Use your computer screen to help you live a more flexible life. Desperate to escape the ‘normal’ 9-5 job? Become your own boss and open an e-Commerce store. By selling goods online you aren’t constrained to living in one place and you can join the digital nomad revolution. Find out how you can become your own boss!
Benefits (and drawbacks) of being a digital nomad
Whether you intend to earn money online through advertising, sponsored content, eCommerce or consultancy, you have to know what you’re getting yourself into first.
Earning money online means that you’ll be able to live a much freer life, not constrained by set working patterns or habits. You can earn enough online to devote most of your life to traveling and new projects, but it takes incredibly hard work.
- You’ll need to make a huge investment of your time to learning new skills like content management, but a lot of the skills you can pick up for free by taking online courses (here are some great free courses to start you off with).
- Fledgling entrepreneurs often start with a small side project, building up their digital skills that way.
Working online for yourself is a hugely rewarding thing to do, but there are some things you should know before you dive in:
- Working online is a very switched ‘on’ industry and you’ll find it hard to switch off at first. You will need to work hard to create appropriate boundaries between work and home life.
- It’s a highly complex, technical and fluctuating industry; people who are new to it run the risk of falling in with the wrong crowd. Be cautious.
- Make sure you are aware of the tax and legal implications of making money online. This isn’t a secure job with a pension.
Becoming an eCommerce merchant: 4 key considerations
So you’ve weighed the pros and cons of digital life… and e-commerce is the one for you. It’s one of the best ways to earn a steady income online and is a hugely rewarding career – good choice!
Here are four key things to take into account during the business planning phase:
- Deciding what products to sell is all about finding your niche and conducting thorough keyword and competitor research to test feasibility. Choose something you will be inspired by and passionate about, as you are going to have to create loads of content to promote the store effectively.
- Doing keyword research with Google tools like Trends and Keyword Planner will help you see whether there’s a growing or stable market for your products, and what the search engine competition is like for your big keywords. Without a good search market, you’re going to struggle to get traffic (and revenue).
- Your store will be open 24/7, so your systems will have to be built to cope with constant incoming traffic and enquiries. You’ll need a thorough customer service plan – being a merchant is about being in the service industry. Use templates and systems to help you manage customers effectively.
- Being a successful eCommerce merchant is about having the right attitude – being committed to analyzing data effectively and tweaking your store to encourage sales and clicks. Don’t go off a ‘gut’ feeling – use the data in front of you. If you are not sure what you’re looking at – enlist an analyst or consultant to help.
How to set up an online store
Setting up your store may take a while unless you’re already pretty familiar with updating content online. Don’t get too impatient if you’re finding that things are taking longer than you wanted to – that’s entirely normal. Just make sure you plan delays into your forecasting so that the budget can cope.
- Probably the best option in the first instance is to go with a trusted eCommerce platform with a stable and SEO-friendly environment (this one is great for creating your first online store).
- Design is going to super important for first impressions and sales – use professional templates and tweak them to suit your branding. Learn more about Blue Ivory Creative’s branding services here.
- Remember that an online store has to be functional and user-friendly. Settle for an information architecture and menu navigation that feels intuitive and clean.
- You will need to have a robust launch strategy in place that covers SEO, social media and content. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to spend too much (money and time) developing the store, ignoring the need for ongoing traffic and promotion.
How to manage an online store
Once you’ve launched, the real fun begins…
- You will need to be switched on and deal with customer enquiries and orders fast – keep testing and refining your systems and react to any incoming feedback from customers. Social media is great for customers but can be difficult for merchants to manage. Live chat is another popular customer service option. Whatever you choose: make sure it’s being managed effectively.
- You will have to rely heavily on online promotion and SEO to keep driving traffic and sales – don’t just build up to the launch and then drop the ball. (Read up on three good ways to drive traffic here).
- Use incoming data and analytics to help you refine the store’s user experience as the store grows and comes into contact with more customers. Trim down categories if people aren’t finding them and optimize poorly-performing product pages again.
- Conversion rate optimization is your friend – don’t just keep insanely running after more traffic – nurture the traffic you do have by getting people to click and buy more.
- Use eCommerce strategies like cross-selling and up-selling to increase revenue and plan well in advance for seasonal discounts and products.
Doing eCommerce Differently
eCommerce entrepreneurship is much broader than just wrapping up packages at home.
You can buy cheap products, customize them, and sell them; resell other suppliers’ products; use affiliate links for commission-based income; or sell on third party sites like Amazon and eBay.
- Explore all the different eCommerce options before running headlong into an expensive web project.
- Always remember to disclose any affiliate links or income streams with the reader – you have to earn people’s trust before you can get their money.
Don’t underestimate the level of work that goes into being an eCommerce entrepreneur – don’t chase the dream if you can’t handle the hustle.
Have you been bitten by the digital nomad bug? What appeals to you most in this type of lifestyle? What are its major drawbacks?
Bio: Kayleigh Alexandra, Content Marketer & Startup Specialist
Passionate about writing for the startup and entrepreneurial audience, Kayleigh has recently been part of setting up an exciting project at MicroStartups.org. They donate all of their website profits to charities that help people reach their full potential. Find out more on Twitter.