How to start an Online Business in Nigeria

With over 120 million internet users and a huge digital market, starting an online business in Nigeria is one of the best kept secret that’s empowered millions of people to survive the current economic crunch.

It’s also one of the biggest strategies that’s worked in cutting cost for entrepreneurs on a shoe string budget, without sponsors or collateral for business loans.

As Africa’s largest digital market, the Nigerian web space has consistently provided exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to build thriving businesses from nearly next to nothing.

Like you, most entrepreneurs are jumping on these opportunities to change their lives yet just like there are success stories, there are millions of failed online businesses that never survived the first few weeks.

Instead of allowing you to journey blindly like I did when I started out, in this guide, I’ll be walking you through the steps you can use to build your own online business in Nigeria right from scratch.

From ideation through planning, down to marketing, you’re going to learn the four practical steps to set up and run a successful online business in Nigeria in the following paragraphs…

The four stages to building a successful online business

No matter the online business you want to engage in, there are four clear stages you’ll have to get through, to build your online business successfully.

The stages include the following:

  • The ideation stage.
  • Planning Stage.
  • Building and
  • Marketing Stage.

Below, we’re going to discuss extensively on each of these steps and how you can go about them…

The Ideation Stage

This is the first stage in your business development journey.

It is the stage where you generate, formulate and process your online business idea.

It is further divided into different sub sections where you evaluate, analyze and review your ideas, motive and skills.

Lets break it down…

Evaluate your Idea

At the first part of the ideation stage, you want to bring together the idea in its raw form, find out is it worth building a business around this idea or not.

This is the first way to test the viability of your idea.

And the reason you’re doing this is because every business exists to provide solutions to one problem or the other.

So, for your idea to be viable, it has to be capable of solving one existing problem or the other.

It doesn’t really matter what the problem is. It could be the need to build website for businesses, provide graphics designs or create content etc.

Whatever it is, your business idea should be tied towards solving a problem that will provide a unique value to people for which you’ll be paid.

Conduct a Market Research

Now, one other informal ways to test the viability of an idea for an online business is to find out if there are existing businesses in that niche or any other niche closely related to it.

Where a business idea already has a handful of people operating something similar or closely related to it, this is most times an indication that the idea might be profitable.

On the other hand if you realize the business around your idea is completely novel without competing or existing businesses, try to research the idea to understand its viability clearly.

Research the Market Demand

Find out if there are people in need of such service or product or others that could be interested in it.

You can also set up questionnaires and surveys either online or offline. Or ask direct questions that will help you find out an ideal client’s reaction to the idea.

Your findings and research at the ideation stage helps you to know whether there’s an existing market for your idea or not.

Where there are no existing market or demand for the business idea, you can leave the idea at this stage and move onto something else.

Evaluate your Skills and Passion

This will come in very handy for service based businesses.

As part of the second part of the ideation stage, you’ll want to evaluate your motive, passions and skillset, to further test the viability of your idea as regards your personal goals.

A lot of people believe following your passion is very important when it comes to starting a business…

But, in some cases you will need to have certain skills and also understand the business around your passions before you can develop and make it profitable.

So, after evaluating your idea, you have to find out, do you have the basic or required skills needed to launch the business idea or will you have to undergo some training to get equipped with these skills before launching your business?

If you’re going to undergo some training, how long will it take and what will it cost you?

These are also some questions you should ask yourself.

To answer these questions and be able to make the right decisions, you’ll also have to understand your motive or the reason you want to start the business in the first place.

If you’re planning on starting an online business because you’re broke and in need of quick cash to fix urgent needs then you don’t need to start with any idea that will demand you spend time to learn certain skills before getting started.

Also, if you’re in a situation where you’ll have to learn a lot of skills before getting started to build a business and you can’t really afford that because you have an urgent need for cash, you can always start with ideas that support your level of skill set.

From here you can work on building your skills while making money with your business at the same time.

In a nutshell, the ideation stage is very strategic and important to the success of your online business.

The two component parts of this stage helps you to position your business for success.

Beyond understanding the viability of your idea, it gives you an idea on what is working, especially in relation to your goals and resources.

Planning Stage

The next stage on your journey to start an online business in Nigeria is the planning stage.

After you’ve been able to assess the viability of your business idea, its time to move onto the planning stage.

The planning stage is where you get the business from an idea in your head into an illustrated business plan that can be seen, read and understood.

Planning your online business before the launch date | Credit: Monstera via Pexel

The business plan does not have to be something difficult or too elaborate. Its just a collection of steps to guide you.

You can start with a mind map of your business idea and the trajection you have for it, from the beginning stage to the growth and maturity stage of the business.

At this stage, you write down the idea, capture it in phases including a clear idea of how you imagine it to be within a certain period of time.

For the planning stage of your business development, you’re going to take the following steps;

Identify and Allocate Resources

At the planning stage, you want to identify the resources you currently have and the ways you can judiciously allocate them to serve your purpose.

The planning stage will also take care of your resources, resource management and resource allocations.

For Freelancers, these resources can include things like your time, gadgets, money you want to invest in the business etc.

To be able to manage your business effectively, you have to manage your your resources properly. The following are key resources you must pay attention to:

Time: Ask yourself, how much time do you really have to invest on your business periodically to run it effectively?

Will you be running it on a part time or full time basis?

If possible you can get as detailed as projecting the number of days, months or years it would take you to be able to commit to your business full time.

And what tine it’ll take you to manage, run and promote the business.

Gadgets and others: Are there gadgets or special resources needed to run your business successfully?

Do you have these gadgets in place or would you rather work with others that have them?

These are questions you’ll have to answer..

Where you have the gadgets and all resources in place, you can work on building your business with that.

Where you don’t have any of such in place, you can think of working on building strategic relationships with people that have such or involving them in your business and giving them cuts or shares.

Calculate your Startup Cost

Again, at the planning stage, you’ll find out how much it’ll cost you to start the business.

This also extends to how you’ll raise the funds. It should answer questions like, will there be investors? If at all there are, how will it work?

What’s the share holding going to look like and what’s the re-payment plan, if you’ll be using borrowed funds.

Identify your Mode of Operation

The planning stage will also cover your mode of operations, how the business will be run, the clients etc.

You’ll want to find out if there’s going to be need to employ staff at the beginning stages or if you’ll have the capacity to do the bulk of the work.

If there’ll be need to employ staff, you’ll also work on the modalities. Are they going to be virtual staff or physical staff?

The idea is for the business plan to guide and direct every business step you take throughout the existence of the business.

It will cover as much as possible and as detailed as anything you can use to get started with.

Developing a Business Plan

This is also where you write your overall business plan.

Make it SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeline bound), based on a good understanding of your Strength, Weakness Opportunities and Threats (SWOT).

For most people, the planning stage is beyond where they write out their goals and objectives.

It is also where they get to understand the idea much better, carve out a niche for themselves and possibly differentiate themselves from other existing businesses.

And to achieve this, you must create a business plan that can deliver on that. This stage can take days to formulate completely. You don’t have to rush it.

It would demand lots of researches, questions and testing of business models.

Building Stage

This is where you begin to build your online business based on your existing plan.

The building stage is where you put your idea into a physical business.

This phase is divided into the following;

Brand Development

At this point, you want to create your brand, in a way your audience can relate to it. You also want to create other branding items like logos, business cards etc.

Platform Creation

This is also where you want to build your business platforms.

This could be building your website, social media pages, and any other customized platform. Whatever you’re going for, be sure you build a formidable platform that showcases your business to the right audience.

Product Development

For people building an information marketing business (or selling eBooks, online tutorials etc.), this is usually the stage you create these products.

The product stage could take Days, Weeks, Months or just Hours. It all depends on the product you’re building

The building stage of your online business is also where you’ll test and set up business systems that can help you achieve your business goals.

Marketing Stage

After building your idea as a physical online business, the next thing is getting it launched on the virtual world or both online and offline as the case may be.

Lunching your online business can also be done on your business website or on your social media page.

After the launch, you’ll need to spend some time to market and promote the business.

You need to spend some time to market and promote your business | Credit: Pexel

Although a lot of people combine both marketing and building stage together just to build momentum before the actual launch, marketing on it’s own is an independent and continuous process that goes on even after your business launch.

Usually, a lot of online businesses automatically focus on content writing on their blogs as their primary marketing strategy etc.

Unfortunately, sometimes this strategy does not work for most new businesses. So, the result might be discouraging in such cases.

Instead of focusing on content marketing alone, combine other marketing strategies and see what works best for you.

Try social media marketing, paid ads and others as part of your marketing strategy until you find out what works best then stick with that.

At the marketing stage, you want to get your business known by possible clients and others. There are many ways to do this.

Final Words

It’s very sad a lot of online businesses do not follow the usual business development stages.

That’s one of the reasons we have so many failed businesses out there.

This is not supposed to be so.

On a personal level, one of the reasons my first online business failed is because I didn’t follow through recognized business development stages.

I didn’t even realize there was anything like that. At that point, I felt having a business idea was all I needed

And this approach led me to a very devastating and resounding failure to say the least.

Today, a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs are breaking the barriers to build thriving businesses. And thankfully, this guide has taken you through all the right steps you can take to get started with your business.

To get further assistance on how to plan and start your online business today, reach out Lets guide you here.

Now, its over to you! What’s the most difficult challenge that’s stopped you from starting your own online business? Drop your comments below.

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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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