Feature | Online business

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 online business skills or experience?

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. Planning & Research

Research and planning are important in starting a business. This is the part where you should be able to answer two major questions regarding your online business such as:

  • What is your product or service?
  • Who is your target customer?

These seem to be basic questions but they need a lot of research in order to be answered correctly. Here you need to make a plan. It doesn’t need to be perfect, you just need a rough draft. You can research by doing the following:

  • Learning case studies and watching reports of businesses related to yours
  • Analysing online business models
  • Studying your potential competitors and their profits and how much investment they needed.
  • Communicate with experts in the field of your business
  • Do the research and communicate with your target audience or customer
  • Follow social media pages or blogs of the top player in the field
  • Look for online courses or training related to your business category.

2. Digital Marketing

Strong marketing skills are important. This is because effective Digital Marketing will allow your online business to gain new customers and grow your following:

  • Specifically, in online business, digital marketing involves understanding:
  • Inbound marketing
  • Pay-per-click(PPC)
  • SEO
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Email Marketing and PR
  • Social Media Ads

These seem to be a lot but you can take short courses or outsource these services form agencies.

3. Copywriting

This is the ability to write persuasive, informative and related content about your business. Without content, you can’t communicate with your audience and spread brand awareness.

Most importantly, providing good content will let you express your desire to serve the best products or services to your customers.

4. Graphic Design

The ability to create beautiful graphic designs will set you apart and rise above your competitors. Your designs should be able to attract your audiences and make them curious about what you’re offering.

There are websites and software that you can use to make images. Some of the best ones are:

5. Web design & Development

Your website is the home of your products and services. It will also define everything about your business and establish your brand. That is why the creation and maintenance of your website is very important.
There are many ways to create a website. You can read our article Shopify & WooCommerce: Everything You Need to Know When Setting Up Your eCommerce Store to understand more.

Free Website Design Review

6. Social Management Skills

Like what was stated earlier, you can grow your following through social media. In this day and age, everyone has social media accounts.

You can use social media ads to attract traffic to your website or endorse your product. You just need to learn how to manage your social business accounts and pages to take full advantage of this kind of advertisement.

7. Networking

Being able to network and grow your connections is one way to grow your online business. You should be able to build good relationships with your:

  • Business Connections (suppliers, resources)
  • Mentors in your field

Effective communication also includes nurturing the relationships you developed through various channels like joining webinars or conventions related to your business.

8. Commercial

Pricing your products or services can be tough but this is very important. One of the keys for a successful business is how you price your products properly. It is one way of creating a business that will prosper.

Correct pricing will not only create trust and good relationships with your customers. It will also ensure that your business is making money and getting the opportunity to grow.

9. Financial

Knowledge about your finances and how to manage them is the backbone of your business. You can’t effectively run a business if your finances are a mess. You should be able to master the ability to budget your investments, profits and other expenses like your taxes.

Good finance and accounting will let you manage the money you will spend in advertising, your products or services and employees. You will also know how much your profits and if growing your business through reinvestments are possible.

10. Administration & Leadership

Through good administration and leadership, businesses can prosper. You should be able to lead your employees so that they can maximize productivity. You should be able to:

  • Provide guidance
  • Motivate your employees
  • Initiate action
  • Improve satisfaction and build morale
  • Take care of your employee and organisation needs
  • Effectively delegate responsibilities
  • Keep up with everything through proper documentation

Coworkers | Online business skills

11. Business Analysis and Research

Staying current with trends and happenings in your market and how your business is tracking. After launching your business and performing your digital marketing strategies, you should be able to keep track of the results of each campaign. Analysing the results is one way of ensuring that your marketing works.

Marketing trends are always changing so you should be able to keep track of the latest happenings in your industry or field. This can be achieved through continuous research and analysis.

12. Adaptability

Being able to adapt is a skill that will keep your business alive whenever something comes up. Businesses that can’t adapt to what’s happening in the market tends to get left out and die.

13. Business Development

When your business is steady and all your marketing plans are launched, you should be able to think how to develop your business more. Is there a new way to sell you products? Is there a new business model that you can use? Continuously thinking about innovations and how to improve your business will ultimately make it grow.

14. Project & Time Management

Managing your time is especially difficult when starting a new business. You must have the ability to prioritise each task by the order of importance and urgency. You may think that multitasking is a good way of getting things done but it is not a wise idea. It is more productive to manage your time and projects by creating an organizational system like a to-do list.

There are various websites and softwares that you can ultilise to handle project management smoothly. Some of them are:

15. Self-confidence

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. It is important that you have the ability to have confidence that your business will succeed. You should always have a positive attitude and drive. Remember that having confidence is a result of proper preparation and correct motivations.

16. Resilience

There will be circumstances that will challenge your business. You should have the ability to bounce back from set-backs. For example, it will help to have a contingency plan for when a crisis occurs.

17. Trade Skills and Products

This is what you’re offering such as coaching, photography, painting, cooking ,products, etc. This will be what your online business is. You should be able to understand the scope and limitations of the products or services that you’re offering.

18. Customer Service

You should have the skill to manage effective customer service. This is one way of communicating with your costumes and managing their feedback. Sometimes, there are unfortunate circumstances that lead to customers being unsatisfied with your products or service, effective customer service will allow you to patch up the relationship instead of permanently turning away your customers from your business.

19. Communication

The ability to communicate effectively is one way of nurturing and making sure your customers stay with you. You should be able to use various channels like email campaigns, phone calls or even in person. Always make sure that you get your points across and build rapport with your customers

20. Risk Management

Every business venture will have inherent risks. However, there are a lot of ways to avoid risks if you have the right risk management skills.

It is important that you know when to make big decisions and predict their probable outcomes before committing. Analyse every decision and only consider the ones that are worth taking.


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.

Woman studying | online business

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 Amica Digital Services.   You can even mix and match based on the skills and tasks you need to outsource.  If you’d like some training in some of these essential online business skills, please book a discovery call and we can tailor training to suit your needs.


*Editor’s Note: This post has been updated on August 2020 for accuracy.

  • Marina
    Posted at 21:43h, 07 October Reply

    * 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
      Posted at 13:08h, 10 October Reply

      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.

  • polished gemstone
    Posted at 19:02h, 09 August Reply

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

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