Starting your own online business is exciting, and perhaps, a little scary. If you are operating on a shoestring budget, the hurdles are even greater. It is possible to create an online business for very little money. If you already have a domain name and Web hosting service, you can create an online store for free. Operating on a limited budget requires a few compromises, but for some it is the perfect way to test an idea before making a large investment.
Determine what product(s) or service you are going to sell. If you don’t have a product or service, conduct an online search for business opportunities. Check opportunities with your local Better Business Bureau before investing. Or build a service-oriented business around your special talent. Jot down ideas in a notebook and research each one before making your final selection. You’ll also need to decide if your target is local, regional, national or international.
Invest the time needed for in-depth due diligence. Visit your state’s Web site to find out about laws regulating business. If you are planning on hiring employees or contractors, you will need to learn about employment laws and regulations. Go to www.statelocalgov.net/ for listings of state, local, city and federal government offices. Write down relevant laws in your notebook. Research business-formation options if you are not going to operate as a sole proprietor.
Research your competition using your geographic target market (local, regional, national, international) and the Internet. Conduct online searches in multiple search engines using your product or service as the keyword. Write down important information on competitors, such as buying and return policies, pricing, hours of operation, geographic locations, specials offered, partners, management and length of time in business. Study your notes to determine whether there is a market niche you can fill with your business or a value overlooked by competitors.
Give your business a name. Jot down several name ideas and conduct online research to make sure the name is available. Type the company name in quotation marks into several different search engines. Visit www.bargainname.com/index.php and type the selected name in the search box. If the name is not available, see if there are any alternatives that will work. Finally, do a business name search with your local government. If the name is available from all three sources, register the business.
Decide on a Web hosting company. Buy your domain by using www.bargainname.com/index.php or your hosting provider. If your site will be data-intensive (lots of photos), look for a hosting package with unlimited memory. Many web companies offer free Web sites. Free Web sites are wonderful if the company does not require you to place a large number of advertisements on your page. Choose a hosting company that offers free Web site building software.
Use the templates offered by your company to build your Web site. Write the copy in a conversational, engaging tone.
Set up a business account to take orders and process payments at www.PayPal.com. PayPal’s Website Payments Standard program is free and easy to use. After signing up, link the items you wish to sell from your Web site to the PayPal shopping cart.
Test the site on your friends and relatives before publishing. Use the tools provided by PayPal to test your shopping cart.