Having a great small business idea can be exciting, but the challenges involved in converting the idea into a fully operation online home based business can sometimes be daunting.

Despite the current economic climate, it is easier than ever to build and operate a thriving home based business. If you’re still undecided as to what home business you want to start, check out “Top 10 best home based business ideas to make money online in 2012“.

Making money online is both challenging and hugely rewarding. Being successful at your own business should be great motivation during the lean startup phase.

Before we get on with the guide, it’s important to note that, as with any type of business, an online home based business will cost a bit of money and plenty of time and effort.

In order to be successful, you must be prepared to commit time, energy and some finances. But hey, the opportunity is always there, and the rewards are all yours, so it’s definitely worth it!

Guide to starting an online home based business

This guide will show you how to research and plan your home business, find the best Web solutions to meet your business requirements in the most affordable and efficient way, and then how to grow your business using the latest marketing techniques.

1. Research & planning

With a great small business idea in hand, the temptation to rush into things can be overwhelming, but it’s worth doing things properly at the start:

  1. Research demand and competition: Who else is doing what you do, or something similar? How successful are they? Is there evidence that people are buying what you’re selling?
  2. Know your market: Understand who the people are who might want to buy your products. Where are they? How do you find them? What do they like?
  3. Supply chain & logistics: How will you manufacture and supply products? How will the products be stored – garage or warehouse?
  4. Tax, finances & incentives: Will the bank give you a loan? Does your state offer tax breaks? Are there small business grants and loans that you qualify for?
  5. Requirements: What software do you need? What business equipment? Office supplies?

The following small business articles and resources provide more detailed information about the above points:

2. Startup & operations

Oddly enough, this is one of the easiest aspects of starting a home based online store – even though it is the part that most people are apprehensive about.

eCommerce web platforms and shopping carts are now very sophisticated and far more user friendly than the old days. Prepare to spend a bit of money on the right online store software, as well as a bit of time finding your way around the system.

A bit of advice: Don’t try learn everything about your eCommerce software solution in one day. If you haven’t had much experience with eCommerce, then take it slow. There is a learning curve, and it helps to recognize this to avoid frustration.

You’ll need:

  1. Domain
  2. Hosting
  3. eCommerce software

Another bit of advice: Be prepared to spend a bit of money on the eCommerce solution that allows you to get up and running as quickly as possible. This will save money in the long run because you can focus on getting a cash flow as early as possible, instead of getting bogged down in technical development problems.

The following eCommerce articles and resources will tell you everything you need to know about setting up an online store:

3. Marketing & growth

Whether you know it or not, and regardless of what your online store sells, the business you are actually in is marketing. Once the eCommerce platform is in place, and most of the bugs have been ironed out of the supply chain and operations, your focus must be on growing your small business using marketing.

A bit of advice: Learn as much as you can, try new things, keep an open mind and be creative… always. The Internet is dynamic and ever-changing. You will never run out of things to learn when it comes to marketing.

Here’s a list of the best Internet marketing articles and resources to get you started:

Another bit of advice: Make sure you blog. A good blog can bring in plenty of revenue by itself, let alone drive sales and revenue via your online store. It takes a lot of work, passion and creativity, but it can also bring fantastic rewards. Read “How to make money blogging“.

4. Analysis & refinement

Once your home business is out of the “startup” phase and you have a few clients with a bit of money coming in, it’s time to improve.

Analytics software, analysis, and SEO can help to drive more traffic to your eCommerce store and convert it at a higher rate to increase the amount of money you make. The following article show you how to analyze and drive more traffic with higher conversions:

Have you started an online store based from home? What challenges and experiences have you faced and overcome? What do you think is the single biggest obstacle to succeeding with an online home based business? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.