Note: This is a 10 minute guide to setting up an online store, finding your first customers, and turning it into a successful business.
Making your first ever sale is a special feeling.
It marks the beginning of your own shopping empire and the chance to build a business.
We’ve seen it happen. We’ve watched bedroom entrepreneurs turn their dreams into million dollar e-commerce companies. All you need is a great product and an online shop.
If you’re reading this page, perhaps you’ve already got a brilliant idea, but you’re not sure how to build your store.
Trust us, it’s easier than you think, and we’ll show you all the secrets. For simplicity, the guide is broken down into three sections. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s get stuck in.
PART 1: Where Do I Even Start?
The best way to sell products online is through your very own website.
Did that just give you a little shiver of excitement? It’s easier than you think too.
WordPress + WooCommerce = Free Online Shop!
If it sounds like a foreign language, take a deep breathe. Creating a website is now easier than ever. We’re going to start by using WordPress: the most popular website building platform on the planet.
In fact, 24% of all the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. So you’re in good company.
You can choose pre-set designs, and tweak it to your liking. You don’t even need to know a single line of web code. (Phew!)
But, what about the tricky payment mechanisms, products, and shipping?
That’s where WooCommerce comes in. WooCommerce is the technical toolkit that makes your shop work. All you have to do is download the software, and install it on your WordPress site.
It will help you create and design your storefront. It will also set up all your tricky payment systems, manage your stock and sort out your shipping.
It’s completely free too.
All that’s left to do is watch the product orders roll in!
Sound good? I thought so! Let’s dive into a step-by-step guide to getting things and running.
PART 2: The Technical Bit
Trust us, this is easier than you think. You can have your entire shop set up in just an hour. Take a deep breath, here goes.
Step 1. Web hosting
Web hosting is the patch of internet land your website will live on.
It can be a tricky thing to get your head around if you’re new to the game. Think of it like this:
Web hosting companies are like internet landlords. They rent out a portion of the web to you, and that’s where you’ll build your site.
But here’s the thing. There are good hosting companies, and there are bad ones.
So, don’t just choose the cheapest option. The speed and security of your site is vital, and your online shop deserves the best.
The best web hosts are fast as hell, close to your target audience, and secure from hackers.
We’ve had a lot of experience here, and this is what we recommend:
InMotion Hosting: InMotion is a brilliant premium choice. If you’ve got big plans with lots of global traffic, we highly recommend them. They’re fast, secure, and great with customer service. Bitcatcha.com is hosted on their VPS plan.
iPage: iPage is perfect if you’re just getting started and don’t need a lot of resources. They’re a budget option, but it will handle everything you can throw at it.
Step 2. www.my-first-business.com!
This is your ‘domain name’. It’s the address that points to your website. You’re looking for something simple, unique, and straight to the point.
Choose this very carefully. Hopefully, you’ve already got a business name all picked out and ready to go. To see what’s available, head to a domain site like GoDaddy or Network Solutions and you can buy your very first domain name.
Step 3: Designing your shop
Now that you’ve got your address and plot of internet land, it’s time to build your shop!
As I said before, WordPress is super easy to decorate and make your own. You can choose from hundreds of preset designs for free, or you can splash out on a premium theme. We like Themeforest who offer affordable, unique, and beautiful themes.
Expert design tips:
- Simplicity is everything
Choose a simple design that highlights your products and is easy to navigate.
- Logo and branding
Look for a theme or design that allows you to create a unique identity.
- Big, high-res photos
Photos sell products. It’s that simple. Choose a site that shows your images at their very best.
Step 4: Counting the money
Of course, no online store is complete without the payment mechanism. The most familiar service online is PayPal and you can easily slot their payment gateway into your checkout process.
Sometimes customers prefer a simple credit card payment. You can handle this with Braintree. They power the payments system at AirBnB and Uber so you’ll be in good hands.
Now you’re all set up and ready to open the doors! Now you just need to find some customers.
PART 3: Making Your First Sale
The first sale is always the trickiest. After that, it’s a snowball effect! We’ll leave you with one expert tip guaranteed to help you make that first sale.
Get your product in front of millions of eyes
The internet is bursting with powerful blogs, YouTube channels, and social media influencers. These people have the power to get your product in front of a lot of people.
Start by making a list of blogs and influencers in your niche. They are always on the lookout for cool products and stories to share with their communities, so reach out and ask for a review or sponsored post.
These influencers receive hundreds of emails and pitches every day, so how do you stand out?
- Be personal
Craft a unique and personal message for each blogger. Mention something you saw and liked on their blog, and tell them why you think your product would be interesting to their audience.
- Address them by name
It’s easy to find the names of most bloggers. Prove to them you’ve taken the time to look at their site.
- Create a compelling story
Writers and bloggers are looking for more than just a cool product. They want a story that connects with their readers. What makes your product unique? What’s the emotional connection? Why do people need to hear about you and your product?
- But, keep it to the point
They don’t need to know your life story. Just give them what they need to intrigue them and show off your product. Bloggers are looking for short, sharp leads.
- Follow up
Just once, about a week later. Keep it polite, and if you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally. Just try another one!
There are lots of blogs and social media accounts that will accept payment to share your product or create content around it. It’s a small price to pay for lots of eyes on your product.
A free sample works wonders here too 😉
Phew, you made it to the end!
So, what have we learned?
- WordPress + WooCommerce has everything you need to build an online store (for free!).
- Research a variety of hosting companies to find the fastest and most secure service for your shop.
- Choose a clean and unique design using WordPress-WooCommerce compatible themes.
- Reach out to influential blogs to secure reviews and coverage.
The hardest part is taking the first leap. Don’t feel daunted by the process, embrace it and learn as you go. Trust in yourself and your product!
Follow your passions, start a successful business, and ditch the day job!
It really can happen, just read our interview with Kalen, an online fashion store owner making $1000 in her spare time!
Daren Low is the founder of Bitcatcha.com and co-developer of the free Server Speed Checker. With a decade of experience in website development and internet marketing to his name, Daren is considered a premier authority on all things related to building and managing an online presence. Feel free to pick his brain by connecting via Google+ and Twitter.
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