How to Start an Online Business

how to start an online business

How to Start an Online Business

Starting a business online has it’s appeals, it can be quick to set up and you can access a global audience. An online business has the advantages of being able to run on a low budget and isn’t beholden to a bricks and mortar premises.

During the Covid-19 pandemic online stores were still able to keep trading where bricks and mortar shops were instructed to close, this also lead to people turning to online for their regular shopping. The pandemic also showed that building an online business is an accessible way to start a side hustle or start a new business. 

However, don’t be mistaken, starting an online business is far from easy, you need to approach starting an online business in the same way you would any other business. The ‘build it and they will come’ approach won’t work, you need to work on building your audience, promoting your brand, website and ensure you are set up to take payments safely and securely.

Setting up an online business follows many of the same principles of setting up any other kind of business, you’ll need a business plan and enough market research to give you the insights you need to launch. For more information on how to start a business, see our article ‘What You Need to Start a Small Business’.

Create a Business Plan

A business plan is the best place to start before launching your online business. A business plan will contain your process for selling and delivering your products and services, your financial and operating costs, the results from market research and how you plan to fund the business. A business plan helps you to clarify your business idea, spot potential problems, set out your goals and measure your progress.

Conduct Market Research

Conduct research into your target audience, your competitors and potential customers. Test your product through surveys and focus groups. Market research is crucial for the early planning stages of starting a business. It will help you to refine your product and give you insight into your potential market to allow you to develop your brand and focus on the appropriate marketing channels.

Choose Your Online Business Model

Your business model is based on what you are selling. If you are selling physical products you will need to think about shipping and delivery as well as purchasing stock. If you are selling online services or selling downloads or subscription models you will need to have a system that allows you to take payments. Also thin about how you will fund your online business, how will you initially pay for your stock and operating costs? If you need help with funding and grants see our article ‘Available Grants for Start-Ups and Small Businesses’. 

Create a Strong Logo and Brand Identity

Give your brand and logo the attention it deserves. Your brand identity is what your customers will see first, it is your chance to make the right first impression and encourage customers to choose you over another online retailer. You can attempt to create your own brand, but to keep your brand looking professional and stand strong amongst competitors you should hire a professional who will create a brand identity that will position you in the market and work for you through your growth.

Build Your Sales Platform/Website

You will need an ecommerce platform to start making revenue from your online sales. Building a website may sound daunting, it is possible to build a website yourself however it is prudent to have a professional to get you started, an ecommerce site needs to look trustworthy through it’s user interface and user experience. If a website is built badly and loads slowly with bad links and complicated navigation your customer will leave the website. Your website also needs to be safe an secure to be able to take payments safely and ensure your customer’s details are kept safe and securely. Don’t forget you will need to purchase a domain name and website hosting. Choose a hosting platform that caters to ecommerce websites to ensure you have enough server space and security features. You can build your own ecommerce website, there are plenty of platforms that are catered to the ‘Do it Yourself’ market such as Shopify. WordPress combined with Woocommerce is one of the most popular methods of starting an online store.

Optimise Your Website to Attract Customers

The competition for online stores is huge. You need to put the work in consistently and regularly to grow your website’s presence. It is a mistake to think people will just visit your website, you need to implement a strong SEO and marketing strategy that will lead people to your site. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the work carried out on your website to improve your ranking on search engines. This includes adding keywords to your website copy and headings, adding description text (alt tags) to images and writing meta descriptions for each page and product and backlinks. Consider including blogs to your website, this will create a wealth of content for search engine optimisation. To find out more on how to grow  and market your online business, click here.

Comply With Regulations and Legal Requirements

GDPR compliance is crucial for any website, not just ecommerce sites. GDPR regulations encourage businesses to be open and transparent about how they use customer data and what cookies are being used to track customer activity. On your website you will need to provide a link to a privacy policy and cookie policy. Your privacy policy will include information about your business, compliance and the procedures you have in place to retain and remove customer’s data on request. If you are using any website plugins that track customer activity you will need to state this in your cookie policy and allow customers to opt-out of being tracked. In your website footer, include your registered business number and contact details.

Launch Your Brand on Social Media Channels

All businesses benefit from having an online presence, but for an ecommerce business you can not only promote your brand but social platforms like Facebook and Instagram also allow you to sell your products on their platform. Social media can help you to establish your business and grow your audience and sell to them directly. Social media also drives traffic to your website and enhances your overall online SEO. You can also pay for advertising to reach even more potential customers.

Online Payment Gateway

To sell your products online, a safe and secure payment gateway is essential for your business. If you’re running an online store you have multiple options for your payment gateway. You will firstly need a merchant account so that your sales will be connected to your business bank account. A payment gateway is essentially a middle man that acts as a gatekeeper between you and your customers so their payment details are always kept safe and secure and never stored on your website. A payment gateway validates the customer’s card details securely, ensures the funds are available and eventually enables your business to get paid. Here at Yorkshire Payments we provide a secure and efficient payment gateway called YorkshirePay, designed to support businesses that sell online, our ecommerce solution is simple, easy to use, secure and makes online transactions hassle-free to give your customers a seamless shopping experience. With our YorkshirePay® system you can take payments quickly, scale your business, build customer loyalty, process refunds, access business analytics and take payments 24/7. If you’d like to find out more about YorkshirePay® and find out if it’s right for your online business contact us at

Starting an online business can be a great way to operate a business with low set-up costs and you can get started right away as long as you have your business plan, market research, website, payment gateway and products ready. Make a checklist of what you need to launch your online business so that you can be fully prepared and ready for customers. Don’t forget to spend time optimising your website for search engine results and to take advantage of social media to promote your products and brands. Get in touch with Yorkshire Payments when it comes to choosing a payment gateway, our Customer Care team and Relationship Mangers will give you the best advice for your business needs.

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