You can get by with a little help from the web


Making better use of your time online can help get your new business started.            By Camila Penha

Most people would be amazed if they added up the amount of time they spend every day on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat and so on. The internet has taken over our lives in a way some of the most inventive science-fiction writers couldn’t have imagined. Although a lot of time is spent on trivial content (celebrity gossip, your friends’ vacation photo album on Instagram, cat videos), there are things to be discovered in the infinite World Wide Web that can be of true help to our daily lives – and that includes learning how to start your own business.

Yes, the internet can be an amazing tool to those dreaming of becoming a self-employed entrepreneur, and the first step is trying to trade some of the time spent on social media for time searching for information that might be useful to your new business. If you are totally new to the entrepreneurship world, begin by taking online courses.

One of the best and most popular nowadays is “Starting a business: realise your vision” offered by the University of Leeds. Led by academics, entrepreneurs and advisers, the course aims to help people dreaming of starting a business spot good ideas and takes them through the steps of how to turn the ideas into a success. The programme includes learning about the resources needed, how to target the right customers, the range of finance options available and how to tackle challenges and take critical decisions. Being an interactive course, students have the opportunity to meet enterprising students and graduates who have successfully started their own business and participate on discussions with other learners and mentors. How much time do you need to dedicate to the course? Four hours per week, for only two weeks – fairly achievable, right?

Once you have a better understanding of what you want to do and how you should do it, you can start to build a network for yourself. On LinkedIn, for example, you will find many groups that provide forums for people thinking of starting a business or who have newly started out in a business of their own. And then, depending on the area you are thinking of getting into, you can join groups in that specific area. Make sure you have a strong LinkedIn profile, with accurate information on your work experience and skills. If you’re not sure about how to do that, one Google search will be enough to guide you.

Assuming you have your service or product ready to go into the market, you will eventually need to spread the word. Advertising or having a professional marketing team by your side would be a fairy tale scenario for any new entrepreneur, but it might not be affordable at first. So, go for free or at least more affordable alternatives.

Online Website Screenshoot

Creating a page on Facebook and a profile on Instagram is as easy and free as it is affective (if you follow a few simple tips). On Facebook, keep the posts with little text and always accompanied by visual content, including videos; don’t flood your followers time line but don’t leave a long gap between posts; resort to sponsored posts now and then. On Instagram, make sure your pictures have enough quality and use the right captions.

Now, if you want to have a website right from the start, there are good options that won’t cost much. One of the most popular free website builders is Wix, where you can choose a template, according to your business area, and easily adapt text and images to make your own website.

The bad news is, although it is actually free to create the site, you’ll probably have to buy the domain and pay for unlimited pages and storage. The good news is it is not expensive. Less than £8 a month will do the trick.

Even if you want to go for a bit more of a traditional approach to your marketing campaign, your best deal will be online. You will find many websites where you can very easily create a nice and clean flyer or business card and, for less than £15, get a thousand of them delivered to your door two days later.

Relying on the internet alone won’t be enough to get your business running. You’ll still need to save money, work hard and make sure you get all the support and help from your friends and family. But if you can make the best of what the web has to offer, even better.


Open course “Starting a bu¬siness: realise your vision”

LinkedIn group “Start Your Own Small Business”

Website builder Wix

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