What is an online business and why you should start one

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You’ve heard those keywords around: “online business”, “passive income”, “make money online”, “10k months”. They sound exciting and you would just love to bring in  some more money for fun things like travel or toys (gadgets, tools, etc.). Everyone talks about it like its “no. big. Deal.”. So why shouldn’t you start one?

An online business is a business conducted entirely on the internet. It can be used to sell products or services as well as SaaS (Software as a service) solutions.

This means that online businesses range from big guys like Amazon.com to small guys like that lady you buy clipart from in Etsy.

Types of online businesses

  1. Blogging
    This is one of the most popular online businesses around. Low cost, easy to set up and there are a lot of ways to monetize it. It takes time to actually make money, though.1-2 years is the approximate time experts give on getting some income from your blog business.
  2. YouTube
    Easy to set up but not inexpensive. Can be done with your phone until you are monetized but a lot of people get stuck on the tech needed and buying all the gadgets that will make you successful. Wake up call, the only thing that will bring in an audience and get you that monetization is consistently giving your audience valuable content they can use to solve their problems.
  3. Podcasting
    This is a way a lot of businesses acquire customers, by giving their advice and guidance on their field on podcasts. Users are able to consume the content whenever they want. There are two kinds of podcasts, one where the podcaster gives their advice of a topic or interviews with important experts in their field.
  4. Ecommerce
    Building a successful ecommerce store is not easy. How many products do you start with? Some say 100, some say 1. Does it make a difference? Not really, because the key is the quality traffic you bring to your store.
    1. Digital Products
      This includes digital planners, ebooks, courses, templates, themes,etc.
    2. Physical Products
      Tshirts, promotional products, home decor, etc.
  5. Affiliate Marketing
    This type of business is generally called an online business in itself, but I find it is a monetization strategy for businesses like blogs and YouTube Channels.
  6. Print on Demand
    Places like RedBubble and Society6 have great success with artists that offer their works of art in different types of products, from phonecases, to pillows to bedsheets. Cat Coquillete has made quite a brand for herself in Society6.
  7. Self-Publishing
    Writing is beautiful, inspirational and very hard to do.  Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you can now get your work published on Amazon.com or publish it in other places like Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc. But you will need a lot of courage and persistence to make it in this business. Building your author platform from the beginning will help you succeed.
  8. App Development
    If you have the skills or the money to get that app coded you are on your way to a successful business. However, make sure the product you are building is solving an actual problem that needs solving, otherwise you’ll find it difficult to sell or even give away.
  9. Coaching
    This type of business can be either easy or hard depending on how well you are known in your field. If you are new online you will need to start establishing your expertise with reviews or referrals from offline customers that have been satisfied with your services. Remember to always ask for a review after you have successfully helped a customer.
  10. Freelancer/Consultant
    There are a ton of freelancing services you can offer. Virtual assistance is one of my favorites because you can start with just a few computer skills like Google docs and how to use Canva and other software used in different industries.
    1. Virtual Assistant
    2. Social Media Manager
    3. Web Design & Development
    4. Graphic Design/Branding
    5. Illustrator
    6. Digital Marketing
    7. Editing & Proofreading
    8. Translator
    9. Teaching Languages
  11. Remote Tech Support
    This opportunity has been growing in the past few years as everything has been moved online. Beware, though, this is a fast paced job. Especially if you will be doing a live chat or phone support where the client is right there with you expecting you to solve their problems.
  12. Dropshipping
    A very popular choice these days as an online business. Be sure to learn strategies on how to get traffic to your store. Otherwise you won’t be able to slay the competition.
  13. Amazon FBA
    Even though you’ll be managing physical inventory with this online business system, you’ll still do it all online. Amazon services will take care of everything for you from storing to shipping and customer service. Everything at a lower cost than you would have if you had to do it yourself.

Advantages of an online business

  1. Low start up costs
    A blogging business can be started with less than $200 a year. YouTube channel with maybe $100 for the editing software and you using your phone to make the videos.
  2. Global market
    The world is your oyster with an online business. However, they’ll need to find you, so read about traffic strategies to get ahead.
  3. Flexibility
    An online business gives you flexibility in time(work when you want) and in choices (once you start making significant income).  Many online bloggers have been able to save enough from their side hustle to pay their student loans or buy their homes right off.
  4. Helping others with your solutions
    Having your own online business allows you to share  your unique gifts in life.  You provide solutions that come from your experience and your heart and actually help your customers reach their goals.

Disadvantages of an online business

  1. Need for customer support
    If you are selling courses or other digital products you might need someone to help you with customer support. From explaining how to use the product to specific questions on the subject in the course to how to get their files from the zip file you provided them, these questions will eat up a lot of your time so you’ll have to find a way to deal with it or automate most of it.
  2. Potentially lower profit margins
    If your competition is tight, you might have to adapt your prices to be able to have a chance against them. I don’t really suggest that strategy, because your products have value and if you are able to establish your experience, people will buy whatever you offer them at the price you set.
  3. Large competition
    The internet is a large place and competitors are everywhere. You’ll need to find a way to be unique to set yourself apart from others offering the same products and services you are.
  4. Cybersecurity
    Make sure to have the right legal disclaimers and terms and conditions in your site. Handling customer data is very delicate which is why I don’t host my online courses from my own site and my checkout is done through Thrivecart. 
  5. Finding customers
    This was the first big roadblock I hit when starting several online businesses, but it really hit home when my courses weren’t selling. I had no readers, I had no audience, no superfans. No one was buying and I didn’t know where to find them.  Prepare yourself with information on how to get traffic, organic and paid, and how to take your audience from cold to hot. Pat Flynn has a book on creating an audience called Superfans.
  6. Lack of credibility/authority
    If no one knows you, they’ll be more reluctant to buy from you. Once they start hearing about you from your guest posts or having participated in podcasts, they’ll start recognizing your name. It takes patience, consistency and hard work, but you can do it.

Why you should start an online business

  1. Learning experience
    OMG starting and running an online business is a learning adventure! I love that. Payment processors, web hosting, product packaging and delivery, #allofthethings!!! You will need to get comfortable absorbing new information. If you are not used to it, it will be hard at first, but you need to keep trying.  New concepts, processes and ideas can be tough to understand and absorb. Part of your online journey is becoming resilient.
  2. Finding ways to solve problems
    In my resume I’ve always put the word “resourceful” because all along my professional life I’ve had to figure out and teach myself what needed to be done to deliver my web development work. Back then it was much harder because there were not as many resources as there are now. Now all you have to do is Google it. If that doesn’t work, find another way to do it.  Take a look at Marie Forleo’s book “Everything is Figureoutable”.
  3. Improve your lifestyle
    What would your life be like if you made $100 dollars more a month? How about $1000? I know that would make a huge difference in my way of living. A successful online business can do this for you, giving you more choices.
  4. Flexibility
    I need to clarify this here. Flexibility is something that will come eventually in your online business journey but not right away.  First, you’ll be building your business on your spare time and you will feel even more restricted rather than free. But once things start taking off, your customer base is growing and people are recognizing you, you can automate a lot of tasks and THEN you’ll have that freedom you want.
  5. Increase self esteem and confidence
    Some online businesses do not take off, either because you didn’t validate the idea properly or because you weren’t persistent enough. Either way, having created something and published it online, even if you only made $500 like I did with my first WordPress courses in Udemy, you have built something. Made something from nothing and packaged it and sold it. 
    I don’t care if you haven’t sold one product. Creating and packaging and presenting it is A LOT OF WORK. Be proud of what you did. Then evaluate and find out what went wrong so you do better next time.
  6. Mentor and help others succeed
    Mentors come from all over, whether they are someone you watch on YouTube or a family friend that has a successful business, you will find them throughout your journey. Then, when the tie comes, YOU can become a mentor and help others with their online business. Give them warnings about what they might be doing wrong. The only thing is, don’t get upset when they do not do what you suggest. Some lessons are best learned on your own.

Skills & abilities you’ll need when running your business

  1. Soft skills
    These skills refer to interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. Some of them are: Emotional Intelligence, Team Player Attitude, Growth Mindset,Openness to Feedback,Adaptability,Active Listening and Work Ethic.
  2. Basic computer skills
    You’ll need to be able to work on a computer. Know how to save and share documents and manage email.
    Other computer skills are about software you’ll need to know like: Google docs, Canva, Gmail. These are not hard to learn and once you’ve got the knowledge you can interchange it with other similar software.
  3. Basic math skills (to calculate your profits!)
    This might seem silly, but you need to know when you are making money or losing it.  If your numbers keep coming in the red (negative) that means you need to assess your business and change strategy.
  4. Self motivation skills
    One of the biggest reasons we give up on our New Year’s resolutions is that after a few months we don’t remember “Why” we wanted that specific goal so we no longer feel “motivated” to do anything about it. 
    I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but, motivation will not just “jump at you” or “magically appear”. Some days you will have to do the work because you looked at your “Big Why” posted next to your monitor. Read my article here on how to figure out your “Why” and download the workbook so you can print that reason to give you purpose when you are not feeling “up to it”.
  5. Ability to react quickly to change
    Sometimes things change fast. That software you were using for your ecommerce store no longer supports Paypal or the latest Google update left you with no traffic at all. You’ll have to make some decisions fast or lose a lot of business. I struggle with these a lot because I take a long time in researching and deciding what stacks I use in my business. So when a glitch like this comes I groan but start researching for an alternative. You can do this too. Don’t let change put you off.


It is my hope that this article has given you a clearer understanding of what an online business is and why it is a positive thing to try and start one. There is a ton of work involved but rewards are never given freely, except when you were a toddler and they gave those participation trophies so no one felt bad. Earn your trophy! Give it your all, consistently, and you will see positive results.

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