When I stepped foot onto the internet, I didn’t expect to make any money. I knew there were ways to make money online, and I wanted to, but I frankly thought I’d lose interest before I ever made a dime. I had no idea how to start an online business.
Now, here I am a few years later with a solid home-based side business that is supplementing my nine-to-five job income. I don’t make enough to quit my job day. But that was never my intent.
The best part about online business income is that it’s passive. Yes, I write once a week or so. But most of the income is generated through previously written material that attracts a readership through search and other traffic means.
Do the work once, keep getting paid.
Low Barriers to Entry
The barriers to entry to start an online business are very low. You only need a few basic items to get started. Most people already have a computer. So you’re good there. Then you need a web domain and self-hosted hosting service that runs WordPress (WordPress.org). Web hosting is inexpensive and surprisingly easy to obtain.
WordPress is free web-based software that allows non-techie people to create websites and blogs. About 25% of the internet runs on WordPress. It’s easy, but you need a host and server to run it on.
Once you decide to start an online business and settle on a domain name, it takes just 5-10 minutes to get up and running a website. And it only costs about $84 (all included) for one year (cheaper per month if you buy for multiple years).
I use BigScoots which is a favorite among money bloggers.
Avoid free services like WordPress.com (same software as WordPress.org, but restrictive) and Blogger because they aren’t as flexible for monetizing your online business.
I started this blog using WordPress.com and it was a mistake. After 6 months, I transferred RBD to a self-hosted WordPress installation on Bluehost.
That same month I made my first dollar online.
Bluehost served me well for more than four years. I recently switched hosts to BigScoots to increase my site speed. New bloggers are fine to go with Bluehost because it’s the lower cost option.
All businesses have startup costs. In the grand scheme of things, $84 for one year of hosting is a tiny investment. Compare that to buying a rental property which requires thousands of dollars down plus the hassle of managing it (although now there’s hassle-free real estate investing).
That’s why I love online businesses… They are so cheap to get started. The longer you operate an online business, the more you learn.
Avoid Mental Roadblocks
Most online entrepreneurs were hesitant before getting started. The mental roadblocks are endless.
- Should I form a business entity first?
- Don’t I need a business plan before I start?
- How exactly do I monetize my online business?
- Since I’m not tech savvy, how could I start something online myself?
- If I do need help, where would I go to find it?
- Will I even like having an online business?
- I already work. Where will I find the time?
Don’t worry about these thoughts in your head. You can figure it all out along the way. Talk to most successful entrepreneurs and they agree on one thing. Just get started.
There’s nothing to lose (except $84)! But if you not willing to risk $84 to potentially earn many times that, entrepreneurship isn’t for you anyways.
The first step is so simple: establish an online presence. A blog is a perfect way to do that. Or, just a basic website that establishes you or your idea online.
WordPress allows non-techie people to do either. That’s how I started my online business.
Here’s how you can too.
Five Steps to Start an Online Business
You probably have some idea of where you want to go with your business. Mine was about investing and saving for retirement. So I started a blog about the subject.
Yours might be about travel, or food, or music, health, or 80’s sitcoms or whatever!
I recommend pursuing a business in something you already enjoy or obsess over. That way, you’ll always be excited to work on your business. As a side business, you can take more risk. Don’t be afraid.
The idea in your head is a good one, or else you wouldn’t be considering it. Establishing your idea online is the first step to monetizing.
You can get a website up and running in about five minutes. This section will take you through the five step process. Once you’re up and running, the possibilities are infinite. Get started.
I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs have given me that advice. Just start the business. Learn as you go.
Note: Bluehost is a sponsor of this website through an affiliate partnership. If you use any Bluehost links on this page to open an account, I may be compensated at no additional cost to you.
Step One: Choose a Domain
Come up with a compelling or clever name. This is incredibly important, because the name may stick with you for a long time. Avoid hard-to-spell words. Don’t use cliches. Stay away from names that are too long, or completely off the wall. Stick with a dot com name.
Try to include a keyword that describes your business. My site is about early retirement. So I put “Retire” in the name. That’ll help your brand and search traffic later on.
Use the tool below to search for a domain name you like. Try a bunch of names. Google the words to see what kinds of related sites are out there. Experiment. Bounce ideas off trusted companions.
Go ahead, type it in below:
How’d you do? Was your site available? Mine was! I could be the proud new owner of ILikeBurritosALot.com!
Remember your available domain for later. You’ll enter it while signing up for your host.
Step Two: Set Up Your Web Hosting Service
I used and still recommend Bluehost for beginner bloggers. It’s a popular choice for beginner and intermediate web business owners. More than 2 million websites are hosted on Bluehost. Signing up is easy. I’ve provided step-by-step instructions for this process.
Click here to get started. You’ll be taken to this page:
There’s a hottie there to greet you. Click the green button to get started. Next, you’ll be prompted to pick a plan. If you’re new at this, I highly recommend the basic plan. It’s plenty to get you started and grow your website. You can always upgrade mid-year, which is very easy (I did this after about two years).
Next, it’s time to enter the domain you selected. The price of the domain is included in your package. Enter it on this page on the left side. If you already own a domain (purchased somewhere else), enter it on the right.
Up next, your basic information. Don’t worry, this all remains private.
After that, you’ll select the package information. For new bloggers or online entrepreneurs, I recommend buying the one-year deal for $5.95 (about $72 for the year).
If you’re not sure what you’re getting into, you may not like running a blog or online business. To sign up for three years is probably too long (and more expensive) for a lot of people.
On the other hand, if you have a good idea and you’re fully committed, buy the three-year plan. Again, you can always upgrade, and Bluehost has sales throughout the year to extend your hosting.
Once you pick your plan, definitely buy the Domain Privacy Protection. It’s an extra $12, but keeps your name and address private. The total should be about $84 (below example is for the three-year).
After that, you’ll be prompted to put in your billing information. It’s a standard payment form. Once the payment is complete, you’ll receive a welcome screen.
Next, click the create your password button and set your password. Don’t forget to read the terms and click the radial button.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Bluehost provides one-click WordPress installation. Super easy. This process installs the WordPress software on a Bluehost server. It does this automatically for you. But it’s important because it allows you to get to work. You’ll ultimately access the WordPress Dashboard from your web browser.
To start, sign into Bluehost.
Find the “cpanel”. This is where you can control your website behind the scenes. It’s a little intimidating at first, but the customer service help is excellent if you ever need help here. For now, we’re simply installing WordPress.
Click “Install WordPress”.
You’ll arrive at the MOJO Marketplace. This is the place where it’s downloaded from. You’ll never return so just click the start button. The latest version of WordPress will be installed (currently around v4.6)
Select your domain.
Then fill in the appropriate information.
And watch the install happen in real-time.
And just like that, it’s complete. As I said, this all happens on the server side and isn’t something you’ll deal with day to day.
The next step is to log into your WordPress Dashboard. You’ll go to this domain to do it:
That will take you to the following login view.
Type in your username and password. Hopefully, you stored this in a secure place and remember it.
Below you’ll see your WordPress Dashboard. This is where the magic happens!
Seriously, you’ll spend a lot of time in this dashboard. It will take some time to get used to it, but WordPress is extremely user-friendly. You’ll find plenty of WordPress basics tutorials on YouTube and online. Try a few to understand it.
Basically, “Posts” are blog posts. “Pages” are static pages. Posts go into your RSS feed and out to subscribers and archives and the world while Pages are meant to be informational and do not go to your RSS feed. Not starting a blog – use pages. Starting a blog – use posts.
Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that helps you understand your stats and provides some basic services like email and social sharing.
Plugins are easy to install special services to your site, like pop-ups, sliders, advertisement inserters, SEO help etc. WordPress has thousands of plugins to help you achieve your goals. You learn about them as you pay attention to other WordPress sites and want to add functionality to your own site.
Step 4: Install a Theme
WordPress comes with a basic theme. A theme is what gives your site a unique look and character. There are thousands of free and cheap themes available. I use WooThemes Canvas on this site. It’s a powerful theme that allows for endless customization.
I’ve also tried and recommend StudioPress on the Genesis platform for themes. You can also explore:
Installing a theme is easy. On the WordPress Dashboard, click Appearance then Themes. Then click Add New. From here you can explore even more WordPress themes or upload one you’ve acquired elsewhere.
Once you’ve implemented your theme, go to your home page and see the transformation. Write a quick test blog post and page, click “Publish”, and see what happens.
Step 5: Go For It
Now that you have WordPress set up and your theme in place, it’s time for content. This is where you harness your own skills and knowledge built over your lifetime to create amazing things.
Blogging is a good way to start your online business because you’ll develop your writing and WordPress management skills needed to succeed. Many online entrepreneurs started as small-time bloggers. Then learned the ropes to apply their knowledge to other projects.
My second online project was much more successful out of the gate because I knew what I was doing after two years of running a blog.
Take your time. Establish your online presence and expertise. Interact with similar businesses already established online. Learn from others who are already out there.
If you need further help, a number of inexpensive resources are out there. For example:
Grammarly can make you a better writer. It’s like having your own editor. Way better than MS Word. And it’s free.
Fiverr is an online marketplace where people from around the world are available for just $5 to help create your logo, build your website, help with WordPress or any other side gig you can think of. Help is just $5 away. Incredible value.
I’ve created a more detailed page dedicated to helping you monetize and build your business. Click here to check it out.
Although it may be intimidating at first, it takes just minutes to start an online business. Once you’ve established your online presence and learned how to manage a basic WordPress site, the opportunities to grow your business or start something new are endless. Truly endless.
Overnight success isn’t necessary. It takes time. Be consistent, learn from free resources all around the web, and enjoy what you’re doing.
If you do that, success will follow. It did for me. Now I run two websites and each turns a profit every month. Costs are low, so profit margins are quite high. Way better than my rental property.
Because of the low-cost to entry, many low-quality websites and online businesses have popped up over the years. It’s your role to create awesome content and products and be better than the next person.
Stick with it. Enjoy what you’re doing. Network. Be different… and your online business will succeed. Start an online business today!
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