3 steps to start an online business

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

It can be a challenge for some existing businesses to shift from a traditional bricks and mortar shop to online, or from face to face consultancy to virtual services.

Offering online services can help maintain your cash flow and provide a new income stream. It also means small businesses can continue to offer a personal and valuable service that's convenient for all customers.

Fore service led businesses, offer to meet clients 1:1 on the phone, over email, or over a video conference such as FaceTime, Zoom, BlueJeans or Google Hangouts. A reliable internet connection is important, test your sound and video and also remember to lock your meetings to maintain privacy.  Provide a 'bot' to reach all visitors to your website and answer their questions immediately.

For bricks and mortar shops, diversifying means potentially offering some products and services online. Or if your shop is already online, investing a bit more time and energy into your site’s quality and user experience, so that shoppers have a seamless shopping experience. You could try running sales on social media or form new partnerships and make your products available accross multiple sites.

If e-commerce is new to you, here are 5 tips to help you get started.

1. Identify the right online marketplace for you and your business

There are many online sites built specifically to help you sell your products. But it’s easy to make the mistake of starting an online business by selling your products on the wrong platform.

Here are some things to consider when identifying the best online marketplace for your products and customers:

  • Your products’ look and use. If your products are handmade and crafty, open an Esty shop. If they’re made in a factory and have a more commercial appeal, sell them on Amazon.

  • Where your customers hang out. Consider the people who buy your products. Would they shop on eBay? Or if your products have a local appeal, might you get more traction on Facebook Marketplace?

  • Your time. Building a website on Shopify, Wix or Squarespace is ideal for keeping your branding consistent with your actual shop and maintaining the most control - bear in mind the time commitment setting this up.

  • Your resources. If you have your customers’ email addresses and permission to market to them, this is perfect as it's a ready made audience. You can also drive traffic through social media. If you don’t have good communication with customers, you may find it more useful to sell your products on Amazon for example.

2. Show your products/services in the best light - let them shine

Selling your products online means every item must have a photo and a name and preferably a description. If it’s clothing, you need to describe the feel of the fabric or an occasion to wear it - video is even better. If it’s a garden tool, tell your customer what it can do, just as you would if they turned to you in the shop and asked.

You need to capture high quality photos of each product to catch the eyes of online buyers.

3. Add products to your online shop

At this point, you may be more concerned with getting your products online fast than perfecting your own online retail space. So here;s how to get going immediately and setup is quick and easy:

  • Etsy

  • eBay

  • Amazon


Setup is easy. Simply upload your business’s logo, complete the “about me” section and shop announcement, and outline your shop’s policies. Etsy has additional resources to help you market more effectively. Depending on how many items you intend to list, you can get an Etsy shop up and running in a day. That said, it may take weeks to get your first order. So it’s essential to look at seo (search engine optimisation) and shop setup.


eBay has plenty of help for business owners looking to sell on their site. The good news is that setting up a shop on eBay doesn’t take much time. That said, some users (particularly those new to e-commerce) may find the process confusing. If that’s the case for you, you can hire other companies to set up your shop for you. They can help your shop stand out as a professional retail space on a site with lots of competition.


A couple of things to note before jumping into Amazon as a selling platform:

  1. Getting approved to sell on Amazon’s marketplace is getting tougher. You’ll have to provide a lot of documentation upfront.

  2. As of March 2020, Amazon has been prioritising the delivery of medical and household supplies and stopping shipments of non-essential products to their warehouses.

If you decide to list your products on Amazon, you’ll enjoy benefits like enhanced brand analytics and access to millions of consumers.

As you can see, there are plenty of resources to help you along the way. If you do decide to start an online business it doesn’t mean giving up on your shop front dream. It’s just an expansion into another dimension and an enhancement to your offering – customers love to have options and being there right when they want to buy make online too much of an opportunity to miss.

If you're a small business owner and would love some help, get in touch today with Purple Accounts for a no obligation chat. If you like us, we'd be very happy to help you and your business.

Perhaps you don't get the service you need from your current provider - switching to Purple Accounts is easy peasy. Read more about switching here: https://www.purpleaccounts.co.uk/switchingaccountant

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