Question: I’m stuck on furlough and am thinking about trying to turn my side hustle into a paying gig. What’s involved in starting an online business?
Answer: To really start at the beginning, the first question is what are you be selling that people want to buy? If you are crafty it might be handmade art, clothes or jewelry. Perhaps you’re really good at finding underpriced treasures on Craigslist or at garage sales and want to resell them for a profit.
For many budding entrepreneurs, using a third-party platform like Etsy or eBay can be a good starting point, and don’t forget that you can set up an Amazon Marketplace storefront, too.
A lot of people want their own website, however, because they have full control over colors, fonts, graphics, photos, etc. Like designing a physical storefront, there are some basic steps on this path you’ll want to travel.
In the old days, every business needed a phone number. Nowadays the modern equivalent is a domain name. You use them all the time. Google.com, whitehouse.gov, askdavetaylor.com, those are all domain names. No two businesses can have the same domain name but there are a lot of top level domains, so if you can’t get BoulderBabsJewelry.com you might be able to get the same domain as a .net or .biz or .info URL.
You’ll also need a web host, a company that will serve as a repository for all of the pages, graphics, videos and photographs that will comprise your site.
There are a lot of hosting companies and the best of them can help you register your domain name, set up email and build and run your new website. One of my favorites is HostGator.com. Reasonably priced, professional and responsive, it’s a solid option to consider.
Once you’ve registered a domain name and landed with a solid, reliable hosting company, it’s time to figure out what software you want powering your new site. Most people choose WordPress because it’s powerful, flexible and free, so that’s probably going to be a smart move on your part, too. All of my websites are powered by WordPress.
Hosting companies generally have WordPress installed and ready to go with a new account. Before you start building, though, it’s a smart idea to go back to your original notes and figure out, page by page, what you should be presenting to your visitors.
There are lots of design templates, and some great training tutorial videos on YouTube if you’re a DIY type, but there also are lots of web design consultants who can get you set up and your site looking good quickly at minimal cost. Your hosting company should be able to help identify a trustworthy and reliable resource. If not, ask some of your business colleagues who they’ve used.
The next steps are to further develop your offerings and integrate some e-commerce features (e.g., a shopping cart, being able to accept online payments) and start marketing yourself online.
Most of all, good luck! It’s definitely a lot of work to turn that dream into a reality online, but the rewards can be terrific.
Dave Taylor has been involved with the online world since before the launch of the Internet and runs the popular AskDaveTaylor.com tech help site. You can also find AskDaveTaylor on Facebook and check out the AskDaveTaylor YouTube channel too.
Dave Taylor: How to start your online business – Boulder Daily Camera