There is no doubt that the pandemic has affected every business and household in some way, and we will be dealing with the ramifications of such a global event for years to come. One good thing that has come from it, however, has been the uptick of online home businesses. The Census Bureau estimates that over 4.4 million new businesses were born out of the lockdown, which is over 50% of an increase than through the previous ten years combined. Whether they were started out of boredom or necessity, these new online startups offered the lure of personal freedom, career empowerment, and potential financial improvement for those making the jump. And many have found all of that and more.
So how does someone start an online business, and why is now a good time?
There’s Never a Bad Time to Start an Online Business
The past year and a half has caused a great portion of the workforce to take a step back and evaluate things. The pandemic clearly illustrated how short an valuable life is and that we never know how much time we really have. For many workers who switched to remote work, having the experience of being more in charge of one’s own schedule and work location offered a glimpse into what having an online business is all about. For families, the ability to handle day-to-day family life during the workday was a game-changer.
So, if you’re not going to start that dream business now, then when? Clearly as long as there is connection to the internet, and that time management and logistics are handled well, anyone at any time is capable of growing their creative ideas into something more than a passing fancy.
With a little bit of talent or expertise, a quality product or service, and the organization skills to manage a business, there’s no end to what one can accomplish. But don’t mistake that possibility for ease of getting your business off the ground – success online still requires hard work, dedication, and understanding the business landscape. It’s just a different experience and use of time and knowledge than what we were used to in more traditional workplaces.
Let’s take a look at some of the challenges online home business startups most commonly run into.
It’s Not All Fun and Games
It takes a lot of specialized skills to start an online business. Beyond creativity and a keen business sense, one also has to have a keen grasp on ecommerce, digital marketing, Search Engine Optimization, internet security, and depending on if it’s a team rather than solo project, also general business practices. Here are a few challenges that all online businesses end up facing:
- Cyber Security and Identity Verification – As technology evolves, so do the hackers and fraudsters, which keeps the need for quality security and authentication factoring at an all time high. While you may not be in need of an ecommerce platform to start, if a physical product or service is being sold, at the very least whatever third-party platform is used must be vetted before getting in too deep. Knowing best practices for your customer’s safety is key to long-term success.
- Customer Experience and Loyalty – We all understand that customer service is difficult, and that it directly affects customer loyalty. Without the customer, the business owner wouldn’t have a business to run. This is why offering a quality experience, from ease of website navigation to an efficient fulfillment process, and then to gracious returns or exchanges, it is imperative that the customer enjoys their entire interaction from beginning to end. One bad moment throughout the process can deter any future sales.
- Big Box Competition – It’s David vs Goliath. Sure, most of the bandwidth and great ideas have been gobbled up by the big name brands, but that doesn’t mean the mom and pop shop can’t compete. It just means they have to compete smarter, and they have to offer something a little extra which often can be simple to do. The direct interaction between the business owner and customer via social media or general sales becomes more personal when dealing with a mom and pop, which can mean more to the customer. Never forget that.
- Knowing Your Limits – Not everyone can do everything, but as a business owner, it can seem like you have to do it all. Knowing when to say when is a high value trait, and knowing who to turn to for help can make all the difference. The stronger business owner knows this, and when they bring on the right tech partners, they find that success is right around the corner. Reach out for help when you need it!
Making an Online Home Business Profitable
Of course the chance for success will always be the most important aspect of a new job – who wants to get involved with something that will never turn a profit? While there’s always the chance of failure with any new endeavor, the benefits of starting a home-based online business can outweigh many of the concerns depending on the product and the situation.
Many parents find that by working from home and owning the business, it can free up time for their children that otherwise would have been spent commuting or working to pay for child care outside the home. They usually can adjust their schedules in order to maximize their time with the children. Others find that the ease and scalability of the work can allow for freedom from managing a large team or reach an audience that working locally isn’t capable of.
No matter the end result, no online business will be successful unless the owner is willing to put in the time and effort necessary to make it successful – be aware that it may feel overwhelming initially, so be prepared to do the work.
Types of Online Businesses
To quote a popular 90’s film, it may seem that “All the great themes have been used up. Turned into theme parks.” However, when it comes to goods and services, it’s all about the quality. If you have the most amazing recipe for a chocolate chip cookie, there’s no hard rule that you can’t become the next Mrs. Fields just because that business already exists! A great idea is a great idea, and with perseverance and knowledge in your arsenal, there’s no reason to not go for it. Here are just a few ideas and examples of at-home online businesses that have flourished in the last few years:
- Online Coaching and Teaching – sharing your expertise via new media has never been easier! With so many platforms available, as long as you have knowledge and know how to communicate it to others, becoming an online coach or teacher can be the easiest side hustle to do. From teaching courses in writing, photography, acting, singing, math and science to coaching those already in their fields with continuing education, there is always something to learn and someone who wants to learn. The biggest challenge is finding the audience and gaining the trust for a student to register.
- Web Design and Development, Graphic Design, App Design, Social Media Manager – this is an area that will never stop evolving, so the need will always be there. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to already have experience in these fields, but these are all businesses that can be run from anywhere in the world! As long as you have internet access and programming equipment, the opportunities are endless. The challenges include finding a way to stand out among the competition and keeping yourself in the know of all the new trends.
- Ecommerce: Clothing and Jewelry Design/Production, Artist, Photographer – this is a more subjective category, and has a greater potential for failure when it comes to making money. However, many creative people took to building online stores and galleries when the pandemic began in order to keep not only a creative outlet, but also to keep their focus on something concrete. Some have had enough success that they now need to hire help in order to stay on top of the business, which is not a bad problem to have. The challenge is finding the right audience and marketing the products to make it a success.
- Freelance Writing and Publishing: Books, Blogging and Podcasts – here’s another subjective path, but one that seems to have a major upside. Being able to write is a gift that not everyone has, but everyone has a story to tell. Some can tell it better in long-form, others in conversation. The world of the written and spoken word is not going anywhere anytime soon, and most of us already have the equipment at our fingertips! The challenge with this one is knowing how to edit oneself, and with podcasting, knowing how to actually edit a show together!
- Virtual Assistant – this is a newer field that has come into its own during the pandemic. While assistants have been around forever, they were usually needed onsite. Through technology, that has become less and less necessary, which blossomed during the last two years. Virtual Assistants can be hired by businesses large and small, but also by very busy individuals to perform daily administrative tasks as a general contractor. The challenge with this business is that it may cover a myriad of areas, so the more well-rounded the experience of the assistant, the more that can be offered (and for higher rates!).
Getting Started and Getting Help
Before you jump in full-steam, know that there are logistical and realistic steps that need to be sorted out first. Putting together a strategy, or even bringing on a tech partner, will help ensure the success you are looking for.
Once you choose the type of online business, then you need to know your target audience and how to find them. One way is to find a problem to solve: this is how we like to approach our blogging. What are people searching for? What is their need and how do we help them solve it? Where are the lapses of judgement by the competition?
You also have to consider any legal obligations, which are dependent on the business type. Beyond that, you have the logistical area of fulfillment, payment gateways, and promotion. Yes- that seems like a lot, and it is. And we’ve simplified this section because it is so engrossing. But know that Blink;Tech is here for you – contact us today with any questions you may have and let us help you find success on the web!