Marketing

How To Start An Online Business in Australia

Do you want to learn how to start an online business in Australia?

This step by step guide has been designed to give you everything you need to get your online business up and running.

You’re going to learn everything from choosing what type of business to start, to registering your business in Australia and getting your website online.

Starting an online business is actually very simple in Australia. In fact, by following these steps, you could have your website online today and be earning money by the end of the week.

Step 1: Decide What Type of Online Business You Want to Start
Step 2: Register Your Online Business
Step 3: Set Up Your Website
Step 4: Set Up Other Online Properties
Step 5: Start Promoting Your Business

Step 1: Decide What Type of Online Business You Want to Start

There are so many types of online businesses you could potentially start. If you’re looking for inspiration, blogger Adam Enfroy made a list of 107 online business ideas.

There are a few key points to consider when deciding what type of online business you want to start…

  • What are you good at?
  • How much time do you have to invest in your business?
  • What are your interests?
  • How much money do you have to invest in your business?
  • How soon do you want to start generating a profit?
  • Is this business going to be a side-project or your full time gig?
  • How much existing knowledge do you have of online business?

Your Strengths & Interests

Creating a profitable online business can take a lot of time and effort. If you can align your online business with your strengths and interests, then it will be much easier to stick with the business long enough to become profitable.

If you enjoy writing, then perhaps blogging could be a good business for you. Or if you enjoy teaching others, then you might consider starting a YouTube channel teaching one of your skills and then sell related courses.

How Much Time Do You Have?

Some types of online businesses require much more time than others. If you’re working full time and have children to look after, you may not have the time needed to run a client based business for example.

If time is scarce for you, consider types of businesses where it’s possible to outsource much of the work. This is a good option for those who are working full time and willing to put some of their full time income into the business.

For example, it’s very easy to outsource content writing if you’re thinking of starting a blog or a Kindle publishing business. You can also save time by outsourcing things like graphic design, social media, advertising and SEO.

How Much Money Do You Want To Invest?

Some online businesses require very little upfront expense to get started. If you’re looking to start a business with minimal upfront costs, then a service based business or blogging are good, low cost options.

But if you’re thinking of developing your own physical product to sell through Amazon or Shopify, then be prepared for high upfront costs.

Also consider how much time you have. You can build an online business through time or money. If you don’t have much time, then be prepared to spend money on outsourcing and time-saving online tools.

How Soon Do You Want To Make A Profit?

If you’re in a desperate situation where you need to make money quickly, I suggest starting a client-based service business. This is the fastest path to a profitable online business.

Services you can offer to clients include graphic design, writing, social media management, video editing, translation and consulting. With most of these services, you can work with clients all over the world, not just Australia. If you work hard to find clients, you could potentially earn a full-time income within your first few months.

But if you’re not in a rush to generate a profit from your business, then other types of businesses may be more suited to you. Blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, influencer marketing will all take much longer to generate consistent income. Don’t expect to replace your full-time income any time soon with these businesses.

Recommended Resources: Try freelancing websites like Fiverr or Upwork if you’re starting a client business.

How Much Existing Online Business Knowledge Do You Have?

Some types of online businesses require much more online business and marketing knowledge than others. You can certainly learn as you go, but if you’re starting with minimal knowledge, it may be best to start a business that doesn’t require so much knowledge.

Consider how much you already know about online marketing, social media platforms, web development, SEO and email.

Service based client businesses generally require less online business knowledge than other types of online businesses.

Recommended Resources: Expand your knowledge with these courses – Digital Marketing from Udacity, Social Media courses from Fiverr Learn or Digital Marketing Masterclass from Udemy.

Types of Online Businesses

With everything above in mind, use the following table to determine which online businesses may be best suited to you.

types of online businesses

Step 2: Register Your Online Business

It’s a pretty simple process to register an online business in Australia and it can all be done online.

Australian Business Number (ABN)

Once you’re ready to start operating your business, you will need an Australian Business Number (ABN). If you already have an ABN, you won’t need to get another one if you’re operating under the same business structure. You can operate multiple businesses with the one ABN.

But if for example, you already have an ABN for a sole trader business but you want to operate your online business as a partnership – then you will need another ABN.

Registering an ABN is free to do and can be done online at the business.gov.au website.

If your business is considered a hobby, then you may not need to register an ABN. Watch this video from the Australia Taxation Office to help determine if you’re running a business or a hobby.

Business Name

You don’t necessarily need to register a business name. If you’re happy to operate your online business under your personal legal name, then there is no need to register a business name.

But if you do wish to register a business name, you can do so through the Australian Business Registration Service. You should firstly check on the ASIC website, to make sure your business name is available.

It’s only $37 to register a business name in Australia for 1 year or $87 for a three year registration. The application takes about 12 minutes to complete.

Goods & Service Tax (GST)

If your annual turnover for your online business in over $75,000 then you will need to register for GST. But if you are under $75,000 then you won’t need to.

Generally, most online businesses will be under $75,000 turnover, at least in their first year of operation. So there is no need to register for GST in that case.

But if you are expecting to reach this threshold then you should register for GST, which can be done online or over the phone. Check the ATO website for more details on registering for GST.

Other Registrations

Depending on the type of business you plan to operate, it’s possible that you might need to register for other licenses or permits.

The easiest way to find out what else you might need is to use this tool on the Australian Business Registration website. It will ask you a few questions about your business and tell you what you need to register based on your answers.

Choosing A Business Name & Domain Name

One of the most important considerations when choosing a business name is the availability of the website name (known as a domain name).

If you can’t get the ‘.com’ or ‘.com.au’ form of your business name, it’s best to pick a different business name. You can quickly check the availability of a domain name through a service like domain.com.

When choosing your business name, there are a few considerations to keep in mind…

  • It shouldn’t be too long. Longer business names are harder for people to remember and type into Google. Names containing two words are ideal but you could use 3-4 words if you really need to.
  • It should be easy for people to pronounce.
  • You can use your personal name in your business name. But remember this will make it difficult if you ever want to sell the business to someone else one day.
  • The business name should usually contain words related to your niche/industry. There are exceptions but generally this approach is best.

If you’re struggling for ideas, you can use a tool like the Shopify business name generator. You just enter words related to your business and it will generate possible names.

My favourite approach to coming up with a business name is to make a long list of words associated with your niche.

For example, if you decided you wanted to create an online blog about personal finance, you would make a list of words like – money, superannuation, savings, taxes, spending, wealth, investing.

Now go to a website like angel.co and search for startups in an industry related to yours. Continuing with the example above, I’ll search for Finance Startups.

Start another list, made up of words you find that aren’t directly associated with your niche. In the image above, we can see the words joy, berry and town. Keep going until you have 20-40.

Now you should have two lists of words. One list with words relating to your niche and one with words not directly associated with your niche. Take these two lists and add them to a tool like Rank Watch’s Free Word Combiner.

This will give you a list of all combinations of these words. Go through the list, pick the ones you like and then check the availability of the domain name.

You should now have several good options for your business name and domain name!

Should I get a .com or .com.au domain?

If your customers will all be in Australia, then you should use a .com.au domain. But if you’re serving a global market, then get a .com domain. Of course, if available it’s often good to get both.

How do I get a .com.au domain?

To register a .com.au or even a .net.au domain name, you will need to firstly have an ABN or ACN. Once you have this, you should be able to register a .com.au through a domain name provider like Go Daddy.

Step 3: Set Up Your Website

Your website is one of the essential elements of your online business. While there is a lot to cover on the topic of setting up a website, I’ll focus on the basics you need to get started.

Types of Websites – What’s Best For You

The type of website best suited to your business will ultimately depend on how use want to use the website. There are a few main questions to consider…

What type of business is it?

If you’re starting an e-commerce business selling physical products, take a look at Shopify and WooCommerce if you want to sell products from your own website.

For blogging or any website where you will be posting a lot of written content on your website, I strongly recommend using WordPress. If you’ve never used WordPress, it can take some time to learn but it is definitely the most powerful and flexible platform for bloggers.

You might consider a website builder like Wix or Squarespace if you’re starting a business where your website isn’t going to be your primary source of sales. For example, if you will be generating your revenue mostly through another platform like Upwork, Instagram or Amazon.

DIY or Outsource?

If you’ve never built a website before, it can be very time consuming trying to learn. Still, many people will choose to build their own site to save some money, or so they have more control over the design.

If you’re planning going down the DIY route, I would strongly consider using Wix or Squarespace. Both offer easy to use, drag and drop website builders. They also have pre-made templates that look great and can be customised to your needs.

Example Wix Template

Using one of these platforms will save you a lot of time upfront and also later when you need to make changes to your site.

If you would prefer to have someone else build your website, you can find a freelance web developer through a service like Fiverr or Upwork.

Web Hosting & Domain

To set up your website, you will need a domain name and hosting. If you’re using a website builder like Wix or if you’re using an ecommerce platform like Shopify, you won’t need to worry about hosting. You website will be hosted on the provider’s servers.

But if you’re using WordPress, then you will need to purchase hosting. I would recommend Blue Host, which is affordable and also includes a free domain, as well as a free SSL certificate.

Step 4: Set Up Other Online Properties

In most cases, your website will be the most important part of your online presence. But there are also other important properties that you should set up when starting your online business.

Social Media Accounts

There are currently over 20.5 million social media users in Australia in 2021. That means nearly 80% of the Australian population is on social media.

Social media accounts can help bring more visitors to your website and ultimately drive more sales. Having a social media presence also gives your business added credibility.

Facebook is still Australia’s most used social media platform so I would recommend starting there. It’s free to set up a business page on Facebook and it only takes a few minutes to get set up. See this guide on Facebook for more information on setting up a business page.

Facebook Business Page

Other social media platforms to consider creating accounts on are Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat.

I do not recommend creating accounts for each of these platforms when you’re first starting your business. Instead, pick 1-3 depending on your industry and target audience.

If you’re creating an online business that serves other businesses, you should create a LinkedIn account. For e-commerce businesses selling physical products, consider joining more visual platforms like Instagram or Pinterest.

Email Marketing Account

An email list is one of the most valuable assets for an online business. Email marketing programs allow you to build your email list and send promotions or other email content to this list.

Many email marketing services offer free plans for smaller businesses with less than 500-1000 subscribers. So it won’t cost you anything to get started with one of these services.

Personally, I use MailerLite for Conversion Buzz and have found it to be very good. MailerLite is free if you have less than 1000 subscribers and still very affordable as you get more subscribers.

MailChimp is also a popular choice and offers a free plan for up to 2000 contacts. However, their plans are more pricey as you get higher subscriber counts.

Remember that whichever service you use, you’re not locked in forever. They all allow you to export your contacts, so you can switch to another service at any time.

Be sure to familiarise yourself with Australian email marketing laws and the Spam Act when using email marketing.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool from Google that most websites use to track usage on their sites. It will tell you how many people have visited your site, what pages they looked at, where they came from and everything else you need to know.

This data can help guide business and marketing decisions. If you ever sell your business in the future, potential buyers will want to know these numbers as well, so it’s important to have them.

If you’re using a WordPress website and you’re not sure how to install Google Analytics on your website, read this guide. Or if you’re using Wix or another content management system, just Google search ‘how to install Google analytics on ……..’

Recommended Resource: If you’ve never used Analytics before, register for this free Analytics course by Google.

Step 5: Start Promoting Your Business

Now with your business registered and your website online, you need to begin promotion. There are many ways of promoting your online business. The best method will depend on the type of business you have.

Facebook Ads

Running ads through Facebook can be one of the most cost-effective ways to get people to your website. Facebook ads are highly recommended for e-commerce businesses or if you’re selling digital products such as online courses.

Facebook allows you to set your budget to as much or as little as you like and you can stop your ads at any time.

Recommended Resources: Read this guide to Facebook Ads from Buffer and familiarise yourself with Facebook’s ad policies.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Many websites attract thousands of visitors every month for free from search engines like Google and Bing.

You too, can drive thousands of users to your business website by applying the fundamentals of SEO. By using the principles of SEO, you can get your business to show up at the top of search engines when people search for terms related to your business.

The higher in the search results your website is, the more users you will get on your website. And this is free traffic!

SEO does take time. Your website usually won’t appear at the top of the search results overnight. But it can be worth a lot of money to your business is it does get to the top of the search results.

Recommended Resources: Hubspot offers some free SEO courses and the SEM Rush academy also offers some good free training.

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