So you’ve done it. You’ve decided to take the leap and start your online business. Wahoo — go you! Only, you’ve started to notice that you’re lacking in several departments when it comes to things like setting up your website, creating a social media plan and creating shareable images…
Now, you’re just plain overwhelmed, wondering what the heck you thought you were thinking — starting an online business without first doing a bit of research into what you’d need to get things going.
Don’t worry. I’m the same. I tend to jump first, then look around for rocks… not the best way to do things, but it’s how I learn, fast. So if you’re like me and you’ve already jumped, now it’s time to step back and learn.
There are some key skills you need in your back pocket to get your online business up and running, and while you can outsource everything that I’m about to share with you, I know you’ll wanna try these things for yourself first, because you’re just that kinda gal (or guy)!
7 Skills Needed to Start a Successful Online Business
Some of these might seem obvious, and others you might not have thought about yet. Either way, just pick and choose what you need to learn more about and hop to it!
#1: Your Website
Now this will largely depend on the type of online business you’re running, but for most of you, I’m going to assume you’ve jumped into freelancing or consulting, which means WordPress is your go-to website platform.
Regardless of which platform you’ve gone with, you’ll need to understand how it works, how to setup a theme and how to get your website live.
Here’s some of the things you’ll need to have in place for your website to really stand out and set you off on the right foot:
- A web domain. Check out places like Godaddy.com or Namecheap.com
- A place to host your website and your domain. I recommend Hostgator.com or SiteGround.com to get started with
- A business email. My preference is to go with Google Apps and set up a business account there. It costs like $5 per month and allows you to access emails via Gmail or your preferred mail app
- A great looking theme. Depending on your platform, you'll be able to access both free and premium options. I love the ones at Creative Market, loads available across multiple platforms and at reasonable prices
- Relevant plugins/apps to customise your website. Shopify and WordPress both accept Sumome, something you should definitely add to your site if you want to engage and attract more customers/clients
If you need help figuring out how to set up your website, consider taking a quick online course on how to get started. Most of the platforms provide free training videos and documentation, which you can find below:
Figure out where the gaps are and focus on those areas. If you’re not at all sure where to start, start at the beginning on the platform you’re building your business on. This will likely mean reading a bit of documentation, but it’s better to get a brief idea of the direction you need to go than to fumble around blindly and waste time, right?
#2: Social Media Management
Once you’ve got your website up and running, it’s time to get your social media accounts connected and setup. You might already have some social media accounts in place and if you’re going to have a blog, it’s important that you think about how you’re going to be sharing your blog posts.
Once you’ve got your social media sites set up, it’s time to think about what you’re going to share on these platforms and how often.
If you’re going to focus on platforms like Pinterest or Instagram, there are specific tools that can help you with these platforms, such as Tailwind or Boardbooster for Pinterest and Latergram for Instagram posts.
The key is to make sure that you’re posting to these regularly and sharing and engaging with your target audience. All of these platforms provide a level of training on how to use them, but you’re better off taking an online course that focuses on the platforms you’re looking to utilise the most.
Here’s some worth checking out:
- Social Media Management 101
- Facebook Marketing 101
- Pinterest Marketing 101
- Instagram Marketing 101
- Twitter Marketing 101
- Snapchat Marketing 101
Personally, I recommend that you only focus on one or two platforms to begin with and really connect and engage with your target audience there. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t be effective and it will be like a spatter approach, you might be everywhere, but you’re not forming long-term relationships.
Focus on the 1-2 platforms that make the most sense for you. For me, that’s Twitter and Pinterest. I’m branching out into Snapchat as well, so if you wanna connect with me there, you can add me by my username “lisecnz”.
I also use Buffer to manage my social sharing and CoSchedule to get my blog posts out and shared as well.
Find what works for you and then implement it.
#3: Image Creation
If you’re like me, and completely graphically design challenged, then you’re going to love the next few tools I’m going to share with you! I use them to create all the images I share on my blog, in courses I create and social media shareables. They make my life easier and for those who don’t have an eye for graphics, they provide templates – yay!
- Canva - this is by far the best. I use it to create images, header images for social media acounts, creating gift vouchers, PDFs plus so much more. You cannot go wrong with a free account at Canva and the best part? They provide templates so you don't have to think too hard about what to create!
- Picmonkey - this is a close second to Canva and something I use if Canva is down (very rare) or if I want to do something a little different. Well worth checking out, also free.
- befunky - similar to the two above, it really just comes down to personal preference here. It's good to have a few of these in your back pocket so that if you can't access one, you can quickly jump to the other.
- Pablo - this is one create by Buffer and is perfect for creating quotable images and is my preference because it also allows me to share directly to Buffer once I'm ready!
There are literally hundreds of other image creation tools out there, but these will get you off on the right foot.
In terms of stock images, Canva provides you with a lot for free but they also provide 1-time license images for $1 as well, so if you see something like, you don’t have to stress that it’s going to cost you and arm and a leg.
For the ultimate in free image options, check out this post on Medium.
#4: Video Editing
While you might be sitting there thinking, “I’m never doing any type of video” I can literally guarantee that you will, particularly if you want to stay relevant and get in front of your audience.
I resisted doing video for long time, but have now embraced it and do this with a weekly vlog.
If you’re looking at Facebook advertising, video’s convert much higher than any other type of ad, so definitely something to think about as you mull this over.
Depending on the operating system you’re using, you’ll already have a video editing program on your computer. For Windows, that’s Movie Maker and on a Mac it’s iMovie. Both of these will get you over the line in terms of basic editing and if you decided that you wanted to do more, then you’re gonna have to pay for it by upgrading that software or using something more robust.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the robust stuff, both Movie Maker and iMovie will get you where you need to go and then rather than paying for expensive software, just outsource it 🙂
Not confident in your video editing skills? Neither was I until I watched a few iMovie videos about how to do specific things with my video editing.
A quick search on YouTube and you’ll find what you’re looking for.
Check out a couple of the videos below for more info if you need it.
Windows Movie Maker
Don’t get too freaked out about videos. Honestly, once you’ve done a few, it’s like riding a bike. And don’t think you need some fancy camera to record your videos, your smartphone is perfect for capturing short videos, it’s what I use to do the vlog.
All you need is a decent tripod or a selfie stick to capture your videos so you’re not propping your phone on top of a pile of books, running backwards and forwards trying to stop and start your videos… yep, that’s what I was doing!
This is kinda important, particularly if you’re still juggling your side hustle with a full time or part time job. If you’re not organised, then things will start to fall through the cracks, and not just work-related stuff. Personal and family stuff will also start to falter and then you’ll start to feel pretty crap, as will everyone else around you.
Now I know not everyone is an organisational freak like me, but you do need to have some kind of system in place if you want to be successful. If you look at all the successful entrepreneurs, the ones that you look up to, I can guarantee not one of them attributes their success to lack of organisation and planning.
So it’s time to figure out what that looks like for you. You could have a calendar on the wall that you use to keep track of what’s going on, or you might use an app like Todoist or Freedcamp to keep track of what’s happening. Even a spreadsheet will work.
What are you keeping organised? Your side hustle and everything else. It’s your life of course, so you’ll do what you want, but I can’t speak enough about having some type of system in place to keep track of everything. I find that when I’m feeling lost, it’s because I haven’t been keeping track of what I’m doing and when.
My self journal keeps me on task along with Todoist, but I also need to have a sense of purpose and overarching goals… you might not need this, but you will need something.
Here’s a list of some of the things you’ll need to keep track of:
- Client projects and their deadlines
- Your daily tasks, both work and personal related
- Social media account posting
- Your goals for the week
- Income and expense tracking
Now it’s your turn. Figure out your own organisational system and implement it now.
#6: Email Management
Have you heard these five words, “the money’s in the list” and wondered what they were talking about? I know when I first started my side hustle, I heard this phrase a lot and I couldn’t really wrap my head around it until I read this article on the Location180 blog.
Once I understood how important having an email list was, I started looking at ways to implement this into my website and that’s when things started to get a little tricky… what email management system was I going to use and then, what on earth am I going to send people who subscribe?
So this skill focuses on two things:
- What email service provider will you use?
- What will you send to people once they subscribe?
Let’s break this skill area down and address the first question.
What email service provider will you use?
There are plenty to choose from and some of it does depend on your website theme and integration, although the options I’m going to list below will integrate with most WordPress themes (and there’s always a workaround!).
Here’s some of the more common email service providers that you should check out for your side hustle website:
Speaking from personal experience, Mailchimp is probably the easiest to setup, but it is limited if you plan on doing multiple businesses and courses. They have added a pro version, which does allow you to handle everything, but it’s costly. I’ve used Mailchimp for over 3 years now and have got to a point where I need to move to a system that provides me with a few more options… what I’m I going with?
ConvertKit. It suits my business model and treats subscribers as individuals who can belong to multiple lists called ‘tags’ — I love this concept and it will make the whole process a lot easier going forward as I promote more books and courses.
I know several people who swear by Aweber and GetResponse, although Aweber’s user interface is awful. Mad Mimi is pretty funky and might be a good solution if you’re looking to start small.
Investigate all and see what will work for your business. Most of them will provide a 30 day free trial, so you can check out their functions and see if they’ll work on your website.
Once you’ve got your email service provider all sorted and set up on your website, the next part of the equation involves engaging your subscribers.
What will you send to people once they subscribe?
You have to engage your subscribers once they’ve signed up, and part of this process is offering a subscriber value right from the outset.
One of the ways you can do this is to give something away for free as part of the introduction to your business. This could be in the form of an ebook, video course, email course, resource library etc.
I have a couple of these in place. I offer two ebooks that address issues new freelancers might face as well as the new Hustle & Groove Vault, which is full of templates, swipe files and proposals to kick start your side hustle business.
Once people subscribe, they go through an autoresponder series that introduces them to me and highlights some of my books or courses. Once they finish this initial series, they are moved over to my weekly newsletter list.
Here’s some other great resources on what to write in your autoresponder:
- The 5-Step System for a Perfect Autoresponder
- How to Write Effective Autoresponder Series
- 4 Types of Autoresponder Series and the One You Should Avoid
- A Step-by-Step Guide on Creating an Autoresponder
Copywriting is about writing persuasive words that entice people to take a specific action. It can also be about speaking those words as well.
So if you’re dealing with people on a day-to-day basis already, there’s a high chance that you’ve already got some copywriting chops to expand upon.
Copywriting is about telling stories, about connecting with the reader and getting them to feel like you understand them and get their problems.
You’ll use copywriting a lot in your business, so it’s important that you at least understand the principles behind it and if it’s not something you enjoy doing, you can outsource it, but you should know how it works and what you want the end result to be.
Here’s some copywriting courses you should check out, plus some further resources to read:
- Copywriting 101
- How to Become a Master Copywriter in Just 1 Year
- The 5-Part Series on Increase Sales
- Copywriting Basics
- Copywriting Secrets: How to write copy that sells
- What Does a Copywriter Do
Ok, now you’re all set and ready to go. Read, implement and execute. That’s what it takes to rock your online business.