10 Skills That You Need to Run an Online Business by Yourself

Gathering Business Intelligence
No, you don't need to install spy software to get some business intelligence. Andy Ryan/Stone/Getty Images

The word "intelligence" has an ominous cloak-and-dagger sound to it, but we're not talking about espionage or stealing trade secrets. Instead, think of it as doing research to understand what challenges you face from competitors and the marketplace itself, so that you can devise ways to overcome them and become successful. If you were planning to open a gourmet hamburger stand, you'd be foolish not to look around and see how close your location is the nearest Five Guys or BurgerFi.

Similarly, you'll want to use Google to identify competitors to your online store, and study their websites to figure out how you might stack up against them. Look at what sort of prices they offer, what their shipping options are and whether they are using tools such as email lists and mobile optimization. If you want to dig deeper, you can use paid services such as SpyFu and Opensite Explorer to study the opposition's use of keywords and search engine optimization, and how well it's been working for them. Hopefully all that information will enable you to find things that you can do better than they do, which will give you a competitive advantage [source: Hayes].