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Starting an Online Business: Step by Step Guide

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Side hustles are growing more and more common. Whether it’s a friend selling upcycled furniture on Etsy or a colleague selling vintage clothes online, everyone seems to be doing it!

With our step by step guide to starting an online business, you can discover everything you need to know to make your new business a success.

Reasons to Start an Online Business

You might have toyed with the idea of starting an online business before and never followed through, but there are some great reasons to stick at it. Not only could an online business help to put a little more money in your pocket, they also have huge growth potential.

By starting your business online you can reduce start-up costs, without the need for a bricks and mortar premises. This means no business rates and no commercial rent. In addition to this, if your business grows quickly, you won’t find yourself having to move premises. In most cases, all you need to start an online business is a laptop, a domain name and a website.

Setting up an online business also means you get to be your own boss. This is great for people with busy lifestyles who need flexibility, or for those who just want a little freedom from the 9-5.

Of course, you may choose to start online businesses out of passion. Maybe you have a talent that you want to share with the world...Why not make it into your new online business?

The Benefits of an Online Business

From freedom to cost savings, we summarise the main benefits of starting an online business.

  • Relatively inexpensive start-up costs
  • Freedom to be your own boss
  • Do something you’re passionate about
  • Scalability potential
  • Sell online 24/7

Easy Online Businesses to Start

So you’re sold on the idea of starting an online business but aren’t sure what to sell..check out some of our ideas!

  • Clothing - you could make your own clothes, sell on vintage shop finds or give old clothing a new lease of life.
  • Cosmetics - do you make your own cosmetics at home? From facemasks to perfume, makeup your mind to sell them online!
  • Candles - scented candles are a fun and easy product to make at home. With relatively cheap supplies, you can create high-end quality candles to sell online.
  • Food and beverages - fancy yourself a bit of a baker? You could set up a local bakery business selling cakes and traybakes to people in your area. If you’re looking for a larger reach, you could sell longer life products such as sweets, jams, chutneys, artisan beers,  gins and more.

10 Steps to Starting Your Online Business

Starting your own business might seem daunting at first but we’ve put together 10 easy steps to follow to help your online business become a success.

1. Hone in on your niche

A common mistake when starting an online business is trying to do too much. The most successful online businesses fill a specific need and do it well!

Having a niche allows you to become known for your specialism and makes people more likely to return to your online store, or recommend you to a friend. It also becomes easier to build a cohesive brand and connect with your target market more effectively.

It can also make your business operation run more smoothly, keeping it simple and focusing on one specific area.

2. Decide on your product(s)

Once you have your niche nailed down, you can start to think about what products you are going to offer related to that. Think about whether you are going to offer a physical product or a service. For physical products, you will also need to think about where you are going to store your stock before it is sold.

Research different potential suppliers, either for your end product or the materials required to create your end product. This will help you to make sure you are getting a good price and can make a tidy profit margin.

If you are making your own products, you may need to add product labels. Think about how and where your products will be used before deciding which kind of label you are going to use. Will they get wet? If so, choose a waterproof label material. Alternatively, choose one of our most cost-effective paper labels for a more eco-friendly option.

3. Familiarise yourself with online business laws or regulations

When starting an online business, you need to carry out the necessary research to ensure you meet all business laws and regulations related to your product or service.

For those selling food or beverages, there are strict regulations on product labelling. This also applies to products such as cosmetics, soaps, CBD products and vape liquids.

In most cases, you will need to detail ingredients, allergens, weight, best before date (if applicable), storage conditions etc. You will be able to find a detailed list of packaging requirements on the Government website.

4. Conduct competitor research

Making sure you have a good understanding of the competitive landscape is key to making your online business a success. Take a look at what your competitors are doing.

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

  • What products do they sell?
  • How do my products differ?
  • What is my USP?
  • Why should someone purchase from me over my competitors?
  • Do they use any marketing tactics - social media, special offers etc?
  • What platform do they sell on - Etsy, eBay, Amazon, their own website?

Once you have answered these questions, you will be in a much better position to decide how you’re going to make your business stand out...which brings us on to branding!

5. Create your brand

A brand is the first thing your customers see; it is going to form their first impression of your business therefore, getting your branding right is essential!

Your brand should tell a story, communicating to your customers what your business is all about. Your brand should appeal to your target market to make the biggest impact.

  • Think about your brand colours - what feel do they give off?
  • What is your logo going to look like?
  • What tone of voice are you going to use on your website and social posts?
  • What platforms are you going to use to show off your brand?/What platforms do your customers use?

When designing your branding and logo, remember that it will have to be used in a range of places including online, on packaging and on marketing materials. Your branding needs to be cohesive throughout.

Once you have decided on your logo, why not get some logo stickers printed to promote your new business?

6. Decide on your delivery method

Your delivery method will largely depend on the products you are selling. You may choose to post products via the Royal Mail or alternatively, you may wish to use a courier service such as DPD, Yodel or Hermes.

You could also offer your own delivery or collection service for those in the local area, or for larger products such as furniture.

For a relatively small volume of sales, you may wish to visit the post office as and when you need to but if sales pick up, you may wish to open an account with Royal Mail or one of the aforementioned courier companies.

You will also need to ensure delivery costs have been factored into your budget. You could add a delivery fee as an additional charge, or you could factor it into the cost of your products and offer a free delivery service.

7. Create packaging to suit

In terms of packaging, there are so many different options out there, from poly bags and paper bags to cardboard boxes...and that’s just the outer packaging!

To avoid damage to your products, you may also need to think about bubble wrap, brown paper or airbags to stop them sliding around in transit. There are also environmental considerations to take into account. Take a look at our eco-friendly packaging ideas.

You will also need to decide whether you are going to use generic or branded packaging. Having custom packaging created can be extremely costly, especially for smaller runs. A more affordable idea is to buy generic packaging in bulk and add packaging labels such as a logo sticker to give it your own special touch!

You can also brand up other aspects of your packaging. Create custom address labels, barcode labels, asset labels and more, quickly and affordably with Handy Labels.

8. Build your website

For an online business, your website is your shop front. Not only does it need to look the part but it needs to function well too.

If you are following our steps to start an online business, you should have already created your logo, decided on your brand colours and made tone of voice guidelines. This will make creating your website much easier.

When just starting out, you will probably want to create your own website through a website builder such as WordPress. You can select from a wide range of templates and edit them in order to create your very own website.

Ensure that your website matches up to your branding and that the copy reflects your brand ethos. If you plan to sell products through your website, you may need to use a service such as Shopify. This will allow you to create product pages, implement special offers and process transactions.

Even if you plan to sell through a third-party platform such as Etsy, it is a good idea to set up a dedicated website. Not only does it help you to create a presence online but it also allows you to direct any users to your shop page.

9. Drive traffic to your site

It’s all well and good having a website, but if people can’t find it then your online business is unlikely to be a success. There are a number of different ways you can attract traffic to your website.

You could:

  • Use social media to promote your online business
  • Use paid advertising to promote your business in the search results, on Facebook or on affiliate sites
  • Attract traffic through organic search - use SEO practices to optimise your site for certain keywords, ensure it is technically sound and user friendly to climb your way up the search rankings
  • Use physical marketing techniques such as flyers and stickers - you could create QR code stickers that take users to your website and hand them out at events
  • Advertise on YouTube, the radio or in local newspapers and magazines

In most cases, a combination of these methods tends to work best. Try to get creative and think outside the box to help your brand stand out from the competition.

10. Encourage reviews

One of the most influential things you can do for your business is to encourage customer reviews. When starting an online business, you have not built any trust with your customer base yet. They will therefore look for trust signals before purchasing from you.

Having reviews from real customers will help to alleviate any concerns potential buyers may have had in order to encourage sales. People are more likely to trust an unbiased review from a member of the public than a product description from a business trying to sell to them. Ensure reviews are front and centre of your online presence.

You could add a label to your product packaging that details where customers can leave a review e.g. Google Reviews, Trustpilot etc.

You could even use a QR code sticker to take them directly there. Why not offer a special discount as an incentive for those who leave a review?

So there you have it, 10 steps to starting an online business. By following our steps you can break it down into manageable chunks so starting your business seems less daunting.

Need to create stickers for your new online business? Browse our wide range of personalised stickers and labels.