How to Start a Cheap Online Business
Starting a business can be challenging and scary, but it doesn’t have to be! Many people are concerned they won’t be able to make it due to financial concerns, but there are actually many ways to start an online business at a much lower cost than you might think. Online businesses are a smart move these days seeing as many cities have very high rent prices and renting out an office or store would not be feasible for many entrepreneurs’ budgets. Keep reading for some tips and advice on how to start your online business on the cheap.
Have a Plan and Do Your Research
Of course, your first step will be to actually come up with your business idea and make sure it is a sustainable one. Some entrepreneurs are convinced their idea is perfect but can’t quite analyze it and explain why. Before starting a business, you must have a mission statement and a purpose that outline what you want to do and get out of the business. Make sure you have the knowledge and certifications necessary to succeed in the field, and then ensure your business can last long term.
Part of coming up with a business plan is looking into the market and who your competitors would be. Do your research on why they are successful, what sets them apart, and how you can “one up” them and be even more successful. A lot of information on corporations is available online for free. Dun & Bradstreet and PrivCo are just two examples of free databases where you can look up a “corporate snapshot” and details on various companies.
Know what your goal with your online business will be, and be positive that your services or products will stand out in the market in some way.
Registering Your Business
If you want to be established and recognized on a state’s business database, you’ll have to register it. The price of this varies vastly from state to state but normally costs a few hundred dollars annually. Services like LegalZoom start their pricing for filing an LLC at $79/annually and additional services will be added on. Other services such as Fabric will register a business in the State of Delaware for you at a flat rate of $495 per year. Note that many companies register themselves as LLCs in Delaware due to the light taxation and more relaxed legal processes, so be sure to look into your state’s specifications for filing first.
Some people might tell you that business cards are outdated, but this is not always true. Business cards can leave a lasting impact on a customer, especially if yours are attractive and effectively make it clear that your business is superior to others. If you are having business meetings with potential clients, it is critical to give them the impression you are serious about the partnership or sale and also let them know that you have an established brand. Countless websites let you make your business cards at low costs. Chain stores such as Staples offer them starting at $15 for 500, and other online shops may offer them at an even lower price depending on your customization and how many you buy. This is a worthwhile purchase, as they are not extremely pricey but can be a very powerful business tool. Everyone’s LinkedIn looks alike, so although those might be useful, business cards give clients a tangible, unique way to remember you.
Get a Great Website for Almost Nothing
Of course, your website is one of the most important components of your online business. Your domain name should be something that is easy to type and easy to remember. Shorter website URLs are normally a better idea if possible because users can get to your page faster. The price of a website will vary greatly depending on how many webpages you need, how many products or services you’re offering, and how advanced you want the website to be in terms of functionality. If you have some budget for your website, you can expect to pay about $2,000 or $3,000 for the setup of a basic website plus between $400 and $1,200 for annual maintenance costs. Bigger companies or small businesses with large inventories can expect to pay more.
If you have little to no budget, a good place to start is at free website hosting providers like Wix or Weebly. Your site will show up like companyname.weebly.com, but these services offer really easy drag-and-drop options that help you create a simple yet informational website. Most of these services also offer you your own domain name for around $20 a year. Freelancers and those starting a business in the service industry oftentimes like to start out with a platform like WordPress or Blogger. These can be customized so that you can make some money through affiliate marketing and ads.
These options are also excellent for those who do not have super savvy tech skills and might get confused with the interface of an advanced interactive website. You can also utilize Google AdSense if relevant to your website, as it may help you monetize your website a little – the best part is it basically places the ads for you.
Speaking of freelancers, you can also do some digging and try to find one to build your website for you and maintain it as needed. In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor found that almost 1 in 3 workers makes their own hours and does not follow a standard 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM work schedule. Many freelancers offer various pricing plans and will work with you to come up with an agreed upon price for a website. This is normally a worthwhile idea, as your website is literally how people will find you so you need it to be informative and professional.
Of course, if you are selling products, Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are excellent options because they already have millions of users that would be able to find your products. If you’re selling customized items, services like Zazzle allow you to upload your designs and sell them on their platforms. These options may charge you a small percentage of each sale or a listing cost, but you won’t have to worry about paying thousands of dollars for your own website.
Regardless what you choose, be sure to have a solid About Me, and a testimonials page never hurts, too.
All of us have probably called an 800 number at some point, but have you ever thought about what those really are, how you can get one, and how much it would cost? They are actually simple to obtain and, depending on your needs and what service you choose, don’t have to cost a fortune. Factors that affect price include what countries your callers are from, how much time you talk, and add-on services that you might want to select. If you are just starting out and will be working solely in the U.S., you can find services such as CallHippo and eVoice that offer basic plans for around $10/month plus around $0.03 for each minute of talk time. Note that prices vary greatly between companies, so be sure to do your research.
Many entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out, opt to use their own personal cell phone for communications. Most of us always have our phones in our hands or our pockets, so using your personal cell phone might be a good idea when you’re getting started since you are paying for the service anyway. Google Voice and other similar smartphone apps can also let you select a different number for free and you can deem this your “work” number.
Cheap Marketing and Advertising for Your Business
Marketing can definitely get pricey, but if you don’t have a lot of budget for it, there are ways to work around it and still get attention for your business. First of all, social media has become a huge part of our lives, so creating profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn is one of the first things you should do in addition to creating your website. Various industries have their own social media platforms and blogs, too, so be sure to join those if applicable to get your brand’s name out there.
YouTube is also a great resource, as its regular subscription is 100% free and you can make videos advertising your online business’s products and/or services. Using YouTube to show off products and/or services as well as show your face and let your customers know you’re “real” can help gain business. Giving demos of how to use your products or how your services work can be very useful for prospective clients.
If you’re offering local services, Craigslist is a good place to post an advertisement for yourself. Link to your website and provide your phone number, and you may get calls from potential clients. You can also market well by offering some sort of freebie like a sample or 15-minute consultation that may kickstart your relationship with repeat clients.
Overall, starting a cheap online business is a possibility if planned out well. By establishing a presence for yourself and making sure you stand out in your field, you are guaranteed to get your business jumpstarted. There are plenty of online resources that can help you and give you ideas on how to make your online business journey a successful one, so don’t be scared and get started today!