Starting an Online Business – Primer Class 101


Important! First off, a disclaimer. Some of this may pertain to you and some may not. Feel free to use what parts of this you need. Maybe all of this is old hat to you and you find it boring. That’s good. That means you are an accomplished retailer and you don’t need this tutorial. But this is being geared to those that are just starting to play with an idea. Maybe they have a specific skill, or goal, or need,  that I can help kickstart. That is who I am writing for today. So read with an open mind.

Pier in Florida

FIRST. I have to make some assumptions here. You have a product or service to sell already. You have researched or have enough experience in this product or service that you are fairly confident that it will sell, at least reasonably well if you can get organized. So we will proceed to step…

TWO.  Your next step here is to name your business. Not as easy as it sounds. You want a name that is distinct but not weird. Try to keep the spelling regular. No ‘werkz’ or ‘soundz’ or ‘Xtreme’ crap. You want a name that is specific to what you are. It really needs to be something that is rememberable and easily found on the web. Try to keep your name out of it. Assume that someday you would want to sell the domain name to an investor. Lets come up with a fake business here. Pat wants to sell her widget. Her widget is a small item and can come in different sizes and colors. Lets call the widget a ‘Widgy’.

Now Pat could call her business ‘Pats Widgys” and we could probably find a domain name. But later on in her business she starts to find other things people want to buy from her that are not like her existing product line of ‘Widgys’. Now what. Her business name no longer is generic enough to encompass a new line of products. If Pat named the business after herself like ‘Pats Products’. Then lets say after a few years Pat wants to sell her business. The new owner may want to change the name from ‘Pat’ to something else. Now we have to change all the domain names, and product packaging, etc. This makes the company less valuable because of all the changing work. So something like ‘Widgy World’ might work. Still kind of specific to Widgys. Maybe ‘Widgys and Stuff’, or ‘Widgys Etc.’. Still specific, but with a way out to expand into other items. Not to beat this around anymore, but be serious about your name here. Generic enough to allow you expansion room and specific enough to let your customers find you easily. My original business name years ago was ‘ParsonsPhotowerkz”. See how many of my own rules I broke! Too long, weird spelling, too specific, and my own name. I changed to ‘EspyWorks’ and all is so much better. (By the way, Espy is for my initials S and P)   I think you get the general idea here, so lets move onto step…

C.    Now go to a domain name company like ‘GoDaddy.com’ and search for your company name. Does ‘WidgyWorld.com’ come up as available? If not then do you want a ‘.net’ account or even a ‘.org’.?  Dot.Com is the most popular and will be what people will remember the most easily. So work with your business name a little, but no weird spelling! Before you go and register it with GoDaddy lets do some more research. See if the business name is also available with Googles gmail. This is a great place to have your business mail account. If the name will match your domain name, even better. Are you thinking of doing instructional YouTube videos? Check and see if your business name is available there as well. What about eBay and PayPal? Are you going to be selling at auction at the worlds largest auction place and using their in-house payment company? What about Etsy.com for your hand made items? Is your business name available there also?  So my point here is to come up with a coherent business name that will be the same across the board on all the sites you are thinking about selling on. It can be done with a bit of patience and research. Now on to part…

Quattro.   Money. There I said it. The M word. The scariest, most coveted word there is. It’s also is why we are doing all this. So go to your locally owned bank or credit union (Not one we had to bail out, god forbid)  and lets start a business account. Use your business name with the dot.com at the end. Get it separated from your regular household accounts. We want it on its own. Get a debit card issued it its name.

STOP! Ok, here is where you need to get legal. For your own good I suggest a quick call to your friendly hometown accountant  (Please support your local business. That is what you are wanting to be, after all.) Discuss with him/her if you need to get your business name registered with the state. It is not terribly expensive and will protect you later on when you start to show a profit. Also check with your friendly hometown attorney if you, or your accountant, think you should. Don’t be an idiot, better be safe now.

Back to the action…This is what we have so far. Pat has a domain name that works for her. It just happens to also be the same name on Gmail, eBay, PayPal, Etsy, YouTube, Blogger or WordPress, or any other name specific company she will be dealing with, or selling through. Consistent. She has a separate business bank account with credit/debit card and has secured her business name with her local and state agencies. Her accountant/attorney is on board and ok with all this. Pat has verified her credit card with PayPal and eBay, and others that need that.  Excellent! Now…

FIFTH.   Marketing! Lets get the word out! Website or not, that is the question. So..1) Pat can speak the html and is able to build her own website. Maybe she is really good with Photoshop and uses a nifty plug-in like Sitegrinder to help her get her website up. Or…2) Pat is not so good with those computer things and needs a little assistance in getting her site going. She could pay an exorbitant fee to a  web developer to get a first-class site up. She could do a google search for ‘website builder’ and get some cool ideas. She could visit ‘WordPress.com’ or ‘Blogger.com’ and get a nifty site up pretty quickly. (By the way, this site is a WordPress site, and so is Steve Traudt’s site. If you look at the WordPress.com site you will see all sorts of examples of sites that inform and sell. Also they took care of getting the domain name for me. It was in the initial setup price. I think this whole thing was set up and going in about a half hour and $40.) Pat chooses a WordPress site. In WordPress’ Dashboard area she chooses to have any of her new posts be advertised, for free mind you, in her Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. (Which should be the same business name! Or at least she mentions her business name in her profiles.) Pat has emailed her friends of her new business and let them know to please pass it along to others. Pat knows word of mouth is the best type of advertising. Pat visits local businesses that may need her products or services and she lets them know she is always available to them. She leaves her business cards all around town. Pat visits her local service clubs like Rotary, Lions and Jr. Service League. Perhaps she joins one. She also gives away a few samples to select vendors when she feels they will be valued. When an order comes her way, it is filled promptly. She puts in  the shipping box a personal note thanking them for their order and maybe a candy or trinket for fun. Invoicing is finished promptly and correctly. Pat writes out a simple Press Release and sends it to all the radio, tv and newspapers in her area letting them know of her value as a small business in the area and her items for sale as well as all her contact info, especially her dot.com address. If written well, it will be read/published. Whenever Pat meets a new person she says “Nice to meet you, I’m Pat of Widgy World.” or something like that. Pat walks the line of getting her business name out without being obnoxious or pushy.

FIN…I’m sure I missed a few things that you specifically need to know. Fine, ask me the question and I’ll try to answer it. My contact info is at the top of this blog. And in eBay, and Facebook, and LinkedIn, and PayPal, and iStockPhoto, and YouTube. So venture forth and get your business going. You do not have to spend a lot of money at all. Start small. If you have a good product or service, they will come. Good luck!!!

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espyworks

I will be working on a theme for this as I go along. But there is a strong possibility that this will have no direct stream, and just ramble aimlessly. And thats fun too!