Hi Lifehacker, I'm a teenager and I want to start up an online retail business right after school finishes. I have 2000 dollars saved up now, and really don't want to go to university, as that would just put me in debt even more. How do you reckon I could start with $2000 and barely any online experience? Thanks, Entrepreneurial Endeavour
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The simplest solution is to buy up a small amount of stock to resell on eBay -- but that's a highly competitive space and you need to offer exceptional service. Online businesses are competitive, so it's not enough to just think "I want to sell stuff online".
Instead, you need a specific idea that you're passionate about -- check out this recent inspiring example of two Australian school kids who are building their own headphone empire. In short, the more interest and expertise you have in your products, the better you'll be at selling them online.
Speaking of expertise, it's equally important to build up your customer service skills if you want your fledgling business to run smoothly (including a sound knowledge of Australia's new consumer protection laws).
Seeing as you're fresh out of high school, it might even be worth getting a part-time job in physical retail to help you learn the ropes. In addition to giving you plenty of first-hand experience with customers, you'll also have a regular income rolling in, which will take some of the pressure off of the business during the start-up phase.
If you're planning to sell other manufacturer's products (as opposed to making your own), you obviously need to get the cheapest price possible to maximise your profits. Sites like Alibaba.com provide a database of dirt-cheap products that you can snap up in bulk and then resell.
Naturally, you also have to factor in shipping costs and the amount that people are willing to pay for delivery. In other words, you're usually better off sticking to smaller items.
You may also want to consider a dropship model, whereby you generate orders on your store’s website but the product manufacturers take care of fulfilment to the customer. This essentially means you can start selling with no upfront purchasing costs (although the lion's share of profits naturally goes to the manufacturer).
Once you have your products sorted, you need to work out where to sell them. Obviously, it's important to have a presence where the most eyeballs are at, which basically means eBay -- although it pays to be mindful of the various seller fees involved. Other alternatives that may be worth exploring are Quicksales and Gumtree.
Whatever online shopping site you throw in with, it's also a good idea to build your own personal site, preferably with its own store functionality.
This article explains the five best platforms to build your shopping website on; none of which require any coding skills. (You can also get some additional website building tips here.) At the very least, make sure your business has a Facebook page that is frequently updated and includes plenty of pics of your products.
While this probably wont increase your sales or exposure much, it will give your business an added air of legitimacy. (While we're on that topic, you will also need to register your business: This is surprisingly affordable and can be done online in around 15 minutes.)
Naturally, you should also make a list of practices that are best avoided -- this opinion piece explains some the ways that Australian online retailers frequently get it wrong.
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