So you have this idea for an Ecommerce business, you’re bursting with the spirit of an entrepreneur, but you just can’t afford the risk involved with quitting your day job and diving in to your new business. There’s no shame in that. We all have bills to pay and groceries to buy and you might have some serious responsibilities like a family that wouldn’t be too keen on quitting your job for an idea that might work.
The good news for you is it’s quite possible to keep your job while starting an online business. Of course, it’s not the easiest thing to do in the world and it will mean sacrificing some nights and weekends, but if you decide to go this route, you won’t be the first. There are plenty of folks who have done this and succeeded in the past, and you could do it too.
The first thing you’re going to need when starting out is an Ecommerce platform (Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce are three popular ones). These are comprehensive tools that serve as the hub for your store. Most platforms offer everything from payment processing to shopping cart functionality and a lot more.
If you’re not one to develop your own website, fear not, most platforms take care of this for you as well. They’ll also typically include a blog attached to your website which is a great tool for developing your brand and generating traffic through SEO.
These platforms make it incredibly cheap and easy to get up and running. They often offer different payment tiers so you can spend less for a basic package with limited features or you can dig a bit deeper into your pockets for something a little more robust. With just one platform, you’ll have everything you need to get your store up and running.
Once you have your online shop, you’re going to need to fill it with products. There’s a bevy of ways you can source products. Obviously if your the craftsman behind the product you want to sell, look no further than the mirror. But if you think you’ve discovered a niche to exploit, but don’t have the skills to create your product, you can either partner with a wholesaler who already produces the product. If what you want to sell doesn’t exist yet, you’ll have to find a manufacturer to produce the product for you.
Dropshipping is a third popular method that is similar to working with a wholesaler or manufacturer, but rather than purchasing the products up front, you are essentially buying from the vendor as you sell the product on your site. Here, the vendor also takes care of shipping, so you can sell your product without ever even having to touch it.
No matter the motivation behind your side business, there’s one thing you’ll need to do, and that is reduce the amount of manual work you have to do. Automate away as many of the tasks that go into running a business as possible, and you’ll find you still have some free time to spend with family and friends.
Email marketing is the cornerstone of most successful Ecommerce businesses. It’s a great way to reach a broad audience and stay on the front of people’s minds. This strategy consists of newsletters and campaigns aimed at your list of contacts. It’s a good idea to have a weekly newsletter that might feature a product or cover a subject that’s broadly related to your product. You can also use this to send email blasts to contacts about deals and special offers.
This tactic is one that you can’t totally automate, after all somebody is going to have to write the content of those emails (I suppose you could hire interns for that). Chances are, that person will be you. Nevertheless, you can write two month’s worth of emails in one sitting and schedule each of them ahead of time. Boom! In one weekend, you’ve handled the majority of your marketing efforts for a sixth of the year.
This is another key marketing tactic for tons of online business, and like email marketing, you can schedule and automate much of it. There are a lot of social media management tools out there like Sprout Social or Hootsuite that let you schedule posts to Facebook and Twitter ahead of time, so you can dictate when you do your social work without losing any effectiveness.
These tools have plenty of other features as well such as tracking your mentions and providing you with reporting and analytics to show your top performing posts.
While email marketing and social media will cover a huge amount of your marketing output, there’s always a bit more you can do. Marketing automation software enables you to automate tons of marketing processes that can do things like increase revenue, boost traffic, and capitalize engaged contacts.
Here’s an example of how you can use marketing automation to grow your business without having to sacrifice a ton of time:
Let’s say you want to grow your contact list so that your email campaigns have greater reach. You send out a campaign to all of your contacts offering a 10% discount on their next purchase if they forward this email (included in this email you can link to a form for those who were forwarded the email, so they can subscribe to your list).
You then create an automation that is triggered the first time any of your contacts forwards the email. Once a contact forwards the email your automation will send them a follow-up email with the 10% off coupon. You can also create another automation that rewards anybody who signed up for your list through the forwarded email with a 10% discount coupon. Before you know it, you’ve done hardly any work and your contact list is miles longer than it was the week prior.
What that automation would look like with ActiveCampaign
More than tools
Good tools and software will obviously make starting an Ecommerce shop on the side easier, but there are some things they can’t help you with. It’s important you have your priorities straight. Remember that this is a side business, so you can take your time with it. If it’s taking longer than expected to grow, don’t worry. You still have your full-time gig to pay the bills. Also don’t overwork yourself. You’ll get nowhere fast if you end up burning out and giving up after a month.