Building your own online business from scratch is a lot of hard work, but I can honestly say that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It's been a long journey, and I'm very much still “on the road”, but I've learned a lot as I've gone along. Here are a few things I've picked up along the way:
Find a hole, and fill it. A few years ago I moved to a new town. I didn't know anyone and found it really difficult to find good recommendations for local businesses. There were online resources, but everything was very spread out and a lot of the sites seemed to suffer from a lack of accountability—what I was looking for would be a sort of one-stop-shop, a community-based clearing house of information and reviews that would allow for interaction between businesses and prospective clients...in other words, what I was looking for didn't exist. So I decided to build it.
Build what you believe in. Don't just try to come up with a product you think other people might be interested in...strive to create something that you personally are passionate about. I love the idea of bringing people together, of building community, and that's why my idea is perfect for me. Or rather, I hope I am the perfect person to realize that idea. When you are building a business, there are a lot of hiccups and bumps in the road—working on something that you are passionate about makes those bumps bearable and keeps you on a straight course.
Learn from others' hits and misses. Keep your eyes and ears open. Pay attention to businesses, both those in your field and those that have nothing to do with you. Always ask yourself: what makes this business work? What would make it better? By training yourself to constantly scrutinize business this way, you can make sure that you won't get stuck taking the way your own business works for granted. There is always room for improvement; your goal is to look at the successes and shortcomings of other businesses and see how they can be applied to your own.
Find a team before taking the field. If I could do one thing differently in starting my own business, it would be to make sure I had other developers in mind that I wanted to work with before getting started. I realized that the amount of work I needed to get done was way more than one developer (AKA “myself”) could get done, and I found myself scrambling. Even if you don't have the capital to hire a team at the beginning, have in mind people you'll want to work with once you can afford them.
You can do it! (But it might take awhile...) Building my own business was in many ways actually easier than I thought, but quite a bit slower too. The first part of this is great news: if you've ever had an idea for your own business but were afraid it would be too much work, I'm here to tell you that you absolutely can do it. However, it's important to remember the second part too. Building a business takes a lot of patience, a lot of waiting through sputters and false starts. But if you find something you love, and you're willing to put in the time and effort (and patience!), then you might find that building your own business is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
I know I have.