How to Start an Online Business in 2020 that Actually Makes Money

How to start one online business

Cookie-cutter advice of years past not necessarily going to work in 2020, so I am going to take everything I have learnt in my ten years of online business, and form a clearer picture of what will actually lead to success.

I am not going to dwell on the current state of affairs too much. Let's just assume that you plan to start a business that is conducted mostly online, and with minimal, if any, in-person contact.

Step 1: Pick a skills and service-based business idea that is relevant to you

I am not going to give you a generic list-post of “ten business ideas you can use to make money online”. You won’t make money with that advice since pretty much everyone is attempting those ideas.

Instead, think about what you are good at and what you are knowledgeable about. How can you apply that knowledge to fix someone else’s problems? If you are short on skills, then think about what things really interest you that you could teach yourself online. If you lost your job as a bartender, but you’re heavily into fitness and weight lifting, you could start offering online home-based training for the rest of us who can’t head into the gym.

If you have a formal education, then use that. Don’t start making arts and crafts, writing $5 articles or buying into an MLM. You will make a lot more money capitalizing on your existing experience. Almost any skills-based career can be conducted either fully online or with minimal in-person contact.

Again, find a pain point that people experience and come up with a solution that you can provide.

If you’re struggling for an idea, drop a comment below with your skills and/or interests and I will endeavour to give you some ideas.

Step 2: Learn how to build & maintain your own website

Do not, I repeat, do not pay someone else to build your website. You will need to update your website on a constant basis and you don’t want to fork out a couple of hundred bucks every time you want to change something. There are platforms that charge a small monthly fee and give you an easy interface to build and update your own site.

Not only will DIY’ing your website be cheaper, but the process alone will give you a tonne more hands-on-experience about how the web works, and how online business is conducted. Just like the owner of a physical store needs to know the ins-and-outs of maintaining and managing their premises, you need to know exactly how your virtual storefront works, and how to improve on it.

I’ve written an entire article on how to market your business online without forking out tons of money for adverts and web developers. I suggest reading it after you’re done reading this article.

I can guarantee that once you’ve finished your website, you will likely have many more ideas on how to make more money online with your services.

Step 3: Have patience and exercise grit. This too shall pass!

I would love to give you some ideas on how to quickly make money online, especially during this pandemic where job losses are rampant. Anything that is quick and easy will have a ton of competitors, therefore driving down the price. You can’t have all three!

Quick and easy? Less money; anyone can make koeksisters.

Quick and profitable? Not easy - you need valuable skills

Easy and profitable? Requires capital, time and a lot of risk-taking (think investing)

Anything that is quick and easy will have a ton of competitors, therefore driving down the price. You can’t have all three! Click to Tweet

That said, you are going to need to keep your head down and keep trying until you strike something that works. It may take weeks, or it may take months. Grit can be defined as passion and perseverance for long term goals in the face of adversity. And 2020 has no shortage of adversity.

Starting a business is a lot like a relationship. The beginning is exciting and full of new experiences, but 6 or 12 months down the line excitement starts to fade and challenges arise. If you remain committed to something, you can work around the obstacles. Don’t chase the dragon or monkey branch onto something new every two months.

While this is now in the territory of generic business advice, I want you to keep this in mind when you start marking online - consistency over time is imperative to gain a following and get found in Google search.

Eventually, once COVID-19 starts to fade, business will pick up again. If you’ve spent this time building a sustainable base, you will be set for greater success when the country, and the world, recover from the expected recession. You want to be one of the first ready for business when money starts flowing again.

Eventually, once COVID-19 starts to fade, business will pick up again. You want to be one of the first ready for business when money starts flowing again. Click to Tweet

Expect smaller profits and slower growth in the short-to-mid-term and poise yourself to strike when the opportunity comes.

Step 4: bootstrap, be greedy and prioritise your internet connection

Since we’ve clarified that this may take some time, you’ll want to spend as little money as possible. Please do not do something silly, such as buying business cards or throwing money at Google ads when you lack the technical know-how to do it cheaply.

Keep your money and learn to do as much of the work yourself as you can. You’re in this for the long-game, not expensive and quick returns.

Write your own articles, handle your own newsletter and speak to your customers yourself. The main thing you want to spend money on will be a stable internet connection and a secondary backup connection for emergencies. Personally, I am lucky enough to now have a Fibre connection, but even before that, I had an ADSL connection and used mobile data if that was down.

Only answering an email at 4 pm, that you received at 8 am just because your internet was down will not be acceptable, and will tarnish your online reputation.

Finally, take care of yourself

I wrote this article outlining how to be productive as a freelancer by focusing on your wellbeing. The article can be applied to any home-based business owner or worker, so take a look! Implementing those changes was a game-changer for me.

That’s it. If you have any questions about what I have covered, drop a comment below and I will reply.


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Further Reading

I learned the hard way, that starting your own small business is extremely challenging. It’s a known fact that most small businesses fail within a few years if they even survive the first three months. Starting an online business, or even moving to a freelancing career will completely change your life. Here’s my experience of starting an online venture.
Saying ‘no’ is one of the most important things I have learned how to do during my time as a developer, business owner, and freelancer.Not saying no can easily lead to a far more enraged client than if you had blindly given in to all of their requests. It can also cost you a lot of money, time and health to try to keep up with constant changes or scope creep.
Updated: 14 May 2019