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Building An Online Store With Little Startup Capital

  • AUTHOR: John Accardi
  • DATE: 06/3/2014

There are many ways to start a business online with little startup capital, like affiliate marketing or blogging. Here, I will teach you how to build an online store. With these instructions and some persistence, you will be all set to sell products online!  

1. Pick a Niche

A common mistake when starting a business such as an online store is to try to sell a wide variety of products. The problem with this is that you will not be able to compete with the big-box online retailers like Amazon. So, you need to pick a niche. This means you should focus on a very narrow range of products. The idea is, that for your particular niche, you will be able to compete in search engine rankings. It also helps to choose a niche product that is hard to find in brick and mortar retail stores. For example, I own a store that sells beer pong tables. Think about it, if you wanted to buy a beer pong table, you probably wouldn’t look at your local shopping mall. Instead, you would use the search engines to find an online store that sells them.

2. Buy a Domain

A domain only costs $15 per year. I( bought my domain through Hostgator and I would recommend them because heir prices are great and more importantly, their customer service is phenomenal). Make sure to keep the domain name short and sweet. A memorable brand name can definitely help your business, too. For example I chose to use “partyhousepong.com” as opposed to something like “quality-beer-pong-tables.com.”

3. Purchase Web Hosting Services

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Don’t be intimidated by this. Web hosting starts at $8 per month. It’s not a big investment. These services will be able to talk you through everything you need to know in order to get your website up and running.

4. Use Opencart

Opencart is free, open-source software that you can download and use as the template for your store. The Opencart download comes with installation instructions that you will follow to upload the Opencart files to your domain’s directory on the server (Hostgator can help with this). You will also need a file transfer protocol (FTP) client to perform these uploads. I suggest downloading something like FileZilla for this. The technical specifics of this process are easy to learn and you’ll find tons of information with a Google search. Once the Opencart template is installed, there are many themes that can be installed to make your site look better. For example, check out ThemeForest for affordable theme downloads.

5. Find Drop Ship Suppliers

This is where you actually obtain the products that you’ll be selling. Since it’s risky and requires capital to stock inventory, I recommend doing a drop-shipping model (at least in the beginning). The concept behind this is that you will sell a product with your online store, then you will contact your supplier and buy the product from them and they will ship it to your customer. You never have to see the product and there is no risk involved. The disadvantage is that your profit margins will be small but it’s an excellent way to get started. So, how do you find the supplier? For PartyHouse Pong, instead of paying a one-time fee for a membership with a site such as Worldwidebrands, which I didn’t feel gave me enough product options, I ended up simply doing a Google search for “beer pong tables drop ship” and contacting the resulting websites, asking if I could drop ship their products.

6. Paypal Payments Account

You will need a way to accept payments online. The best way is to use a PayPal Payments Advanced account. For only $5 per month, this will allow you to accept debit cards, credit cards, and Paypal payments. It’s easy to set up and there’s a lot of support on the Paypal website.

7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Once your site is created and looking good, you will want to start working on your Google ranking. Google is by far the most used search engine and if your site appears at the top of the list for certain keywords, you could see some serious sales. The two most important aspects of SEO are to create valuable and original content and to generate links pointing back to your website. This takes some practice and will require sustained effort even after the store is built and functioning. A Google search for “SEO 2014” should get you started.

 

Extra Tips

  • This article is just a brief outline and you will need to learn more about each of these key steps. It might seem overwhelming at first but if you take it day-by-day, it will start to make sense. Everything you need to know can be found online. I didn’t pay for a single class and I wasn’t taught by anyone.
  • You might want to learn some basic computer programming. You don’t need to be an expert but it helps to be able to edit code once in a while if you want to customize something on your site. I looked over the basics of html, css, javascript, and php on codecademy.com.
  • You will want to become familiar with Adobe Photoshop. Many of the slider and banner images of Opencart-themed websites are created with Photoshop. When you download a theme, the .psd files are included. This way you can open the .psd files in Photoshop and customize them to fit your store. Adobe Creative Cloud is an affordable subscription and includes all the Adobe software programs.
  ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John Accardi
John Accardi

John earned a Bachelors of Science degree from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. After working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD for 2 years he was accepted into the Neuroscience PhD program at Georgetown University, only to leave school to start two of his own companies: partyhousepong.com and collegebox.com.

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