For multiple reasons, many Nigerians want to start and run an online business in Nigeria today. While it is not necessarily a magical tree that offers limitless money, an online business can present excellent returns when done right.
What is an Online Business?
An Online Business is simply a business that is operated, managed or delivers services primarily over the Internet.
For all intents and purposes, it is a business – registered or not, formal or informal. Running a business online does not preclude it from legal requirements.
How to Start an Online Business in Nigeria?
The first thing you should carefully consider is a business name. Think of names that strike the best balance between easily announcing what the business is all about, is easy to remember, and is unique enough.
Immediately after shortlisting a few names, check for their availability as a domain name. I cannot emphasize the importance of a domain name enough. An example of a domain name is web4africa.ng. Be sure the names are available as .com, .ng etc. For example, it might not be a good idea to go with a business name that is already registered and actively used as a .com
You may read this in-depth article about How to Choose the Best Domain Name for your Website.
Once you have decided on your best choices of names, submit your top 3 to the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). This is the Federal Government agency in charge of registering and managing the database of businesses in Nigeria. They typically have regional offices in all the major cities in Nigeria. You can do this yourself or make use of a law firm or recognized consultant that specializes in business registration. They would get back to you with the availability of the names, in your order of preference.
There are other technicalities to registering a business that is beyond the scope of this article. The simplified scenario I described above only refers to an ideal situation where the intended business is straight-forward enough.
The government would typically ask for your business address. Since you intend to run your business online, you can provide your valid home address in the registration forms.
Register the Domain Name for your Online Business
Register your Domain Name as fast as possible. Preferably immediately the CAC completes your business registration. Where your budget can allow, register as many relevant extensions of your domains as possible.
For example, if your registered business name is Adamu Technologies Nigeria Limited, the following domains would make sense:
You need to decide on the primary domain name, and then redirect web traffic from the others to the primary domain.
Complete other statutory registrations
Once you have registered your business successfully, you need to seriously consider other registrations as required by the government.
These include the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), for taxes.
Running a business online does not preclude you from paying appropriate taxes, for example. It is this a very good idea to get the advice of an accountant regarding this.
Open a Bank Account with a Bank that has a strong online presence
The right bank account is very important for the success of your online business. It is very essential that you make a choice based on how online the bank really is. While all the major banks in Nigeria offer Online Banking today, the functionalities vary.
Which Bank Account is best for my online business?
Listed in alphabetical order, the following banks are known for offering very sophisticated online banking platforms. In addition to regular Internet Banking, they offer iOS and Android apps, bringing banking even closer to you.
It is a good idea to confirm that the banks offer other features you want, before deciding on one.
- Access Bank
- Diamond Bank
- Stanbic IBTC
- Zenith Bank
Find a Good Home for your Online Business
Your business needs to be online, to be an online business. Thus, you need a website. The website needs to be hosted by a web hosting company, for it to be accessible to people in Nigeria and anyone else from all over the world.
You can either set up your own website or engage the services of a website designer. This would depend on your budget and free time.
If you have the budget, go for a professional website design company or a freelance web designer. A good web design company or freelancer would typically include Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in their process. When done right, this would help you get found on the internet and can have a massive impact on your success.
You can find a good web design company in your locality from querying the leading search engines and appending the name of your city or town. You want to verify the companies credibility and professionalism by researching their existence.
If you do not have the budget but have some free time, you can learn basic web design skills from watching the right free tutorials on YouTube or other digital learning platforms. With these skills at hand, you can build a decent website using the website builder tools offered by your web hosting company. You would need basic SEO skills for a good start. Again, free tutorials abound.
You need to be Social to improve the success of your online enterprise in Nigeria
Social Media is today one of the ways to spread the word about your new online venture. You need to open pages or profiles for new online business as quickly as possible. It is a good idea to do so on all the leading Social Media networks.
These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. How well you make use of each service would depend on the type of business. An online business relayed to food or fashion, for example, has a good chance to succeed by actively sharing good and unique photos on Instagram and Facebook. An online venture that targets offering services to other businesses would thrive better on LinkedIn.
The most important part of being on social media is to be interactive. You need to post relevant and educative content regularly, without being spammy or annoying. You need to engage your audience and clients by responding politely to comments and questions in a professional and timely manner.
Being consistent with this would help gather more followers and ultimately more income. Who knows? Your business might just trend online some day.
It is much better for the long term, to precede your online enterprise with a legal business registration, in addition to complying with other laws in Nigeria. Register your domain name(s) as early as possible. Choose the best bank that offers online services. Be very engaging on social media platforms that are relevant to your business.