The massive growth of the internet over the last 10 years has offered many online business opportunities. This is especially true for those who need to work flexibly from home as mothers often do. In the early days you needed coding skills or the money to pay someone to code for you to be able to launch online. There are now hundreds of options to design your own website with no more than the basic computer skills. The flip side of this is that of course, low entry barriers can mean a saturated market. That means it’s more important than ever to have something that will set you apart from the competition.
One of the most popular types of online business is retail. Before the internet, mail order businesses had to invest a huge amount in national advertising in newspapers or on TV to make people aware of their Products’s. They then need to spend more money sending out catalogues which might or might not lead to a sale. Now people wishing to sell online can do so in a number of different ways. They can promote their products either for free or at a low cost via social media and email. If you want to sell products online you have two options.
The first option is to launch your own website. Great because you get to keep all of your profit, but harder to get seen by people. The website will need to be optimised to ensure that search engines can find it. An active social media presence is likely to be necessary, all of which takes time.
The other option is to sell via an already established website. Many small businesses use eBay to sell their goods but Amazon also had a thriving community of self employed people selling their wares. You can also sell directly through social media. With shopify you can integrate a shop in to your Facebook page. If you make your own items then you can look at more creative outlets like Etsy or it’s more UK equivalent, Folksy.
The other question is, what are you going to sell? Fine if you make your own things but if not you’ll need to find some products. If you don’t have space to hold stock you might want to look at drop shipping. An arrangement where by you promote a product and take orders then a wholesaler ships the items. If you’ve got space to hold stock then you can buy your products from wholesalers (although bear in mind they are unlikely to give you credit in the early days). Check out wholesaler.co.uk to find a list of UK wholesalers. The other option would be to focus on one product and buy it direct from the manufacturer. This is great if you’ve seen a product overseas that you think would do well in the UK.
Another popular type of online business is the creation and selling of information products. These can be ebooks, ecourses or membership services that provide expertise of some kind. If you are an expert in your field information products can be a great way to leverage it. Once the product is created there is no limit to the number of people that it can be sold to. The work really comes with promoting the product so good social media skills are key.
People with very specific interests run content focused websites or blogs for a particular niche (rare breed pigs, complementary therapies for rabbits). They make their money by selling advertising. While this type of business is unlikely to make your fortune it can be a nice way to try and earn something from the thing your passionate about. Subscription based deliveries, where a box of items on a particular theme is delivered to your house each month, are becoming more and more popular. There’s even one for sanitary products called “Sanitary owl”.
Other online businesses provide services, such as web design or social media management, to clients and others create software or apps to provide a service. People with admin backgrounds often set up as virtual assistants to provide admin support for small businesses. Some professionals, such as counsellors, nutritionists and accountants, offer their services online via software like Skype.
As with any business there are regulations that you need to be aware of. All businesses need to have some kind of liability insurance. You will also need to make sure you comply with the distance selling regulations if you are selling a product. The government provides a brief summary. There is also legislation around copyright, and data protection. You will need to comply with anti spam laws if you are creating a mailing list, The Law Donut provides a good summary of these.