Build an Online Business: The Complete Guide

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Online businesses can be classified as any business activity that strongly relies on internet-based communication. Traditional e-commerce is one of the most common examples, but there are many others as we will discuss in this guide.

In 2021, according to data from Statista, 2.14 billion people shopped online (Statista e-commerce 2021 Data). This number has been consistently increasing at about 5% per year for the past decade and it already represents more than 19% ($26.7 Trillion) of all global sales (UNCTAD).

As e-commerce, other areas have recently experienced a larger increase such as digital education, digital services, automation and so on. So yes, in a way we can say that digital is here to stay and will become increasily more important in the future of global commerce, businesses and social behaviour.

1. Why Create and Online Business

With no further due, let's state why we think that digital businesses may be the best thing to place your bet on getting a future revenue and, may be a new way to pursue a new and more independant and profitable future:

  • Reduced cost of physical facilities
  • Ease of creating an online presence
  • Reach more markets globally and Internet is expanding
  • People and specially younger generations are more prompt to do things online
  • Technological evolution of payment platforms
  • Being a "producer" stimulates your mind and creates new challenges
  • More freedom to pursue your golas

For entrepreneurs who are taking his first steps in the digital field, investing in online businesses requires fewer resources, potentially offers less risk and allows for greater freedom and control. So, simply put, if this doesn not stimulate you you should probably stop reading now.

Let's get started. Here is a comprenesive list of the opportunities you can pursue:

2. Step-by-step

2.1. Create online content

There are many ways and platforms that you can use to create and monetize online content. Creating articles, videos, podcasts and even infographics can be a source of recurrent revenue if done professionally.

However, to be done efficiently, online content requires quite a good deal of Strategic Planning. The Internet is full of high quality content that competes in ranking places in Google and social media sites. Knowing what to write and how to write it is the key.

There are four important aspects you will need to consider before starting, they are: niche focus, deliver quality content, offer real value and finally establish authority.

  • Focus on a NicheThe most important aspect before you start is to select the niche you want to start create content for. Whether it is articles, videos, podcasts or graphics, you will need to make research to help you focus on a theme and select a clear target audience.

  • Deliver Quality content

    Good articles will get more engagement, people will spend more time reading it and that will help with the search rank and geting more views. A poor article just will just eclipse itself and will get you nothing. Guaranteed!

  • Offer Real Value to people

    One key thing you need to keep in mind is that when people read your article (or view your video) they expect to get something in return. When writing an article or producing a video about education you will need yo keep in mind that the viewer is looking for you to solve his problem.

  • Establish Your authority

    If you focus on providing quality and engaging content you can establish your authority in a particular field and be an influencer. Because, after creating quality content, its all about marketing. You can use your personal brand (your name) to spread the word about your expertise by building a consistent presence across several online platforms.

2.2. Content Strategy

Ok, now that we got this out of the way let's talk about our next subject: Content Strategy. Content Strategy, which is different from Content Marketing Strategy, deals with with strategy the high-level planning for your content producing activities and how we they will interact with your brand, who will they reach, and how they will help you achieve your business goals.

Typically to define your Content Strategy you'll need to supports the following things: answer these questions:

  • What you’re trying to accomplish
  • Who you’re trying to reach
  • What types of content you’ll publish
  • How your content will support the brand
  • The ways in which your content will be differentiated
  • How you will promote and amplify your content
  • The metrics that define success

The answer for these questins will guide you into to following the best steps to build a strong base of quality and engaging content that can promote promote you brand, build audience and get leads to your sales if that's the case.

Content Strategy is both labour intensive and can be quite complex as it leads with many different activities and tools thart support it. It envolves using tools tpo perform Content Optimization tasks that can find the best keywords and search activity for the theme you have chosen.

The most used tool for Content Optimization is the Google Search Console, which is a free tool offered by Google to optimize content on your site. You can use Google Search Console as a way to look into how search engines understand your content. There are many other tools you can check, check out this article: 10 Best Content Optimization Tools for SEO - to know the pros and cons about them.

2.3. Content Marketing Strategy

The next step on your list is to build your Content Marketing Strategy, which operationalizes the distribution of the content you have produced. Once you have quality and search optimized content available you will need to monetize it. Let's consider 3 main ways of monetization:

  • Using your own blog or website
  • Using 3rd party platforms
  • Selling your content to clients

Monetizing content through your own blog or website, as oposed buy having other to do it, gives you much more flexibility to try different aproaches but, on the other hand, it can also also complicate things because you will need the time (and skills) dedicated to marketing specific tasks and that can distract you from the content creation tasks.

Those 3 monetizations options are not, however, mutual exclusive, so you can have your own site and sell content through 3rd party platformas or direct clients.

Ok, lets start by the usnig your own website or blog, or landing page. Here there are several different tasks that you'll need to master:

  1. Monetizing content through your blog or website

    First you will need a website to work with. Normally it can be blog service like Wix or you can have your own wordpress installation on hosting provider.

    Once you have your blog or website ready you can monetize it through many ways. We have sorted out a list ordered from less difficult to most difficult so that you can sort out how you want to proceed:

  2. Sell Content as a Freelancer

    This is the easiest ways to moniteze your content since your blog will serve as a showcase of your services with a few articles. You can also opt for selling custom exclusive articles you have published already (you can tell google that the article permanebnt url has changed with a simple hack).

  3. Use Google AdSense

    Less difficult to set up but requires large volume of traffic. Tipically hundreds of thousands visulization to get a minimum monthly income of $500. Your content needs to be in niche or high traffic volume keywords.

  4. Sell Sponsored Articles

    Sponsored content is usually payed by an advertiser or directly by a brand. In each case you will to present them with good traffic statistics. Work hard on the media presentation. Needs to know your market and go after each lead.

  5. Get sponsored by a brand

    Beside creating sponsored article you can also get those clienets to sponsor you in a more permanent way. Create sponsorship packages and sell them as an alternative or in a complementary way to sponsered posts.

  6. Sell Coaching or Consulting Advice

    Offering coaching services is one of the easiest ways of monetizing your blog. You can offer one-to-one or group consulting. Normally your stuck in the location or, if you want to do it online you will have to build a stron reputation. You also have the option to become a coach and turn your blog into a cash-making machine.

  7. Sell Affiliate Marketing

    You write specific articles or setup landing pages that link to a specific product which you are affiliated with. You will earn a commission for each sell that originated from your pages.

  8. Sell Physical Products

    You will need to setup a shop and a payment system to selling physical products. Ussually works best in a niche market where you don't have so much competition.

  9. Create Sponsored Email Newsletters

    With the leads comming from your content you can setup up email lists organizaed by interests and create a steady flow of newsletters where you can sell space on.

  10. Sell Info Products

    Needs work on creating a strong base of articles, guides and videos. You caan also create specific ebooks and selle them via their own landing page. Helps to be have a stong authority on your niche, otherwise content is difficult to sell.

  11. Sell memberships to your site

    You will need strong quality content (especially videos) and established authority that can be complemented with guest speakers. You can create a membership area of your site and use a thierd party platform like Patreon.

  12. Sell Online Courses

    It envolves creating quality content organizaed in a course structure layout. It envolves creating lessons, grahics, guides and most omportant video lessons.

  13. Organize Webinars or Workshops

    Building a strong community around a niche subject and establishing a theme authority will enable you to setup a strong community where you can organiza online talks, virtual meetings and even online workshops.

  14. Sell Digital Products

    Creating digital products can be difficult since it envolves programming. You should focus on developing a quick prototype related with the content niche you have chosen and validate it with subscriptions. Keep it simple.

  15. Sell your own Merchandise

    Many blogers create specific mercghandise related with the content they produce. If you have a vast audience and loyal , merchandise products can be a way to ger finantial support. You will need to be very creative.

2.4. Setting up your Social Media pages

Social media is a mandatory step getting online audience and be seen in your niche market. Depending on your public (age, interests, and geography) you can choose the righ social media channels.

One strategy is to open 3 or 4 social accounts but to invets most on your marketing effort in only one or two ate the most. For example, if your audience is youngert You can might wanto to concentrate your effort in Instagram and maybe Facebook.

If you audience is more business related and you know your viewers and buyers are mostly in LinkedIn, that will be your main media channel. Be prepared that building audiences in some channels can be a more painful ant time consuming process. An example of this is Facebook versus Twitter, being the former more easy to get more audience.

There is also the question of how each social network is implanted on you country or business zone. For example Twitter does not work well in ome countries and there are others tha have their own local social networks.

Oppenning a social network account is very easy and generally requires a few minutes. Each social network requires different information but also different photo dimensions toi work with.

Best way is to build a set of templates to work with, here are some examples:

  • Your logo brand

    Normally must have squared dimensions and must work with a rounded frame.

  • A cover page

    Start with a 2.5 by 1 layout an be prepared to strech it to 3.5 by 1.

  • A generic brand photo backgound

    You can opt for a squered layout (1 by 1 ) but also have a 3 by 2 version. You can promote anything by writing diffrenet text on it.

  • Specific photo backgound for each theme

    If you want to promote webinars, initiatives, speakers or other type you can build a specific photo background for each one.

  • Engaging phrase photo backgound

    If you want to promete and engaging pharese of some famous perso you can build phto backgrounds with different colors.

    One way to work with different image sizes is to build a template base which cab be adaptable and cropped to different resolutions. You can have diffrenet templates sucha as one for generic cover, other for a festive cover, other to introduce an initiative, a speaker, a produt or even an engaging phrase you want to post.

    When you have a different the different templates you can build different versions with their own dimensions and use a slide show document to insert the text into them. For example using a slide show in Google Drive enable you to post text messages with shadowns or logos inside the images very easily. If you do the right homework you can pass the temnplate to a marketeter person and she can easly change it with the roght content.

2.5. Monitorizing results

After defining your content strategy, setting up the website and openning the social media pages your're hal way the process. Now is a time to publish the first contents, make the first posts on social media and start measuring the resuls.

If your website getting organic page views (withouy payed campaigns) will be more difficult and take more time. So a way to measure the quality and engagement of your content will be to create camaigns on the social networks.

Our advice is to diversify on a few (3 or four different pieces of content) and test them with 2 campaigns each. You can test each article to a different audience on a 7-day period so that you can measure the results.

As we saiid beforre, getting substatntial organic views can take more time, but it also depend on the frequency of the posts you make and on the history of your social pages.

2.6. Monetizing content throug 3rd-party platforms

As we said, you can also monetize your content through other platforms. There are many ways to do this:

1. Using Affiliate Market Platforms

There are a number of Affiliate Market Platforms that monetize content from different selleres. These platforms normally are basically brokers between you, the advertiser, and the sellers.

These platforms let you choose between brands and types of services and facilitate yu with the links or "widgets" that you can insert into your content, which constitute the the call to action to make a registration or a sale.

When choosing thos sellers you will have to take in account the type of content your're creating so that there is a perfect "fit" between them. If your content is about cloathing, you will not want to redirect the viewer to a food product. So wether you opt to write epecific content for the services you want to promote or you concentrate on your specific niche and then choose only the ones that are a fir, it's up to you.

Normally these platforms give you commission information and statistics. There are services that can pay you for a "Lead", aka registration on their website, or for a "Sale". Commissions are normally fixed and can range from a few cents to a few dolars or more depending on the type of market and service.

Affiliate platform normally pay you afetr a certain ammount of time (eg. end of the month) with a certain minimul ammount limit. You will also have to pay charges from the ammount you recuieve deppending on th eprovider and the country you're in.

2. Selling as an Affilitate

This option is similar to the above, but with the distintion that you register into each brand as an affililiate, eliminating the middle man (the platform). Normally you can use both startegies and see how they can complement each other or what works for you.

This strategy can give you more freedom to choose the products that you want to promote and have more control of your business but nevertheless you will have to follow the rules of each brand you're affiliated with. Aslo, managing each seller can be more time consummibng especcilaly if you have low sales from them.

3. Selling Your Services on Marketplaces

Selling your services through a Marketplace can be complicated because you will be in direct competion with other providers. This can be mean that you will have to lower your margins to get sales and sometimes negotiate pricing.

This is an opposed strategy of having your own brand and managing your direct sales contacts. We view as this strategy as a complement of the direct approach, so that you're no dependent on the low pricing. In summary, less control and shorter margins.

You can also use other content platforms and service sto monitize you creative content.

4. Create "Info Products"

An “Info Product”, also known as an “Information Product”, is a product that contains any knowledge/intellectual property/know-how that’s useful to others. In the online marketing world they typically come in formats like PDFs, ebooks, audio recordings, video, online courses, wordpress themes, to name a few.

Besides being used for marketing campaigns and lead aquisition, "Info Products" can also be easily sold online by a small fraction of the ammount they cost to build. If you can sell it many times you can easily cover the fixed cost and make profit in a continuous way. And that's making money even when you are asleep.

But building an Info Product requires a careful strategic planning and lots of research. Here's some steps you need to consider:

  • What area of expertise you want to follow
  • How much time are you willing to spend creating your content
  • What is your target audience
  • What is the price point your audience might be willing to pay
  • What channels and platforms toI use to promete or it sell it
  • What communication strategy to use to get leads and sales

Building, marketing and selling "Info Products" might be hard in the begining because you will have to learn all the necessary skills setup your infrastructure, but once you get it right sales will come. It can be very profitable and you might build a passive income whether you work on it on a regular basis or not.

There are many types of Infor Products that you can choose to crete and sell. Here are the most common ones:

  • Ebooks
  • Guides
  • Educational Videos
  • Recorded Webinars
  • Recorded Workshops
  • Online Courses
  • Service Subscriptions
  • Membership Subscriptions
  • Digital Graphic Collections
  • Document Templates
  • Reports and Analisys
  • Directory Databases
  • Live Events
  • Checklists
  • Website Templates
  • Computer Software
  • Software Addons

  • Besides thes one there are an infinite number of other types that we can call an Info Products but which generally are normally associated with a niche or some product. Some examples of these are: Music, cheats (gaming), book and learning summaries, techical manuals

    Info products are very commonly promoted via their own Landing Pages which are basically "long" one-page websites that try to convince people to buy that specific digital product. Landin Pages normally have a video presentation with a narrator telling you about the benefits of that specific the product. For more information please refer to the Landing page section.

    Also has testimonials, etc

    Just to sumarize, Info Products are a great way to build specific/niche information on a digital format that can be sell as many times as you like. Production costs are high in the begining, aslo you will need some kind of developed expertise to create one of these product, but afterwards it is a very good way to build a steady income.

    If you want to learn in more detail about the steps needed to create an "Info Product" check out this superb article.

    5. Create websites

    Although some tools offer ready-made templates or simple editors, website creation is still a promising branch on the internet.

    In this case, the professional needs technical knowledge to elaborate the structure and design of a website according to the client's needs.

    The public's favorite platform is WordPress, but there are other solutions better suited for other types of online businesses, such as online stores.

    6. Buy products and sell them on higher pricing markets

    Commodity production values vary greatly from one country to another. The same can be said from their retail prices, so one good option might be to import products from China or other places known for their low taxes and reduced manufacturing costs.

    As a digital entrepreneur you can buys items, usually in large quantities, and stock them for resale in virtual stores. This model works very well in markets like technology and fashion for example, but there can be other types that are niche or barely rarely exist on the markets you want to sell.

    One of the most traditional sites used for shopping is AliExpress but there are contless others.

    7. Start a franchised business

    The most common barrier to creating a businesses is lack of access to capital and resources. Here is where a franchised business can help since the normally the established has already invested in building the resources and and the reputation of the brand.

    Another important advantage is that a franchised business is already proven business and that reduces the risl of starting a business. Normally online franchise business ask for a initial fee that covers material, trainning and also brand rights.

    Besides that, the logic of online franchises is very similar to traditional ones. You will have to work your way into creating your custommers and managing the service. There is a miriad of online franchises that you can chosse, from starting a translation business, e-commerce website or any other online activity.

    Franchised online business can have many advantages that can hel set up your business quickly and easy, but there is also a number of disadvantages since franchises must follow certain rules and standards to maintain product quality and provide an experience similar to other franchisees.

    8. Build an advertising/marketing agency

    There are many examples of businesses that have been adapted to the digital world, but few have fit as well as advertising and marketing agencies. This type of activity can be performed fully online, having team members who work from their home or office place.

    Advertising and Marketing agencies perform services like Marketing Strategy, Copywriting, Website and Lannding page building, Brand and design services, Social Media management, Content Marketing and advertisers and performance analitycs.

    When starting this kind of business it is a good choice to stick to one or two activities and create a partner network to outsource other services. You will have to create a strong branding for your agency to convince your clientes, even though word of mouth is also very important.

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