Ok so you have decided to start an online business to suppliment your income, good for you. It can be an incredibly rewarding process but also a scary one and for many people just getting started is the biggest hurdle. Below I will try and outline a few tips to get you on the path to success.
What to sell ?
This is the million dollar question! Basically no one can sell you what to sell, you have to come up with that one on your own. The best piece of advice is to choose a niche that interests you and gets you excited. There is absolutely no point trying to sell something does doesn’t get your blood pumping and makes you jump out of bed in the morning raring to go! Once you have decided on the products you wish to sell then the next step is research……….. and lots of it. Find as many people as possible that already sell the items and see how they go about it and find ways to improve on what they are doing. Remember being the cheapest does not always mean you are on the road to success, price is not everything! You can still be more expensive so long as you offer a good all round service, try and find a unique selling point that makes you stand out from the crowd.
The other piece of advice is don’t run before you can crawl. Start small and reinvest any profits you make into more stock. Gradually widen your product range but be careful not to overstretch yourself, cash flow is key!
Where do I get it from
Once you have decided on your chosen product range it is time to start souring. Your first big decision is do I get it from a UK wholesaler or do I go overseas? I shall set out some of the pro and cons for each avenue of sourcing……………….
UK Wholesalers – There are still loads of wholesalers around the UK (although not as many as there used to be!) who will be willing to supply you but remember that you cant just walk in off the street and expect them to serve you. Many wish to preserve their lines of distribution by only selling to registered businesses and wont supply members of the public. To avoid being turned away make sure you go armed with information showing you are a legitimate business. Take headed notepaper, business cards, utility bill, company registration number or any other form of id you can come up with. The downside of using UK wholesalers is that you may find the margins are not what you would expect and also that you might actually be competing against your own supplier as every man and his dog seems to sell on online these days!
Overseas Suppliers – This mainly covers China as the vast majority of the worlds goods are made there but there are other countries worth looking at if needed. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, India are all worth a look and even some European countries still have thriving manufacturing industries. It really depends on the type of product you are looking for. If the product you are trying to source is branded and you find a good looking Chinese supplier, STOP!! You will not get genuine branded products from China, they are pretty much all fake! If you do take the risk then fully expect your goods to be seized by customs or maybe not arrive at all. If a deal looks too good to be true then it probably is. Having said this there are plenty of legit suppliers out there it is just a case of researching the company to make sure you are happy with them. Start with sites like DHGate, Alibaba, Global Sources and see how you get on. If you are unsure about a particular company try posting their name on the forum and see if anyone has any experience of using them. For those of you with a little more cash in your pocket I would strongly advise getting on a plane and meeting some suppliers face to face.
Another very useful way of finding suppliers is to go to a trade exhibition and see what is on offer and try and talk to suppliers and build up a business relationship. Again go armed with info on your business and for gods sake, look professional! Too many times people come on our stand at trade shows looking like they just got out of bed and then wonder why they are not taken seriously. You are projecting an image of your business and if you look like you don’t care about your appearance then suppliers will presume you wont care about running a professional business either. If you cant make it to a trade fair then there are literally thousands of suppliers out there with websites that you can contact. One piece of advice I would give is not to email any potential suppliers as this can be easily ignored and most suppliers will pass you off as a time waster. If you are serious about purchasing from someone, send them a letter on headed notepaper, they are much more likely to take you seriously. Or better still call them and arrange an appointment to go and see their showroom. Talking face to face is always better in my experience.
Where to sell it
Most people start with Ebay and Amazon as they are the best way to get your goods seen by millions of people for relatively little money. Many people will moan about the fees (me included on occasion) but it really is a good place to start your business and gain experience in buying and selling. Both are very cut throat as everyone is trying to undercut each other, my advice would be not to worry about being the cheapest but instead concentrate on offering a good service and visually appealing listings. If you research the do and don’ts then you should be fine.
Another option is to get out into the wide world and actually interact with fellow human beings. Car boot sales, indoor and out door markets and Christmas fairs can be great venues for selling goods. Research some local attractions and go along and find out about pitch costs and availability. Give it a go you might surprise yourself.
The next step is to aim at opening your own e-commerce site . Once you have established sales and built up a good customer base then it might be time to spread your wings. There are plenty of websites that can help you set up a site for relatively little money.
Written by Vicky Walmsley owner of Risus Wholesale
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