Sunday, March 16, 2014

Things I Learned While Starting a Business on a Budget

English: A protester holding a placard in Tahr...
English: A protester holding a placard in Tahrir Square referring to Facebook and Twitter, acknowledging the role played by social media during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Starting an online business seems to make the possibility of being your own boss much more possible than ever before. It is now possible to run a one person retail store. Brick and mortar stores must have multiple employees throughout a day, and week, to run smoothly. Online stores just need one person minimum to keep watch of incoming orders, and emails, and possibly calls, which could be outsourced.
So with the feeling that I have unique style, and vision, and years of retail experience, I decided to start an online women's clothing store. The decision was final after finding out that Shopify has a $29 a month plan. I can wing $29 a month even without a day job (which I did have at the time). So I began my journey into the world of internet entrepreneurship. These are 5 things that I wish someone would have told me before I got started.
Hurdle 1. finding products to put in my store.
Maybe this is just me, but I wanted my store to be unique and only have items that I feel like I, and my target customers, whom I am one of, wouldn't pass by without wanting. These items are far and few. It takes many hours; I would say a solid 3 to find just a handful of items that pass my "is it hot enough" test. So I must recommend that you set aside at least 6 hours per week to load your store with product, or you will never be ready to open.
Hurdle 2. social media is not all peaches and cream when it is for your business instead of for personal use.
Using social media can make or break a business. You have your own page with hundreds of friends that seem to come out of nowhere over not that long of a period of time. Then you make your company a Facebook page only to realize that only 10 of your own friends will like your page, and you have to pay for likes from potential customers. Facebook advertising can work, but you will pay for it. Just be aware of your spending limits, and stop ads that are not working for you. Note that getting your message and company name heard the best way to attract customers.
Hurdle 3. No traffic equals no conversions
Plan to spend a about 3 hours a week contributing to blogs, forums, and your own website to pickup traffic. I started without doing this and it took months to get more than 12 unique visits per day.
Hurdle 4. Shipping
You don't think about shipping much until you have a business that uses it as much as an online retail store. You will have to possibly ship from your supplier to you, then from you, to your customer. Double shipping can be combated with drop shipping, but then you are stuck selling their items. Or you can actually buy inventory before selling it, which is way out of the budget. So you have to make up for shipping with higher product prices. Ouch. With Free shipping being the "thing" for online stores this can hurt a small business. adjust your prices until you reach a balance of O.K prices, and not eating a lot of shipping costs. You can still offer free shipping, or say that you do. Add the cost of shipping to your prices.
Hurdle 5. Abandoned Carts
Getting people to your site is one hurdle, getting them to complete the checkout process is a whole other problem. consumers online shop around a lot before purchasing, so don't be surprised that many will leave in the middle of the process. A better price or other color option on another site could easily cost a sale. On the other hand your process could be the problem. Go through the process on your own to see if anything unnecessary or weird happens along the way. Keep the process as short as possible, one page if you can manage. The more times a customer has to click and wait on another page of filling out info, the more time they have to think about not buying.
Online stores usually get a slow start, but don't worry, keep chugging along, and keep costs low where ever possible. Use each hurdle as a way to learn and offer a better customer experience or product.
Toni Dailey of
Toni Dailey; owner of a new way to shop for women's trendy modern and vintage apparel. Shop now for a free gift to each person who places an order.
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