How to start an Online Business in a Developing Country

Starting an online business in a developing country can be quite challenging but it also comes with lots of perks and opportunities that’s attracted both local and foreign entrepreneurs, year in, year out.

Regardless of the numerous opportunities in most developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Oceania, the reality of starting a successful online business in a developing country is quite different.

From inconsistent policies to infrastructural deficits and very peculiar situations that might make you put in extra effort, there are some key things you have to keep in mind, if you plan to build a sustainable success for your business in this terrain.

As someone that’s been running an online business successfully for quite a number of years now, in this article I’ll be sharing with you, some of the key things to watch out for, as you get set to start your own online business.

You can’t start a successful online business in a developing country or anywhere without at least a single goal or any solid plan of how your small online business is going to grow and make profit.

Unfortunately, this is what I get to notice, among prospective business entrepreneurs.

So many times, people get to meet me about their intention to start an online business like content marketing for example but when I get to ask them important questions like; how do you want your business to make money online?

The first idea that usually comes to their mind is that they will make money by placing targeted ads on their platforms.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with using ads to make money for your blog or other online business, but this isn’t exactly how it works.

Starting out an online business with the sole aim of making money via ads can get you disappointed and burned out at the end of the day.

Considering that you’re from a developing country; in most cases, some of the ad management companies like Google Adsense may have to put you through extra scrutiny before accepting your account.

In some cases, there are outright bans on accounts from some selected third world countries even on affiliate sites.

So, If you want to build an online business from a developing country, you don’t want to build your business around third party ads and affiliate products from international vendors alone.

If your ultimate goal for starting your online business is to make money online then you’ll have it at the back of your mind that for this to happen; you’ll need to create a product alongside whatever other strategy you have.

Start online business in Africa
Get a flexible Business Plan | Credits; Fauxels via

And for people to patronize your product, they’ll need to know about it.

Getting a Business Plan

So at the end of the day, you’ll realize that your business needs a business plan. And the plans needs to incorporate your business goals, the product and strategies that will get people to buy from you.

Your goal should be set out from the onset, with a business plan that includes strategies that will help you achieve the goals.

Mind you, your business plan does not have to be too elaborate at the start.

You want to have a simple and flexible plan that captures your goals, your strategies and the approaches you want to take achieve the goals.

You can always edit and improve on your business plan as you continue to gain clarity and understand the basis.

A business model is your ultimate value proposition and money making strategy. It describes vividly, how your business is going to make money repeatedly.

Generally for online businesses, there are two popular business models and these two ultimately leads to the generation of either passive or active income.

A business built around passive income could involve businesses that rely on making money from any of the following; Ad placements, Affiliate Marketing, Digital Products, Ebook publishing etc.

On the other hand, a business built around active income will revolve around providing direct services to clients like Web Design, Digital Marketing, Graphics, SEO services etc. and getting paid in return for these.

As you’ll notice, these two business models will definitely need different strategies but you want to choose the one that suits you.

How to Choose the right Business Model

Choosing the right business model is very critical to the success of your online business.

Since you’re based in a developing country, creating an active income as a business model for instance might require you possess certain key skills you can offer online in exchange for money.

Where you don’t have these skills, you’ll need to learn them before getting started.

Creating a digital product on the other hand as a passive income strategy might demand you spend hours creating content, building an audience and then creating a product you can sell to your audience.

At the end of the day, you’ll notice that both business models have their own peculiar requirements and to be very effective in either of them you have to consider your peculiar situation.

This means you need to consider your skillset, goals, resources etc. and then work on choosing a business model that will suit you.

After creating your online business model, the next thing you want to do is to launch your business.

One thing that’s very peculiar with online businesses in developing countries is the very low level of trust in the system.

Since the market is still relatively underdeveloped, the existing buyers are usually going to focus on the existing businesses with a relevant track record whom they can trust with their business.

As a newbie, you need to use a handful of strategies to get around this, if you really want to create a name for your brand and subsequently, acquire new customers.

This strategies will definitely include creating some buzz around the business before you hit the ground running.

So, to get started, you want to create promotions across the social media, reach out to influencers, friends, well wishers and see where you can collaborate, to promote the business before the launch date.

If you’re building your online business around the active income model, you may need some social proof to boost your expertise and garner new clients.

And to this, you may want to offer some of your services free to some worthy clients, get some testimonials in return and use them as part of your portfolio.

Many new business owners are scared of selling. Either because they feel they are not good enough compared to the older businesses in the industry.

Personally, I was scared when I started. But I had to get up and sell. Because selling or exchange of value is the real essence of owning an online business.

And if you can’t sell then you’re wasting your time. And it won’t be long before you get to fold up.

Doesn’t matter whether you’re starting your online business in a developing or developed country, forget about the fact that you’re new in the industry.

The first thing you should remember is that you have something unique to offer. That’s why you’re running an online business.

So, focus on making your offering very unique. And different from what other businesses are offering.

Build a Relationship with your Clients

There’s one mistake a lot of amateur online business owners make. They focus on selling before even getting started. This in return creates doubts in the minds of the audience.

Instead of building your online business this way, you want to build a robust relationship with your audience and target clients…

Give them the chance to Know, Like and Trust you by giving them a indepth value in exchange for their attention and engagement with your business.

Launching your online business is just like the first step on the ladder to building a business.

To effectively build a successful business, you want learn, relearn and unlearn so many things, as you continue to evolve your business.

You’ll be surprised that even after creating content for over 7 years and training many people, I still attend trainings myself.

Yes! Because when it comes to online businesses, trends change very fast.

Most times the things that worked just two years ago might not be working anymore. So learning everyday keeps you at the top of your game.

And you don’t have to spend a ton of hours learning because time is of essence. You can learn in bits.

Also, be sure to try your hands on the new body of knowledge you’ve learned. Use this to evolve your business.

Forget about working on what gives you maximum pleasure. Strive to get maximum results.

That old 80/20 rule still works. In most cases, 20 percent of what you do is what will give you 80 percent of the results you get. Find that 20 percent and focus on it.

The 20 percent could be promoting your content across social media, writing on a particular social media forum, or producing a particular kind of content.

Find out that thing that really helps you achieve your business goals without much effort and focus your time producing more results with that.

Learn and apply what works for the successful people in your niche where necessary but before modeling them, test the strategy if it can work for you.

For instance as an online entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk gained excellent results and built a large audience by producing daily video content on YouTube.

Many people copied the strategy. Of course so many new online business owners have grown their business using this formula. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way there is. Or that it’s going to work for you too.

How to start a successful Online Business in Africa

I have seen so many aspiring digital entrepreneurs quitting and leaving their online business because they feel they can’t make it work.

Most of them didn’t even evaluate their strategy to find out if they are using the wrong strategy or business model.

Consider the “advertising model” for instance, so many newbie content marketers and bloggers come up with this idea of setting up a blog, posting content and making money through Google adverts”.

Then sometimes they set up these blogs, write content, apply to Google and then where Google refuses to accept their blog for Google Adsense. Then, the trouble begins.

You have to realize that there’s actually no one size fits it all when it comes to setting up a successful online business in any developing country. Be it in Nigeria, India or any other Third World country.

Strategies work based on a combination of circumstances. And things change so fast here in the online world. You must understand this.

Against all odds, you must understand that despite the challenges, there are still a handful of successful online businesses in developing countries. And yours can be one of them.

Connect and collaborate with people both within and outside your niche. 

One of the advantages of starting a business in developing countries like Nigeria, Kenya, India etc. is that you can easily get to collaborate with other starters or mid level businesses like yours.

Feel free to tell them about what you’re doing. Ask for recommendations where necessary.

You don’t know who would really want to help you until you approach the person.

And in fact, you can also collaborate and barter your services by helping someone with what they want and getting something you need in return.

For example, you can help a fellow online business owner get some good and honest review while the same person also gives you a review in return.

And where you don’t have clients to get testimonials and reviews, you can do free stuff and get some good reviews for a start.

Final Words

I could have gone on and on, listing steps you should take in order to start and build an online business in a developing country.

But, these are about the most fundamental steps you need to get to use, to evolve a successful online business, no matter where you are.

Always remember that until you get started, nothing gets done, so; beyond having the ideas about starting your online business, you need to go out there and make it happen.

And should you need us to hold you by the hand as you get to build your online business, you can get to reach out to us here.

Now, the question is; which of these strategies are you planning to use in building your online business? Let’s have your views in the comments section…

4 Responses

  1. Well, I tend to be a very critical person with a critical bent of mind who always comments on others post emphasizing on the missed-out points. However, your writer seems to have done a great job as there’s nothing much that I can think of saying. It is an amazing write-up that is extremely useful for your concerned target audience. I’m definitely going to share this on Twitter.

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Victor Winners

Victor Winners

A Nigerian trained Law graduate and British LL.M candidate, using his widespread experience in tech, law and innovation, to evolve cutting edge and growth driven solutions for brands and businesses in Africa and beyond.As a Law-trained tech expert, Victor brings in over 7 years experience working in the Digital Marketing, SEO, Web Development, Online Publishing, Social Media and Legaltech sectors, to create result driven content and innovative solutions to brands and businesses.Named as one of the top 50 Web Design Influencers Globally, Victor Winners started one of Africa's most widely read blogs on Digital Marketing and Strategy.With this platform, he has impacted the lives of over 2 million readers spanning more than 135 countries in 8+ years

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