How to Start an Online Business on The Side [2020 Edition]

Welcome to your guide on how to start an online business in 2020. You’ll now learn the steps you can take to find a business idea and turn it into a profitable venture (while still working full-time).

All this can happen in your free time and without any prior experience in digital business. However, make sure you don’t skip a step as each of these is a stepping stone to doing things right and actually making money as an online business owner.

How to Start an Online Business

1. Find a profitable business idea

The first step to starting an online business is to find a good idea to work on. You’ll be investing a lot of time, possibly money, and effort in it, so make sure you’re working on something that has real potential to earn you passive income, allow you to quit your job and do it full-time, provide value and use your skills and talents, or else.

Now, there’s a chance you might already have plenty of ideas, all in different niches, and you aren’t sure which one is the right one for you.

Another possibility is that you have no idea what you could do that can turn into an online business. 

In both cases, answering the questions below will allow you to come up with the right online business idea in no time:

What are your skills?

If you want to learn how to start an online business, you need to know what you’re good at first. Here, strengths are more important than weaknesses, so list them down.

What are you passionate about?

The next step of the idea generation process is to identify your passions in life. You want to combine what you’re passionate about with what you’re good at.

Is it profitable?

Next, you need to make sure you’re entering a niche that has enough potential. 

Check out competitors and study their websites. Look at the categories they cover on their blog, read some of their blog posts. Try to find out how they’re making money. 

It could be through selling products, having ads on the site, offering services (like freelancing, coaching, etc.), affiliate marketing, or else. It’s often a combination of all of these too. 

Most online business owners, especially bloggers, earn from partnering with brands too, but that’s often in the form of standard content on their blog or social media so you can’t figure it out right away.

Head to Amazon too to see if people are buying products related to your business idea. Continue your research on Google where you can learn how to make money in that niche, how much others are already earning, or else.

What problem are you solving?

At the heart of every business is a problem, and with all you do, you’re trying to solve it. So define the main problem your target audience has and how your online business will try to solve it.

If you need some inspiration, here’s a list of 67 side hustle ideas:

Read also: How to Enter a New Niche

2. Launch your website

Once you know your niche and have an idea of what kind of an online business you’re going to start (freelancing, blogging, eCommerce, etc.), it’s time to build your platform.

Having your own website is crucial. It’s the only place on the Web that you can fully control and it’s where you’ll build your brand, get traffic, and teach people all you know. No matter how much your business grows over the years, and how many monetization methods you try, your website will always be there, at the heart of your Internet business.

Now, if you know nothing about starting a website, that’s perfectly fine. The technical aspect of this shouldn’t scare you. Simply follow the steps outlined below.

A website consists of a domain name (the name of your site/blog, which you can think of now), a hosting provider (the company that provides the server allowing you to serve content online) and a content management system like WordPress (which is the software allowing you to do all that other bloggers are doing with their websites, such as creating and promoting content, building an email list, selling things on their site, etc.)

Here’s the exact process (combining your domain name, hosting your site with a reputable company like Siteground, and installing WordPress):

Step 1: Choose your hosting plan.

SiteGround hosts over 2 million domains and is one of the top WordPress hosting providers widely recognized for their legendary client support and  innovative approach to performance and security. In a nutshell – you can’t go wrong with them.

Head to SiteGround’s WordPress Hosting page and pick one of the 3 plans they offer.

siteground wordpress hosting

The StartUp plan is great for beginners and it’s pretty affordable. At any next stage of your online business, you can upgrade.

The GrowBig plan, on the other side, is ideal  if you are looking to host multiple websites and want to get a speed boost for your website, which is essentially important for Google ranking. The plan comes with SiteGround’s inhouse developed caching plugin – the SuperCacher, which speeds up to several times the performance of WordPress websites.

If you’re planning to have an eCommerce site or a high-traffic blog, you can also try the GoGeek plan for more server space and additional features to boost your site speed and growth.

Click ‘Get Plan’ and let’s move onto the next step of creating your website.

Step 2: Choose your domain name.

It’s time to pick and register your domain name. That’s the name of your site and it can be your actual name or the name of your blog (that depends on whether your business and brand will be based on you, or on your niche, content and products).

Here’s a helpful guide on how to choose a blog name you won’t regret.

On the next page of the signup process, you’ll see this:

domain registration with siteground

If you already have a domain name, click that option and write it down. If you’re just starting a blog for the first time, then you’re registering a new domain name too so you can now type it and see if it’s available. 

You can also pick any domain extension you want (such as .com, .net, .org, or else). Something you can’t go wrong with, though, is the .com option which is what I’m using for this blog. It’s the most popular one, especially if you plan to create evergreen content and have visitors from all over the world.

Domain registration has to be paid too but that’s the fee for 1 whole year.

When you click ‘Proceed’ and if the domain name is available, you’ll be taken to the next page.

Step 3: Completing your order.

Fill in your account information (email and password) as well as your client information (name and address). Next, add your payment details.

Finally, review the hosting services and extras.

Here, you can change your plan, choose which data center you want to use (if your audience is mainly in the US, then that’s the right location for your web host too so the content can be served to the visitor in an instant).

Now’s the time to also decide if you’re serious about your business website and pay for a whole year. With this, the site setup will be provided for free.

start a site with siteground

Click ‘Pay Now’ to complete your order.

When your account is created and you log in the first time, you’ll see the option to ‘Set Up Site’. Click the button and choose ‘Start New Website’ on the next page.

start a wordpress blog on siteground

Select ‘WordPress’, choose your email address and password for your WordPress account, and hit ‘Continue’.

The next page can be skipped and after that, your installation will be completed.

You’ll be able to view and access your new WordPress site directly from SiteGround.

Save your account information as you’ll need it.

launching a wordpress site on siteground

Step 4: Using the WordPress Starter plugin.

The SiteGround WordPress installation comes with a WordPress Starter plugin which simplifies the website building process.

Using it begins the moment you log into your new WordPress site. You can also stop the process any time by clicking ‘Exit’ at the bottom.

The WordPress Starter plugin guides you through the first steps of building your new blog.

Step 1 is choosing a theme.

siteground wordpress start plugin

The next step is to add some functionality to your site by choosing some of the following plugins:

wordpress starter plugin siteground

The third step allows you to start growing your website through marketing and analytics and you can install these:

siteground marketing analytics wordpress

That’s how to start an online business and build your first website. Let’s see what’s next.

3. Start blogging

The next part of this How to Start an Online Business guide covers blogging, branding, marketing, and finance.

You’ve laid the foundation by choosing an idea and building a website. Let’s now add a blog to it and start creating content.

I can’t stress enough how important content is to your overall online business strategy.

No matter what your niche is, you need to create content in multiple ways (blog posts, detailed guides, video, social media posts, podcasts, courses, etc.) so you can serve every visitor, Repurposing content is easy as once you’ve published a blog post, you can easily turn that into a series of emails, a free Ebook for your subscribers to download, many social media posts, a quick video, or else.

To help you get started with blogging and your content strategy, check out the following resources:

4. Build your brand

You and everything you do online is what shapes your brand. You need to make sure all the elements of your online business are consistent with your brand.

That means:

  • Using the same colors throughout your site, images, products, etc. Use a free tool like Canva to create all kinds of graphics for your brand. Articles with images get 94% more views!;
  • Creating a logo and a tagline for your blog to stand out;
  • Writing an amazing About page sharing your story and what the blog is about;
  • Be on every social media channel and get active. That’s a way to connect with your audience and other business owners, build a following and create brand awareness;
  • Make professional photos of yourself and add them to your website and social media sites;
  • Once you have some customers or even blog readers and email subscribers, ask them for feedback and display these testimonials on your website to build trust.

5. Register your business

How to start an online business in your country? That’s something you’ll need to think about once your website is launched, you’ve built the foundation of your brand and have started making your first money.

Registering an online business is an easy process, but you need to follow the rules of your country. For starting a business in the US, check this guide.

I reside in the Netherlands, though, and had to visit the local Chamber of Commerce to register it. I then hired an accountant to take care of my finance (for a reasonable monthly fee). From then on, I simply had to create proper invoices for my blogging business and every client, and pay my taxes whenever I was notified. 

Once I registered my business (and paid a small fee), I also received a company number and a VAT number, which I then included in all my invoices and other documents. 

6. Manage your finances

Now, even if you work with an accountant (which I highly recommend), you’ll still need to take care of the money your business earns (even if it’s not much at the beginning).

I suggest: 

  • Making a budget;
  • Creating a PayPal business account;
  • Making a separate business bank accounting;
  • Adding a savings account to it and saving your money for taxes there.

Some other legal things bloggers and online business owners should take care of include having a Privacy Policy, Disclaimer and Terms of Service on the site (templates for these can be found online).

You can also use contracts with sponsors and other clients.

The photos and graphics you use should be royalty-free. For that, head to sites like Pexels, Pixabay and Unsplash. You can also purchase quality stock photos and use them freely on your website.

To act as a real online entrepreneur, you should display your contact information in visible places on your website.

7. Master marketing and sales

How to start an online business when you aren’t good at marketing or sales? You’ll learn as you go.

Once your website is up and running and you’re creating content for your audience regularly, you can start learning more about marketing.

For a start, promoting your content is key as you want traffic that can then turn into leads for your business. 

You can do that with optimizing your articles for search engines so they can rank high for keywords and get clicks.

Part of SEO is also getting backlinks to your site and mentions on other sites. You can do that by creating awesome content, mentioning influencers in your niche and then letting them know (if your guide is truly unique, they might share it with their readers too).

In addition, you can exchange links with blogs of similar size, create linkable assets such as infographics, and guest post on other platforms.

Next, you can create graphics for all pages and share them on Pinterest.

I teach all you need to know about SEO, Pinterest, writing evergreen content that ranks, and getting your blog to 100K monthly page views, in my course Financial Freedom Through Blogging.

financial freedom course promo

You can also consider paid advertising, such as Facebook ads. Influencer marketing is another thing that can lead to a lot of traffic and sales, but it might cost you a lot.

8. Track your success

The question ‘How to start an online business?’ is usually followed by ‘How to grow a new online business?’. You first need to track your key metrics and see what works and what doesn’t.

Install Google Analytics and get to know your top traffic sources and your audience. You get to see all kinds of data about your traffic and the behavior of website visitors, as well as compare it to how it was before. Knowing your top pages and what brings people to your site is also valuable information.

Another tool by Google that website owners must use is Google Search Console, where you can check indexing status, understand why your blog performs well, see if it’s mobile-friendly, monitor spam issues, etc.

Your WordPress site offers its own dashboard (provided by Jetpack) but you can also install a plugin like MonsterInsights to see all the important traffic data directly on your site.

In addition, any other platform you use will likely provide a dashboard with stats, full reports to export, etc. That includes Pinterest or any other social media you’re using (and where you’ve created a business profile), ConvertKit (or any other email marketing software), SiteGround, etc.

Log into each on a weekly basis and check and compare numbers. If something isn’t improving, ask yourself why and what you can tweak.

Starting and growing an online business is a never-ending series of creating, experimenting and updating things. You should enjoy the process as you’re trying to build something that will make you money forever.

Now you know how to start an online business and how the initial stage looks like. Keep improving your skills, take courses and learn from experts. There are so many strategies you need to test so you can find out what works best for you and your audience. Once you do, you can earn 6 figures as an online entrepreneur, be location independent, and replace your job income with your online business income.

Ready to start and have a business idea in mind already? Head to SiteGround and launch your new website today.

How to start an online business? Here are the steps to find a biz idea and turn it into a profitable venture while still working full-time: #startanonlinebusiness #howtostartanonlinebusiness #onlinebusinesstips #startingabusinessontheside
Lidiya K