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7-figure business coach & course creator helping you build a profitable online biz & become OBSESSED with your life. I'm an Enneagram 3 & love ClickUp, color coded calendars & design. I travel around the world full time and spent most my days in Thailand, Vietnam or Bali.
Do you want to know how to start an online business in 2021? You’re in the right place!
Getting your business up and running can be overwhelming, which is why I’ve broken down the process into 8 actionable steps for how to start an online business in 2021. Before diving in, one quick caveat:
No matter what, you have to just start.
If you keep waiting for the perfect business idea, you’ll never start, because–spoiler alert–the perfect idea doesn’t exist! Likewise, there is no perfect time to start an online business. You have to dive in before you’re ready.
When I quit my 9-to-5 job, it was not at all the perfect time. It wasn’t even a good time. I had no idea how to start an online business. But I decided to make the leap and figure it out as I went–which I did. Now I want to share my tips, so you can see that same success.
This post is full of fantastic resources to guide you on your entrepreneurship journey. Keep reading for 8 action steps on how to start an online business in 2021!
1. Decide what your offer or product is going to be.
This varies based on whether you’re a service-based or product-based business. Unless you have a very clear vision of the product you want to sell, I recommend starting with a service-based business for three reasons:
Service-based businesses have lower startup costs and bring in money faster.
You can always pivot or expand to add products later on.
If you want to live a digital nomad lifestyle and travel frequently, you can’t have physical inventory.
If you’ve having trouble figuring out what service to offer, the first thing you need to understand is that your current skill level means nothing.
Tip: Don’t worry about taking inventory of the skills you already have. You can learn anything online!
You can decide today that you want to learn design, spend a few weeks getting the basics down and setting up your business, and off you go. What you don’t want to do is spend months (or years!) in the learning stage. Pick something and get started. You can earn money while you learn and grow your skills.
Udemyand SkillShareare two great online resources for learning new skills. If you’re looking for something more specific (say, web design), search for course creators who specialize in that topic. These types of courses are often more in depth, while places like Udemy and Skillshare provide more of an overview.
If you’re still considering how to start an online business and don’t know what kind of skills are in demand, check out this poston the best digital nomad jobs for beginners (or watch the video here!)
Stuck in the idea phase of starting your business? Check out Aligned and Profitable Skills, the fool proof mini course that will help you discover your unique passion fueled skills and kickstart your own online business.
2. Pick your business name and secure social accounts.
Congrats on your new business! Now you’ll need to secure your domain name and any relevant social accounts. Make sure your business name is available on all your preferred platforms before committing to it. Namech_k is a great resource that allows you to check multiple platforms at once.
Tip: Don’t get stuck in the naming phase! Of course, it’s not ideal to change your business name multiple times, but it’s not the end of the world either. Don’t let this be what holds you back from actually starting your business and making a profit. If in doubt, just use your name!
3. Market research: Create your offers and nail down your ideal client.
You have your skills, now you need to create your offers. First, some quick definitions.
Freelancersoffer their skills in exchange for a dollar amount. For example, a graphic designer who charges $40/hour for a one-time gig.
Business owners work to create a business outside of themselves. They create a brand, market content, grow their audience, and rely on teams and systems. If clients are happy, they will return to the business over and over again.
I’m assuming that if you’re reading this, you want to start your own business. That requires creating unique offers, rather than just marketing your skills. For example, if you’re a web designer, you need to decide what will be included in your web design packages. If someone chooses to hire you, what will they recieve?
Tip: Focus on the transformation you will offer your clients. As a web designer, how will you transform their site? As a coach, what areas of your client’s life will be transformed? How is your approach unique?
For any offer you create, you need to validate it and make sure it’s aligned with your target market. Follow your ideal clients and competitors on social. What are people buying? What’s the competition like? Make sure there’s a market for your idea before launching.
Now you have your offers, you need to get them out there! Decide which social media platforms you want to focus on and start building a website.
Don’t wait for your website to be perfect before launching, because this can take some time. Just have your basic offers and contact information up and get started–you can build it as you go. I recommend starting on WordPress.org.
This part is super important. You’ve marketed your services, now you need to deliver. Your first few clients are especially important, as they’ll (hopefully) provide testimonials and social proof for your new business.
Try to make your client experience as smooth as possible. Think through the whole process before taking on your first client. Will you use contracts? What’s your workflow like? How do you get paid?
Tip: Retaining existing clients is easier than finding new ones. Make sure you deliver a top notch experience!
Delivering an above average experience is crucial to retaining clients, especially in a service-based business. Think of any personal touches you can add, or how you can make the process run smoother for them.
7. Set up systems.
At this point in your online business, you’re probably a one woman show. You do everything from branding to copywriting to social media marketing and customer service. The first way you can help yourself is by setting up systems.
Having defined systems and workflows for your business will save you so much time. Consider setting up automated systems for onboarding, leads tracking and service delivery.
Tip: Some people put this off because they’re not interested in the backend organization side of things, but systems are crucial for scaling your business. It’s easier to start early than try to play catch up.
You can only run things yourself for so long, and eventually you may need to outsource or build a team. But for now, systems are the best way to streamline your business.
ClickUp and Dubsado are my favorite online organization tools. You can see how I use ClickUp to run my business here.
8. Set up legal and financial protection.
This will vary based on your business and location. Figure out what you need to do to legally protect yourself, whether that’s setting up an LLC or using contracts. You may also want to set up a separate business bank account and credit card.
Keep track of your finances from day one. This is often left out of “how to start an online business” guides, but it’s super important. New entrepreneurs often think finances don’t matter in the beginning because they aren’t making tons of money yet, but they would be wrong! Things can escalate quickly and you need to be ready. Always know your numbers.
If you’re not sure where to start, this video provides a walkthrough of my expense tracker and bookkeeping process.
Now you know how to start an online business!
I have three final pieces of advice for you:
1. Be patient!
Building a sustainable, long-term online business takes time. Don’t expect overnight success.
2. Seek guidance.
There are a lot of entrepreneurs who have walked this path before you. You can start by connecting with me on Instagram to let me know what you’ve decided on for your business. I’d love to hear from you.
3. Make it a priority.
Decide right now that you’re committing to starting your online business. Get an accountability partner or join our Facebook community and publicly commit!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on how to start an online business in 2021. If you’re looking for more guidance, check out the Laptop Lifestyle Blueprint, a free 30 day guide on how to start an online business in 2021. The blueprint covers everything in this post, plus so much more, including a day by day breakdown of every step.
Remember, there’s never a perfect time to start–so start today!
Something tells me you belong here and desire something more.
hi, i'm Amanda
Three years ago, I chose to quit my corporate 9-to-5, sold all my belongings, and booked a one-way ticket to Thailand. I had no real plan—just a burning desire to see the world and a bone-deep certainty that there was more to life than my mind-numbing day job.
Since then I have started multiple business ventures including LLCo. which has scaled to over $1 million dollars in 2 years, and has helped hundreds of women from all over the world build profitable online businesses, defy expectations, and create a freedom lifestyle on their terms—no one else’s.
Every day you get to choose again as to how you will live your life - and every defining moment will come down to just that, a choice.
Here’s the thing - your past story, knowledge, and experiences may have shaped you to be where you are now, but they don’t have to define where you go next.
Hey there, I’m Amanda Kolbye. I’m on a mission to help female entrepreneurs acquire business tools & knowledge so they can create generational wealth and a life where you never think “is this it?” In our world, women become unstoppable. In our world, limitless is the only boundary we adhere to.
7-figure international business coach, online educator, and founder of Laptop Lifestyle Co.