Bootstrapping your ecommerce website on a shoestring

Starting a business is an exciting adventure; however getting your start-up off the ground is also one of the hardest things to do. One of the biggest issues is often a lack of money, at least at the beginning. The web and ecommerce have been great enablers in this respect, and there are plenty of low cost ways to get your business moving forward. If you love what you do, and spend your money wisely, you can bootstrap your online business on a shoestring.

Mother using digital tablet with baby

Here are a few of the basics you need that won’t break the bank:

–        Setting up shop – whether it be a desktop solution, or a cloud-based solution, you only need a few hundred pounds to trade online compared to thousands for a physical shop. Consider marketplace sites like EBay, Amazon and Etsy too.

–       Taking payment – there are many payment providers out there, including PayPal, Sage Pay, and World Pay.

–        Hosting – most online platforms will be able to recommend a reliable hosting provider, or in the case of cloud-based ones, they will provide this for you.

–        Picking a domain name – make sure you pick a domain name that either reflects what you sell, or matches your company name. Go to enom or 123-Reg to see if your preferred domain is still available. Tip: if ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.com’ isn’t free, look at other suffixes like ‘.biz’, ‘.net’ etc.

Mind the gap

Try to think outside the box for alternative ways to do things. For example, if you are looking for external help, then there are thousands of people in the UK and beyond, who are willing to sell their skills on a reasonable day rate. Look at sites like www.freelancer.co.uk and www.peopleperhour.com. You need to be specific about your needs and requirements, but you can often engage them on a daily or hourly rate to fill the gaps in your skill set.

Marketing on the cheap

Every business needs to promote its goods and services with the aid of marketing. Businesses can promote themselves quickly, easily and cheaply with social media. Join social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest and start building a following with posts that share useful information you come across, give a time-limited offer, or offer a series of tips – just don’t plug what you sell all the time.

Where not to skimp

It is always good to do things cheaply and easily where possible, but there are always places where it is best not to skimp out on the cost. Make sure you set aside some of your budget towards aspects of running your company, such as:

–        Writing up the Terms and Conditions so they are legal

–        Hiring a good accountant (though managing your finances on a day-to-day basis is still something you need to master)

–        Providing a reliable delivery service.

Don’t forget the importance of good customer service. It is absolutely critical, yet doesn’t have to cost anything. E.g. just keeping in contact with your customer during their order is the first step to good customer service.

Two final thoughts

Time and money are interchangeable commodities, the key is to spend your time where you can make the most impact and spend your money where other people can make the most impact.

In the early days of setting up your business, spend only what is really needed. If things take off you can either enjoy the improved lifestyle or invest back into the business.

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