It’s the golden ticket of our time – being able to work for yourself and from wherever you want. Interested in the e-commerce entrepreneur lifestyle? Not sure how to make the big career shift? Here are some things you need to know about making a career out of selling online, including strategies and lessons learned from people who have already made a success out of it.
Leaving work? Have an exit plan
Don’t hang up your corporate gloves without having a clear exit plan first.
Earning enough money online to build up a viable income can take a while, and you need to factor in the intensely seasonal nature of online selling. Profits will fluctuate; just because you go full-time, doesn’t mean customers will suddenly make buying from you a full-time job.
- Invest in your new career slowly – build up a healthy customer base and try to learn from your mistakes during the first few months. It can be easy to get caught up in the hype of all the shiny new things in front of you, but you are better off spending time on the basics. Customers, products and profits.
- Build up capital, in the beginning, to help you make smart investments. Lack of capital holds many young entrepreneurs back. Research local grants and loans – it’s very hard to start a business without investment. It’s not impossible of course, but it’s worth exploring all capital raising opportunities that you can find.
- Think about where you are going to physically work – are you ready for the challenges of working at home? Have you got storage space for your stock, or are you embracing the drop shipping model?
- You need to have a handle on a wide range of business skills like logistics and money management to succeed at e-commerce. Invest in your personal development now.
Invest in promotion
E-commerce success depends on having plenty of new customers. The number one mistake naive store owners make is assuming that building a store will somehow transform web surfers into paying customers. You need to earn sales with effective e-commerce promotion.
- Pay-per-click advertising in search engines is a great way to growth hack your search presence. Just make sure you bid for the right phrases (relevant & with buyer intent), and keep the ad spend at an affordable level. Ensure that people who click your ad are taken to an appropriate page that meets their expectations. Discord between your ad and landing page will harm your conversions.
- Paid advertising on social media is cost-effective, and people are increasingly shopping through social media. Pinterest and Facebook are big favourites with shoppers.
- Organic traffic is an e-commerce lifeline – invest time and money into getting your SEO right. By creating valuable content and engaging with your audience, you will be able to drive customers back to your store, as well as build a formidable brand. Warning: no platform can fully automate SEO for you; you need to delve into your own market and deliver a great customer experience with exceptional content.
- Factor in seasonality so that you can be part of people’s milestones. By being in sync with the world, you will be more likely to convert.
- Invest in building a good email list. Don’t just think about order confirmation emails (though you have to do those well too); think about cart abandonment emails, newsletters, VIP offers, personalised offers – email can do so much for you.
Branding that works hard for you
To sell online, you need to be clear on what brand messaging you want to put out there. Try to focus on core audience desires to develop a brand that will stand the test of time.
- Start with what you’ve already got. Finding branding hard? Start by identifying your personal brand. Your personal brand and your e-commerce brand can be intertwined.
- The number one rule is that you want branding that connects with your audience – focus groups can tell you a lot about how people perceive you.
- Think about your branding across the board. Right down to your delivery policy and order confirmation email – it all has to be consistent and tell the same story.
Only do it if you love customers
Customer service is critical for e-commerce success – and you need to get on board with serving them well!
- People are increasingly expecting 24/7 customer service operations – meet people’s expectations as much as you can by offering customer support and live chat. Be open and transparent about when customers will expect to hear back – no one likes to be in the dark.
- Offer more to get better reviews and win the social proof battle. Think about how you can give people a ‘wow’ experience that they’ll remember and pass on.
Sell the right products
Sales – they make the e-commerce world go round. Make sure that you have profitable products and a ripe market before diving in feet first.
- Make sure you have selected the right kinds of products – you want products that you can sell at the right price point, and products that can be easily handled and sold. Keep refining your profit margins to get the best results.
- Shipping can make a big difference to profits – make sure your shipping is as streamlined and cost-effective as possible.
- Diversify your income streams from day one. Could you offer a subscription box option? Sign up for an affiliate program, and sell via marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay. Always be on the lookout for new ways to make money.
Get going today
People are often afraid to take the plunge and change career, but it’s important to get going and start selling as soon as possible in order to gauge whether you have a viable offering. Take on the challenge and start your e-commerce side hustle today.
- A hosted platform and some drop shipping suppliers can be a great way to get going while you are waiting for the finer points of product development. Open an online store in a day with built-in templates. Challenge yourself and see what you can put together when you are put to the test. It might surprise you…
- Not ready for your own store? Sell some products on Ebay to get a feel for selling – it takes minutes to list a product. You never know, your merchant future may lie on Ebay.
Products aren’t the only things you can sell
Not sure what to sell? Expertise, online content, consultancy, writing – you can sell so much more than just physical products! If you feel like products might not be for you, there are loads of other ways to monetize a website.
- Online writing is a popular and growing career. It can be incredibly lucrative in some niches if you focus on cultivating the right skills.
- Consultancy – sell your expertise over the phone and Skype.
- Market yourself as an expert with webinars, live video, and social media. There is no limit to what you can sell online. Worksheets, downloads and ebooks are a great place to start.
Hopefully you’re feeling inspired and ready to plunge into the world of online selling. What products would you sell and why?