How long does it take to build a business?

Thinking of quitting your day job to start your own business?

Jacques Mattheij wrote an interesting article, It Takes Three Years To Build A Business, where he describes what you should consider when thinking of quitting your job to start your own business. In his article, he states that it takes about three years to establish a profitable business because it takes this long to build your reputation, build a network, and have enough trust and customer references behind you to be able to attract enough new customers.

However, he is referring mostly to starting a consultancy or service-based business. In online businesses things are different. It might still take three years or so, but it can be done much faster. Some people spend years writing and refining their business plan. But this kind of research can be endless, and in the long run more detrimental to your progress than just jumping in and getting started. Here’s why:

Online businesses can be started for (almost) free

In a traditional bricks and mortar store you need a location, furniture, inventory, insurance, and much more. Starting an online business can be as easy as launching a website–and launching a website is getting easier to do every day.

You can build your own business website very quickly

There are some really amazing tools available that let anyone build an online business without any technical knowledge required. It always helps to speak a few extra languages, like CSS or HTML, but increasingly we are seeing more great tools available that let people focus on their product, and on marketing and customer service, and have the technical stuff all taken care of.  Shopfiy and Volusion are two great examples of e-commerce website builders. If you are thinking of starting an online business or web store, you should have a look at these.

Test, refine, repeat

The online world is inherently measurable. You can run small, inexpensive experiments to see what works before going too far in the wrong direction. Website analytics can be used to track nearly every important metric in your business. A/B testing lets you see which messaging, design, copy, logo, layout, price, etc. works best.

Start with your best guess, gather the data, then refine. It’s very satisfyingly scientific when done right, and can quicken your path to success.

Domains age like wine

Don’t wait another minute before staring your website! Two important factors that the search engines take into consideration are your domain’s age and its in-coming link profile.

If you’ve got a good idea of the kind of business you want to start, and have done your keyword research, then you should be ready to register some domain names. All things being equal, domains that have been registered longer have an advantage over domain names that just popped up yesterday. So start aging yours now.

Then, get your website up, even if you only put up a placeholder page that has nothing more than a few sentences describing what you’re planning to do, and an email sign-up form or some other way for people to be notified when your business kicks off. That way you can be collecting leads and building links even before you’ve launched your business.

Do it now!

Ferris Bueller: life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop to look around once in a while, you could miss it.To paraphrase Ferris Bueller: things move pretty fast; if you don’t start now you could miss it. Your really good business idea from 2008 is now a whole ecosystem of businesses. That’s how fast things change online.

The early bird gets the worm, and it’s never been easier than it is today to actually do something about your business idea.

Even if it will take three years to get your business going, will that be three years from someday, or three years from today?

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