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How to Start an Online Business
A Quick-start Guide to E-Commerce
Feb 2006 - By Abdulhayy Johnson

Many small business owners are good at what they do without knowing anything about the Internet, unfortunately they are not taking advantage of this vast and borderless resource. Without exploring the potential of doing business online they are incurring a loss of huge potential profits they could otherwise be realizing. Almost any small business - regardless of location - could be operating online, to a certain extent, depending on the type of product/service offered. There are always a number of different creative ways to package and market your product to the online world community in a more professional and cost effective manner than the traditional methods. The medium we use online offers us better tools and techniques to reach the people in the comfort of their won home, with multimedia, pictures, colors and sound! This is not an opportunity you can afford to miss. If you wish to start an online business or if you currently own a small business and want to enable it as an online business, we can get you started here with useful resources and some free pointers, however we ultimately hope to win you over as a subscriber to our managed website services which will be a critical component in your business plan.

First of all we need to get a few things set up, which will be essential later on for dealing with customers online. Your company will need an email address, you can get a free email with POP3 and forwarding from Gmail (Gmail is from Google). If you know someone who uses Gmail simply ask them for an invitation. If you don't know anyone ask us using the Web Form, we'll send you a free invitation to open a Gmail account. Later on when you get your own domain name (E.g. yourcompany.com) you can always forward your Gmail to your new company email. We do not charge our customers extra for domain name registration or for configuring DNS or company email.

To provide a better level of customer service your company will need voice/chat software that is widely used and accessible by your target customer base. The most common one out there with the most subscribers is Skype, it's free and you can call anywhere in the world. You can use their voice and chat software to deal with customers free of charge - they also offer paid services such as Internet to Phone features. You can also lease a company phone number (most area codes in the world are available). If your company does lots of business in the US you may also want to use an international mail forwarding service such as USABox, that way you can retain a local US postal address and have all your mail forwarded to your place of residence, even if you live in the Bahamas!

Now that you have your communications infrastructure in place it's time to setup your basic tools of the trade. You'll need two indispensable tools that are helpful for selling online, but can also be used for non-auction transactions. Ebay and Paypal are free to sign up for; they only charge a fee when you actually start selling stuff. An Ebay seller account is great for selling products or services online in an auction style or even just straight up old fashion sticker price sales. To collect payment from customers your company will need a Paypal business account, since most Ebay users have Paypal. This will allow you to conduct swift and painless transactions online without the headache of a credit-card processing mechanism.

Ok, so we're setup for online transactions and we have reliable means of communicating with customers. If you're starting a new business you'll need a company logo and some business cards to get the word out. We can design your logo for a small fee or you can get a top notch logo designed by the experts at The Logo Company, depending on your budget. Once you have your own company logo in hand go to Vista Print to make your own company business cards online, you can get free business cards there or you can order customized business cards with your company logo for a fee. Make sure your domain name is available before printing it on your cards.

Before going any further, you might want to consider which Managed Company Website plan best fits your budget, we have something for everyone - remember our managed website packages cover all aspects of website ownership including web design and updates, web hosting, company logo, domain name, email setup, search engine optimization and much more. It's all one simple monthly fee, no extra charges or hidden costs. Start with our New Website Questionnaire to tell us more about your company; alternatively you can call us for expedited service.

Our team of qualified web designers has the necessary expertise and the latest tools combined with a keen sense of craftsmanship and good taste. We will mold your company's website into a professional, highly attractive and informative website as seen in our portfolio. As with all our websites we employ superior standards and techniques for all site design, layout, color theme, navigation, accessibility and aesthetics. Royalty Free ImagesWe frequently use our own copyrighted material in graphic design and collages, in addition to the highest quality stock photography which we also sell online. Our stock photos can be viewed or purchased through Dreamstime, you can choose from our selection yourself or even email us your own photos.

Naturally we would like to earn your business, and we guarantee 100% customer satisfaction with the highest grade of customer support and service with low competitive rates. However, if you decide our website services are just not for you or maybe you wish to compare, there are alternatives out there of course. Please note that most other Website Companies specialize in just web design or web hosting without all the other added benefits and services which we combine for free in all our packages, that's why we call ours Managed Website Services. For example, 1&1 Web Hosting is arguably the best Web Hosting provider in the market with the lowest hosting rates, most experienced users would find their service and support fairly good, however you should be prepared to perform all the administrative and technical tasks by yourself.

Now that your company is officially online you are ready to do business, but you still need to consider your strategy for attracting visitors to your new company website. Two key ingredients in that strategy will be statistics and exchanging links. Sign up for a free invisible web statistics counter that shows you detailed advanced reporting and traffic analysis, then use that data to determine which incoming links work best. To exchange incoming links with other webmasters do an online search for reciprocal link exchange programs like the one we have, and also sign up for link exchange programs such as Monster Link Swap, make sure it's a reputable one with relevant content.

When your website eventually has enough traffic, you may want to consider placing text ads on pages with the highest activity, this will help you realize an extra source of revenue which will more than likely pay for the cost of web hosting. The most widely used text based advertising that currently has the largest customer base is AdSense from Google. AdSense is not only the most reputable but is also reported to be quite lucrative for large busy website owners. Make sure you place the text ads strategically on the busiest pages.

Finally, if you decide your company needs a more robust and flexible mechanism for accepting credit cards online consider 2CheckOut, this is a great service for online business owners who need more payment options but want to avoid the hassle and expense of setting up a merchant account. Don't forget to bookmark this page just in case, reprinting or republishing this article or any part therein is permitted on the condition that you make reference to the original source URL which is this page.