You have probably heard the stories of those 20-somethings who started an online business in their garage which they later sold for millions of dollars. Many folks believe those days are long past. I wholeheartedly disagree. It seems every week I hear about another at home mom or out of work truck driver who started an online business at their kitchen table and now earn more than most doctors. This sort of stuff still happens. It is what keeps me going at times. The brass ring is there. All you have to do is make the stretch and grab for it. I intend to use this article to help you decide how to get your website off the ground with as little aggravation as possible.
Before you get start pooling your resources you want to give some thought about where you are going to set up the physical part of your virtual storefront. Yes, you still have to find a real place to do business. You do not necessarily have to rent office space; instead consider setting up a home office. A spare bedroom or den is a good choice. If a room is not readily available then a maybe a corner in a room where computers, books, and other related equipment reside.
Although doing business online means that you do not have to rent space in a physical location, you do have to set up virtual space for your online business. You accomplish this by creating a website and finding a host for your site. These “cyber landlords” are called web hosting services. A web host is a company that, for a fee, makes your site available 24 hours a day by maintaining it on a special computer called a web server.
These days web hosting is readily available and affordable for even the tightest budget. The vast numbers of web hosts existing and competing for your attention have over time brought the costs way down. I routinely buy web hosting for less than $5.00 monthly. Do not let the cost fool you either. My website rarely does off line and if it does my web hosts customer service is available and efficient. I have plenty of storage space as well. If you think your website is going to outgrow the basic web hosting package I urge you not to worry. I still recommend starting out with a basic package and purchasing additional space as you need it.
Another thing to keep in mind is the bandwidth allowed with your account. Basically bandwidth can be defined as how much action (traffic) your website experiences on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Unless your website becomes a traffic magnet (My fondest dream!) the bandwidth allotted to your account is probably going to be more than adequate. However, it is still a good idea to ask a prospective web host how they handle any excess bandwidth. The good ones do not do anything other than let your website function as usual and shoot you an email letting you know your account has exceed the allotted bandwidth and you may purchase additional bandwidth for a few extra bucks monthly. The less than reputable web hosts have been know to shut your website down without warning if it exceeds the allotted bandwidth. Then they wait for you to take notice and contact them at which point they try to charge exorbitant fees to get you site up and running again. Before you make the purchase give them a call and ask them how they handle this situation if it should arise.
Getting The Hardware You Need
For doing business online, your most important piece of equipment is a computer. Other hardware such as printers, scanners, monitors, and routers, are essential, too. You need to make sure that your computer equipment is up to snuff because you are going to be spending a lot of time online: answering email, checking and filling orders, revising your website, and marketing your product. I use a custom built PC. My reasons are it is expandable, more affordable than name brands, and I don’t have to worry about any unwanted software and programs being preinstalled before I buy it. I also got a better warranty than I would have at one of the major computer outlets of office supply stores. There are thousands of websites offering these custom built computers. Check some of them out.
Choosing Your Software
For the most part, the programs you need to operate your online business are the same as the software you use to surf the Internet. Because you will be in the business of providing information instead of gathering it you will need some specialized programs like the following:
A Web page editor – Also known as Web page creation or Web page authoring tools. These make it easy for you to design Web pages without having to learn HTML.
Graphics software – If you plan on building your own website and want to draw images you will need this software. I use Adobe Photoshop but it is up to you. Read some reviews and even test some for 30 days before you have to buy them.
Storefront software – You can purchase software that leads you through the process of creating a full-fledged online business and getting your pages on the Web. osCommerce is free and it is fairly easy to set up and use.
Accounting software – You gotta count them beans. To keep track of expenses and income, there are programs that act as spreadsheets, help with billing, calculate taxes (if any), and calculate sales tax. Intuit is where I would look first.
Getting you online business is going to require a great deal of set up. Do it right and you only have to do it once.