You have an idea? Now you can use the internet to develop it into a viable business. Every year more people are owning computers and buying all types of products and services online. Discover how to start a small online business and grow.What’s different about a web business?A web business is open to the world 24/7 and does not require an investment in a geographical location such as a main street shop. It is cheaper, faster and easier to start a web business than a shop in the city and it’s cheaper to run. However, it requires planning and budgeting like any other venture.Products and Services:Everyone has ideas. Many of us sit back and admire those who take the initiative to develop those ideas to their potential. What steps can you take to start a business using your ideas?Choose an item that you can feel enthusiastic about selling. Choose one that you believe people will be enthusiastic about buying from you.An ideal product is a consumable that needs replacing over and over. Your customers will keep returning. An ideal service is one that is required frequently.Talk about it with people from whom you can expect honest opinions on its viability. Talk to strangers or prospective customers.Is there a large enough market for it? Is there a large population of prospective customers?SuppliersIs there a reliable source for the product or service? Can you obtain it instantly or on a short lead-time?Does its cost allow you to deliver it at a competitive price that gives you a reasonable profit?Is ‘drop shipping’ available? Some suppliers will deliver direct to your customers. This service may only be offered after you have an established business.CompetitionBe aware that the big retailers are now selling items that were once only available on the internet. Check the competition. Search the internet for these products. Your price including delivery needs to be still competitive with theirs.Business NameFor the internet, the name should contain a word for which prospective customers will search. Research and ensure your business name cannot be confused with any existing business.Domain name (www.yourname.com)Register the .com version as well as your country’s extension. We recommend .net too. If you do not own all versions you never know what the others will be used for. To avoid confusion do not register a name similar to any existing web address. A key search word in the name will give you points with search engines – e.g. mydogstoys.com instead on mybusiness.com – if you are selling dogs toys.WebsiteGet a website hosted as soon as possible, even just a home page announcing your business, products and contact details. Get as much information as possible on to your website, even while you are finalizing prices and delivery charges. Among the factors search engines use to rank websites is their age.Choose an attractive logo. Maybe your business name in a striking but easy to read font. Think up a memorable sub heading. e.g. A ballpoint pen manufacturer claims theirs is the pen “pinched more than any other pen.”Ultimately you need a database of your products driving a shopping cart system, with online payment options and a scale of delivery charges. Choose a system that lets your customer first find their product quickly and then go directly to entering their credit card into a secure screen.Choose a web designer good at optimizing websites for search engines. Your database will come with screens to add / edit products, but also learn how to change text on your home page and page footers, as you will need to make text changes from time to time to keep your website’s position in search engines. You do not need to be an expert to edit your website.MarketingIt is cheaper to market on the internet than any other form of marketing. You avoid printing costs by having your catalogue online. Make announcements on your home page. Put effort into providing as much information as possible on the website. This helps with search engines. Follow all the guidelines for optimizing your website for search engines. Check competing websites to see how they get their position.Customers will not flock to your business overnight! However, after people find your website, a small trickle of orders will over time develop into a steady stream.ServiceWe see businesses selling the same product brands into the same markets with similar websites built by us, but with very different degrees of success.We have concluded that where everything else is equal, personal service makes the difference. This may be demonstrated in the way a business reacts to enquiries, provides expert advice, delivers on time, or deals with orders for out of stock items. Customers get a feel for service.The difference between two businesses may be that one displays a telephone number while another has only an email contact, or one displays a postal address and another does not. People like to know that they are doing business with people, not with computers.ManagementBeing your own boss enables you to look at your work in a different way. It may mean that you think about your work outside of normal hours while you plan new ways of improving business. Remember that it is you that will profit from the extra effort.If you are selling a product or service that you like, you will make yourself become expert in it.Managing an online business can be easier than managing a shop on the main street, but the manager still needs to learn skills in marketing products on a website, so that ordinary people find it easy to purchase them.Be your own bossSelf employment is a way of life different from paid employment and requires self discipline.Many people have made their fortune on the internet. In any business, if you like what you do, you will do it well.