How To Start An Online Business

how to start an online businessEvery week I get a variety of questions about how to start an online business.

Most of them come from people who have heard about the opportunities online, and are struggling with all of the options and information out there. Just like this email I received from Rebecca...

I am trying to do too many things at once. I have been trying to learn it all to start an online business: Affililate marketing, article marketing, video marketing, creating and maintain a blog, etc. and really just going in circles.

My goal is to find ONE good method of creating an income from home similar to what you have done. The problem: Where to start. Most likely I need to scrap it all, and just start with a clean slate. Any suggestions as to a starting point? (Just one)

Thank you so much for your advice!

How To Start An Online Business

The proper way to start an online business, just like any kind of business, is to first decide which market you want to serve - and how you want to serve that market.

All of the other details will fall into place once you make that decision. Details such as your website model, business plan, marketing strategy, etc.

Most people start out backwards, trying to learn all of the models and strategies, without actually having a specific business idea in mind. You're certainly not alone on that point, and it can be very overwhelming.

Especially when you don't yet have a business to apply it to!

I have a personal rule when it comes to "learning". I learn only what I need to know to accomplish what I am working on right now. And when I do study a method or strategy, I implement as I learn - on the spot.

My suggestion for your starting point is to choose a niche. Just one niche. Then decide how you are going to serve that market, or what your business model will be in that niche. Everything else will fall into place from there.

See How To Make Money Online - For Beginners for 10 simple steps to start a successful online business.

Click on the link above, read through my advice there, and then start with step one. Each step includes detailed instruction, with an opportunity to leave a comment or ask a question about that particular step.


p.s. You're going to have even more questions along the way, and you may need technical help as well. Find a community you can get involved with where you can get feedback & resources, and ask questions. I run a community for online business owners and welcome you to join us there - even if you're still just trying to figure out how to start an online business (yes, newbies are welcomed!).

About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Ellen Braun says:

    Lynn, I really appreciate that you only consume information that you need right now.

    Sometimes I am bombarded with newsletters, reports, and ideas... and it can get to the point where I am spending the majority of my time consuming information about making money rather than actually making money!

    • True! Everything that comes into my Inbox gets filtered into a separate folder labeled "archives". If I ever need anything on a certain topic, I start there. But I don't let those topics interrupt my current work flow.

  2. Missy

    Great tip about just picking a niche and working from there. IM is mostly about trial and error. In the beginning, no matter how many ebooks or guides you read, you're going to make a series of mistakes before you find your hot spot.

    Just start!

    Then go from there. Join a forum, ask questions along the way. And follow others who are successful. Learn from them!

    • Getting Started is definitely the key. You have to get out of learning mode and into earning mode. From there, any mistake you make takes you one step closer to knowing what *will* work in your market or with your model.

  3. My problem is that I don't want to pick the WRONG niche and invest all my time on something that isn't going to make money.

    • Hi Tess,

      You definitely want to do keyword research and market research before starting an online business. If you have any questions about how to do those things, let me know. I have a series of tutorials on the topic I could point you to.

  4. Hi Lynn, Thanks for the post. I'm actually running into a problem, because I can't figure out my target market, I might actually have two different markets. One market is for local businesses, and the other is consumers who are looking for that local business. Any ideas on where to start with this one? I am guessing I need to stick to the local business side first and getting people to my site to list their business on the site, but I am lost on how to do this. If this seems to be another topic all together, I would love for you to write a post on this. 🙂


    • It sounds to me like you are connecting two groups: merchants and consumers. Your target market is people in a specific area, but you serve each of the two groups in different ways. Am I getting warm?

  5. Wendy Sullivan says:

    I'm with Tess on that one. Shouldn't we try a few niches at once, and weigh them against each other?


    • It's best to do your market research upfront, select one niche or market to work in, and invest yourself 100% in that business. It's really difficult to get decent results if you're managing too many niche models at one, so it would be difficult (at best) to know which one would perform better.

      Several years ago (5'ish) you could use affiliate links on Google Adwords to weigh niches or even products against each other, but that's not a viable option anymore with Google's newer affiliate policies.

  6. "Only learn what I need to know", then do it! Great concept; I will try to keep that in mind.

  7. In the last few weeks I've learned a couple lessons that I wish I would have applied long ago. Infrastructure is the main one. I wish I had spent a lot more time in the beginning setting up the infrastructure, or paying a VA to do it. Things like TubeMogul, and Onlywire accounts to name a few - and more than that - one for each special niche.

    I bow to Lynn when it comes to giving advice on this stuff, just thought I'd pass on something I've been thinking about this week.

  8. When starting out, it is easy to go into info overload, try to put too many irons in the fire, and go nowhere. Thanks for timely advice. You are right. Pick and niche and work it 100%.

  9. Richard says:

    Finding the right niche really is key. I see so many examples of people who haven't done the necessary research before starting a site only to find that either the competition is so great they can't get any traffic, or they have chosen an "information-based" primary keyword rather than buying keyword and so they struggle to monetize it.

    Carrying out detailed research - not just in terms of keywords - but also competitors, monetization strategies and the like - really set you up with the best possible chances of success.

    What's more, as Lynn says, getting started rather than just reading about getting started is one of the best lessons out there.

    Many years ago I set up a website and found that 90% of my traffic were all going to one page of my site. Mmm, interesting I thought.

    So I set up a whole website on just the topic of that article, going into great detail, which rapidly turned generated enough traffic and profits for me to go fulltime online.

    This was a random niche I'd probably never have spotted if it weren't for simply getting out there and watching what seems to work.

    Opportunities arise when you get started. People email you asking to advertise on your site. Product sellers try to recruit you as an affiliate. You can build a list. But none of this happens until you get started.

  10. Ashley says:

    Could you please link me to your keyword research tutorials you mentioned above?

  11. Sure! I compiled the list of free market/keyword research tutorials into a new post for you:

    Keyword Research

    Enjoy! 😀

  12. Hard, hard, to start a business, your article is very useful for all peple. Pick a niche but it is difficult to fnd the right niche when we wuild a business about a too hot niche, there are too many big competitors we can't beat. Need a marketing plan, keywords research, ect, so munch headaches!
    By the way, thanks for this informative article.

  13. Matthew Zinda says:


    You are a genius!

    You are right, Rebecca is not alone. There are so many people giving us so much information online. Who do you listen to? What information is relevant to your success? What do you do next?

    I like your post, "How To Make Money Online - For Beginners"

    My advice is to get into the right mind set. What does that mean anyway? The first thought that comes to mind for most people is, "how can I make the most amount of money in the least amount of time?" If you ask me, this line of thinking will kill you.

    If you want my advice, the first question you should ask yourself is, "how can I provide the most amount of people with the most amount of help?"

    People feel uncomfortable around people who are obviously trying to sell them something. They build a big brick wall between you and them.

    People flock toward helpful people. If you have the mind set I explained above, and if you be yourself, you are way ahead of the game already.

    Good luck!

    Matthew Zinda

  14. What I tell my clients is that find something that you like. Creating an online business is just like any job. You're going to have to work it like a business and the better you like the business the more time you will put into it. It does take work and you have to be prepared to do it.

  15. jamessamy

    "I have a personal rule when it comes to “learning”. I learn only what I need to know to accomplish what I am working on right now. And when I do study a method or strategy, I implement as I learn – on the spot."

    I like what you said Lynn and it is true. I have to learn to filter all the mails and concentrate on what i want to do. Thank you Lynn for reminding in this post

  16. Hi, thanks for the post. Starting an
    online business is not such a hard
    task, but earning from the business
    is the hard part of it.

    People must do a plan before they
    start and they must have a system
    to market their product otherwise
    they will fail.


  17. Omega 3 Supplements says:

    Lynn, Great post. I think it gets at the biggest reason online companies fail- they have no market in mind. People who begin with online companies simply think that they can throw a website up and make money. Identifying the customer has to be a top priority.

  18. I learned this the hard way: Only read the stuff you apply right now everything else is irrelevant. When I was totally new to this I read everything. I tried everything. I worked on 10 websites at the same time. Oh I need to this cause that marketing guru said I should do that blablabla.

    Think for yourself and go from there. Those gurus and experts are not smarter than you and they figured it out too. Focus on the task at hand.

    Ah, it seems as your blog posts get even better every time!

  19. Grigore says:

    Yes I work with MLM and Affiliates Program and I see big diferences. Becouse MLM is based on Consumable Product and business YOU can build step by step, and in time you can make big money. With Affiliates programs you can make quick money but in time you need to promote more and more businesses. Lots of work, traffic, advertising and moree..
    But I still have good rezulth with both.
    God bless all

  20. What an empowering article. Many of the women in my network often start with the question "where do I start?" I conducted a Teleseminar last week and the first place I suggested that they start with their niche (who they serve). Many times ladies feel that they are cutting off their potential for clients by doing this when in essence you are able to leverage your time and money by being clear on your niche. This is also the reason for my upcoming Life and Business Empowerment Quick start Teleseries. Some are experiencing overwhelm and information overload and simply need a trusted source to receive training, tools and support from.

  21. Great advice! I might even add that identifying a niche AND figuring out what problem you're going to solve within that niche should be the first step. If you're able to find an area where you can provide unique value, everything else (like the business model, promotion strategy, etc.) just falls into place as a function of meeting the market need.

  22. Tommy Lee says:

    Great post! I recently started my own online business and it is really all about your niche. I have tried several different ventures online, but this is really the first one that I am passionate about and it makes a HUGE difference! Too many people think the Internet is just a place to grab a lot of money really quick, but it's just like a brick and mortar business and possibly even harder given the technical learning curve. Great article.

  23. Hi Cherry,

    Are you looking for resellers, or affiliates? Do you offer a dropshipping program, or an affiliate program?

  24. Lynn,

    I've been following you for over a month now. One question I have. I know you make money online from affiliate commissions. I dare not ask the niches. However, I am curious about how many different websites you have.

    I noticed a lot of blog posts about products (something I picked up from you, thank you very much)but I was wondering how many DIFFERENT sites you have.

    Thanks for all you do to help the IM community.



    • Hi Shane,

      I started out with one major niche site, and one minor one - referencing their size, and profit potential. The minor one being more of a personal passion and "fun site" for me. Over the years I added to my portfolio, and then ultimately scaled back again. I found that I could only truly apply 100% to a few projects, not half a dozen or more.

      I recommend you choose a niche you're really into, and "crush it!" as Gary Vaynerchuk would say. Go all the way with it - to max profit potential.

      • Thanks Lynn. That was a big help. I have one niche site about IM (go figure). I was nervous about adding another site, but what you said made perfect sense. I can add a "fun" site.



  25. Jason Webb says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m actually running into a problem, because I can’t figure out my target market.This is a great business advice article. It covers all the aspects, I am thinking to relocate my business soon using a professional company and seeking new challenges for better success.

  26. Thanks for sharing this- I think the idea of choosing a niche and starting from there is really valuable advice. I certainly relate to trying to do too many things at once! I've found the key is to start small and specific and work one step at a time.

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