Today I want to talk about how much money it takes to start an online business. This is a very common question that I’m asked, and it was definitely a question I had when I first started. There’s a common misconception about what it really costs to get started. Most people, including me at one point, think that it requires loads of money. I understand how that can be discouraging. You may be thinking, “Well, I don’t have any funds. How could I really start a business?”
But there’s good news! While it does cost money to start an online business, it costs less than you may be thinking.
The key question you want to ask yourself is: what kind of business do you want to start?
Whatever amazing business idea you have, you need to realize that it will cost money—and for some types of business, it may cost a lot of money. But don’t let the obstacle of money stop you from doing the necessary legwork, including the research to discover the pain points for your potential customers that your business can help solve.
In fact, I wrote a book, Will It Fly?, that is uniquely designed to help people figure out if a business idea is worth pursuing. I’d recommend you read that as a guide during the discovery phase. Thousands of folks have already used Will It Fly? as a tool to help them validate and test their own business ideas before spending money they don’t need to spend. You can pick up a copy at willitflybook.com.
You don’t have to start big. Start small, with little cost, and work your way toward your goal.
When I started my first online business back in 2008 (greenexamacademy.com, formerly intheleed.com), the idea was to help aspiring architects pass the LEED certification exam. I hardly spent any money at all. All I did was start a blog, which at the time cost $6.95 per month for webhosting, and I used Bluehost. (As most of you know, I’m a big fan of Bluehost. And, because I have an affiliate relationship with them, you can get your business website going for much less than where I began, starting at only $3.49 per month!)
At the beginning, that’s the only money I spent. Well, that and buying my daily coffee! Most of my initial investment was my time, inputting notes, writing, making charts and informative graphics that could help people, including me, pass this exam.
The next payment I made for my business was in October 2008 when I had the idea to sell an ebook. To make this happen, I had to spend a little bit of money on a shopping cart service (e-junkie at the time; I later moved to Gumroad, as I describe in Ebooks the Smart Way) that allowed me to deliver the ebook to the people who bought it. It was a flat fee of $5 per month. Different companies have different ways of setting up those pricing structures, but whatever the case may be, it doesn’t have to be a huge monthly fee to get going.
If your business idea requires a shopping cart service, I’d recommend SamCart as a great, inexpensive option. It’s also super user friendly. If you just want to offer an ebook, they give you the ability to do that. They handle all the credit card processing, payments, and delivery. It’s pretty sweet.
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