Start selling online from scratch: the most complete guide on the topic
Find out what you can start selling online, how to have an online business without investing money, how to promote your products, and much more.
Find out what you can start selling online, how to have an online business without investing money, how to promote your products, and much more.
Selling online is an amazing opportunity for those who wish to start a business without leaving the comfort of their homes. However, many people have the wrong idea, namely that starting an online business is easy and that success comes overnight.
The first thing you need to know is that, to achieve excellent results with online sales, you need to plan and work really hard. There are no magical formulas that will make you rich fast or effortlessly.
But if you do serious and structured work, it is likely that you will achieve your main goals, such as having more time to spend with your family, working wherever you are, being your own boss, making more money, and others.
To help you out, we have prepared a complete guide with everything you need to know to start selling online from scratch!
Many people think that the only thing you need to make money online is an audience, be it on your website or social media. But this is not enough. You may have an incredible blog, with thousands of visits per month, but it won’t matter if you don’t have something to sell.
So, the first thing on your mind when you decide to start selling online should be “what will my customers buy?”. We know how obvious this sounds! But is not uncommon to see people complaining about not selling anything because they want to make money with advertising. Although this is an option, it is not the most advisable one, since there are only a few instances where people achieve success merely by advertising.
But, then, what can you start selling online? We have selected the best options:
Consulting is an excellent option for those who know a lot about a certain topic and are specialists in this segment. Let’s take a look at an example.
Imagine you’re an expert in personal finances. You may have studied this, or maybe you acquired this knowledge by working for a company in this sector. The important thing is that you know a lot about economy and asset management, and also the best strategies in personal investment to achieve the best profits.
Now imagine that you have started a blog and a YouTube channel with tips and short lessons about it. In time, using strategies to pass on your content, you have gained a loyal audience, which reads your posts and leaves comments, and watches your lives on social media.
These people are interested in your content and may be in need of personalized financial consulting. In other words, what you can start selling online is a consultancy to people who need your help to improve their personal finances. To attract more customers, an online form on your website might be just the thing. And this consulting may be carried out in person, or in a video-call.
The consultant assesses the situation the customer is in and helps them to achieve their objectives, planning and carrying out strategic actions. And this is only one of the examples, because you can provide consulting services in a multitude of niches, such as fashion, administration, marketing, and many others.
Another option to start selling online is services. Let’s suppose you have a vast knowledge of Spanish, and, just like in the previous example, you offer content to people who need to learn this language.
If your audience trusts your knowledge and your ability to teach, they will probably want to have classes with you, right? And this is exactly what you should start selling: your private lessons, be them face-to-face or through a video call.
The same can be done for different segments: if you have online content on software development, you can sell this service (how to create a mobile app, for instance). Or if you are an architect, you can also offer projects online. There are thousands of possibilities, and a lot of profit can be made.
The disadvantage in selling services (which also goes for consulting) is that you can only cater to a limited number of customers: after all, you are only one person and you will have to dedicate yourself to each of these customers. In other words, in these cases, you won’t be able to scale your business.
Physical products can also be sold online, and they really are very popular. More and more people shop online, because it is much more comfortable than going to a physical store.
This is the ideal option for those who already have an offline shop and want to take their business to the next level. Or for those who want to sell products and cut expenses with the physical space (rent, electric bill, water, etc.).
In order to have an e-commerce, you need a good website, with pictures, descriptions of the products, and prices. Moreover, you also need a payment system and a technical team to solve any issues with the website. But there already are free platforms that offer all the basic structure for an online store, such as Shopify, Wix, Weebly and Squarespace.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that you will have to manage logistics to ship the products. An interesting tip is the use of drop shipment, and then you won’t have to keep goods in stock: when the customer places an order, you transfer it to the wholesaler, who will then ship the goods directly to the customer.
Digital products are the ones sold online in a digital format. The most popular ones are online courses and ebooks, but there are many others, such as mobile apps, webinars, and templates.
The number of people who buy digital products is increasing more and more, for a variety of reasons. Let’s see some of them:
There are many advantages in selling this kind of product online. You can start with little or no investment at all, the business is scalable, you can work from anywhere you want, and many more.
In order to become a Digital Producer, you need to perform different tasks. For an online teacher, for example, you need to define the niche you will act in, plan the course, write scripts, record video lessons, and promote the content online.
It is recommended to rely on a platform that is capable of managing payments, sending the product automatically after the purchase is made. It should also offer two options: that the customer makes the download of the product, or have access to a Members Area.
A great idea for people who wish to start selling online without having to worry about the creation and management of products is to join an Affiliate Program. Affiliates promote products from other people in exchange for commissions. Let’s take a look at yet another example?
Imagine you have a blog on healthy living and physical exercises. Most of your audience is interested in losing weight, eating healthy, and performing calorie-burning activities.
Now imagine that you have found out about an online fitness program, with video lessons the students can watch from home, doing exercises in their own homes. Surely your audience would love this product, right? So, what do you do? You promote it on your blog, using a specific link.
And whenever a person buys the product through the link you posted, you get a commission for the purchase.
Marketplaces are websites that gather products from many other websites and brands in one single place. The buyer can choose the product she thinks is the best one, taking into consideration its characteristics and prices.
Some examples of this kind of online sales are Booking, AliExpress, and AutoTrader. This kind of website is very interesting for customers, since they don’t have to spend hours looking for the best deal and can make the payment directly on the page.
For those who want to start selling online this may also be a good option, since (just like the previous case), you don’t have to develop a specific product. However, expertise in web development is essential, unless you can hire someone to do this work for you (and it won’t be cheap).
If your idea is to start selling online without taking on many risks, you can choose to have an online business that doesn’t require a lot of initial investment. Selling physical products, for example, is not recommended in this case. However, selling digital services and products, or third-party products, may be the right choice for you.
And with this in mind, we have a few tips that may help you out:
You will probably want to have the perfect product before start selling, right? It is normal to wish to offer something of high-quality (and that’s ideal, of course). However, before you figure out if your business really works, you may start with a more basic version.
If you’re going to write an ebook, for instance, you don’t need to hire a designer to take care of the visual aspect. You can start with a simpler model and create the ebook yourself. Here on the blog, we have a step-by-step on how to create an ebook.
Another example are online courses. If you’re recording a video, you obviously want it to look as good as possible. But, in the beginning, you don’t need a studio or a super professional camera.
If you have a well-lit room in your house, and a neutral environment, without a lot of objects and colors, you are ready to start. But remember to choose a place that is comfortable, and free from a lot of noise. Another option is to record outdoors, in a quiet and beautiful place.
It is also possible to use your smartphone camera, as long as it has an acceptable audio and video quality. If you want to learn more about this topic, we recommend you read our post on how to create online courses in video.
There are a wide variety of excellent tools to start selling online and many of them are free (or have a basic version that you can use for a low cost).
To promote your product and attract customers, a good option is to use AdWords, the Google advertisement tool, so that your website appears on the first pages of a search. But if you don’t have money to invest, you can use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies to get your site in the first positions in an organic way (that is, without spending money).
Another example: if your product is an online course, you will have to use a Members Platform so that your customers may login and access modules, videos, forums, activities, and more. There are excellent options you can choose from, which only charge a percentage of the price of the product when you make a sale.
The most important thing is to look for tools that really work, meet your needs, and are not expensive. If you do this, you will see that it is possible to start selling online, even if you don’t have money to invest.
If you have decided to start selling online, defining what you are going to sell is the most important thing! To do so, we recommend that you jot down 3 ideas of products you could create or promote, taking into consideration the following aspects:
It is essential that you choose to work with something you are really passionate about. Just like Confucius said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”. Think about what really interests you and try to picture the products you could create and start selling online.
For instance, if you love gardening and this is your favorite pastime, you could create an online course that teaches how to grow plants at home. Even better, you can pick a more specific topic, such as growing plants indoors, having a herb garden in a small apartment, or the best techniques to grow orchids.
If you like taking pictures, you can write an ebook with photography techniques. And thinking of more specific topics, you could focus on night photography, portraits, landscapes, photoshopping, and many more. Think about your passions and you will certainly find something that is perfect for you!
Even though you have to love what you do, your love for it is not enough. Other people also have to like what you do! More than that, people have to genuinely need your product. There’s no point in developing something you think is wonderful, but that will not be useful to anyone else.
To do so, you need to identify a market and study it thoroughly. It’s necessary to carry out research about a specific niche and understand which problems are found that need to be solved. But don’t worry: we’ll talk about this in our next topic.
Another important point to take into consideration is: to sell more, will you need to dedicate more time and/or invest more money? Or can you make “infinite” sales with one single effort?
For example: if you sell a service like financial consulting, every time you make a sale, you will need to put in more hours, to meet the customers, assess their situation and come up with strategies to meet their needs. Or, if you sell clothes, you will have to buy more items whenever you run out of certain pieces.
However, if your product is an ebook, for instance, once it is ready, you don’t have to worry about anything else: only with the sales. In other words, you will create the ebook once and then be able to sell it to thousands of people all over the world. And that’s why, ideally, you should think about something that can generate the most profit with less effort.
After listing the 3 products that you can start selling online, you choose the best option among them by carrying out market research.
After having defined the product you will start selling online, you will have to create it (unless you decided to sell a physical product).
If you want to sell video lessons, check out our complete guide on how to sell online courses. And if you wish to write an ebook, don’t forget to read all our tips on how to create an ebook from scratch.
When your product is ready to go, you will have to pick a platform that allows you to make sales. For digital products, we recommend you choose one that:
All these benefits will allow you to focus only on the creation of your product and sales, and not on the technical aspects of the business.
And, of course, it would be ideal to choose a platform that is free, with no registration fee, or monthly payments. With Hotmart, for instance, you only pay a percentage of the price of your product, when you make a sale.
The most important aspect for you to start selling online is, without the shadow of a doubt, to win over your future customers. To do so, you need to earn their trust. People have to see you as someone they can rely on, someone that can help them, and wants to help them. And to do so, you need to offer high-quality content.
Here are some online tools that you can use to promote your product and your content. You should, ideally, use most or all of them.
A blog is the number 1 channel for people who want to create an audience, be in constant contact with followers, and show authority. Some of the advantages of this tool are:
Here on the blog, we have written a text with excellent tips on how to write on your blog.
Facebook is the largest social networking site in the world today, with over 2 billion users. This means that your potential customers are probably on it. Some advantages of using this tool are:
Before you create your page, however, read our text on the 9 mistakes you have to avoid at all costs on Facebook.
Instagram is another very popular social networking site, with over 700 million users. The main difference between Instagram and other networks is that is completely focused on images, with pictures and videos. ‘Stories’, which are pictures or videos that disappear in 24 hours, are excellent to grab the attention of the audience.
If your focus is the cooking niche, for example, a great idea is to post short videos of a recipe, pictures of the dishes you’ve prepared, stories with different tips… The sky’s the limit! If you’re just starting out, learn how to sell on Instagram.
The Sales Page is your display window to buyers and Affiliates (if you wish that other people promote your products and help you to sell more). Without a doubt, the quality of this page will have a great impact on your credibility and authority. So, you need to take the following into consideration:
Tip: having your own domain is a good idea in order to make your page more trustworthy for your audience.
Email marketing is extremely important so that you can create an engaged audience that identifies with your brand. This is probably the marketing tool with the best cost-benefit.
The good thing about email is that it reaches the inbox of your customer directly, which increases the chances that the message will be read. Moreover, if you send segmented email campaigns, you can reach your audience in a personalized way, according to the needs of each person.
If you’re still not using this strategy, learn how to use email marketing correctly to sell online.
Tip: display testimonials from your customers so that your audience will trust your work even more.
Throughout this post, our objective was to give you a general overview on how to start selling online. But don’t go just yet! Before you close this tab and start planning your business, we have some important tips.
If you made it this far, you probably already know what you will start selling online, right? Now, we recommend you validate if you really have a genius business idea.
Leave us a comment in the section below and tell us what you thought of this text!
All the best, and see you soon!