The first step is to get valuable back links which will boost your sites performance in the major search engines. When getting back links make sure they have certain relevance as it will cut down on the time and effort needed to make it successful, it is better to get 10 PR 4-5 links rather then hundreds of PR 0-1. The higher the sites PR the more authority it will pass down making the search engine think your site is better. You can also get additional boosts if you manage to get any .edu or .gov sites linking to you as these are not available to the general public.
Make sure you put the research in and find the best niche and keywords to target, find one that is not heavily saturated as the competition will be harder to fight. If you can target a specific small undeveloped niche then you're on a winner if you go about it in the right way. Make sure that all your pages have unique titles and descriptions and more importantly, unique content! If you copy and paste content, you will be severely punished and your pages will most likely go into the supplemental results pages, which means it will have no chance of outranking its competition.
If you're no good at writing unique interesting content it's strongly advised that you pay a professional as you will benefit in the long run, if you pay money upfront in the development stages of your website, you will get it back once it has becomes established.
There are many ways in which you can make your site successful, read up on the tips and tricks in many webmaster forums / sites to ensure you are doing everything the right way. The more effort you put in at the early stages, the less you will have to do once it's indexed which will make your life a whole lot easier. Be sure to keep your site updated with fresh unique content on a daily basis and you will do just fine! Once you get the hang of how the search engines work you will be able to outrank your competition for any keyword. The basic principle is to get many back links to your site with the keyword as the anchor text of the link.