How to Start an Online Home-Based Business

There is much to consider when starting an online home-based business. The thought of finding a niche, building a website and marketing to the world wide web can be daunting, but utilizing several basic tips will help get your business up and running.

Things You'll Need
Niche product or service
Business plan
Website

Instructions
A functional website and effective marketing will make the difference

1
Decide on a product or service. If you are considering a retail website, understand that there are many retailers online, including big-box stores such as Target and Walmart. Find a niche and offer a unique item. Research Ebay and Amazon.com to see what the market may be for the product you have in mind. If you are promoting a service such as graphic design, research your competition to see what they are offering to potential clients.

2
Write a business plan. Books and online resources can offer suggestions on how to do this if you are uncertain where to begin. Regardless of how you are funding the Internet venture, your business plan will outline your needs for funding, discuss your business idea in detail and include your marketing plan, which is critical in advertising your goods or services on the Internet.

3
Develop a website. If you have little or no web design experience and are uncomfortable trying to design your own site, contact local web designers to discuss your ideas and to receive bids on the cost of building your sites. Let your web designer know that you will need a shopping cart and will need to accept and process payments if you are building a retail site. Joomla.org is a great resource for people considering building their own site in an effort to keep initial costs down (see Resources).

4
Market your business creatively. Once your site is created, the next step is letting people know about your product or service. Consider offering affiliate marketing, which allows others to receive rewards for marketing your products or service on their sites. Utilize social networking, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to spread the word about your new business. Don't forget to promote your new online business locally, sharing information about your new venture with friends, relatives, neighbors and colleagues. If you have the budget for it, take out a small ad in your local weekly publication.

5
Offer quality customer service. Once your site has traffic and visitors interested in purchasing your product or service, be immediately responsive in answering questions and shipping. Encourage customers to return with special discounts and offer promotions or sales via email. Customers or clients who are happy with their experience will most likely return or will tell others about your website.

Tips & Warnings

Research any licenses or permits you may need for operating your business. Utilize accounting software to keep track of revenue, expenses and tax information. Take a course in entrepreneurship. Visit Entrepreneur.com and the Small Business Administration (sba.gov) websites for helpful resources.

Try to avoid starting your business around a product that can be found on countless other websites, unless you are offering it at a discounted price. Don't underestimate start-up costs. Don't skimp on your website; design an easy-to-use, attractive site that customers will enjoy using.