In the olden days, setting up a new business was a big commitment. Typically you would have to leave your job, rent some premises, by a load of stock, take on some staff, put a sign up over the door and so on. To say that things have moved on a little since then, is to state the bleeding obvious, but I think a lot of people are put off starting a business, because there is still a residual fear associated with it, presumably dating back to the days when starting a new business really was a big deal.
Nowadays it is really pretty easy to creep into a new online business – you don’t need to leave your job, you probably don’t need to invest any more than a few hundred euros and often you can dedicate as much or as little time as you want, so you really need to lose your fear and think small.
To make a success of a new online business I would suggest 5 tips:
1. Having a brand is what will allow you to add value, so whatever you are selling give it a name. It is just so difficult to make money selling something generic or just reselling someone else’s brand. If you are going to export (as we do from Portugal for example), it is also possible to take an existing product and just re-brand it for export markets.
2. You are going to have to have a website and the fear is that nobody will ever visit it. Unless you are in a very competitive market though, it is generally quite easy to get Google to rank you high up their search lists if you just do a few things right. The single most important thing is to write a blog and update it regularly. If you only do once effort at Search Engine Optimization, then it should be regularly writing a blog, because Google will love you for it.
3. Don’t expect overnight results. Building an online business can take a long time, because nobody knows about you at first (including Google). Patience is everything with an online business, but if you have a half-decent product, good customer service, reasonable prices and a regularly updated website then business will come your way.
4. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you need an elaborate business plan – find a product, build a website and start worrying about all the financial stuff when you start getting some orders. After all if you are going to invest very little money on the project, why do you need to worry about cash-flow and the like? Your time would be better spent writing text for your website, than writing text for your business plan.
5. If your product or your customer service is rubbish, people will talk about you online and your business will rapidly sink; conversely if you are any good at what you are doing, people will talk about you online in a positive way and your business will grow. That is the ultimate rule for an online business – it is so easy for people to talk about you online, you cannot hide and you will be found out. So embrace all the talking and let it inspire you to doing things as well as you possibly can.
So think small when you start off a new business – that way it is less terrifying. And if you do things right, you may soon have to start thinking big…