Digital Marketing More

10 Crucial Skills You Need to Start an Online Business

Written by Rachel Haydon

If you’re considering starting a business that operates entirely online, it’s important to have acquired the following 10 skills before you hit the launch button. But first, the two most important qualities you’ll need are persistence and perspiration.

First, you probably won’t have a work-life balance, you’ll have a work-work-work life for at least the first year, maybe more. The second is the ability to start before you have everything perfectly worked out. Good enough is enough to get started. Don’t procrastinate as your business will evolve and improve over time. So, if you want to be an entrepreneur, it’s time to close the skill gap. The following skills are the most important to start your own online business.

  1. Money Matters

Bookkeeping,accounting and managing business finances probably isn’t going to be your favourite part of starting an online business, but its importance can’t be overstated. You’ll need a solid handle on how to manage the financials of your business no matter how big or small your enterprise is. Some programs can help you keep your financial house in order, such as Xero, Quick Books, or MYOB. So, you’ll need to get up to speed on how use these software programs if you’re going to succeed in business.

  1. Digital Marketing and Sales

One of the most important aspects of running an online business is letting people know you exist in the big, wide digital world. There’s a lot of traffic out there, and you’ll need to build the road signs to direct your customers to you. Few customers will stumble upon your website by accident.

So, in addition to understanding marketing and sales tactics, in the online business  environment, you’ll need to understand digital marketing which includes things like:

  • SEO content
  • inbound marketing
  • pay-per-click (PPC)
  • affiliate marketing
  • native advertising
  • email and online PR.

It may seem daunting at first, as there’s so much to learn, but a short course in digital marketing or signing up to newsletters from experts in this field is a great way to get educated and make an impact online.

  1.  Real-Time Customer Service

The best customer service is when it doesn’t exist, as your service offering or product is already perfect-but that’s not a reality for most businesses. It doesn’t matter how great your service or product may be, there will come a time when you’ll need to deal with an unhappy customer.

Knowing how to speak to them in a non-confrontational, helpful language is essential. You’ll need to practice your active listening and problem-solving skills. Keep in mind that online businesses are expected to deliver their customer service fast.

People don’t wait, listen to on-hold music, or waiting patiently in line- they want their questions answered in real time. This is especially the case with social media and instant messaging on your website. You’ll need systems in place to ensure questions and concerns are answered and handled promptly. If you don’t get this right, no matter how much your customer likes your service or product, they’ll leave. It’s a restless online community out there.

  1. Leadership and Delegation Skills

Time to ditch the control freak. You won’t be able to manage a successful business all by yourself, so you’ll need to trust that other people can take on some tasks. Leadership ability and delegation skills are essential soft skills you’ll need to develop as your online business grows. This may mean dealing with suppliers or hiring staff to help you expand your business.

  1. Time Management

Starting a business is time-consuming, so managing this precious resource will be crucial to surviving, especially in the first couple of years. My advice: set your to-do list each day and prioritise it in order of importance or urgency. Don’t multi-task.

When you’re busy, it’s easy to fall into a multi-task mindset, but it doesn’t mean you achieve more. In fact, multi-tasking can make you feel muddled, and this will be reflected in your work. Time management is such a crucial soft business skill that you can study it as a professional development course with Australian Online Courses. It really is a learnt skill that some of us need help to master.

  1. Communication and Negotiation

You will need to communicate clearly with your customers, suppliers and employees, whether it be over the phone, in person, by email and now on social media platforms. Make sure you are assertive in your communication. If this is a soft skill you’re lacking, it will impact your business’s potential, so upskill in this area and start talking and managing with confidence.

Some people will tell you to fake it until you make it, and I’d say this is one soft skill that epitomises this saying. Believe in yourself, and you’ll be believed. The same goes for negotiation skills; some people are born with an inbuilt ability to persuade. We all know people who always seem to get their own way – you’ll need to turn yourself into one of these people. But remember, be fair. It’s your business’s reputation on the line.

  1. Writing Skills

The ability to write well, and persuasively, is never more important than in the digital age. An online business needs content to drive traffic, conversations and sales. In addition to writing keyword optimised content for your blog, you’ll also need to write a weekly or monthly newsletter to keep your customers informed and to drive more traffic to your website. Writing SEO web content and business correspondence will also be a big part of your online business operations.

  1. Problem Solving

Arguably the most important skill you’ll need as an entrepreneur is the ability to problem solve. In fact, you’ll be solving problems left, right and centre. A large part of your day will be working out how to make things work against the odds.

You’ll be solving customer problems, website problems, employee’s problems – a tsunami of problems falling at your feet! Some people are natural problem-solvers, if this isn’t you, you’ll need to hone these skills.If it’s an interpersonal problem, use active listening to understand a problem that a customer, employee or supplier has and be ready to adapt and be creative to solve the problem.

If it’s a business strategy problem, try to see it as a challenge that will provide opportunities to learn. This way you’ll approach problems with a positive mindset. This mindset will in turn lead to greater creativity and critical thinking. Get it right and you’ll save time, make more money and find new ways to expand your business.

9.Organisation Skills

The most important reason to be organised in business is to save time and reduce stress. You discover quickly as a business owner that time is a precious commodity and you can’t afford to take time off for stress leave.

So, spend the first ten minutes of your day organising your desk, your day – start with the five most important, actionable items – and diarise everything, then set pop-up reminders.

The last thing you want to deal with on Monday morning is piles of paperwork that need filling, or, in a virtual office, haphazard documents scattered over your computer’s desktop. Instead, keep organised folders to keep track of important information. You’ll be surprised just how many minutes this will save you every day.

  1. Networking

It can be lonely. Most people go it alone in the early days of starting a business. You’ll need to reach out to others, whether it’s business professionals, friends or family, for support, encouragement and referrals. An essential platform for online business networking is LinkedIn, but don’t shy away from attending real-world business events to meet like-minded business owners and expand your network.

“The opinions expressed by BizWitty Contributors are their own, not those of BizCover and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Please read our full disclaimer."

About the author


Rachel Haydon

Rachel Haydon’s entrepreneurial spirit led her to start Australian Online Courses from home in 2008 after the birth of twins. As a mother of three, she had her work cut out for her in the early years. Since then, Australian Online Courses has expanded to offer hundreds of professional development courses with students enrolled Australia-wide and internationally. Rachel now has offices and employs staff to help in the operation of her online business.