When you think about the most common complaints that people have about their jobs, a lot of them could be solved if people were their own bosses. Being your own boss affords you a tremendous amount of freedom. With this freedom, it is often much easier to pursue your personal and professional goals simultaneously.
Despite the attractive lifestyle, being your own boss comes with a lot of risk. You won’t just be in charge of your business, you will also be liable for its failings. If your business or self-employment plans fall apart, then you are directly exposed financially.
For those who are adept businesspeople, however, it is now easier than ever to start a business. The arrival of the internet and the advent of e-commerce has meant that entrepreneurs are no longer dependent upon the physical space of a retail store or office.
Instead, virtually all business can now be conducted online. This has removed one of the major obstacles to opening a business for the average person. In fact, the internet is such a simple and low-cost platform that you can start an e-commerce business for less than $200 and be up and running before you know it.
The following guide is designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs take their first step in entering the world of e-commerce. Starting an e-commerce business doesn’t have to be an expensive venture. Here’s how you can do it without your costs going over $200.
Table of Contents
How to Start an eCommerce Business
Flesh Out Your Idea
Whether you are starting a business online or offline, you want to enter into it with as much preparation as possible. Before you lay down any cash in the name of your business, you need to take the time to work out exactly what it is that your business will be offering. You will also need to research who your competitors will be and work out how you can compete most effectively with them.
Remember, yours is going to be just one of a great many e-commerce sites out there on the web. If you want to be able to compete, you need to make your business stand out in some way.
Attempting to stand out from the crowd is a problem that is faced by all types of businesses, whether online or offline. There are two ways that you can set about defining yourself, either through providing a niche service or through developing a unique brand.
Both of these will present their own challenges in order to achieve. Niches are inherently smaller markets than a general e-commerce site would target.
This means that in order to make decent money you will need to secure the business of a higher portion of the market, this isn’t easy to do. Building a brand is an expensive exercise, and is an inside investment when you are just beginning.
You will need a clear idea of where you want your business to go before you can formulate a plan for how you can get there. This planning stage should not cost you much if anything. Take your time with this part, while you still have the luxury and freedom of time on your side.
Research Similar Businesses
Once you have fleshed out your vision for your business, it is the time to start taking a more detailed look at your competitors. You need to know exactly who your competition is in order to formulate a strategy for keeping ahead. How the competition is fairing will tell you a great deal about the current state of the market.
Obviously, you shouldn’t be trying to compete with other businesses if you don’t think that you have the resources to do so. You will be aiming to perform better than your competitors, but it will take work to achieve this and it is by no means guaranteed.
It will take your business time to build its reach and reputation to the point where it can compete with established businesses.
You can spend money at this stage in order to secure the most comprehensive overview possible of your competitors. However, this kind of research will likely cost more than $200 to complete properly.
The information you can find without having to pay should give you a reasonable indication of the state of your competition.
Website Vs Platform
This is another crucial decision that will have a considerable impact on the shape that your final business takes. You can either choose to design and build a dedicated website for your business, or you can use an existing eCommerce platform such as Etsy or eBay to sell your goods.
If you are looking to keep your costs down when you are just starting out, using an existing platform will greatly reduce your costs. Many well-established businesses choose to operate their own dedicated website while also selling through other eCommerce platforms.
The best platform for your business will depend on exactly what it is that you are selling. Etsy is the preferred platform for anything handmade. Amazon and eBay are more widely used for general goods. There are also a host of more specialized offerings available.
Building your own website will give you more control, and add new ways to interact with your customers. You can also keep all of the profits from sales through your website.
The drawbacks are that you will need to have a good pool of existing customers, or a solid marketing strategy, to draw people to your website. The costs of hosting a website, and of the design and building processes, will also be significant if you are working with a limited budget.
Any business that is just starting out is going to be more vulnerable than most. No matter what else you do, you need to have enough money set aside to fund a marketing campaign, even a very basic one. Many entrepreneurs, even experienced ones, mistakenly believe that the key to marketing is simply to throw as much money as possible at the problem.
In reality, the key to successful marketing is to be smart with your marketing. A successful marketing campaign isn’t necessarily an expensive one. In fact, by making more restrained spending a priority and striving to keep your costs low, you will be encouraging good general habits. You should always be looking to keep costs down in business.
Research the different marketing methods and mediums that are available to you. Some will be impractical for an entrepreneur who is trying to keep their costs below the $200 threshold. However, there are other forms of marketing, such as email marketing, which is much more affordable while still being effective.
Starting an e-commerce business doesn’t have to be an expensive venture. If you take the time beforehand to carefully plan your business strategy and outline your creative vision, you will find those early steps much easier.