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How to take your online business from daydream to day job

Masha Gribova
18 May 2020
4 minute read

“Autonomy. Freedom. The chance to earn more money.”

When Gemma Major was wondering whether to set up her own online business, this was the vision she kept coming back to. And for her, it paid off. “Now that I run my own translation business, I can take it in any direction I choose.”

With more than half of Brits unhappy in our jobs, it’s not surprising that so many of us want to start our own businesses. But how do you take your online business from daydream to day job?

We caught up with eight founders to find out their top tips.

Young man looking at the camera

What makes your business unique?

“Identify the market where you’re uniquely qualified to help people” says Gemma.

You not only need to find your niche, but research it rigorously. “Immerse yourself in that market - be your own customer” says Kayley Toyer, founder of social media management company The Chatty Penguin.

Make marketing easy

Take the work out of setting up a website. Choose a content management system with simple, stylish templates like Squarespace or Wix.

Pick a domain name that’s simple, readable and memorable. Make sure it’s not in use by anybody else, and that it’s distinct from your competitors.

If your business is a consultancy, you are the product you’re selling. So make sure your individual strengths shine through. “My top tip is to read through any testimonials or complimentary emails, and highlight phrase that come up more than once, like 'eye for detail' or ‘talented writer’” says Emma Ward, founder of the Freelance Lifestyle.

Personalise your business

Your domain extension isn’t limited to .uk or .com. If it feels right for your business, you could try a local, top-level domain like .London.

Don’t forget to set up emails associated with your business – nobody wants to get professional emails from My_email_1985[at]Hotmail.com.

Perhaps you don’t need a website for your business? Some businesses trade entirely through e-commerce platforms like Shopify or Etsy. Others advertise only over social media or email. But don’t assume you need an Instagram, Pinterest or a Youtube channel – pick what’s right for you.

Know what your customers need

“Get really clear on what the journey looks like for your clients and customers to go from stranger to buyer” says Alice Benham, Digital Marketing Coach. “What emotional journey do they go on from being a total stranger to your company, to wanting to pay for your products or services? The clearer you can get on what they need to move through that journey, the more intentional you can then be about the content you create.”

Find your ‘why’

“At the very beginning of starting an online business, you have nothing to show for yourself” says Fiona Grayson, Founder of She Can. She Did, a platform that spotlights female founders and entrepreneurs.

“While you’re still building up your website with blogs and other content, make sure your landing page and your ‘about me’ is on point. Hone in on why you’re doing this, your values, your story. That way, when you are reaching out to brands or interview subjects, you can direct them to your website to illustrate how serious you are.”

Forget perfectionism

“Don’t worry about everything being perfect or having a big launch for your business” says Fiona Thomas, author of Out of Office. “Just get started and take baby steps forward. Don’t be afraid to try things, make mistakes and move on with the knowledge you’ve gained.”

“Done is better than perfect. Messy action is vital, especially at the beginning when you don’t have a huge team behind you or lots of spare cash to have others do it for you” says Louise Jackson, Transformation Coach & founder of Soulful Scrapbook. “Start before you’re ready. Because the reality is there will always be more to do. Not only is it okay to learn along the way, but it’s unavoidable.”

Get comfortable with scrutiny

“When you say that you’re launching a business, some people will want you to win, but others will watch from the sidelines secretly hoping that it goes pear-shaped” says Fiona of She Can. She Did. “Get used to that fact. You need to grit your teeth and ride it out.”

Consistency, consistency, consistency

“In the early days, it’s absolutely essential that you’re reliable. If you say you’re going to post a weekly blog, do it. Don’t post for three weeks, take a break and then pick it up again with a ‘sorry I’ve been busy.’ Those first few months are so important for building traction and proving your worth” says Fiona of She Can. She Did.

Be authentic

“Engage with your audience, don't sell to them” says Daniel Humphrey, Founder of The Summerton Whisky Club, a premium whisky subscription service. “Being online gives you a great opportunity for people to get to know you and you to get to know them, without having to spend lots. Build a relationship and you will build a business”.

Take the leap

“Just do it” says Claire Richards, founder of embroidered t-shirt company Delicious Monster Tea. “Put yourself out there, whether that's starting an Etsy, getting prototypes made, applying for a loan - whatever it is, just do one little thing to take you in the right direction and then keep making those small little steps until ta-da, you've done it!”

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