The Ultimate Online Business Guide: How to be Your Own Boss in 2019

We all have ideas for how we'd like to make money online. The hard part is knowing exactly where to focus your time and energy to turn that idea into a flourishing online business. That's why we created the ultimate online business guide—to spell out the vital steps every entrepreneur needs to take in order to get online and selling as soon as possible.

Follow these steps to get your online business up and running in no time.

Secure your domain

You'll want to create a memorable, appealing domain name that relates to your business. A short, simple domain name that identifies the kind of business you own is a good place to start; try to keep it under 20 characters. Avoid words that are difficult to remember, and using symbols or numbers. In order for your domain name to stick, it also needs to be easy to pronounce.

For example, Dang Shades sells its sunglasses on its namesake website, while Blue Mountain Vineyards tells its story and offers its reds and whites, wine club memberships and special event tickets.

Once you purchase your domain you own it. Pro tip: Choosing a multi-year registration will help you land higher in Google rankings and avoid an unintended expiration.

Search possible domain names to see if the one you want is available and explore possible alternatives.

Perfect your value proposition

Creating a value proposition before you launch your online store will help you and your customers clearly understand why your business exists. There are a few simple questions that you can answer to ensure that your purpose comes off sounding great every time. Use the below shoe insert company example as guidance:

  • My business is? I created a product that helps women wear high heels—without the pain
  • What's the problem you're solving with you business? When I go out dancing, I take off my high heels because my feet hurt so much. So I started to think, “how can I look stylish without breaking my toes?”
  • What makes your business unique? My product’s shock absorbing, affordable to make, and it doesn’t slip out of place like most inserts
  • What impression do you want your customers to leave with? This is something that everyone who wears high heels has been looking for. What do you think? Want to give your feet a break?

Once you've nailed down your value proposition don't keep it to yourself—tell your story on your "About Me" page.

Product photography tips

Over 75% of online shoppers rate product photography as very influential when they're deciding whether they want to buy a product.* Showcasing your products in the best light makes your website look legitimate and builds buyer confidence. You can check whether or not your images are high quality based on blurriness, brightness, composition, and more by uploading them to the Weebly Photo Analyzer.

If you're up for the challenge, try shooting your product images yourself with a borrowed DSLR camera or iPhone following our Product Photography Guide. You can also ship Weebly your goods and our expert photographers will shoot three product photos then send your products back to you for only $10 per product with Weebly Photo Studio.

Add products to your website

Now that you have beautiful product photos it's time to upload them to your site. Compelling product pages are vital to selling your merchandise.

First and foremost, tell a story about each of your wares by providing an appealing description that will motivate shoppers to add it to their shopping cart. If you have a way with words, have fun writing the descriptions yourself; if not, consider hiring a professional freelance copywriter. In the product description focus on features, such as color, size, scent, taste, sound, materials, and uses. Don't forget to include the most important part—the price.

A product page title will double as the page's title tag. Product page title tags are important because they tell search engines what's on the page, and are displayed in search results. To draw in shoppers searching online for items like yours, use a descriptive title tag for each product page that is clear, concise, and uses the keywords you care about most for that product. Keep it to 60 or fewer characters.

To update your product page title tag, go to your store page, then navigate to Products > SEO Settings > Page Title. (You can take similar steps for every page on your site.)

Set up taxes

Store locations, customer addresses, and various state laws come into play when calculating sales taxes.

If you're on the Business plan or higher the automatic tax calculator can provide some help to online stores based in and shipping to U.S. addresses by taking the figuring off your hands.

Other origins or destinations require manual setup based on province, territory, or country, although rates are pre-populated for Canadian addresses and we provide help to determine rates for other locations.

Click onto your Store > Setup > Taxes to establish your business's sales tax rates. You'll need to provide all your store locations if you have more than one.

Set up shipping

For the basics of your shipping operation, including shipping rates and carriers, you have a number of choices. Whatever route you go, your online business will be set up with a professional logistics process.

Here are the options when it comes to shipping tools:

1. The Shippo app. Create labels, compare rates among multiple shippers including FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the U.S. Postal Service, and enjoy shipping discounts. The Shippo app also offers automatic tracking and customer email notifications.

2. Real time shipping. If you're on the Performance Plan and use Shippo, you can use real time shipping (RTS), which at checkout shows your customer's shipping rates generated by your selected carriers based on the contents of each order. You can add to or subtract a percentage or dollar amount from the shipper's rate if you choose. To use RTS, which covers shipments originating in North America, you'll need to know the weight of your merchandise and the dimensions and weight capacity of the boxes you'll use; a default shipping box is set, which you're free to change.

3. Manual shipping. You can also configure and enter shipping rates manually based on various factors, including customer location and order weight, price or item numbers. Or you can mix RTS and manual shipping rates. You may decide to use a flat rate for all orders, or offer free shipping to help win the sale. Whatever shipping decisions you make, you can enter the specifics under Shipping > Rules.

To add shipping, go to Store > Setup > Shipping > Shipping address. Enter a new address or use the one from your store setup page.

Cover the SEO basics

You're almost ready to click that "Publish" button. Before you do ensure your basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) information is complete so your website appears in search engine results for related queries. One of the easiest steps to take is filling out the Description for your entire site and the individual pages that make up your site. Write unique, accurate descriptions for each product instead of copying and pasting the same description for all similar products. Search engines are intelligent enough to recognize duplicative content and will ding you for the shortcut.

Description and Keywords for each individual page can be found under Pages > Edit Page > Advanced. The Advanced settings are accessible by selecting the Pages tab, which opens your Pages list in the sidebar, then clicking on the individual page.

Utilize these fields on all of your pages except for your Home page. The Home page fields should be left blank as it's best that this page relies on your site level SEO settings.

Drumroll... Publish your website

Don't be afraid to publish your website—even if it isn't perfect. You can make changes as you go to continue to improve your eCommerce shop.

The important part is getting online so you can start to spread the word about your unique business.

Take the next step in turning your passion project into a business. Weebly’s suite of eCommerce tools can help grow your online store at your own pace so you can still balance your full-time job and personal life. Sign up today and launch your small business.

*Weebly survey of online shoppers ages 16-55 conducted in June 2018.