Growing & Starting an Online Business – Checklist & Steps

In this starting an online business checklist I’m walking you through all the steps I’ve deemed most important in my 22 years of building businesses online. 

This checklist won’t include legal advice or suggestions like “research and write a 90-page business plan” that you’d find for typical business advice. 

It’s not for start-ups that want to scale to multi-million dollar corporations. 

Also there’s no legal advice in this starting an online business checklists. For that you’ll want to consult with a lawyer on how to register, rules for your state or province, etc. 

Starting an Online Business – Lifestyle Business

In this post we get to the fun stuff – we’re talking about starting a Lifestyle Business here!

A lifestyle business is built on a personal brand where you serve a community of people who get to know, like, trust and love you! If you’d like more info on what a lifestyle business is, Shopify has a good post on it here.

This is me, with my son, in 2006 when I was starting my own online business and working it all out!

Starting an online business checklist.

I hope you find this starting an online business checklist for lifestyle business hopefuls very helpful in deciding what to do to create your lifestyle freedom and in what order! 

1. Starting With Your Core Messaging

This is the part where most people tell you to choose a target market. 

I approach this differently. 

It’s my opinion that if you choose your Core Messaging instead of a target market you will attract what I call “forever customers”. 

With Core Messaging people are drawn to you based on your Core Values instead of what you sell. 

So when you niche to a market like, say, Copywriting for Coaches, and your build your entire business and marketing around that niche then that’s what people are there for. 

If you ever need or want to pivot you will lose your audience because they have no other connection to you. 

Starting an Online Business – Checklist on Values

However, let’s say you use Core Messaging. This means you attract people with messages based on what you value. You talk about honesty and integrity in coaching and how to be a coach who gets real results. You talk about how to convey that through copywriting. 

In the second case you will attract coaches who need copywriting but ALSO have the same values as you do. 

Then you also talk about other life things you value – like relationships, family, fun, etc. This endears people to you more. 

So think about this. You can Google Core Values or take a test. Decide your Core Values and then create Core Messaging around that. If you need help I have a class on this here (use the link to save big time on it). 

Create a checklist of your core values and then a list of your core messages. Put those somewhere where you can see them often (I like my computer sticky notes app).

Here’s my list of core values. I pop this up often to keep me on track with my content and connections:

Starting an online business, checklist of core values and messages.

2. Choose a Business Model & What You’ll Offer

Every business needs something to sell. This is business 101. 

Yet when people go online they sometimes forget the simple act of choosing their business model and offers!

As you work through this start an online business checklist you will realize there are so many options, so many ways to create a business online and so many business models. 

And it’s so easy to switch models OR run multiple models at once! 

So what can you do? 

YOU must choose. 

You have to start somewhere. 

My first online business was selling physical products.
Next, I moved on to teaching others how to make those products.
Then, I moved on to Virtual Assistance.
Later, I moved on to selling digital products. 

The thing is one thing leads to another. 

You don’t usually end up where you start. 

So choose a business model and hit the ground running with that. 

Examples of business models to start online:

  • Services Business (Virtual Assistant, Graphic Designer, Website Designer, Writer)
  • Digital Downloads (Ebooks, Printables, Workbooks, Planners)
  • Courses (Video, Group Coaching)
  • Affiliate Marketing (Sell other people’s programs and products)

Next, you’ll need to start with an offer. 

What Will You Sell in Your Online Business?

Decide what you will sell. Will it be a course? Coaching? An eBook? A Membership? A Group Coaching Program? Plannings? Articles? 

Whatever you decide, remember it doesn’t have to be locked in forever. 

I think people struggle to create an offer because they think they can’t change their minds. This isn’t true! Your offers will surely evolve over time. 

Do decide what you will offer. 

Choose something you have enough true experience and results to help people with and move along to the next step. 

After you’ve done this step you’ll want to move to your offer formats and deciding what will serve your people best.

3. Decide Your Offer Formats

Formatting your offers can get complicated fast. 

Take a membership for example. 

You could start a SIMPLE membership with one product a month delivered and a Facebook group (I call this the Class-Based Membership). 

OR you could go all out with all the bells and whistles with a new membership: Monthly challenges, weekly membership calls, Facebook group, digital downloads, Q&As and more. 

It’s not a great idea to overcomplicate your plans. 

Start simple with your offer formats. You can always add more later. 

Offer format examples:

  • Video course
  • Mixed-media course
  • Membership with group
  • Membership with monthly classes 
  • Monthly coaching calls
  • Voxer coaching
  • Email coaching
  • eBook
  • Hourly consulting
  • Virtual event host
  • Workshops

Don’t get caught up in your options. 

What’s great is you can always adapt as you go. 

Your customers will almost always help you, too, by asking what’s included or telling you what they need. Then you can add to your product or make others to fill those needs. 

You’ll want to think about your own skillsets, your desire to help others and the format you think will best deliver your message. 

Then go for it. 

Brainstorming offers is our next point on the checklist, below.

4. Brainstorm Offers

Flying by the seat of your pants is not a great way to create an offer so it’s best to brainstorm and outline the offer. 

My offers are outlined in mindmaps. I find them really helpful to see both big picture and small picture. It’s a myth that mindmaps are for non-linear thinkers. It’s true that they’re great for non-linear thinking but it’s true that they allow for very linear planning and processes! 

I teach this in Mindmap Everything and if you want to learn more you can opt-in on this page (learn mindmaps) to get email tips and info on the lessons. 

No matter HOW you brainstorm it’s so important to create that outline and plan so that you can go forward with confidence and take purposeful action. 

And remember, this is a checklist for starting an online business is about lifestyle business… so keep that in mind every step of the way.

My business provides me the lifestyle I want and love so I can have time with my family and enjoy that lifestyle freedom:

Starting an online business checklist

Now let’s move on to a very practice step in the checklist – building your website!

5. Starting an Online Business Website, Checklist

This next step in your starting an online business checklist can get BIG and SCARY so I’m going to give you the basics.

The best way I know to build a website you fully own, so it’s a business asset, is to get hosting and install WordPress. 

What I recommend for this phase, the starting your online business phase, is to get up a very SIMPLE website. 

Here’s your simple checklist. You want at most a:

  • Homepage – This is where you welcome people and tell them what your business is about. 
  • About Page – This is where people find out about you and it’s the second most popular page on most sites (after the homepage). 
  • Contact Page – Where people can connect with you. 
  • Offers Page – Where you tell people what you sell. 
  • Blog – Where you add ongoing content to attract your people! 

This isn’t an article on how to build a website so for now I’ll refer you to my course : Make Websites from Scratch

When your website is built it’s now the perfect time to start creating an email list. Let’s learn that next.

6. Starting Your Email List

One of the most overlooked, effective and underused business marketing strategies is the email list. 

So while I will encourage you here to start your email list I also want to encourage you to actually EMAIL that list. 

Build the relationship. Get to know them. Let them get to know, like, trust and LOVE you! 

I’ve written some articles about emails lists that you’ll find useful for this step:

Personally I’ve found email marketing to be one of the absolute BEST ways to build my business. 

In the 20 years I’ve been raising a business while raising a family I have spent at least 10+ years consistently emailing my list daily. Yes, daily. A quick message from me to keep in contact and build an incredible relationship. 

It’s the kind of relationship where I have had customers for over 10 YEARS still buying from me. I’ve sold over $1 Million Dollars through email marketing in that time. 

When I say build your email list I can’t understate this. It’s an incredibly effective marketing method not to be missed. 

Next let’s talk about generating traffic to that list…

7. Generate Traffic

No matter how you slice it you can’t get away from the fact that you need eyeballs on your offers. 

That’s commonly known as “traffic”. 

As with much of your business there are many options for you. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. 

You could feel overwhelmed with the options or you could see the abundance of choices as a blessing that allows you to pick one just perfect for you! 

I recommend seeing it as a blessing and choose a traffic method that works for you. 

Some of my favorite traffic getting methods are:

  • Collaborations such as bundle events. 
  • Affiliate partners who often send me traffic AND sales. 
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which is one I’m still learning and super excited about! 

Again, many options are available to you. I won’t list them all but I will say you want to get in front of your audience where they are. 

This could be on podcasts, social media, YouTube, through partnerships, affiliates and more. 

If you need more help on this I share all the methods that are working for me with the most up to date info via my email list. You can sign up here if you’d like the scoop! 

Social media is next.

8. Add in Social Media & Other Methods

I have a number of posts on this blog about how I quit social media for a year or so. 

With that in mind you’ll know I’m not one to put a lot of stock or focus into social media but I do see it as a valuable tool. 

Social media gives you bonus touch points for those who are on your list.

My first priority would be to build my list (and it is) and THEN get those subscribers onto your social platforms so they see you more often, are reminded of your offers and go back to email to buy from you! 

That’s all I’ll say on social for now. I’m testing out some strategies and I share the kind of things I’m working on to my email list if you’d like to join 😉 

9. Systemize & Improve Your Business

Once something is working in your business it’s not time to move along. 

It’s time to MAXIMIZE on that baby. 

So when I have my email list growing and making sales I don’t move to Pinterest. 

No I keep working to max out my results with email. 

To do that I keep looking for ways to improve what’s working and to make my current tasks easy and repeatable. 

My daily email task is a habit, it’s a system. I know when I’m writing, approximately how much I’m writing, what I’m writing about and I get it done – day after day. A system. 

Look for patterns and use those to be efficient and effective in your business. 

This is including in the starting an online business checklist because if you think about this from the start you’ll have such a leg up by the time your systems start to emerge. 

10. Innovate & Scale – Final Starting an Online Business Checklist Item

This final step of your starting an online business checklist is similar to the last.

The main difference is just the realization that sometimes systems need to be reinvented and sometimes they need your hustle to scale. 

Knowing when to scale and when to rework a plan is key. 

The best and really only way to know this is to know your metrics. 

Metrics are data points like your website traffic, your number of subscribers, your conversions, your daily sales, your best selling products – etc. 

You need to figure out which metrics are important to you and you business growth, watch them like a hawk and make smart decisions on what business moves to make. 

Best of luck to you as you are starting an online business and I hope this checklist helps you along that path. 

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