Start an Online Business: Open an eBay Store, Build a Website or Blog

by Millie Kay G. on 2009-03-0957

Check out some of our ideas on how to start an online business.

With the sour economy, the time is ripe for us to evaluate potential business prospects in the online realm. When it came to starting my own online business, I had tinkered with a few ideas, but never knew where to begin. But I’ve since researched this topic to some degree, and would like to share some of the things I’ve found.

Turn Your Hobby Into A Business

There are many different aspects involved in building your own business. First, it helps to narrow down the niches that interest you. If you love what you do, then it’ll be easier for you to develop a business based around your skills and interests.

For instance, if you love the business of beauty, you could strike out as a cosmetics consultant in the vein of Mary Kay or Avon, or if you have the technical skills to make iPhone apps or computer programs and enjoy tinkering with gadgets, then building software applications in your spare time may be your calling.

Things are no different in the online world. Once you’ve identified your areas of interest, it may just be a matter of figuring out how to turn your perfect hobby into something more profitable. Here are some options you may want to consider.

start an online business, ebay store, web site, earn money blogging

How Do I Start An Online Business?

What steps can I take to launch my own online business?

1. Build a website.

You may decide that you’d like to sell products or that you’re interested in publishing content, and one way to do so is through your own website. You can host your site using affordable web hosting packages from a well-known service provider such as IX Web Hosting, Hostmonster or Lunar Pages. You’ll also need to register your site’s domain at domain registration providers like Network Solutions, Dotster, or GoDaddy.

Tip: I’ve prepared a comprehensive list of cheap web hosting services that you may be interested in reviewing. The companies in this list offer a variety of hosting plans and packages at affordable price points.

Note that many of these companies are one stop shops that offer services for web development, support and management.

The next step is to develop your web site. For those who need a bit more help, you can do this by using site building tools that are available through your web hosting provider (some packages offer you free tools) or you can check out site builders such as XSitePro or Homestead. But if you have the technical know-how and web development skills, you can build your own site from scratch with free open source web frameworks such as PHP or Ruby on Rails. If you lack expertise in graphic design, but would like to beautify your site, you can outsource the work to a place like LogoWorks (or find a graphic designer through your traipsings around the web), which could help you find just the right logo. Make sure you do some research before signing up with anyone.

Every so often, you may want to make sure that your operational fees aren’t creeping up on you, so it may be worth it to check in with your hosting provider on occasion, to see if they can offer you a better deal that might yield benefits. As your web site grows over time, you may want to address any growing pains you experience with your hosting company as well.

2. Build a blog and monetize it!

If you’re not ready to commit to running a full-blown website yet, you could try starting a blog through applications like WordPress, TypePad, or Blogger. You could post about any topic you’re interested in, and discuss any products that catch your eye: a blog is a great platform for sharing your thoughts and possibly even your merchandise with the world. Check out our post on how top bloggers are able to make money blogging.

Thanks to the power of comments, it can be easier to connect with potential customers through a blog than with a website or eBay store. The WordPress.org standalone application is free and has a ton of tools (called plugins) to help entrepeneurs, but I’d need to find a web host to support my WP blog (WordPress.com also has a free built in platform that takes care of hosting your blog, but it doesn’t allow monetization endeavors); TypePad offers business class blogging at $89.95 a month; and Blogger is free and relatively easy to use. Watch out for the terms of service given by certain monetization channels that don’t want to participate in the promotion of certain business niches.

Now to build a blog audience, you’ll need to ensure that you can post on a regular schedule, can stay informed on current events regarding your topic of choice, and that you enjoy interacting with an audience who won’t always agree with you. Also, you’ll need to network with other bloggers and have the moxie to introduce yourself to a wider audience as your blog grows.

3. Open an eBay Store.

Everyone has heard of eBay, and since I’ve shopped there many times, I’m quite familiar with their business model. For example, as someone who enjoys video games, I can turn myself into an online merchant and store owner who sells gaming materials through eBay. I could acquire a diverse inventory of goods like games, consoles, and accessories, list my offerings, and use eBay’s tools for the auctions and Buy It Now sales. In addition, I could use PayPal to accept payments and process refunds.

To make things easier, eBay has a Learning Center with lots of information to help sellers. If you’re looking to open a new eBay store, here are some of the basic charges involved: currently, the basic store starts off at $15.95 a month, the premium store is $49.95 a month, and an anchor store is $299.95 a month. According to eBay, in order to qualify for a store, you’ll need to have an eBay seller’s account with your credit card on file, you’ll need to become “ID Verified” or have good feedback, and you must also have a Verified Premier PayPal account.

Before signing up to create a store, you should make sure that you understand everything about the fees, how to manage your inventory, and what to do when you need technical help. Also, the Community Help Boards can be a resource if you want to learn from other eBay users.

Develop A Strong Business Plan as a Road Map

Whichever online business model you select, you’ll need to work out a business plan. This will help you stay on course as the business grows and can help you decide to close the doors if you start bleeding money for too long. Fortunately, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has informative guidelines on how to write a business plan. What sort of return can you expect? How do you formulate an exit strategy if you have to move on later? Asking these questions before you start your business will make things easier to handle if you encounter problems, or more optimistically, if you meet with runaway success.

If you need to start you own corporation or limited liability company (LLC), then MyCorporation (from the makers of small business accounting software QuickBooks) can help.

In upcoming posts, we’ll talk more about marketing, finding resources for business equipment, and where to find good help.

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Monevator March 9, 2009 at 1:32 am

Just to introduce a note of caution, if you’re caught in the downturn and seriously looking online for a way to reverse your fortunes, I’d stay away from blogging.

With an eBay store or an online service, you can be bringing money in within days, which is what you’ll need if you’ve just lost your job.

A blog will take 12-36 months to produce any serious income (assuming you manage it even then), unless you decide to concentrate on the Make Money Online niche (which is hugely competitive anyway).

Here’s a relative and candid link: http://monevator.com/2008/11/18/blogging-for-money/

Good luck to everyone suffering out there; I saw that US unemployment had reached 8%. Ouch! :(

Marko Saric March 9, 2009 at 3:49 am

Great advice! Definitely a perfect time to turn your hobby into an opportunity or a career.
Blogging can give you an opportunity to stand out and set you apart as an expert in your field. It will get you noticed, it will give you a competitive advantage and it will improve your CV. And you might be able to monetize it as well!

Marko

Greener Pastures March 9, 2009 at 4:59 am

There’s opportunities on for selling on Amazon as well. You can sell new or used stuff. They’ll even warehouse it and ship it for you. And Amazon Associates looks promising. I haven’t done any of these things yet, but I am currently thinking about adding a page to my blog and utilizing Amazon Associates.

I keep waiting for Google to come out with something….

Thanks for the great ideas here

Paul March 9, 2009 at 6:08 am

If you are building your own website one of the coolest tools I have found is one called SiteBuildit. It does cost $299 per year but has excellent tools to help you brainstorm ideas, find good keywords, build traffic and monetize your idea.
I’ve been building a website for the past 6 weeks and already it’s attracting more traffic than my two year old blog.

Grant Baldwin March 9, 2009 at 6:12 am

My wife and I used to have a full-time business selling on eBay…it was a blast! eBay is a very tough market because you need to have a steady stream of products that there is a demand for. Most products are very saturated on eBay and by the time you include all the fees to make a transaction, your margins are too slim to make it worth it. My advice: always do your research before listing.

Manshu March 9, 2009 at 8:40 am

If people are in a situation where they need instant money then doing free lancing work is much better than getting into any sort of business. Most businesses have a long gestation period, certainly much longer than doing a small free lance project and getting paid instantly on it.

dixiebelle March 9, 2009 at 9:22 am

I appreciate the plan for starting a business. I intend to follow it and see what happens. Thanks.

Karen March 9, 2009 at 11:54 am

Nice article & good ideas, thank you.
Has anyone tried Google Base? I just discovered it yesterday. It looks like a sort of a cross between Craigslist and Ebay, but without bidding. Looks like it would be easy to post just about any kind of item there to sell it. Presumably, Google would pop it up in search results if a user were searching google . com for an item.

Craig March 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I recently started my own personal movie blog with a friend as a side hobby hoping to turn a profit at some point. It is difficult to keep at it and hard to build relationships and to try to get links back.

Goran Web Design March 10, 2009 at 7:49 am

Online business opportunities abound, and the startup and overheads is much less costly than conventional business models. Expect to see more and more people getting their feet wet online. I for one am a convert (for obvious reasons…) as to the efficacy of online business.

Michael March 11, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Thanks for posting. :)
I thought you might be interested in an article I wrote on eHow about this topic.

Meaghan March 11, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Nice post. I think what you say in the beginning about finding your niche is key. The only way to be successful is to find something that you will enjoy doing (or a product that you believe is worth selling).

Myers March 15, 2009 at 9:51 am

I think building an eBay or Yahoo store are great ways to go and taking paypal as payment is super easy for any beginner. During my college years I made good side money (beer money) selling on eBay. I simply found products that were in high demand on eBay and then used a search engine to find online stores that were selling the same products for a lower price. After my product sold on eBay I’d have the merchant just ship directly to the auction winner. Some of the easiest cash I ever made.

Blog-Now Administrator March 15, 2009 at 5:41 pm

I wish anyone who attempts to start an online business the very best in their quest. One of my cousins operates an eBay store and does quite well. I never had much luck myself, but I continue to try. Taking advantage of the numerous advertising services out there is a nice way to start, but I find their income to be limiting. My recommendation is to strike out, be unique, and don’t be afraid to fail. As long as you are making enough to cover your hosting fees, you are headed in the right direction. Or, if you don’t want to pay for hosting services, there are numerous free blogging sites out there that allow you to run ads with no restrictions. That way, all your income is profit.

Christani March 16, 2009 at 10:14 pm

It is great articles. I appreciate the plan for starting a business. I intend to follow it and see what happens. Thanks.

Sarah March 24, 2009 at 6:54 am

I used to sell on e-Bay a lot. I went from making a little money to making $50,000 gross, each year. What really made the difference was learning how to plan my business approach by writing alluring copy with slick advertising tricks. I did this by selling old garage sale items, but spiced them up with marketing skills from a business planning or internet business guide
that I read.

Xufeng April 1, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Good writing. To begin with your business on line, i would like to suggest to open an ebay shop first. And manage it and get some experience and customers from ebay. You know that ebay can bring you much traffic. Then you can build up your website, and see things you ar familar wtih.

It would be easier said than done. Just do it and get your bucks on line.

Ofir Baruch April 12, 2009 at 8:36 am

Another important thing after having a site or a blog is to promote it. One way is by optimizing them for better search engine results (AKA SEO), however it can be very complex and hard if you are trying to compete in a popular niche. Second way is article-marketing, write articles about your niche and publish them anywhere you can (there are TONS of sites which are looking for articles), JUST DON’T forget to attach your site’s link to the article.

I think the easiest way is traffic-exchange , you click and watch other’s sites and you get visits from other visitors in return. It takes time but it’s the simplest way and don’t forget – it’s free.

alfon July 19, 2009 at 8:08 am

wow your tips are very complete. I’ve enjoyed reading this especially tip no. 3. I’d recommended this because I am trying to turn my blog into an online business, so I appreciate the info.

Aaron July 20, 2009 at 5:20 am

I would like to suggest that you open an ebay shop first. And manage it and get some experience and customers from ebay. You know that ebay can bring you much traffic.

OnlineHarry August 11, 2009 at 3:26 pm

im not too sure about ebay especially with the recent policy changes. but i’m happy to share a new site that i use now to build online stores: bigcommerce.com. It’s very easy to setup a store there and start selling pretty much anything, even downloadable products. they also have a free plan which im on right now. a free online store with a free blog built up with great creativity, content, and marketing equals big time internet success! :)

InternetAuctionCoach August 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Selling on eBay is probably the easiest way to get started online just because you don’t have to worry about advertisement and marketing. And anyone who is trying to make a living online for quite sometime can tell what a challenge it is to get people to your site and make them a customer. With eBay you don’t have to worry about that.

But with blogging there is a stiff learning curve before you get to see any money.
Now don’t get me wrong..I run a 6 figure ebay business, I have blogs and I sell information products from online. So I am not at all against blogging. I do use blogs as a backbone of all my online business. But it will take you time and you have to put in a lot of effort and money to get it going and see results. There is no way around it.

One thing I would recommend about eBay store is that don’t just rely on eBay store alone because listings on eBay store will not show up on the eBay search results. So if you are not well known and have a loyal customer group, you will have a difficult time making a living selling from your own store alone.

So I highly recommend that you run individual auctions for any items you want to sell in your store. What you can do is run individual auctions and from that auctions direct people to your eBay store and try to sell additional items from the store.

One thing I have found really useful is to have separate store for separate niche. If you are selling on a broad niche, consider dividing it into sub niches and have separate stores for each niche that way people will easily find related items and also, you can easily establish yourself as a specialize seller.

Surviving The Recession September 16, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Great info. I think that last point of developing a solid business plan is definitely most important, even if it’s applied to starting a blog (which in itself is a very beneficial source of income after developing a significant following). Applying the business plan to a blog venture can allow the blogger to define what’s priority as far as where time, which is money, is devoted most in order to make for a successful blog in the least amount of time. Love your posts and will definitely be coming around for the great content. We’ve also added you to our blog roll! Thanks!

peluang usaha October 18, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Everything will be nice, if we can transform hobby to a business.

Dv

Gilroy Fernandez October 19, 2009 at 7:00 am

You’ve almost written down every thing regarding starting a new business. Thanks for the nice article and helpful tips.

Ginny November 13, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Thanks for the informative article. I’ve been selling on ebay for a few years now. I really enjoy it. The fee’s are high tho, so I also have a website that so far gets no traffic.
I am currently looking into networking on facebook and twitter. Any suggestions on this?
Thanks for the free ideas: those are the ones that really help me.
Ginny @ Ginnyjillb.com

Everything Car Boot December 26, 2009 at 6:58 am

Ginny – networking on facebook and twitter is fine (and encouraged), but you really need to be ranking on the search engines for keywords related to your business to do well.

I personally find that high search engine rankings make a social media strategy more viable as you can drive traffic to them from your website, thus increasing customer participation.

I would recommend that you head over to Amazon and purchase a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) book such as ‘SEO for dummies’ or ‘How to get to the top of Google’ and learn how to optimise your website for search engines.

Trevor Davis,
Everything Car Boot

Tom Lynde December 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

I have just launched safewaysite.com which sells carts and safety cabinets to industry. Would a blog help promote the site so I can move up on the rankings?

Silicon Valley Blogger December 29, 2009 at 10:44 am

@Tom,
Short answer: most of the time, a blog helps. But it depends on your industry and niche. Not sure what type of content you’d generate for the type of materials you sell. But if you’ve got a lot of information on carts and safety cabinets you’d like to share, then perhaps a blog can raise your visibility. But as mentioned, I am not sure how effective a blog would be for certain niches.

Mark Diles December 31, 2009 at 7:53 am

Thank you for presenting some real practical suggestions for ones seeking to replace the income they may have lost as a result of the recession. Creating a blog or opening an eBay account is fairly simply. A website may be a bit more difficult but it’s a lot easier than now with Expression Web and Dreamweaver… it’s almost like wordprocessing. Actually, I can see combining all of your suggestions into one solution: a blog or website with a strong keyword that will rank on Google that pulls from your eBay Store (niche) through an affiliate program. There some really good material on how to earn a living using eBay on this eBay tools and resources  website.

Jody January 5, 2010 at 10:03 am

@Tom on safewaysite.com and a blog:

A blog may or may not attract many visitors directly, but if the blog associated with your web page is updated occasionally that could still help the website rankings since the search engines like updated content. Wordpress blogging software is set up to automatically send pings when you add or update a post. I don’t know quite how you set up your site, but this is one reason a number of places don’t publish a site as a finished product. Instead, they’ll put up the basic framework to get it indexed and then add the rest of their stuff to signal the engines that the site is being updated at least occasionally.

Jody January 10, 2010 at 11:42 am

Hi, I’m loving all the comments contributed to the story. I wanted to add something about website creation software. I’ve been told by others that sites made with XSitePro and Dreamweaver software don’t rank as well as similar sites designed with Wordpress. Wordpress is free and there are some e-commerce options with it, so you might want to check it out if you are interested in setting up an e-commerce site but you don’t have much money to invest. I’ve heard some really good things about SiteBuildIt and their training that goes with it, but of course they are not a free system.

Rebecca Hox January 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

This is a really useful post, loads of practical points about starting out online. I would say that if you want to start earning quickly then I’d be cautious about launching a website. Getting organic traffic takes time, you need to learn a lot about SEO and even then Google often holds new websites back for a couple of months – if you persist you can make great money from a website or blog, but it’s not a “quick-fix”. Ebay is a good idea and as Monevator says you can start earning pretty quickly and if you use dropship companies you can start up pretty cheaply too.

Ed February 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

Fantastic info on a business model that will work for etenity, it forms a solid network for your business to grow with strong foundations!

TTFN….Ed.

Net Success February 6, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Great tips. Narrowing down your niche is one of the most important methods because you get more targeted traffic. Also using Wordpress to make your first site makes things a lot easier! Hope to see more tips in the future.

Amanda March 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Thanks for the sensible advice. I sell on eBay and, although they don’t allow links to outside websites in listings, you can still promote your own blog or ecommerce site if you have a domain name that people will remember. I include my domain name in my relevant eBay listings without actually linking to it and have gotten a decent amount of direct traffic to the site this way.

Barry Wells April 1, 2010 at 9:19 am

Hi, thanks for an excellent post. I would say that eBay is the easiest to set up and earn money from, to get you started. Once you have the ebay business up and running you may want to expand into the other areas, website, blogging etc.

I started on ebay and have just started to expand into Internet Marketing. I have created my 1st information product, which is all about starting a business on eBay.

Starting any business, especially an online business can be daunting. But if you have a mentor to show you how to get started, it helps. That’s what I’ve done and it has started to move forward.

Great post, thanks.
Regards, Barry

Lucy May 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Great advice! I know that the economic downturn actually turned out to be a Godsend as we turned to eBay and online sales. Ever since then, we’ve been very successful and are now working on our own ecommerce website and blog. It’s a very exciting business and I appreciate the tips! :-)

Sunclair May 6, 2010 at 12:14 am

If you need to make a quick start eBay is a good option. But as you also point out, it’s important to do some decent research to avoid the pitfalls that are in starting any business.

Ron Lawson June 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I couldn’t agree more with picking a niche that interests you. I’ve started may websites that I eventually gave up on because I lost steam on posting on the subject. It is MUCH easier posting content on something that you enjoy.

Regards,
Ron

Tammy June 21, 2010 at 10:06 am

The economy does have more people looking to sell things on ebay as well as people looking to pick up bargains!

Irene July 1, 2010 at 11:05 am

Starting an ebay business is simple but as the article says, costs can soon mount up. Every item you list has a sellers fee and if you get sucked into using ebay’s add on such as extra pictures, adding a border to your listing etc, the fees can quickly get out of hand so care needs to be taken so your own website might be a better idea.

mark July 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm

it’s going to be too late when you discover how much eBay has drained from you. Opening a website is not easy and people don’t just buy from any store too, they go to the reputable ones. Sorry…….but the truth hurts.

Silicon Valley Blogger July 30, 2010 at 8:35 pm

@Mark,
Well I know a lot of people who make healthy six figure incomes running a lot of online projects. Of course, it takes many years to cultivate your project and web sites, but it’s certainly a wonderful way to earn a living! :)

Daisy August 23, 2010 at 7:03 am

Hi,

I was thinking of opening an Ebay Store, but after reading your comments I don’t think I’ll bother!! I’ll look at Amazon and Yahoo though.

I’m in the middle of designing my own website – NOT as difficult as everyone says.

Sherwin October 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I’ve been in the field of internet marketing for some time especially setting up e-commerce sites and yes it’s really not that easy to compete with other sites. You have so many competitors online especially the established and trusted sites.

jeff October 8, 2010 at 8:11 am

Getting your business / hobby online is a great way to increase your visibility and in return could possibly increase your sales. Setting up the site is one thing, marketing is another story.

Emil November 8, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I would even say that your first step to building a website should be this: don’t underestimate the power of blogging software, especially WordPress, as a content mangement system for building a website. I used to do a lot of web design and website building but nowadays, I’d rather just build the site and deliver it than have to spend so much time maintaining it. Wordpress is easy to manage once the site is delivered. Other than that addition, I say fantastic article!

David Jenyns December 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Starting an online business with a niche that you are passionate with is a definite plus. :) Although we also have to look at how you go about promoting your site or blog as part of how to further promote this online business.

Questions like, do you really need to have these links coming to your site only from those on-topic or similar themes? There has been a lot of discussion on whether or not to stick to this practice so we can be sure of ‘bumping’ our site up the rankings.

We’ve done some testing on this and found out that this is not the case. Google doesn’t seem to impose a penalty on sites with links coming from off topic sites. What matters is how natural the links are pointing to the site of your online business, regardless of whether those links come from relevant sites or not.

With that said, aside from getting the help of some site building / blogging software (to get a head start on building your online business), I think you also need to try and get into the mind of Google a little, and imagine what could happen in the future. It makes sense that links coming from relevant, on topic sites will carry more weight than those that don’t . In the future, it’s likely that when websites have links from relevant websites, they’ll be pushed higher in the rankings.

Have a great day!

Cheers,
Dave

Close Corporation Registration February 4, 2011 at 2:18 am

Some great advice on how to start your own business online! The most important thing though is the marketing of your business!

Thanks, Great resource!

zik April 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm

What nice tips to start a business online… i need to learn from a to z…

Pblo May 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I am also trying to make an online business selling clothes. And your ideas really help me.

Yin Yang August 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Well, I just did a lot of reading. :( good and bad. Confusing and interesting. Encouraging and discouraging. The bottom line is that I started reading because I am doing my research on opening my on store online. I feel you can do anything if you really want to. I have become disabled and have been forced to work out of my home. I am on ebay and I am spending more than I am making. Ugh! I guess what I am going to try is to stay on ebay and leaping out on my own one foot at a time. The problem with my store will be this: if I sell everything. Well, I have a thrift shop. Everybody loves walking through them so mine is out of my home. I am wishing myself luck right now!! Thanks for all the advice from all.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm

@Yin Yang, if you need any inspiration or encouragement, check out my categories on Business & Entrepreneurship as well as Making Money & Streams of Income. They’re on my sidebar under the Categories section! I try to share my (and many others’) personal entrepreneurship stories and experiences so that we can all find the inspiration to do what we are doing. I also give reality checks and realistic advice here. I also try to provide a place where we can all commiserate, if need be!

Robert Diaz September 22, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I have found that even if I promote my items on all my accounts in mocospace, twitter, facebook, and even on my own site y-kause.com, EBAY is much more likely to gain sales. I have taken advantage of all outlets on the net to sell my items and even with godaddy and paid searching, I still haven’t achieved the same revenue as I’ve done through ebay.

USE THE NET TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.

Amanda Richardson November 23, 2011 at 10:41 am

It is very easy to create your own web store at Miscake Stores (stores.miscake.com). It is designed for people, who do not want to spend their time on IT issues and want to be entirely focused on their business projects. Moreover, users of Miscake Stores do not have to be familiar with programming languages, hosting and mailing servers, and don’t have to worry about site administration so much.

Online Store November 18, 2012 at 8:03 am

Opening an online store is easy but how do you market it?

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