Starting is the hardest part of becoming an entrepreneur.
Creating an online business from scratch is daunting at first. There are a lot of things to keep track of, and it can feel overwhelming.
It’s all too easy to get stuck when you’re not sure how to start. But spending months in analysis paralysis is only going to set you back.
To start a business, you need to have a solid plan in place. An online business checklist will make sure you’ve got all the bases covered. That’s why we’ve created one for you to follow.
You need a plan.
Because there’s so much to tackle when you’re starting a business, it’s a good idea to start mapping things out ahead of time. That way, you won’t feel as overwhelmed.
An online business checklist is a great way to stay organized during this process.
Your checklist can vary, depending on what kind of business you’re planning to create.
You might want to go into ecommerce, like Christina DuVarney, founder of Beautiful Disaster clothing. Her store does $400,000 a month, showing the potential that this online business model can have.
Her store is based on Shopify, an easy to use platform for selling physical and digital products online.
If you want to sell on Shopify, you’ll need to source products, and that will become part of your initial checklist.
You could also consider using affiliate marketing to monetize a site in a particular niche or sub-niche. David Tao, founder of BarBend, created a site like this by focusing on a niche nested within another, larger niche.
If you’re planning to make an affiliate site, you’ll need to sign up with an affiliate program and start looking at products that you can promote.
If SEO is going to be a major source of traffic for you, you’ll want to do some keyword research as part of your online business checklist. (Or, hire us to do the hard work and get you more traffic.)
If social media is where you need to focus, you’ll need to start planning and scheduling posts.
Tips & tools for staying organized
There are a variety of tools you can use for creating and organizing your checklist.
Some people prefer a good old-fashioned pen and paper. You can also use tools like Evernote, Trello, and Asana to manage task lists.
Any way you choose to do it, organization is key to completing your list.
Online business checklist: What you’ll need to get started
This online business checklist covers what you’ll need to do when you decide to start an online business. It covers setting up your website, creating an email address, finding products, and other necessary tasks that need to be done.
- Set your long term goals
- Get into the right mindset
- Finalize your business idea
- Figure out how much capital you’ll be starting with
- Build a great website
- Source products (if applicable)
- Create one solid lead magnet
- Set up your business email
- Create a “welcome” email series for new subscribers
- Start creating content to drive traffic
- Build your email list
Set your long term goals
Let’s start with the big picture. What are your long term goals for your business?
Are you trying to:
- Increase your own personal wealth
- Try to create something you can live on full time, so you can quit your day job
- Monetize something you’re passionate about
- Eventually seek out investors to expand
- Build something you can eventually sell for a profit
These are just a few examples of big picture, long-term business goals.
Get into the right mindset
You need to be in an entrepreneurial mindset to start an online business.
It’s a way of thinking that empowers you to overcome challenges, be decisive, and embrace responsibility for the outcomes of your actions.
Over time, you continually improve your skills, learn from your mistakes, and keep taking action on your ideas.
The biggest obstacle to an entrepreneurial mindset is self-doubt.
To do, you have to believe that you can.
So many people are afraid to start, and never end up pursuing their ideas — even if those ideas have enormous potential for success.
Begin practicing the entrepreneurial mindset every day, and develop the courage to take action.
Finalize your online business idea
At this point, you might have several online business ideas, maybe clustered together in a similar niche. This is the time to narrow things down and decide exactly where you want to focus.
To do this, you’ll probably want to do some additional research into your market.
Are there other companies out there doing what you’re planning to do? If so, that’s not a bad thing. Competition can be a very good sign — it means that there is, in fact, a market for the type of business you want to build.
What are other, similar businesses doing? What is their audience like? What problems are they solving for people?
Figure out how much capital you’ll be starting with
These days, the barriers to entry for entrepreneurship are lower than ever. Tons of successful online businesses have been created with very small starting budgets.
That said, you’ll need at least a little bit of money to start. Some of your expenses will include things like registering a domain name, setting up website hosting, and paying for any tools you might need that you can’t get for free.
Build a website
You’ll need a website for your online business.
The first thing you’ll need is a domain name. Then, you’ll want to set up hosting for it. (We recommend Bluehost for WordPress.)
In many cases, you’ll want to use WordPress.org to actually build and create your site. You can find all kinds of customizable themes that can help make your new site unique. (We recommend StudioPress for free and paid WordPress themes. Check out our StudioPress review for more info about what they offer.)
For ecommerce, you may also want to consider Shopify. It’s a solid option if you’re doing something like dropshipping, or selling your own products.
Generally speaking, though, WordPress is the gold standard. We’d recommend avoiding site builders like Squarespace and Wix. While convenient and simple to use, they come with a lot of drawbacks, especially when it comes to SEO.
Getting on the first page of Google can be an uphill battle with a Wix site.
If you have the starting capital for it, you can also consider hiring a freelance web developer to put your site together. This generally isn’t cheap, however, so a lot of starting entrepreneurs take the DIY route instead.
Source products (if applicable)
This generally applies to ecommerce and affiliate marketing, especially the former. If you’re doing something like dropshipping, you’ll want to start looking for products for your online store.
If you’re planning on using affiliate marketing as a monetization strategy, you’ll want to start considering what products you could promote that your audience might be interested in.
Create one solid lead magnet
Lead magnets are things you can offer your audience in exchange for their email addresses.
Usually, this takes the form of some kind of gated content. You make an offer that’s appealing to your customer base, and give it to them for free, in exchange for their email.
This is a key factor in building up your email list. An email list is an invaluable asset for online businesses of all kinds. You can send newsletters, offer deals and discounts, and promote affiliate offers, all to a targeted audience of potential customers.
Here are a few different kinds of lead magnets you can use:
- Cheat sheets
- Deals and discounts on products
- Free shipping on their next order
- Free trial of a service
- Free app or software tool
Successful lead magnets tend to have a few key qualities in common. They’re specific, easy to understand and use, targeted to your specific audience, action-driven, and most importantly, they solve a problem that your audience has.
Set up your business email
Email marketing is a great tool for driving conversions and keeping your audience engaged.
You’ll need an email address @yourdomain.com.
Create a series of welcome emails for new subscribers
You can create a series of several emails to be sent out, on a schedule, to each user once they’ve signed up to your email list.
You can’t just send out mass emails from a regular Gmail account on its own. Most of the time, you’ll be flagged as spam.
Instead, you’ll want to use a service like ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign to create, schedule, and send your emails. If you’re just getting started, you can use ConvertKit for free by using this affiliate link.
A welcome sequence gets your audience more engaged, and increases the chance that they’ll open, read, and take action on your other emails.
Here are some things to consider when creating your email sequence:
- Find your key message you want to send to new subscribers. What product or service are you offering? What problem does it solve for your audience?
- Create a framework for the series. You’ll need to determine timing, as well as messaging. This can depend on various factors like the length of your sales cycle. Some products and services have a long and drawn out sales cycle that involves a lot of lead nurturing, whereas for other things, people are most likely to buy within a day or two.
Create content to start driving traffic
Content is one of the number one ways you can drive traffic to your online business’s website. Whatever it is you sell or promote, the right content can help guide the right people — those likely to buy — into your sales funnel.
Build your email list
Building your list starts with your opt-in offer, usually a lead magnet that appeals to your audience.
On your website, you’ll want to create an opt-in form that invites people to join your list. At Hack the Entrepreneur, we use Thrive Leads for this.
Over time, you can build out a substantial list of subscribers that are interested in your brand. As you build a relationship with them, you’ll be able to turn your list into revenue, as readers convert on your offers.
Start Building Your Business Today with an Organized Online Business Checklist
Using an online business checklist can help you stay organized and make sure everything is taken care of, as you embark on your entrepreneurial journey.
For more ideas on what you should do to start an online business, check out our Roadmap to Freedom download below.