dream a reality. Sure, it requires a bit of research, a bit of knowledge, and a bit of elbow-grease… but in the end, your dream and will to succeed can be two of the biggest factors in making your online business, venture, brand, or website a successful one. Follow the above guide to get started from square one, and be on the lookout for more in our series of blogs centered around creating an online success story, and what that success means to you, the entrepreneur.