14 Steps to Create an Online Store from Scratch While Studying Full-Time
For many students, it is challenging to manage full-time study and their finances.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to get their fees paid by their parents. Not everybody is fortunate enough to have a fully sponsored education and it can be tasking to be pinching pennies while studying. Again, student loans might not be an option for everyone.
Asides burdensome course loads and choking deadlines, another thing that could get you worried is your finances. The strain of studying full-time can be even more depressing when there are no resources to fund it.
Hence, it is an understatement of fact to say that students need money for a few things.
Gaining financial independence as a student is a worthwhile goal. This provides you with a lot more academic opportunities you might have hitherto declined because you couldn’t afford it.
You will also sleep well at night because you don’t have to worry about paying fees before the deadline. All in all, your study experience becomes more interesting and fulfilling when you fix the money problem and get it out of the way.
Financial independence for a student isn’t a lofty goal.
It’s something that becomes feasible when you set up a medium or business that generates income for you while you study.
A side hustle that is not time-consuming and easy to manage. One of such mediums is creating an online store – from scratch.
Okay, I know how that sounds. It sounds terrifying, especially if you’re not a techy. It doesn’t have to be scary. You’re also probably imagining all the monstrous work you have to do, to set it up and running.
Relax. An online store is not some sort of get-rich-quick scheme (if you’re looking for something like that- sorry, I’m not your girl).
Given a little time and regular pushes, it can provide you with that steady side income you desire. What’s more, it is relatively easy to manage when already set up and you can concentrate on your studies.
Interested..? You should be! Find out how to create an online store below:
1. What is your winning product?
Since you’ve decided to start up an online store, you should have an idea of what you want to sell – a product that you’re sure you’ll stick with. Something that won’t tire or bore you. This is what I call your winning product.
Whatever you decide to sell, you should believe passionately in the value of that product. This passion is the fuel that’ll keep you going and help you engage with customers.
You’ll need to do some physical marketing and your enthusiasm should be contagious. It helps if you’re so in love with your goods that you spread that love to your potential customers.
Energy and verve will move your online store forward, so make sure your product inspires people. Your winning product doesn’t necessarily have to be sophisticated per se. You could sell clothing if you’re a fashion junkie or specific books if literature has you wired.
It could even be the odd things you make (such as ceramics, knitted scarfs, personalized gift items etc.) if you’re really creative.
2. Can it be sold online?
Moving on, another important thing to check out is if your product is suitable for selling online. No matter how ‘developed’ online markets are, some products are better sold in person.
They are simply difficult to sell if they can’t be viewed by potential buyers. Check it and be objective, would you consider buying your own product on an online store?
Time for some questions! Expatiate a little on your product concept.
Consider the following questions (hey, answer them honestly):
Will you be making the product yourself?
If not, find and strike a relationship with a reliable supplier or manufacturer whose products meet your taste. If you’re making your products, think about sources for the materials you’ll use.
Is your product tangible or is it a digital product that can be transmitted through the net?
Where are you going to store your products? Do you have the resources for a little warehousing? How do you plan to keep an eye on your business?
Will you need to take stock regularly, or you buy and sell as you go? Are you going to jazz it up by selling a wide variety of goods or does a one-thing speciality do it for you?
Finally, plan logistics to the T
Will you need to ship your products? How will you handle delivery to your customers? These questions will help you gain a broader perspective of your product concept. It will also help you determine if it’s suitable for online sales in the first place.
Of course, the point of the above questions is not just for you to answer them. It’s for you to get prepared mentally and come up with savvy plans that’ll help you deal with potential problems and make your sail smoother.
3. Research Your Niche
Before you choose the products you would like to sell on your website, you will need to find out as much as possible about your ideal customer and their needs.
If you have the time, you can join groups and social media pages where you can learn as much as possible about the behaviour of your market players, as well as your competitors. This will help you develop a strong USP to make your brand stand out.
4. Find your Point of Differentiation
Once you know exactly what you would like to sell, you will have to start focusing on your personal brand.
There are probably hundreds of online stores selling your own product. Knowing what product you want to sell is only a start. You have to figure out ways to differentiate your product from similar ones sold online.
Why should people buy your T-shirts if there are tons of other sites to choose from?
Selling a home or handmade product is great because they give you the chance to offer original, one-of-a-kind products. If your products are generic, adding a few personal touches here and there can make your products really stand out.
Personalized services and products are a sure way to attract the right type of customers.
Making the shopping experience on your online store fun and easy leaves a positive impression on your customers and encourages them to shop again at your store. This will also boost your customer retention capabilities.
The fun thing about an online store is the ease with which you can personalize everything, from your products to the site’s theme to user-experience.
Another great way to differentiate your store is to offer some type of expertise in your product. Maybe baking is your hobby and you plan to sell baking stuff or utensils. You could include a few of your favourite recipes or baking tips. The gist is making your passion and experience part of the package.
5. Get to meet your potential customers
Get a feel for what makes them tick. You can conduct a mini-research by offering gifts or coupons to those who agree to answer a few questions.
Ask them what they consider quality products and how much they are willing to pay for it. Experiment with a few prices. Find out how long they are willing to wait for shipping. Get to know their needs and possible ways you can fill them.
You can also employ social media interaction. Join group pages and other social media platforms. This avails you the opportunity to learn as much as you can about your target market and their buying behaviour.
This also gives you useful insights about your competitors and possible strategies that will give you an edge. All in all, it helps in creating a strong brand for your store. Now, here comes the tricky, techy parts…
You may be an affiliate marketer or a drop shipper. Whatever the case is, you will still need to create a strong brand that will help you make the most out of your personal business. Make it personal and professional, and you will attract the right type of customer.
6. Learn Basic Web Design Skills
If you have limited funds to invest in setting up a business, you might not be able to afford a web designer. This means that you will have to learn basic web design skills.
While there are plenty of template-based website companies out there offering a great value for money. The downside is that you can have your website looking like every other website because you’re not the only one using the same template.
You will want your site to stand out instead of looking like any other website. Using WordPress has plenty of benefits, and you will be able to use free plugins and templates to customize your online store.
Whatever the case is, the emphasis should be on making your website look professional, attractive and straightforward. Don’t make the mistake of making your website look overly flashy. Have a limited colour scheme – two or three colours are fine.
Customers should not be more than two clicks away from buying a product. Include a feature that allows you to gather email addresses so you can engage with your customers further.
7. Choose a suitable web-hosting service
Another important thing to note is choosing the best online platform for your online store. There are two terrific e-commerce platforms I recommend:
Shopify and WordPress.
The two eCommerce solutions are relatively cheap and easy to set up. Shopify starts at less than $ 30 a month and you really don’t have to do much. All it requires is that you pay, login and start selling.
WordPress offers flexibility and allows you to set up a professional-looking online storefront.
Finding a good hosting service for your website is worth the time and effort. It is your website’s house on the internet after all, and if it’s poor, your sales will suffer.
Since you’re selling online, it is worth paying a good service that offers the options you need. These options should include but are not limited to:
- Space for expansion for if your business grows.
- Allowance for as much input from you as possible. This allows you to customize your site and give it a personal feel.
- Also, consider your web-hosting service options with a long term view. Some web-hosting services start out really cheap but they can get quite expensive especially if your business grows or you want to add new features like different payment options.
8. Choose and register a domain name
Apart from web hosting, you’ll need a domain name. If a web- hosting service provides a house for your store on the internet, then your domain name is your address. It is what users will type into their browsers to reach your site, for example – myonlinestore.com
Choose a name that is short, catchy and easy to remember. It helps your store stick better in your customers’ mind. Look up a domain registration company and get your name registered. If the name your heart is set on is taken, get creative! Tweak it a little, you could add new letters or a hyphen.
9. Get an SSL certificate
This gives your site an extra-strong security layer that helps you to keep your customers’ personal information (such as credit or debit card numbers) extra safe. An SSL certificate is required for you to accept payments on your site. Some hosting companies have this as part of their package for you.
10. Write winning product descriptions
The product descriptions on your site need to be convincing, as they can make the difference between a sale or not. Write descriptions in simple, easy to understand language that informs customers about the product and its benefits to them.
Avoid long sentences, complicated jargon and clichés.
11. Automate Your Orders and Shipping
When you are trying to focus on your studies, you don’t want to be dealing with customer service and delivery. It’s easy to get caught up in the whole process and let your studies take the back seat.
To avoid this, you should put effective systems in place that’ll take care of your orders and shipping while you study. Think of these systems as your inanimate business manager. This is why you might want to create a system that will help you manage and automate your business.
You can use TMS to fully automate your order and delivery process. If you decide to become a drop shipper or affiliate, you will not have to deal with the details and still get your commission for the sale.
12. Make marketing easy and less-time-consuming
A factor you always have to consider as a student running a business is time. You cannot afford to spend so much time and effort on online marketing campaigns when your schoolwork is calling your name.
If you have limited time marketing your online store, you might need a digital marketing sales funnel that will automate your traffic and lead generation and allow you to create meaningful interactions with your potential clients. A good choice is looking up a suitable digital marketing company and sourcing out your marketing strategies and tasks to it.
You cannot waste hours trying to manually follow up every lead. You need to create a sales and conversion process that works for your business and market. Design the customer touchpoints to generate interest and engagement, and personalize their experience every time they visit your site.
13. Automate Your Social Media
You should try and take the hard work out of your content creation. When you have assessments to prepare for or essays to write, you simply cannot spend hours being distracted on social media.
That is why scheduling your blog, vlog, or social media posts is the best solution. You can simply use third-party services, such as Tailwind, Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your posts and generate reports. You can also use publicize from Jetpack. Once you know which type of content your audience reacts to, you will be able to pick the winning strategy
14. Track Your Conversions
One of the things you cannot live without when setting up your online store is data. Thanks to the latest developments in business intelligence solutions, you can now track your conversions.
Whether you are running a Facebook campaign or just trying to measure the effectiveness of different traffic sources and find out where your customers are coming from.
From link tracking to online tools that analyze and map your website traffic, there are numerous free software available to make your life easier.
Finally, to keep your finances stable during college or university without a student loan or help from your parents, you have to become creative and find a way to create a residual income that allows you to focus on your studies instead of having to work long hours for peanuts. So, what has been your source of residual income? Feel free to drop your comments. 😉
If you would like to be self-sufficient while you are gaining a formal qualification, you will need to make the most out of your skills and set up a side hustle that will give you a steady income.
You might not see results immediately, but creating an online store is a popular option when you are trying to become financially independent and focus on your studies at the same time.
The more automated your online store is, the better. This gives you more time, less stress and makes the process of running your business less exhausting.
Starting an online store has numerous advantages over a physical storefront. It’s easier to manage and you get to sell items to your customers from the comfort of your home (or dorm!).
It doesn’t require any special techy skills, just a laptop, data, your undivided attention while you set it up and a bit of patience. Plus, it’s a fantastic way to earn extra money while you study! Earning a residual income while you study is achievable if you make the most of your skills and maximize them creatively.
I’d like to hear from you – what has been your source of extra income?
What step are you currently taking to make this a reality?