How to start your own online store

Creating your own online store can be a lucrative way to make money and work from home, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Here are some easy steps you can take to get started with an online store of your own.

Choose what you sell


The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out what type of online store you want to create. Do you want your online store to be an e-commerce site or a marketplace? Do you want it to sell tangible products or services? When choosing a business model, think about how much money and time you can dedicate. Think about what would make your store unique and competitive.

You should also decide how much money you want your online business to make, which could affect how much inventory (or a number of employees) your site needs.

Choose your niche


First, you’ll need to choose a niche for your online store. Some niches are more popular than others and have an established customer base (think: T-shirts and mugs); these are easier to get off the ground but can be tough to break into if you don’t have a strong understanding of branding.

Niche down by picking something that aligns with your interests or expertise, then start looking for platforms you can use in your online store. If you already have a website that lists all of your skills or is part of an established company, adding an e-commerce element is as simple as building an online shop page onto it.

Decide on a business name


Before you get too far, sit down and decide on a business name. If you already have an idea of what you’re going to sell, use that for your business name. However, if you don’t have a specific niche in mind, it may be smart to consider using something generic that doesn’t limit your options too much.

Generic names are great because they’re not trademarked or protected by anyone else and so it will be easy for you to build your own customer base.

A word of warning: no matter how generic your chosen name is, make sure it isn’t taken by someone else first before deciding on it!

Register your business


It’s one thing to start your own online store; it’s another thing entirely to register it. Some states require an actual business license, while others only ask that you complete a short registration form with your state revenue office. After you’ve completed your business registration and established yourself as a legitimate business, it’s time to set up a bank account so you can accept payments from customers.

Don’t forget about other details like registering with your local tax authority, getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you’ll be hiring employees, and making sure you’re meeting all federal requirements for collecting sales tax.

Set up your website/storefront


Before you can start selling products online, you’ll need a home for your business. If you want an e-commerce store, set up a shopping cart system and/or website. If you want to create a sales page for specific items, use services like Etsy or eBay (and sign up for seller accounts) instead.

A site that takes payments via Paypal is also necessary if you plan on doing any kind of international business.

Many sites offer free trial periods so you can make sure everything works properly before fully launching. During that time period, it’s a good idea to register with major search engines and make some connections within your niche community—you never know who might end up as your first customer!

Branding


When it comes to marketing, there’s an important distinction between your brand and your products. It’s not just about choosing a logo; rather, you need to identify what you want your business identity—and how it will present itself—to potential customers and partners.

Why is all of that important? Well, if you don’t have a clear idea of who you are as a business and what sets you apart from other players in your market, any marketing plan is destined for failure.

The more time spent developing who you are as a brand and how best to communicate that message will set up for success down the road.

Add products


To begin selling products online, you need an inventory. There are two ways to approach inventory: (1) outsource it or (2) carry it yourself. Each method has its pros and cons. If you decide to work with a supplier, you’ll likely be able to get up and running quickly, but finding a good wholesaler that offers competitive pricing isn’t always easy.

If you want more control over your product selection and pricing, you’ll need storage space and staff (or freelancers). Whichever option makes sense for your business model, make sure you have room in your budget for supplies.

Set up payment methods


In order to start your online store, you’ll need a payment processor. PayPal and Stripe are both good options, but each has its own rules and regulations that you should be aware of. For example, PayPal requires more information upfront (such as your business tax ID) while Stripe doesn’t require you to verify any information upfront. You might also want an in-person consultation with a company representative—again, depending on what’s required by your payment processor of choice.

Ship products out and manage orders


When you’re first starting out, it’s important to focus on getting your store up and running as quickly as possible. The first step is to make sure you can ship products out in a timely manner.

For most online stores, that means figuring out how to manage your orders and figure out how quickly you can get them shipped out. Once you have that figured out, consider automating your process with software like Shopify or BigCommerce, which will save a lot of time in managing orders, fulfilling shipping requests, and more.

If all goes well and traffic picks up, don’t be afraid to take on some warehouse staff—or contract a third-party fulfillment service—to ensure delivery times don’t slip when customers start ordering by bulk.

Promote yourself


If you’re going to run an online store, you need people—many people—to visit your site. There are several ways to get them there: Through links from other sites, for instance. Or through search engines.

You can also buy ads on social media platforms or in email newsletters.

The more traffic you bring in, however, the higher your costs will be—and too much of one thing leads to a decrease in returns and sales that aren’t worth it in the long run.

It all comes down to knowing your audience and promoting yourself strategically so that you don’t burn out before you see any return on investment at all.

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