top of page

How to start: the fundamentals of building an online business from the ground up

The how-to's and the how-not-to's - I'll hold your hand through it all.

You’ve got this glorious idea for a business. You’re ready to hit the ground running. This is the culmination of your experience, the point you’ve been working towards for all these years at your 9-to-5.

You’ve got something you’re passionate about and you’re now ready to share it with the world. You’re ready to help those you know you can truly impact. You know you can make others’ lives better, so you’re itching to start earning an income from it.

So you head to Google for some guidance on how to make this big dream of yours a reality.

I did a bit of research on your behalf... Having had a read of the top few Google pages that show up when I typed in: “how to start an online business”, I got things like “how to create a LLC”, solutions for drop

shipping, creating a business name, how to start a blog…. Loads of stuff that means zilch until you have the fundamentals nailed.

The fundamentals of starting a business online lie under the surface. It’s doing work that your customers are never going to see.

Starting with work that’s out of sight might sound counterintuitive. But a house can’t stand without the groundwork done first. These strong foundations hold everything together. They aren’t necessarily beautiful. Or seen by anyone. They lie underground. Without foundations, the house will topple at any sign of wind or weather. Foundations bring longevity.

(That means your new, fledgling business is going to have a seriously better chance at lasting the test of time, regardless of what your competitors are doing, what the market is doing, and despite all the other bits and pieces that are going on at home too.)

Throughout this two-part how-to series, I’ll share with you:

1. What you need to start: the fundamentals of building an online business from the ground up

  • Actionable steps to hone in on ONE demographic that you want to sell to (at least for now)

  • Instructions on how to work efficiently and save time, even if you’re a one-woman-band

  • The 3 other building blocks to have prepared, before you start selling

2. Why you need to get these steps in the right order

  • Where most start-up small-business owners trip up in their first year

  • The strategy you need to use to save your precious time later down the line

  • How to avoid the looming business-tumble-weed (even if you end up working more than you were in your 9-to-5)

3. A downloadable checklist to get your building blocks in place

1. How to start: the fundamentals of building an online business from the ground up

Actionable steps to hone in on ONE demographic that you want to sell to (at least for now)

Who is going to get the most value from your product or service? What does your perfect customer or client look like? The answer to these questions will become your target audience.

It’s not just about creating a fictional representation of your dream customer called ‘Gemma’, who is in her mid-thirties, who has 2.5 kids, a dog called Buster and who lives in the suburbs.

It’s about getting under her skin…

If Gemma has 2.5 kids, is she knackered? Would she secretly love her partner to be the stay-at-home parent? Or is she the household breadwinner, and wishes she could feel less exhausted when she finally gets home from work?

If she’s got a dog called Buster, does she struggle with training their dog, and Buster’s unruliness is scaring the kids? Is he devouring the sofa (again) and it makes her feel embarrassed when the in-laws come over?

If Gemma lives in the suburbs, is she dreaming of a coastal lifestyle? Is she wanting to bring a little bit of beach-side magic into her home, to help her feel like she’s on holiday in her own living room?

These details about your target audience/ideal client persona/dream customer avatar (whichever one you want to call it) are integral to any future communications you have with your prospective buyers.

It can be tempting to say ‘Everyone would benefit from buying from me’. But in generalising, you will end up attracting no one: the message and your content you put be too broad and never dive into that one person’s hopes, dreams and fears.

So instead, you want specificity in what you’re selling. And real, tangible benefits of buying from you. You want to resonate with Gemma’s struggles.

So ask yourself, what challenge is your dream customer facing right now? What is going on in their life that is causing them stress or pain or frustration? What does your product or service do that helps them surpass those aches and challenges?

P.S. You can absolutely change your ideal customer in the future. You’re not stuck with ‘Gemma’ for the rest of your business’ lifespan. But this is a starting point, to help refine all your messaging and therefore get more people like Gemma buying into your business (and buying from your business too).

P.P.S. If you’re super keen to start — right this moment — you can download my free brand strategy workbook here and now. Amongst other key elements of starting your business from the ground up, I’ll give you some more prompts to develop Gemma’s character (or Finn or Barbara or whatever name you want to give to your dream customer).

Instructions on how to work efficiently and save time, even if you’re a one-woman-band

Where does Gemma spend her time online?

Is she glued to Pinterest, creating vision boards and stalking photographers? Is she an avid commenter in community Facebook groups? Or is she — although she might not like to admit it — a recent TikTok convert (as her kids persuaded her to open an account, now she can’t get enough of it)?

There are two reasons why this is important to figure out (or assume, at least for now).

One, you can get a glimpse into Gemma’s interests, hobbies and see what she’s talking about. This can help you develop her character and personality, and so help you to communicate with her, pique her interest and talk to her needs and challenges. The goal? To get insights into what Gemma is looking for (and therefore position yourself as the solution to these needs).

Two, wherever ‘Gemma’ spends her time is the social media platform to focus on. Put your energy (at least during these early days) into creating content for just this social media app. That means you’re more likely to grab Gemma’s attention and pull her toward your brand and your products/services.

Trying to be Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn AND Instagram from day one is going to be exhausting. Also, if you actually hate TikTok — and that’s where Gemma predominantly spends her time — don’t pick TikTok. Just go with the next best thing. It’s going to be tricky to maintain your enthusiasm for work if you decide on a platform that actually grinds your gears. So pick just one for now (one you enjoy being on) and conserve yourself some energy. Pretty please.

You might have to be a little patient. It may take some time to gather all these insights and develop a detailed understanding of ‘Gemma’. But it'll be 100% worth it in the long run, I promise.

The 3 other building blocks to have prepared, before you start selling

The key purpose of brand strategy is to help you gain a deep understanding into everything that makes your business unique (and if YOU’RE clear on how to describe your business, it’s going to be a million times easier to communicate that to your target audience). Your brand strategy is going to help you connect and engage with your target audience even more successfully. And also clarify what makes you different from other people doing something similar to you.

These 3 building blocks are:

  • Creating a mission statement,

  • Locating your competitors,

  • And then, choosing what your brand is going to look like.

Let’s break down each one separately.

First, write your mission statement

Having a clear mission statement is such an important part of creating a brand strategy. It’s great for clarity and direction in knowing exactly what the purpose of your business is and exactly how you can help your target audience. It’s something you can write on your website, on your Insta and even tell people at speed-networking events.

I’ve got a framework and step-by-step instructions on how to create your own mission statement, in this downloadable workbook: get your free intro to brand strategy here.

After that, you want to check out your competitors

Look at products or services similar to yours and see what your target audience likes and dislikes about the alternatives (i.e. your competitors).

Look out for things that make you different. Make sure to note down anything that sets you apart from the other people offering something similar (or it might be exactly the same as someone else, who knows). The thing that sets you apart from the rest might be your approach, your past experience, your materials, your working ethics or personal values, or even your personality, as a business owner.

These differentiators can often impact your mission statement, as you want to make sure your future customers know exactly how and why you’re different (and, obviously, better) than your competition.

While it’s great to be aware of your various competitors and the ways in which you can stand out, too much scrutiny on those within your industry can distract from the core of your brand.

Staying true to who you are and what your brand represents will help the right people (your people) come along. There is only one you, after all. My job is to help you showcase your own set of unique skills and values. Don’t get distracted too much on your competition, or try to emulate them. YOUR brand is the focal point here.

Finally, it's time to design what your brand will look like

On the surface, you might think that if you’ve got a logo, you’re ready and raring to go. But there’s more than meets the eye. (That’s why the design side of things has come at the end of this section, AFTER you’ve done all that behind-the-scenes work.)

You’re going to want to design something that appeals to ‘Gemma’. Something that catches her eye and makes her feel excited to contact you.

Have a set of rules to ensure that everything looks like it’s owned by you. The more consistent you can be with your brand visuals, the more people will start to recognise you for your signature style, or your familiar font and colour combos. And when people start to recognise and remember you, you’re doing a fabulous job of building trust with your future customers.

Working with a brand designer (or at least having a conversation with a designer to point you in the right direction) will give you a head start over your competitors who think they can just roll with a logo and not much else.

But if you’re bootstrapped and want a head start without the price tag, as a bare minimum, you want one logo for horizontal use (think of the logo at the top of your website, or on a business card) that can be detailed and elaborate. And then you also want one that fits into a square (so it’ll fit as your Instagram profile picture, for example) which should be much simpler and recognisable when small (again, as if it were your Instagram profile pic).

You’ll also need a submark, colour palette, a couple of fonts, and a pattern or texture for backgrounds on various pieces of content you’ll inevitably end up making.

If you want to dive a little deeper into designing a brand, deciding what it’ll look like, you can pop along to this blog post, where I’ll give you more in-depth guidance on the building blocks of brand design (to eventually construct a professional-looking business).

You’ve got your business idea pinned down. Are you ready to get going?

I wholeheartedly recommend you follow these steps in this order. Why? Take a look at part two of this mini-series, to uncover the most common mistakes and stumbling blocks in brand strategy (that will ultimately set you back and slow your business down from growing).

This thing you LOVE doing — and want to do as your full-time gig — give yourself the best start possible.

If you haven’t sold anything yet (or you’re in your first year), you can be certain your business is going to be rock solid, by ensuring the foundations are sturdy and durable. Doing the behind-the-scenes groundwork, before you create yourself a social media account or build a website is truly going to (1) save you time, (2) make your business feel AND LOOK professional from day one, and (3) give you a business that will allow you work-life balance, as you’re not always needs to redo the work, as your foundations are just so durable.

Join a community of fellow small businesses, growing from the ground up

Fancy getting unique little tips and tricks on building a business from me, twice a month…

You'll get guided gently through the tricky bits of business. And we'll celebrate the awesome bits together too."


free workbook


free workbook

A FREE workbook providing an introduction into the fundamentals of brand strategy, helping you gain clarity, understanding and direction for your business.*

Thanks for subscribing! You will recieve your FREE workbook via email. (Make sure to check your junk folder, just in case.)

*You will be added to my regular newsletter list - From The Shoreline. You are free to unsubscribe at anytime. Check out my Privacy Policy here.

An Introduction to Brand Strategy Workbook

Currently taking bookings for brand, packaging and website design clients in 2024. Together, let's transform your brand. 

bottom of page