Sunday, January 12, 2014

8 THINGS I LEARN IN ON-LINE BUSINESS

I am a Special Education Teacher by profession so the lessons that I learn in on-line business are purely based on what I experience in my few days of having an on-line business. I got my entrepreneurial skills from my parents who always dream of having a successful business. My friends knew me as a business person. Since I was in Third Grade I used to sell home-made candies to my classmates until I was in college. Even when I was teaching in a public school in Philippines I am always into selling something aside from my full-time job. Now that I am based in New York City I would like to share my personal experience and I hope other people will get an idea on how it is like to have an on-line business.



1. Research:    What do you want to sell?

    It is a common knowledge that you will never get rich just by being an employee. I learn it from Dr. Robert Kiyosaki the famous author of the bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I remember I borrowed the book from my father like 10 years ago. There is always something that you are passionate about that even you don't get paid and even you do it for long period of hours it will make you happy. If you have answer to that then you already found the things that you can sell. There are people who likes doing crafts, painting, baking or etc. Whatever it is you can sell it on-line. Even your hobby or profession can also be offered on-line like photography, make-up, plumbing, construction, etc. Having an on-line presence can boost your sales and your market. If you are selling products you are not limited to your local community your products could reach any place in the world.  


2. Finance:     How much money are you willing to invest?
 
    You don't need thousands of dollars to start your on-line business. Even with few hundreds of dollars or even with nothing. If you don't have any money to start but you have finish products sitting in your house like painting, crafts, or old clothes you can definitely sell it on-line. If you want your business to be registered you need to apply for business permit if you live in NYC you can check-out https://www.opal.ny.gov/pas2_e-Lic.nsf/OPALHome?OpenForm or http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/categories/business.page to learn how $100 to register the name of your business and you need to pay other fees like notarization so be prepared to have at least $150 when you go file for business permit. 

   When you apply for business permit you will also have Resale Tax ID . You will use your Reseller's Tax ID in buying goods from suppliers. Most of the whole sale or exporter will not sell if you don't have your Reseller's Tax ID. 


3. Website:     Where do you want to sell your products?
 
    It depends on what products or services you want to sell. There are numbers of on-line marketplace that caters specifically to the products and services that you want to sell. You don't need to have your own website to start your own on-line business. 

Amazon or Ebay These are the most popular sites where people usually buy things on-line. Personally I am a fan of Amazon because of the fast shipping and they offer store credit card which is most convenient for most people. If you are thinking of selling at these marketplace just click on the links to learn about the fees of posting your products. Their prices are very competitive for small business it is not very good.

Etsy or Storenvy These two are most popular for handicrafts or hand made products. Etsy is the Amazon for handicrafts. Storenvy is more like Etsy but opening your store is absolutely FREE!!!. Etsy charge 20 cents per product you post for 3 months but you get more exposure because there are magazines who are constantly looking for new designs at Etsy. Personally I have my shop at storenvy because its free. We are just starting out so we just want to spread the word for our business but we also consider other sites in the future. 

Freelancer.com or Care.com If you want to have selling your services you can check out Freelancer.com if you are graphic designer, website designer or programmer. People or companies who want these kind of services offer the job and geeks from all over the world will bid for the job. Care.com if you want babysitting, tutorial, care giving, pet sitting job you can be a member and its free. Even big business like daycare services, housekeeping services offer their services here. When I first came to NYC I found housekeeping and babysitting jobs at Care.com it really helps a lot.

Shopify, Big Cartel, Go Daddy  If you want to have your own website and drive traffic on your own then you can consider these three names. They offer domain name, website template that you can customized and other services for your business at certain cost. You don't need to know web design to have your own website. At first I was considering to have my own website but since I have limited budget then I decided have my store at Storenvy. 

Even if you have your website it is still advisable to spread the news the traditional way. Tell your family members, friends, co-workers about your business. My first sale mostly come from my friends. 


4. Suppliers:     Where will you get your products?

Before you think of your suppliers think first about your pricing. Look around the prices of your competitor and the quality of their products. Your prices should also be at the range of your competitors. Consider also other expenses such as packaging, labeling and shipping and of course pay yourself. Most of the suppliers are asking for your reseller's  tax Id before your can buy their products. At first I was planning of buying wholesale clothes from Bangladesh, China or Philippines but my major concern is shipping and minimum orders. Most of the exporters from Bangladesh or China or any other countries you have to buy a minimum of 100 pcs. and you have to pay for the shipping. This is not advisable to small-business like mine. I don't have storage and I don't have enough capital to invest. There are wholesaler in U.S. where you can buy your supplies and they have low minimum. Means you can buy goods like 6 pieces of shirt but if you buy in bulk of course you get lower prices. It depends on the quality of products you want to make to determine which suppliers you will go to. Always compare the prices and quality of the products and of course the reviews from actual customers is a big help. 


5. Marketing:   How will you make people buy your products?

In any business you have to know and study the target market of your products. I am selling women's clothes so my target market are women who like to buy clothes on-line. There are number of ways in doing on-line marketing.

Social Media  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, LinkedIn These social media are the easiest way to attract traffic to your website and its free!!!. However you do not have to join in everywhere. You have to consider the time you can actually spend for updating these social media. Having a good number of followers can help your business but it does not always mean these followers will buy your products. Facebook pages are now offering pay per click marketing for business. Facebook will advertise your page and every time somebody click your ad it will automatically deduct in your account. For small business like mine pay per click is not advisable because I have limited funds. You have to be creative to make people like your page without spending money. 

Google Ad words it is also pay per click but you can drive your target market to your website.

Banners you will it them in most of the popular websites and blogs. People who would like to place a banner in a popular website will use these type of advertising and each time people click their banner the website owner of blog owner gets paid. 

Direct Mail Marketing there are number of companies where you can buy mailing list of your target market. First you will select the area, then the specific categories like household income, ethnicity, religion, etc. Then the website will give you the number of target clients based on the areas. You have to pay per mailing list or e-mail list. Then you can send direct offer to your target clients. 

Of-line Marketing. Aside from the number of on-line marketing strategies doing marketing the traditional way is always recommended. Having your business card, fliers and sample products always with you is advisable. People you meet at work, at parties at school can always be your customer. Having an actual product which they can directly buy is the best way. Personally, my first sales are the ones that I bring when I visit my neighbor and at a wedding party that I attended. I bring some samples of my products and somehow I made my sales. 


6. Time:    How much time are you willing to spent in your business?

I didn't realize that on-line business can be very time consuming. Well, I am happy with what I am doing so I doesn't matter. However, you have to take into consideration other duties that you have. I have my full time time job as a teacher and my duties as a wife. You should make your schedule and try to stick on it. You should try to balance your time across all areas of your life. I made a mistake to gave up my time for work out. Since I was busy in starting out my business I never went to the gym. Now, I have to make it a habit to work out  even with a busy schedule. 

7. Focus:     How to prioritize things?

It is my bad habit once I open my laptop I lose track of time and things that I have to accomplish. There are so many interesting on the internet that catches our attention and loses our focus on what is important. One of the effective ways for me is turning off my internet connection while doing report and I have my to do list visible all the time. It is also important to set your goal. That means we need a Business Plan. Having a plan in everything you do keeps you focus to achieve your goal. As a teacher we have a Lesson Plan so with our business. You can learn more about writing your business plan by researching on-line and by attending seminar / workshop for small businesses. Check-out government and NGO that provides free training for small business owners. 


8. Inspiration:     How will you keep your spirit high even if you don't have sales?

Support from your loved ones, friends and co-workers are important when your spirits are low. You have 100% faith in your products but you don't have any sales. You did everything I said from step 1-7 but still no sales. Guess what, it takes time to make your name or your products known to people. Just be patient and work hard. I will end my blog with a poem by Marianne Williamson "Our Greatest Fear" it is popularly quoted by the late Nelson Mandela. I first heard it from the movie "Akeela and the Bee". 

I hope you learn something from my blog. Comments, suggestions and questions are welcome. Share it if you like it. - Farah



Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won't feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson