Golden Girl Finance
 
Lexie Magyar-Chapiel
Posts (5)
 
 

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How to build an online store

May 11th, 2012 by
 

I have worked in fashion for the past 8 years and have built relationships with lots of local designers who sell locally but not online. I am thinking of building an online (e-commerce) store but I don't know how much I should spend to build it or promote it. How much do I need to get started?

Asked by Anonymous

 

That's really cool! Having industry experience and a passion for your business is always a great way to start.

Depending on your goals and budget, there are a few ways to get started...

Option A: Online Vendor

When you're just starting out, one of the most affordable ways to get up and running is to create a store on an online shopping website such as Etsy or Ebay. It's free to sign up and you can sell to visitors who come to those sites and do searches; you can also sell to your own customers through these sites, via your online marketing or offline promotions such as coupons or business cards.

Pros:

  • Free to get started.

  • Easy to use.

  • Can leverage some of these sites' traffic.

Cons:

  • You don't own the website so you can't sell it in the future.

  • Because they own everything, it is a bit harder to establish a competitive advantage.

  • Because they are paying to run the site, your cost per transaction is usually higher than it would be if you owned the website.

Estimated cost:

  • Free to set up, plus a few hundred dollars for marketing and promotions.

Option B: Hosted Online Store

If you want to own your own online store but you don't have thousands of dollars to build the site, you can start with a pay-by-month type system like Shopify, who will provide you with designs and all the tools you need to get started. You can put the website on your own domain name so that you own it and have control over it.

Pros:

  • You will own the domain name, so you could sell the store in the future.

  • You can more easily do SEO (search engine optimization) and PPC ads to attract website traffic.

  • You can decide on the look and feel of your store by choosing from one of their templates.

Cons:

  • Since you are using their content management system, you will likely have to pay a monthly fee plus a percentage of your sales.

  • Again, since you are using their system, you are subject to their changes and updates.

  • If you decide you want to switch over to another content management system in the future, this could have a negative impact on your search engine rankings.

Estimated cost:

  • A few hundred dollars to start, plus ongoing resources needed to market your website to attract visitors.

Option C: Fully Customized Website

This would involve hiring a local web design company to build you your own e-commerce store. The cost and time involved will really depend on the size and score of the site you want to build. Make sure you get your website built on a content management system that has e-commerce capabilities so you can easily add and edit products.

Pros:

  • You own the website and ideally whatever content management system it is built on, so you have more control over the long-term.

  • You own your own domain name, so if you make the website a success you can sell it in the future.

  • You have full control over the look and feel and branding of the site.

  • You can get your website developer to add in integrations like social sharing and other promotions.

Cons:

  • It will cost a lot more to do this (both initially and ongoing).

  • You will likely need a contract IT person to help you with any issues that may arise from running an e-commerce store.

Estimated cost:

  • A few thousand dollars to get set up (at the very least), plus your monthly marketing budget.

Whatever you decide, make sure you do your research and come up with a solid competitive advantage and marketing plan before you start spending money. Good luck!

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How to make money on the side with an online business

May 10th, 2012 by
 

I'm a 54-year-old, divorced mother of two that works as an educational assistant at a middle school. I enjoy my job and want to keep it, but I want to make more money on the side. I hear about people who are making money with online businesses, but I'm not that "tech savvy" and I don't know where to start. Any advice?

Asked by Anonymous

 

Good for you for taking the initiative and researching your different options! It's true that people do make money online; however a great deal of those people have some previous experience in the online world and have spent time and money learning how to become successful (as you do in any career path). If you are simply looking for an easy way to make extra money, you may want to look at a part-time job at a store or office near you.

However, if you are interested in building your own online business and you are prepared to spend time and money in making it a success, there are some fairly simple ways to get started.

The most basic way to get started online is to set up a blog or website where you write content, essentially becoming a publisher. You can easily set up a Wordpress or Blogger blog on their websites. Choose a niche topic and write high quality content on a regular basis that interests your readers. Then along the side of your blog, you can insert advertisements. These can be Google Adsense ads that pay you each time someone clicks, affiliate ads that pay you when someone who clicks on the ad goes through to the next site and buys something, or you could even sell ads to businesses in your industry and display their banner on your website.

Tip: In order for you to make any advertising revenue you need to have website visitors. To get website visitors in the beginning, I recommend promoting your website to your friends, family, co-workers, as well as other people online and in your industry by joining forums and groups. If you write high quality content, then you'll start to get more and more website traffic, and in turn more advertising revenue.

Ask the Expert

Q&A: Can my business get listed on Google without a website?

February 11th, 2012 by
 

I have a local business but I don't have my own website. I'm wondering if there's any way for me to get my business listed on Google without a website?

Asked by Anonymous

 

It's great that you're starting to look at ways of getting new customers online! A great first step is to create a Google Places page for your business.

Simply go to http://www.google.com/places/ and create a profile. When people are searching for your business in your neighbourhood, Google will show a map of businesses that fit the description nearby. Once you complete your Google Places profile, your business can start showing up on this map - which often shows up above the top search results!

Make sure to add in keywords that you think your customers will be searching for (if you're in real estate, for example, add in 'Downtown Vancouver Realtor' then your own name). Add as many pictures and videos as you can, and select your categories wisely. The more complete your profile, the more likely Google will show your Places page in search results.

You can also look into creating a free WordPress blog about your business at www.wordpress.org or set up a Facebook Page for your business.

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How to best use LinkedIn to gain new clients?

February 10th, 2012 by
 

I work as a freelancer and I've been hearing more and more about LinkedIn. How can I use it to get new clients?

Asked by Anonymous

 

LinkedIn is a great way to build your professional network and start to get referrals! You can create a free profile at linkedin.com.

The first step is to complete your profile. Make sure you select your industry and location and use lots of words that you think prospective clients would be searching for. For example, for me to have "SEO consultant" in my headline is a great way to attract new clients. Add a picture and specific skill sets by walking through the profile set-up steps. Remember, the more complete the better!

The next step is to build your network: add everyone in your email address book, old classmates and even people that you meet out at networking events. If you're on Facebook, Twitter or any other social network, post the LinkedIn link to your profile to get your other online friends to add you. Soon enough, LinkedIn will start sending you 'people that you may know' which is a great source for new clients.

In the upper right hand corner, you can search for companies or people near you. Look up company owners or production managers of businesses near you. Add them to LinkedIn and send them a message asking them to go out for coffee (in your introductory invitation). Almost every genuine personal invitation that I have sent requesting to meet up with another business owner is warmly accepted, and I have gotten many new clients from doing this!

Plus, the more people that you connect with, the more you will show up in other people's 'news feeds'. The more people that see you, the more potential clients will be exposed to your profile.

Good luck!

Ask the Expert

Q&A: How can I get new customer leads through my website?

February 9th, 2012 by
 

How can I get new customer leads through my website?

Asked by Anonymous

 

The first step to getting new leads through your website is to set up a lead form. This can be a simple form on your contact page or via a 'request a consultation' page. I use GravityForms.com on my website but many people also use WuFoo.com forms because they are a little more user friendly. Have your webmaster set these up on your website.

Here are some tips...

  1. Ask only for the information you need. People in general don't love filling out online forms. The less fields you have, the better. A good place to start would be name, email, and a drop-down menu of the service that they are interested in or a message area.

  2. Be clear about what the prospective customers can expect. For example: "I will get back to you within 2 business days to set-up an appointment" and/or "I won't sell any of your personal information or spam you."

  3. If you mention an offer on your site, make sure it is reiterated on the page that your form is on. People want to make sure that they are getting what they were promised. For example, if you mention a free 1 hour consultation on another part of your website, make sure you repeat yourself and say "fill out this form for a free 1 hour consultation".

  4. Another great tip is to display properly-earned security seals or association badges on your website right near your form. If you are a member of the BBB or have VeriSign on your website, people will have more trust in your site and be more likely to fill out the form. Client testimonials also help.

  5. Make sure your forms are set up to email you a copy of the lead right when you get it. It is best to follow-up with leads within the first hour that they go through. Chances of that person converting to a sale after 24 hours start dropping dramatically. If you are out of the office a lot, have your email sent to your phone so that you are keeping up with incoming leads.

  6. Don't forget your phone number! These days, many customers are browsing on their iPhones or Blackberries and actually prefer to dial rather than fill out forms. You should have your phone number across the top right hand of your site on every page with your offer (think free 1 hour consultation) so that any page they land on will tell them to call you.