Becoming an online entrepreneur with a store of your very own is an exciting venture. With a traditional brick-and-mortar store, your customers are limited to those who walk through your doors. But if you do a good job of promoting your online store through social media, SEO and pay-per-click advertising, you have the potential to reach people from around the world, perhaps even millions of people. The sky truly is the limit! But how do grow your online store if you currently work full time? There are, after all, only so many hours in a day.
While starting an online store while working a full-time job can seem like a daunting task, it’s definitely something you can do. Success is achieved one step at a time.
Here is how you can launch and grow your online store without having to give up the safety net of a job.
One of the best ways to ensure your store is positioned for success when you are just starting out is to start small. It’s important to make sure you aren’t in over your head from the very beginning. By starting small and slowly building your online presence, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed with a product catalog that’s too big to handle.
Starting small also can mean keeping things simple. For example, you could start with a basic website with a premade template instead of an elaborate custom-designed website. It could also mean starting off with one or two simple products instead of offering a wide selection.
By keeping things simple in the beginning, your store will require less time from you to maintain it.
This lets you fulfill orders and take care of other things during your free time without feeling like you’re in over your head.
Set realistic goals for how to grow your online store
One of the most important things you can do to ensure the long-term success of your online store is to set realistic goals.
Let’s face it: When your online store is new and you are still working full time, you probably aren’t going to dominate your niche. Maybe someday you will, but growth takes time.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and building an eCommerce business that can eventually allow you to quit your job isn’t going to happen overnight, either.
What constitutes a realistic goal depends on your unique situation, including your eCommerce experience, the amount of time you can devote to your online venture, the demand for your products, and other factors.
If your store is brand new, you could set a goal to achieve a certain number of daily sales one year from the initial launch. You could also set a goal to offer more products or to increase your advertising spending.
Related: How to create a small business sales plan that’s bound to be successful
Make sure you are selling the right products
Selling the right products in your online store is vital to learning how to grow your online store. Get this one wrong, and your store could experience difficulties. Even worse, it could result in you having to shut it down.
Something you can do to know if you are selling the right products is to determine if there is demand. One way to do this is by checking the product offerings of other companies in your niche. Competition isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, if other companies are selling a particular product, it shows there is demand for that product.
Related: How to find inspiration from your competitors (without stealing their ideas)
Another thing to consider is the size and weight of the products you are selling. The smaller and lighter products are, the easier they are to fulfill. They take up less space in storage, and they are also easier to ship when sales come through.
Digital products are a great option to focus on if you are new or don’t have time to fulfill orders.
There are various kinds of digital products you could sell, including eBooks, stock photography, printables and others.
The great thing about digital products is they can be fully automated. With a digital product, once a customer purchases a product, a link is then provided to download the file. As a store owner, you don’t have to stock any products or deal with fulfilling orders. You can set everything up for hands-off operation.
Automate your online store
Speaking of automation, this is a great way to ensure the success of your online store if your job keeps you from fulfilling orders.
These days, it’s now possible to build an online store that requires very little of your time and mostly runs itself.
One way you can do this is by using a warehousing and fulfillment company if you are selling physical products. These companies store your inventory in a remote location. When a sale is made, they take care of picking, packing and shipping the product to the customer. In some cases, it’s even possible to have your inventory shipped directly to your fulfillment company so you never have to deal with it.
In addition to shipping your products when you make sales, these companies also handle returns. Some even handle customer service issues. There is, of course, a fee for these services. It might be worth it in the early days when you are figuring out how to grow your online store.
Outsource tasks to save time
Outsourcing tasks is another way you can make your online store successful while working a full-time job. By outsourcing certain tasks to freelancers, you can save valuable time. It also gives you the ability to hire someone who might be an expert in something you’re not skilled in, like graphic design or copywriting.
There are now several websites, such as Upwork and fiverr, that serve as intermediaries between those looking for freelancing work and those needing work done. These sites connect people from all around the world. There are many things that can be done remotely, and where you or the freelancer you hire lives doesn’t matter.
In addition to hiring people to take care of certain tasks on an as-needed basis, it’s also possible to hire either a part or full-time virtual assistant (VA) to help you run your store. A good VA can take care of customer service issues, process orders and do other things.
When to consider going full time
If your goal in starting an online store is to eventually replace your full-time job, you might be wondering when you should make the leap to become a full-time online entrepreneur. When you should make the big leap really depends on your unique situation. It’s going to vary for each individual.
First, you want to make sure your online store is earning consistently. Just because you had one really good month doesn’t mean the following months are going to be just as good. Consistent and steady sales, however, are a sign of stability.
Another thing to consider is the revenue generated by your store. Is it enough to cover your living expenses? You don’t want to run into a situation where you quit your job before your store is earning enough to support you.
Going full time will allow you to focus all of your time and energy toward growing your online empire.
But you definitely don’t want to make the big leap before you are seeing consistent sales growth and a reliable, steady income.
Being an online entrepreneur can be a richly rewarding experience. With an online store you can earn a healthy living for yourself while working from home — or from wherever in the world you want to call home.
And yes, you can definitely make your online store successful while working a full-time job. The key is to take it slow at first and slowly build things over time. It’s about pacing yourself so you don’t become overwhelmed when your job demands the majority of your time.
Related: Exploring new opportunities — from side jobs to full-time ventures
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