What does it take to start a home-based business?

As a member of a large organization that helps small businesspeople, I often get the opportunity to communicate with new business people about the businesses they want to grow. In most cases, this is via email, but occasionally, I have the opportunity to meet with one of these clients in person. And, yesterday at Panera was one of those times.

Jill (not her real name) had a couple of product she wants to market on her e-commerce site. We did not spend much time discuss the merits of any of these products. (She had determined my role to be the “web” advisor.) She already had her business set up as an LLC. She had spoken to her accountant, and she was focused on getting her product out on the internet and selling. She told me she had discussed getting a logo and website designed for over $2,000. And, she assured me she was willing to spend less. Her accountant had recommended a program like Quickbooks. And, beyond that, I tried to recommend within those limitations. The bullets below are the point we left the meeting as actionable items:

  • PayPal: Frankly, I was surprised Jill had not set up an account already. Short term, PayPal was going to be her credit card processing. She could sign up for the “virtual machine” and other features that would allow PayPal to process all credit card transactions. And, if she ever needed to refund a payment, this was easily done with PayPal. And, since her product mix was limited, she could create the buttons within PayPal that would allow PayPal transactions to easily process.
  • Google (base & Adwords & blogs): Quite a few things for Jill to keep in mind here….
    • Adwords: This is not for everybody. BUT, if you know the right techniques, you can make sure the money spent to get traffic has a higher percentage of results. (Don’t let your ads show up on “Adsense” sites.)
    • GoogleBase: Based on your products title, you can skip to the top of Google search results!
    • Webmaster Tools: Depending where her website was hosted, this could be very helpful. When you know how your site is being found, you can try to bridge the gap and do what is necessary so you can be found using other keywords.
    • Blogger: Although there is some writing required, it is a good way to let information trickle out about your product expertise.
  • GoDaddy (or any other registrar): Jill already knew what domain she wanted, but after discussing other website options, she wasn’t sure she needed to register her domain name. I don’t know if she was sold on the idea. But, when you are a small company and want to look big, having multiple email addresses at your domain (i.e. sales@yourdomain.com, info@yourdomain.com, etc.) is a quick way to achieve this.
  • Ebay: (newsletters, etc.) After our meeting, Jill believed this was the least expensive way for her to get her website. For less than $20/month, she could load up her store and begin selling. Ebay has many features a regular e-commerce site would have, but it is just not your domain name. I really believed this to be a good quick solution for Jill as she seeks the right product mix.

Well, after our meeting, I emailed Jill the information I had on my logo designer. She replied back that ebay did not seem to be the right venue for her products. So, she wants the name of the designer I have used for some of my websites. I don’t believe I would have success with Jill’s products, but me and the other SCORE volunteers are willing to help her as much as we can. Maybe I can spend some more time on the right “products” in the future….

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