Many people earn money online through their own e-commerce stores. This New Year, maybe you could become one of them!
You could use an online business to supplement your income and pay for your latest holiday. You could use the additional income to help pay off your mortgage. Want to put some money into savings? Earn some extra.
Don’t worry, though – we wouldn’t just throw you in the deep end. Here, just in time for New Year, is our Guide To Starting Your Own Online Business.
10 Tips For Starting Your Own Business
1) Find an idea. Keep it simple, make sure you’re interested in it and that it meets a market need.
The first step to starting any business is figuring out what you’re going to sell. Do some market research, identify a need and decide on your product. Once you’ve done this, you can start to think of things like suppliers, your marketing plan and profits. (Also a good time to plan what new car you’re going to buy . . . )
2) Find a trustworthy, reliable supplier and a high-quality product
The products you’re selling are the foundation of your business. You could have the best marketing, a website hand-crafted by angels and amazing search engine optimized product descriptions – but none of it matters if your product sucks. Your products will be plagued by returns, negative customer reviews and leave a black cloud of distrust over your entire brand.
Having a high-quality supplier is essential. Your products will be delivered on time, they’ll be the right colour (this is a common issue when importing from China especially) and, more importantly, they’ll please your customers enough to come back. Although this may seem like a difficult task, finding a supplier that will produce your goods to a high quality is much easier than you’d think – all it takes is some preparation and research. You can even hire a factory inspector who will visit the factory for you!
(If you’re not sure how to go about this, we have you covered with these posts: 12 Unmissable Tips For Sourcing High-Quality Goods, Building A Relationship With Your Chinese Supplier, Controlling Quality Issues When Importing From China)
3) Identify where you want to sell your product
Are you going to be selling through a marketplace like Ebay or Amazon? Will you invest in your own e-commerce site and market your brand using that?
Having a working knowledge of the marketplace you’re going to sell on will be incredibly beneficial. Certain products may perform better on certain platforms, your target audience may be more active on one site than another and there may be certain advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of. For example: many importers that sell on Amazon are able to use FBA. FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) means that Amazon will store, package and dispatch your goods for you – this means you gain exclusive access to Prime members and you don’t need to take care of shipping. However, Amazon does not allow any kind of redirection to your personal store and Amazon customers remain very much “Amazon” customers as opposed to yours. This makes it far more difficult to build a loyal customer base.
We deliver to Amazon FBA
If you import using Shippo, we can actually import your goods straight to Amazon FBA for you! You won’t even have to touch your goods; you can get straight to selling. If you want to know how, read this post!
4) Get yourself a good website & focus heavily on said website’s design.
If you’re starting your own online business, whether you’re selling on Ebay, Amazon, Etsy or any other number of online marketplaces, it’s always good to get yourself a high-quality website. This makes you and your business accessible, adds credibility to your brand and allows you to start developing your brand. Even if you don’t focus on pushing sales off this website yet, it gives you options for the future. Your website is your brand’s headquarters.
So seriously – if you’re not good at DIY design, invest.
Your website is often your first – and only – shot to win customers. All your key content to winning your target audience over has been lovingly crafted, SEO-magicked and grammar checked. You know that anyone who stumbles across it will instantly feel the overwhelming urge to divulge their hard-earned money to you. So, with your trap lying in wait, you’re ready to snare consumers. All you need to do is gently lead them to your content, through your home-page and-
Wait, where have the customers gone?
. . . And where’s that annoying, high-pitched wailing coming from?
If your site is a tribute to Internet Explorer circa 2001, your customers aren’t even going to wait for the page to finish loading before they run. Screaming.
Humans are simple creatures. We like pictures and we form associations and judgements based on the quality of these pictures, the size, the colours . . . So what does your shoddy website convey?
- Low quality
- Old/Out-dated – possibly not even in service anymore
- At the very best, maybe some sympathy.
What’s the biggest signal it sends out?
- DO NOT SPEND MONEY HERE.
That’s not even factoring in things like user experience and navigation. Invest. Whether it’s your time or money, invest in a worthwhile website design. It’ll pay off – and ensure that your customers pay up.
5) Trade marking and domain names
Not every business idea will need trade-marking but if your business operates under a brand name that could be imitated it is advisable to look into it. You can find out if a brand name relevant to your business is under use in the UK by searching www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark. Getting hold of a domain name that is especially relevant to your business can also help bring in more customers when they browse the internet.
6) Write a business plan
You know why you need a business plan? Because without it you’re operating on blind luck. Your business will have no direction; there’ll be no way to measure if you’re meeting your goals and you won’t have any idea of how to progress. You won’t even have goals. Imagine going on a roadtrip without any planning – you might end up somewhere great, or you might end up in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sheep with no petrol.
You want your business to flourish. You want it to be successful (read: profitable) – how are you going to get there without a clear cut path? In all likelihood, with a lot more difficulty.
This may only be a couple of pages of numbers and outlined plans that are never to be seen by anyone else. You may not need investment but make sure you know what your prices will be, who will buy your products, who your competitors are and how you’re better/different to them….. and how much money you should make on each item.
7) Get some legal advice and take out any insurance you may need
Legal advice isn’t just for criminals. Talking to a lawyer can help you to identify risks and obligations in your business. For example, if you’re importing goods, you need to be aware of product liability and the option to insure your business against product liability claims. Maybe there are little loopholes in your business plans that opportunistic rivals could exploit, or weaknesses that could cause you problems later on. Legal advice is a great way to protect yourself from threats that you may not otherwise see coming.
Although many people will take out insurance against their businesses, a surprising amount don’t bother to protect their stock. When importing goods, you can get marine insurance which will protect your stock while it’s in transit. This can save you a lot of money and ensures that, if anything does happen, you won’t end up losing money.
Your business could be the creme-de-la-creme, the cure to world hunger . . . but nobody cares unless they find it. Marketing is how you get your name out there – and how you get customers in the door.
For start-up businesses the more expensive options like television ads and billboards might be off the cards, but with social media and the internet there’s a whole new world of cheap (and sometimes even free!) marketing to take advantage of. You can utilize forums, social media followings and one of the largest marketing trends, content marketing, is entirely free! We have a great post full of helpful content about marketing and promotion tactics for online sellers here: Over 50 Essential Tips For Amazon, Ebay and General E-Commerce Selling From The Experts!
9) Be aware of your costs
Starting a business can be expensive and if you aren’t aware of your costs they can cripple you before you start. (To this end, avoid CIF shipping terms – aka your supplier getting your goods to a port of your choice – like the plague.) Be aware of all the costs of running a business up-front, budget for it and be prepared.
10) Use a trustworthy, reputable freight forwarding company like Shippo!
Freight-forwarders are the people who get your goods from the country you’re importing from to you. If you’re importing, you’ll need them unless you’re using a courier service (however, courier services are for the transportation of personal goods so you’ll need to compare the prices to see which service will be more cost-efficient for you). Freight-forwarders will assume complete control of your shipment – which is why you need to be careful.
Freight-forwarding can be a dodgy business. We’d know – Shippo was started with the sole intention of bringing transparent, simple and fair service to a field that was sorely lacking in it. Finding a freight-forwarding company that you can trust is essential otherwise you’ll constantly be left out of the loop, charged extortionate hidden fees and just generally screwed over. Here at Shippo, we offer the best service in the industry and we make sure that importing is as easy and stress free as possible – which is what a freight forwarders job is.
We hope you found these ten tips helpful. You now have no excuse not to make 2017 a productive, successful year and start your own business. Good luck!
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