Unlike starting a business in the real world, starting an online business does not require a huge capital. In fact, if you have the right business idea and are willing to devote time and work hard, you can start an online business for free or with a very little investment.

But like any business venture, there should be clear plan of action of for starting your online business. I have listed below the steps that will help you convert your online business idea to a full-fledged success story:

1. Find a niche market:

how to start an online businessFor an online business it’s the market that counts instead of the product. The foremost requirement is to determine which products and services people are ready to buy through online sources. For this purpose, you will need to search the existing markets and activities of online users thoroughly. Take into account the things people discuss on forums, find out which keywords are people searching and finally check out the websites of your potential competitors. Finalize a product or service for which there is already a market.

2. Give your business a face- Create a website:

Once you have decided the product or service that you are going to market, you need a website. Now getting a website created may be very daunting for some people as the general perception is that you need to spend a lot of money for a decent website. But with so many options available nowadays, you can easily create a site for very little money or even for free (minus the domain and hosting costs). Creating a website involves 3 basic steps – Registering a domain, choosing a webhost, designing the website.

Register a Domain Name:

You can easily register a domain name from sites like Godaddy.com. Make sure that the domain name represents your business niche. Having an exact keyword match domain used to be great till recently but due to the recent algorithm changes it is no longer relevant. But still it is a good idea to include a keyword that represents your niche in the domain. Or you can use your brand name as a domain if you want. Make sure to register a .com domain if possible. You can get a .com domain for around $10 per year (INR 500).

Choose a web host:

Once you have selected the domain name, you need a web host for your website. I use Godaddy.com for all my websites and though it is not the most popular option for hosting, I have not got any reasons to complain till now. Hostgator is another popular option. On both these websites, you can get a hosting package for about $60-$80 (INR 3000-INR 4000) per year. Though there are even cheaper options, I won’t recommend going for them as the service may not be good.

Build a website:

Now comes the tough part- building the actual website. If you don’t have a lot of money to spare for your website design, you can go for free website builders or CMS. One of the most popular options these days is WordPress. Creating a WordPress website is really easy and anyone can do it without any HTML or coding knowledge. You can search YouTube for some helpful tutorials. I plan on posting a tutorial creating a WordPress website soon. So you may check that later.

If you are planning on setting up an online store, you can check DIY options like Ecwid. Ecwid has a free WordPress plugin and is really easy to set up. Also if you have a PayPal account, you can easily set up the payment feature too without the hassle of setting up a merchant account. Once your business is established, you can explore other payment options.

Please note that the free DIY shopping sites are ideal for small stores only. When you plan to extend your store and include more functionality, you may need to hire a professional web designer.

Whatever option you choose for creating a website, there are a few things you should take care of. The website should have clear navigation, informative content and should be very user-friendly.

Before you set out to create the website, I suggest you to first work on your website copy. Content is the king may be a cliché but it really is the king. You need an attractive copy to drive visitors to your website as well as for the search engines to rank your website. Also include an opt-in offer to collect email addresses. Add a Facebook “Like” or “share” option on your website as well.

3. Drive traffic to the website:

This is the most important step and is a defining factor for a successful online business. If there are plenty of visitors on your website, the chances of conversion are better. Moreover you can monetize your website through Google Adsense, paid ad slots as well as Affiliate Marketing if you have a decent traffic.

For driving traffic to your website, you must make your website relevant to search engines and that’s where content comes. Content is the king may be a cliché but it really is the king. You need an attractive copy to drive visitors to your website as well as for the search engines to rank your website. You can do a keyword research first and then use the targeted keywords in your content intelligently to make it more searchable. You must keep your website content fresh and up to date. Other ways to drive traffic is to use social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter to target the niche market.

Apart from organic traffic, Pay-per-click advertising is an easy way to drive traffic to your new website. The ads show up on the search pages immediately and allow you to test various keywords. Also they have flexible prices, headlines and selling approaches to choose from. You can also find the best keywords through these ads and use them on your website copy and code to increase your ranking on search engines. You can also use Facebook ads to get the attention of users at a low cost.

As you begin to drive traffic on your website, make sales and try to win customer loyalty by providing an excellent service. Establish an expert reputation in your field and keep your customers up-to-date via newsletter as well as social networking websites. There is almost no end to business expansion after the first hard steps but it’s all worth in the long run.