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Seven Steps to Starting Your Internet Business
There is no reason to be afraid of creating an online business. It is a very easy process if you take it one step at a time. Let's make the assumption you aren't going to quit your day job (not yet, anyway). So how do you get started working part-time only?
Think of this as a step-by-step process.
Step 1. Forget the website for now!
Many people believe they have to start an online business with a website. This is wrong and a dangerous mistake. Why? Websites (particularly for a novice) can take a lot of time and money to create. Why start there when you aren't even certain you can make this work? Let's start easier.
You "think" you want an online business. Let's start by spending maybe $20. Sound ok?
Go to your closet or garage. Find four or five things to sell and list them on eBay. It's very easy to set up a seller account (and free) by following the eBay tutorials. The listing fees are very cheap compared to other methods of selling. It is an excellent place for a novice seller to start.
Now, when you make that first sale, do you feel a rush? If you don't feel the exhilaration that comes with selling something, don't quit your day job. An online business is NOT for you. But what if you do feel that rush? Time for step 2.
Step 2: Make the Business Legal
To start a business requires at the very least a business license (probably city/county and state) as well as a resale license. These are very easy to obtain. Start by going to your local city or county office (determined by where you live). Tell them you want to form a home-based business and they will give you the paperwork necessary. Also ask them what state obligations you have. They will point you in the right direction.
Now that you're all legal, it's time to find a product we can sell profitably.
Step 3: Choosing Profitable Products
In order to choose a profitable product to sell, you need to follow four steps: observe, analyze, test and commit. Start by observing the world around you. Look at trends reported daily in the news. For instance, obesity in America gets a lot of coverage and based upon your observations, it appears to be true.
Next, make some assumptions about the trend you have identified. For instance, if people are generally fatter, we can assume they don't like that and they are probably wearing bigger size clothes. Now let's test those assumptions.
Let's use eBay as a microcosm of a larger world. We can use one of many tools available on the market to analyze sales at eBay. "Auction Intelligence" is one of them. With Auction Intelligence, we determine that in the last 30 days at eBay, plus-size clothing for women has sold more than $191,000 and exercise equipment has sold in excess of $1.125M (all in 30 days!). Obviously, these could be profitable products for us to sell.
It's time to commit to one. So let's pick plus size clothing as our example. Now it's time to find a supplier.
Step 4: Finding Wholesalers
When we made the company legal, we obtained a resale license (unless you live in a sales tax-free state like Oregon). A resale license is required if you wish to purchase products from legitimate wholesalers. But how do we find legitimate wholesalers for your plus size clothing line?
There are three methods for finding legitimate wholesalers: thomasregister.com, trade shows, and trade magazines.
Thomasregsiter.com is a free service to you. You use the search tool on their website and find prospective wholesalers. For your plus size clothing line start by searching for "women's clothing" or "women's plus size clothing". You will have contact information available for all wholesalers which meet your search criteria (many will not have a website). Contact them by telephone or writing. You will ask them to send you a catalog (they may charge for the first catalog to make certain you are a serious buyer). That's one easy way to find wholesalers but you should also consider attending a trade show.
Trade shows are an excellent way to meet hundreds of prospective wholesalers face-to-face. Search the Internet or trade journals for a list of trade shows for your product line. Find a trade show near you and attend. Take lots of business cards!
Last, but not least, subscribe to trade magazines for your product line. There will be many articles on prospective wholesalers, as well as classified ads by many of them.
Now that you have a supplier, you need an outlet for selling your product.
Step 5: Creating An Online Presence
Those snazzy corporate web sites can cost millions of dollars. Do you need one? No! Customers expect you will have a web presence but start out easy. An eBay Store will cost you $15.99 a month (about the same as web hosting) and you can set it up in a day.
Professional designers spend years and thousands of dollars purchasing the right programs and learning how to use them. You can skip the learning curve by starting with an eBay Store. You eBay Store will be fully ecommerced-enabled (people can use a credit card) and you'll be ready for business in no time. But, it isn't that easy. We need to drive traffic (customers) to our web presence.
Step 6: Getting Customers To Our eBay Store
You may have noticed that eBay Stores show up in your search results when you are surfing the web for products. This is because your eBay Store has a unique URL (web address) just like a website. What does this mean for you?
You can place your eBay Store web address on your business cards. You can add the web address to your signature line on every email you send out. You can find hundreds of free online classified ad sites on the Internet to post your address. And, you can make your eBay Store searchable by the search engines by electing that option when you establish your eBay Store.
After the eBay Store has been producing well for you, you will establish a website. Every serious online business ultimately has their own website with their own name.
Step 7: Establish The Website
Establishing a website consists of three steps: securing a domain name, designing the website, and finding a web hosting service.
A domain name (the www.yourname.com of your business) is easy to secure. Simply contact any online accredited registrar, like godaddy.com or register.com. Pay a yearly fee (about $8.95 for a .com name) and get the name of your choice (if it's available). If it isn't available, choose a name that references your product or is easy to remember.
Website design can be done without professional assistance but not very effectively for a novice. You don't want a website that looks like a beginner did it. Get help with the design and writing your web site copy. Effective copy can make a huge difference in how many people buy from your web site.
Having a professional writer do all your copy will probably be too expensive. Instead, write your copy yourself and have a professional writer fix it up. It may take no more than an hour of their time. Become an expert on your product or something related to your product. Experts are in constant demand. Everyone wants to buy from an expert. Becoming known as an authority is probably easier than you realize.
Spend time at your local library reading up on a subject your customers care about. Use search engines to find more information online. Jot down the things you learn and spin them into short articles using your own words.
Once your website is ready to grace the Internet, it's time to find a web hosting service. You might want to ask your web designer or copywriter for suggestions. The most important part of a web hosting service is their reliability and low price.
You may not quit your day job today but your can plan your escape. Follow the steps we've identified above and that cubicle will become a thing of the past. Picture this?
No alarm goes off in my morning silence. I awake naturally to the sound of birds about 6:15am. I slip on my slippers and walk 40 feet to my home office. I'm at work! No disapproving boss monitors my every move. No crazy drivers tailgate my vehicle. I am at peace. I have a successful home-based business.
What stands between you and a 40 second commute? Nothing, except a little knowledge regarding how to start, and successfully run, your own business.
Michele Schermerhorn calls herself a "Corporate Freedom Fighter" dedicated to freeing cubicle prisoners throughout the country. She has over 30 years experience in the business world and over 12 years running her own successful online businesses. She is President of Online Business Institute Inc. (http://www.obinstitute.com), authors a sassy marketing blog (http://www.imarketblog.com), and regularly conducts free online seminars. Online Business Institute Inc. exists to "Create Successful Online Business Owners One Person At A Time".
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