Microbusinesses are increasingly common, fueled in a large part by the steady customer base of sites like Etsy and the rebirth of the crafting movement. But, whether you want to set up a résumé business or a necklace shop, the beginning steps are basically the same.
1. Create an Online Space
Think of creating your ecommerce site as creating your digital storefront. Each choice, whether it’s font or color palette, will affect how potential customers see you. To make the best impression, use a theme that accents your business style. If you’re a formal services company, go with a template that has minimal color and makes a statement through simplicity. If you sell quirky handcrafted goods, give your page lots of personality and pick a color scheme that has two or three colors.
Before you even get as far as choosing a template, though, you’ll need to decide how you want your site to be hosted. Like all choices, there are advantages and disadvantages to each option. WordPress Pro has a huge online community that’s willing to provide support, but if you’d rather have someone fix things for you, consider a traditional host. If you don’t want to mess with setting things up at all, go for an Etsy shop.
2. Give Yourself Tools to Succeed
If you’re setting up shop with a calculator and a dream, try again. Not only do you need to do your research to get information on the ins and outs of small business life, you need to give yourself access to the right tools for the job. One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face is estimating shipping costs. Shipping scales simplify this by telling you exactly how much your handcrafted item weighs. This lets you charge customers exactly what you need to for postage to ensure you’re not losing money with each transaction.
Similarly, you need to decide if you want to track customers. If you do, get a customer relationship management (CRM) system. A simple spreadsheet setup will get you only so far, and you’ll end up transferring everything over to a CRM when your spreadsheet setup overwhelms you later on. Skip the struggle and go straight for a CRM.
3. Check the Legality
You don’t want to be shut down before you even open your doors, whether they’re digital or attached to your home. Check zoning laws, even if you plan to never have a single client visit your home. There may still be restrictions. It’s a good idea to work with a CPA to protect yourself from any unexpected tax liabilities.
Don’t underestimate your IRS connections. Yes, they will come after you with everything they have if you’re dodging taxes. However, they’re also a great source for information. Many IRS employees are happy to help you avoid making mistakes that will cause problems for both of you later on.
4. Promote Yourself
Don’t become a philosophical question (if a business failed on the Web, was it ever a business at all?) about existence. Instead, thrive by promoting yourself online and off. If you’re crafting, visit local artisan fairs and pass out flyers with promotional codes, along with selling some items in-person. Don’t let a product be packaged without a few business cards inviting customers to tell their friends and get a discount. Use social media to create a loyal following. Don’t stop with Facebook—Twitter and Instagram are invaluable assets.
Starting a microbusiness isn’t as intimidating as it seems at first. You just need to keep a few things in mind and take steps one-by-one. Several organizations can help you get set up, including the Small Business Administration. Library branches frequently offer classes for entrepreneurs. Finally, be sure to reach out to other microbusiness owners who can offer you great advice. Take it step-by-step and day-by-day, and you’ll soon have a business that’s poised for growth.