Starting your own business can seem daunting, which is why I am here to break it down into 6 simple, basic steps that you can follow easily!
As a small business owner myself, I know what are some of the important things to note and how you can grow your business fast.
Without further ado, let’s learn how to start a small online business!
1: What are you selling?
Figure out a profitable hobby, interest or area that you can tap into. If you have a passion for example digital arts, you can explore by helping other businesses to design logos, business cards, and more! I personally find that having passion helps a lot in preventing burnout. Creating your products and branding will come naturally if you have interest in what you are doing for your business!
OH NO! JENEL, an Instagram art account who sells jewelry and does custom digital artworks. Relating to my example earlier, she has turned her skills in digital art into a business!
The more unique the better! The audience will not see value in your products/services if you are selling the same products/services as many other businesses. If you are selling products in a saturated market, make sure to have a unique selling point that differentiates your business to others.
For example, is there a product that will be the main focus of your shop? Or are you selling it in an unconventional way?
Venn diagram on unique selling point
I started my clothing business selling hand-painted denim and hand-embroidered tops, which were not common in the Singapore thrift marketplace. This helped me gain a competitive edge against other thrift shops, since I offered one-of-a-kind products tied to my brand.
Hand-painted Tarot card jeans
2: Know your target consumers
Decide on your business’ target audience and consumers. Depending on your business, this will vary of course! Using my own clothing business as an example, my target audience is youths who have an interest in second-hand clothing and unique handmade clothing. I know this because the style of clothing I sell is typically worn by youths, and they have to be comfortable with wearing pre-loved clothing.
Determine their demographic, needs, typical behaviour, likes and dislikes. The consumers are the ones who will purchase your products, thus earning you money.
Having a clear vision of who your target audience is will also aid in choosing a social media platform to advertise your products. Instagram allows businesses to set up a business profile, choosing which industry you are in, as well as providing analytics on all the content you post on the platform.
Features of an Instagram business account
TIP!: Instagram and TikTok are the way to go, especially if your target audience is youths. YouTube is also a popular platform across all age groups, and is best for video content.
3: Deliver a strong message
Is there a point you want to get across to your audience? For example, if you are selling environmentally friendly products, your message could be to encourage your consumers to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Another example is to create a movement, such as a name for your consumers or have a vision that everyone can work towards by supporting your business.
One example of a vision is Jamie Oliver’s Food Movement, which was intended to increase the public’s awareness of food education. The end goal was to make the world a healthier place. By supporting Jamie Oliver, consumers were supporting the movement and vice versa.
Source: Jamie Oliver
Similarly, food co-operatives have a vision of providing high-quality foods at fair prices for both shoppers and producers. Food co-ops usually support local produce as well, hence giving back to the community.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Green Top cooperative grocery in Bloomington, Illinois, stepped in to help a struggling Kilgus Farmstead. Green Top Grocery helped to advertise Kilgus’ milk, and offered Kilgus a spot in their grocery store. This boosted sales of both companies, and benefited the public by providing them with fresh produce!
Source: Civil Eats
4: Marketing your brand
Once you have decided on your target audience, consumers and message, you can start thinking about how to attract people to visit your social media accounts!
A cohesive theme is good as it looks like you have put thought into creating your posts. You can create a moodboard with a few colors and pictures to help you visualize this!
Source: Junebug Weddings
Next, create some hype around every product launch by posting sneak peeks before the launch and setting countdowns leading up to it.
TIP!: Make use of features such as Instagram’s Countdown Timer and Stories to make sure your audience does not miss your launch!
Using these interactive features will increase audience engagement, and can be used to develop good relationships with your audience as well. For example, you can gather feedback on your business using Instagram’s Questions and Poll functions. These functions can also be used to play guessing games or conduct interest checks!
Moving on, captions and hashtags are what completes your social media post. Craft an interesting caption with necessary product descriptions such as price, quantity and measurements. Hashtags will also help to boost visibility!
TIP!: Observe how other similar accounts on the platform and the hashtags they used. This will let you know which keywords work best.
5: Sending e-invoices and collecting payment
A neat order summary with payment information should be sent to buyers who have expressed interest in your products.
Example of invoice sent via Instagram Direct Messages
TIP!: To prevent wasting time if a buyer backs out, set a timeframe for every buyer to complete payment to you. If they have not made payment by the given deadline, the item will then go to the next interested party.
6: Terms & Conditions
Clear Terms and Conditions (T&C) of your business should be relayed to your consumers to ensure that they comply and are aware of any policies. This can include refund, return and exchange policies, mailing fees, and other potential liabilities the customer has to take note of.
Laying out clear T&Cs of your business protects yourself from unreasonable customers and repetitive questions.
Example of my Instagram shop’s T&C
With that, here are the 6 things you need to know before starting an online business. I hope that this article has helped to make the process easier and less terrifying!
Start small and build your foundation before exploring expansion and other opportunities. Gain connections and experience from your business ventures! These are also very valuable things alongside profit.
This article is brought to you by Loh Jae Yee. Jae Yee is a third-year student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She is currently interning with SNCF from March 2021 to August 2021. She is also constantly experimenting with fashion and making her own clothes and jewelry.