Years ago, starting a business required a substantial investment, often in the form of life savings or a very large loan. Today – the Internet has changed that. In fact, our online world has completely transformed the way individuals conduct business, with websites like Etsy and Ebay making it easy for anybody to make money, simply by trading with others in the form of an online “microbusiness”. Of course, there are still costs to be paid, but if you’re prepared to work hard – there are no real hurdles to hold you back
It may seem obvious, but it’s a good idea to start by researching the market you are interested in. For instance, if you’d like to sell embroidered cat cushions, investigate which similar services already exist. When you are ready to proceed, there are extensive guides available on subjects such as overheads, market identification, product development, and even some aimed at particular social groups – but one of the most important starting points is knowing how to save money, without cutting corners on your business
If you’re wondering where to find the money you need, begin at home, and don’t dismiss a single penny as irrelevant. Something as simple as creating a home budget might even be enough to get you started. Most existing retail sites make their money by either taking their cut from you on a sale-to-sale basis, or requiring a sign-up fee. There is a way to display your product or service online for free – and that’s by creating a website using a free web builder such as Wix or Weebly, and using open source cart software as needed. The downside to this method is that you’re going to need to find some money to pay for advertising, and you’ll have to work hard to spread the word.
So which platform is best? If you’re planning to start a gardening business, Etsy might not be the platform for you. Advertising sites like Gumtree and Craigslist are all very well, but you instantly become a far more trustworthy brand if you can link potential customers to a professional looking website. Don’t forget, a sleek web presence is the one free tool which will give you a real edge on your competitors, so don’t skimp on time or effort – this site will be your biggest sales pitch, and you need to make the most of every click.
|Pros of Retail Sites||Cons of Retail Sites|
|Pre-existing audience||Only suitable for selling some products|
|In-house advertising options available||Audience may actually become limited to a narrow demographic|
|Honed and popular layout||Fees|
|Technical and customer based support||Limited customization|
If you’re wondering how to build site traffic, the cheapest paid options include online adverts and paper stationery. To find the cash, look at how you can shave costs from your day-to-day life. Consider starting a home budget, Cleanipedia has a great guide to it, identifying and controlling excess expenses and redirecting them into your new business. Think about it – saving electricity could save enough in a quarter to pay for 100 business cards. Or cutting down your grocery bill could free up funds for a targeted weekend of Google ads. The key is to spend small to bring individuals to your site, and let them leave them with a big impression
Of course, there are plenty of free options available to help you along the way. Community noticeboards – including those in local supermarkets – are often free, and social networks such as Facebook will allow for a certain amount of free business use. Think carefully about how to divert the funds you already have – it’s easy to assume a home budget will have little impact, but when it comes to starting up a business, it’s the best place to start.