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Start an Online Business for Free?

Can you start an online business for free?

When brainstorming about what to write about this week, I did some research in regard to what folks were asking when it comes to starting an online business. To say I was surprised was an understatement.

The top questions asked were:

  • How do I start a new online business for free?
  • What online business can I start for no cost?

Wow. After seeing that, the next thought I had was “no wonder online success is so elusive for some.” One thing about any business, online or off, is it is a very rare occasion where you can succeed on the cheap.

Online Business Startup Questions and Answers

Don't get me wrong, I understand that funds are low, and hard times make folks desperate for solutions. But to think that you would be able to start a successful online business for free or no cost is pretty much wishful thinking.

That's not to say that there aren't free services (with limited functionality) that you can take advantage of. For example free plugins, free themes, and freemium services. Freemium means limited functionality or users at no cost and you can upgrade for full features or more users.

There are staples that you'll need to set up that has a cost. Once those basics are in place, you can market your business at no cost with the price being only your time.

But time has a price too. It is not infinite and needs to be spent properly for best results. The expense of which, in my experience, many are not willing to spend.

Today I thought I would share with you a few of the common questions I get asked about starting a business online. Along with links to applicable articles that I've written on each subject for further information.

How much does it cost to have an online business?

That varies by type of business. Each business and owner has a unique vision. I have yet to discover a completely free business that you can start. One way or another you are going to have to invest.

  • What are you selling?
  • Services or something tangible?
  • Will you require some sort of eCommerce system?

Both will require certain staples and processes that need to be implemented. This is where doing your due diligence and getting a plan in place can lay the framework for what you need — or not.

You are going to want to map out every part of the marketing and sales process so that you have an idea of what features and corresponding costs are involved. Here are a couple articles to start with:

Do I have to have a website?

Yep. Even with just a side-hustle you should have a website.

You need to have a presence that folks can find to get to know you, your business, and your products. Credible businesses have websites.

READ: How Much Does Free Really Cost? Realistic New WordPress Website Expense Planning

You can minimize costs by doing it yourself. But even then you need a domain, web hosting, and other services to grow your online presence.

What skills will I need to acquire?

If you are a sole proprietor, you have to be a Jack or Jill of all trades. The beauty of the internet is there is a website or resource to learn pretty much anything you want to learn.

Practically speaking, however, there will be necessary tasks that you are not interested in doing or learning about. At least well enough to be effective.

Things like: customizing certain aspects of your website, configuring plugins or APIs, understanding the ins and outs of eCommerce and marketing. This is where being realistic about your skillset and willingness to learn new things is very important.

Once you nail that down, you will need to budget for help in the areas you know are important to your success that you don't excel at.

What website services must I have?

The bare minimum is hosting and email services. When it comes to these two services, you get what you pay for.

How long until I make a profit?

That too is unique to each business based on your product or service, competition in your market and how hard you go into working your new enterprise.

If you have a “me too” business with nothing really all that unique compared to what is already out there, you have a hill to climb. It will be harder to stand out and differentiate yourself from those businesses that are already established and have solid branding and credibility.

A better approach is to do your due diligence to discover a niche where you can do something different or better. Or, you discover a need that isn't being met and you meet it.

READ: To Succeed Online You Cannot be Average

How much time do I have to spend managing the business?

As much as you can. The more time you spend, the better the results you'll enjoy.

Is anything “Free” with online business?

Yes, well, sort of. When it comes to you “working” your new presence, you can write your own articles and create your own graphics. And as I mentioned earlier, you do the marketing leg work.

There are tools and services that offer free accounts, but with user and feature limits. And not all freebies are supported or will be there for the long haul. This is where determining a budget up front that reflects what is necessary to your success is worth the time and effort.

To market your website there are a bunch of opportunities you can try with little to no cost other than your time. Such as:

  • Facebook page, groups, live, stories,
  • Pinterest tribes, group boards, communities.
  • Instagram posts, stories, live.
  • Twitter, Twitter group chats.
  • YouTube, YouTube live.
  • Snapchat.
  • Email marketing (aff).
  • Affiliate marketing.
  • Blogging
  • LinkedIn posts, messages, groups.

But even with the above, you can't be lazy or spammy. In addition, there may be services and tools that will help you do the above more effectively and professionally. Whether that be monthly fees or site membership (aff) cost.

How should I get the ball rolling?

T.V commercials give the impression that you push a few buttons, and you then have a business website to sit back, and the money rolls in. Nothing further from the truth.

Sit down with a pad a paper or any business planning (aff) guide that you works for you. Using my linked-to articles above, create a list of the services and features that you need and the anticipated cost.

You then have to investigate the services and products you'll need to make things happen. Don't fall for fast, cheap, and easy pitches. That's rarely the case. (Check out the products and services I use for my own sites and recommend to my clients.)

Next, brainstorm how much time each day you can spend working on your new enterprise. Create a calendar of the tasks that need to be done and when you need to do them. Then have the discipline to follow through.

If you still have questions on what is involved to succeed online, just do a search on my Blog. I cover pretty much every angle you need to seriously consider.

At your service,

Judith: WordPress Consultant and Business Coach