It is time. Today I am filing for a business license from the city and the state to start up my online business selling scrapbook layouts. I have been dragging my feet this week to set up the business because letting go of the money for fees is a challenge. It’s not that I don’t have the money, but I’m not intending this business to be a going concern after this semester is over. Hence this outlay of cash seems frivolous. I keep reminding myself that I didn’t have to purchase textbooks. Since the city charges an additional fee for licenses issued after a business is started, I am motivated to get this done.
I’m anxious to get into SEO. I had a course about a year ago that I thought would provide SEO instruction, but it was more about optimizing websites with graphics, and resizing graphics to improve load time. That will come in handy, however, as I upload photos of product to my site.
I’m close to graduation so I decided to look online for employment opportunities. Most of the job descriptions left me feeling unprepared. Maybe after an internship, I’ll gain more confidence. I did see some jobs requiring ecommerce knowledge, so this class will help with that.
While preparing to launch my own web business, I researched other websites. I want my site to look sleek and professional. Hopefully buyers won’t look at my site and think this is another dining-room business; meaning running a business out of my dining room.
This semester I’m learning how to program database using PHP language. I wish I knew more so that I could build my own business website and not rely on the web building sites like Weebly. I cannot determine if my free Weebly account offered with Bluehost will accommodate a payment button or if I need to upgrade to an e-commerce account.
This week we’re learning about legal aspects of a business and licensing. My husband and I had a consulting business many years ago. I remember running an add in a newspaper when we dissolved the business. That was a small pain. Does anyone even read the newspaper these days? Is that process different now?
I thought most people started a business because they were passionate about something or had a particular talent in a related area. There seems to be a lot more involved than simply opening a dance studio because I love dancing or because I’m an accomplished ballerina.
In the B250 course this week, students were to select a product to sell online. This could be likened to deciding what I want to be when I grow up. Well, not for me – I am not a business major nor am I looking to be self-employed with a web business. But for someone with that goal, selecting a product could be daunting. I am amazed at the way people can make money on the web. There’s no shortage of good ideas if one has ambition and tenacity.
Learning about Google Adwords (GA) was eye-opening as well. Using GA is like buying an ad in the newspaper. The more you spend the more prominent your business will be promoted. So even though consumers don’t use the newspaper like they used to, the advertising model hasn’t changed much.
I’m a consultant for Close To My Heart (CTMH). They sell scrapbooking and papercrafting products through representatives like me. While working on the assignments this week for my online marketing course, I came to realize that my CTMH business fits both the affiliate marketing and the drop shipping models.
I have a website provided by CTMH where customers can order and have goods delivered right to their door. I don’t even collect payment in this scenario. I drive customers to that sight by posting artwork to my blog, Pinterest and Facebook. This is the affiliate marketing model.
I also take orders directly from customers who I meet at craft workshops or in-home parties. I collect payment and then enter the orders on a backend website. CTMH collects their fee from me and sends the products to the customer. This is the drop shipping model.
This week I will need to pick a product to sell online. I have some ideas, but like the group in the scenario I’ve been studying this semester, I’m not sure how much time I can commit to this project. The time constraint may drive what type of business model and product I select.
This week I read a scenario about a group of adults who wanted to start an online business to learn about business through hands-on experience. There is a lot to consider when forging into the wide world of self employment. I explored whether the group should select a product or a business model first. I also had to weigh in on what type of product the group should select for their business, but was limited to snowboards or chess.
Whether to select a product or a business model first feels a bit like the chicken and the egg scenario. Which comes first? Ultimately I decided the group should select a business model in order to accomplish the goals they established for starting a business. I feel like they can then hone in a product that fits the parameters of their chosen business model and other constraints such as finances, time, etc. Several of my peers recommended they select a product first. After hearing their arguments, I became less certain of my own recommendation.
The next step was to select a product, without regard for a business model. The two choices were snowboarding and chess. To help with this decision, I did some suggested research using Google Adwords. Using Adwords I determined the demand for both products based on web clicks and the competition. I’m not sure I accurately interpreted the data presented, but this is what I discovered. A lot of folks like snowboards, but the competition for clicks is high – meaning there is a lot of info available for consumers to choose. Fewer people are interested in chess, however there is less material on the subject floating around in cyberspace. If the group created an online presence with chess, there would be more less competition but less demand as well.
A no-brainer, right? Go with snowboarding. But what about the cost of starting a business with such a high-dollar item. Chess has a much lower start-up cost, and there is less risk if the business doesn’t succeed. I’m still not quite convinced chess is the way to go. It seems so boring. How can a website about chess create revenue?
Here’s another idea, if someone in the group were an author, why not sell a book on a site like Amazon? I have a friend who wrote a book. She decided to self-publish through Amazon. They have a brilliant model which allows the author to market their books on Amazon.com, a web-based company that just happens to have a large audience of readers. The books are then manufactured on demand. This reduces unwanted inventory. I bet there is less profit though, not sure about this. There was an option available for reduced price books when a large production run (order) was printed at once. My friend was able to purchase a large amount of books at a discount and sell them at her book signing. She didn’t have to order thousands, which she wasn’t sure she could sell at once [then she would be forced to awkwardly give them away as Christmas gifts or leave them on the shelf of libraries all over the county.]
My friend’s book business takes me back to asking what comes first – the business or the product? She wrote a book first then she decided to sell it.
UPDATE April 8, 2016 —
You can visit sheilawilkerson.com to see the final website.
I’m not fond of the colored background on the wireframe. I think I would prefer white.
I have a long way to go and a short time to get there (isn’t that a song?). I’m feeling good about the direction I have laid out for my exhibit.
Below is a larger image of my web page layout.