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How College Students Can Start an eCommerce Business From Scratch

Larry Simmons
How College Students Can Start an eCommerce Business From Scratch

The eCommerce market is booming. 

Over two billion people purchased goods or services online in 2020. And research shows that global online sales revenue is expected to grow to $6.3 trillion by 2024. 

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The good news is that it’s pretty easy to start your own eCommerce business. But making it successful? That’s the tricky part. 

So, what do you need to do to get an eCommerce business off the ground and make it successful? 

As a college student, creating an eCommerce business while studying isn’t going to be easy. But there are some best practices you can follow to give yourself the best chance of success. 

Keep reading to find out how. 

1. Do your research 

Reading this article is a good starting point, but it’s not enough. You need to know the ins and outs of running an eCommerce business to give yourself the best chance of making it work. 

Spend some time researching how to run an eCommerce business, read stories from other entrepreneurs, and absorb as much information as you can. For example, you could switch your business model into a product led sales one based on other entrepreneurs stories. 

Make sure you do all of this research before you start selling. This will give you the knowledge to overcome any hurdles and prepare you for what to expect when you start operating. 

2. Plan your time management

You need to ask yourself the following question: 

How do you plan to run a business while studying? 

When you’re studying and trying to run an eCommerce business simultaneously, time management will become your new best friend. So get used to using it sooner rather than later. 

But if you’re not sure where to start, we’d suggest using an online calendar. 

With an online calendar, you can block time to give yourself a clear schedule for when you need to be studying and attending classes and when you can work on your business. 

And if you’re worried about cost, don’t be. You can use a spreadsheet or a Google calendar, both of which are free. 

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3. Figure out your costs 

Speaking of keeping costs low, you need to figure out what your costs will be. 

As a college student, we're guessing you don’t have much space to store inventory. And you probably don’t have a lot of funds to invest in capital.

With eCommerce, you can keep your start-up costs relatively low. The bare minimum involves the following:

  • Buying a domain name
  • Choosing a hosting site
  • Paying for your inventory and products
  • Using a payment processing system

So make sure you’ve outlined what your costs will be and that you’ve got enough cash available to at least fund the bare minimum. 

You’ll also need to open a bank account for your business. You can reach out to banks specialized in bank accounts for college students to help you figure out what would be the best option for you and your business. 

Once things get started, you can look at investing in some more of the desirables. These include redesigning your website, creating a logo, and using marketing software

Considering that you’ll be managing money and sensitive information online, be sure to brush up on your internet safety standards to avoid identity theft and data breaches. 

4. Create a business plan 

A business plan is a roadmap. It outlines what your business will do and how you plan to achieve your goals. 

With a business plan in place, you have direction, which is pretty helpful when you’re starting your business from scratch. 

So what should you include in your business plan?

Here’s what we’d suggest as a starting point: 

  • An overall summary: The opening of your business plan should include a summary of what your business is, your goals and objectives, and how you plan to achieve those goals. 
  • A breakdown of your product or service: Define what your product or service is, why you’ve decided to create it at this time, and any other relevant information. 
  • An analysis of the market: This allows you to identify your position in the marketplace and review your competitors, too. 
  • Who your target audience will be: Outline who you’ll target and why you’ve chosen this audience.
  • Your goals and objectives: Specify the goals and objectives you have for your business. Make sure they’re measurable and time-specific so you can review the success of your business further down the line. 

These are just a few of the things that a successful business plan includes. But every business is different, meaning every business plan is different, too.

So do some research and find out what you need to include in your business plan to make it as useful as possible. 

5. Make the most of free marketing

Marketing your business can be a great way to raise awareness and reach a wider audience. But despite what you might think, marketing activity doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

There are plenty of free ways you can use marketing to your advantage. Here are a few of our suggestions: 

  • Use social media: Social media is an effective marketing tool, and it doesn’t have to cost you anything. You can reach a wider audience and raise brand awareness without spending a cent, so make sure you use it.
  • Sign up for free ads: If you sign up for an ad account with a search engine or social media platform, they’ll sometimes offer some free ads. Use them. This will also give you a good idea of whether paid ads are worth it and what you should include in them. 
  • Build backlinks: Getting backlinks from reputable sites is a great way to reach a wider audience and position yourself as a reliable and trustworthy brand. Sites such as Quora marketing that have a good reputation and a high domain authority are the type of sites you should target. Not to mention, it’ll be good for SEO, too. 

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6. Register your business 

We probably don’t have to tell you this, but ensuring that your business is legally able to operate is pretty important. 

Even if it’s just a side-hustle, you need to be operating by the books. Failing to do so could result in unwanted fines, or worse — you could be forced to stop operating altogether. 

So how do you register your business?

Unfortunately, we can’t give you a definitive answer to that question. The process will vary depending on what your business is, where you live, your revenue, and if you have any employees. 

So, it’s up to you to do the research and find out for yourself. 

But one thing we suggest is forming a limited liability company (LLC). 

It isn’t a legal requirement, but it will protect you as an individual should your business run into any unexpected hurdles. 

7. Think about hiring employees (when the time is right) 

If things go to plan, your business will start to grow. Success! 

But you’re still in college. You don’t have the time to invest in developing your business and it’s starting to become slightly overwhelming. 

So, what next?

It’s time to start thinking about hiring employees. 

When the time is right, you’ll want to consider expanding your team to help your business grow. 

If you’re not sure how to go about hiring employees, don’t worry. There are professional employer organizations (PEOs) out there that can help you with the entire process. They’ll save you time in hiring, training, and managing your employees.

Larry Simmons
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