Start selling online in 2021
You want to earn some money on your own, maybe alongside your full or part time job or maybe you’ve landed yourself in a position where you haven’t got any work to be getting on with. Well fill up your calendar because I’m going to walk you through everything you need to sell online in the UK in 2021.
What you need to sell online
There are a few things you need before you start, it depends on what you’re selling but you should take a look at any licenses you may require as I do not want to tell you to go ahead with something without doing the proper research. But at the same time, I can’t cover every license or any permissions you may need for every business venture.
You should start by setting up your business, this includes:
- Thinking of a catchy name
- Putting together a business plan (nothing spectacular but enough to give you a sense of where you’re going with this venture).
- Think of your brand and message.
This blog isn’t about setting up a business, but more of an in-depth article on what you need to do in order to start selling products or services online. If you want to learn more about this, then read about what you need to start a business in 2021.
You’re also going to need:
- An Ecommerce platform
- Website hosting
- Suppliers (if you’re selling a product)
- Competition research (so you don’t over or under charge)
So let’s get stuck into it!
The Costs of Selling Online
You might be wondering what all of this is going to cost you, so I’ll break down the general costs for you.
Website Design Costs
For website design, you’re looking at anywhere between £500 – £1000 – yes this is likely a big chunk of your budget or maybe already outside of your budget. However, depending on who you go with your website design you may be able to establish a payment plan to soften the blow.
It’s important to provide your business with a good website design, it’s the storefront of your business and will determine your possible customers or clients’ decision to purchase your goods or services (alongside factors like price, customer service and more). Learn more about what makes a good website design.
Costs of Website Hosting
You’re also going to need to host your website, which is a more affordable service ranging anywhere between £10 – £20 per month. You may be thinking, hold on – I’ve seen hosting far cheaper than that. You’re not wrong, you can get some seriously cheap website hosting, but my professional advice to you would be to avoid certain hosting plans that sound too good to be true. If you want to host a feature rich ecommerce store on a £3 per month hosting plan, you will run into problems with lack of resources, resulting in down time, angry customers and a stressful life.
Before paying up for a website hosting service, you should learn more about what a website hosting service is.
Costs of marketing for start up businesses
When starting off, you don’t need to commit to a super expensive marketing strategy with a big agency. You should start small, build your brand with a small niche by posting content that relates to your target customer. Now I’m not saying you don’t need to market your product at all, because you will need to at some point when you are ready to grow.
We’ll get more into how you can market your business in a moment, but when starting off, you can set up a free MailChimp account for your newsletter, use a free graphics tool to make simple images for promotion (unless you have access to Photoshop or someone who does and knows how to use it). Chances are, you are familiar with the concept of social media, set yourself up with a business page and start posting content as frequently as possible (that’s totally free).
Which platforms you can use to sell online
You are going to need to run your store on an Ecommerce platform, discuss this with your website designer as they are going to be setting that up for you. We would recommend WooCommerce as it’s hugely customisable, scalable and reliable.
However, depending on which route you go with for website design, different ecommerce platforms will be available to you. If you go with WordPress, then you should use WooCommerce – if you are selling digital products you could take a look at Easy Digital Downloads.
If you go with Shopify, they have ecommerce features built in to their website builder service which can be really effective.
Whatever you choose, you’re going to want to be comfortable with using it as your customers are going to expect you to know how to handle their orders and information. It should also offer features for them to shop on your site as easily as possible to improve your conversions and their user experience.
Start marketing your business
You can do a lot of marketing yourself, by starting a newsletter, social media page, a blog and getting eye-catching graphics made up to promote your brand and products. Before you get into that, you need to research where you stand in the market you’re in, who your products can help and how you can target these people.
Find out who your competitors are, not the huge companies who have already made their riches, but other small businesses similar to you who sell the same sort of products or services. When you do this, you open up a whole stream of data that you can look into about how they are targeting their customers and how you can do it better.
Customer and Keyword Research
Next, figure out who your customers are, build an idea of the type of person you want to target. There are so many ways of doing this, but I’ll keep it simple. Go ahead and search in google the problem your product solves, for example if you want to sell hair products for dry hair, search “dry hair” and before pressing search take a look at Google related searches that pop up. This gives you an idea of what people search for that have dry hair.
You can also make use of the many great tools out there used for SEO research. Put your competitors domain into a site audit tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush or UberSuggest and get a great insight into the keywords and strategy that they are using to market their products.
Once you know where your business stands in the market, who your customers are and how you can target these people with keywords, messaging and promotions – you can start building the material to go with the research.
Build a following on Social Media
If you haven’t made your business pages yet, you should do so. Start small, make pages on the platforms that your marketing efforts can be most appreciated by the audience you are targeting. But what does that mean? If you are selling artwork, platforms like Pinterest and Instagram would be perfect! If you are looking to build an engaging community around your brand then Facebook and Twitter are both great options.
Thinking of what to post can be hard, you should start off by following your competitors on the chosen platforms (if you sign up to the right platforms, then you will likely find your competitors on there too). Following your competitors will give you ideas every day on the type of content you may want to start posting. I don’t mean to copy them, but let their creativity fuel your productivity on the days where everything you think of ends up in a blank.
What I did to help me think of what to post was creating a schedule. I took a look into the statistics of when the best times to post to each platform is and matched my schedule to that. I then went ahead and decided that on mondays I will post a fun fact about the industry, on wednesdays I will post something engaging for my followers to interact with (like a poll or q&a) and on fridays I would post something about my business.
Then, I got busy on Photoshop. I thought of a theme, made sure my branding was consistent by having the same logo in the same position of every image I uploaded. I created all kinds of different images that I could post so I had a surplus of content to choose from.
Social media is tough, and there’s a lot more to it than I’ve covered here. But these are the basic principles that I followed when starting our social media.
Learn more about using social media to promote your business.
Sell using a newsletter
Having an email campaign can be really effective to let your customers know when you have a sale, new product or some kind of event going on. If you think a newsletter is fitting to your business then go ahead and make a free MailChimp account which will cater to your needs at the beginning just fine.
GDPR and Keeping it Legal
You’ll need to follow GDPR regulations when building your mail list. You can only send a marketing email to someone who has agreed to receive them (as I’m sure you’ve unticked plenty of boxes to make sure you don’t receive these emails). You should have a checkbox at the registration of your site, or in the checkout process which is unticked by default.
Encouraging People to Subscribe
People are going to want something in return for joining your mail list. Things like e-books, coupon codes or a free product works great! While yes, they may unsubscribe straight away, the chances are they will forget and at that point you have someone that is interested in your products easily reachable by a simple email!
Now you can start promoting your sales, products and events by using a service like MailChimp to send out a stylish and effective email to all of your mail list.
If you think of yourself as a bit of a writer, then you may be able to do this yourself. Blog writing can be a really effective way of building your sites traffic by writing about topics relevant to your industry and products, you are targeting the people who have questions about those products.
Now not all blogs are written to sell a product, like this one – the goal of this blog is to educate you on how to sell products online in the UK. Now I don’t expect you to go ahead and purchase any of our services, but if you read this blog and take something away from it, you will recognise the company that provided you with this information as a trusted source and could possibly convince you to get in touch with us at some point.
You should use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush, Ubersuggest, Google Trends or Google Analytics to find topics that you can write about and keywords related to that topic that you can slip into the blog’s content. This is called on-page SEO, and it’s the process of optimising your content to prove to Google that your content is what people are looking for. It can be a long process, and if you are pumping out several blogs a month then you are likely going to need a premium subscription of one of these tools.
It might be worth paying for an SEO service to optimise all of your content including your blogs, web pages and Google My Business to target your customers, because at this point you might be too busy running your business to spend all this time finding the data to optimise your site.
Google’s algorithm is always changing to better the user experience of the search engine it serves. As of 2021, the algorithm really favours quality content with other material such as videos and images. Your blogs will never rank unless the content is high quality and serves its purpose.
Building a blog is also a very long process and you aren’t going to see the results quickly, but keep going and share your blog posts on social media (You have something else to post!).
So I hope you have learned something from this blog, you might now be ready to take on your next project. Bare in mind, that we can help you out with almost everything discussed in this blog so feel free to drop us a message even if you just want some more information.