20 Essential Online Business Skills


If you were looking for a new job, would you even bother to apply if you reviewed the job specification and found that you didn’t have the required skills or experience?

Essential online business skills

Image: Flickr by Articulate Matter

If you are thinking about starting a business or growing your business online, have you thought about the skills and experience you need?  Would you give yourself the job as business owner if you were interviewing yourself?

Being a solopreneur or small business owner is possibly one of the most challenging roles you will ever have!  If you make a success of it, then it will also be one of the most rewarding roles you will ever have.

When thinking about starting a business or growing a business online, we focus on tasks, activities and what needs to be done but do we spend enough time thinking about what skills and experience are needed?  Do we objectively self-assess our own skills before leaping into action?

Skills and experience needed to be a successful business owner

Drawing on my experience from my days in Human Resources, the starting point for filling a position was to write the dreaded job description.  That usually involved working out the key activities required of the role and the associated qualifications, skills and experience.

If you were writing the job description for the role of solopreneur, entrepreneur, business owner or whatever other title you choose to call yourself, what would it contain?

Here’s a list of 20 essential skills needed to run a successful online business:

  1. Strategy & Planning – for setting goals, actions and measuring performance
  2. Writing – to write blogs, emails, business correspondence, web content
  3. Marketing – for promoting your business
  4. Graphic Design – to create graphics & logos
  5. Web design & development – for building and maintaining your website
  6. Social media – for managing social networks and profiles
  7. Networking – for interacting and engaging with people at events
  8. Communication – ability to get your message across and build rapport with your customers
  9. Commercial – knowing how to price your products and services and what to pay your suppliers
  10. Financial – managing the business (& personal) finances
  11. Bookkeeping & Accounting – making sure you stay on top of the tax requirements
  12. Typing & Administration – doing all the filing, daily upkeep and correspondence
  13. Research & Analysis – staying current with trends and happenings in your market and how your business is tracking
  14. Sales – being able to sell your product and service
  15. Time management – juggling all that needs to be done
  16. IT skills – the know-how to fix your technology when it lets you down
  17. Self-confidence – if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will
  18. Resilience – the ability to bounce back from set-backs
  19. Technical – your “trade” skills e.g. coaching, photography, painting, cooking etc
  20. Please add your own here!

Ok, so I cheated and only listed 19 but I want you to add your own to the list based on what you need to be successful.  Any others come to mind?  I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with at least 10 more that I haven’t thought of.

So does that mean that unless we have all of these skills, we shouldn’t even bother to start a business?  No of course not.  It does mean that you have to recognise the skill gaps and either work out how to close them or you need to find people with the skills to do the work.

How to close the skill gap

Once you recognise that you have a skill gap, you should decide how critical that skill is to your business and how often you need to rely on that skill.  You could complete  a Training Course, self-learn by finding good online materials and practicing and you can learn from people who already have the skill.

We all have strengths and development needs and you may be able to trade skills with someone else.  For example, if you are great at writing, but not so good at design, you could offer to write some content for someone else in return for some great graphics they produce for your website.

What if it takes a long time to develop these skills?  Well you need to start somewhere.  Over time you’ll grow and develop and get better.  Many aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start a business fall into the trap of not starting until they feel they have all of the skills.  They attend course after course, download every free eBook on offer, spend hours reading books and blogs but still don’t feel they are ready.  This is a trap to avoid.  Just make a start.  Accept that you’re not yet perfect and focus on improving over time.  As the saying goes “practise makes perfect”.

In the short terms you might decide that you need to find someone else who with the skills to do the work for you until you are skilled enough to do it yourself.  Or you might decide that this is a skill that you just don’t want to learn and choose instead to outsource.

When starting a business, finances are often tight.  We worry about spending too much money before we have any clients and therefore income.  It can be tempting to try to do everything ourselves in the belief that it isn’t costing any money.  While this may be true in that you’re not paying someone, it also means that it will take you longer to pay yourself because you spend so much longer on tasks that could be completed quicker and better by an expert.  Outsourcing allows you to focus on using your skills in the best way for your business while leveraging the skills of others to save you time.

Big organisations have an HR department, Marketing department, IT department, Finance department.  If you work in corporate job you wouldn’t even consider trying to develop all of the skills to do these jobs.  You should think the same with your own business.

Running a business does demand that we be a jack (or jill) of all trades but trying to do it all will inevitably mean being a master of none and a business failure.


Which other essential skills would add to the list?  Do you outsource tasks when you don’t have the skill to do it yourself?


If you recognise that you would be better to outsource some activities in your business, take a look at my Done For You Online  Marketing Packages.  I’ve created three packages to suit different budgets.  You can even mix and match based on the skills and tasks you need to outsource.

4 Responses to 20 Essential Online Business Skills

  1. Marina October 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    * The ability to design and create new products or services.

    Loved the blog Suellen, I wish I had read this last year, but I still may not have had the confidence to jump in! I spent a good year while working in my old business (which I hadn’t priced well – but it served it’s purpose) educating myself through reading books, listening to webinars etc. As I don’t have anyone around to help with the kids – attending training was a big ask – but I jumped in – for three months drove for 2 hours each way once a week. It was well worth it – clarifying that the information I had learnt and the skills and experiences I had acquired over 20 something years was all useful. The only real gap I had was business structure!

    If you are reading this, wondering if you too should jump in and start your business – Suellen is spot on – work out where your gaps are and fill them.

    • Suellen Hughes October 10, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Hi Marina,

      Thanks for adding your #20 – another great addition.

      Good on you for making that investment in yourself to do the training you needed for your business. I think many of us are worried about spending money when we’re starting out, so we try to do it all ourselves. It isn’t until about 12 months down the track that we realise that perhaps a better option may be to invest some money in the fundamentals freeing up our time to focus on creating product or delivering services. Hindsight is a wonderful thing right 😉

      Love what you’re doing with Kidzbizz – great market to be supporting.

  2. vivien December 3, 2011 at 6:34 am #

    excellent!! very instructive for beginners

  3. polished gemstone August 9, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    awesome business skills i love it very helpful post u have here keep it up good work .

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