You want to get started making money offline but are not too sure on how to go about doing it? If you’re familiar and comfortable with an old fashion business model of a retail store, then this should come easy to you. Build an e-commerce business the easy way.
This is the second post in a series on how I built my first e-commerce business.
There are countless ways to make money on the internet. One of the most tried and tested methods is simple. Find a product to resell and instead of going the old brick and mortar route, you sell your wares online. They key is to find something with a target demographic that combines with a product that can be easily sold online. Just like any other business, especially in the online world, a laser focused target demographic is a big factor of success. This is your niche.
Step 1: Picking a Niche
Think of the businesses you frequent. Are you an avid soccer fan? Maybe you’re a swinger and you frequent sex shops. Or you are a stay at home mom and like collecting candles. Try to pick something you know a little about. My example is that for a while (before working for my uncle) I was a club promoter on South Beach and I would print flyers for different parties. Custom items are a great way to go. Custom bookmarks, custom candles, custom dildos, etc. (I don’t mean to be vulgar with the sex thing, but it just goes to show this can be applied to just about anything.)
Step 2: Find a Supplier
This could seem like a daunting task, but it’s not. Search online for manufacturers and distributors of the products your target market needs. For example, if you have a target market for custom pens, you would look for a manufacturer of custom pens. The key is trying to find a business that deals in customization, or that the industry is custom in nature. Branded pens and trade show gear is custom. Custom t-shirts, printing, pens, mouse pads, shopping bags, etc. You then need to find out which companies offer direct or blind shipping and handle logistics (i.e: shipping). In my case, I needed to find a press house that would print my order based of the specs and art that I provide, and then blind ship to my client. Your model might be offering custom totes or modular backyard playground sets, you would need to find a company that has a range of totes and that they have customizing capabilities. A little bit of research goes a long way.
Step 3: Apply for a trade account – or not
By doing this, you get a wholesale amount on per piece orders. Find direct to trade suppliers. They will most likely ask for a business license, so if you feel you have a good target, go ahead and spend the $150 or so it costs to form a LLC in your state. Pay that industry’s association fee to become a member of that industry’s trade association. That gives you credentials in order to apply for an account. Sometimes, you don’t even need to do that.
Step 4: Build a Website
They might simply ask for your business website. Buy a domain like “mikescustomtotes.com” from GoDaddy or whatever registrar you go with and pick an inexpensive hosting plan. A simple WordPress installation of a basic WordPress theme that can run you $5 or less a month that has a home page, about us page, services page and contact page is all you need to show the vendor that you are in the business.
Step 5: Launch your site
Start small by finding small amounts of business. Contact your friends and family, leverage your LinkedIn profile and explain you are starting a small business and need some referrals. After 2 or 3 weeks of starting, even if you haven’t made a sale, launch your website with newly “renegotiated pricing structure”. It doesn’t matter that you havent really done any sales or that you have had the site for 3 weeks.
Send out an email or put a post on your WordPress site (that links to the FB page you hopefully already created) announcing “The Re-Launch of MikesCustomTotes.com”. Find coupons for Facebook Ads; you can find $50 coupons for 5 bucks on places like Fiverr.com. And when you sign up with Google AdWords, they give you a $100 credit towards advertising.
Step 6: Setup your e-commerce site
This might be step 4 depending on your business model. Maybe you don’t need a blog site with e-commerce built-in; instead you need an online store with a blog page. After launching offering the newest pricing, with careful promotion and marketing, and with a little luck, you should have at least 2 or 3 orders under your belt after 2 months or so. In my instance, while I did have previous clients, I focused on expanding outside those initial clients, because they were all old, all very low numbers.
I decided to set up an e-commerce site and had heard recently of BigCommerce. While there are WordPress themes and plugins that work well for a single product or products with limited options, they are not the best when you have a large amount of options and products to offer. I technically offer over 45,000 products in varying quantities; but they’re all the same. Ink and paper.
BigCommerce was super easy to set up and had automatic integration with PayPal and other merchant systems. It integrated well with Facebook and Google Analytics. They offer a variety of templates and all are relatively easy to customize to your business nature. A basic knowledge of html is helpful but not necessary.
While I certainly gave you the edited version of the whole business, that pretty much sums it up. I’ll post individual specifics on each of the points and how to market your online e-commerce store and grow that hustle.