You have a great idea for an online business, but you’re unsure where to start?  These five necessities will get you started without buying any hardware.

1. Domain Name

Choosing a domain name is similar to choosing a company name it requires a lot of thought and consideration. Your domain name is your identity on the Web; you want to make sure you choose a name that not only fits your business, but is also easy to find and promote. Use Whois.net to see if your domain name is already in use.  This is important, because many ideas for domain names that you have, may already be registered.

2. Website Hosting Provider

Every business, even if it only has a single employee, needs a website. A company without a online presence is leaving serious money on the table, because an attractive and informative site can draw a slew of potential clients or customers. That means choosing a Web hosting service and setting up your website. PC Magazine has a side-by-side comparison and walks you through selecting a hosting provider.

3. Marketing/Advertising

Now that you have a website you need to promote it and drive traffic to your website. This can be done multiple ways but the most sure fire ways are to:

  • Optimize your site for search engines to increase your search rank
  • Use Pay-per-click advertising (Google Adwords, Bing)
  • Generate content via blogs and social media

There are the big 4 social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+) that most companies start on. However if you want to get the most bang for your buck, you need to know what social networks your customers are on and get involved.  A great way to get your blog content out there is to use Outbrain.com

4. Email

Similiar to your website you need an email address.  While not a must, ideally you want to use your domain name as part of your email address.
There are a lot of email providers out there, how do you decide?  Your website hosting provider may provide email services and since they are hosting your domain name this is ideal.  However, Gmail for business can use your domain as well.  While not necessarily authoritative,  Wikipedia offers a great comparison of email providers.  Decide which factors are important to you and choose your provide based on those factors.

5. Telephone Number

With millions of new startups and websites worldwide every year, people want to know that there is someone really there.  Listing a phone number on your site is a great way to let them know you are real and that they can give you a call for help.  You can use your cell phone, but what if you start taking a lot of calls?  An alternative is a virtual answering service. A virtual answering service like InteliPhone™ is hosted and can provide multiple toll-free or local numbers and answer a large number of simultaneous calls, routing each one specifically as you want, whether to your cell phone or to different employees, voicemail or even live operators.