How to start an online business
Internet companies can take many forms. We talk to the experts to help guide you through the basic business principles
- What is an online business and who is it suited to?
- Online business models
- Business domain names
- Design and functionality of the website
- Hosting your company
- Marketing your online business
- The rules and regulations of the internet world
- Expert tips and advice for online companies
- Register your online business name with our preferred company formation agent (external site, opens in new tab)
- See if you can get a Start Up Loan to help you start an online business idea (external site, opens in new tab)
What is an online business and who is it suited to?
In 1989, while working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. More than two decades later and the face of communication, the flow of information and the world of business are unrecognisable as a result.
The internet has created a whole new generation of millionaires, and quite a few billionaires, since its conception. After its creation, globalisation suddenly had a whole new vehicle, and entrepreneurs had a completely new route to market. Amazon, eBay and Google immediately come to mind when thinking of the internet establishment, but at the other end of the spectrum is the sole trading entrepreneur building a business empire from the comfort of a spare bedroom.
Starting an online business can be as simple as setting up a basic shop on eBay to sell a few wholesale items, to coming up with a completely new online concept with a novel way of monetising it.
The beauty of the online business is that it’s suited to just about anyone. You don’t need to be an MBA graduate based in London to succeed. You can start your operation from anywhere, as long as you’ve got access to an internet connection and a bit of business acumen.
You can start off small, work on it part-time or even view it as a hobby before you decide whether to commit to it. Claire Lewis and Pat Wood started their online retro t-shirt shop Truffleshuffle.com as a part-time venture.
“It all started after Pat bought a retro t-shirt in the States and friends kept asking where he’d got it. Truffleshuffle was only ever intended to be a hobby – something to bring in a bit of spare cash. It was only when the site went live and started growing that we thought: ‘there’s mileage in this’.”
It may be worth considering seeing if you can get a Start Up Loan (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) to help you with financing, and mentoring to start this business idea. You'll also need to think about registering your business, either as a sole trader or as a company - if a company, then Smarta Formations (external partner site, link opens in a new tab) are an organisation that can help you set up.
At the other end of the scale, Sophie Cornish and Holly Tucker did a five year profit and loss feasibility plan before they started work on their site, Notonthehighstreet.com, an online marketplace where customers can buy from a whole range of independent, quirky and specialised small businesses in a single transaction.
Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.