You can make a fortune selling products online. There’s room for new people in e-commerce. It is not too late to start an online business.
While many people already sell things online, there is still room for new businesses. The market is too large and growing too fast to become saturated. Anyone who takes the time to learn the skills can make money selling products online.
You can start slowly and do not have to invest a lot of time or money right away. You can pick away at an e-commerce business part-time while keeping your day job. After a while, you may start earning enough to quit your job and work on your business full-time.
Many people who start online businesses become very rich. Others never become truly wealthy but still have a higher income and a better quality of life than they had as an employee.
It doesn’t cost much or anything to start – you can start selling products online for free. You also do not need fancy technical skills to open an online store. The basics are easy; you will only have to learn new skills in the long run as your business grows.
What is an e-commerce business?
In as few words as possible, e-commerce is online buying and selling. It includes every sale of a product or service online. E-commerce has become a huge part of the global economy over the last 25 years.
E-commerce is not limited to buying and selling physical products. People pay for digital goods as well, and businesses make deals with other businesses online.
After the internet arrived, it may have taken a few years before people used it to sell anything. It was not until 1994 that anyone sold a product online.
The first e-commerce business was NetMarket; the first sale was a CD. Arguably, earlier online sales occurred, but it may not have been until 1994 that a secure online purchase occurred and e-commerce began.
Any business that sells products or services online is an e-commerce business. Not all of them sell products that they keep in stock. Different types of e-commerce businesses operate in different ways:
- Dropshipping. This is one of the best choices if you are just starting out and don’t want to invest a lot of time or money right away. You can sell products online without having to keep any inventory in stock. Create a site that makes sales, and another company will handle shipping the product to the customer for you.
- Retail. This is different from drop shipping because you will have to buy products, store them, and ship them to customers yourself. It is not a simple as dropshipping, but you can make more money per sale this way.
- Subscriptions. You can charge a monthly fee for a digital or physical product or service.
- Services. You can use the internet to sell online and offline services just as you can use it to sell digital and physical products.
How to start an e-commerce business
First off, be optimistic about your chances. Don’t go into this half-heartedly – even if you start slow, plan to make a lot of money. The opportunity is real – you can quit your day job and live on your online income.
Secondly, don’t expect overnight success. You will learn more gradually and slowly build up a side income that will eventually become your full-time income. E-commerce is a real opportunity, not a get-rich-quick scheme.
Decide what kind of a business you want to build
How do you intend to make money online? Dropshipping is the most obvious choice. You might also try a form of online selling where you have some more control over the products you sell.
Not everyone starts with dropshipping. Perhaps, you have an excellent idea for a product. In that case, you can work with manufacturers to get the product to the market.
Creating a product requires you to invest and potentially lose money. However, you can get rich a lot faster if you have your own product.
It won’t necessarily cost a fortune to have manufacturers produce it. It depends on what you want to manufacture. You might be surprised by how little the start-up cost is.
For example, you could sell a health and fitness supplement that another company manufactures for you. You decide what mix of ingredients to include and then get in contact with a manufacturer. You will need a good name for it, attractive packaging, and a way to market your product.
There are plenty of other things you can sell online. You might sell digital products (either that you create yourself or that you sell for others) or sell services.
Plan before you start
Either planning too much or planning too little before you begin can make you get discouraged and quit. You don’t need to spend thousands of hours learning about what you are planning to do, but you don’t want to start without anything first. It is easier to plan too little than to plan too much, so put some time into it.
Choose something specific that is not for everyone
If you try to do something very general – such as sell running shoes – you probably won’t be able to succeed. There are countless places to buy shoes online, so customers won’t buy from you.
Instead, be specific. Find a niche, don’t sell something that a thousand other people are selling.
If your competitors are relatively few, you may be able to attract people to your online store and sell products. Once your stone is online, create content and use it to attract traffic. Interesting content plus a niche product is how you get your business off the ground.
Research your customers
How many total people buy the product or service you are selling? How many people are you competing with? How can you stand out and do better than the competition in some ways?
You don’t have to be one-sidedly better than the competition, but you do have to be somewhat different. Can you sell a similar product for less money, or would a better but more expensive product be best?
How much money do the people who buy what you are selling have? How old are they, where do they live, what words and images are likely to appeal to them? You can beat the competition if you understand your customers better than them.
Register your business and deal with legal issues
Most likely, your business is going to be a “sole proprietorship” – you are the single owner of your business, and you control it completely. Your company is probably not going to become a corporation for a long time. Your business might also be a partnership where you and a few other people share power and responsibility.
Do you need a license to do what you are planning on doing? You don’t want to run into problems with the law. Make sure you understand what is legal and what is not before you launch your business. You may be legally required to register your business in many places.
Make your business a brand
Your company should stand for something and represent it. A product often represents something, such as adventure or status, to those who buy it.
Advertising always works this way for a reason – branding is effective and necessary. It is an important way of helping your business stand out. Even if you are dropshipping products that other companies sell, you can make money if your company’s image is different.
Part of branding is picking an excellent business name and designing a great logo. A bad logo or even a bad business name can make a business unsuccessful.
Only sell products that your customers are likely to like. That is another important part of branding. Be careful what you sell – they will think less of you if you try to sell them something they do not want.
Launch your store
After planning your e-commerce business out, it is time to get your store online. Don’t launch your store until you have done a fair bit of work and are reasonably sure that you can make sales.
Choose a platform to host your online store. Shopify and Woocommerce are the biggest. Platforms make selling easy.
You do not have to know how to write code, know-how credit card transactions work, or know about cybersecurity to get your store online. Anyone can create a store and start making money right away.
Your site needs a unique visual appearance. Using a template is not likely to be good enough. It needs to be unique, and it has to be stylistically consistent.
Your products need good titles, good text descriptions, and good images. Put some time and care into making the product listings look professional and polished. People won’t trust you if there is anything unprofessional-looking about your site.
Get your friends and family to give you positive reviews
Everyone does this, so don’t think it is unethical. You need good reviews to get started. Once your friends and family have given you some five-star reviews, people will trust you enough to buy your products.
Most of your positive reviews can be honest – just not the first few. It is too hard to get started without your friends and family helping you out in this way.
Use email, SEO, and social media
Ask your customers to sign up for your email list. Send them emails once in a while when you offer a new product or put something on sale. This is one of the best ways to keep your customers coming back.
You can also market your product by creating content. This is one of the best ways to get started. You can offer information to your customers and then direct them to buy products from you.
For example, you might be selling supplies to people who make candles by hand. You can create content about how to make candles and how to sell them.
People will find your site when looking for information, read your content, and buy from your store. You might also write health and fitness content and sell exercise machines.
Many people already do this, but there might still be room for new health and fitness sites. This is when you want to learn about SEO. Once you are trying to attract people with informational content, you have to make sure it will show up on search engines.
You can also use social media to promote your content. If you are good with Twitter, you can attract followers and make money that way. You can also use a Facebook page to interact with your customers and answer their questions.
What skills do you need to run an e-commerce business?
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization is a vital skill for anyone who wants to make money online. You can often get a better return on investment if you pay for an SEO expert than if you buy online ads.
SEO is the art of making a website rank at the top on search engines. It is easy to rank at the top for a less commonly used or specific keyword. Ranking at the top for more general keywords is much harder and much more competitive.
Google wants the best websites to rank at the top of a Google search. If web pages that are not useful to users rank at the top, people will abandon Google in favor of other search engines.
If you are running an online store, you need your website to rank at the top for at least some keywords. Google’s algorithm attempts to measure the site’s overall quality.
If the algorithm detects spelling errors and other quality issues, your site won’t rank high enough to draw traffic from search engines. It is much harder to make a profit if people can’t find your site on search engines. Buying paid ads can work, but successful businesses use SEO as well.
You cannot succeed at SEO by using a strategy that worked five years ago. An old strategy might be less effective or might backfire today. Search engines change their algorithms all the time, so you have to use an up-to-date strategy.
The owner of an e-commerce business should know a bit of everything. You don’t have to be an SEO expert, but it is such a crucial skill that you should learn its basics.
Learn how to create content as well. Write content, put it on your website, and use it to attract traffic. Search engine optimization may be the most important skill for someone running an e-commerce business.
While Google lets the public know some information about how the search engine works, they keep a lot of other information to themselves. Hundreds of criteria are used to rank a website, and each one is weighted differently. They never publish a list of criteria and how important each one is.
It is crucial to make your pages load quickly. If you can speed up your page’s load time by only a second, that may significantly increase your search rank. Other important factors in SEO are:
- High-quality written content. A competitive web page should have at least a few hundred words. If your content is useful to people who search for a term, it may rank near the top for that term.
- Don’t overuse rare words. While content should be well-written, it must also be easy to read.
- Write content for specific keywords. Use these keywords more than once (but not too many times) and include your most important keyword in your URL.
- Include images or at least one image.
- User engagement. User behavior affects search engine rank. Google tracks what people click on, how much time they spend on a site, and mouse movement to judge whether or not the site is engaging or not.
- Mobile-friendliness. A site that does not work well on phones will not rank high.
Search engine optimization is a winner takes all game. If your page ranks on the second page, that isn’t good enough, and you will receive hardly any traffic for that keyword. People click on one of the first few results.
You might succeed at doing SEO work yourself if you aim to rank at the top for less competitive keywords. More difficult keywords may require experts. You can use tools to measure how difficult a keyword is.
While you can get an online business started without any programming skills, you will need to learn how to write code in the long run. If your business is in its early stages, you won’t have enough money to hire experts very often. Learning the basics of SEO, coding, and graphic design is necessary for the short run.
Learning a bit of programming can help you communicate with the people you work with. It is easier to communicate with software developers if you understand the work they are doing. You should understand the process of how people develop an application.
Don’t let a lack of programming skills scare you away from starting your business – it is fine to learn as you go. Find a product, get your store started, and start making money. It may take a while before you have to do anything that requires programming.
You have to build an attractive webpage to make sales. Potential customers are very sensitive and will leave your site if you annoy them a little.
If it loads too slow, they will hit the back button. They will also hit the back button just because there is something wrong with the appearance of the site. The colors have to fit together, the images have to the right size and in the right places.
Website design might be the first thing you should learn a little about. You might not put your e-commerce store online until the appearance is excellent. Website design is relatively quick and easy to learn.
While you don’t have to be an expert in this or any other field before you start, it is an important skill for anyone who makes money from an online business. The internet is full of thieves, hackers, and scammers. Many hackers will vandalize vulnerable sites for fun; others intend to steal money.
Some cybercriminals are simply scam artists and do not possess advanced hacking skills. They will use simple methods to trick people into handing over money or information.
Everyone has received emails that were obviously from scammers. Scammers often pose as an important person who needs help. If you can give them only a few thousand, they can reward you with millions of dollars.
These scams usually come off as laughably obvious. However, if they send a very large number of emails, some people will reply and even hand over their money. This is known as “phishing” – sending out a large number of emails and hoping a few fall for the trick.
Other hackers target a small number of people or a single person. They rely on clever, believable tricks that have a reasonable chance of success on each person they try the trick on.
If you own an online business, someone might try to scam you or trick one of your employees. They may impersonate someone else and use a well-thought-out strategy. If they are targeting a specific person, their scams will not be as obvious as those sent to huge email lists.
Some hackers simply like to break websites. They might use a DDoS (“distributed denial of service”) attack to break your website for no reason.
These attacks can include using bots to create too much traffic to your site and making it slow to a crawl. Many hackers also intend to use DDoS attacks to make money.
After they make your business unable to operate, they will extort money from you. Don’t give them money – they won’t necessarily leave you alone. They are likely to demand even more money once they realize you will pay.
People with cybersecurity skills can protect a site from these attacks by making it differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate traffic. Bots won’t be able to use bandwidth on a secure website.
Hackers also use viruses. They can send a virus that will freeze your system and demand money. Again, don’t pay them – they are criminals and won’t leave you alone after you give them money.
You don’t need to know how to program a cybersecurity system yourself. However, you should know about what tricks hackers use and the basic ways to protect yourself from them. Know a little about how hackers trick people, send viruses, steal information, and avoid detection.
When you have a business, it becomes especially important not to download malware. Malware can steal your credit card numbers and allow for identity theft even if you don’t have a business.
Once you are working online, it becomes even more dangerous. Be careful what you download.
The more rarely used a program is, the more dangerous it is. Virus-check everything you download. Regularly scan your computer for viruses and malware.
Firewalls and filters are also important and easy to use. You can install a firewall program that will not let malware and viruses access your computer.
You might also require more than a simple password to gain access to your system. You should use two-factor authentication – require both a password and something else besides a password. You might even use three or more factors.
For example, you send a text message with a code as well as ask for a password. When an employee is trying to log in, they will receive a text message with a code that they have to enter to get past your security.
This is much more secure than a password because a hacker would need to physically possess an employee’s phone to get the code. There are many other ways to make logging in require you to have the right hardware and not merely know a password.
Dozens of other skills may come in handy. You will largely be able to learn as you go rather than spending time learning a new skill for a while before you can use it. Some other major skills are:
- Legal knowledge. You may need to know about intellectual property rights, taxes, labor laws, contracts, and how to avoid being sued for damages if anything goes wrong.
- Business math. Once you are past the early stages, you will need to estimate what you will make each month, figure out how much to save for taxes, plan ahead and pay your employees.
- Ability to change and adapt. Not only does search engine optimization change very fast, but so does the whole e-commerce world. You will have to learn new business practices, skills, and strategies to stay competitive.
- Knowledge about your product. You should know who buys it, who manufactures it, whether the market is growing or shrinking, and so on. Know as much about the product you are selling and your customers as possible.
Opportunity and Risk of Running an Ecommerce Business
There are so many people buying so many different products online that very many people can make money selling them. Your online store both has to stand out and has to be professional looking. If you can manage both, you can make money.
If you are getting manufacturers to make a product for you, there is risk involved. Any time you spend money on something you intend to sell, you risk losing the money.
It is also risky to quit your job too early. When you start making sales, you may get excited and want to work on your business full time. You might end up working hard on your business but still slowly going into debt.
However, if you do everything slowly and carefully, there is not much risk. If you pick away at your business part-time until your business doesn’t make much less than your day job does, it is safe. You can choose to risk nothing other than time.