How to Start an Online Business in 5 Steps [With ClickFunnels!]

How to Start an Online Business in 5 Steps [With ClickFunnels!]

Building your own online business that supports you and your family… that’s the dream. And this is your guide to making it happen in just 5 steps.

So you want to start an online business? 

That’s exciting! 

Building your own online business is an entrepreneurial pursuit, one that can impact the rest of your life. It can give you financial and personal freedom. It can give you time for the things that matter most in life. And it can even help you make a meaningful impact on the world. 

What’s more? 

Anyone can build a successful online business… no matter who you are or where you come from. 

We really believe that. 

Not because we’re overly hopeful… but because we’ve seen it happen… thousands of times.. 

Here are some examples.

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Why You Should Start an Online Business (& Proof that It’s Possible)

It’s no secret that online business is booming. 

Consumers surf, shop, and subscribe to many different online shops, spending their hard-earned money on products that they can only find on the internet.

And many people are starting their own online businesses. 


Well, because having your own online business means that you can work when you want, where you want, how you want. It means that you don’t have to rely on a boss or a disinterested corporation. It means that you can make your own money on your own time and pay yourself as much as you want. 

Ultimately, it means freedom.

Which is probably why 630,000 new businesses open every single year. 

And the variety of products and services that online entrepreneurs are selling is as varied as the people behind those businesses. 

One ClickFunnels member, Jaime Cross, has built a 7-figure ecommerce shop selling home-made soaps.

Another, Garrett White, is making a killing with his coaching business for men.

We could mention   hundreds of entrepreneurs who’ve built million-dollar online businesses from scratch using ClickFunnels. 

In fact, there are over 200 members inside of our Two Comma Club — which is for entrepreneurs who’ve driven at least one million dollars through their sales funnel. 

And that’s why we’re such believers in you

Because if they’ve done it… then why not you?

Now… it’s time. 

It’s time to take back control of your life and do something you’ve never done before. It’s time to build an online business. It’s time to take a little risk for a potentially massive payoff. 

Let’s walk through the steps together.

1. Decide Who You Want to Serve 

Most entrepreneurs start with an idea for a product or service. 

Then, they try to create a business that will sell that product or service at a profit. 

And while that’s not necessarily a bad way to get started, many entrepreneurs forget to ask one really important question: “Who am I trying to serve?”

In fact, the number one reason that startups fail (according to research by CB Insights) is because there was “no market need.”

That is, no one wanted to buy the product or service the startup was offering. 

That’s an unfortunate way for any business to end. 

And it’s also why we recommend that entrepreneurs start by asking who it is that they want to serve.

This is an extremely powerful question for a few reasons. 

First, it makes you start with the most important question. The product or service that you decide to offer (in step 2), then, will be determined by your target market and their actual needs

And second, by asking who you want to serve, you ensure that the business you’re going to build resonates with your deeper desires and the impact you want to have on the world. The most successful entrepreneurs build businesses that motivate and excite them. Asking who you want to serve ensures you create a business that’s meaningful to you. 

So who do you want to serve?

Use a form like the one above and write down, in detail, who your dream customer is. 

This will be your guiding light when you decide what products to offer, what advertising channels to use, and even what phrases to leverage in your sales copy. 

Ideally, choose a target market that fits the following criteria…

  • They have a need or desire that your business can help fulfill
  • They have a need or desire that you’re excited to help fulfill
  • They have enough money to pay for your products or services
  • They would be motivated to pay for your products or services

2. Choose Your Business Model & Products (Here are 6 Ideas)

The next thing you need to do is figure out how you’re going to make money. 

Although resolving to start an online business is a great first step… there are a lot of different online businesses you could build. 

Fortunately, our expertise is in helping people build online businesses, so we’re pretty familiar with the options. 

Here are the different business models you might consider.

  • Ecommerce — If you want to sell physical products online, then you’ll want an ecommerce store. These are extremely popular and can be very profitable. You will have to fulfill orders, however, but that can be easily done with something called dropshipping (click to learn more).
  • Freelance — If you have a skillset that you want to sell (like marketing, writing, speaking, etc), then you might consider building a freelance business. You can either get paid per project or by the hour. Taking your freelance business online can help you expand your reach and find more high-ticket clients.
  • Coaching/Consulting — The great thing about starting a coaching or consulting business is that the growth ceiling is quite high… and the time investment can be quite small. Many high-ticket coaches and consultants make upwards of $200 per hour. And all you need is an expertise that other people are willing to pay for.
  • Affiliate — What if you want to build and monetize a website, but you don’t want to create your own products? That’s where affiliate marketing comes in. As an affiliate, you can sell other people’s products for commission. Even at ClickFunnels, we have a program where we pay our affiliates up to 40% monthly commission!
  • Information Products — Information products are getting extremely popular. Not only are many online entrepreneurs creating information products, but consumers are buying them like never before. Courses, apps, webinars, and live events are all examples of information products that you can use to build your online business.
  • B2B — B2B stands for Business-To-Business. It’s a business model that consists of selling products or services to other businesses. And while there’s certainly a lot of money to be made by innovative entrepreneurs in this space, it takes a great idea and usually a decent-sized budget to get started.

Which one sounds like the best place to start? 

Make a choice and run with it (keep your target market in mind!). 

Then, decide what product(s) you’re going to sell. 

If you’ve chosen an ecommerce business, then you will want to either create your own products (advanced) or dropship from suppliers (beginner). 

As a freelancer, coach, or consultant, you will just need to identify your offers — will you get paid by the hour, by the project, or per session? How will you present these offers in an appealing way to your audience? 

As an affiliate marketer, you’ll just need to choose which business’ products to sell. Here are some to consider…

And for information products, you’ll just need to decide what kind of courses you want to create and what you want to teach people to do. 

For B2B, you’ll need a great idea and the ability/budget to execute on that idea. 

Make a decision and run with it. 

(Action is the only way forward!)

Then, it’s time to build your sales funnel so you can create an online identity, attract your target market, and make sales like clockwork. 

So let’s go to step 3. 

3. Build Your Sales Funnel

At this point, you know who your target market is and you know how you’re going to make money from them. 

Good work!

Those are some seriously exciting steps to have tackled. 

And the next step is to craft a sales funnel (you can have several, but just start with one) that drives cold traffic toward the most important action that you want them to take. 

Depending on how you want to start, that might mean driving sales, email list sign-ups, or event attendance. 

And those are all things that sales funnels excel at.

But what is a sales funnel? 

It’s actually pretty simple. Essentially, a sales funnel is a series of pages that are designed to systematically move people toward the action that you want them to take. 

Here’s an example of the Tripwire Funnel we designed that is great for selling products to cold traffic.

And here’s what our simple Squeeze Page funnel looks like, which is meant to generate leads and grow your email list.

Finally, here’s what our Webinar Sales Funnel looks like, which is great for hosting an online event and making sales.

To be clear, a sales funnel is different from a basic website. 

And frankly, it’s best to start with a sales funnel and to create a website once your business is off the ground.

Because the fact is, websites often just confuse visitors. 

The option-heavy navigation bar and directionless shopping experience of traditional websites give visitors more choices than they need (or want)  and kill sales by doing so.

A sales funnel, on the other hand, is like a slip-and-slide with a single destination. 

It only has one goal and since every page is dedicated to accomplishing that one goal, it has a much higher conversion rate than websites. 

First, decide what goal you want to accomplish. 

Do you want to grow your email list to a certain number? Do you want to sell a certain number of products? Do you want to host a live event? 

Then craft a sales funnel to accomplish that goal. 

Fortunately, that’s way easier than you might think. 

Just click here to get your 14-day FREE TRIAL with ClickFunnels. Then you can access all of our high-converting templates and build a sales funnel of your own. (If you want expert help building your first sales funnel, check out our One Funnel Away Challenge)

Once you’re finished building your sales funnel, it’s time to drive traffic and validate your business idea.

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4. Drive Traffic & Validate Your Idea

A sales funnel is one of the most powerful tools for building an online business. 

But your sales funnel is still only as good as the traffic that you send to it. 

If, for example, you build a sales funnel that aims to help people who are struggling with anxiety and depression, but then you drive mentally healthy people to that sales funnel… your conversion rate is probably going to suffer. 

It’s not just about how much traffic you drive, but the quality of that traffic. 

The goal is to create a sales funnel that speaks directly to your dream customers… and then to find and attract your dream customers to that sales funnel. 

You’ve already accomplished the first part… so how do you find and attract your dream customers? 

Here are some easy ways to do just that…

  • Facebook & Google Ads — Running ads on Facebook and/or Google is a relatively inexpensive way to drive traffic, generate leads, and make sales. Check out our Facebook ad targeting guide over here.
  • YouTube Ads — One of the easiest ways to find your target market is to run YouTube ads on the videos of influencers who are already attracting your target market. Check out our YouTube marketing guide over here.
  • SEO — Search Engine Optimization is the process of getting your websites or sales funnel to rank in Google. And it’s a great, long-term strategy for driving high-quality traffic. Check out our SEO guide over here.
  • Influencer Marketing — Influencers in your niche are people who already have direct access to your target market… which makes them extremely valuable for driving traffic to your sales funnel. And you can pay these influencers to tell their audiences about your products. Or you can build a relationship with them and then ask nicely. Start with small influencers because they’ll be easier to collaborate with.
  • Email List Collaboration — Collaborating with other influencers in your niche is an opportunity that you should always pay attention to. And once you’ve got a sizable email list (at least a couple hundred people), you might consider doing a trade with other online business owners in your niche; you mention their products and services to your email list and they do the same for you. It’s even better if you both create a special offer or sale for the promo. Win, win.
  • Banner Ads — What if you could find advertising opportunities that your competitors aren’t even aware of? Well, you can. By reaching out to online websites in your niche (particularly blogs and media sites), you can find a lot of places to pay for banner ads or sidebar advertisements.
  • Podcast or Guest Post Contribution — If it fits your fancy, you might consider being a guest on other people’s podcasts or contributing articles to relevant blogs. Both of those strategies can build brand awareness for your business and drive traffic to your sales funnel (just make sure you get a backlink!).
  • Forums — What forums does your target market frequent? If you consistently and helpfully engage in those forums, people will get to know your name and become curious about who you are. They can then click through to your sales funnel. It’s not an overnight traffic-driving tactic, but it’s free… and anyone can do it.

Once you’re driving high-quality traffic, you can determine the effectiveness of your sales funnel.

Try to get at least 1,000 visitors, though, before you make changes so that your results are statistically significant. 

If your conversion rate is profitable, then keep driving traffic and work to make your sales funnel more profitable. If your conversion rate is poor, then make some changes, drive traffic, and see what happens. Then repeat that process. 

After enough iterations, you’ll have a high-converting sales funnel as the core of your business.

And if you want to learn more fool-proof strategies for driving traffic to your sales funnel, check out Russell Brunson’s book, Traffic Secrets (click that link to get your FREE copy!).

5. Don’t Get Discouraged!

There’s no two ways about it… building a business is hard work. 

It requires a lot of trying and failing and trying again. 

That applies to every step of the above process. It’s likely that you’ll have to try various marketing tactics before finding what works. 

But don’t get discouraged. 

That’s a natural part of the entrepreneurial process.

In fact, your success will ultimately depend on you sticking with it long enough to succeed… through all the obstacles and challenges that come your way. 

As Steve Jobs famously said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” 

So don’t throw in the towel, don’t give up when it gets hard. Acknowledge obstacles as an important part of the learning process and keep going. 

Eventually, you’re going to succeed.

Now is the Time to Start Your Online Business!

You now have everything you need to get started building your own business. 

The best thing you can do right now is pull out a piece of paper and start brainstorming. 

Start by thinking about who you want to serve. Then consider what business model would best fit your lifestyle and your income goals. 

Once you’ve made some tentative decisions (things can always change!), you can build your first sales funnel, drive traffic, and see how it goes!

There’s no time like the present. 😉

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