A Project Has The Following Cash Flows Year 0 Join the Bandwagon of Online Businesses

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Join the Bandwagon of Online Businesses

The year is coming to an end and there are many old tired ideas. One of those tired ideas is that an online business doesn’t help a country’s economy and is too hard to run. Let’s get real. If you have the opportunity to reach billions of potential customers, wouldn’t you want it? And how about helping your own finances as well as helping others save money for a change?

Building your own online business is easier than you think especially with all the help available on the net. First, you need a domain. It will cost you less than ten dollars, a very cheap start to the big world of e-commerce. You can get a domain at Domain.com and it is renewable every year. Once you’ve got the right domain to reflect your shop and business, you’ll need a hosting plan.

There are plenty of free ones around but note that there are also plenty of strings and limitations attached to the promise of zero fees. Also no one likes to browse a store full of banners and pop ups. It’s annoying and it’s bound to turn off even the most novice customers.

You can get a good hosting plan for around 5-8 US dollars and this is a monthly payment. Yes, it is definitely more than the cost of renting a shop. The host I use for my shop is Imagelite and so far they have been great. There are many other hosts that are just as good.

If you are a first timer, don’t sign up for a full year or more hosting plan. Although this is fine if you trust them, hosting sites can be frustrating at times. Having an online shop means you may experience down times and potential data loss. Sign up for a monthly plan instead so that if after a few months you feel they aren’t up to par, you can move on and find another hosting plan. I went through at least 3 hosting plans before finding one that I could absolutely rely on. Also some hosting companies may have a hard time refunding you if you decide to cancel after signing up for 1 year. You should always back up your store data to reduce the tears of rage in the event of an online disaster.

Now that you’re comfortable with a hosting company and a domain in your pocket, you’re ready to take the next step in your e-commerce adventure. And that’s winning the dreaded shopping cart. Again I have gone through at least 3 shopping carts. OS Commerce was a mite too complex. Mal’s ecommerce was great, but after a while, I needed a higher-end shopping cart that gave me more control over my site. I found this at Zen Cart. It took me two weeks to learn how to use Zen Cart and PHP. Even though I have no website design or developing background, I have to admit it was pretty straightforward. Also the forum is very helpful for your every little problem or query.

There are plenty of Zen cart templates designed by great people provided. With so many great modules and add ons, it’s become a great project to make my shop as aesthetically pleasing as possible, rather than just turning it into a functional portal. I tried a couple of templates before landing on one that suited me. With a couple of tweaks and customizations, my site started looking pretty good. Now before this becomes a pitch for Zen Cart, let me go over the most important points when designing and maintaining an online shop.

1. Honesty and transparency

I believe every business should be based on honesty and transparency. There should be no hidden prices, hidden taxes or hidden policies. You should always post everything you have on your site. Be it the return policy or the payment policy, write it all down. Do you want to make quick money or do you prefer long-term cash flow? Run your business with integrity and you will have repeat customers. Tell your product like it is. Don’t hide details because you think it won’t sell. Customers appreciate buying what they can understand. Since the economy is very low at this point, people are more concerned about spending money. Be involved in letting them know exactly what you are selling them.

2. Membership

Your shopping cart should allow your customers to sign up and store their addresses in your store so that if they come back, all their information is already available. This is a huge time saver and will save your customers from losing patience. Who wants to fill out long forms over and over again? The point of online shopping is the convenience of it all.

3. Testimonials

Since you’re getting customers and purchases, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. This benefits you in 2 ways. First you can publish their positive testimonials on your website. This helps new customers decide whether to trust you or not. The second is that you should never stop improving yourself, and the only way to do that is if you give your customers a way to tell them what they want.

4. Blogging

This is another way for both you and the customer to communicate. A place where you can post and they can comment. It is a place where you can announce your news, learn more and make not only customers but also friends.

5. Newspaper

Here you can take advantage of another way to reach your customers. You can email them your store updates, new products and special contests. This helps remind customers that you’re still around if they need anything. But please, no spamming and if a customer asks to unsubscribe, respect their decision and remove them from your mailing list. There is nothing worse than spamming in business.

6. Contact page

Most importantly, be approachable! Let them know they can reach you at a phone number, email address, and mailing address. Nothing is as light as a business without a phone number or email address. Would you trust the store if you couldn’t get in touch with them? Not the last to get your online shop up and running, you can start another exciting part of the project. Internet Marketing! It’s a whole new ball game. I will write another article about that soon.

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