How to Start an Online Business With No Followers


Many people believe that in order to have a successful online business, you must first build up a large audience of followers on social media and a large list of subscribers on your email list. This isn’t true. You can start a successful online business with no followers. I know because I did it.

Although I am active on social media on my personal social media channels, I don’t have many followers on my business social media platforms, and when I started my freelance writing business, I didn’t have many people on my email list. Further, I realized that most of the people who were following me online at the time weren’t potential clients for my freelance writing business.

Instead of depending on social media and email list subscribers to start a freelance writing business, I had to find another way. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in the power of social media, and I think it’s important to build an online community, and build up traffic on your own site. But, that takes time, and time is money when it comes to business.

Some people waste weeks, months, and years waiting for traffic to build up on their blogs when they could begin marketing to potential clients and customers right away. I’m going to share two strategies that will work for you whether you are starting an online product-based business or a service-based online business.

Join a Digital Marketplace

The first method that I’m sharing is a free method for launching your online business. It’s the quickest way to get started and there is zero overhead. I strongly believe in having a blog as a home base for your business, but you can begin selling products and services right away while you build your blog.

What is a digital marketplace? It’s a website that connects freelancers and businesses with client and customers. You may have heard of some of these sites before, even though you may or may not have considered joining them as a freelancer.

Here are some digital marketplaces for selling products:

What makes these companies digital marketplaces instead of just online selling platforms is that they actually market your products and make them discoverable to customers. Some sites provide a way to sell your products, but you have to market them yourself. This is difficult if you don’t already have an audience to sell to. Make sure that the platform you choose advertises your products for you.

If you’re doubtful about how successful you can be with this strategy, consider the success of Nicky Latz, a graphic designer who has earned over a million dollars selling fonts on Creative Market. She used her graphic design skills to make digital products and she sold them through a third party platform. You can do this, too.

Besides fonts, some other digital products that you can sell are templates, courses, eBooks, audio files or music, design elements, photos, and more. You can also use some of these same platforms to sell physical products, but you will need to actually ship them out to your clients, which costs money for inventory. I highly prefer digital products for the easy start-up and low initial investment.

Some of these marketplaces are very popular, so you may have to apply and meet certain requirements in order to open shop. Check out the requirements for each site and their fees, and don’t forget that there are many other sites out there that connect businesses with customers.

Besides selling digital products online, you can also sell services online. I recommend selling services based on your expertise. You can start out charging lower rates until you get good reviews, and then you can raise your prices. I also recommend choosing a niche to help you stand out from the competition on freelancing platforms.

Here are some freelancing digital marketplaces where you can sell your services.

To get started freelancing on these sites, simply sign up for a new account, set up your profile, set your rates and that’s it! I freelance on Upwork and I actively pitch for clients when I’m looking for work. Sometimes I’m approached by clients even when I’m not actively looking for work.

Some of the services that you can offer are consulting, writing, graphic design, web development, content marketing, editing, transcription, and more. You can also grow from a freelancing business to running a full-scale agency.

Each platform is different, and they usually charge a fee when you get paid. On Upwork, you can join for free as a freelancer, and you receive some perks when you upgrade to a Plus membership. No matter which platform you join, becoming a member of a freelancing website is a way to launch your business for free or with very little overhead.

Purchase Paid Advertising

The first method I shared, joining digital marketplaces is a free or low cost strategy. The second method, paid advertising, will cost you a bit, but not as much as you might think. For online business, there are three very effective types of paid advertising.

You can pay for ads that appear on Google sites like Gmail, Google Search, and YouTube. You can pay for advertising on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Or, you can use influencer marketing as a form of paid advertising.

When you use paid advertising, it’s better to have a landing page or product page that people can go straight to and make a purchase. You can also use paid advertising to drive people to your website, or to give away a free download that will encourage people to join your email list.

When you use paid advertising, it’s very important to have a clear goal in mind for your campaign. It’s also best to set a budget for your campaign, and carefully target customers who are likely to pay for an offer from you in the long run. If your strategy isn’t working, switch it up and don’t waste too much time or money on that ad campaign.

Get Started

As I always say, the most important step is to start. Whichever method you use, the most important step to starting a business is to actually start pitching your products and services. As you grow your business, you can develop a strategy for growing your community of clients and customers.