The better way to sell online

Start your business the right way

Have you got an idea you’d love to turn into a business? These tips will help you on your way to success.

What’s your idea?

The key to any successful business is that it fulfils a need. If you have a look around the room you’re in, you’ll likely find a function for everything you see. That’s because no one will buy a product or service which doesn’t benefit them.

Before you take any additional steps ask yourself two questions;

1. What exactly is your idea?

2. Why should people care?

While it’s important that your business is something you’re passionate about, it’s also important that it’s marketable. Your goal shouldn’t just be self-satisfaction; it should be the ability to enhance someone else’s life. What would your business achieve? Would it sell artwork to beautify home spaces? Would it sell industrial strength coffee cups for the service industry?

Try to make your idea as specific as possible. What exactly do you want to achieve? Who are you selling to, and why should they bite?

Once you’ve got your idea, you’ll need to ask yourself another set of important questions.

1. How much money would people be willing to pay for your products?

2. Would that income be enough?

Even if your idea is fantastic and a market exists, you’ll still have to make money. . For example, you might create incredible artwork that sells straight away. But if the price of the artwork doesn’t cover your costs, you won’t be able to keep your head above water.

Research, research, research

Once you’ve got your idea and refined it, do your research. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve come up with incredible ideas only to hop online and find them already made. Save yourself time and energy from the get-go by finding out what’s out there.

Try to find answers to the following questions:

Who are your biggest competitors? What is their market share?

What are your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses?

What might prevent you from entering the market?

What are the best places to advertise?

What other businesses could impact your success? How could you counter them?

Where are your competitors and customers located?

What would make your idea be competitive in this market.

If you want to sell affordable computers, research other businesses which do the same. This can be a surprising process. You might find that products similar to your own are selling for much more or much less than you expected.

Reach out to as many trusted people as you can and ask them what they think. If you can’t convince any of your friends of your idea, it might be worth going back to the drawing board.

The reaction you get could be a prediction of how customers will react, so listen carefully.

But don’t ask only friends, as their answers will often be emotionally charged. Often, they will have one of two responses. They will agree your idea is great because they don't want to hurt you, or they'll be against you going into business at all. That could be because they want to protect you from a perceived danger.

So the more independent feedback you can get, the better.

While you’re finalizing your business plans, you must be a sponge. Listen to experts, family, and other business owners. Even if no-one you know has any idea how to run a business, their reaction to your proposed products could guide you.

Find your advantage

It can be tempting to copy other businesses. If they’re succeeding, logic states that you should succeed if you do the same thing. But it’s just not true. If your business is a complete imitation of another, you’ll end up with no advantages over them. Why should a customer pick you instead of them?

When you’re looking at the existing market, look for points of difference between you and other businesses. If you can’t find any, create some. If you notice that other businesses are lacking a feature, implement it in your own. It might be minor, such as allowing customers to track shipping, or something larger such as product design.

Identify as many advantages for your new business as possible. Then, trim them down to those you can afford, always focusing on the biggest bang for your buck. When you’re looking at the existing market, try to find points of difference between you and other businesses. If you can’t find any, create some. If you notice that other businesses are lacking a feature, implement it in your own.

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Create your business plan

Before any business can become operational, it needs to have a plan.

A business plan will function as a roadmap. It will guide you through each stage of starting and managing your business. It’ll help you iron out any problems you might have missed, and will provide you with a clear idea of what’s ahead. Your business plan can also be instrumental in convincing people to work with and buy from you.

Earn while you build

While it can be tempting to leap into the deep end, keep your day job. Until you’re earning a stable income from your business it can be risky leaping into it full time.

You need to work out exactly how much your business will cost you. That means examining your expenses, rent, marketing budget, supplies and more. Make the most educated guess you can, and then triple it.

Most first-time business owners won’t expect every expense, so it’s better to over-prepare. Keep in mind that you also need to survive! What’s your budget for healthcare, food and living?

Once you have an overview of your expenses, create a business budget. Consulting a professional like an accountant can help guide you in the right direction.

If hiring a professional isn’t an option, break your finances into three categories. Those are

Expected revenue

Expenses.

Profits.

While some expenses are fixed, such as rent, others will fluctuate each month, such as electricity. You also need to account for unexpected costs, such as a car breaking down...

Examine your current finances. How much are you earning from your day job? How long could your saving last if you quit? What would happen if an unexpected cost arose, like an illness or property damage? Create a plan for everything, and supplement your income for as long as possible.

No one is an island

It’s important to reach out to others and ask for help when you need it. You could contact accountants, lawyers and business planning specialists. If you can’t afford professionals, head to your local library and hire out business books.

Learning about businesses from others can save you time and money and mistakes. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of intelligence and it will help you get things right the first time around.

Shout from the rooftops

You might want to wait until your business has officially started to look for customers and clients. Don’t. Your business won’t be able to survive without them, so start gathering interested parties once your business has begun to take shape. You could do this by networking at events and connecting with people who might be interested in your business. You can also speak to family and friends.

It’s not uncommon that people pre-order games and books, so there’s no reason they couldn't look forward to your business launching. Of course, don’t start promoting your business if you’ve taken no steps at all to begin it. Make sure you have a solid base to stand on, otherwise you might just be sending out false promises.

It will be difficult to make sales if you’re too nervous to promote your product. If you’re not outgoing, fake it. It will become easier with time, and will give your business it’s best possible chance.

Do it right the first time

Get your legal stuff sorted. Your local government will have a list of laws and regulations when it comes to taxes, registration and insurance. Find out what your responsibilities are before you get started.

While the laws might not be any fun, you need to understand and follow them. Building a business only to have it shut due to penalties is frustrating and preventable.

If you hire employees, follow employer laws. Do it right the first time.

Keep your passion in check

Passion is what will keep you awake at two in the morning. It is what will motivate you to make your business the best it can be.

But passion isn’t enough; you also need knowledge and wisdom. Just because you absolutely adore an idea, it isn’t guaranteed to succeed. Take a step back and analyse. Your passion will create the goal, and your logic will pave the steps to get there.

Get other people’s opinions, learn about the industry and reach out to professionals. That way, you’ll be confident about how to build your business while keeping the enthusiasm to get you there.

- Lena Klein

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