If you’ve got something worth selling, then with all the free tools, cheap hosting, and user-friendly store builders available at your fingertips, there’s no reason not to get started. Lots of us are familiar with the concept of selling online via the likes of eBay, but if you’re looking for a legitimate side hustle that will help you make your mark, then your own online store is the way to go. Here is a guide to getting started in seven days.
1. Figure out Your MVP
If you’ve only given yourself a week to set up your store, then you certainly don’t have time to be a perfectionist. While you may feel strongly that your online store is a reflection of yourself – and therefore has to be perfect – it’s better to have something basic that is up and running.
In this case, you need to ask yourself, what is your Minimum Viable Product? Remember that you can always improve the store as you go – all the while growing your customer base and learning what works and what doesn’t. Start with the minimal features you need to get going, which include:
- A product to sell – plus images and descriptions
- A company name and domain – check domain availability here
- A reliable ecommerce platform
- A plan for managing order fulfillment
- A content and marketing strategy
2. First Things First: Building a Store
Once you have a niche and a business plan, you’re ready to start creating a website. Your storefront will be a reflection of your brand, so choose an option that comes recommended for ecommerce. If your website is too basic then you may find it hard to scale later on.
Easy online store builders work well because they are designed for people just like you. They take care of all the complicated parts of setting up a website, so you can focus on the bigger picture. Store creators are ideal for those who are looking to build an ecommerce website from scratch.
The other option is to use software like WooCommerce, which will integrate with any WordPress website. This is a good route if you already have a blog and you want to add ecommerce functionality. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of free trial periods, and keep in mind these key tips to build your first small business website.
3. Decide How You will Handle Inventory
Getting the right logistical framework in place is key to making sure you are able to scale as your business grows, but you also need a system that’s manageable when you’re just starting out.
Handling inventory is a lot of work. For this reason, many merchants choose to work with a dropshipper. This means that the product goes straight from the supplier to the customer – cutting out the middleman. Do your research to find one who is reliable and will allow you to apply your own branding. If you’re new to dropshipping, check out this guide on dropshipping your way to financial freedom.
If you plan on handling the inventory yourself, you can opt to save costs on storage rent by looking into shared warehouse deals. Some entrepreneurs choose to start by storing inventory at home, but you should have a plan in place to scale the order fulfillment side of the business when orders start dropping in larger numbers.
4. Create a Content Strategy
Content production should be a central asset of your online business, so be sure to treat it accordingly. It’s a good idea to map out all your content needs for the first year and create an editorial calendar to follow. If you need to hire part-time copywriters or freelancers, then do.
Plan for the seasonality of ecommerce sales, and invest more budget at times when you’re likely to get a higher return on your content investment. Don’t forget to factor in your product and category descriptions. Remember that unique and compelling copy will help you rank better, so don’t just copy and paste your manufacturer’s description.
If this is your first time working on a content strategy, then learn from other businesses who already do it well. Follow other online merchants on social media and read through their blogs to see what they’re putting out there.
5. Put the Word out
Maintaining a steady online audience is a lot of work, and you shouldn’t expect a flood of customers to arrive in the first week. But as you get going, here are some other methods for you to try:
- Social media is about give and take – but you should always give more than you take. Offer real insight and commentary, and only go promotional right at the end. Consider which platforms are going to work best for your brand before diving in – they are not all alike.
- PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising is a good way to get noticed in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) early on. It can take a while for search engines to index a new website – even one that is well-optimized – so you may want to give yourself a boost.
- Engaging with influencersis another helpful way to start spreading the word, and to build backlinks to your website. Reach out to popular bloggers to enquire about an article or feature with a link back to your store.
While it’s possible to get your online store up and running within a week, the truth is that to make a success of your new business, the venture must be for the long-term. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes when managing an ecommerce business so be prepared to do your research, to make mistakes, and to learn from them.