How Hard is it to Start Your Own Online Business?

I used to work a full-time office job in marketing, but after around five years in the same role, I came to the realisation that my skills would be better suited to working for myself. Having what felt like a stagnant career before I was even thirty was a wake-up call. I had to do something about it to not only breathe life into my work life, but also ensure that I was constantly progressing, as well as being in charge of my own future.

I began by baking and selling my creations at fairs and bazaars, and quickly found that not only was competition intense, but also having perishable products on hand caused way too many issues for one person to deal with alone. Determined not to stop there, I went back to the drawing board. Having had five years of experience marketing online, I set my eyes on selling products online. At first I thought about selling my baked goods online, but maintaining quality during transportation would be an issue so I crossed that off the list.

The next move for me was to buy a wholesale amount of jewellery, rebrand it, market it through various online channels and sell it through a simple online store I had created. This actually worked pretty well for me, however it became too time consuming, and the initial capital investment I had was not enough. I had to purchase a large amount of the same product for a hefty bill, when what I needed was a variety. I was left with some profit, but also a lot of excess stock I had trouble getting rid of.

Encountering these problems really made me think – how could I create an online business with minimal capital, yet offer an almost unlimited stock of items? This is when I began to learn about dropshipping. The whole premise of dropshipping is that you never have to touch the inventory. You set up your own sales channels such as an online store, or sell through social media such as Facebook and Instagram, and when the customer makes a purchase from you, you pass on the order to your supplier to fulfill directly. The concept was simple enough, but how hard was it going to be to set up?

I began by spending weeks researching the most in-demand items on the market at the moment, and then began to look at niche segments. Why go for something that was popular, but saturated? I finally settled on travel equipment for extreme conditions. My research showed me that there was growing demand for this, but there weren’t many retailers, especially in this niche.

I proceeded to create a high-quality website and found a supplier who met my high standards. This was probably the most difficult part considering the majority of them are based in the Far East and are not the easiest to communicate with if you don’t speak their language or meet them face-to-face. After months of talking to potential suppliers and receiving sample products, I finally settled on one who I believed I could trust and was able to supply me with everything I needed from raincoats for women, to tents that could stand extreme winds.

After settling on this supplier, I began adding the products to my website and made them look as professional as possible.

A tip: spend as much time making the products look as attractive as possible as you would marketing. No amount of money spent on ads is going to compensate for shoddy photography that doesn’t show the product in a good light.

At the same time as I was uploading the products, I was creating marketing materials for various platforms in order to drive customers to my site. What use is a great website and product if no one knows about it, right?

When everything was set up and ready for launch, I invested heavily into Facebook and Instagram ads. Within a week I was getting orders daily. Within a month I had made back everything I put into it, including the salary I paid myself for working on this.  So for those asking how hard it is to start an online business, the answer is – it is up to you. You can put as little effort into it as you want, but you will be sure to see results that mirror that. Or you can put much of your time and energy into and reap the rewards. The choice is yours!