There is no better time than present for starting an online business. In some ways, there are similarities between brick-and-mortar and online business, but existing only online is cheaper and it comes with less risk. You don’t have to work in the tech industry or have some previous experience in order to run a successful online business, you just need to be passionate about your ideas. Of course, you need to do extensive research and equip yourself with every useful piece of information out there. We created this guide to help you get your business online and navigate the online environment.
Building a website
How to find a niche
If you are new to online marketing and just starting an online business, the first step you have to take is to find the right niche. You probably think that you have to find something that is unique and no one else knows about. This is actually not true at all. Even if you manage to find one that has low competition, there's probably a reason for it. In most cases you’ll find that there's low demand for it, or even more likely there’s simply no money to be made.
When finding a niche, think about your hobbies, interests or even problems; this is a great way to find a niche that can be profitable. Also, there are a lot of places where you can look for inspiration that will help you find your niche. Here are a few examples:
Yahoo trending, a place where you can find popular topics that are 'trending' right now. This is actually a great trick to dig up some new and hot upcoming niches that you'd otherwise never know about.
Google trends is another place where you can look for hot searches and trends, and can be a potential treasure trove of great niches and sub-niches.
Google keyword planner can give you amazing ideas for your niche by suggesting a bunch of different variation for the keyword on which you have focused.
Flippa is a marketplace where people go to sell their websites. It is also a convenient place for finding out what niches are profitable, given that you have insights into analytics and data of every website.
How to choose and buy a domain name
Choosing a domain name for your website is not an easy task, and it is just as important as choosing a name for your company. After all, this is what will represent you and your business online. There are a lot of factors which must be taken into account when choosing a domain name.
The domain name needs to be relevant, specific, memorable and most importantly available. If the domain name you’ve chosen is taken, then it really doesn’t matter if it is good or not. But luckily, there is a solution for this - you need to get specific enough.
When we talk about being specific, your domain name has to explain to your visitors what you do before they click on your website, and choosing the right keywords is the best way. Also, the more specific your domain name is, the more likely it is to be available, which is ultimately the most important thing.
Relevance goes hand in hand with being specific. For example, if you are a car dealer, then mentioning ‘car’ or ‘car dealership’ in a domain name is a smart move. This way you’ll let your visitors and search engines know what you do.
Finally, being memorable is crucial if you are looking to build a brand. After all, short and simple names are always easier to remember, which will automatically make it easier for your customers to recommend you by word of mouth.
How to find cheap hosting
When building a website, a good web host is a must! But don't worry, not all cheap web hosts are bad. Sometimes, your web business idea doesn't need a dedicated hosting yet, or maybe you can start on a shared hosting first.
First, you should get well-informed about what “cheap” means today. Nowadays, “cheap” is below $5 per month, but with adequate features. That means hosting services that come with features that match the current market standard. It is important to be properly informed since the standards might change from time to time. Of course, it is a plus if your host can provide periodic malware scanning, regular server backup and other services.
There are a number of websites that provide you with lists of hosting packages, but before you choose one, here are some common problems with cheap web hosting services:
- Unnecessary software charges that are recommended by your host. Some can even try to force their customers to subscribe to free software trials after they sign up. That is why you should always check with your host if he didn't sign you on any trial like this.
- Always check your web host's IP on Spamhaus Block List and if your server's IP is on the list, you can request a relocation of the server or a change of the IP address.
- In order to avoid hosts with poor after-sales support, before you place your order, ask some technical questions so you can check how relevant the host is.
- Don't forget to check the renewal fees, since they can be quite expensive. Ask for both sign-up fees and renewal ones and compare them.
So, before choosing your host, define what your needs are at the moment and double-check the features that are included in the packages.
How to create a design for a website
Your online presentation is directly related to your brand and the reputation of your company. Visual communication with your site visitors plays a major role, and if you don’t follow some basic rules of modern design, chances are that you will lose some of your most valuable customers. So remember, first impressions count, because that back button is just one click away, and your customers will bounce right off your homepage before they even get to know anything about your business.
Keep it simple. don’t just throw on a bunch of graphics and different colors. Keeping it simple is the key to making a good first impression. Don’t be afraid to leave some white space.
Consistency. Your website is the basis of your brand, so make sure that your email channels and your social channels follow the same design. Use the same colors, same fonts, and the same graphics to build a consistent brand experience.
Don’t make users think, this really ties into keeping it simple. You always have to tell your site visitors where to go and what to do when they get there. So, use clean and simple images and call to action buttons on your website, making sure that you are driving the action you want your customers to take.
The good news is that you can create a website using a website builder, which allows you to do everything mentioned above, but without any design or development experience.
How to develop a website
As we are all aware, technology is evolving rapidly from year to year, and the Internet is growing faster than ever before. Therefore today, building and developing a website is not as complicated and expensive as it may seem. Of course, if you are looking to create a large and complex website, you will have to find developers and other experts to help you with programming and other processes. But in most cases you will be able to manage everything all by yourself, and the answer is website builders.
The best known is WordPress, a powerful website-building platform. This website builder is rather flexible and advanced, and it allows you to do almost anything you imagine with your website. That being said, you would probably have to spend quite some time learning how to use it. If you don’t have that much free time on your hands, you can always use easy drag-and-drop website builders that don’t require any development or design skills.
These website builders offer different templates for all kinds of industries, so you don’t have to worry about not finding the one that meets your needs.
How to measure visitors and setup analytics
It is crucial that you measure visitors on your website, follow the trends, and deal with analytics. By interpreting the data, you can see at what stage your business plan is and what results you’ve achieved. How else can you know if you are doing a good job?
There are quite a few tools that are helpful, so let’s start with the basics: Google Analytics.
First of all, it is important to mention that it is FREE. Google Analytics will provide you with different statistics in order to define your visitors. You will get data like site visits, bounce rate, page views, banner advertising campaigns, etc.
Take some time to watch this great video about The ABCs of Google Analytics
Useful, right? But how to set-up a basic Google Analytics account? Here are the steps:
- The first thing you need to do is of course sign up at google.com/analytics. You should have a Google account or create one.
- Afterwards, you will be able to click on the “Access Google Analytics” button and come to the setup page. There you can choose between setting your website or a mobile app, fill in your website’s name and URL, etc.
- Now you are ready to set up the tracking code, again on the setup page. After copying the code Google displays for you, paste it before the ending head tag in your HTML code and save it. That’s it! Now, just wait for Google to recognize it and when it’s done in a few hours, you will see the phrase “Status: Receiving data” next to the „Tracking ID“.
Besides Google Analytics, the most reliable tools found online are:
KISSMetrics, Clicky, Mint, Church Analytics, AHrefs, OnPage.org, etc. The choice is up to you, depending on your needs. Different tools can provide you with statistic information that is more relevant to your website needs. For example, if you want to see what your visitors actually did while on your website, you will chose Clicky over KISSMetrics, which is a great tool for online commerce.
How to attract customers
Most common misconception about starting a business online comes from a wrongly used quote: “Build it and they will come”. Putting up a website is just the beginning, now you need to go and find your audience and spread the word. You need to open social media accounts, do your research, write up content and optimize everything. Customer acquisition doesn’t come overnight and it requires a lot of effort and planning. Get your ducks in a row and check the following instructions from this list.
Make social media profiles
First of all, outline your social media strategy. Identify some general characteristics of each social media platform: demographics of the users, type of content that is distributed, the options for promotion and how other brands from your niche are managing their accounts. Social networks are a powerful marketing tool, but maximizing their potential the right way is time-consuming, so make sure you choose those platforms that align best with your business. Following the overview of the most popular social media platforms will give you pointers that will help you decide what’s best for you:
Facebook – By far the biggest and greatest, with more than 1.5 billion active users. Having a Facebook page for business has become a necessity as more and more people are using this platform to search for information, not just to connect with friends. The fact that Facebook is so popular means that your target audience is most likely already there, but the bad news is – so is the competition. Until you gain some traction among your customers, it is likely that you will have to spend some money on promoting your content to increase its visibility. But don’t let the competition discourage you, because Facebook offers a lot in terms of content. You can post links, images, upload videos, celebrate important milestones for your business, create events and most importantly, you can communicate with your audience directly. It is certain that Facebook will stay the best platform for storytelling and for developing your corporate identity in the years to come.
Twitter – This is a great platform for reaching a younger and tech-savvy audience. You can tweet comments, links, photos, videos, but because of its short format and short life span you need to be concise and on point to get your message across. There are more than 320 million active users and what is great about this platform is that most of these users are really active and hungry for new information. Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags in your tweets to reach greater audience. You should check what is trending, what is popular and figure out how you can get in that conversation. Also, it is good to leverage Twitter for customer support, because it provides a quick and personal two-way conversation with your clients.
LinkedIn – With over 380 million users worldwide, LinkedIn is the largest professional network. Around 80% of all users are older than 35 and more educated than an average Facebook or Twitter resident. If you reside in a B2B ecosystem, it is crucial to build good reputation on LinkedIn, both yours and for your company. You can join different interest groups and connect with different professionals, which makes this platform a good place for networking and promoting your products.
Instagram – This is a social media platform focused on visual content. It has 400 million active users and is still gaining traction. Instagram is more popular with a younger, under 35 audience, and there are more female than male users. To be competitive on this platform, you need to have a strong visual content, so Instagram works best for clothing brands, designers, jewelry makers, tourist agencies and businesses that can find creative ways to make their visual content appealing to users. Instagram also uses hashtags and you are encouraged to use as many as you want, as long as they are relevant.
Pinterest – Just like with Instagram, you need to excel in visual storytelling to gain popularity on this platform. About 80% of its users are women and Pinterest generally attracts younger audiences between 18 and 35 years of age. Pinterest users like to discover and gather new and exciting posts and arrange them in virtual boards, so you need to think what you can publish that will represent your brand, but at the same time captivate your audience.
There are a lot of more smaller social media platforms that you can explore, you just need to research what the best match for your industry and your personal aspirations is.
How to do on-page SEO
There is a lot, and I mean really a lot, that you can learn about SEO, and it is important that you do so, because otherwise no one will find your website through Google search. It is recommended to start with on-page SEO because you first need to make your website representable, before you start promoting it.
Start with the URL structure. Permalink – your page’s URL should be short, concise and preferably there should be a keyword in it. Keep your pages grouped in categories for better navigation and also use breadcrumb. It may come as old news, but it’s good for SEO to have a sitemap as one of the options in the main menu.
Needless to say, your content should be original and well-written, but also from the SEO point of view, your text needs to be formatted and to be with appropriate images and graphics. Use headings (H1) and sub headings (H2) to style your text in a way that it is obvious what is important (use bold and italic fonts to emphasize chosen parts).
Include internal links to connect your pages together. This is significant because that way visitors have the opportunity to see what else you posted on the topic they are currently exploring and it’s also good for Google ranking.
Make sure you don’t forget to name every page and give a description. Page title and description (meta tags) are there so both search engines and users can figure out what your page is about. Make sure to include relevant keywords in both title and description (but don’t overdo it). This way a visitor will find the exact information he was looking for in the search engine on your website.
You might also like to watch this great video from Maile Ohye from Google to learn the basics of SEO in under 10 minutes.
How to do off-page SEO
When you master on-page SEO, it’s time to lay out your off-page SEO strategy. This means that you need to invest efforts in order to get quality links referring to your website. For the search engines to “know” whether your website is relevant, it’s important to have links from authority websites referencing your page. You can accomplish this in a number of ways, but keep in mind that these links need to be organic, natural and from higher ranking websites so that you can actually benefit from them.
There are a number of tactics available for you to try and then figure out what works best for you. We can roughly divide all of them in 3 categories: link building, social media and bookmarking. Link building is widespread and most talked-about method for off-page SEO. It includes everything you can do that will result in links pointing to your site. Most common tactics are commenting on relevant forums and portals, and guest blogging.
Social media activity and sharing your content will also influence your SEO and it will certainly drive traffic.
Also, social bookmarking is an option for off-page SEO, although it’s not as popular as it used to be. Social bookmarking is an easy tactic that includes promoting your content on websites like Stumbleupon, Quora, Digg, Reddit and others. One thing that you really need to worry about is that you don’t come off as a sales person. You should try to share your content naturally, like you are the user.
How to create valuable content
All of the previously listed activities will require valuable content. What and how you write for your website will largely depend on the industry that you’re in, but there are some key points that can apply to any content strategy.
Find out what your customers are interested in and what questions they need answered. This way you can establish yourself as a go-to source for problem solving.
Keep your content current and in line with the latest trends. Update some old piece of information that is no longer true or relevant so that your content is always fresh and informative.
Make your content more interactive. Build your posts around topics that are thought-provoking and will start a conversation, but keep away from controversy and politics.
Publish content that is data-driven and educational as opposed to only opinion-based posts. Offer valuable info and craft explanatory infographics and make them easy for your audience to share. Whatever your topic is, just remember to always keep it newsworthy.
How to manage social media
When you create valuable content, you need to share it on your social media accounts for your audience to see it. Keep in mind that every social network has its own rules of communication that you need to follow and adjust your content accordingly.
When implementing your content strategy for every of your social media accounts, first find out how you can leverage that channel to gain customers. Almost every social media site has an option for sponsored and promoted posts and your job is to figure out what will meet your needs. Test every channel and analyze results to see where you should focus your efforts. When you discover the best social sites for you, establish a community around your brand and strengthen your position in the industry.
For every social platform that you pick, there are guidelines that you need to follow to take full advantage of what that platform offers. Every piece of content that you publish must be customized for that specific social platform in terms of image size, number of words and general layout. Also, keep in mind the optimal time and frequency of posting. For example: Facebook recommends that you post 2 to 4 times a week, and in the analytics section of your page you can see when your audience is online. On the other hand, you can post more often on Twitter because that is the nature of the network. Don’t post only promotional content, try to engage people and start a conversation with educational or entertaining articles that aren’t explicitly a sales pitch. But never lose the sight of what your primary goal is – attracting customers, so make sure you craft a memorable call to action for every of your profiles.
There are endless forms of online and offline advertising and more emerge every day. The decision regarding where and how to advertise will depend on your budget. It would be great to have a large amount of money to spend on commercials and amazing promo videos, but in most cases that isn’t possible or profitable. Anyways, it is good to follow a simple rule: if your business is online, you should advertise online. You can choose from a variety of online advertising types, such as paid search advertising or any type of display advertising, but there are also some emerging trends that can be worth your while.
When talking about online advertising, we can’t help but mention Google AdWords. With a wide range of ad formats and a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) model, this platform is suitable both for beginners and pros. Besides offering the biggest search engine in the world, Google AdWords has several more benefits. First off, you don’t need a large initial investment to get started, and you can use it when you are on a tight budget. In addition, it is easy to target your desired audience and test multiple campaigns at once.
Although it’s not brand new, social media advertising is powerful and always changing. New platforms enter the market and old platforms offer new ways to reach your target audience. You need to stay on top of all trends and find ways to exploit them to your benefit. Facebook probably offers the most comprehensive tool when it comes to social media advertising. You can choose from a broad selection of ads to increase your page likes, post reach, site visits and more. It is pretty easy to use and closely target your potential clients.
Also, you should try Real-Time Bidding (RTB) services. This is a very efficient way of online advertising because it provides better consumer targeting, it is cost-effective and it decreases wasted impressions and money.
How to make money
What is AdSense?
One of the easiest ways to make some extra income from your website is with AdSense. Every time someone clicks on the ad code you previously integrated into your website - you make money! This strategy is derived from a program AdWords, pay-per-click marketing (PPC).
AdSense is an „auction-based system“, so you need to compete with other advertisers and the more relevant content you have, the easier it is for Google to match the ads to your website.
Take some seconds to watch this introduction video from the Adsense team, that shows how AdSense can help you earn money by putting ads on your site
How much can you earn with AdSense?
You will benefit per click depending on how much advertisers are paying Google for the particular ad. Some niches do pay more, so the more competitive the keyword is, the more the advertisers pay and eventually, you earn more as well. Make an effort to promote your website and always create more and more relevant content. The more traffic you have, the higher the potential for better earnings.
How to join AdSense?
Now it's time to officially join AdSense by going to http://adsense.google.com to apply. Follow these few easy steps to create your account:
1. First you need to submit your application
2. Then place ads on your website
3. And just wait for AdSense to approve your account. For this step to succeed, you have to make sure your website is abiding by the AdSense policies!
After you are accepted, just copy and paste the provided HTML code into a page where you would like to show the ads. You can choose to display text or image ads, or a combination.
Now it's time to set up your form of payment. You can choose between different payment methods (Western Union, Wire Transfer, EFT, SEPA…). To set up your form of payment just click on the “gear” icon, select “Payments” and the “Payment settings” afterwards. After you check the “Available forms of payment“, click “add new bank account” or “add new form of payment” and you are ready to go!
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is both a quick and cheap way to start making money online. You don’t actually have to create any products yourself! When a purchase is initiated from a link on your website, you earn money (affiliate sales commission). Yes, it is easy to get started, but in order to be successful you need to put a lot of effort.
How to get started?
The first step is obviously creating a website. We assume that you've already created an awesome website by following our steps! As mentioned earlier, choose a niche you're familiar with so that you can create relevant content.
How to find products and services to promote?
You can find many affiliate networks that help merchants connect with site publishers. Depending on the niche, there are Clickbank, E-junkie, PayDotCom for e-books and software or, for example, Commission Junction for more “typical” products.
How to choose a business model?
You can choose between two main business models when trying to make your website suitable for affiliate marketing:
1. A resource website, focused on covering articles and posts with “how to” content. They include affiliate links to click on for more information.
2. A review website, that writes about products or services. They also include a link which leads to the merchant partner’s site.
How to get the most of it?
In order to succeed, websites that choose affiliate marketing have to be able to attract a lot of traffic in a targeted niche. That's why it is important that you read the previous chapter on attracting customers. Don't underestimate the advice found on forums such as Digital Point, aBestWeb, Warrior Forum, to name a few. You can find very useful advice shared not only by gurus, but also by new online entrepreneurs!
What are Subscriptions?
Earning money through subscriptions means charging people to access the content within your website.
How to get started?
This business model is used successfully by a number of news and tutorial websites. But, if you have specialized content, you can benefit as well, no matter what your niche is. The trick is to put some content, or all of it, behind a paywall. So, in order to see it, your visitors need to become subscribers.
How to succeed?
Sounds easy, right? But, you have to be able to offer your subscribers something they can't easily find elsewhere. Try with research reports, expert webinar transcripts, case studies or a private forum available to subscribed members only.
Give visitors just a peek. For example, if you have a really thorough case study, make a part of it visible on your website, but “hide” the best part! Or, try out a completely opposite strategy - lead with your strength. Rather than hide your most desirable articles or features, give your visitors a reason to want more! You can also try offering your visitors a carrot – an irresistible bonus, something not available elsewhere. A “good carrot” are tempting downloads available on the website, but before you allow them, readers must subscribe. Just beware of “stale” carrots; bad ones are worse than having none.
How to retain customers?
Most businesses devote all of their time and money to finding new customers and they forget to nurture relationships that they already have. Customer retention requires specific efforts that you need to undertake in order to grow your business, because there is no point in constantly chasing new prospects if you can’t keep them as regular clients. It’s better to pay attention on your existing customer base and nurture those connections. That way you can learn more about your users and from there you can continue to grow your market. There are many things you can do to enhance customer retention, but you need to start with your approach towards customers: Your business was built so you could make profit, but it also needs to create some kind of value to the consumer.
When making a newsletter, the first thing you need to do is research. Find out what other companies in your industry are sending out and how they do it. In order to have a successful newsletter, there has to be something to write about, and pushing only promotional content and sales offers will be ineffective. Your subscribers will feel bombarded by your sales pitch and they will opt out or worse, mark your newsletter as spam.
Here are some stats (according to grasshopper.com) on how people react when receiving emails:
For a balanced newsletter, it’s good to have educational content that goes well with your call to action; this way readers will have the opportunity to learn something new, not just to read your sales offers. Moreover, it’s important to invest some effort in your subscribe page and content on it. Explain to your customers what kind of information they can expect from your newsletter and make sure you spike their interest.
Don’t go overboard with design. You may be tempted to include images, graphics, and nice fonts but just be sure that it looks tasteful, is clear-cut and easy to read. A great deal of people have disabled images in their emails, so you always need to have alt text for every graphic that you send. Alternative text will appear instead of the images, so your message will reach everyone.
Although this may sound ineffective, your unsubscribe button needs to be in a visible spot. You want people on your subscriber list to actually read your emails and not to feel like they can’t get rid of your messages.
Be mindful of the email subject and the prevailing tone of the newsletter. Be consistent and if your industry allows it, be witty and amusing. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes, think about what would be interesting to them, but at the same time make sure your call to action is loud and clear.
Retargeting is an online marketing tactic that allows you to target only those users who have already visited your website. This way you can reach out to people who are familiar with your brand but for some reason didn’t convert. The path that your users follow from the first click on your website to the final purchase of your product will vary to a high degree, so retargeting is essential for reminding indecisive customers or people that were interested but something else drew away their attention.
Every day people interact with numerous businesses and brands, and they talk about it with their family, friends or online followers, sharing their good and bad experiences. And they are doing that willingly on their own, so it is important to find the way to utilize that.
For a business that is just starting out, referral marketing may be very beneficial, but this doesn’t mean that older companies should skip this valuable strategy. Essentially, referral marketing comes down to a couple of tactics that will encourage customers, bloggers, influencers and media outlets to share positive experience they had when dealing with your business. There are number of things that you can do, but you should start by making it easy for visitors of your site to share it on their social media accounts. Also, you should ask your existing customers to share and recommend your brand to their friends. This process can be automated and you can offer different incentives and promo codes to users who successfully recommend your business to someone else. Furthermore, you can reach out to influencers and bloggers in your industry to convince them to review your product in exchange for some free samples, premium account or whatever you are offering.
In today’s competitive market it is critical to try every possible thing to be better than others. That’s why you should always try to over-deliver. It doesn’t matter if you offer a product or a service, or if your industry is traditional or up-and-coming, the customers will always appreciate it if you exceed their expectations. Of course, you aren’t supposed to provide something that isn’t cost-effective for your business. You should just try to add something special to your customers’ experience. Whether that means devoting more time to them or throwing in some free samples of your product, that’s up to you, but always try to go that extra mile for your clients and they will reward you with loyalty and referrals.
How to make your team
How to hire, where to find freelancers?
The first thing you should know when hiring freelancers is: Where to find them? If you do even little research, two big resources will pop out: Upwork (former oDesk and Elance) and Freelancer. There you can find tons of freelancers from all over the globe with a wide range of skills and hire rates.
Keep in mind that you can hire freelancers for any type of work that can be handled from a computer. You can choose to hire people for part-time or ongoing work, a team or an individual. The first issue that you are going to face is: How to hire the right candidate? The most important thing is to make a concise and clear job post with a short description of the skills and experience needed. After a bunch of candidates apply, it's up to you to choose whether you are going to have a video interview, a quick chat or you are going to hire your favorite candidate immediately. Of course, one of the important things you should know is – How do payments work? You can pay your candidate per hour or per project and you can negotiate the fee.
Depending on the choice you make, different platforms have different rules, but either way, don't worry – only work approved by you gets paid! There are a few systems designed specifically for this matter, like Work diary, Dispute resolution, etc. Also, all platforms have a few billing methods such as PayPal, credit card payment or through bank account. When negotiating the fee, bare in mind that platforms will deduct a percentage from the rate you pay to the freelancer (usually 10%). This may sound a bit complicated, but don't worry, as soon as you sign up in Upwork as a client, you can easily set up payment method following simple steps described in the video below.
Don't forget your local community! Often, you may find Meetup groups and chambers of commerce as the best source for freelancers. Let's not forget the benefit of meeting your contractor face-to-face!
Usually, this will give you a really good idea about a person in a few minutes, but if you chose to hire online here is a tip: give them a small task of the overall project just to make sure that you can cooperate. But, it is very important NOT to ask your freelancer to complete a project for free with the promise of more work later. Not only is this disrespectful to the freelancer, but you will also gain a very bad reputation, which will make it harder for you to hire good candidates.
The main challenge you will have to face when starting an internet business is that your team might be virtual. One of the key benefits of this kind of team is that you can choose the best talents from all around the world! Not to mention that you can save money by reducing office space expenses, as team members usually work from home. But, bare in mind that you will have to overcome many challenges as well.
Here are some tips for an effective virtual team organization:
- Match the skills of your employees to the tasks of the project but identify the personalities you feel complement one another. In order to be successful, the team should maximize the talents of its individual members and combine the energies that are focused on a common goal.
- Work with the team to set goals and remove obstacles, but delegate authority afterwards. Don't forget to support your team constantly! Communication is vital for this stage, so you should choose the right tools in order to make it flawless. There is a wide range of tools that can be very useful, but keep your focus on the ones that can provide you with (online) face to face communication, such as Skype, Viber or Hangouts that support video calls. For regular communication on a daily basis, create a chat room for the whole team and also for the smaller teams that cooperate.
- In order to monitor the progress successfully, provide a forum to share concerns, project status, completed tasks, share Brainstorming ideas etc. There are tools for this as well, such as Trello, Breeze, Dropbox. Don't underestimate the basic Google Docs and Sheets, but don't forget to give permission to access and edit to team members.
To get the most out of your team, motivation is crucial, especially because working online can be very isolating. Invest time to build and maintain relationships, despite different time zones and distance. The first step is to BE AVAILABLE. Make sure your team members don’t feel your absence, talk about their duties and activities, but have informal chats as well. Get to know them better, ask about their social life and talents. This will allow you to find assignments that matches their strengths and interests. Of course, you should do this naturally and friendly: organize “happy Friday“ video calls, exchange small gifts through Amazon for holidays, etc.
Be open to coaching sessions. Ask your team members if they feel that they need additional help in improving a skill, help with using a tool or anything else, but let them know that you are happy to help them.
Like in every team, recognition is vital for keeping employees engaged in their work. Do it in a unique way: praise someone for achievement on a group call or through a group e-mail or send customized gifts like gift cards, gift baskets, favorite chocolates, and so on.
Always keep in mind that small gestures lead to great results, share your energy and motivation with your team members and success is guaranteed!
How to get funded
One of the biggest challenges you’re going to face when starting a business is funding. Rather than taking out loans or accepting investments from unknown stakeholders, many entrepreneurs choose bootstrap financing. Bootstrapping means using your own money to get your business started.
If you have the resources to do it, you can benefit from the complete financial control over your business. You won't have to worry about lenders looking for their loan payments each month or for other stakeholders demanding you to make a certain move.
Like any financing, bootstrapping comes with pros and cons. There are a number of advantages when using this method:
- You won't have to worry about paying high interest on borrowed money.
- You won’t have to share the ownership with outside shareholders and that’s why you will be the only one who has the complete control over your business.
- You can focus on the essential things, be more analytical in terms of where to spend your money. This skill is crucial for any entrepreneur!
- Bootstrapping basically forces you to find creative ways to earn money and more than that, to manage the growth of your business in future as well.
- The less the debt you are dealing with, the more desirable you are to investors. One day you might choose to raise money through them, keep that in mind.
Of course, bootstrapping means that your business’ budget closely depends on your personal earnings and savings. And, if you don't have the right skills to manage your budget, you might end up in serious debts.
Getting your start-up accepted by a business accelerator can be a very good form of funding. Business accelerator programs usually offer start-ups more than just funding: relevant employees, helpful services, networking and helpful contacts. But, to get accepted by the best accelerators, your start-up business needs to be really competitive.
Getting accepted is not the end of the process. Your start-up must be able to get a customer and develop a business prototype in a few months. If you meet these milestones, your start-up can eventually get into the network of investors. Don't forget to keep your competitive spirit because the best accelerators have high criteria when choosing a start-up and only the best ones succeed.
Here are some reasons why you should consider this form of funding:
- You can have both mentorship and feedback. If you get into a network of top entrepreneurs and investors, you can learn from their experience. More than that, they will provide you with relevant guidance and feedback.
- You will be sure that your idea is actually a potential great business because you will get a lot of customer feedback, measure your progress through a ton of tests etc. With the idea of finding the best product for the chosen niche, you will basically force yourself to plan for a much longer period of time.
- You will learn a lot from other entrepreneurs but also compete with them. Never forget the advantage of a “healthy competition” that pushes you to work harder and better! But, if you are looking for immediate funding or for investors, then funding through accelerators isn't a suitable idea for you.
Angels and VC funds
Angel investors are usually wealthy professionals or rich people with a good sense of recognizing the right business potential. What matters the most is that they are interested in investing in your business. Of course, for “a piece of action” in return.
The “angels” need to comply with the standards of the Securities Exchange Commission's (SEC) for these type of investors. That way, you are sure that your angel actually has enough money to invest. So how does it work? By purchasing equity in your company, the “angels” make an investment in it. Usually, businesses using angel funds already have decent revenue, but for future growth, they still need more funding. Besides providing you with money, “angels” can become very good mentors, since now you share the same goal - the success of the start-up. On the other hand, there is always a risk that you are giving away too big a percentage of your business and that one day the “angel“ can decide to actually fire you!
Venture capital (VC) funds are another option similar to “angels”. Both wealthy individuals and big companies make money by investing in riskier start-ups with higher returns. Through venture capital funds, they channel those investments. The investors will decide on the size of the fund and come up with a customized offer for your start-up. They will become limited partners to your business. A VC is successful if one-third of its portfolio companies provide returns. This usually takes five to seven years, but bear in mind that the life of fund is about 10 years.
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