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How to Start Your Own Online Store

One of the main goals here at OutOfYourRut is finding and promoting ways to convert the salary-and-cubical set to the liberating universe of entrepreneurialism. 50 years ago that would most likely have meant setting up a storefront downtown to start peddling your wares.

But that was then, and this is now. The “Big Box” retailers have all but destroyed the quaint storefront shops of not-so-long-ago, so we have to develop better business models in order to be successful. That’s not as difficult as it seems at first glance—in a very real way, it’s even easier now.

Today’s version of the downtown shop is an online store. It’s another example of the 21st Century version of “cottage industry”. From a physical standpoint, it may seem radically different from the bricks-and-mortar businesses of old, but it actually functions in the exact same way.

Online stores are the way to go for “the little guy”

One of the big advantages of the end of bricks-and-mortar—if it’s fair to say as much—is that the start up of an online business requires much less capital, and that’s a real advantage for a new entrepreneur. While launching a storefront business can require several hundred thousand dollars to get going, an online version can be done for just a couple thousand or maybe even a few hundred.

What does that mean to you as a new business owner?

  • You won’t have to scrape up a high five- or six figure investment before even opening the doors.
  • A high up front investment means HIGH RISK—everything you have is on the line!
  • When you need to come up with that much capital most of it will come from loans; starting a business in-debt is one big strike against you from the get-go.
  • You can keep your available capital to grow your business instead of having to service acquisition debt.
  • If the business fails, you can walk away—your capital isn’t tied up in it.

In a real way we can say that the online business model has increased the odds in favor of your success.

Getting an online store launched

On the surface, starting a blog looks easy, don’t you think? You write articles to create content, respond to reader comments, accept a few ads and you’re in business, right? If only it were true! Pick any business you can think of and it’s never that easy

In almost any business you can imagine there are at least two co-equal parts; the generation of products or services, and the sum total of everything associated with bringing those products and services to market—what we might loosely call the business of running your business. You MUST have good products or services, but if your business doesn’t have a successful marketing system you’ll never make any money.

Many of us have outstanding ideas for products and services, mainly because they fall within our skill sets. But what do any of us know about running an online store? What do most of us know about marketing??? The answers to those questions are the primary reason why some businesses succeed and others fail!

Where do you find a good online marketing program?

From someone who’s actually doing it. I’m going to introduce you to one.

Steve Chou is a real guy—I know him from our mutual membership in our small, close-knit mastermind group that started in the fall of 2010. He didn’t approach me about his program, I approached him. Any program that will help people who want to start their own business is something I’m interested in writing about.

Steve and his wife, Jennifer, started an online store of their own so that she could stay home with their kids and still earn enough to replace the income from her old job. They took their online store from zero income to six figures in about a year. Do I have your attention yet?

What are they selling? Online wedding linens! I mention this because wedding linens are most definitely a niche, and that goes to prove that the possibilities of what can be profitably sold on the web is nearly endless. Your idea—what ever it is—may not be as far “out there” as others would have you believe. The internet has changed everything.

Running the online store is Steve and Jennifer’s main business, but Steve decided to develop and share their strategies and tactics with other would-be online entrepreneurs through a comprehensive program. If you want to start selling on the web this is a real opportunity to jump start your plans.

Will the program cost money?

Yes. But if you’re going to be an entrepreneur you’re going to have to get used to investing at least some money in your business. You can spend a little capturing the knowledge of others who are already doing what it is you want to do, or you can do it “old school” by trying to reinvent the marketing wheel. That’s a lot more expensive.

Consider what’s involved in developing your own online marketing plan and what you’ll avoid if you use an established program:

  1. The time it takes to develop a workable plan
  2. The money it costs to develop the plan
  3. The mistakes you’ll make along the way (costing you more time and money)
  4. The stress that comes from wearing two hats—product/service supply and marketing
  5. Learning all the technical crap that comes with doing just about anything on the web (this has been a HARD lesson for me with this blog)
  6. The uncertainty that comes with the launching of any new marketing program

The purpose of having an online marketing plan for your business is to eliminate all of these problems and delays. Starting a business of any kind relies heavily on confidence and nothing will build that more quickly than a fast cash flow.

You want to be able to hit the ground running with what ever it is you want to sell. This is a critical piece of launching and succeeding with an online store, so this is not the time to be frugal. The carpenter’s adage is “measure twice, cut once”—your chance to do all the necessary “measuring” for your new business is now.

Check out Steve’s online store program and see if you can’t use it to jump start your online business plans. Seriously, if you’ve never run a successful online business you need to get some sort of instruction before taking the plunge and spending thousands of dollars feeling your way through the dark.

If you wanted to learn how to sky dive would you hop on an airplane, throw on a parachute, and just jump out of the plane? No, you’d get training first wouldn’t you? You should do the same with a new business—get some sort of training.

There aren’t many places you can go to or people who you can turn to who will teach you how to run a business, but Steve Chou is one of them. Use his expertise to your own advantage.

If Steve’s online store plan works for you, I’d like to feature your story here on OutOfYourRut. If we’ve helped free you from the corporate cubical in any way then that’s a story we’d like to tell!

Related Posts:

The “Secret” to Self-Employed Success
10 Qualities of the Self-Employed Mindset
What to do if You Absolutely Can’t Afford Health Insurance
Self-Employment in the Internet Age
The Perfect Side Hustle: Freelance Blog Writer
How To Become a Part-Time Entrepreneur

( Photo from Flickr by Seattle Municipal Archives )


13 Responses to How to Start Your Own Online Store

  1. Angela J. Shirley says:

    I have often thought about doing something “online” along this way of thinking. My only concern is avoiding getting ripped off!

    Angela J. Shirley
    “How To Survive Unemployment”

  2. Kevin M says:

    Hi Angela–I agree. But before beginning an online business you first need a good idea of what it is you’ll offer. There’s nothing magic about working online–work is work and business is business. But being online is a much less expensive way to start a business and it opens up the entire world as a potential market.

    That said, Steve is an excellent guy to learn from if you ever have a product or service you want to take to the internet. If you do, maybe consider partnering with someone else to reduce the risk further. One of my best friends has been self-employed his entire life and partners anywhere he can. It’s a way to leverage people, money and resources.

  3. Katherine says:

    My husband and I are Steve’s students. We signed up for the course last year and launched our store recently. We actually had our first sale the week before last, we sell quinceanera dresses and now more are coming in. I can personally attest to Steve’s course and his commitment to his students. He’s genuinely concerned with our success.

    But in all honesty, there is work evolved here. This isn’t an overnight, set it and forget project. There’s lots of trial and error and you are forced to became a jack of all trades and master of most. However, we have not come across one single issue that Steve’s coursework or guidance (on the forums and weekly office hours) has not helped us find the solution to. He stays current on the constantly shifting SEO landscape and Google’s frequent updates and relays that information to us swiftly.

    I could go on, but I’ll end with a message to those who’ve entertained the thought of starting their own business online – there are lots of resources on how to launch a business but most do not paint a complete picture. Steve’s course does. Again, highly recommend. Feel free to contact us via our site if you want more details.

  4. Kevin M says:

    Hi Katherine–Thanks for a realistic assessment of starting an online business. What you’ve written is true of nearly any business. I also think it’s always best that when you start a business that you’re aware that it won’t be overnight and it won’t be get-rich-quick. If you think it will be either, you’re chances of succeeding are MUCH lower. You have to go in with the idea that it will be work and that it will take time. With the proper expectations you’ll be better able to last the long haul that will be needed. If you go in expecting overnight riches you’ll be disappointed early and then you’ll quit. Attitude has so much to do with success!

  5. I am still looking for a good niche product to sell online. One problem with selling things online is that it has a low barrier to entry. So, any profitable strategy is sure to bring a lot of competitors. Finding an exculusive or unique product seems like one of the keys to me.

  6. Kevin M says:

    Hi Bret–That’s so true, low barriers to entry are a double edged sword, they make it easier for you to get in but also for others for all the same reasons. I think a willingness to stay the course is the dividing line. Yes, a lot of people will get in, but the majority will get weak-kneed and fold when big money doesn’t come in quickly. It’s often a matter of outlasting your competition.

    I’ve written a good deal on this site about setting up a business as a sideline, that way you won’t be relying on the income right away, and you’ll be able to stay in it for as long as it takes making adjustments along the way. Better to make mistakes while you’re still on someone else’s payroll is my thinking. That alone can buy you the time needed to make your business a success.

  7. Katherine says:

    Bret, we’re a testament to Kevin’s advice to you. We maintain our day jobs while launching our business. A few months ago, we crossed that dividing line. I was frustrated at all the work we had put it, but starting to having doubts that we would ever have a sale, much less enough income to truly work for ourselves. The thought crossed my mind about quitting, but we pushed through and were rewarded with the beginnings of success. Most people quit right there.

    As far as having a unique or exclusive product, I agree. But keep in mind, with a unique product you’ll need to do a lot of marketing to introduce the product and create demand. If you have a online business, less competitive keywords are the literally the keys to success, regardless of the commonness of the product.

  8. Thanks for the encouragement Kevin and Katherine.

    I have an awesome day job as an IT Manager and it’s both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I can comfortably support my whole family and still save 30% of my net income. Plus, I have solid network and programming skills. On the other hand, it doesn’t quite make me a hungry entrepreneur. I have been blogging for five years, so I can definitely stay the course.

    I don’t make the kind of income that would like from my blog, so I am definitely thinking about new opportunities. At my last job, I built a number of websites that sold proprietary data to the insurance industry. Since the data was unique and specialized, we didn’t have to compete with generic data houses. I just need to find something unique enough to be a quality provider, instead of a commodity provider.

    Good luck on your Quincinera Gallery website Katherine. I think it’s an awesome idea and I hope your sales pick up.

  9. Kevin M says:

    Bret & Katherine–The other issue that gets taken care of here is income diversification. It never hurts to have more than one income souce since jobs are so uncertain. If you have an online store, or any other kind of business, up and running when you lose your job you won’t ever have to start over, you’ll already have an income and then you can put all of your efforts into building it into something more.

  10. When you start online store web design, you must apply certain elements to your site to entice visitors to stay and look around. Whether it is your very own website or a page you have created on someone else’s website, it is up to you to take the site and turn it in to prime real estate.

  11. Kevin M says:

    So true, your site has to be compelling enough to keep customers coming to the site, staying there long enough to buy, and eager to come back again in the future. That’s why you need to get help from an expert!

  12. glen says:

    Interesting and timely post. This will surely help to start my online store. Thanks for sharing. I’ll check your site again to learn something new.

  13. janine says:

    I do have marketing plan but it doesn’t help. This was really frustrating.

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