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Picture of Start an Online Microbusiness

Recently I wanted to have a little more cash in my pocket, so I started a microbusiness – smaller than a small business! I hope that this instructable will help you start your own micro online business.

Currently my microbusiness – www.TheJouleThief.com – is making some money selling small electronic kits I designed and constructed. I started it back in November of 2009, and by January I recouped my small $200 investment and began making a profit. But more on that later, let’s get started.

A microbusiness may not yield huge cash flows, but it’s a good way to get a taste of running your own business, and pocketing a little cash at the same time!

 
 
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Step 1: Professionalism vs. Homeliness

Picture of Professionalism vs. Homeliness

One thing to keep in mind that affects ALL aspects of this microbusiness is the balance between professionalism and homeliness. You want your business to appear professional, as if you just didn’t slap it together in 5 minutes to get some cash. At the same time, you want it to look homely, like you aren’t some huge corporation monopolizing the business. This is extremely important as this will determine how your customers will view your business! Always keep this in mind. Throughout this ‘ible I will make little notes about how to maintain this balance. 

Step 2: Are you ready to start your business?

Picture of Are you ready to start your business?

Before you jump into making your business, make sure that you are willing to spend the time and resources. Here’s just a short list of what you need:

·         Time – depending on what you already know, you can spend as little as 2 hours, or as much as a few weekends worth of time to start your business.

·         Money – the initial investment can be around from $20-$500, depending on how serious you are at it. Generally, the more money you put into it at first, the greater chances of getting more profits in the future. My business selling Joule Thief kits started out as a $200 investment.

·         Skills – experience with paypal, websites, and general business will help!

This may seem daunting at first; however running your own microbusiness is FUN! I love doing it, while the money is decent, the feeling when my stuff sells is great.

 

Step 3: Ideas for what to sell

Picture of Ideas for what to sell

The first step before you do anything is to think of some product or service that is desirable.  I decided on Joule Thief kits because people liked them (DIY versions on popular websites got great enthusiasm), and because nobody else was selling them.  Perfect!

Also, you can look for areas in which you can stand out. Why not personalized, hand-painted mailboxes? Sure beats the normal, plain jane mailboxes you see every day.

Your product/services idea is another huge factor, so spend some time thinking about it. No matter how well you run your business, if there is no demand, it’s all pointless!

 

Step 4: Web Site Startup

Picture of Web Site Startup

Now that you have some kind of idea in your head, it’s time to start creating your website for your online microbusiness.

First, get a domain name – for example, google.com is a domain name. I recommend going to godaddy.com to get a domain name – dot com domains are less than $10 per year – that’s pretty reasonable!  Pick a domain that is relevant and rememberable to your customers – this is actually one huge reason google became popular!

Next, you need hosting – the domain name is just the name, you need some hosting for your website to run on! Web sites run on servers – basically computers only designed to host web sites. Since your microbusiness is just starting out, you can start with a free hosting service – I personally use 000webhost.com. Completely free hosting, and decent amounts of space. If your business starts to really take off, it may be time to switch to a reliable paid hosting site.

Tips – don’t get a free domain name! A popular place to get free domain and hosting is webs.com, but it is very limited and very unprofessional! What will your customers think when they see that you didn’t bother to spend the $10 for a real web site?

 

Step 5: Web Site Creation

Picture of Web Site Creation

So now you have a domain name, and a hosting plan. Now is the difficult part – actually creating a web site. Coding from scratch in HTML is tedious and takes a long time to learn. If you want something you can use instantly, there is a plethora of online website creators that will automatically generate the HTML code for your website. Additionally, you can find many HTML templates online.

I had experience in using HTML, so I went ahead with the slightly more complicated route of using HTML templates on my microbusiness. I picked a simple looking blue design, edited the text, and added a few additional pages to the site.

If you want a blog-style website, Wordpress is an extremely popular and well designed blogging system.

Your web site is the core of your small business, so do it well!

Tips: pick a simple but pleasing design for your web site. Do not pick a design that looks “big” and too professional. Web sites like those can look like scam sites, and you don’t want to do that!

Also, add an “about” section, where you put a small bio about yourself. If you look pleasant, put a picture up, too. Your customers want to know who they are buying from, and if they are trustable.

 

Step 6: Payments and Products

Picture of Payments and Products

Well, you may be wondering how you will get paid. The simple answer is, PayPal! PayPal is currently the most popular form of sending and receiving online payments. Imagine it as a bank, but completely online.

Setting up a PayPal account is a little complicated – to start up, you will need to enter in some sensitive details like your bank information and general name/address kind of stuff. Don’t worry, PayPal is completely safe – they won’t steal your money.

Once you have a PayPal account up and running, you can create PayPal shopping buttons that you can add to your web site. Your customers will simply click the “add to cart” button, and they will be taken to a PayPal checkout page. Easy!

I would heavily avoid a credit card system – with a small business like this, the system could be easily hacked.

Finally, accepting money orders is another option, however it is a slow process.

 

Step 7: Shipping

Picture of Shipping

If you are selling a product, you will need to ship it! The great thing about PayPal is that there is an online shipping label creator, where you can use your PayPal balance to generate a USPS or UPS shipping label. Print it out, slap it on your package, and off it goes!

If the package is large and cannot fit in the mailbox, USPS has a free carrier pickup system, where they will pick up any packages (as long as one is sent by priority or express mail) right from your front door. This way, you can avoid any hassle in actually driving to the post office!

 

Step 8: Tracking your progress

Picture of Tracking your progress

To be organized is key. Keep a spreadsheet of your sales and expenditures to see how you are doing.

Google Analytics is a free system by Google that allows the tracking of your web site – it will give you details on how many hits you get a day, how long people stay at your site, when they visit, etc etc.

Use all of this data to improve! If the statistics show that people spend an average of 10 seconds on your web site, that is a clue that they don’t like the layout, or it appears to be a scam site. 

 

Step 9: Adverstising

Picture of Adverstising

You can’t create a website and expect people to find it – you have to advertise!

Google Ads is very popular and a good way to start off.

If there are online forums about your product, join the forum and participate, but don’t actively advertise by posting about your product. Put a link in your signature and just become a member of the community and help others – this will give you a positive image.

Some web sites don’t use Google Ads, and instead use a custom system. On a forum I visit frequently, there is an ad section that runs for just $20 a month, and I tried that.

Tips: Do not do a bunch of different kinds of advertising at once! Take it one step at a time, and use your website statistics to find which form of advertising works best, and stick to it. For example, I found that advertising on the forum for $20 a month did actually increase my sales slightly; however it was not worth the $20, so I stopped using it.

 

Step 10: My Microbusiness

Picture of My Microbusiness

Here’s just the story about my business, www.thejoulethief.com, just to get you familiar with how it went.

Back in November, I wanted more money, so I started to look into ways to sell something. My hobby is electronic s and robotics, so I looked into a product in those areas. I remembered the Joule Thief, a small electronic circuit that lit up an LED using a single AA battery. From the response from many blogs, it was a hit. I looked online for stores selling kits, and I only found one other store selling them, but they were out of stock. So that was how I decided on selling these.

Next, I had to design the product. I built a prototype – it worked. I sent out an order for some circuit boards, $130 for about 300 of them – my first big investment. Later, after verifying that the final product was working, I started on the web site.

I first found a relevant domain – I am selling Joule Thief kits, so I chose the domain “TheJouleThief”. I set up a hosting account with 000webhost. Next, I found a decent free HTML template online, and created my web site.

The hard part was over, now it was time to sit back and watch the sales – hopefully. I created an instructable depicting how to assemble the kit, and that was my first form of advertisement. For the first 3 weeks I got decent sales, but then it started to die off – I realized that more advertising was necessary. I tried an online forum ad for a month, just $20. Sales picked up a bit, however I determined that it wasn’t worth the $20.

By January, after looking at my spreadsheets, I found that I had finally recouped my $200 investment! After that, I would now be making profits. Nice!

I hope that this instructable helped you in getting around to starting a microbusiness.

 
d1ndian2 years ago
nice intractable, i wanted to learn about making kits and selling them.

Tip: make a free wix account. Its a website that offers free & paid flash/html5 templates. Also you can also make facebook website to put in facebook pages. Check out my examples at the bottom. Once your done with a decent, not so heavy on flash website (usually ppl in east part of the world can not even open heavy flash based website so its better to have very little or not at all flash site, although you can now use HTML5 website) you can use your paid domain name to direct people to your wix website. You do not see advertisements on your wix page, although there are tons of apps and stuff you can add on your website to make a it intresting, for example twitter tweet,facebook like and chat etc. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Watch-Live-India-Cricket-Here/110606409022439
Super_Nerd3 years ago
Does PayPal Cost anything?
Yes, it has fees for both sender and receiver. More for "business" transactions. On the plus side, everyone can sign up to use it for their business, unlike direct credit card systems and it's a little more secure for both parties on its own. I.E. if you don't want to get additional security for your website. Nothing is "completely safe" though...due care is still required.

You can see their fees on their website for your area. Try a search for "paypal ".
Thanks
Knuxz4 years ago

I suggest going to 1and1. They are highly professional, and offer large amounts of services. I'm not trying to be like an advertiser, but I use them, and don't regret spending tiny amounts of cash on their services. A few months ago, they had a free domain offer, with no strings attached, and I actually got a free domain which I use for my home server.

For four dollars a month, you can get a site with ten gigabytes of storage, unlimited traffic, and a free domain name(Last as long as you have the service). :D Plus, their servers are ran on 100% green energy.

Oh god. I sound just like the people I hate. (You know, people that go around telling people about stuff, and have their affiliate ID ready to paste)
That almost sounds too good to be true.
It was good while it lasted. I still use them for domains, but for hosting I now use NFOServers.com

They are primarily a private game server host, but an amazing web host. Customer support like you never dreamed.
www.irun.it5 years ago
For your domain name and website bit, I would recommend following this intractable for free hosting http://www.instructables.com/id/FREE-HOSTING-HACK/ This will keep things very cheap
Don't forget your tax deductions. Your entire internet/phone bill is deductable. Your some of your mileage is deductable. A pecentage of your household utilities are now deductable.
leprasmurf5 years ago
Seems cool, but what did you do about business registrations and taxes?
RazorConcepts (author)  leprasmurf5 years ago
Considering that my sales are smaller than what most people get when just selling junk on ebay, I'm pretty sure I don't have to register. But can anyone confirm on when a "business" should be registered? 
I am pretty sure you only have to pay taxes after raising over $400 a year I think, but don't quote me on it.
Kiteman5 years ago
Nice.

Subtle advertising, too.
thush5 years ago
Thanks! You got me all excited to start my own microbusiness. :)
wee_man5 years ago
Cool instructable.  Very nicely laid out to.  I bet it will help many people.


wow this is cool! i want to start doing this!