The rise of digital entrepreneurship: Tips for how to start a business online.
Learn about the tools you need to start a new business from home.
Get ahead of the competition.
Entrepreneurs are known to go against the grain, even when times get tough. Whether they are dealing with cash flow challenges, unpredictable customers, or other entrepreneurial adversities, their determination to turn their skills or passion projects into full-blown careers knows no bounds. Their dedication has paved the way for new generations of entrepreneurs to continue the mission to meet a need in the marketplace. The same principles guide entrepreneurs today, but a different tool kit may be necessary in order to stand out and succeed.
When COVID-19 triggered major economic downturns, high unemployment rates, and a collective push towards digital transformation for surviving businesses, “COVID-preneurs” pushed on with their dreams of becoming their own bosses at a record pace. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE), the number of new business applications (or applications for new Employer Identification Numbers —EINs — via the IRS Form SS-4) in the US shot up by 23% from January to September of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019.
To break this down even further, the US Census Bureau reported that there were 1,559,950 new business applications submitted from July to September 2020 alone. Compared to the 859,345 new applications submitted during the same period in 2019, this 82% increase in 2020 was the largest year-over-year spike ever recorded. While these numbers might seem perplexing, there are several reasons why entrepreneurship was on the rise during the height of the pandemic — and continues to be well into 2022.
Digital entrepreneur skills.
The digital realm is flooded with people trying to sell you something, so you might wonder how it’s possible to stand out in a flood of media. One of the best ways to gain new clients is to showcase happy existing ones. It’s easy for you to rave about your product or services because it is your business and you are (hopefully) very passionate about it — but people want to see proof of product quality. Plus, customer reviews and testimonials help to address any concerns.
Digital entrepreneurs must find ways to be both better and different from competing brands. By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and thinking about their needs, you can create content that’s more likely to resonate with them. Another way to stand out is to offer something out of the ordinary, target a specific niche, and invite customer feedback. When you go the extra mile to connect to your audience, your business will earn authentic fans.
To keep up in an ever-expanding digital world, you need to maintain a presence across multiple platforms. However, being on 20 different platforms may not be realistic — or helpful. Do your research and see where your client base spends time online. For example, if you create college sports jerseys, an important demographic might be 18–24 year olds. For that group, Tik Tok, Instagram, or Snapchat might be the best platforms to focus your advertising efforts on.
Why digital entrepreneurship.
Throughout 2021, Google Trends recorded significant upticks in searches like “how to start a business,” “how to start a business at home,” and “how to start a business online.” Here are a few key reasons digital entrepreneurship is on the rise:
- Increased opportunities
- Unconquered markets
- Easy access to consumers
- Reassessing the meaning of work and life
- Remote work flexibility
Easy access to consumers.
According to a survey conducted by Statista Research Department in February of 2021, 46% of respondents said they spent five to six hours each day on their mobile smartphones. This data means that not only are consumers theoretically available to marketers for a significant portion of the day, but marketers are right there in consumers’ pockets. In other words, customers are more easily reachable than ever before, especially for resourceful digital entrepreneurs that can use social media and mobile-commerce (m-commerce) platforms to their advantage.
What’s more, e-commerce sales continue to increase, driving more entrepreneurs to sell their goods and services online. From April to June of 2021 alone, e-commerce sales as a whole in the US reached $222.5 billion, which was an increase of 3.3% from the first quarter of 2021. And in the projected future, m-commerce (mobile commerce) sales alone are estimated to reach beyond $432 billion, which is up from $148 billion in 2018.
Remote work flexibility.
The rise in remote work flexibility during the pandemic was a stepping stone to digital entrepreneurship for many. Some people likely found that more time spent working from home allowed them to commit more time toward developing a business plan. In addition, many people who were able to work from home for the first time quickly realized it was their preferred way of working.
According to surveys from Morning Consult, 81% of employees in the US say they enjoy working remotely, 74% of remote workers say they are more productive, and more than 3 in 4 adults would rather apply for jobs that offer remote work options. Additionally, in a May 2021 survey of 1,000 US adults, 39% said they would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. When looking at millennials and Gen Z respondents, that number was 49%.
05. Learn to be a leader.
Becoming a digital entrepreneur might be more than becoming your own boss — it also could mean developing into a business leader. This is especially true if you need to build out a team of employees (including freelancers or contractors) or collaborate with partners or investors to move forward with your plans and reach your goals.
Outside of having a specific vision and being able to articulate it to employees or stakeholders, it’s important to view your work or ideas as pieces of a larger puzzle. That is, entrepreneurial success often includes collaboration with other people. Always be open to listening to new ideas or feedback from those helping you on your journey, and stay committed to helping your employees develop and grow. It’s also important to maintain transparent communication chains with all parties involved with your business.
The pandemic spurred digital transformation, causing many businesses to begin their journey to the cloud to stay agile. For new digital entrepreneurs, having access to cloud-native platforms can benefit a business and retain developmental momentum. For example, you can easily store and backup company data, run intensive software for small business apps, and streamline how you share information all from a high-speed, elastic remote server. Additionally, several SaaS solutions — such as Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud — can help you enhance business operations and workflows.
Digital marketing tools
From social media and email campaigns to search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, having access to a wide range of marketing tools is the foundation for success when running an online business. While many startups don’t have the working capital to hire a full-blown marketing agency, there are several affordable digital marketing tools available that make it easier to manage each aspect of your digital marketing efforts and initiatives. For example, Sprout Social is a popular social media management platform that helps you streamline your social media marketing strategy.
Learning about your online business processes (such as the checkout process on your e-commerce website) and your customers is essential to success. Thankfully, capturing data about them is easy with data monitoring tools — especially those that feature machine learning. Data-monitoring tools like Adobe Analytics automatically monitor and report on data trends and provide you with unique, meaningful insights into the efficiency of your selling platforms and customer behavior.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software
Your customers are the bread and butter of your online business, so understanding who they are, how they operate, and what they want at every step of their journey is invaluable. CRM software allows for a more intimate customer-company relationship, which can help when you’re developing strategic ways to increase sales and encourage repeat customers.
If you’re a “solopreneur” who handles all facets of your digital business, incorporating automation tools into your everyday routine can help save you time, energy, and money. Many automation tools — think virtual assistants or financial management software like QuickBooks Online — can handle more mundane business-related tasks like setting appointment reminders or tracking expenses. Even tools like Adobe Acrobat for businesses can help you automatically view, create, manipulate, print, and manage PDFs, such as important business contracts or order forms.
Focus on digital marketing.
You might think that if you build it, they will come. When it comes to establishing a successful business online, that plan doesn’t often work out. All across the digital plains of the internet, consumers are constantly inundated with digital marketing campaigns from your competitors.
The marketing they encounter could include search-engine-optimized (SEO) product pages, paid advertisement campaigns on Google, keyword-rich blogs that answer common customer questions, or engaging social media posts on platforms like Instagram or TikTok. To succeed in that landscape, it’s paramount that you create a comprehensive digital marketing plan centered around your target audience.
Outside of simply launching an e-commerce website that features your products or services, be sure to optimize your product pages with keywords that your customers are actively searching for on the web. To further bolster your digital marketing strategy, try writing informative, keyword-rich blogs that answer your customers’ most pressing questions related to your products or services.
In addition, maintain a presence on the social media platforms that your target audience uses most often, run compelling ads on those platforms, and don’t be afraid to partner with social media influencers or brand ambassadors to help get your brand out there.
Make smart investments.
Making smart investments upfront is key to future-proofing your business for unexpected economic downturns. Fortunately, the push to all things digital has left many opportunities for new entrepreneurs to avoid costly expenses and make better investments.
For example, as remote work continues to gain a foothold in our economy, small business owners have access to a larger, more diverse talent pool — especially non-salaried freelancers and contractors. Consequently, businesses won’t have to invest in expensive office rentals or equipment for remote employees.
With the explosion of e-commerce, new entrepreneurs can also turn their attention and investments towards digital marketing channels, rather than solely focusing on traditional marketing efforts that might not generate a positive ROI. With digital marketing strategies like email, PPC, and content marketing campaigns, small business owners can more accurately track customer behaviors and touchpoints and adapt accordingly — saving them major marketing dollars in the long run.
Business with Adobe Acrobat.
Contrary to what you might think, now is the perfect time for digital entrepreneurs to start their own businesses online. The remote-work revolution has broadened access to financial opportunities for would-be digital entrepreneurs — meaning more people are setting out to become their own boss and fulfill their passions. If you’re ready to become a digital entrepreneur, starting your own online business is a great way to build a brighter future and achieve your goals.
Looking for a tool to streamline your document management workflows as you get your digital business off the ground? With an Adobe Acrobat business subscription, you gain access to a comprehensive home business PDF solution. Adobe Document Cloud services are included, so you can tackle essential PDF tasks like converting documents to PDF with the Acrobat Reader mobile app or in your web browser. You also gain an Adobe Sign subscription, which is a swipe-and-tap solution to collect and sign legal electronic and digital signatures on any device.