Funding a new business is a big challenge among aspiring entrepreneurs. Many are forced to give up huge stakes in their companies to equity investors, or take out loans at astronomical interest rates from banks, which, by the way, don’t fancy the idea of lending to small businesses.
However, it’s not all gloomy for entrepreneurs who are short on cash. The internet is turning the tide. Today, it’s possible to start an online business with almost no money. With a viable idea, the internet can enable you to start a business from scratch and grow it into an empire. You don’t have to worry about the costs of renting a commercial space or promoting your company. Keep reading to learn about the various aspects of launching an internet business and how you can establish yours with a few bucks in the pocket.
Every business begins with an idea. Therefore, the first step to starting an e-business is to have an idea about a good or service that you can sell to customers. To get you started, here are some ideas:
You can sell just about any product on the internet, from electronics to books and baked foods. But since you are working on a small startup budget, your focus is on products with low manufacturing or acquisition costs. Think of products that you can manufacture or produce on your own without incurring a loft of costs. For instance, if you are crafty with your hands, you can make decorate objectives, jewelry or even household utensils, and if you’re good at baking, you can make cakes and other home-made treats. Reading enthusiasts with hundreds of novels in their personal libraries can start online libraries, while prolific writers can author and sell e-books.
Don’t shy away from sourcing products from suppliers if you are unable to make your own. It’s, however, very important to test the demand of the product before purchasing in bulk. One of the most effective methods of analyzing the demand of a product that will be sold online is to observe search trends related to the product. Google’s Keyword Planner enables you to view the number of searches performed for various keywords in a specific month. If your keywords have thousands of searches, then your product could have a decent demand.
Another reliable method of testing demand is to analyze competitor performance. How many are they? How long have they been in the online business? How strong is their social medial following? The presence of established competitors with a solid following means the product has a strong demand, and you stand a good chance of grabbing a share of the customer base.
Apart from selling products online, you can also offer a wide range of services, typically depending on your professional skillset. For instance, individuals who are bilingual can offer online translation services, while people with professional training in editing can offer editorial or content review services. Other common service-based ideas include consulting, transcription, tutoring, freelance writing and web design.
Write a Business Plan
One of the most common mistakes beginning internet entrepreneurs make is launching their e-shops without a business plan. The vast majority probably think their businesses are too small, so they can work out the details as the business picks up.
Every organization, however small, needs a plan. Think of starting a plan-less business as building a house without a blueprint or at least a sketch of the layout. For your small online business, you can write a one-page plan that outlines how you intend to grow your idea and market your products, as well as how much money you expect to earn within six months or a year. With a plan, you can easily convince your relatives or friends to lend you some money for the inventory.
Create a Website
After carving out your niche, shift your focus to developing an ecommerce website. Now, setting up an online store with all the ecommerce tools you need to smoothly run the business can cost a couple of thousand dollars. Without this kind of money, what are your options?
Purchase a Low-cost Domain
A domain name is a web address that enables Internet users to locate your website. There are several companies offering domain registration services, all at different rates. Providers like Name Cheap and Go Daddy offer registration, hosting and other essential services at very low pricing. A good domain name should be short, easy to type and have a keyword that describes your products or services.
Go for Ready-Made Templates
There is no doubt that custom templates give your e-store a unique look, improve usability and can set your business apart from competitors. But since your objective is to start an internet business with as little money as possible, the cheapest option is to go for ready-made templates, which can be found at Starting Business at a very small fee.
Engage the Services of Freelance Web Developer
Even though there are online tools that can enable you to build a website from scratch, it can be difficult for a newbie to bolt all the cogs together. If you don’t have any website development experience, consider hiring a freelance web developer on sites such as Freelancer and Upwork. These sites allow clients to access web design and development services at cost-effective rates. Don't forget to have a legal template, which you can use to lay out the details and scope of the project with your freelancer.
It’s essential to note that while a website is vital to the success of an internet business, some businesses don’t necessarily require one. For instance, entrepreneurs who are keen on selling home-made products can easily sell them on eBay, Amazon and other established online marketplaces. Although requirements for becoming a seller on these marketplaces vary, you generally need to open an account and adhere to seller rules.
Once you have set up your e-shop, you are good to start selling your products or services.
Promote Your Business
Competition among online businesses is very fierce. There are probably thousands of existing businesses in your niche, so you must promote your e-store extensively to stand a chance against your competition. Fortunately, the internet offers a range of tools that you can use to promote your idea at little or no cost at all. These include:
Social media enables businesses to grow their web presence, increase website traffic and build conversations with potential customers. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest allow individuals to set up pages for their brands, where they can post updates to followers, fans or subscribers, and even connect with other businesses.
The key to finding success in social media marketing lies in growing your number of followers. The more followers you have, the higher your chances of converting some into loyal customers. So, how do you grow your following? Post regular updates, ensure your content is original and entertaining and project a consistent brand image across all your platforms.
Email marketing is another free method of sending product advertisements, sales offers and other business messages to your customers. All you have to do is build an email list by enabling an email signup box on your website, or asking users to sign up for an account before accessing some parts of your website.
Search Engine Marketing
Search engine marketing increases your visibility on popular search engines like Google and Bing. Higher visibility nets your more sales. If you are selling antique clocks, for instance, you hope that when internet users google antique clocks, your website will feature among the first-page results.
Achieving a top ranking in search engines is no easy task. Although paid advertising is the quickest and most effective way of getting a first-page ranking, it's not the only way. You can achieve a first-page rank on major search engines without breaking your bank. Through basic search engine optimization techniques, such as ensuring your website works properly and the content is authoritative and original, your site can organically achieve a favorable ranking.
If you can work your way around these tools and use them effectively, your online business can turn out decent profits.
Stay Abreast of Internet Technologies
Technology is evolving rapidly. Web engineers and software developers are working every day to innovate new products that can make working and doing business online cheaper and more efficient. To leverage the power of emerging technologies, you must stay in the know. Look out for new website plugins, ecommerce software and other technologies that you can harness to improve the performance of your e-store and keep your customers engaged.
Finally, starting a successful online business without a solid financial backing requires patience and consistency. Don't give up if the engine of your business isn't generating good revenues after a few months. It also helps to follow in the footsteps of an established internet entrepreneur who owns a company in your niche. Follow them on social media, read their blogs and learn from their experiences.
Are you an internet entrepreneur? Share your story with us in the comments section below.