4 Tools Essential To Your Online Business

When starting out you can be swarmed with the endless possibilities of starting, promoting, and ensuring the longevity of your online business. The mass amounts of information at your fingertips is astounding, and you can end up drowning in that info. Here are some of the tools essential to your online business. These tools can also be translated into brick & mortar locations as well. The bonus with online is you don’t have to get into a 5-year lease on a physical location at $20 – $40 (or more) per square foot. You can invest that money elsewhere – like marketing your biz seeing as you won’t have any foot traffic.

apps, iphone, iphone apps

Shopify

Any e-commerce tool like Shopify or Bigcommerce is absolutely essential if you don’t want to develop, and pay big $$$ for your own website. Simplified templates, amazing apps, fantastic support, and a low monthly rate give you the opportunity to test, and develop your offering without diving head first, and pumping tens-of-thousands of dollars into something you’re not 100% certain will work.

I prefer Shopify as it’s Canadian although you still have to pay in USD for their services. Do your homework on the other e-commerce platforms out there, but Shopify or Bigcommerce are great places to start. There are free options, but even the paid options are affordable. I pay $30 a month.

Wave Apps

Another Canadian app essential to your online business – or any startup for that matter. Wave is your online portal to accounting. You can send invoices, pay bills, track payments and do day-to-day bookkeeping. Come tax season – Wave is your friend. Instead of using a bookkeeper Wave will produce all the essential reports you need to file your taxes, on top of being able to keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Plus, they offer professional bookkeepers to help you out when you’re in need.

You’ll still need an outstanding accountant who can help you out with the bigger picture stuff like tax breaks, filing, etc…, but Wave is a free tool you can use when starting out (some options like invoicing and paying bills require an affordable monthly fee).

Social / Search

While I dislike having to pay Silicon Valley for my marketing / advertising dollars they are an essential piece to your complex online puzzle. Unless you have an amazing product / service that people already know about, and a following of devoted followers – you’re going to have to invest some $$$ into social / search. If you’re a product based business – you should dabble in Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to use these tools, just start and you’ll figure it out as you go. Here’s a quick starting point. If you’re more service based – think consulting – use Twitter and possibly Instagram and YouTube. Video is a HUGE differentiator in the market right now. If you can provide weekly or even daily videos about your product / service – you’re going to excel. Cost per day is anywhere from $5 per day to $20 per day.

As for search – you have to fight the Google and Microsoft battle. My biggest thing is to own your name. Using Google Adwords and Bing Ads ensure you’re the top ad that shows up when someone searches for your name. For example – when you search Ever Rose on any platform – my wife and I’s online dress shop is the first thing you’ll see. Cost is $5 per day on both Google and Bing.

From there – you can start pulling back your dollars and invest it more in the people who have visited your page or have purchased from you. You can do this through your weekly e-marketing campaign from Mail Chimp or Klaviyo (a cool Shopify app). Don’t inundate your fans with e-blasts. A weekly update will do with new products / services. Even a special deal exclusive to them is always something to keep in mind.

Spreadsheets

It’s a bit old school, but having a few trustworthy spreadsheets will help you in being able to breakdown a few key items. One of my favourites is the profit workbook. When starting out it’s essential to know you’re making a healthy profit, so you can invest back into the business to help it grow. I have a sheet that calculates to the percentage point – how much Ever Rose is profiting from the sale of our goods.

If you’re interested in diving deeper into any of the tools above – a quick online search will help you out or connect with me by leaving a comment below or finding me on Twitter.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

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Journey of the Do – Stage 5 – The Website

dresses, e-commerce, dress

A little product preview

If you’ve been following the journey for over a month now, I’d like to reiterate…You do not have to follow this step-by-step (ooooo baby). This is to serve as a guideline on building an e-commerce biz from scratch. And it’s the actual steps my wife, and I are taking.

This week – the website. It’s your store front, your moneymaker, and your driver of profits. It’s one of the most important parts of your e-commerce biz. That’s why it’s taken some time for my wife, and I to get this going. We’ve trial tested a couple different platforms from Bigcommerce to Shopify (you can find a good breakdown here). We’ve also spoken with a couple web designers to see if building a site from scratch was an option.

The site really comes down to whether or not you want proprietary control over your platforms, and algorithms. To develop something like this is very expensive, but you own it. You can make it do whatever you want, and you have full-on control. One of the downsides (aside from upfront cost) is the ability to evolve. When you’ve developed your e-commerce platform from scratch, you’re pretty much stuck with it. You can try, and evolve, but it can be quite complicated. We’re starting to see this with some of the e-commerce companies we’ve researched. At the time, their technology was cutting edge…now it’s old, and tired, and difficult to change.

That’s why my wife, and I have decided to go the ‘plug-and-play’ route. The technology can evolve as new algorithms, tech, etc… come to market, and the expense isn’t too much to evolve, and to start up. We’re giving up control for something that can grow with the business. Having said that, we understand we may need to develop something on our own if we outgrow the Shopify option we’ve chosen.

Shopify

The one thing my wife, and I really like about Shopify is the customizable themes. You can also pay to have one developed for you. Every site comes with a monthly fee depending on what options you want to have available to you. We’ve chosen the most expensive route, which gives us the most options. It also helps that Shopify is Canadian (although you have to pay in US dollars), and their customer service is phenomenal.

You can secure a domain through Shopify or you might have to find it somewhere else. For our store – we had to go through a GoDaddy auction to secure the domain we wanted (it’s a somewhat simple process to link your URL to your Shopify store, and Shopify gives you step-by-step directions on how to do this). My wife, and I also secured a couple other names similar to ours, so we can point those URL’s to our store.

I could go on and on about the options of Shopify, and other e-commerce sites, but it’s best if you go, and explore on your own. Most e-commerce sites give you free trials, so you can experiment. I highly advise you do this. As I mentioned before – this is your store front, and your money maker. Take time to invest in the different options available to you. Reach out to the customer service folks at these companies, and speak with web developers. You owe it to yourself, and your business.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

PS. The design, and template through Shopify cost a couple hundred bucks, plus the $100+ US monthly fee. With this expense we’ve spent close to $2500 including some product.