Setting up a business can be a lot of hard work. There are countless decisions to be made, from location, to budgets, marketing plans and more.
But what about setting up an online business, run from the comfort of your own home? How would you go about setting it up?
Our BoBsquad™ technicians have spent a large chunk of time assisting customers get their online businesses set up, so we turned to BoBsquad™ agent Conor Stewart for some sage advice on the technical side of setting up an online business.
What are the main benefits of setting up an online business?
The biggest advantage for a budding entrepreneur is the flexibility of online. Rental costs are much lower than a traditional brick and mortar store, not to mention massive savings on operational costs such as heat and lighting.
Online business owners are also open 24/7 and can reach customers across Australia and even further afield, unlike conventional stores which are limited by geography and local trading hours.
First thing’s first – what do you need to get up and running?
After you’ve nailed down your business plan, a good first step is to register your business name in the state that you intend to operate out of.
If you want a ready-to-go solution, iiNet’s Shopping Cart is an easy-to-use web based tool to help you build a professional e-commerce website from start to finish but if you prefer to go it alone, the next step is to book an appointment with your local bank to set up an account to handle financial transactions, or investigate other payment options like PayPal accounts.
Next up, you’ll need to design your shopfront! Your website is the main customer facing part of your business and you want to make sure it does a great job explaining what you are offering potential customers.
Designing your shopfront – the all-important website!
If you are a dab hand at design you could always try design your website yourself, but for a few hundred dollars, there are online services that help you get an online business up and running with an attractive, functional website.
For an all singing, all dancing website with images, videos, fancy features and slick design, it’s worth hiring a web design company to do the donkey work. Make sure to choose a company that has experience in your industry and with start-ups who can talk you through the different options.
Once that’s done, you’ll need to register your domain name. If you need help, iiNet can help with our domain registration service.
Then, all you really need to get going is a reliable computer, internet connection and a lot of determination!
How much ongoing support is needed?
The initial setup of an online store is the most critical phase. From then on, you’ll need to continuously maintain and improve your store. How much ongoing support you need is really up to your computer skills – the less you know, the more help you will need. It is vital that you keep in regular contact with your website designers.
Common mistakes new online businesses make
Much like conventional business, there is also a high failure rate of online businesses. To minimise the risk of failure, you need to ensure that you continually maintain your infrastructure.
You must also ensure that customers can easily search and buy your product or service online. A number of online businesses build flashy websites that look great, but make life hard for their customers when it comes to making a booking or trying to buy items at checkout.
Getting the word out there
If you build it, they will come… if they know you exist that is! Social media is a great way to get the word out about your brand. Look at some of the most successful brands in your industry and how they approach social media – the most popular brands on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest spark up interesting conversations, share images, videos and interesting links and genuinely engage with their customers, rather than having a one way conversation about their business.
If your budget allows, there are a host of online advertising options that offer good value for money for a new business to get the word out there.
A helping hand
While the BoBsquad™ are on hand to help with technical set up, there’s a wealth of support available online for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
iiNet also offers ‘Learn with iiNet’ workshops on everything from using a tablet to getting started on social networks so if you feel your skills are not up to scratch, these workshops are a great way to learn in a group environment. Savvy friends and family are also a great support.
Setting up a small business can be tough, so why not find out about local support groups, online forums and events where you can meet other business owners and hear their words of wisdom!
Share your story
Did you take the plunge and set up an online business? Share your experiences in the comments section below, we’d love to hear from you.
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