So you want to start an online business – a how to guide 2019, part 2

 

Welcome to the second part of how to start an online business or create a web-shop. If you have missed the beginning then click here for the first part of the online business guide.

 

Starting up your business

You know what you want to do, you know what to sell, so it’s only a matter of selecting the right platform to start building your empire.

Awesome!

I will share with you what has worked best for me and what are – in my opinion – the most important steps for setting up your site.

I’m mostly focusing on the business side of things so I won’t be going deep into technical details. My goal is to help you understand the process of creating an e-shop as a total. But if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment 🙂

Note: The below info is basic and generic advice that has helped me in the past that may or may not apply exactly to you. If you have hired a professional to assist you she or he might have a different method. The important thing is to have a solid plan.

Let’s begin.

Website structure

This is a very important step, if not the most important in setting up an online business because the way you will be structuring your website will be kind of a permanent step. Of course you can update it in the future but it’s not an easy task so it’s very important to get it right from the start.

What do I mean with website structure?

structure logical diagram

You need to make a plan, use a notepad if you like, to visualize how your website will be built.

Below are a few questions (similar to the ones on part 1 of this series) that by answering them, it will help you to get a better idea of how to set up everything on your web-shop.

Ask yourself:

  1. What are you selling?
  2. Is it one product or many?
  3. Is it a physical product or a service?
  4. If it’s one product or one service how will you present it to your visitors?
  5. If you have many products or services, do you have categories? Probably yes.
  6. How will you categorize your products?
  7. How will the customers navigate through your products?

The above questions are important to help you identify and create the navigation menu, the links, the structure of your website.

I will give you an example of what I mean.

Suppose you sell clothes. Typical examples of categories are the following:

Men – Women – Kids
And then under Men:
T-shirts, Pants, Socks, etc.

But maybe you want to categorize by clothing type

T-shirts – Pants – Socks
And then under T-shirts to use a filter for:
Men, Women, Kids

This is completely up to you and to whatever makes sense in your business, however, depending on the product you are selling it’s a good idea to check what your competitors are doing and how they have structured their products to get some inspiration.

Examples of navigation menus

Home – about – Products – contact

Home – about – Our partners – History – pricing – contact

Home – Women – Men – Kids – FAQ – Contact

… and so on. You get the idea

These are important things that need to be clear from the very beginning for a smooth and professional process.

Let’s move to the next step (or maybe previous, you’ll see what I mean)

Name your website aka buy a domain name.

This is a step that can be done before your website’s structure, so if you know the name already to go ahead and purchase the domain name. But as I said in Part 1, it’s a very important step as it is directly connected with your future branding activities. You need to put some serious thought into it so chose a brand name/domain name that defines your business.

The basic tech steps for setting up an e-shop, or any website for that matter, are the following:

  1. Buy a domain name.
  2. Buy hosting.
  3. Install/Upload your code to the server.

And I suppose now it’s time to talk WordPress.

Using WordPress for your online business.

Now we are getting somewhat technical. I will explain as simple as I can the process of setting up a website using WordPress since it’s something I have done many times in the past.

There are hosting providers where you can get all 3 (name, host, WordPress) at once without having to go to three different locations to get them.

To make things simple, I do recommend purchasing a hosting package from a provider that has also domain names (or vice versa get a domain name from a provider that also has hosting packages) and if possible double check if they offer 1-click WordPress installation.

This means that you don’t need to download and upload anything, but you can install WordPress once you have access your control panel with just 1 click.

In order for you to build a web-shop then you also need WooCommerce.

This is a platform specifically designed for WordPress and can be installed once you are done with your main WordPress installation.

Setting up WooCommerce can be tricky and requires a lot of work. You might need to hire someone so go ahead and estimate extra costs for that. If you are going to do it yourself, be prepared for a lot of work. Which is fine. Just know that it takes effort and many manhours to put an e-shop together.

The reason why I keep saying this is because I remember my mistakes and the first time I ever got involved with WooCommerce I got so overwhelmed I almost gave up. I was completely blocked. It took me a while to figure things out because I didn’t have a plan in advance.

Once you have a clear structure of your site everything is way easier. But I didn’t and that was my mistake. I was not prepared and I just started installing stuff without having a clear plan of the what’s and the how’s.

But I believe in you 🙂 You can do better than me.

If you don’t have a clear vision use my questions above. Make a small drawing if it helps you.

Visualize your basic categories which will become your navigation links. When you have a clear image of that then everything falls into place.

But also keep in mind. It’s ok to make mistakes and it’s ok to not know things. Working them out is part of the process and a great learning experience.

Let’s move on.

Setting up WordPress “manually” – no 1-click installation.

If you have a provider that doesn’t offer a 1click installation, don’t worry. I will explain what you need to do. The steps are pretty much the following:

  • Buy your domain name.
  • If you have a separate hosting provider set the DNS in your hosting provider’s control panel. This will make your website appear under www.yourdomain.com
  • Go to WordPress.org and download the installation files:
download wordpress

After you have completed the above steps successfully you will have a new WordPress website ready to be modified and customized to your needs.

Then if you want to install Woo-Commerce you can do that from WordPress’ dashboard. From the black vertical left menu go to Plugins> Add new

add new plugin wordpress

and Search for WooCommerce and from the results just press Install now.

install woocommerce

Congratulations! You are all set!

Other platforms

Besides WordPress and WooComerce there are more platforms that you might find better but this comes down to your personal preference. Below are a few of the most common website/e-shop building platforms that you can use.

Pro tip: Try them all before you decide which one is the one for you.

 

Shopify

Magento

WordPress.com (This is not the same as WordPress.org. You access it through your browser. Here is a short video that explains the differences between WordPress.com and .Org )

Squarespace

and I’m pretty sure there are more which I haven’t included in the list above. But feel free to search a bit. However, using WordPress is something I definitely recommend. It has a huge supporting community and it’s a reliable platform.

I believe I have given you lots of information that need to settle in. My hope is that the above article will help you create a solid plan about your future website and if that’s the case then I will be extremely happy.

Next on my series, we will talk about marketing and social media. In other words, how to promote your website once it’s up and running.

Stay tuned!

So you want to start an online business – a how to guide 2019, part 1

So you want to start an online business in 2019

You are ready to take the next step in your business career and you said “f*ck it with my 9-5 job, I will create my own online business.”

Great! Congratulations!

The reasons why you want to start an e-business (such a ’00s term I know) are two:

  1. You really want to do that and you have a plan in your head on how to do it.
  2. You don’t have a clear idea what or how to do but you want to make money online.

If you are option 1 great.

If you are option 2 that’s also great but be prepared for some serious thinking or you will fail.

Starting an online business

When I was thinking about writing this article I figured it might not be relevant as gone are the days that people were making fast money online or trying and failing.

However, I don’t think many things have changed. People are attracted to technology, and with good reasons, but sometimes they forget that it actually takes good planning and hard work to have an online business or any business for that matter.

But don’t worry, I’m not here to nag you to death. I will help you understand and figure out what it takes to start your own business online.

Making a business plan.

If you want to succeed you need to have a guideline, you need to have a business plan. If you don’t know what it is or how to make one you can get for free my business plan template here.

Having a business plan will help you put your thoughts in order and will force you to think carefully about your idea and how to proceed.

A business plan will help you identify what your goal is, what is your current market, what is your target group, what is your competition and so on.

Writing a business plan is not easy but if you are serious about it it’s a necessary step and one of the most important things to do for your business.

What type of online business you want to have?

Most people when they want to do something online they think of online shops. That’s great and that’s how it usually works and for the purposes of this post I will assume that this is what you want to build.

However there are some key points that need to be addressed so I created the following list with the most common things to consider.

Feel free to print and use it if you find it helpful.

What to ask before building an e-shop

  • What are you going to be selling?
  • Is it a physical product or a service?
  • If it’s a physical product, how will you be accepting payments?
  • Will you have a business account? Will you be using Paypal to accept payments or another service?
  • Which platform do you want to use? WordPress, Shopify, Magento or something else?
  • Do you have the technical skills to build something yourself or do you need to hire someone?
  • Are you going to be shipping products within your country our abroad?
  • Do you need to calculate shipping costs on your website for each product?
  • How about packaging? Is it enough with regular envelopes or do you need to consider something else?
  • Invoicing? Do you need to use a software to issue invoices?
  • Will you have a stock or make products on demand?
  • Book keeping? Will you be doing it yourself or will you be hiring someone?

The above list is a good start that will help make a preliminary cost estimation.

And then we have Branding and Marketing

  • What is your brand
  • How will you promote your brand
  • Will you have a logo? Who will make it?
  • What colour combination will you use on your brand/website?
  • Will you work with email marketing?
  • Online advertisments? Google, Facebook, Instagram ads?
  • Use social media? Which platforms?
  • Will you be updating your products details online?

Finding a brand name for your business

Before you even consider thinking of building a website you need to really think about your branding and what name you want to associate yourself and your business with.

Once you figure out the name then you can go ahead and buy a domain name.

Things at this point are starting to get a bit complicated so more on the actual website building process on the coming up post.

Have I given you a headache by now?

Good! And if you have been reading so far and you want to learn more then that’s great.

You might be wondering who am I to speak of running an online business?

With a masters degree in E-commerce, by working as a freelancer for 5 years as a consultant/web developer, by working in the family business for 7 years and by currently working in Sales in the industrial sector, I have learned a thing or two about running a business.

I won’t pretend that I know everything and I’m still learning but the above are common sense issues that needs to be thought carefully from the beginning in order to avoid living in an entrepreneurship’s bubble that will burst on the first 6 months.

Let’s consider the above the starting point, the Business plan for your future company and stay tuned for more details.

Here you can read the 2nd part of this series with more explaining and tips to help you structure your site.

Stay tuned for part 3 as well 🙂

If you have a specific question let me know in the comments.