Here's All You Really Need Before Launching Your Online Business
If you're waiting for the “perfect" time to start your business, here's some bad news: There's never going to be a perfect time. Starting a business is a major life change, and you'll likely never feel 100% ready.
Now for the good news: Getting started requires much less than you might imagine. Many of the world's most powerful companies (think Apple, Microsoft, Amazon) were started in their founders' garages. They refined their offerings and figured things out as they went, and you can too.
But there are a few things that are good to have figured out in order to lay the groundwork for success. Get these things in place, and then feel confident that the best time to start your business is now!
1. A Great Understanding Of Your Offering
Are you selling a product, a service, or a combination of both? What will differentiate your offering from others available elsewhere? Understanding this is perhaps the most important component of success, because you can't sell something until you fully understand what it is you're selling and how it helps people.
Hint: You're almost certainly selling a feeling more than a product or a service. For example, if your product is hair brushes, what you're really selling is a tool to create good hair days. If you're selling a software-as-a-service (SAAS) calendar tool, you're really selling the peace of mind that comes from a less hectic day-to-day.
2. An Even Better Understanding Of Your Target Audience
Once you've nailed your offering, it's time to figure out exactly who will be buying it. To figure out the “who," talk to lots of people. Share your idea and ask for their honest feedback.
The feedback they give you will help inform the “why" behind the purchase decisions of your potential customers. So, in the hairbrush example above, the “why" might be good hair days or saving time getting ready in the morning. Once you know the why, it will be easier to market to your customer base effectively.
3. An Ownable Brand
Here's the fun part: What will your new business be called? Before you fall in love with something, make sure you can get the domain name and social media accounts to go along with it. Search for available domains at your favorite Registrar, and it's also a good idea to search the U.S. Trademark Database for any conflicts that may exist.
Many solopreneurs use their names for their businesses. There are pros and cons to this approach. If you're a consultant, it's probably fine to go with something like Jane Smith Consulting—you may even want to use a memorable TLD, like JaneSmith.pro, as your primary URL to position you as the professional you are. If you're not consulting, and if there's a chance you'll either add another partner or be acquired by another company in the future, choose something other than your own name.
4. A Helpful and Easy-To-Navigate Website
A great website is of paramount importance to virtually every small business owner, because it provides information and helps guide the consumer journey from awareness to post-purchase.
Great-looking websites are important, but don't kill yourself agonizing over every design detail or spend thousands out of the gate on a designer. Pick a great template, make sure it's mobile responsive (it's likely 50% or more of your web traffic will be mobile), and spend your time focusing on the content consumers are going to want to find on your site. The exception to this rule is ecommerce: If you're selling things directly on your website, you must make the store functionality as easy to operate as possible.
There's one more ingredient you need to launch your business: GUTS! You wouldn't be reading this right now if you didn't have that, so go ahead—take the leap. Today is the best day to change your life for the better. As long as you have the things above, you're as ready as you'll ever be.