How Start an Online Business In South Africa

If you are a budding or experienced entrepreneur who wants to know how to start an online business in South Africa, you are in the right place. An online business can afford you the luxury of working from home or anywhere you please. An online business also does not have the startup costs of a brick and mortar business, for example. All you need is a laptop or computer, and internet connection. With these two assets, you have all you need to build a profitable business from your desk or your bed.

There are numerous ways to make business online but the great majority of the results that I found but there are filled with vague fluff and gave no actionable steps. It’s all good and well to suggest blogging as a way to make business online but whereto from there. Without actionable direction, most people lose motivation as they don’t see the possibility in relatable terms. Even if you don’t have a solid idea in mind but know that all you want to do is have an online business.

Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing is the overarching field of using marketing methods to make money on the internet. It relates to all the different ways of making money in this article in that they all use digital marketing. Digital Marketing is using all the different channels and avenues in a directed way to make money. A digital marketer is focused on using the different internet methods in a directed campaign to generate revenue.

Built A Website Business In South Africa

Choose your market or niche

The first thing you need to do to start your business online is to decide what your business is going to be about. That is, deciding your market or niche. Now I know that this is often where uncertainty begins, often because you wonder whether what you are passionate and informed about can sell. Let me assure you that there is a market for everything. You also don’t need any special qualifications to create a successful business online.

Even if you come with no specialised skills, only thing you need is an interest that you are willing to create compelling content for. (read our Article on how to choose a niche). If you follow these steps that I have outlined, you will create an online business that can generate you an income comparable to or even greater than the salaries of people who work full time.

Domain Registration

In the online world a domain is your business premises. If I can compare it to a real world example, a domain is like a piece of land that you buy. When you purchase this land, it belongs to you and you can decide what to on it. Domain’s can be registered from several domain registrars.

The most popular ones on the web are GoDaddy, something and something else. My personal recommendation is for GoDaddy because it is the most affordable and often has special prices on domains. I bought the domain for this very website on GoDaddy for R15 for the first year. Your domain registration can be paid for one year or up to 10 years on various hosting services.

Creating a website

Now that you have your domain registered, you can build a website on it. Continuing the analogy with the domain being the plot of land, the website is the house or office that you build on your little patch of online real estate that is your website.I used to be most intimidated by the prospect of building a website because I though I needed to have some coding knowledge, programming or something IT related that was beyond my field of knowledge. Thankfully for us, technology has made things very easy and you don’t need any specialised knowledge to build a website. If you can operate a PC or a smartphone, you can build a website in a few minutes.

If you want to see how easy it is to build a website, try the free website builder here.

Web-Building Platforms

There are several platforms on which to build your website but the most popular platform for website building on the internet is WordPress. It is open source and has a lot of templates that you can choose to build your base website on which you can then customize. There is a free version of wordpress that you can build on but since this is for business you will want to user the premium option because it will allow you to create a custom name.

With a free version your website will be, instead of The latter looks professional which will lead to higher trust from people who come across your website. This is important because traffic (people reading your website) is where the opportunities to make money lie.

Optional Premium Themes

If you want your website to look very professional, you can invest in premium themes such as Thrive themes which are well optimized for business website. These themes are not a necessity especially if you are good with design, but if you are like me with two left hands, then themes like this have everything well optimized for you and it just means less work and a more professional looking website and comes with specialized features for business such as lead, quiz creators and other clever widgets.

If you have a tangible product that you want to sell, then you will be looking at ecommerce options. Ecommerce is the buying and selling of products and services online. Popular ecommerce platforms are Shopify, woo commerce and big commerce. For more options, check out our article on 5 Best eCommerce platforms for South Africans.

Creating Content

Content is the meat and potatoes of an online business. Anybody that comes to your website comes looking for information and if you provide them with compelling information. If you think about it, every website that you frequent, provides you with something. Content comes in various from. It can be text that provides information or entertains. People have various reasons for visiting websites and social media platforms and with every visitor to your platforms comes an opportunity to make revenue.

The content that you will create will be geared toward your specialty or niche. The main goal of the content that you produce will be for it to be helpful to whoever is reading it. If your content is helpful to people, search engines will rank your articles highly and that will lead to increased traffic. With traffic comes opportunities to make money.

Search Engine Optimization

The key to making money online comes from traffic, as mentioned before. In order for you to gain traffic, your website and the content that is published must appear in a reader’s search results when they are looking for your solution to their problem.

SEO is one of the most important requirements for an online business and the majority of people online have no idea what is or have even heard of the term. In short, SEO is the structuring of your website and it content in a way that search engines will like so that they show your website in the search results of more people.

For success online you will have to at least read up on the basics of SEO so that you can understand why you need good SEO and the benefits that it brings to your business. Fortunately, you do not have to be an expert in order for your website to have good SEO. If you are on wordpress there are plugins like Yoast which take care of SEO for you. When the plugin is installed on your website, every time you post something it will analyze the post and tell you all the things you need to change or adjust for each article for it to have good SEO.

Monetize Your Online Platform.

This is the end-goal of every commercial online business to make money. There are various ways to make money from your website. You can make money through having advertisements on your website, selling products and services, affiliate marketing or even creating paid course and teaching online through video or live chat courses.


Online advertising is the most common way that websites make money. As a website owner it is very helpful to know how online advertising works. Advertising is a passive way of making money once you have a high volume of traffic. For ad revenue, a lot of sites use Google AdSense, which is the most popularly known worldwide.

If your audience is largely localized then you can look at local Ad programs. In South Africa, for example, you can opt for local options like Offerforge which is partnered with big companies locally and tend to pay higher rates for click actions and impressions than Google AdSense does.

Promoting Products and Services

My favourite from of website monetization is affiliate marketing. It is still new in South Africa and because competition is low, you can make money easily with affiliate marketing in South Africa. This is when you promote the products of other companies to your audience and get a commission when they buy through your affiliate link. The advantages of affiliate marketing are that the only thing you really need to be able to do is to write content that will appeal to your audience. You do not have to keep stock of the products you sell, you can do it from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection, and there is an affiliate program that you can join for any product that you can think of.

The biggest affiliate program in the world is the Amazon Associated programme and you can be an Amazon affiliate while based in most countries in the world. While Affiliate programs are sparse in South Africa, some companies such as Zando, Raru and Mantality are leading the way. Hopefully in the near future bigger companies such as the online leader, Takealot and other popular retail chains will introduce their own affiliate programs for local online entrepreneurs and influencers to take advantage of. No matter what your website is based on, just google the products and “affiliate program” and you will find something.


in the information age, information is money and you can sell value in the form of digital products. If you are an expert in any field, you can create an ebook or training course for people who are looking for information. It is even easier nowadays to become an author thanks to self-publicaion and the ability to sell ebooks on online marketplaces like Amazon.


To recap, the steps in order are:

  1. Choose A Market Or Niche
  2. Register A Domain
  3. Built A Website
  4. Create Content
  5. Optimize For Search Engines
  6. Monetize

From there, you can wait for your site to start gaining trust if you are building it from new. Wait Within 3-6 months for Google to let your site out of the sandbox and you can expect to start seeing a good income.

Social Media Marketing

Social media has come a long way in a very short time and these days, social media platforms are our news channels, magazines and hang out places. You can make money as a social influencer. First thing that needs to be understood is that being a social media influencer is not about just about how many followers one has. You can be a social media follower with as little as 500 followers provided that our audience is highly engaged. The term is in the word itself, influence. If you have a large following but no brandability, advertisers cannot make money from you. There are multiple channels of social media influence.


How to monetize social media channels? You can promote products directly from your channel and monetize in various ways. Dropshipping, you can create an online store with a platform like Shopify. Many of the Instagram influencers use this method. Affiliate Marketing. You can sign up to an affiliate marketing program and promote products. Affiliate Marketing is one of the best ways to make money online. If you have an engaged following, it is also one of the easiest. All you have to do is recommend products with a link attached and every sale that is made through your link earns you a commission.

Online Business South Africa

Paid Sponsorship

You post content that is in collaboration with a company. Their name is mentioned and they get marketing, and you get paid money for that, this is on a post by post basis and there is no long term relation ship with the company so you can work with different companies. Brand ambassador, this is where you have an official relationship with a company and promote their products at scheduled times and they pay you a standard fee. Because of the official relationship, you likely will not be able to promote competing companies and products due to conflict of interests.


Facebook is a blend between Instagram and Twitter. The core of Facebook is about people you have an association to, as opposed to followers. So on Facebook, you are expected to have a bit more influence over your followers as they are associated to you. The features of all the social media platforms are blending in to each other and they are becoming more and more alike with time.


The cornerstone of twitter is conversations. Twitter is basically the breaking news portal of the world today. To build a twitter following, you have to have a personality that people resonate with through your tweets, or be very informative or entertaining. Twitter is the most engaged of the social media platforms. As a result, 10,000 followers on twitter is worth a lot more than 10,000 followers on other social media platforms because these followers are engaged to your ideas and you have a far greater influence. The key to twitter is a lot of value, and frequency. Twitter influencers can have their follower engaged for the whole day.


YouTube is all about video content. There are various ways that you can do this. You can be an entertainer, educate, or use it as a news channel. There are different ways to monetize your YouTube channel. The first one is the straightforward way, which is to monetize your website through YouTube’s advertising scheme. This is the simple way to do it but it is not very profitable unless you have a huge channel with at least thousands of subscribers.

YouTube also imposes restrictions to who can monetize, requiring you to have at least 1000 subscribers and 4000 watched hours in the last 12 months. The more effective ways of monetizing YouTube is using your channel to advertise your own products and services, or to drive traffic to another monetization channel like an affiliate marketing program. With this strategy, even with as little as 50 followers (which is very easy to achieve) you can start making money early in your YouTube Career.

Start a Podcast

Podcasting is relatively new in South Africa but there is already a lot of money being thrown at it. Companies are engaging with influencers to get their brand visibility out there. Gone are the days where people only listened to radio. Things like radio, you needed someone to get you in but with a podcast you can start your own. All you need to do is get the necessary equipment and create content. Then you can market that content to people who will be interested in it.

The great thing about content is that it is niched down. It is not like radio where it is all about mass appeal. So rather than a mainstream channel where the content eventually gets “distilled” down to a lowest common denominator, podcasts are for specific crowds. That means that there is more space for more people as different niches must be catered to. So rather than 1 person making all the money, a lot more people can make some money.

The equipment that you need to create a podcast are a microphone, a mixer and headphones. You can start small and then build up. There are various methods of monetizing podcasts. First is to do advertising during the broadcast.

Podcasting can also be expanded to a vodcast format where the podcast is recorded and provides a visual element. This opens up other avenues of cross-channel marketing as you can upload the broadcasts to streaming platforms like YouTube which gives you another opportunity to increase your marketing reach as well as new ways of monetizing.

Benefits Of An Online Business in South Africa

Little To No Start-Up Costs – If you have a computer and an internet connection, there is no capital investment required to starting a business. You can start a business with a free website and sign up for monetization programs at no cost.

Very little overhead cost – Depending on which business you run, you can run an online business in South Africa with next to now overhead cost. The only things that are needed to keep in operation are hosting costs, which do not need to exceed R500.

Easy To Replicate – Once you have build one online business to a point where it is profitable, it is very easy to replicate it several times over. The model to building an online business is very straightforward and all you have to do is have the patience to succeed in the first instance. You can even build two or three businesses at the same time when you know what works and what doesn’t.

Unlimited Earning Potential – Your earning potential with an online business is as great as how much traffic you are able to direct to your websites. A notable thing about search engine traffic is that it increases with time as your site gains authority and trust.

Easy to run “hands-off” – You do not need to be present physically for an online business. And unless you are outsourcing a great deal of the content production, you do not have to deal with staffing issues. Even then, it is logistically much easier to outsource tasks with online freelance marketplaces.

How Long To Make Money

Like with everything else, an online business is not a matter of overnight success. No matter which route you take, you will have to post content consistently and in time, your efforts will pay off.
With YouTube, the recommendation is to upload at least 3 times a week. Once YouTube recognizes your channel as a source of quality content, it will recommend it to more viewers. My personal experience with YouTube was 3 months to start seeing an uptick in viewers, and 8 months to reach 1000 subscribers.

When you have built your website and are publishing high quality content for it, it is all a matter of remaining consistent until traffic starts to increase and eventually leads to sales. The general experience from many online entrepreneurs is that if you publish one article a week that ranks on Google’s first page then you can realistically see earning of $500 with a month after 6 months.

Each new article you publish that ranks brings with it additional traffic so the more content you put out the more you are likely to make. If you have followed the steps above then you are well on your way to having yourself a profitable business that can generate you an income that can last you for years. The only thing you need to do is work hard at it.

So there you have it. No you know how to start an online business in South Africa

If you are interested in where I learned all of the details on how to create an online business, read about the solution that I used.

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