The COVID pandemic has had tragic consequences. Many have died and many have been left with chronic lung conditions and other serious health-complications. Whilst it has been a very difficult time for many people &businesses, some opportunities have, and will, emerge immediately or over time.

Many questions about productivity and working from home have been answered over the last 6 months. With lockdown and the enforced trend of remote working, many have turned their thoughts to the idea of starting their own business. If an employee can work productively & efficiently at home, then presumably they can work productively at home on their own business too?

This opens many e-business opportunities. Without the need for an office, one of the major overheads and startup headaches has been removed from the business equation. Will financial risk significantly mitigated, the world may well be your e-business oyster.

Every business should start with a business plan and it is always a very good idea to discuss your ideas with a mentor or a career/business advisor before investing any money. However, before all of that, you will need a business idea. We take a look at some of the options when it comes to setting up your own online business so that you can take your idea and turn it into a business plan, which may well turn it into a reality!

What Type of Business?

The first thing to consider is what type of business do you want to start?

Think about what skills and experience you have, where your passions lie and what areas are profitable.

If you have a passion for origami, your earning potential may be somewhat limited compared to someone who has an interest in real estate, finance or investments.

with your life’s passion & purpose aside for one second, we look at some of the business formats and business ‘types’ that you can start as an e-business entrepreneur in 2020.

The following are some ideas to get you thinking…

e-commerce Business

Starting an online shop has never been easier, you could get the store up and running in a day.

To start an e-commerce business with WordPress you will need:

– Buy hosting & a domain name

– Install & setup WordPress

– Install WooCommerce

– Setup a drop-shipping account

That’s about it. Alternatively, you could set up a store with a different platform such as Shopify or Squarespace, there are so many options, it gets confusing quite quickly.

You can find dropshipping accounts and deals on sites such as AliExpress, and take a look around some forums including Reddit.

Freelancer or Consultant 

Freelancing will likely take off, so to speak, after the remote working trend of 2020 has proved a success for many businesses and employees.

For argument’s sake, let’s say you are a graphic designer, who specialises in ebook & infographic designs. There are a few ways to set yourself up as a freelancer.

You can create an account on a third party website such as UpWork, or Peopleperhour.

You can also join Facebook groups such as this one, with the imaginative title of Hire Freelance Graphic Designers.

Also, you can create your own Facebook page to advertise your services and also a website. For all these platforms, you will need a portfolio.

If you have no experience, you may need to create some graphics for free or just start off creating infographics and ebooks based on topics that interest you.

Blogger

There is still money to be made in blogging, either creating your blog or maintaining other people’s and company’s blogs. As a standalone blogger, however, the competition is fierce – there are estimated to be around 600 million blogs on the internet.

In my experience, there is a simple formula for creating a successful blog. Find a niche that you are interested in, or that is likely to be profitable – and make it better than the competition.

You may have a passion for knitting and you may get thousands of visitors to a good knitting blog, but again, you will probably stand to make more money if you put the same effort into a blog about finance or business. There is a lot of money to be made in finance compared to knitting, and so advertisers are more likely to pay to get their brand and services in front of a relevant audience.

Bloggers can typically make an income with advertising, affiliate schemes, selling their own products & services and sponsored posts. Be mindful of the Google guidelines if you offer sponsored posts.

Online Fitness Coach

Personal training appears to have successfully transitioned to an online model since the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to temporarily kill off the industry.

Sessions can be carried out via Zoom, whether that be 1 to 1 coaching, personal training or group sessions.

Whilst work has transitioned for many to a work from home format, many a fitness regime has taken the leap too. Bodyweight workouts, can bed done at home without any issues, but an online coach is always helpful to have on hand to mitigate any risk of injury.

Other forms of consultation and coaching that have found success in an e-format include online therapy, online counselling and online nutrition coaching.

Other e-Business Formats

There are so many opportunities for businesses to exist online that its virtually impossible to cover them all. Other business formats include:

– Youtube channel owner

– Business consultant

– Video Gamer

Marketing Your Business

Setting up your business, or coming up with the idea for a business may well be the easy part of all this. The hard, often time-consuming and potentially expensive part of starting an e-business is getting your company name, brand and products in front of a relevant audience.

Please bear in mind that each advertising format and platform requires a unique skill set to deliver optimized campaigns and the following will just be a brief overview.

Google Ads

Google Ads are very direct and effective if done correctly. However, this ability to reach people who are often searching with the clear intent of making a purchase or inquiry can come at a cost.

Some quick tips when it comes to Google Ads:

– Keep Keywords, Ad Groups & Ad Copy very specific

– Watch your match type & monitor the search queries report*

– Use bid adjustments on devices & demographic data

– Google reserves the right to go over your daily budget

*Most experienced Google Ads users will use Exact Match keywords, to prevent too many irrelevant searches leading to clicks on ads, that drain the budget

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads have also been utilised to great effect by many businesses. Facebook Ads are more of a craft and may require more experimentation to make them work effectively.

As users are not in the mindset of making a purchase – they’re usually just bored and scrolling through their newsfeed, you will typically want to ‘warm them up’ with an offer of some description. For example, a free eBook or guide.

Some quick tips for using Facebook Ads

– Use the Facebook Pixel

– Learn all about custom audiences

– Have a specific landing page for specific ads & offers

– Make full use of the audience options – get as specific as possible

– Use retargeting audiences

– Use free offers, guides, webinars and remarket to those who engage in some way

– Use high-quality images & videos

– Create different versions of ads and test their effectiveness

– Use different ad formats and test them

– Edit Placements – try Facebook newsfeed only first

I would highly recommend reading some articles on Facebook ads and watching a number of Facebook Ads tutorials on Youtube and Udemy.

If you set aside a day to learn the art of Facebook Advertising, you’ll be much better equipped to deliver effective campaigns for your own and other people’s businesses.

Linkedin Ads

Linkedin Ads are in many ways similar to Facebook in that getting the correct audience is key to success. In addition, people are not actively searching for a product or service when on Linkedin, so you need to stand out somehow and grab your audience’s attention.

Like Facebook, there are also several ad formats including sponsored content, sponsored InMail and Text Ads. Testing ad designs and formats is the key to success.

Organic Social Media

Whilst organic social media is more difficult to crack than it was five years ago, it’s still possible to drive visitors, leads and engagement for your brand if done correctly.

The lessons learnt in the pioneering book – Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk can still be applied today. “Jab” by providing useful, insightful and entertaining content, then, sparingly, add in a sales offer or promotion. Nobody wants to follow a social media account that just constantly plugs its services.

Many marketing experts have stated that Linkedin’s organic reach is ‘the best’ of any social media platform. As they battle for advertising, market-share, Linkedin is looking to build themselves as a content and social media platform by allowing users to reach a relatively large number of people with each post.

Tips for using social media for business:

– Have a specific strategy with goals & KPIs

– Know your audience, their pain-points & goals

– Have a social media calendar with key dates & events

– Social media platforms want to keep users on their site – Do NOT always link out to other websites in posts

– Upload videos to the platform – Do NOT embed Youtube videos

– Use Linkedin like a microblogging platform with unique copy & content

– Use Linkedin articles

– Keep salesy posts to a minimum

– Be informative, helpful, witty, entertaining

– Interact with comments and engage in relevant Twitter chats

– Local business can search and engage with local users on most platforms

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization or SEO involves creating great content. For example, carrying out research, gathering data and insights, creating graphics and videos explaining those insights and adding them to informative blog posts.

You can then promote your blog post by ‘reaching out’, or emailing people and journalists in your niche, in the hope that they use your research and link back to your website.

SEO is a lot of work. It takes lots of time and effort to create and promote great content. Also, keep in mind that Google Ads tend to dominate the search results for commercial search terms.

Establishing a Professional Image & Brand

Okay, so you have your business idea, you’ve created a marketing plan – now you need to establish your brand. Thought to originate from the branding irons that cattle ranchers would use over a century ago, a company’s brand now relates to the perception of services and products – it is what your target audience thinks of when they hear or see your company name, logo or slogan.

One thing you should have in order to establish a professional and trustworthy brand is a professional website. Using WordPress you can create a great looking website and take advantage of one of the hundreds of design templates (or “themes”) that are available.

To give an impression of a ‘bricks and mortar’ presence, consider purchasing a virtual office address and a virtual receptionist service. This way you can work from your spare room, but for all intents and purposes appear as a ‘established’ high street business with an office address and receptionist on the end of the phone.

Steps involved when looking to create your brand may involve:

– Researching your target audience’s pain points & goals

– Discovering your brand’s “purpose”

– Creating a brand strategy – how you are different & better

– Creating a brand identity – how you will convey your brand strategy

– Choosing a business name

– Designing a color scheme, logo & slogan

– Establishing your tone of voice for communications across social media

– Designing your website and social media pages

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