How to Start an Online Business from Home?

How to Start an Online Business from Home?

With 70% of people working remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions, home is a bit more than just a sleeping abode. It’s a place that combines several functions at a time including a Zoom meeting spot, a fitness center, and, of course, an office space. It’s no longer just a lounge zone, but a power place for growth and self-development. Why don’t you use the opportunity of staying at home to your advantage?

While there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for success, it’s safe to say that now is the right time to start an online business from home. The new normal is here to stay, and in case this was ever your dream, now would be the perfect time to learn how to make a living by selling goods or services online from the comfort of your sun-drenched patio (or couch if you prefer to stay in).

There are multiple reasons why one should launch a home-based business, but I reckon you’re still hesitant if you find yourself here reading this. Below are a few more facts that should push you a little bit towards your goals:

  1. It brings the freedom and flexibility you want (and crave!) to spend more time around your family. Yes, it’s you who will be responsible for the way you spend your days. It will still be you who will be in charge of your workload, which is a blessing and a serious challenge all at once.
  2. It brings you a bit closer to attaining financial freedom. This one is controversial as income freedom is not a straight-forward concept that applies the same way to everyone.
  3. It will definitely give you location freedom. What you need to start a business from home is an idea, a definitive plan, some connections with third-party service providers, a laptop, and, lastly, a good camera to let the world know what you have to share. 
  4. The dream of all dreams: Be your own boss!

Now that you know all the nuts and bolts of starting your own home-based business, let’s move on with the steps you need to take: from coming up with a product idea to sharing this idea with your target audience.

Step 1. Start With an Online Business Idea

Whether it’s a personal hobby/childhood interest/community need or an ambitious enterprise company, it all starts with an idea. You also need your niche to be profitable to ensure your home-based online business has a high likelihood of success.

Step 2. Choose a Product or Service to Sell Online

Coming up with a good product or service idea is a little tricky and can leave even the most motivated entrepreneurs stuck in overthinking. It does feel like everything that can be sold online is already being sold, but that’s not exactly true. There are still golden opportunities out there. You just have to dig a little deeper.

How to find the golden nugget? One of the best approaches to find a product to sell online is to dive straight into the data at your fingertips. Check out the post below to find out how business owners use their products to express who they are and what they believe in:

How To Find A Profitable Product To Sell Online in 2022

Step 3. Identify Your Market

Do you know who your target customers are? What is it that they are looking for? What do they need? Is there any other organization tending to these people? What are their strengths? Most importantly: What are their weaknesses?

Following the crowd and targeting a conventional customer base is a poor strategy to adopt. You should clearly understand who you are serving. Everyone is not your customer: 

  • Not all coffee lovers are willing to buy energy drinks.
  • Offering plant-based products to vegetarians is a good shot but the purchase is not guaranteed. 
  • Not all athletes have the same needs. For instance, there’s no use advertising crossfit gear to swimmers.

How can you find your target audience? Conducting market research is a great starting point. Read the post below to start with:

Related reading:
How to Create A Buyer Persona [Template + Examples]

Step 4. Research eCommerce Business Models

Ok, now that you’re established what you’ll be offering and to whom, it is time to study or learn what you would like your business to look like.

Defining the way to deliver value to your potential customers while still keeping your business afloat would be the next logical step to take. You can come up with a completely original business model. But more often, companies prefer to follow the tried-and-worked models so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Here are some examples of such models:

  • eCommerce website business model. It requires setting up an eCommerce store where you can promote and sell products at a profit. 

Example: GearFocus LLC (built with X-Cart)

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  • A subscription-based business model. Instead of offering a product for a one-off sum of money, customers are charged a recurrent subscription fee.

Example: Audi luxury car subscription rentals

  • Social enterprise business model is focused on making profit while creating a social impact. 

Example: Toms’ Shoes

  • Wholesale business model is one of the most traditional business models that involves intermediaries who sell from manufacturers to businesses.

Example: eBay, Alibaba

  • Dropshipping business model which you can use to run your online store without ever holding any inventory.

Example: All American Auto Wreckers

Step 5. Source Products to Sell Online

There are many ways to cultivate relationships with suppliers: from actively participating in the garage sales to dropshipping items from some of the major marketplaces, such as Alibaba or eBay. 

The funny thing is that some people already have their businesses pretty much happening without even realizing it:

  • Are cooking super-delicious cupcakes and your friends keep ordering more and more?
  • You have an offline business. A small cafe around the corner, for example. What if you start selling meal kits online?
  • Are you among those talented crafty people who keep creating some DIY decor? Perfect. You’ve got a couple of items to sell online for sure.

Not to get lost in the rabbit hole of search, I’d suggest you concentrate your attention on the following sourcing vectors:

  1. Collaborate with a friend or a family member who makes a product you’d like to sell. Is there anyone in your immediate circle who enjoys sewing or fabric painting? You never know—your granny’s hobby combined with your sister’s artistic taste may turn into a profitable home business.
  1. Plough through flea markets, thrift stores, car boot sales, charity shops, and swap meets. This may sound like a weird undertaking, but it will allow you to stick with not spending more than you can afford. What items can you dig up on the sell-outs like this? Plus size dresses, vintage pieces of furniture, limited collection music albums.. well, anything that is hard to get hold of or always out of stock.
  1. Purchase products in bulk from wholesalers and resell them with better margins. In order to buy wholesale you will need to obtain a wholesale license, though. It’s mandated by law and it helps reduce (or totally eliminate) sales taxes
  1. Partner with an existing brick and mortar business to take their products online. This may be a little tricky as you have to both share the vision as to how to conduct the business processes. It may be as simple as helping a friend of yours to sell his or her services online. Whether it’s an English teacher who is looking to sell services online, or an artist who has a whole collection of paintings, setting up an eCommerce store is a piece of cake with X-Cart shopping platform.
  2. Build relationships with makers on social media or on specialized websites like  Quirky and Kickstarter. With the Make Movement, which has actively unleashed its potential within the past several years, this product sourcing channel should not be underestimated.

Step 6. Pick the Distribution Channel 

Choosing an eCommerce platform you are going to focus your attention on in the next few years is vital as this is where you are going to invest your resources (time and money being the most vivid).

  • Social media. That’s the easiest way to kickstart your home-based business for at least three reasons:
    • It doesn’t require monetary investment (unless you use the promotion option);
    • It gives you immediate access to your potential customers as they are already there scrolling their feeds at loose hours.
    • It’s easy as you should already be familiar with the most popular ad types and intuitively know what works and what does not.

PRO TIP: Create profiles on regular channels such as Facebook and Instagram. You can sell and promote your “merch” there, too!

  • Tapping into online marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay, is a refuge for the advanced user. There are a number of seller requirements that must first be met with reviews being the toughest barrier to entry in a niche market. If you decide to choose Amazon as your primary distribution channel, Seller Labs PRO software should come in handy. It will give control over your Amazon reviews and make the whole sales process less of a challenge.

    Related read:
    How to Get Reviews on Amazon and Improve Your Amazon Seller Feedback 
  • Shipping providers. You have to determine the path your items will take from you (or a manufacturer if you go for dropshipping) to the final consumer. How can you find the one that fits perfectly with your business goals? To begin with, you can look at your competitors to find the best practices they adopt. Below are a couple of shipping providers supported by the X-Cart shopping cart for you to consider:
FedEx add-on for X-Cart

FedEx

USPS add-on for X-Cart

USPS

UPS add-on for X-Cart

UPS

  • Create an online store. Yes, the one that will be fully yours for the taking, which also means that you’ll be responsible for its maintenance, promotion, product descriptions, UI (User Interface), and everything else that has to do with online presence. More on that in the next section. Read on!

Step 7. Select an eCommerce Platform

Whew! You’ve made it this far. Don’t give up just yet!

Since replatforming is a cost-intensive endeavor, choosing the right eCommerce shopping cart from the get-go could save you a few bucks and a lot of headache. In order to lay the foundation for the future business growth and ensure you have all the resources to stand the competition, you need a platform that is scalable and customizable.

A cheap easy-to-launch and quick-to-set-up solution, such as Shopify, is a soft target. It will provide you with immediate results—beautiful storefront, ready integrations with the top payment and shipping providers, and all that jazz—but it will be way too hard to scale moving forward.

Step 8. Create Your eCommerce Website

Kudos to you if you’ve chosen to go for the toughest option. As we all know, the toughest road is always the most rewarding. Below are some of the things you will have to take care of when launching an eCommerce online store from home:

  • Create a beautiful design for your online store. The first impression is what makes or breaks the deal. Hence, you should consider the ways to make your website interface as smooth as possible. Are minimalist websites better than the ones that are overloaded with graphic and textual elements? Is a highly-customized online store more preferable? Get all those questions answered in the post below:

    Further reading:
    Automotive Website Design Inspiration [+ 3 Examples That Are Less Than Obvious]
  • Search bar is normally the starting point of your shoppers’ journey to checkout. Investing your resources in polishing this seemingly inessential functionality is probably the best investment a business owner can make. Why? It boosts your chances to win your customer by 50%, as per Algolia.

    Content to study: 
    How eCommerce Site Search Can Enhance Your Online Sales 
  • Implement all the most popular payment processing tools that online shoppers love using nowadays, such as Google Pay and Apple Pay. Make sure you have the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) option enabled in your store.

Need Assistance Creating a Home-Based eCommerce Business?

Set up a call with one of our solution advisors and get a bunch of ideas.

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Step 9. Business Trends to Watch Out For in 2022

Hang in there. We’re getting closer to the end of the article… as we are getting closer to the end of the year.

Now, my personal favorite: trends. The ability to masterfully apply this knowledge will define how successful your eCommerce business will be when you launch your products, and will continue to be as it evolves.

  • It’s necessary to take a holistic approach to improving the user experience, which means thinking through each stage of your marketing funnel and figuring out how each separate aspect works individually and as a whole.
  • The new BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) payments trend, provided by companies like Affirm, Klarna, and AfterPay, is growing in popularity among Gen Xers and Millennials. Even Boomers are getting into the act. The trend has taken off around the world and you have no other chance but to conform to it to keep your business afloat.
  • Expedient delivery is the new requirement imposed by the modern society that is so overwhelmed by a large variety of products available online. It ensures goods will arrive faster than regular transit times.
  • If you’ve got plans on working from home during the next few years, consider hiring a team of full-time remote workers and leaning into digital tools to virtually train new hires.
  • Placing an emphasis on teamwork and establishing close-knit collaboration within the company is one of the organizational trends that will carry over into the future.

Examples of Home-Based Businesses Powered by the X-Cart Shopping Cart

Below you’ll find a few examples of home-based businesses powered by the X-Cart shopping platform:

  • PalmFlex online store provides customers with high-quality work gloves and safety wear for over 30 years. Their traffic has grown dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. No wonder, people from all over the globe have gone on a shopping spree buying up face masks and shields to protect themselves and their families.
  • Octane Lighting—an eCommerce company that specializes in automotive, motorcycle, marine, home, and business lighting. With online auto sales spiking to unprecedented levels in 2020, building an automotive online business should be a profitable business idea to execute.  

Why X-Cart Is a Platform of Choice 

If you’ve been contemplating the idea of starting an eCommerce business from home, now is the right time to put it into practice. The good news is, regardless of the marketing strategy you choose to implement in the rough stages, you should—and now will!—be prepared to adjust it as you go. 

The X-Cart eCommerce shopping platform (as well as the team behind it!) will ensure the continuity of your business and give you the encouragement and guidance you need on the way to eCommerce success.

1. Our solution advisors will help you come up with a business idea, if you don’t have any yet. 

2. You can check out our blog, too. There is a wealth of information on the way to pick the right product to sell online.

3. Crafting a detailed image of your target buyer persona is tough. We’ll provide you with all the analytical tools you need to do it. 

4. X-Cart is perfect for any type of business, regardless of the business model you choose.

5. Our shopping cart is easily integrated with pretty much any product sourcing tool or service via API, making it easy for you to connect with manufacturers.

6. Whether you are looking to sell products on Amazon, Instagram, or prefer staying with your own eCommerce store exclusively, X-Cart is here to cover the demands.

7. Being virtually scalable and customizable, X-Cart shopping cart is a good choice for those looking into the future.

8. With more than 200 eCommerce experts (that’s how many of us here at X-Cart!), you are protected from any kind of failure launching your home-based business. 

9. And there is a marketing team (us!) that keeps an eye on the latest eCommerce trends. Once anything goes up in flames, you’ll get to read it in our blog

What’s more, our eCommerce experts are here to take some of the laborious processes off your shoulders. They will customize, maintain, and take care of all the technical things that you may come up with.

Need Some Guidance on the Way to Launch Your Business from Home?

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    Helen Golubeva
    Helen Golubeva
    SEO and Content Marketing Specialist at Seller Labs

    Helen is an SEO and Content Marketing Specialist at X-Cart, a Seller Labs company. She has been creating and planning content for over 10 years, with 5+ years specializing in eCommerce.

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