Planning to start an online business from home? Even if you aren’t, it’s an idea worth considering. There has never been a better time to start a business from scratch– right here and right now is perfect.
That said, kickstarting your online business and finding success in it is never easy. There are a lot of parameters to consider, right from deciding what need you want to cater to, how you can fund your business idea and how to establish and grow your presence.
But what if we tell you we can break down the process of how to start an online business from home into 13 concise steps?
This step-by-step guide consists of tried and tested tips to visualize a small business from home and realize it into a tangible presence online. The small investment business from a home guide will break down the processes of ideation, basic marketing, and establishing an online presence and then delve into growth and sales.
Ready to get started? Read on!
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 1: Identify the Product
Even before you choose colors for your logo or a name for your business, you will need to identify the product you are going to sell. This product will form the springboard for every decision to be made in the coming steps– so it’s crucial you evaluate your choices and societal needs accurately. Keep in mind that, throughout this guide, the word ‘product’ describes both goods and services, irrespective of what you choose to sell in the end.
You can now identify your product, which should:
Solve a problem: Look at the problems in your own life and society and see if there is something you are capable of solving. The crux of your product should be bringing value to someone’s life.
Have branding potential: Your product must be saleable. Messaging, brand voice, imagery, and overarching story are all crucial to marketing your product.
Serve a decent-sized population: You don’t want to create a product that solves your need alone, because it won’t sell. Instead, identify a product that a large chunk of people outside your circle of friends and immediate family will enjoy.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 2: Evaluate Product Viability
A long-term vision is a key to success in a business from home in India.
Answer the following questions:
- Can I make profits with this product?
- Can I grow my business with just this product?
- How much might it cost to produce?
- Will I need to produce it myself or can I outsource?
- Will my product have variations (e.g. sizes, colors, print)?
- How long will my product last? Will it have an expiry date?
- How do I price my product? Will I be able to change the price in the future?
- Will it really solve a common problem?
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 3: Identify Your Market
Your evaluations of the target market will make or break the way your product sells. The best way to see if your online business from home will fly is to look online! Use Google Trends or Keyword Planner to see if search terms relating to your potential product are many or few. Also, pay attention to whether the number of searches dips and rises or remains steady– this will help you evaluate just when your product might be in demand. Don’t toss your keyword list when you’re done with this step– you’ll need it later!
Use social media to your benefit by exploring related hashtags, scoping out any competitors, even conducting ad hoc surveys to see if your idea will fly. You could also create accounts on Facebook and Instagram to test the waters. All of these tricks will help you evaluate:
- Who needs your product
- Where they live
- What age group they fall in
- What other activities they’re interested in
These, in turn, will help set a precedent for future marketing and brand messaging.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 4: Scope Out Your Competitors
It’s not enough to know who is in the ring– it’s crucial to understand how well they do and where you can overpower them. You could begin by looking at their product and identifying the differences and similarities between them and yours. Next, move on to their online presence. Do they have a website, a strong social media following, regular sales and marketing tactics? How well or poorly do they engage with their audience? Getting the answers to these questions can help you hone in on where your product can fit in and how.
When researching competitors, go as in-depth as possible, including:
- Signing up for email lists
- Following them on social media
- Going through their website
- Reading their product reviews
- Buying a product to test the quality and review shipping processes
- Reading all content they put out, from website copy to Instagram captions
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 5: Put Processes in Place
Now that you’ve identified your product and know your competitors, you’re all set to put financial and operational processes in place. To begin with, take a look at laws governing the online domain in your country. A few factors to get you started:
- What products are taxed
- What GST rates apply to your product
- How much shipping you may have to charge
- What commission costs may apply
- How to collect payments
- What tax slab you fall under
- Whether you need to apply for trademarks or copyright
- What shipping restrictions apply
- Where to store your products (if they’re tangible)
- How to display your services
- What business insurance plans apply
- What licenses and permits you need
- What regulations will you have to comply with (e.g. food, health and safety, fire)
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 6: Source or Make Your Products
You’re now ready to begin sourcing or manufacturing your product, depending on what it is. Keep in mind standards of quality, material, packaging, and manufacturing costs when outsourcing your order; this will be helpful when you want to scale your business at a later stage. It’s always a good idea to scope out a few manufacturers, so you have options in case something goes awry. Ask for samples to evaluate packaging and product design before putting any money down.
If your product is handmade, you can begin by sourcing all the right materials. Consider how much material you’ll need to make the first batch so that you don’t over-purchase in case there isn’t enough demand. It’s always smarter, to begin with, a smaller batch and scale upwards with the rise in demand. If your product is a service, you can take this time to put together guarantees, terms and conditions, rate cards, service lists, and other information that potential clients might need before hiring you.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 7: Choose a Platform
You’ll now begin creating your online presence. You’ll need to pick an e-commerce platform or website host to create your selling platform on. If it’s imperative that your platform has an order and inventory system, then you might be better off choosing an established e-commerce platform host, such as BigCommerce or Shopify. These platforms allow you to build and customize your storefront and create product inventories and order pages easily. They integrate with several payment portals, which makes it easier for clients to buy your products.
If this is too much of an initial investment, or if you don’t need an inventory system, consider creating your own website. Plenty of platforms allow you to do this, with the added benefit of being able to plug in shopping carts and order pages if you need them at a later stage. Wix, WordPress, and Squarespace are some of the top names.
You might also benefit from exploring niche-centric platforms. RedBubble and Society6, for example, are focused on art and photography; Etsy covers handmade, vintage, and unique products. Ecommerce giants such as Amazon are perfect for selling commoditized products on. A caveat: all these platforms will have their own fees and commission rates, so ensure you factor those into your pricing.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 8: Purchase a Domain Name and Email Service
Your domain name becomes your identity on the internet, so ensure you choose one wisely. The rule of thumb is to make your domain name the same as your brand name, to prevent any confusion. Depending on the availability, you might want to add words like ‘shop’, ‘service’, or ‘company’ to specify your niche further. Ideally, though, your domain name shouldn’t exceed 8 characters and should be easy to read and pronounce.
GoDaddy, Hostinger, and NameCheap are some platforms you can look through to find your domain name. Ideally, you want it to end with ‘.com’ or ‘.in’; if possible, consider buying a few more extensions such as ‘.net’ and ‘.shop’ to ensure all variations of the domain name reach your page.
Linking an email service to your domain name is a surefire way to increase brand trustworthiness– nobody wants official emails coming from a ‘yahoo.com’ or ‘gmail.com’ ID! Creating separate email IDs for different departments of your business is the end goal; but for starters, beginning with something like ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or ‘email@example.com’ will do.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 9: Design Your Online Presence
Here is where you can go ham choosing colors, fonts, and website layouts for your website or seller portal. If you’re using a provider such as Wix and Squarespace, you’ll find pre-made templates to work with; these are highly customizable if you want to flex your creative muscles.
Read through the basic font and color rules before choosing because both these elements have a massive impact on your customer attraction and retention. To take the mystery out of this stage, consider referring to guides such as this one about fonts from Google Design or this guide about color schemes from Hubspot.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 10: Drive Traffic to Your Online Business
It isn’t enough to just create a website and wait for customers to roll in– you have to send the word out. You can begin by creating social media profiles for your business across popular platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. Engage with potential customers on the regular and direct them to your site.
Written content is just as powerful in attracting traffic from search engines such as Google. Consider creating a blog section on your website where you post shop updates, ‘how-to’ posts, industry-related articles, and anecdotes. To ensure they are reaching the right audience, conduct keyword research using Google Keyword Planner, or refer to the list you created way back in Step 3.
Don’t underestimate the power of video and photo content, either. If your product might benefit from tutorials and ‘how to’s, don’t hesitate to create videos out of these and post them to YouTube, IGTV, Vimeo, or other popular platforms. The more sources of traffic, the better!
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 11: Begin Delivering Your Product
When the first orders start to roll in, it's time to kick the production and shipping parts of your process into gear. Ensure your packaging is well-made and will carry your product safely across borders; ask your shipping provider if you can avail discounts to cut costs initially. It’s always a great idea to personalize your product, regardless of whether it's a good or service.
If it’s a tangible product, then ‘thank you’ cards and freebies go a long way in establishing customer loyalty. If yours is a service, then personalized stationery, logos, and watermarks will lend to the air of professionalism, as will maintaining a consistent writing tone and sticking to set guidelines. Ensure your customers are always in the loop about delivery schedules, shipping delays, future discounts, and more. As good as your product or service may be, if your delivery isn’t right, then your customer might not return.
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 12: Collect Customer Feedback
This is a vital step if you’re looking to improve and scale your online business from home. It doesn’t have to be a complicated process– even a simple Google Form or a message from your official email ID will do. Collecting feedback shows that you’re serious about serving your customers and ensuring they get the best service and quality. Don’t forget to check your private messages on social media platforms, along with the comments– these often help you identify how your customers feel about your product.
Finally, when you find good feedback, don’t hesitate to share it across platforms. Word-of-mouth and live testimonials have a positive effect on future customers that can’t be matched by any sort of marketing!
How to Start Online Business from Home Step 13: Measure Your Success
Metrics and numbers will throw up red or green flags about the running success of your online business from home. Tools such as Google Analytics are free to integrate with your website and allow you to track everything from the number of site visits to the locations your customers visit from.
Other tools such as Google Ads and Google Shopping allow you to track cart abandonment, monitor the success of paid ads, and help put together more effective marketing campaigns. If you have an email campaign running, take a look at how many people open your emails to evaluate what needs to be improved. It’s nearly impossible to get it right on the first try, but monitoring your analytics gives you the power to make the right changes and offset any potential damages!
he final word
The overwhelming mix of resources, applications, technical requirements, and financial planning related to starting an online business from home might well get your head spinning. Building a work from home business from scratch takes cost, strategy, dedication, and grit. If you play it wrong, you might run the risk of your business is just a flash in the pan. If you play it right, your online business from home may well move on from the ‘one-hit-wonder’ stage and become an established brand with loyal customers and steady revenues!