In this article I’m going to be giving a step by step tutorial on how to start an online business and at the end of the article I’m going to give you my top 3 businesses to start in 2023.
I’m George Moulos, Serial Entrepreneur and Owner of Ecommerce Brokers where we help people build, buy and sell online businesses. After building and selling a bunch of my own online businesses when I was very young I started helping other people sell theres and ten years later we’ve now sold millions of dollars worth of online businesses.
I’m going to run through the step by step guide on how you can start an online business, and the processes that will guide your decision making in deciding which business to start. Then I’ll give you my top 5 businesses to start in 2023.
1. My Story: From Working At McDonalds to The Forbes 30 Under 30
Before I spend twenty minutes diving deep into the types of online businesses that you can start and what processes you should go through to decide on a business model and how to start it, I should probably explain who I am and how I’ve come to know these things about the online business world.
2. Who Is George Moulos and Where Is He From?
I am George Moulos. I’m an Australian born Greek Australian. My family are all from a small island called Kythera in Greece. I’m a first, second and third generation Greek Australian as my dad was born in Kythera, my mum was born in Australia, but her dad was born in Kythera, and my mum’s mum was born in Australia, but her mum was born in Kythera. And I’m also an immigrant myself as I immigrated from Australia to Cyprus in 2021 after 3 years of traveling the world as a digital nomad.
2018 Vlog Season 1: Digital Nomad Life In Europe
2018 Vlog Season 2: Digital Nomad Life Back In Australia
3. Working At McDonalds for €5/hour
I grew up a little way south of Sydney and started working at a young age. I applied to start working at McDonalds as soon as it was legal to do so, which in Australia is 13 years old and 9 months. I was working after school, on weekends and holidays and as you can imagine I didn’t love working for €5 an hour. At the same time I was helping my parents where I could in their lawn mowing and gardening business that they did on top of their normal jobs and then also would work at a factory unloading shipping containers for $100 AUD per container on holidays when I could. Safe to say if I had some free time I was going out and doing some work.
4. Wanting To Change The Pattern
My parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents and all the way back 800 years, which is as far back as my family tree goes, we’ve had to use manual labor to make money and I realized pretty early on that I didn’t want the same for myself. That’s when I decided that I better figure out what career path I want so that I can get a head start. That’s when I started reading self development books, entrepreneur biographies and that slowly led to reading books on online businesses.
5. How I Started a Facebook Group Affiliate Business
After reading Gary Vee’s book ‘Crush It’ and following his advice from his YouTube Channel I started building communities just by adding value, in any way I could. The way I did this was I created Facebook groups for students in my year in high school, in the years below and the years above and I would share funny memes every single day. Students would add their friends, and their friends would add their other friends from other schools and soon enough these groups grew into the tens of thousands.
I was consistently posting memes, educational videos and materials so much so that almost every student in the state of New South Wales knew the name ‘George Moulos’ because I would annoy them with a notification every single day.
After a few months of building up these facebook groups I also got the students to like and follow a facebook page that was related, then also sign up to a weekly email that had each weeks best memes and educational materials and then I also got them to go to a website where I stored all the best materials. At this point I was actually losing money on this facebook group idea and spending my hard earned McDonalds money to keep the site and email newsletter running.
At that point I started calling up companies that I thought I could sell their products and services to the students in the groups and take a commission, in other words, affiliate marketing. After working with student holiday companies, tutoring companies, car dealerships, photography and DJ service companies for parties as well as a bunch of other companies, I started bringing in more money from my affiliate websites and facebook groups than I was making at McDonalds or any other side job I had. And for one client brought in AUD$130,000 in revenue in just 3 months.
Over time I would sell the Facebook groups and their adjoining sites and email lists, and that would be my first business sale.
6. How I Built A Marketing Agency
As I had learnt how to run ads, build email lists and build a website I started to offer my affiliate clients website development and marketing services, and so my marketing agency ‘Moulos Media’, copying Gary Vee’s ‘Vayner Media’, was born. This is where I would build up a list of ecommerce website clients that would then want me to help them sell their websites as they knew I sold my own in the past.
7. How I Built a Digital Product Ecommerce Business
As I was in my last year of high school and started living on my own, I had built up the skills necessary to start and promote products. I decided to start a digital product business with my friend where I would sell study notes for high school subjects that were created by the top achievers in the years before.
This was an instant success as we leveraged the audience and email lists of the students that I previously gathered in the Facebook groups and in one weekend, when I was broke and had to make rent the next week, we brought in AUD$2,000. An instant success. Operating this business over the next few years taught me much more about the online business space.
8. How I Started Ecommerce Brokers
At the start we would mainly help people buy and sell domains and websites under $1,000 USD where we were taking as little as $100 home on each transaction. But as we went above and beyond for clients they started to refer their business owning friends to us and the businesses we started dealing with became bigger and bigger. Then we hit a $50,000 USD sale, and we realized it took the same time and effort as a broker to sell a $1000 website as it does to sell a $50,000 website, so we focused on doing bigger deals.
As my skill base and network in the online business and marketing world was growing, more and more people in Australia started requesting some help in selling their online businesses. I helped these clients simply as an add on to my Moulos Media marketing agency services but over time it became the most lucrative part of the business and so I rebranded as Ecommerce-Brokers.com and eventually went full time with this business in helping people build, buy and sell online businesses.
The years passed and our average deal size went from $50k to $250k to $1.2M and so on. Now we list businesses over $50,000,000 USD. We also started helping experienced and well funded clients buy multiple companies, help them scale those companies and then a few years later also sell those companies again.
9. I Am Obsessed With Entrepreneurship
Every single day I hop on the phone with 10 to 20 entrepreneurs and hear the inspiring stories of how they started their businesses and I am still to this day, as I was when I was 13 reading entrepreneur biographies, emphatically fascinated with these entrepreneur stories and truly grateful that I my job day to day involves hearing these stories. After 10 years in entrepreneurship I received the award of being in the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Greece and have spoken on the topic of entrepreneurship at over 20 universities in Greece, Cyprus and across Europe promoting the career path.
10. How Can You Start A Business?
Step 1: What Are Your Skills or Interests?
There are a lot of types of ecommerce businesses and there are exponentially more niches that each ecommerce business model works in, and all require hard work and dedication over a long period of time. So if you’re going to have to put your heart and soul into a business it is probably best that it is, as close as possible, something that you are at least kind of passionate about. If you have a passion for clothing and design, then maybe you should start with a Print on Demand business where you can create unique designs. Or maybe you can monetize your design skills through a creative agency where you create advertisements in picture or video form for companies. Or maybe you simply work as a freelancer creating logos and animations on UpWork or Fiverr.
‘Cool’ Ideas Rarely Make Money
I don’t suggest that your first business necessarily be something cool. The biggest opportunities usually lie in the places that most people don’t want to look at. Boring services and products that make up the things in our daily lives are usually the biggest money makers. For example, in the ecommerce physical product space it is the boring niches like babycare, pet care, skincare, homeware and even sleep products that perform best and not in apparel, gadgets, toys, car products etc.
So when deciding how you want to make money online assess what skills and interests you have. Because it is rarely the case you have none. If you speak two languages, that’s a huge monetizable skill. If you can type fast, that’s a monetizable skill. If you are good at researching a topic, that’s another monetizable skill. If you simply love running and know everything there is to know about running, the accessories that go with it, then you can create a blog and content site and write articles about running and the best running gear and news and monetize through ads.
Step 2: Choose a Business Model
Now you’re dedicated to starting an online business and you want to get started but you’re hearing about the one hundred and one different types of online businesses there are to start and you’re hearing that dropshipping is dead and affiliate marketing is the best business to start, but that agencies are better or that you should start a content site. With millions of successful entrepreneurs out there telling you what you should and should not do it is hard to actually know what your options are and what business models are out there to choose from. So I will go through the main 8 online business models and give you their simple definitions so you can see which one might be best suited to you.
Number 1: Physical Product Business
This is any online business where you can buy a physical product. There are many sub-categories within this category that I will go into depth in the next numbers but at a very simple level, they all sell physical products
Number 2: Shopify DTC/Dropshipping
This is any online business that sells physical products using a website builder called Shopify. These businesses represent almost 90% of the physical product businesses where you buy things online, outside of Amazon. Most of these businesses are DTC, Direct to consumer, which means they use a 3PL, which means third party logistics, which means they buy their supplies from a factory somewhere like China, then they ship in bulk lets say 1000 items of that product to a warehouse in California, then when a customer buys the product on their site, they send it from their warehouse to the customer. That is DTC. Dropshipping simply skips the warehouse step and send the product straight from the manufacturer, in this case from China, straight to the customer’s house. Dropshipping is not dead, as it is a business model. It is lower risk than buying thousands of dollars worth of stock then trying to sell it so most Shopify business owners start with dropshipping as their only initial big expense is marketing.
Number 3: Amazon FBA
Any business that sells physical products on Amazon.com. This usually means you use Amazon’s warehouses for your products. That’s what FBA means, Fulfilled By Amazon.
Number 4: Digital Product Business
Any business that sells digital products, not physical products online. This includes my previous business where I sold study note PDF’s, a business that sells audiobooks for example or courses is also a digital product business.
Number 5: Agency
A business that provides some form of digital services for clients. This one is in the gray zone between a traditional business and an online business but agencies usually have their employees working 100% remotely, so there is no office. Like the marketing agency I had, an agency can sell services like marketing, graphic design, website development etc.
Number 6: Freelancing
A person who works online by the hour, day or per job rather than working on a regular salary basis for one employer. This sort of work is usually done on freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr where you can find a lot of work like translating, design, website building etc and isn’t done through your own business, however, you get to pick your hours and projects and you’re your own boss.
Number 7: Affiliate and Content Sites
Websites or social media accounts where you create written content, images or videos that drive traffic and you monetize through advertisements. Affiliate sites are websites that have hundreds or thousands of written articles about a specific subject and for that reason Google will rank them very high in Google search and then the site will receive a lot of traffic that the website owner can direct to whichever company they like and earn a commission on each sale. The same can be done with YouTube Channels, Instagram accounts or TikTok accounts. This is the business model I had with my Facebook Groups.
Number 8: SaaS and Apps
Software as a service o apps are pieces of software that you monetize either with a subscription, an upfront cost or in-app purchases. Famous examples are Spotify, Uber or Angry Birds. These are harder to develop as you need to either know how to code or pay someone to code.
Step 3: Research and Reading
This is where you need to really spend some time everyday researching your specific business model, the niche your business is in as well as entrepreneurship more generally as there are challenges and hurdles that you’ll come into contact with that entrepreneurs from different times, with different businesses in different circumstances will be able to help you through.
Top 10 Books for Entrepreneurs:
- How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
- 4 Hour Work Week By Tim Ferriss
- Own The Day Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
- 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
- Crush It by Gary Vee
- The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco
- Do The Work by Steven Pressfield
That’s a general list of what the habits and mindset of your life should be as an entrepreneur starting or building a business, but what about specific research on starting and operating an online business? Follow the below people on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok and have the algorithm work for you by surrounding yourself with business and entrepreneur knowledge:
Top 10 Influencers for Entrepreneurs:
- George Moulos (Are you surprised?) (Entrepreneurship and Ecommerce)
- Gary Vee (Entrepreneurship and Motivation)
- Davie Fogarty (Ecommerce and Brand Building)
- Noah Kagan (Business and Startups)
- Neil Patel (Marketing)
- Tim Ferriss (Habits and Podcasts with Entrepreneurs)
- This Week in Startups- Jason Calcanis (Startups)
Step 4: Mentors and Courses
This is where I’m supposed to tell you that you should buy my course on how to start an online business for $2,997.00 but to be honest if you’re just starting an online business a course is probably a few steps away. I would recommend starting with the above books and influencers and actually starting your business and bringing at least some money, then specifically googling and searching on youtube for answers to some difficult questions as almost 95% of the answers are out there for free. If for example you started an apparel Shopify business and you’ve made some money but your Facebook ads aren’t performing anymore. GOOGLE it. Search on Youtube for recent videos on the facebook update. Join online forums and Facebook groups on digital marketing and Facebook ads and there will be people with answers to your question because you are never going to be the only one with that business problem.
Getting a Mentor
After you’ve seen some success with your business, even if it is literally one sale, but success nonetheless, and you’ve read the above books and you’re keeping up to date with the above influencers content and actually applying some of their advice, at that stage it is massively advantageous to get a mentor. I got my first mentor when I was 15 and I can without a doubt attribute 40% of my business success to his advice and the other 40% to the other mentor I got when I was 18. (The remainder is the actual work I did). Mentors are there to guide you in the right direction and give specific and experienced advice, but also to keep you accountable to what you said you would do, and help you out when you fail.
How To Get The Most Out Of A Mentor
If I have a call with my mentor and he tells me to do A, B, C and D, I do not call him until every single one of those items is done, or I tried my heart out and failed. Progress and effort is what a mentor wants to see and if you aren’t even trying they won’t waste their time. Some mentors I’ve had I paid and that kept me very accountable to my promises of doing work on certain projects as I didn’t want to have to pay for another call if I hadn’t made progress on the previous call’s tasks. And yes, I do provide mentoring for 10 people at a time. You can book a mentoring session here: https://www.georgemoulos.com/consulting/
11. The Top 3 Businesses To Start in 2023
1. Business Idea #1: Agency Business:
One of the easiest businesses to start with no money is an agency. Your Agency can focus on any one of thousands of skills, like website development and design, app development, translation, data entry, copywriting, social media marketing, video editing, etc.
If you aren’t specifically skilled at any one thing then it’s worth practicing and learning from YouTube videos and articles online. For example, When I had a marketing agency I was good at editing videos, not an expert, but better than the average joe. So I started by making vlogs and editing my own videos daily. That made me very good at editing videos, very quickly.
Once you have your skill now it’s time to productize it. So let’s say you’re good at editing videos like I was in 2015. You can take a look at the market and local businesses and see where your video editing skills will be most useful. Right now, in November 2022 TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts are very popular and not many businesses are publishing videos there. So what you could offer is a service that re-edits videos and publishes them onto TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
The next step is to actually get clients. This is the hardest part. But, it is also the part that I was best at. What you need to do here with your agency skill is to now go to local businesses that aren’t already doing or using a service to do what you’re proposing and offer them your services. You can simply google “Copyright 2010” to find businesses in your area that have old websites and then email them offering a new website. Websites made in 2010 will have this on their footer like the below.
What I did when we were building websites for people and conducting video marketing campaigns was go around my neighborhood on Google Maps and literally look street by street for businesses. Then I would see if they had a website that was built in the last few years, if it was old and crappy, I would contact them about building them a new one. If they had a good website but not marketing on Facebook, Instagram etc, I would help them with that. These days you could do the same thing and find businesses that might be creating content for YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, but not doing anything on TikTok. For example the restaurant below has no website, only a facebook page. BOOM! You can make them a website because they need one!
Once you’ve identified your perfect client list, type up their names, websites, phone numbers and details into an excel spreadsheet and add up roughly 100 other businesses that are similar that you could contact. Now it’s time for you to actively talk to them and close them as clients. I suggest cold calling them as it is the most effective way and then organizing a face to face meeting or a Zoom call where you can explain your services to them. You can email, IG dm them etc. I would go to them with some work you’ve done for others previously, i.e. a portfolio, but if you haven’t got a portfolio then I would suggest editing a few videos for them for free prior to the meeting so you can show them your work. Same goes for making a site before they ask you too, and just host it on another domain. Show them you can do what you say you can.
Over time you’ll build up multiple customers that you do consistent work for and you can start hiring VA’s (virtual assistants) to help you with the work and them you can focus more of your time on closing new customers and less on the actual work itself, but you want to make sure it is still of the same quality. That’s how you can build up to $10,000 a month. Simply get 10 people paying $1,000 a month or 20 paying $500.
2. Business Idea #2: Content Account Business:
Building out a content site or social media account is also a super easy way to start making money online with no money needed up front. A traditional content site is where you would write articles on a specific topic and then the traffic that it would bring would be monetized through ads or affiliate ads. Nowadays I think the opportunity is in creating content on TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels organically.
The question is what should you make your account about? If you love Football, make it about football. If you love history like me, make it about history. If you have some specific knowledge about a subject that will massively help out in creating content about the topic.
Once you have your topic you can make informative, educational or just entertaining content for TikTok, Reels and YT Shorts. So for our football example you would gather some footage from YouTube or elsewhere and then edit that into the trending types of edits on TikTok, IG and Shorts at the moment. Whether that is a specific sound or meme or transition, edit your content into that type of edit. That is what will make it go viral and bring followers and bio link clicks to your profile.
After posting a couple videos every day and doing that for 30-45 days a handful of your videos will go viral and now it’s up to you to decide how to monetize your content. One way is through adsense. On YouTube you get paid for the YouTube Shorts views you get. Another is by offering shoutouts to people and companies in that niche. You could also sell physical or digital products related to your content. So for the football example you might sell football socks with a cool design and drive the traffic to your site through your tik tok edits page.
3. Business Idea #3: Ecommerce Business:
My personal favorite is an ecommerce, DTC, and Shopify business. I tend to go with Shopify as an Amazon FBA business, the main alternative, doesn’t allow you to keep the personal information of your customers and leaves you at the whim of Amazon potentially suspending your store.
I would start by identifying what products are hot right now. I would go to you desktop and type in www.tiktok.com/discover and scroll down until you start seeing products that people are showing. Then you can find those products on Alibaba or Aliexpress, set up a shop and start running ads on TikTok to drive traffic to your store to sell the exact same product. I would go a step further and but the product myself and create video content like that of the viral content that led you to it in the first place so your videos can go viral. I would also push your video content on IG Reels and even YouTube Shorts. Another good place to find trending products is explodingtopics.com.
I’ve listed above the practical methods for identifying what businesses you should start, how to start them and how to develop yourself as an entrepreneur at the same time and then given you 3 examples of businesses you can start right now!
If you liked this article and want to see more on starting, building, buying and selling businesses subscribe to my YouTube Channel here!
I have a question for you. Which of the 3 business ideas that I mentioned is your favorite? Let me know in the comments section below.