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Everything you need to sell online

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How to Sell Online as a Beginner: Part 1 “The Dream”

14 min read

Hello hello. Welcome to Ecwid. We’re an Ecommerce platform with an interest in making selling online easy and hassle free. You’re currently reading our blog. But of course, you already know that.

Let’s be upfront about something: you don’t have to be a seasoned brick and mortar retail professional to start an ecommerce business. In fact, at Ecwid, we believe that you don’t have to be a business professional at all. Just a person with an idea, a few tools to get started. Someone who is dedicated to learning as they go.

What you absolutely need to start an ecommerce business:

  1. A good idea
  2. Some time and energy to make it happen.

But what makes a business idea “good”? And what is “some” time? What do you mean by “energy”? Don’t worry, we’ll talk about all this stuff in a minute. But first, I’d like to introduce myself.

A Little Bit About Me

My name is Nicole. I’m a writer and a marketer. I work at Ecwid. Despite that, I don’t have a background in ecommerce—meaning I’m not a technical maven, professional business-person, master coder, or computer science engineer.

But I do have an idea for a business I’d like to bring to the internet. And I thought that by following me on my journey, I might be able to help you kickstart your own.

So, what makes me equipped to talk to you about selling online like I’m some sort of ecommerce expert? Well, nothing…except for the fact that I work with ecommerce experts all day, every day, and have (hopefully) absorbed some of their know-how. AND the fact that I’m at this stage in the selling game too!

How to sell online
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More Than Just a Hobby?

You see, I have hobbies and interests. Lots of them, in fact. But my favorite two things might be film and fashion. Finding a way to put them together? Dreamy! So, when a friend of mine came to me with a wacky idea: to combine our collective love of old movies and vintage fashion into a little online vintage clothing business, I said…sure!

You see, she had a plan: a product she wanted to sell (vintage clothes), and a name: Bad Asta Vintage. But when she looked at her budget and expertise, she realized that she didn’t have enough time, inventory, or experience to do it all on her own.

But she did have a friend with similar interests, and a good eye for vintage, who she thought might be willing to go into business with her. And so Bad Asta Vintage was born! Or…was it? We got a business email address, claimed our name on a bunch of social media platforms, and started posting pictures of things we were willing to sell from our own closets with cute captions. “Dm for purchase” we said to our customers. And basically, no one did.

Obviously, we have a lot to learn about selling to become successful ecommerce merchants. So now, I’m here on a journey to shape our little business-ette into a full-fledged ecommerce business. And I want to take you along with me as I stumble through the process. Feel free to laugh at me, and also, to learn from my mistakes.

Now that we’ve gotten introductions out of the way, let’s get into the very basics of what you need in your toolkit to start out with your own business.

Because that’s really why you’re here, right? To take that dream of selling things, and start thinking about it in ways that are solid, real, and action-oriented. While I’m the guinea pig in this experiment, I want to make sure that you walk away from my experiences with a roadmap to help you with your own. So, let’s get on the road.

Thing You Need 1: A Good Idea for a Product (or two!)

Workable ideas are, more often than not, about execution. Meaning that the thing you want to sell doesn’t have to be revolutionary for you to be successful at selling it. How to sell online starts with understanding the things that you are already good at.

Are you an amateur hobbyist? A knitter, or crocheter or crafter extraordinaire? Do you do photography? Do your friends refer to you as their personal Star Baker as they devour your homemade marshmallow squares? Great! You’re already on your way to getting started. So now, ask yourself:

  • What do I want to sell? / What am I good at that I could turn into a product to sell?
  • What characteristics make the thing I want to sell stand out? High quality craftsmanship? Technical expertise? A flair for the dramatic? All vegan ingredients? All good!

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Once you’ve got it down in your head what you’re interested in selling, and why you think your product might be appealing, it’s a lot easier to actually get started. You see, ecommerce isn’t always about giving an online platform to big-time in-store retailers. It’s really about the global exchange of goods and services.

We seriously believe that lots of people have marketable skills and make really cool stuff. And that the things they make are special and unique, and that other people want to own or use them, or be a part of their world.

So we’re here to help get the word out about your stuff, and to help inspire and empower you to give selling online a shot. THAT’S why our platform has a Forever Free plan , so you can dip your toes into the ecommerce pool before having to commit part of your personal savings. Which brings me to:

Thing 2: A Budget

When people think of a budget, they think money. But let’s expand that out: any viable business needs a monetary budget, but also a budget for time and energy spent working on the project. Like I said, our budget started out basically nonexistent…we pulled inventory from our closets, and turned our regular hang-out sessions into brainstorming meetings and time set aside for tackling all things Bad Asta.

At the beginning, it’s much more reasonable to think of your ecommerce business as a side hustle. This will help you create a budget around the current amount of time and money you can put into this project, as opposed to an “ideal” budget that never seems to materialize. That will definitely get in your way when you’re starting out. Quitting your day job? Buying a gold plated watch? That comes later.

Realistic goals, and a budget based on the here and now, are maybe the most important gifts you can give yourself when you’re starting out. Minimizing early upfront costs is also important (again, that’s why we offer forever free!). Leaving some room to follow good ideas you might come up with in the future is another good idea.

Maybe your first goal is just to sell one item and get one good review on that item. Awesome! That will make your limited budget seem a lot less limited.

How to Make a Budget

Let’s not get too prescriptive here, because everyone works differently at this first stage of the game. But the easiest thing to do is to sit down with a piece of paper (or blank document or spreadsheet if that’s how you roll) and write out all your ideas. Write down your product idea, why it’s awesome, and why you’re passionate about it. Then skip a line and write “budget.”

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • How many hours per week can I dedicate to my ecommerce business?
  • How much money per week/month can I dedicate?
  • Do I already have inventory, or do I need to spend some of my resources on obtaining some?
  • Can I solicit help from someone I trust to add to the above?
  • How long will it take me to get up and running based on the resources I have?

When you’re just starting out, honest answers to these questions might make it seem like you hardly have the time or energy to make selling happen. Maybe you only have 2 or 3 hours a week to dedicate fully to selling online.

BUT! Maybe you can take a whole day next month to do some foundational groundwork: things like opening an online store, taking inventory of what you’re going to sell, and buying shipping supplies. After that, putting 2 or 3 hours in a week might feel more realistic.

The same goes for money: maybe you don’t have an extra $200 lying around every month. But maybe you already have a stockpile of tea cozies and coasters built up over the last two years that can act as seed inventory while you slowly build up the rest. And maybe that’s all you need to get started and work towards that initial goal.

Well, almost all.

Thing 3: A Name for your Brand

You have a name, right? So should the things you want to sell! That’s the beginning of a brand, right there! And a brand is crucial for having an online business that’s successful in the long term.

Establishing a name is also a great first step towards making your little idea feel more real. Like this business is actually happening (because it is, it’s happening!). If you already have a name in mind, great! If not, these questions might help:

  • What do you sell?
  • What adjectives can you use to describe what it is?
  • Who are you trying to sell these to, and what do they want (it’s okay not to know this exactly, we’re just brainstorming!)
  • How do you want your customers to feel when they interact with your brand?
  • Do you want your brand to have your name in it? Is your personality a part of what makes your product unique?
  • What’s the tone of your brand (i.e. a brand that sells blankets for kittens will have a different feel than a brand that sells customizable barbeque accessories…probably).

Once you have a name for your little fledgling idea, a great thing to do is a quick Google search to make sure no one else is using that name to sell things that are similar to your things—that gets confusing really fast, and will forever be a thorn in your side.

If you’re all good there, a great thing to do is create an email account (like a free gmail one!) with your new name to reserve it, and to start assembling resources for your brand—join some mailing lists (might I recommend the Ecwid Blog newsletter?), sign up for potential competitors’ emails and product updates.

You miiiight want to also reserve your brand name on some social media platforms, if that’s something you’re familiar with. If not, no worries! I promise, we’ll get there.

In the meantime, here we have a blog post with some more suggestions for business name ideas.

An early version of our logo that Kate cooked up on her computer: a good brand needs a good name

Key Takeaways from Today

What you Need to Start Your Store:

  1. A product to sell (something you’re passionate about)
  2. A money budget and a time budget, and a way to reasonable work within those
  3. A name!
  4. To tune in for the next installment…

Also in the series:

Table of contents

Sell online

With Ecwid Ecommerce, you can easily sell anywhere, to anyone — across the internet and around the world.

About the author

Nicole is a writer and Content Marketing Manager at Ecwid. As newcomer to e-commerce, it’s her goal to provide informative and user friendly articles that are accessible to all stripes of sellers. She is based in Southern California, the perfect place to chase the sun and watch old movies.

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I’ve used Ecwid and I love the platform itself. Everything is so simplified it’s insane. I love how you have different options to choose shipping carriers, to be able to put in so many different variants. It’s a pretty open e-commerce gateway.
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I like that Ecwid was easy to start and to use. Even for a person like me, without any technical background. Very well written help articles. And the support team is the best for my opinion.
For everything it has to offer, ECWID is incredibly easy to set up. Highly recommend! I did a lot of research and tried about 3 other competitors. Just try ECWID and you'll be online in no time.

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