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Everything you need to sell online

Set up an online store in minutes to sell on a website, social media, or marketplaces.

How to Start an Online Store Without a Budget

14 min read

The word “business” may deter some people because of common myths, like that starting a business requires blood, sweat, tears, and a whole lot of money to get a business off the ground. Fortunately, the world is changing. Opening your ideal store can be as easy as downloading simple software. Anyone with an idea and phone can start a business these days—and so can you.

Companies like Ecwid by Lightspeed are out there to help people across the world open up profitable businesses with just an idea, a game plan, and a few clicks of a button. You are more than capable of setting up a new store, including a website, social media, and virtual marketing. Read on to find out more.

How to sell online
Tips from e-commerce experts for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
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No Money? No problem.

Sometimes, a person’s business dreams don’t come to fruition because of the myth that you need copious amounts of money to start a business. But the most important parts of starting a business are motivation and vision. If those two things aren’t there, even thousands of dollars won’t magically create a booming business.

Once you have your motivation and vision, money can be something you work around. Starting a small business doesn’t need anything more than a simple savings account and a dream.

Nowadays, aspiring entrepreneurs can start new online stores for much less upfront cost than their predecessors, who often had to get a physical store. Online stores make it easier to reach potential customers while also utilizing multiple marketing resources. Using different platforms, virtual marketing, and proper ecommerce websites can be the perfect mix for starting an online store.

Why Set Up an Ecommerce Site?

Starting your own store can be a bit overwhelming in the beginning. To really figure out how you want to run your business, you need to understand your store and brand. This could mean envisioning how you want your store to look a year from now, how you want your life to look, and what attracts potential customers. Sit back, close your eyes, and picture your future. What do you see?

If your business idea is one of having your own schedule, being in control of your own products, and sharing your brand with many people, opening up an online store may be just what you need.

If you’d rather pay 5 figures or more in rent, utilities, and other brick-and-mortar store costs, then by all means, proceed. But even with an in-person store, getting an ecommerce site can be key to success.

An example of an ecommerce website

More Flexibility for Your Business

Just think back to the last thing you bought. There is a significant chance that it was off the internet, right? Now imagine having your own products spread out around multiple different platforms, easily accessible by your customers. Having a fully-fledged online store can make the dream of having your product in every home a reality.

An online store offers opportunities for creativity, growth, and flexibility that may not be available with traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. For example, an ecommerce store doesn’t require the same steps of opening an in-person store, like renting property.

Easy to Expand with Omnichannel Selling

It is important to have the capacity to expand your business as it grows. When you have an established online store and are ready to invest in new sales channels, you can easily sync your product catalog with a social media site or marketplace.

Having an ecommerce store also allows you to promote your business through multiple avenues. You can connect it to social media like Facebook and Instagram, as well as marketplaces like Amazon. That allows you to sell on several channels at once.

If you sell online with Ecwid by Lightspeed, you can manage your inventory and sales from a single dashboard. This helps ensure you are not overselling your physical products and tells you when you need to restock your inventory.

You can set up an Instagram Shop with Ecwid by Lightspeed

How to Start an Online Store with No Money

Now let’s dive into the actionable steps you can take to choose an ecommerce platform for your online store and get the word out about your new business with little to no upfront cost!

How to Choose an Ecommerce Platform

Here’s what to look for when deciding on an ecommerce platform:

  • Pricing. How much will it cost you to make money with this platform?
  • Integrability. Does this platform integrate well with other tools you’re going to use? Consider payment gateways, shipping providers, and marketing tools.
  • Templates. Does the platform offer design templates to make your online store easier to start?
  • Analytics. See if the solution includes analytic features to keep you in the know about your customers and sales.
  • Google Search friendliness. Built-in SEO tools help you get in the search spotlight.
  • Mobile-friendliness. Mobile shopping is bigger than ever, so the mobile version of your online store should be easy to use.
  • Customer support. You want a store platform with live support in case of emergencies.
  • Transaction safety. Ensure your platform doesn’t store customers’ payment data and protects transactions made in your online store.
  • Growth opportunities. Will the platform help you grow or hold you back?

Let’s talk more about the last point: growth opportunities. When you’re starting out on a budget, of course, you want a free platform. However, they usually come with limits. If your business becomes successful, it will eventually outgrow those limits.

For example, you may eventually want to sell more than the three original products you offered when you first set up your store. You could end up having to move your whole store and operations to a different platform because the first one is not as advanced as you will eventually need it to be.

While we offer a Forever Free plan, Ecwid by Lightspeed allows your online store to expand as your business grows. You can add new sales channels, increase your product catalog, leverage marketing tools, or even create a mobile shopping app for your store. All you need to do is upgrade as your store expands.

How to Set Up an Online Store

With Ecwid by Lightspeed, you can create your ecommerce website from scratch. If you already have an existing website, you can add an online store to it easily. Setting up an online store is free with Ecwid. With the free plan, you can sell a limited number of products, but there are no transaction fees, making it easy to launch a business with little to no budget.

The best part? You can keep the free plan for as long as you need!

Check out the step-by-step instruction for setting up an online store without any design or coding skills:

How to Promote an Online Store for Free

Now that we have established how to start your online store on a budget, let’s talk about how to promote your store without spending a dime.

The two most affordable and easy-to-use promotional methods are social media and email marketing. These are free and available to everyone, but are especially useful for new business owners.

Leverage Social Media

Having an online store can also give you access to using social media as a marketing platform for your store. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok help small businesses grow their audiences and sell right from the app.

You can post your website link, product pictures, videos, deals, and more to promote your store on social media pages. Social media can be a great way to showcase your brand and products while telling your audience the person behind the business. People often buy from small businesses for the personal touches and stories behind the product.

Social media is great for showing the behind-the-scenes of your business

By posting on social media, you give your audience a chance to fall in love with you and your products simultaneously. Be yourself, be goofy, show any mess-ups, and help your audience laugh along with you. Customers love to see who they are buying from and supporting.

Get Started with Email Marketing

When using email marketing, you can promote your business through a newsletter or email campaign. Emails can be sent to potential and current customers. It is a great way to connect with your customers while growing your influence.

Start by making an email list of people interested in what you have to offer—those who bought your product or signed up for emails. You can offer discounts for signing up, birthday discounts, or exclusive content to incentivize people to subscribe to your email list.

The easiest way to grow your email list is to add a sign-up checkbox at checkout. With Ecwid by Lightspeed, you can enable it with a single tap—no need to code or install third-party plugins.

sign-up checkbox at the checkout in the Ecwid by Lightspeed store

Then start sending emails informing customers about new products, sales, deals, discounts—include any information about your business that will keep the customers interested. For example, if you sell pillows, you can share advice for better sleep—like buying your pillows!

There are email marketing platforms that offer free plans with a limited number of contacts or sends. When you’re just starting your store, that can be more than enough. And when your business is steady and you’re ready to invest in marketing, you can upgrade.

But when you’re ready and have a store with Ecwid by Lightspeed, you can use its automated email marketing tools, which are available on paid plans.

Learn more: 7 Automated Marketing Emails to Drive Sales Hands Free

An example of an abandoned cart email you can send automatically with Ecwid by Lightspeed

With Ecwid by Lightspeed, there are no transaction fees or subscriber limits for sending automated marketing emails to customers. All you have to pay is the cost of your pricing plan, no matter how large your list of customers becomes.

To learn more about email marketing, listen to our podcast on using emails to increase sales and customer loyalty. You’ll gain insights on email campaigns that all beginner sellers can and should implement to create a consistent revenue stream.

To Recap

Small online businesses have taken the world by storm in recent years. Now anyone with an idea can start their own business relatively easily. There are many software options available that make it easy to set up an online store without breaking the bank.

With Ecwid by Lightspeed, you have the option to create a worldwide online business with little to no money. We have given you the opportunity to start a business frugally—it’s up to you to seize it.

Why not get started? Get in touch with Ecwid by Lightspeed today to learn how to start your online store. You won’t even have to get out your wallet.


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Sell online

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

About the author

Max has been working in the ecommerce industry for the last six years helping brands to establish and level-up content marketing and SEO. Despite that, he has experience with entrepreneurship. He is a fiction writer in his free time.

Ecommerce that has your back

So simple to use – even my most technophobic clients can manage. Easy to install, quick to set up. Light years ahead of other shop plugins.
I’m so impressed I’ve recommended it to my website clients and am now using it for my own store along with four others for which I webmaster. Beautiful coding, excellent top-notch support, great documentation, fantastic how-to videos. Thank you so much Ecwid, you rock!
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.
Easy to use, affordable (and a free option if starting off). Looks professional, many templates to select from. The App is my favorite feature as I can manage my store right from my phone. Highly recommended 👌👍
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.

Your ecommerce dreams start here

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