How to Start an Online Business 2020 (Beginner’s Guide)

Why Start Your Own Online Business?

Many of us have done this:  we’ve been thinking about starting our own online business, year after year.  We even have a list of wonderful business ideas to explore. We’ve been day-dreaming a life of freedom with no financial worries or work constraints.  Travel the world and basically enjoy life to the fullest.  Eventually, each year passes and we still end up in our old job and our comfort zone.

Well, here’s something to inspire and motivate you:  TRILLIONS of people worldwide are searching for help on Google and YouTube.  BILLIONS are browsing Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest and other social platforms every day. Maybe they are trying to find information on the following (and perhaps you are the one who can help them get what they are looking for).

  • How to look slimmer and younger
  • A  good diet to lose weight
  • Ways to bulk up, get fit and toned
  • Building their first racing drone
  • Learning how to play the guitar
  • Relationship tips and advice
  • Instructional videos on art and craft
  • Recipes for special meal
  • Improving communication skills and more.

Table of Contents

When is the Right Time to Start a Business and Make Money?

Ask yourself – What happens if you lose your job?

Take a look around us – things are changing every minute.  With the current Covid19 situation, no one can guarantee that life would be the same after recovery.  

During the lockdown, businesses are finding ways to operate with minimal manpower headcount.  This becomes the catalyst for companies and organisations worldwide to double up their speed towards the use of technology in various aspects of business operations.

Why Start Your Online Business Now?

For many of us, our job security is on a balance; so the time to start planning for the future is NOW!  So, why not use this period to explore your business ideas, start researching, learning and gathering the knowledge and skills that you need?

The following two reasons are why it is imperative that we start laying (another) foundation for our future financial stability.  By starting an online business now, we can slowly build a side income and hopefully, it can be our main source of income for the future.

  1. Robots & Automation: 
    • From customer support, food servers, truck drivers to warehouse workers – millions of jobs will disappear.  As technology progresses, robots and automation will be used to reduce manpower count in businesses
  2. Personal Freedom – no time and location restrictions: 
    • Having a job and money are important.  However, money is just a means of buying our time freedom and location independence.  Many people are tired of working day-in and day-out for years – and now they feel the need break free from the rat race.


3 Most Important Things to Consider when Choosing an Internet Business

There is no point in building a new internet business if you end up in the same situation as you were while working full-time.  Therefore, it is important that the business choice we make can give us:

  1. freedom to live anywhere we want, allowing us to move, travel or do whatever we want.
  2. flexibility to decide our own work schedule so that we can spend more time with our family and loved ones.
  3. opportunity to generate a high income, to support ourselves and enjoy a good lifestyle.

Confession of a true internet beginner: A non-techie, a newbie (one who needs an idiot’s guide for dummies)

How to start - A non-techie, a newbie (one who needs an idiot’s guide for dummies)

There are so many internet entrepreneurs or gurus out there – each promises to help you make $10k, $20k or more per month.  The truth is, only 20% of the people involved in internet marketing are making the millions; while the other 80% are still struggling to get a good footing in the same arena.  

However, that doesn’t mean that the 80% don’t make any money.  I’m sure they do, but perhaps not to the extent of those “internet-preneur” millionaires do.  And I’m one of the 80%, for sure! (smiles)

My venture journey into being an ‘internet entrepreneur’ has been a long one (not to mention, frustrating, costly and sometimes demoralising, too).  This is due to the high learning curve involved due to my lack of knowledge and skills in this area.  

Compound that with the fact that most of us are easily lured into signing up for a  ‘fool-proof’ internet marketing course offered by those internet gurus.  Some even promised a ‘quick and easy’, ‘sure to succeed’ business system.  We know that’s not true and some of us might learn that the hard way.  Building any business will take Time, Effort and Money – there are no shortcuts.  

Whenever you come across anyone who promises a 100% automated ‘turnkey’ business based on your passion, that can make millions while you sleep – run away! That’s a lie and don’t be the one making money for THEM while THEY sleep!


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Wait!  Before You Start Your Business, Be Prepared

Before we start toying with the idea of starting any business, we must be prepared to do  

“L F T T”  – to Learn, to Fail, then to Try and Try again.  Whatever the knowledge and skills that we lack, we’ll need to find and learn them. As Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress” and “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new”.  

Furthermore, compared to the past, there are plenty of tools available today that can help beginners, newbies and non-techies to build their online businesses fairly easily.

My foreword to those who want to start any business is to have a mindset of ‘never giving up’ and to stay focused.  Nothing is impossible:  Impossible just takes longer.  If you can have that mindset plus a computer, a good internet connection and a little bit of money, then you’re good to go.  

Also, we just have to accept that everyone progresses differently depending on our aptitude and attitude towards learning, doing work and handling challenges.

The Online Business Rules

There are two rules to remember when it comes to building an online businesses:

  • Rule #1:  It’s not about me – it’s about YOU (the customers)

It’s not about doing the things ‘I’ like or passionate about – it’s about doing something for your audience and customers.

  • Rule #2: Passion isn’t everything

Passion doesn’t pay the bills.This is the brutal truth but if you really want to be an ‘internet-preneur’, then don’t start your business idea based on your passion or what you like.  You must offer something that the buyers want, are looking for and would pay for.

Research & Evaluate your Business Ideas - product demand matrix

Research & Evaluate your Business Ideas

Before jumping into any business, we must carry out some due diligence work – research, evaluate and test your ideas.  Does it solve a problem?  Are people looking for it?  Will people pay for it?  Bounce your ideas with friends and family and get their feedback.

Now, let’s take a look at Remit Sethi’s Demand Matrix – what we need to avoid is the ‘Labour of Love’ quadrant.  Instead, explore possible business ideas that would fall in the other 3 quadrants, preferably find a ‘Golden Goose’.


Do you need to quit your job before starting your own online business? 

No.  If your job income is crucial, then make a plan to sacrifice your free time to build your new business.


Can I Start a Business with No Money?

Though I hate to admit it, the true answer is – “No”.  As mentioned earlier, we need to invest Time, Effort AND Money (some, at least).  These are the three key ‘ingredients’ to starting any business, without one, the business will not work.  Apart from that, we would also need to sharpen our knowledge and skills to handle the business we are venturing into.

The good news is you can start your online business with a small, minimal startup capital.  This investment is definitely a lot lesser than starting any traditional business such as a boutique, spa or a restaurant.   With just a few hundred dollars, you can get started to build your new online business.

How to Find Business Ideas?

When it comes to making money online, we may have heard about affiliate marketing, Shopify, dropshipping, blogging, AdSense and so many more.  There’s a plethora of business models and it can be quite confusing and daunting when it comes to choosing the right one.  

However, the good news is: never before has the entry barrier been so low when it comes to startup cost.  Furthermore, there are so many resources and tools (not available a decade ago), which are now readily available.  Some of them even offer free trials or freemium versions.

What Online Business Can I Start?

Tips on how to get business Ideas: 5 Questions that can help you figure out your online business ideas

Do this exercise and take note of all your answers.  Slowly, they may reveal some possible ideas that can be turned into successful businesses.

Question 1:  What service am I already paying for?

  • Personal gym trainer
  • Someone to clean my home
  • Train my dog
  • Babysitting, etc.

Question 2:  What skill do I have?  What do I know, and know it well?  What I can do, and I’m great at it?  Write down a list of 10 skills (anything you can think of).

  • Good eye for design
  • Photography
  • Languages
  • Microsoft Office or Adobe
  • Cooking

Question 3:  What do my friends say that I’m great at?   Go ahead and ask as many friends – they may say that you make the best lasagne, or you always know how to look your best or that you’re fantastic at keeping your house beautiful and tidy

Question 4:  What do I do on a Saturday morning?  How do you spend your time that morning?  What do you read?  What tv or video channels do you watch?  From there, think about what might interest other people, too.

Question 5:  If you’re stuck in a room with someone for a few hours, what would you talk about?  From this exercise, you might realise the things that you know well or are good at.

Startup Business Options - How to Start an Online Business 2020 (Beginner’s Guide)

Internet Business Models for Beginners to Start Making Money

Below, there are a few business models for beginners that you can explore.  Just go through them and see which one resonates with you and then start doing your own research and make it work.

The diagram below shows where the different  business models stand in terms of startup cost and profit margin.  Instantly, we’re able to see which options are better  – what we want is to find something that requires low startup cost and provide high profit margin.


Snippets to Remember

All businesses have different levels of challenges, difficulties and complexities.  Your choice of business will depend greatly on your attitude and aptitude towards learning, gathering knowledge and acquiring the needed skills to start and manage the business.  

Take your time to explore your ideas, shortlist them and finally choose one that fits you the most (to start with).  It does not stop there; if you fail, try again and if you succeed, then scale your business and help others to do the same.


Top 5 Online Business Models for Beginners

  1. Dropshipping
  2. Private Label eCommerce
  3. Blogging
  4. Affiliate Marketing
  5. Freelancing

Dropshipping

The business model:

We sell a product to our customer and the supplier will deliver the product directly to our customer.  This means that we don’t need to keep any product inventory or be bothered with the hassle of arranging delivery of the item.  

All this will eliminate heavy financial investment (manufacturing of product, wastage or perishability, warehousing, logistics, delivery management).

How to get started?

  1. Find your product suppliers (refer to Resources below)
  2. You promote the product through different channels:  
    • Your own ecommerce website
    • List on amazon, eBay or Esty
  3. When a customer buys a product from you, you then buy the product from your supplier (at a lower price).  Sometimes this process can be automated, i.e. on Shopify platform, depending on the supplying partner that you have chosen.
  4. The supplier then delivers the product directly to your customer

Remember – there is little risk of buying inventory as the sale is already paid for by the customer.  As a dropshipper, your main focus is marketing and managing customer service (should there be any complaint or feedback to follow-up on).

Resources:

AliExpress AliDrop Program - Get Your Own Money-Making AliExpress Dropshipping Business - build your own online business today

For a true beginner, you can get your own online store fully-setup and connected to thousands of suppliers from AliExpress quickly and easily with the help of AliDrop Program. For as little as US$299, you can have a Custom Store created for you from scratch! If you plan to do your marketing via social media channels, you must get their Social Rabbit plugin and to ensure that your product images are automatically set with Alt-Text, then check out their SEO Image Optimiser plugin, too. Otherwise, you can slowly set up your online store and start looking for possible product suppliers from Salehoo or simply make direct contact with product suppliers that you wish to work with.

Pros and Cons of Dropshipping

Pros:

  • Low risk, low startup cost:  For those without much capital to invest in a business, this business model is a good starting point.  The low startup cost plus the low risk factor, it can be a good stepping stone and learning opportunity even if the business is not successful.

Cons:

  • Research work:  You need to spend a lot of time to do your product research – to get reputable and reliable suppliers of quality products.  Failing that, you will end up spending a lot of time fire-fighting as you deal with customers’ complaints and arranging for refunds and returns.
  • Low profit margins:  You make money from difference in the buying and selling price of the item.  Don’t forget to take into consideration the cost involved when it comes to using online payment gateways, i.e. PayPal, credit cards, Stripe, etc.  Basically the profit margin is low but if you can get this model running, it can eventually generate a good income with enough sales volume.

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Private Labelling (Similar to Dropshipping)

The business model:

The basic model is the same as above – the only difference is you would have your own label and branding on the product.

This is a good way to stand out from the competition by selling the same product without competing on price.  With good branding (and labelling), the same product can be perceived to be of higher value and you can price it accordingly.

Learn about becoming a profitable Amazon seller and leverage on their tools and established marketplace.  You’ll get access to the millions of customers who already trust the platform.  Of course, you will also need to consider having your own online store to boost your product (label) presence online (where people can buy from, too).

How it works:

Generally, this model works the same way as Dropshipping.

Resources:

Similar to Dropshipping, you can start looking for possible product suppliers from AliExpress or simply make direct contact with product suppliers that you wish to work with.

Pros and Cons of Private Labelling

Pros:

  • The additional cost is minimal (and affordable)
  • No need to maintain inventory
  • Leverage on established marketplace to expose your product to large customer base

Cons:

  • Research work:  You need to spend a lot of time to do your product research – to get reputable and reliable suppliers of quality products.  Failing that, you will end up spending a lot of time fire-fighting as you deal with customers’ complaints and arranging for refunds and returns.
  • Low profit margins:  You make money from difference in the buying and selling price of the item.  Don’t forget to take into consideration the cost involved when it comes to using online payment gateways, i.e. PayPal, credit cards, Stripe, etc.  Basically the profit margin is low but if you can get this model running, it can eventually generate a good income with enough sales volume.

“I am not tech-savvy  –  Can I really start and manage an online business?” 

Yes, you can.  Millions of others who are non-techie and don’t know any coding have done it.  There are so many tools available these days that can help make things easier.


Blogging

The business model:

If you want to start blogging – just do it.  There is no real need to shout out to the world that you’re a blogger.  Quietly build your blog and start monetising it as many other successful bloggers have done, earning from 4 to 6-figures per month.

Blogging is not all about writing – within your articles, you can include other media such as photos, infographics and videos.  The key thing about blogging is to stay true to yourself and the audience.  Write or produce videos about something that people want to read or know about.  If that happens to be something that you love or passionate about – then, that’s fantastic.  

Forget about the misperception that you need to write very long thought-provoking articles.  Simply focus on helping your readers solve problems that they may have or provide useful information that can add value to someone else’s life.   One thing to remember is that it is easier to monetise a blog about healthy diet or organic pet food than it is to make money talking about how to write poems.

The other important thing to remember is to post regularly, keeping them current and relevant to your audience.  This will help your blog to rank well in search engines.

Elements of a good blog:

  • Offer readers ideas and solutions to their problems (perhaps young parents who wants to give their children a head start to reading)
  • Find products that readers are looking for
  • Review and compare new products and services – to help readers make a choice or decision
  • Include attractive visuals and photos
  • Post articles on a regular basis
  • Offer topics such as “How-to”, “Top 10 list” or “Tips and Tricks”


How it works:

You can’t make money without an audience, you won’t have an audience without content.  Therefore, start with:

  • Creating a number of good, quality content
  • Generate audience – by posting your excerpts and links on your social groups, asking friends to share it around
  • Once you’ve built an audience, then consider adding AdSense, promote your own products (e.g. eBooks) or services (e.g. Coaching), affiliate links (such as Amazon.com), adding *Repixel to your site or offer your writing skills as a guest post writer.

*Repixel is one of the newer ways to monetise your website.  It doesn’t cost you anything and won’t slow down your site – it helps your visitors get the things that they may be looking for.

Useful Tips for a Good Blog Website

We need to create a blog with great content in order to build an audience who will keep coming back for more.  This is the only way to make sure that it can become profitable.

Building a website can be easy and quickly done.  However, building a good blog takes time – so don’t rush, simply follow these tips and crack on – and let your audience grow.

  • Useful content that is engaging : If your content and information is no better than what’s available online, then nobody will bother reading it.  
  • Add your personality: Create a form of identity in your blog content.  Make it personal and genuine.
  • Keep it regular: Create a simple content planner – keep to the schedule.  If you plan to put one or three posts a week, then maintain that regularity. 
  • Limit your sales-pitch: No one likes to read a blog laden with a lot of ‘sales pitch’, ads or pop-ups.  Keep it natural, add sales links where relevant and appropriate.  As long as your content is useful, interesting and engaging, you’ll get people who will end up clicking on your sales links.

How to make money through blogging?

What’s the potential income?

Some successful professional bloggers can earn from $10k to $100k a month.  So the potential income is huge.    However, like any business, success doesn’t happen overnight.  You need to put in your time and effort to come up with good, quality content that people want to read.



Your sources of income can come in a variety of ways:

Affiliate Marketing (Read more below)

The model is based on the process of promoting someone else’s product and making a commission from a sale.  With a blog, you can integrate your affiliate sales links into your content.   Take for example, you are writing about health and diet, you can do a health product comparison and include the link where readers can buy the featured products.  You can read more about Affiliate Marketing below (anchor link).

Google AdSense

On some websites, you will notice advertisements being placed within the pages.  If you sign up for Google AdSense, Google will only place relevant pay-per-click ads on your blog site.  This is to ensure good user experience for your audience and to maximise the number of clicks you might get.  If someone clicks on any of those ads, then Google will pay you a small commission – and I mean, really small.

Although the commission is very low, it is totally ‘hand-off’ business model, i.e. once you have made the initial set up, then you simply need to focus on writing good content and growing your traffic.  You will have to generate a lot of traffic and hopefully generate a lot of clicks on those ads in order to earn some decent money.

Blog Ad Network

Apart from Google, there are other ad networks that you can sign up with.  

  • Media.net is a direct AdSense competitor run by Yahoo and Bing.
  • PropellerAds is another great alternative to AdSense because of their technology innovation.
  • Skimlinks and Viglinks are almost similar where they convert your outbound links into affiliate links – and they pay for affiliate (high) sales commission and not just for (low) commission for clicks.

Want to be an image consultant and build your own business?
Become an image consultant to turn your passion for beauty into a successful and fulfilling business! Liberate yourself from the bondage of 9-to-5 and be your own boss as a personal stylist.

Find out more about Fashion Stylist / Image Consultant Training


What’s the cost of running a blogging website?

What you need is a website.  There are few free options and great, affordable ones for beginners.  When you are ready to have your own domain name, i.e www.myspecialwebsitename.com then you will need to have:

  • Your domain name (or an address)
  • A hosting service where your domain name or ‘address’ can be located and found online.

Resources:

Make sure you engage a good website hosting company for your website.  One the best hosting provider is BlueHost – and they also have a link to help you get started with your website creation.  Should you need any help, simply contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.

You would need as little as $10 for a domain name and $10 for hosting service. Check out BlueHost – they can get you started with your website domain name and hosting services.

Pros and Cons of Blogging

Pros:

  • Low startup cost
  • Working on your own schedule

Cons:

  • May take a long time before making money
  • Creating and posting content can be time-consuming

Affiliate Marketing

The business model:

Affiliate marketing is one of the popular business models because of the ease and low startup cost.  The model is based on the process of promoting someone else’s product and making a commission from a sale.  Similar to the Dropshipping model, you don’t need to hold any inventory or be bothered about shipping and delivery.

Good Practices as an Affiliate Marketer

To be successful in affiliate marketing, we need to:

  • Be honest and authentic
  • Offer value to our customers 
  • Build strong relationship with our audience (especially important in email marketing)
  • Create trust – so that customers are happy to buy from us

The two types of products in affiliate marketing include information or digital products and physical, tangible products.

Examples of Information or Digital Products:

eBooks, memberships, online courses, subscriptions – these products can earn you a commission up to 75%.

Examples of Physical Products:

Anything that we use or consume, from food to cosmetics – literally, everything tangible.  Take Amazon affiliate program – it has millions of products to choose from, to sell.  However, the commission for physical products tend to be a lot lower (can be as low as 3-4%).


The “12 Minute Affiliate” Is A Plug-And-Play System that finally makes Affiliate Marketing as Easy as it has always been promised to be.

Simple plug-and-play activation in 12 minutes. ​Easily earn commissions in the biggest and most profitable niche markets - Easy 12 Mins Affiliate System
Easy 12-minutes Affiliate System: A simple plug-and-play activation that easily earns you commissions in the biggest and most profitable niche markets

How it works:

  1. You sign up and register an account as an affiliate marketer with an affiliate partner
  2. You offer the product for sale via your blog or social media network
  3. Each product has a unique link that tracks back to your account with your affiliate partner
  4. A prospect clicks on the link will be taken to your affiliate partner’s shopping card for checkout
  5. Once they make a purchase, a commission will be added to your affiliate account

What you need to do:

The two main focus will be Marketing (advertising and promotion) of the product generating Traffic to your affiliate sales page.  Be prepared that these two tasks can be harder setting up a website and creating the content.

How much do I need to start an Affiliate Marketing Website?

Make sure you engage a good website hosting company for your website.  One the best hosting providers is BlueHost. They they also have a link to help you get started with your website creation.  Should you need any help, simply contact us, and we’ll be happy to help.

You would need as little as $10 for a domain name and $10 for hosting service. Check out BlueHost – they can get you started with your website domain name and hosting services.

Here are 10 Affiliate Marketing Niches that you can explore:

  • Fitness and Weight Loss
  • Health
  • Dating and Relationships
  • Pets
  • Self-Improvement
  • Wealth Building Through Investing
  • Make Money on the Internet
  • Beauty Treatments
  • Gadgets and Technology
  • Personal Finance


Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing

Pros:

  • Low risk, low startup cost
  • More ‘hands-off’ compared to dropshipping as there is no need for customer servicing. The customers will end up at the merchant’s site and the merchant will handle billing, order fulfilment, customer service, returns and refunds, etc.

Cons:

  • You need to drive a lot of traffic, hence strong marketing effort is needed.
  • Advertising may be necessary and there will be a cost involved.
  • No traffic means no money.

Freelancing

This is technically not a business model, but it can bring you some extra money where you just take on projects on a freelance basis. It’s like having a part-time job, where you can earn extra income during your free time.  In fact, many people have decided to jump across from a full time job into this gig economy to earn their main income.

To run this as a business, you can make connections with other freelancers to build a productive and effective team.  After that, you can then offer a full-fledge service to businesses and taking on bigger projects while working work as a team.

A side note:  There is such a thing as service arbitrage. However, I don’t really recommend it because it is basically ‘reselling’ a (client’s) project or a (freelancer’s) service to make a profit.  When it comes to freelancing, I think everyone should pay the true cost for the project or be paid justly for the service provided.

Why do people do freelance work?

The top two reasons are the ability to be your own boss and the freedom to work from anywhere or at any time.  You are the master of your own ship, so you decide when and where to do your work, which clients to choose and what projects to work on.

What are the services you can offer?

Depending on your work experience, knowledge, training and skills, you can offer various services that companies and entrepreneurs may need.  These days, many companies are cutting their manpower headcount by outsourcing some works and projects to freelancers.

Do you have secretarial experience? Are you good at Photoshop? Can you build an app or are you a web developer? Have you worked in an advertising agency and can design great ads?  Are you a copywriter?  Whatever your experience and skills are, you need to highlight your strengths and capability.

Graphic Design work:

If you have the training and skills, then this is certainly a great idea for you.  It’s time to sell your talent to small business owners who are looking for help in designing logos, business cards and promotional collaterals. 

If you have an eye for design, you can always learn something new. There are free and easy-to-use design tools available for beginners such as Canva and Gimp.  Do a couple of simple projects for free or at low cost to get a foot in the door.  Then, you can start building up your design portfolio while asking your friends and happy clients for some referrals.

Virtual Assistant:

Smaller companies and sole proprietors are always looking for help with administrative work or to run errands.  This will be ideal for you if you are well-versed with Microsoft Office, good at scheduling appointments, making travel arrangements or doing research work.

Resume or cover letter writing:

People are always looking for new jobs and you can help them to create impressive resumes and cover letters.

Copywriting:

If you are already writing blog articles for yourself, why not offer your service to help others and get paid?  This will be a good opportunity to generate an extra income if you have a natural inclination for writing. Writing takes practise – the more you write, the easier it gets.

Resources:

You can start offering your freelance services at Fiverr.com

Pros and Cons of Freelancing

Pros:

  • Freedom and flexibility – you are your own boss
  • Variety of work – you choose what you want and don’t want to do
  • Multiple income streams (taking on 2 or 3 projects at the same time)
  • Work-life balance
  • Work from anywhere
  • Potential for higher income

Cons:

  • Need for self-motivation
  • Need for time management
  • Finding clients, variable income
  • Loss of the usual employment benefits

conclusion

It’s now 2020 and this year, too, will soon be over. Why wait any longer?  With all that you’ve learnt in this article, you have no reason to wait.  Just pick an idea and run with it – and who knows?  Perhaps next year, you’ll be running you’d achieved what you hoped for and running your own business.

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Article by Kit Sani, consultant & trainer turned entrepreneur. She runs ImageXchange and contributes various articles relating to beauty, style, business, home & lifestyle.

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