How to start a side business.

The last 5 years have proven it’s foolish to depend on a single source of income. I’m not recommending you quit your day job and try to launch the next Facebook but it’s prudent to build something on the side that you enjoy and produces a second revenue stream. In my case, I create and sell WordPress themes on my Etsy Shop and also resell Website Hosting.

So stop what you’re doing for the next few minutes and I’ll show you how I did it. You’ll be up and running your own second income site before you know it.

It seems a little too obvious but there are 3 basic ingredients to any online business; something to sell, a website to sell it on and customers to buy it.

Find something to sell.

Most startups fail because there is no demand or need for the product or service. All the hard work ahead is wasted if you pick a bad product no one wants. So how do you find something to sell? My rule is to always be your own first customer. In addition to WordPress, I have a personal passion for watches and regularly visit watch forums and review sites. About a year ago I stumbled on a review of a retro military watch that was made by a guy in Switzerland in his garage after his day job as a watch designer. I wanted to buy the watch but there was an estimated 4–6 week delivery wait due to the watch coming from Europe and clearing US Customs. I thought wow this is a nice, unique watch no one here in the US knows about and even if they do are probably frustrated by the long delivery delay. So I found the guy’s European website, wrote him a complimentary email and eventually formed a trusting connection to become his first US distributor.

I bought his watches at a huge discount, imported them and then sold them on my website. This solved his problem of growing a new market and solved the US customers’ problem of having to wait weeks to get a watch. Since I was in the US, I could offer next day shipping to any US buyer. After running the site for several months, I got an offer to buy it and sold it for about $2,000.

The lesson here is try to find a product or service you yourself would buy and then figure out how to sell it cheaper, easier or with added value. Also remember the power of asking. Anyone could have become Francis’ first US distributor but I was simply the first one who asked.

Here are 3 of my favorite sites to find new ideas for products and services:

Amazon.com Movers Shakers (Biggest % sales gainers in last 24 hours) Google Trends (See what the world is currently searching for) Kickstarter.com (Get inspired and use the “copy and improve” model)

It’s so important to find something you feel good about selling. If you wouldn’t sell it to your friends without a guilty conscience, you probably shouldn’t be selling it.

Setup a website and domain name.

If at all possible, manage your own website. I know it may seem technically daunting and a mild annoyance standing between your great idea and millions of eager buyers but your website must be under your control. I’m not saying you have to become a web developer, you can always find a good coder, but you should own all the pieces and parts that make up your main method of sales. Sites like WIX and Squarespace make it easy to get started but what if you do have a great idea with good sales and loyal customers and then some big company comes along and buys WIX or they run out of money? All your hard work and sales will disappear with them. Also, you can’t sell a WIX site if you decide to cash in and head for the Bahamas.

One of the easiest ways to manage your own site is by building it on WordPress. WordPress is an open source (free) content management system used by millions of people because you don’t need to be a coder to manage and update your site. A nice website might cost $1,000 but WordPress is free and has thousands of design templates, most under $50. For instance, I’m using a my own $19 WordPress theme to run HipsterTheme.com. If you wanted to setup a similar site you can simply buy it on Themeforest.net. This means you can put money you would have spent on a developer into marketing and advertising to drive more sales. You can have someone set it up for you and spend a half day showing you the main functions or you can find a hosting company that will do it for you while you still retain control and ownership. When searching for the perfect WordPress theme, I primarely use Themeforest.net, ElegantThemes.com and Mojo-Themes.com. They all have great themes with varying degrees of complexity. I like Themeforest because the have such a large number of developers, there’s always something new. There are also plenty of free themes on WordPress.org.

For years, I’ve used HostGator for hosting and GoDaddy for buying domains, but I’ve recently shifted to BlueHost.

Reasons I recommend BlueHost:

  • Automatic WordPress Installation
  • Automated Daily Backups
  • All SSD servers for Super-Fast Load Times
  • Unlimited Storage Bandwidth
  • Unlimited Email Accounts 24/7
  • WordPress Support
  • A 97-day Money Back Guarantee (who else does that?)

How to pick a domain name for your business.

I only buy .com domains. They always rank higher in search engines, they lend credibility to your product or service, and finally, the iPhone browser has a dedicated “.com” button built into its search tool. Also, I try to find a domain name that is a close match to my product or service like “ElegantThemes.com” and not something that’s personal to me like “MarksWebsite.com” unless you’re running for political office. You can certainly include your name in the domain like “SusansCupcakes.com” but I would make sure at least a portion of the name hints at what you’re selling.

I use bustaname.com to help generate ideas for domain names. Estibot.com is also a quick way to get a $ estimate of your domain’s potential value. Some people don’t like it but I think it’s great for helping make the best decision when you’re trying to compare future values of domain names.

Choosing an ecommerce platform.

A good ecommerce platform will integrate with the look and feel of your site. It should include an easy way to add products and display them as well as an easy checkout process and payment gateway. If you’re selling a physical product, I have to recommend WooCommerce. It’s an industry standard and there’s no monthly fee to integrate it into your site. If you’re selling digital products like ebooks or photos, I recommend EasyDigitalDownloads (EDD). Again, it’s a free plugin for WordPress and is very simple to configure.

Both WooCommerce and EDD support payment gateways like PayPal and Stripe. I personally prefer Stripe over Paypal because of the user experience. Paypal transfers you to their website to complete a purchase and that might scare some people off. Stripe processes payments on-site but it does require an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to protect against credit card hacking. I purchased my SSL through Godaddy for $50 and it doesn’t require any coding if you’re hosted with GoDaddy.

If you’re going to have a craft or product business, you might want to consider using Etsy. It’s a popular platform and makes it easy to setup payment buttons and forms people trust.

Find, grow and keep customers.

Advertising and marketing are a necessary evil of sales but you don’t need to resort to spam or late night infomercials. Here are some of the tools I use.

  • AWeber — Email is king compared to Twitter and Facebook. More than 20% of people could open your email but are likely to miss a message on Twitter or Facebook if they’re not logged in.
  • SumoMe — I use it in conjunction with AWeber sort of like the wrapper for AWeber. A secret is to use it sparingly and to label the sign up form with the same title as your blog post the visitors are reading.
  • BuzzSumo — It helps me see what’s trending on social networks so I can get a jump on writing a popular post or tweet.
  • LeadDyno — I compared a few affiliate tracking programs but this was the cheapest one that could track Stripe subscriptions. I like the daily wrap-up emails it sends showing visitor activity.
  • BlogVisitors (yes we use our own service) — We use this to get as many new eyeballs on our content as possible. Combined with Google Analytics we use the increased visitor interaction to tweak the layout and posts of our site.
  • Google Analytics — It’s free and gives you the industry standard in tracking where your visitors are coming from, where they go on your site and what page they exit from. If you’re not using Google Analytics, start.
  • AdWords — We use this rarely if we’re running a promotion with a specific keyword or sponsoring a product that has a lot of competition.

Stay tuned…

In the next post, we’ll focus on the fine art of getting people to give you their money. Be sure to check out my new WordPress themes on Etsy.

Automatic Updates

We have a good news about our Themes. All of them now have the automatic updates included. You don’t need anymore to update manually via FTP. Also there is a panel with the plugins suggested.

Also, have you seen our last amazing Yoga Theme?