Questions to ask yourself when starting a new online business


So you have a great idea and the desire to create your own business! Congratulations! Now what?

This is the scenario I find many people facing when they reach out to me for help. I understand the anxiety of the unknowns. You may be great at baking or consulting or landscape architecture, but you are nervous about some of the initial business, branding and website processes.

I just spoke with a relative who wants to start a new professional services business. He says he has an idea and needs a website and logo to get going. He asks me what else I need from him to start working on a Squarespace website for his new business idea. I replied with a good list of questions that all prospective business owners need to think about before making that leap, and I figured since many folks are in the same position that this would be good to share. Here is what I asked him:

  1. What is the goal for your website? Are you building awareness for your business, are you selling online, are people able to book appointments? Do you want people to sign up for your email list? What actions do you want people to take when they get to your site and how does that help your business?

  2. Do you have a business and domain name? If so have you checked it against the TESS national trademark database to ensure you don’t get sued? If you have a viable name, what names will you use for social media handles? Are they available? Have you done an initial google search to ensure no one is using something similar in name or pronunciation within your industry? Look out for tips for choosing a good business name in the coming week.

  3. Who will you use to host your website? I’ve used Squarespace for over 10 years and have found it to be not only a viable option for small businesses but a great tool for creatives. The ease of use, integration with their email platform and beauty of its options prove tough to beat in today’s market. So many business owners I know are tired of being held hostage by an agency with a custom content management system that is difficult to update. I can create a Squarespace site for you that allows you to easily maintain and update it. I’m putting together some training aids for clients as well that will put more of the power back in your hands!

  4. Do you have a clear idea of what products or services you will be offering? Are you selling products online or in a brick and mortar location?

  5. Who is your ideal customer/client? Are they purchasing wholesale or retail? How much are they spending on average? How often are they returning to make additional purchases of goods or services?

  6. What problem are you solving for them? Why should they choose you? What differentiates what you are doing from your competition? What’s your special sauce?

  7. Do you have copy we can use for your website? Do you have a mission statement? Have you written anything describing what you offer? While these areas can be a good jumping off point, don’t fret if you don’t have it figured out yet. Distilling messages into clear, concise and actionable items for social and the web is one of my specialties.

  8. Do you have photographs for bio photos or product shots for items you will be selling? I cannot overstate how important strong photography is for adding legitimacy to your website or blog. I studied photography in the Navy and learned how much of an impact you can have with a strong image. If you don’t have any photography yet, don’t fret. I can help coordinate from a small but talented group of photographers throughout the US to ensure the images for your site are top quality.

  9. Do you have a content marketing plan? How will you keep people coming back to your site? One way to ensure you position yourself as an expert in your field is to create content demonstrating that expertise. How often will you write on your blog? What email platform will you use to stay in contact with your devoted customers? How will you utilize your social media accounts to drive traffic? This is something I’ve helped clients with in the past. With a background as a photographer and writer, I can help you create, schedule and deploy content that speaks to your audience and keeps them engaged.

My name is Stephen Jones, owner of Ship Company™ My mission is to to give entrepreneurs practical tools that help them find their independence and support them in creating their own livelihood. If you are interested in more of these type of tips, feel free to sign up for my email newsletter. I will be sending it out once a month with some solid actionable steps to help you turn that idea into something special. Cheers.