The internet is the world’s biggest and most popular shopping centre, making it easier than ever before to start an online business. Maybe it’s time to spread your wings and commercialise your passion?
It all begins with a great idea
Coming up with a business idea that’s connected to a hobby or passion requires you to slip into your potential customer’s shoes. You’re already winning, because you’ll have insight into how they think and what drives them.
For example, if golf is your passion, you’ll know that golf balls are both a challenge and an opportunity. So much rests on those little spheres of white! Your online business could focus purely on selling good golf balls at sharp prices. And you can support your business by creating website content that shows off your passion for golf and your knowledge of golf balls.
If baking cakes is your passion, you could look at importing specific baking-related products that aren’t readily available. Your site can also reflect your enthusiasm with recipes, tips, and blogs related to baking. If your blog gets really popular, you could end up with another revenue stream – selling ads on your blog pages.
You might even be in a position to let your passion create the products, literally. So if you’re a sewer, you could invent a stitched product that stands out in the market, like quilted teapot warmers. And if you’re good with wood, you could make kitset side tables, breadboards or mobile phone stands.
If you’re short on ideas, or if they need some workshopping, invite family and friends around for a brainstorming session. When people think together, they often get a result that’s bigger than the sum total of its parts.
Understand the impact on your passion
Even if your passion-based business is just a sideline, you have to be prepared to lose some of your love for the hobby or interest that’s driving it. For example, if you love to paint the occasional watercolor, suddenly increasing your output to a painting a week will turn your passion into a production line. You’re no longer a dabbler because you’re commercialising your talent. You can expect to feel different about painting once it’s a job, so think this aspect through before you launch into the marketplace.
Choose your selling platform
It’s relatively easy to create an e-commerce store using Shopify, but you’ll need to promote your store to attract customers. Depending on your product, this could be achieved with digital advertising and social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn). The days of putting an ad in a magazine or newspaper are pretty much gone, although small display ads in free local magazines and newspapers can be effective.
Another option is to create a store on Ebay. You’ll immediately have access to a huge market, however, you’ll need to get your listing words and images right. If your product is something that people haven’t heard of before, they won’t be searching for it. You might need to include search words and phrases that are related to something similar.
Understand drop shipping
Drop shipping is a supply chain management method where you don’t keep the stock at your place; instead, it stays with the manufacturer or another retailer. Your job is to capture orders at your online store, then pass the orders on for shipping directly from the supplier. If you’re interested in a drop shipping business that’s related to your passion, you’ll need to find reliable suppliers who will do a great job of fulfillment.
Build a database
As your business gains momentum, make sure you collect data from each and every customer so that you can market directly to them. You’ll need names and email addresses. Your database will be useful for stimulating repeat business, but it’s also handy for surveys that test the feasibility of new products or services.
Be prepared for success
If your business takes off, you could find it eats up more and more of your time. If you still have another job, your work-life balance will evaporate. You face choices at this stage: lose the day job and focus just on your online enterprise or hire someone to help.
As an integral part of setting up for success is making sure that you have the right level of business insurance. For a range of business insurance options visit State.
If you decide to hire staff, try to find people with relevant skills that you don’t have. For example, you could hire someone to process orders and run your social media campaigns. Or maybe you need help producing more products? Then you’ll be looking for people with skills that are related to making the things you’re selling.
Last word: “If you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs.”