Welcome to the world of eCommerce. The Internet, World Wide Web, and social media have enabled a new economy where the common citizen is no longer restricted to earning a wage from an employer. As long as you have good business sense and a work ethic, you too can be an online entrepreneur!
Basic starting points
- Name your business. Google it first to make sure it isn’t already taken or a common word that will be easily confused.
- Secure a domain name and website.
- Register social media accounts: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
- Decide on your business model.
It isn’t always necessary to register your business right away. If you are unregistered, most tax agencies will consider you a sole proprietor. However, that exposes you to risk should something like a lawsuit happen. You also might want a separate business bank account and a separate tax filing. Registering as an LLC is inexpensive and an easy benefit for anything bigger than a basic proprietorship.
Depending on your local laws, you might also have to apply for licenses and permits. These are rare for home-based start-up businesses, but they’re usually a minor cost even where they do occur. Bear in mind that you might also want to hire people at some point, so there may be extra tax considerations there too. This likely won’t be an issue if you just appoint temps on a freelance basis.
Your online store
Any business that sells a tangible good needs a way to exchange those goods for money. Most likely you’ll choose to do this through PrestaShop, which is also a free and open-source eCommerce management system. PrestaShop hosting is as easy as WordPress hosting, with a drop-in install on any basic website hosting account.
PrestaShop operates on a “freemium” basis. The basic package is free, but you can extend functionality with third-party add-ons and themes. PrestaShop also supports itself with strategic partnerships with other eCommerce industry utilities, most of which were the companies you were using anyway.
You can skimp on other details, but without marketing, you might as well not be in business at all. For online business in the 21st century, the marketing 101 kit will need:
- A blog. WordPress on your site will do nicely.
- Social media accounts.
- Somebody to pump content into all that.
You can hire a freelancer off work-for-hire sites like UpWork.com. With a worldwide talent pool, it’s economical to set up a regular gig for a few hours a week with a freelancer to provide content on your blog and social media accounts. Just a few hashtags and keywords broadcast at regular intervals will do wonders for marketing.
As for WordPress, it’s an industry standard that is free and open-source, robust, and deployed on one-third of the world’s top websites. It’s best left up to your freelancer to manage it, but literally everybody you talk to will know how to manage WordPress.
Extra marketing channels to consider:
- Alternative social media accounts: Reddit, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.
- YouTube account for video content. Video production is expensive even on the low end and not all of us are movie star material, but even the humblest video marketing will net leads you can’t reach any other way.
- Image-based social media. If your business involves a visual component, like photography, artwork, or design, you’ll be well-served starting an account at IMGUR or DeviantArt.
Remember to be a good social media citizen while promoting your business. Most sites don’t mind you promoting your business as long as you don’t violate site TOS and participate in the community.
eCommerce business ideas
Need a little inspiration? Here are some profit models which have worked for many other entrepreneurs:
- Reselling: You don’t need to produce your goods yourself. Many home businesses obtain merchandise off eBay, Craigslist, or local stores and resell it at a small markup.
- Collectibles: If you have a large collection of anything, support your hobby and sell off the excess to customers.
- B2B: The eCommerce world has given rise to the Business-to-Business market. If your product or service can help others make money, you have a market.
- Virtual goods: Software, apps, and digital designs can all be marketed through eCommerce as well.
- Extreme niches: World-wide marketing does wonders for tiny cottage industries that couldn’t exist otherwise. Anything is possible, even just selling cooking aprons for vegan science fiction fans.
Have fun out there, and turn your business genius loose on the world!