The Beginners Guide to Starting an Ecommerce Business
If I told you that you could start a business with little to no upfront cost, that isn’t an MLM, where you could make unlimited amounts of money, would you be interested?
You’d ask me where to sign up, right?
An ecommerce business is that business!
I started my ecommerce business by reselling things around my home. We were up to our eyeballs in debt, and I was a stay at home mom and a full time college student.
That was 2012. Since then, we’ve paid off so much debt, cash flowed many remodeling projects, and been able to bless others in need.
An ecommerce business can do the same for you!
What is an ecommerce business?
An ecommerce business is any online business that sells goods and/or services online. What you sell or where you sell it depends on the product or service you are offering.
There are four basic types of ecommerce businesses:
Business to Customer (B2C)- retail
Business to Business (B2B)- goods or service for businesses
Consumer to Consumer (C2C)- reselling your own good
Consumer to Business (C2B)- sponsored posts, stock photography, etc.
Here on this blog, I talk mostly about the first three, but a C2B business is also a great way to make money.
Here are some examples of ecommerce businesses:
Business to Customer:
- clothing or jewelry boutique
- handmade products business
- retail sales of products purchased at wholesale
- drop shipping
- subscription boxes
- digital products
- affiliate marketing
- travel agency
Business to Business:
- virtual assistant
- website design
- photo/video editing
- freelance writing
- affiliate marketing
- social media marketing
- brick and mortar store with online store
Consumer to Consumer:
How to Get Started with Creating an Ecommerce Business.
There are a couple of things that you need to start an ecommerce business: 1) a customer and 2) a problem to solve for them.
This may be a hard concept to grasp if you are a creative person. Crafters like to craft for the sake of crafting, but that’s not an online business model.
If you want to start an actual business, you have to treat it like a business from day one. It’s also helpful if you have a simple business plan.
So how does your love of graphic design translate into a business you can run from home?
If you love graphic design, you can create print on demand t-shirts for Etsy or Merch by Amazon. This is a super convenient way to have your own ecommerce store. You create and upload designs with low or no cost to you, and then when they sell, they are printed and shipped. You have no inventory to deal with or front the cost for. You are essentially creating a dropshipping business.
Combine your passion or day job with graphic design, and you’ll have a winning formula. You already know the lingo, so your potential customers will know that you “get it too” and will want to buy from you. Some of the market research is already done for you!
- teacher –> teacher t-shirts with funny phrases/ graphics
- chef –> t-shirts for foodies (lots of niches to work with here- baking, veganism, carnivores, farm to table, etc.)
- librarian/book lover –> quotes/ images representative of famous books and their characters
Now obviously, you don’t have to just make t-shirts. There are so many things you can do. If you have a smart phone or computer, you have pretty much everything you need to start a business of some sort.
If you’re short on funds, you can always start a reselling business as a way to bootstrap your business idea.
Tips for Success in an Ecommerce Business.
There are a lot of things that factor into the success of a business, but here are my best tips:
- take inventory of your talents (what are you good at?)
- ask others what you do well (what are you the go to person for?)
- be genuine and authentic
- be fearless
- don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help (friends, family, Facebook groups, etc.)
- keep up with the money coming in and out (bookkeeping and tax time will sneak up on you)
- know the rules/laws about copyright, taxes, etc. of your industry
Common Questions/FAQ About Starting an Ecommerce business.
How much does it cost to start an ecommerce business?
Starting an ecommerce business doesn’t have to cost a lot. If you start with reselling, you can learn lots of skills related to ecommerce with a very little up front cost. In fact, you can start an ebay business for about $50. Reselling is not for everyone though.
You may want to start a website selling planner printables. Let’s think about what you would need to do that.
You will need:
- a hosting service & domain name for your website
- an email service provider
- a checkout software
- a graphic design software
- a printable business online course
The other alternative would be to start an Etsy shop to sell your printables instead (or in addition). The issue with having an Etsy shop as the only place to sell these printables is that if for some reason Etsy decides to shut your shop down, they can. This has happened to so many people! I am constantly hearing these stories, and their customer service is practically non-existent.
I would recommend using Etsy as a extra source of income, but not your only one. You own your own website and your email list. No one can take that from you. You can also let your Etsy customers know that you have your own website, just as a backup.
So as you can see, each type of business requires different things. The best thing to do is to research the type of business you want to start and go from there.
Most software programs also offer a free trial period so that will give you a little time to get things going before you have to pay.
What are the steps to starting an ecommerce business?
In order to start an ecommerce business, you need to do a couple of basic things.
- determine who your customer is
- decide what problem you’re going to solve for them
If you say, “Kayla, I made earrings. I don’t solve any problems!” I would tell you, “Why yes, yes you do.”
The earrings that you create are most likely for certain target customers.
Here are some examples:
- single women ages 20-25 who love the latest trend
- moms ages 30-35 who love neutrals and animal prints because they match everything
- grandmas 60-70 who love gaudy, flashy jewelry because it’s fun!
Whatever it is that you sell, there is a person out there looking for it. You need to think about that person, and figure out 1) what they need and 2) why they need it.
How can you serve them with a physical or digital product or a service?
You can also learn about Etsy search engine optimization to see what people are buying. This will help you nail down your target audience.
Then, you’ll need to make a list of the skills and equipment that you’ll need to start. If you don’t have enough saved (I will always tell you to run a cash only business), figure out what you’ll do to raise the money. Make sure you keep your personal and business finances separate.
Is ecommerce a good business?
It’s a great business! More people are shopping online than they ever have before. So many more people are learning online also! You don’t have to just sell products online though, you can also offer services. This is the great thing about the online space. If you can dream it up, you can do it. There will be a customer base for it!
How do I succeed in ecommerce?
To be successful in ecommerce, you need to be committed to learning. You’ll need to learn your customer, learn what sells, learn how to use online selling platforms and software, learn how to give great customer service, etc.
Figure out what online shoppers are looking for, as it relates to your niche. These people will become your target market, so coming up with product ideas for them is essential to your business success. There are so many online tools that can help you find market demand, reach prospective customers, help with email marketing strategies, and help you set up your ecommerce platform.
Learning, to me, is the most important skill. No one knows it all. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. There are so many online tools that can help you find market demand, reach prospective customers, help with email marketing strategies, and help you set up your ecommerce platform.
Reach out and make friends. Most people are very good at one thing. If you’ve created a circle of people around you who are motivated to succeed in their business, it’s likely that when you need something, one of your friends will be able to help you.
Form a mastermind group of non-competing ecommerce business owners. Meet regularly, either in person or remotely. Do your quarterly planning together. Bounce ideas off of each other. They will be your greatest asset.
Pay attention to what’s going on in your industry. Stay true to yourself and stay ahead of the curve.
What skills do you need for ecommerce?
Being somewhat computer literate is the only true skill that you need. You can teach yourself or purchase a course on pretty much anything else that you need to know. If programs like excel and photoshop scare you, that’s ok! There are so many free and paid resources out there to help you.
When I look back at what I knew in the beginning, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. I have very little formal computer training- one little computer class in college of which I remember almost nothing.
Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be able to design and run my own website, create graphics, film and edit YouTube videos, or any one of the many things you have to do on the backend of a business.
Most everything I know I taught myself. I have also made a couple of really great friends whom I can ask if I need anything. They are also self-taught.
The sky is the limit. A willingness to learn is all you need to run a successful ecommerce business.
What are the most popular ecommerce platforms?
For C2C businesses:
For B2C or B2C businesses:
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Starting an Ecommerce Business.
Starting an ecommerce business can be a huge blessing to your family. It can help you reach and exceed the financial goals that you have.
Best of all, you can run your business from home during naptime! An ecommerce business allows you to be the stay at home mom you want to be, and earn money at the same time.