The Ultimate Guide: How to Start Your Online Business (Part 2)

Welcome back to our guide on how to start an online business.

If you haven’t yet, check out Part 1 of How to Start Your Online Business here.

In it, we covered how to brainstorm a profitable business idea, find your perfect customer, reverse engineer demand by solving a problem, and finally setting up your online business on WordPress, Shopify, or BigCommerce.


Now comes the fun part. Branding your online business, finding customers, and making some cold hard cash.


Brainstorm a brand and register your domain name


Domain name availability
How to create your domain name.

Domain selection always tears me apart inside. You aren’t just picking a domain, but a business name AND brand identity. If that isn’t complicated enough, you also have to find available social media handles and attempt to integrate searchable keywords into your URL selection.

Quelle horreur!

It’s a lot of pressure. You might find yourself asking:

  • Can I create my own domain for free? (Yes)

  • How important is using a .COM? Can I just pay less for a .Net? (No)

  • How do I find the best domain name? (Keep reading…)

Don’t worry. I have you covered. We are on this journey together, and then you can grab your domain for free here.

Or buy it on Namecheap. You do you. Just don’t touch GoDaddy. They’re gross.


For me, domain selection starts with a week-long battle of indecision between a catchy brand name and keyword stuffing for organic search results.


For example, the title optimized for search engine results:

Versus a brand name ‘.COM’ such as.


The bottom line?


Search engines are getting smarter by the day with each algorithm update.


Unless you are churning and burning small niche sites, a website name like ‘’ sounds so 1992. But if you find that domain name available for under 1 million dollars, buy it.


What is in a Brand Name?

Focus first on being catchy and memorable, by using tools like alliteration. Scroll to the bottom for some free business and word idea generators that can help you name storm.

While ‘’ is too generic, I do suggest incorporating real words that somewhat reveal what your product is about.

Including words that are relevant to your product will probably work better to inform and intrigue customers. For example ‘Facebook’ is the perfect name for an online book of your friend’s faces.


A quick note about domains: keep them short, snappy, memorable, and use ‘.com’ whenever possible, even if you have to change your brand name up a bit.


DO go with a ‘.COM’ whenever possible, as ‘.COM’ websites have the greatest global ranking potential. The shorter the syllables and character count, the better. You don’t want someone trying to find your website typing in the wrong domain and getting lost in the ethers of the Internet.


Although search engines recognize the authority of alternatives such as ‘.net’, it will be a confusing mouthful every time you want to verbally direct someone to your site.


From a branding and human perspective, ‘.com’ supplies more credibility. I also suggest avoiding dashes, abbreviations, and articles (at, the, and) if at all possible.


There is a trove of digital tools and domain name generators to help you explore fun alliterations or synonyms that might be relevant for your brand. I’ve included a few for you below to experiment with.


Online Business Name Generator Tools

And my personal favorite:


Pro Tip: Mostly importantly, don’t overthink it. Set a deadline for yourself and commit. Done is so much better than perfect. I repeat, DO NOT get stuck on this step.


Personally, I snap up a cool sounding domain every time something interesting pops into my head. Some people collect pogs or Barbies. I collect domains – in case you didn’t already think I was a nerd.


Building Your Audience

Building an audience for your online business
Let’s get this show on the road.

No one is going to pick up what you are putting down if they don’t know it exists.

Now that your online business is live, it’s time to tell the world about it by driving traffic to your website. But let’s face it: the human attention span surfing the Internet is about the same as a goldfish. 

Think about how much you click around on the Internet and then quickly leave if you don’t find what you want in 0.05 seconds.

A majority of new traffic to websites tends to bounce. Driving traffic to your site can easily waste money and attention unless you have something to catch that interest with. 

But how?


Your Email List

Your email list is your crew, your audience, your tribe, your band of believers. They are the ones who will come back again and again if you treat them right. Before you start driving any traffic to your website, make sure you have

Your email list is the ultimate weapon to take your relationship with potential customers to the next level.

The ONLY thing that matters at first is your ability to collect email addresses. Don’t worry about the 10,000 categories you want to have on your site someday. Don’t even think about perfecting your Instagram grid color scheme.

The most common ‘regret’ I hear from successful entrepreneurs is that they wish they started their email list sooner.

This is how you can begin to do business now and get traction maybe before you’re ready. It doesn’t even matter if you know what you want to sell yet or not: do not leave hundreds of potential clients and customers on the table because you thought you had to have everything else perfect and set up first.

Social media is cute and it can sell, but only a fraction of your followers will even see your posts.

Remember when talked about building your business on your own land? An email list is part of that land. It is an invaluable business asset that you have full control over.

It isn’t going to be ripped out from under you because Zuckerberg woke up on the wrong side of the bed and decided to f*ck with the algorithm (again).

Email Platforms 

  • ConvertKit

    • For: SAAS companies, blogs, coaches, solopreneurs
  • Klaviyo
    • For: eCommerce

Email platforms I wholeheartedly do not recommend, for reasons I will not disclose because I am a lady (sometimes):

  • AWeber
  • ConstantContact

Which brings us to the next question: how do you build your email list?


Deliver value first

Have you heard of the rule of reciprocity?

It is one of the most powerful and sometimes almost irresistible tendencies of human nature. When we receive gifts, favors, invitations, or random acts of kindness, it creates a very real desire to pay back the favor.

Reciprocity and cooperation are very important survival mechanisms and even exists in mice. In one study, rats who cooperated by sharing food bonded and were rewarded with more snacks. The rats who constantly mooched and didn’t pitch in were eventually shunned by their rat partners.

Where am I going with this? The best way to kick off a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with a potential customer is to start by delivering value.

You can do this with your email list by offering those who sign up a free email course, tip sheet, promo code, book, music playlist, joke, or just an excuse to procrastinate on reading their email. Whatever you chose, make it an offer they can’t refuse.

When a website visitor subscribes, this ‘welcome gift’ should reach them immediately, either via the subscribe confirmation email or an autoresponder sequence. 

This is akin to texting a girl IMMEDIATELY after she gives you her number, so she doesn’t forget who the hell you are and marry the next guy she meets. Don’t blow it. 

This gift will immediately establish a relationship of trust and reciprocity with your potential customer, showing you are someone who follows through on their word, and not just another Internet scammer asking for money. 

Keep in touch with your list, like you would with a friend. Remember to send an email to your list ever so often that is VALUE DRIVEN. Before sending an email, make sure to always ask yourself ‘How does this benefit the person reading it?’ This will protect you from being that boring guy at a party who only talks about himself.


Email Sign-Up Offer Ideas

  • Newsletter (most basic, most popular)
  • Promo Code
  • Free Course
  • Free Download – Tip Sheet, eBook, Spotify Playlist, etc.
  • ‘Coming Soon’ or Waitlist – product launch or limited release
  • Join the Club (make it exclusive and VIP)


Email Collection Formats

  • Banner
  • Spin to Win
  • Welcome Mat
  • Hello Bar
  • Scroll Box


 Sign Up Tools and Plug-Ins

  • Privy
  • MailMunch
  • SumoMe 



Social Media Marketing

Social media manager
Is your business ready for social media?

Idea validated? Check.

Product ready for purchase or use? Check. 

Email signup collecting emails and delivering on value promise? Check. 

Ok, NOW you can set-up social media accounts. There are SO many social sites you can waste time on, and probably will. With the amount of noise on social media, trying to be everywhere at once on the Internet will ensure you spread yourself too thin and your message reaches no one.


Instead, start by picking one platform and being the best you can possibly be at it. 

Nevertheless, it won’t hurt to set up a private page to hold your unique brand name and handle in the case that you expand in the future. 


If your product is facing customers directly, consider focusing your social media presence on: 

  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • TikTok
  • Reddit
  • Quora


If you are selling a product to companies (B2B), LinkedIn, Quora, and Medium are where you want to be. 


The Content Feed

The social media 'feed'
The content feed monster eats organic.


It’s called a ‘feed’ for a reason. Managing a social media channel is kind of like having a baby or a pet that needs to be fed daily. Social media without content is like PB&J without jelly. Or even peanut butter.

Fortunately, after years of practice, I have discovered some ways to automate this as best as possible.


If you are a one-person show, automating your social media accounts is a must. With the tools below, scheduling a social media once will automagically post it to all of your accounts, reducing your workload by a cool 75%. 



A simple way to keep your feed full is to populate it with top trending articles. Start by searching for a topic relevant to your business at

BuzzSumo displays the top shared articles in your industry or niche. You can use this tool as a compass for what content will be well-received by your audience. 

This is also excellent research to help you understand what is trending in your industry, and what your audience will want to hear about and share. 

Copy and paste the top 10 (free) results in your social automation account. 

  • BONUS TIP 1: Search and tag social handles of article authors, websites, and influencers mentioned in the content to get more exposure to your posts. Outside of Twitter, this may require some manual posting. Why? The more people you mention in your content, the more likely they are to share it! Ten points! 
  • BONUS TIP 2: Until you get your own blog and content strategy rolling, you can post and promote outside content but still collect email leads with the tool

Posting about your own sales and products is also important, but use the 80/20 rule:

80% of content should be fun, interesting, or informative and 20% can be a hard sell. Remember, if you are boring or scammy, people will rightfully tune you out. Stay cool and keep it interesting. 


Now it is time to choose your own adventure:

  • I have more time than money! See Step 9. 

  • I have more money than time! Really? I’m jealous. Skip to Step 12, or just keep going.


‘Organic’ Traffic

In digital marketing and business, ‘organic’ means ‘free’, or not promoted with paid ads. The idea is that posting organic content naturally attracts customers to you. 


Social media without content is like PB&J without jelly. Or even peanut butter. If you want to attract some bears, you need to make some honey. In Internet Marketing, that means blogging. 


Creating and maintaining a blog on your website is a way to quickly deliver value to your customers and establish yourself as an authority on your product or subject matter.


Instead of waiting for the press tell your story, why not tell it yourself?


Blog posts are also valuable for search engine optimization and indicating to Google that you have a high-quality website that is worthy of organic rank in top ten search engine results.


What to write about?

The best (free) marketing strategy is delivering incredible content
Take the writing challenge.

Remember when you cyberstalked your customers’ problems all the way back in Step 1?

Well, you’re in luck. All of these questions, problems, and solutions are the writing prompts for your content marketing strategy.


When frat bros search ‘best college party drinking game’ you’ll be there. Or when Cowgirl’s search ‘Western outfit ideas for Honky Tonk Wedding’ YOU’LL BE THERE. By the way, have to have read Part One to understand what I’m talking about here.


Write blog posts that address your customer’s queries, including your product keywords. 


Encountering writer’s block?


It happens to all of us. That is why I created the 30-day writing challenge.


  1. When writing, think of a close friend or customer who would benefit from your product. Write to only this person. It will make your writing fun and personal. It also takes the pressure off of the idea of writing something thousands of people will read.
  2. Wake up an hour early every morning to write a letter or email to that person. Don’t post, publish, or edit. Just write. 


By the end of the month, you will be surprised to find you have enough content for a Kindle book, email launch sequence, or at least several blogs.

If you simply cannot write, you can hire me, or find someone on Fiverr to do it.


Add compelling photos to your blog, website, and social media with the free stock photo sites and design tools below. 

Free stock photo website on iPad


Another alternative to writing it to record your own podcast. This can supply you with evergreen content for years to come. Not only will you wind up with a podcast, YouTube video, and some social media bytes, you can also transcribe your recording into a blog post. There are many low-cost transcription services available that can take care of the transcription process for you. 


Podcast Tools:


Remember to post all of your content on your website’s blog, and funnel all of your blogs through social media schedulers recommended in Step 8. 



Where are your customers hanging out online? Search the forums below to find out where you can reach people who might love your product. 

You can post your new content in related threads, or interface with potential customers. Forums are also a wonderful way to further get in touch with customer problems so you can provide them with a solution. 



Getting press for your online business

Remember how I said it is better to write your story than have someone else write it for you?

I stand by that.

Before you even bother reaching out to press, make sure to develop a d*ng good pitch detailing why anyone should care. Establish an angle that people will want to read about. Make it compelling. 

This will be fodder for your press release. But press releases are so 2001. You don’t actually need one. Just ask the Tech Crunch editor, Mike Butcher

What you do need is a Press Page and an exceptional outreach strategy. Now is the time to start newtworking with reporters on Twitter

The ‘Press Page’ on your website should contains links to any articles written about you, PDF or web links to existing press releases, and easily scannable blurbs about what makes your company, product, and founders unique. This page should also contain contact information that makes you easily accessible to reporters. 


BONUS: If you want to be successful with the press, consider doing the hard work for them by simply writing the breaking news article yourself. 


Some questions to ask yourself as you brainstorm your spin:

  • Is your company donating profits to an important charity? 
  • Is your product a wacky invention that solves a weird problem? 
  • Do you have a celebrity spokesperson or investor? 
  • Did you experience some crazy overnight success on Kickstarter or social media? 
  • Are you rags to riches hero story? An underdog taking on a corporate behemoth? 
  • Are you trying to solve a big problem in the world that could really make a difference?
  • Can you contribute business knowledge others can learn from? 
  • Are any of your employees involved in a scandalous celebrity love triangle? Hey, it’s worth a shot.


If you are struggling to find your angle, get more ideas by flipping through Inc. magazine or watching a season of Shark Tank. Every article and episode contains examples of other people who had to come up with a story or angle that was compelling enough to get recognition. 


Once you have completed this process, there are several ways to approach outreach. The first is to use the websites like PRNewsWire and HARO to respond to ads posted by journalists looking for a source or a quote. These posts can also offer some insight into what subjects and conversations are trending in your industry that you may want to contribute to. 


The second way to approach press is to directly reach out to reporters on Twitter, LinkedIn, or via the email listed for them on their articles. 


Thirdly, consider making yourself the subject matter expert. Submit your own article ideas to online magazines in your industry, or reach out to bloggers you admire about on opportunity to guest post. 


A few notes about the press: 

  • PR is a two-headed dragon that can be difficult to tame if you can even wake the sleeping beast at all. On one hand, creating press for your business is a wonderful way to manufacture expertise, fame, influence, and drive traffic to your website. On the other hand, a mis-quote or mis-reference can spiral quickly out of control. To read more about how to leverage controversy to your advantage, check out ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying’ by Ryan Holiday
  • Press outreach can be a slog. It can be difficult to break through the noise and clutter that reporters, newspapers, and magazines are inundated with. Be prepared to reach out to hundreds before getting a nibble, and don’t get discouraged too quickly. 


Paid Traffic

Now that you have completed all the organic steps required to set your product up for success, you can now resurrect your ad campaigns, if you created any in step three of product testing. 


A word for the weary: you will probably need to spend at least a few thousand dollars on paid ads before it will become an effective or lucrative endeavor. Every product and ad campaign is different, and the key is optimizing and refining. 


If your budget is still small, get creative. While everyone is running ads on Instagram and Google these days, you can look to smaller search engines like Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo. Run ads where your audience and social media presence is, whether it be on Pinterest or LinkedIn. This is another arena where you want to focus undivided attention on one medium until it is profitable, before moving onto the next.

Each ads platform demands a how-to book in itself, but here are some high-level principles to guide you through: 


Use pixels, UTM codes, discount codes, Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and any other means at your disposal to understand where your paying customers are coming from, and what they are buying.

Test, Test, Test

Remember the scientific method in high school science class? Me either, but the idea is to create a test environment by creating two identical scenarios with one variable changed. This also works for A/B testing ad campaigns. Running multiple campaigns at once can help you test different variables such as image, headline copy, link, or anything else. After running the ads for a few days or weeks, remove those that aren’t performing and test a new variable. You should always be tweaking everything from audience metrics to creative to optimize and refine performance. This especially goes for visual platforms (Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) in which ads can lose their effectiveness after about six months due to audience fatigue. 


As you become an expert on your business and product, you can start discovering important metrics such a ‘Cost Per Acquisition’ and ‘Customer Lifetime Value’. These two metrics uncover how much you need to spend on an ad campaign to acquire one paying customer, and how much that customer will spend, on average, 

Your online business is open
Congrats- you’re open for business.

Final Step: Sell all the things!


Word of mouth from your first early adopters and customers can make or break you. 

I get to know my first customers as well as possible. I also treat them like royalty, even going so far as to send thank you notes, create special coupon codes with their names in them, replace an order they aren’t happy with for free, or send them a gift in exchange for reviews or testimonials. 


Rinse, Sell,  Repeat. Good luck and keep us posted on how it goes! You will have questions along the way, so feel free to post them below. 


And remember to come back and say hey once you’re a big shot.  

Written by: Alice
Written by: Alice

Last Updated: October 26, 2020

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