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How to start an online business in 6 steps

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Once you’ve decided on an online business idea, it’s crucial to take the necessary steps to bring it to life. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start an online business:

1. Validate Your Idea with Research

Even if you think your idea is brilliant, you need to ensure there’s a market for it. Conduct thorough research to assess feasibility and buyer interest. You can hire an agency to conduct market research, but if you’re on a tight budget, a DIY approach can also be effective. Utilize available resources to get started on market research.

After gathering your research, write a business plan. A solid business plan will help you stay organized and focused, guiding you through the challenges of starting a new business.

2. Develop Your Product or Service

Once you’ve validated your idea, it’s time to develop your product or service. If you’re selling a product, find a manufacturer to bring it to life. If offering a service, create packages outlining your offerings. For authors, write your book and identify a self-publishing option.

If you choose dropshipping, the product development is already handled for you. Your task is to select products you’re passionate about or those that have a hot market. Use guides to identify the best products for dropshipping.

3. Set Up Your Business Finances

Opening a business bank account is a common step for new entrepreneurs. Once you’ve registered your business with local authorities, you’ll have the necessary tax identification numbers and other information to open an account.

As your business grows, you might need funding for new products or marketing. Business bank accounts help manage capital and track revenue and expenses. They are also useful for tax preparation, as all business transactions are in one place. As finances become more complex, consider hiring a professional accountant or tax specialist.

💡 TIP: Simplify your business finances with Shopify Balance, a free financial account that helps you manage your business’s money directly from your Shopify admin. There are no monthly fees, and you can receive payouts up to four days earlier, earning cashback on eligible purchases.

4. Find Vendors and Suppliers

Product-based businesses often require multiple business relationships, such as with manufacturers, dropshippers, or third-party logistics coordinators. Shop around and compare options to ensure you get the best solutions for your needs.

Other online business models may require different partnerships. For example, authors might need a professional editor and book designer.

5. Build Your Business Website

To succeed online, you need a website with payment processing functionality. Start by choosing a business name, using a business name generator if needed. Then, select a domain name and check its availability. You can often purchase a domain for less than $20 per year.

Use a platform like Shopify to build your store and start accepting payments from customers. Here are some resources to help you get started:

6. Market Your New Small Business

Getting your first paying customer is a significant milestone. Once your store is set up, focus on marketing your business. Finding new customers and creating compelling promotions takes time and effort.

Choose from various marketing channels—email marketing, mobile marketing, and more. Avoid getting distracted by ineffective tactics and focus on strategies that will help grow your online business effectively.