With the world being the way it is right now, career and work uncertainty is a worry for many. And with the coronavirus (COVID-19) currently keeping a lot of us at home, there are a lot of people looking into alternative working options to help alleviate those worries a little. These include alternative opportunities such as working remotely, going part time and even starting your own online business.
For many, the idea of working for yourself is an attractive proposition. And is it any wonder? Not only does having your own online business enable you to work from home and be with your children when needed, it also ticks a lot of boxes, if you want freedom and choice around how and when you work. And of course, it doesn’t have to cost a lot to get started.
You need accurate information, when starting your own online business
If you’re someone who is either just starting out on your self employed path or currently looking into your options, it’s important that there’s accurate information out there to support you. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself investing in things you don’t really need and aren’t essential for your startup business.
Unfortunately, social media has opened the floodgates for affordable online advertising and targeted promotions. This often means we’re inundated with advertising and status updates promoting everything from books and courses, through to mentors and subscriptions, all offering potential solutions for every issue we may face and answering every question we may (and may not!) have. And they all make it increasingly difficult for new online business owners to know what they do and don’t really need to invest in, when they’re getting started.
So, whether you’re looking to start your own online business as a coach, Virtual Assistant, freelance creative or something else, here’s a breakdown of the 5 essential things you do need to invest in, when starting out with your own business.
#1: Domain URL (pricing from as little as 99p for your first year, with annual renewals from £10-15 a year)
Top of my list, when starting your own online business, is your website - all online businesses need one. More specifically, you need a unique website address (otherwise known as a domain URL) for your website and a domain hosting provider (see below) to give your website a space online to house your website. It doesn’t matter if you have accounts on all the social media platforms and spend all of your time on one specific platform - you still need a separate website for your business, if you want to maximise on SEO benefits and ownership of your own materials.
When it comes to deciding on a domain URL for your business, it pays to carry out research first. Check with Companies House and also carry out a quick online search, to check the name you want isn’t already taken and/or associated with a business in a similar niche. I’d also take these tips into account:
- Try to incorporate a keyword - a keyword is a search word or phrase that accurately describes what you do and is something someone would type into a search engine to find you (such as bloggingbusinesssolutions.com or SmallBusinessVA.com).
- Make it simple and easy to type - avoid clever spelling and slang terminology, as it’s never easy to remember. Also, avoid using dashes and numbers, as they cause confusion.
- Make use of domain name extensions - if you’re a local UK business, I’d opt for a domain ending in ‘.co.uk’ and if you’re looking to portray a wider reach, opt for ‘.com’. Computer Hope has a complete list of the different extensions and their definitions available.
Winning WP has an excellent article on the 22 Essential tips for choosing the best possible domain name. Take a moment to read through it, before you choose your URL.
I’d recommend you buy ‘.co.uk’ domains from 123-Reg and ‘.com’ domains from either 123-Reg or Dynonames, as they’re both easy to use and offer affordable domain prices. I’d also suggest you only buy the domain names from them - don’t opt for any suggested extras or hosting during the checkout stage, as it can soon add up to a lot of unnecessary expense (although you way want to opt in for private domain registration/WHOis records, if you like).
#2 Website Hosting (pricing from as little as £2.99 a month for your first year)
When it comes to picking a website hosting provider, there’s a lot of choice out there. However, make sure you check the small print, as many providers hike the prices up A LOT, after your first year. You’ll also often find it more cost effective to pay on an annual basis, to get the best monthly equivalent pricing.
As there are so many options out there, I’d do your homework and thoroughly review your options. There are also a lot of things you need to check, to help narrow down your options. These include:
- How many sites you can have on an account
- Site visit allowance per month
- Bandwidth and local storage limitations
- SSL certificate (you need this included)
- Email accounts
- Easy WordPress installation
- Backup frequency
I’ll be honest with you, I opted to go with Kajabi, as they included everything I needed, so I could cancel a few other expenses I was previously paying out for - including a website hosting provider, additional WordPress plugins and the need for a separate mailing list provider (see below). However, I appreciate their pricing may not be suitable for all businesses, especially if you’re just starting your own online business - so my advice would be, check your business expenses every quarter and, if your combined expenditure starts getting near the £90 a month mark, look into Kajabi for yourself!
In the meantime, for hosting providers I’d look into the following options. Siteground (starts at £2.99 a month, but jumps to £8.99 a month after first year), 123 Reg (you’ll need the business plan at £4.79 a month - but be aware the price jumps up after the first year and you’ll need to get an SSL certificate separately, unless you go up to their unlimited plan), Lyrical Host (from £9.99 a month), and WP Engine (starting from $30 a month). They’ve all been recommended in the blogging and VA community, and seem to have good track records - but as with anything, do your homework first!
#3: Mailing list (pricing starts at free!)
It doesn’t matter what type of online business you’re looking to start, you will need a mailing list. Why? Because this list is something that shows you who is really interested in your products and services, it’s a great way to both stay in touch and build relationships with your ideal customers, and it’s a list that will help you grow your business.
Your mailing list is something you own. When you think about the fans and followers you have on social media, remember that you don’t own that list of names. If a social media platform decides to close your account - you will have no way of capturing those details before they do and you will lose those names forever.
Having your own mailing list is an essential part of your business growth, and it’s never too early to start one. It gives you an opportunity to stay in touch with your fans and followers, and to offer them even more value, advice and, when the time is right, an opportunity to buy what you have to offer.
Prior to moving over to Kajabi, I was using ConvertKit - and they’d be my one and only choice for you. What’s great about ConvertKit is, when you’re first starting your own online business, you naturally want to keep the costs as low as possible - so they’ve just introduced a new free account option. This free account will enable you to build your mailing list up to 500 people, and if you go over this number (or want more functionality) their paid account starts at $29 a month - so they’re an affordable solution for everyone.
#4: Support for yourself and your business (pricing starts at free, but will vary depending on your choices)
Never underestimate this investment. Starting your own online business can be fun, exciting and exhilarating - but it can also be confusing, frustrating and downright uncomfortable at times. You will want someone to talk to and you will need help - and that’s why you need support on this journey.
Obviously there are various options here, ranging from hiring a business coach or mentor, through to getting yourself an informal accountability buddy. No matter what your available funds, pick your solution carefully.
If you’re opting for an accountability buddy, pick someone who isn’t just going to just cheer lead you all the time, but someone who will also challenge you when needed, too. You’ll want someone who is willing to listen to your frustrations and help act as a sounding board and brainstorm buddy, when needed. Ideally, you want someone who has experience of successfully running a business, so they can share insights and ideas with you.
That’s why it’s often easier in the long run, to invest in a business mentor or coach. I understand pricing varies immensely, but it really does depend on the type of services you select. For example, 1:2:1 coaching will be the most expensive option, but a group coaching experience will be cheaper. Alternatively, many mentors and coaches will have group membership options, where you don’t have the 1:2:1 element of working with them, but you do have access to them via online groups and recorded training sessions etc.
I have several recommendations for you here. If you’re looking for Virtual Assistant training and support, check out the VACT website - especially the VA Membership (at £40 a month) and the Kick Start Your VA Business online training (£99 one-off). For other types of business, I’d recommend Carrie Green’s Female Entrepreneur Association ($47 a month) or Claire Mitchell’s The Brilliant Business Academy (£17.50 a month).
#5: Invest in yourself
If you want to start your own online business, this one is a total non-negotiable. Working for yourself isn’t always easy (take a look at my recent blog post on the 10 ugly truths you need to hear about working for yourself!). If you want to succeed, you need to believe in yourself and your abilities. So invest in yourself, so you have that confidence and self belief. Invest in your training and learn the skills you need, to be successful at it.
Now when I talk about investing in yourself, I’m not talking just about a financial investment - you need to invest time and effort too. It’s about having the right mindset and attitude to your business. A lot of the traits you need for blogging are traits that will serve you well in business generally, especially when you’re first starting your own online business. (check out this blog on the 15 important mindsets you need to blog for your business, if you want to know what those traits are).
Read books and blogs on subjects you need to improve, follow inspirational people, take time to write in your journal and to look after your mental and physical health, and get clear on your goals and plans.
But most importantly, give yourself the time and space you need, to get started. Have a plan in place for your business and your own self improvement. Know where you’re going to be spending your time and the things that you need to focus on, and be smart with what you do within those available time slots. And know when you’re going to switch off and end your working day.
Starting your own online business is the beginning of a new journey for you. It’s up to you how seriously you take that journey, the timescales involved and what stops you’ll make along the way. However, it is a journey that doesn’t have to be an expensive one either.
The five things mentioned above are what I consider to be the essential things you need to invest in, when starting your own online business. There are other tools and services available to you that will help speed up your journey and shorten the timescales involved. However, the key is to be smart with where you spend your money.
Start with the essentials listed above and decide which options within each of those, you can realistically afford to invest in - and then take action and get started. And remember, by investing in the right things and ignoring the noise and seemingly attractiveness of the other options around you, you’ll be able to stay focused and on track towards your desired end destination - successfully starting and running your own online business.
If you’re starting your own online business, I’d love to hear from you. If you’re stuck on an element of running your own business or looking for help on how to improve your confidence, I’m looking to write blog posts that truly help you. So why not get in touch? You can send me an email through my contact page or simply leave a comment below. I personally reply to all emails and comments, and you’ll also be helping to shape the content of future blog posts on here, too!
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