Starting off on the right foot
Your brain is buzzing with an out-of-this-world idea for an online business. You believe it’s a game-changer, so you’re ready to hit the green button and launch that website.
But before you do that, let’s help you tighten a few nuts and bolts so you can start off on the right foot.
Here’s what to know before starting an online business:
1. Be passionate
Starting an online business can make you some extra coin and set you up for a secure future but owning any business needs grit. Dedication, commitment, and passion are character traits you can’t afford to switch on and off.
Business is around-the-clock work. If you’re not eager about your business, putting in the work will seem like a chore.
When you have a passion and enthusiasm for your business idea, you’re more likely to be successful. If you love something, putting in extra hours will come naturally to you, and you’ll be more inclined to pay close attention to ensure that everything about it runs smoothly and is taken care of.
2. Budget your finances
Starting a business is not free. You must spend money to make money. While it may cost you a whole lot less starting it online, every business comes with startup costs.
It’s important to keep a grip on these costs by managing a budget while starting your online business. It’s also important to keep in mind that you’ll put in more effort in the beginning and probably see very little return at first.
The benefits of budgeting your finances:
- It helps you keep track of your money’s movements
- It reduces the risk of being short of cash if a problem arises
- It creates boundaries on what you can and cannot spend on (which means you can save)
- It improves your focus and clarity on your business goals
The more you budget, the more you’ll become money savvy because you’ll have an increasing amount of confidence to manage your business’s financial performance.
So, detail your budget, your business goals and how you will get funding to reach them.
Start to manage your online business digitally with The 5 Best Apps to Manage Your Money (And a Sneaky Number 6)
3. Network and connect
As your business grows, you’ll need people around you (both inside and outside) to help you along the way. As Malcolm Gladwell says: “Nobody makes it alone.”
So, you need to find partnerships, connections and a community of entrepreneurs who will equip, support, and ignite new ideas and effective ways of working.
Networking may seem daunting at first, but it gets easier. As you get into the swing of it, it’ll add value to your personal growth and that of your online business.
- Attend online conferences
- Plan (virtual) coffee meetups
- Sign up for masterclasses
- Join online discussions
If there’s a platform that’s given business owners and individuals easy access to the ways of networking and connecting, it’s the online world. So, reach out. Many entrepreneurs are going through a similar experience. You’ll be surprised, people may be more receptive than you think.
Here’s a list of online networking groups to join:
Bumble isn’t just about connecting you to a soulmate anymore. They’re also in the business of setting you up with partnerships that’ll help you on your entrepreneurship journey.
SA Business Hub/Majestic Coffee Groups
Majestic Coffee Group sets up small groups of business owners who meet regularly to help each other with business owner problems – like becoming more financially sustainable.
This is our very own Facebook group created to connect you with other fellow business owners and expand your network to grow your business.
It’s in the name. Bizcommunity plugs you into a collaborative community of business owners to help move your business forward through solid partnerships.
Using matchmaking algorithms to connect business professionals, Opportunity gives business owners the platform to grow their network and collaborate on projects together.
But it doesn’t have to stop online. Although your business operates online, there are many offline opportunities to find business partnerships to bring online.
4. Plan procurement – find suppliers or manufacturers
The action of obtaining or procuring something.
This is the stage where you plan to source your products from suppliers and manufacturers.
When it comes to finding the best supplier and manufacturer for your online business, Shopify spells it out in six simple steps.
Google is your friend when it comes to research. Word-of-mouth is an even closer friend – this is when your online business community comes in handy. There are plenty of business owners you can partner with or who can guide you during the research process.
2. Outreach and collect information
Pick your top three suppliers and manufacturers and begin the process of sourcing out quotes to compare.
3. Communicate your designs
Whichever supplier or manufacturer you choose to go with, the follow-up question would be if they create or supply what you’re asking for. For the best possible results, it’s ideal to send sketches, instructions, and reference photos.
If what you’re planning to sell already exists, order a sample, get a feel of the quality, material, everything. So you’re well aware of what you’re signing up for.
The same will apply if your product is being designed. See if the supplier or manufacturer delivers what you had in mind.
You and your supplier or manufacturer can reach a point where you’re happy enough to build a long-term healthy relationship. It can be a win-win situation.
Now you can get the ball rolling! Do quality control of every product you order, so you don’t have to do damage control later.
5. Understand shipping requirements
If you’re an online business that sells products to customers, you need to consider how ordered products will move from point A to point B.
You need to think about the following:
Your pricing: How will you charge your customers for shipping? Bear in mind that the pricing can make or break the purchase decision.
Packaging: Where will you source your packaging, and which packaging best suits your business?
Note – lighter packing means lower shipping costs.
Locations: Where will your online business ship its products? As your business grows, you may expand your territories.
Tip in action: Do your research on courier companies that are reliable in the areas you’ll be operating. And find out about customs fees that may cause some hurdles in the package delivery process.
6. Have a business idea that’s scalable or adaptable
The world of ecommerce has a bucket full of opportunities, now more than ever. Your business idea may answer a problem that exists now but ask yourself if you’re able to adapt or improve it for the sake of your business’s future survival.
Enter the world of business with a growth mindset. Be on the lookout for trends, experiment with new operating methods, and always do continuous research.
7. Don’t dismiss branding
What is the power of branding? It is the ability to build a business’ reputation and perception to influence customer behaviour.
Find out what branding could do for your business: A Guide to Branding a Small Business
8. Invest in great customer service
Your business needs brand advocates online, especially in the age of HelloPeter and customer review sites.
Social proof shows that people have paid for your products or services and have found value in them. A potential customer sees this evidence and becomes a customer. There’s a higher chance of a person jumping on your product or service bandwagon when they’ve seen someone else using it.
So, invest in good customer support. It’ll make it easier for customers in the consideration phase to choose you over your competitors simply because people have good things to say about your business. And these days, people trust what others say about your business far more than what you have to say about your business.
Worth the read: Boost Your Business with Social Proof
The scepticism around online shopping is that there is no easy or direct access to the people who work at the online store for queries or complaints. To build trust, you must make it easy for your customers to contact you.
You can do this by setting up contact forms on your website or making it easier for your customers to reach out to you on socials.
Now here’s the beauty of having contact forms – email lists. Email lists can be a big and beneficial part if you decide to go the emailer marketing route for your marketing strategy. You can never be too early to start the email list. It will take you a long way when you’re creating content to keep those customers coming back for more.
9. Create a professional website
Your website is the first point of contact for your online business. If your website looks unprofessional, your online business will lose its credibility.
There are many easy-to-use and professional website domains that you could use to build an online presence for your business idea.
According to Fullstory.com, these are the frustrations users experience when they’re shopping online:
- Poor design: Clunky, dysfunctional, dated, or bad elements.
- Performance: A slow-loading site or app.
- Annoyances: Aggressive pop-ups, ads, or automatic opt-ins.
- Functionality: User errors, bugs, or non-working elements.
- Complexity: Overly complex steps or tedious tasks.
- Confusion: Hidden or hard to find elements.
If that’s not enough, how’s this stat? 53% of mobile users leave websites in three seconds.
That means that you have three seconds to capture your visitor’s attention with an experience so captivating and seamless, it makes them stay on your site for much longer. And it’s all in the details.
Get a head start with A Beginner’s Guide: How to Build a Website
The more you know, the better
If you didn’t feel prepared before, you may feel a little more prepared now. Take confidence in this: you will grow the more you jump on the next few articles about starting an online business we have for you.
Your next read:7 Reasons to Start an Online Business in 2022
iKhokha also has a range of ecommerce products in the pipeline to help small businesses make more money online. Take a look at the very first product in this series, the iKhokha Payment Gateway for WordPress.