Running an online store can provide a level of freedom and flexibility that cannot be found in traditional jobs. You are able to work when you want to, how you want and from your own home. However, do not mistake this freedom for ease – it will take a lot of work. Operating an online store from your home is typically a one or two person operation. This means you will be in charge of marketing, fulfillment, web design and customer service. If you’re up for the task, it’s time to get started. Begin by creating a business plan, purchasing the required tools and setting up your home office.

Create the Foundation

Before you register a domain name or buy a hosting account, take some time to create your business plan. Will you be shipping a physical product or only offering digital downloads? Will you maintain your own inventory or will it ship from a supplier? How do you intend on marketing your business? Creating a comprehensive business plan is essential and will give you a significant advantage over your competition.

Once the business plan is written, you will be prepared to begin purchasing the required products. Below is a brief list of everything you will require to operate an online store. The precise set up procedures will depend on the vendor that you select:

  • Register a domain name that properly reflects your business.
  • Purchase a hosting account with adequate storage space and bandwidth requirements. It is not difficult to upgrade hosting accounts – adhere to your current budget and expand later.
  • Acquire an SSL certificate and dedicated IP address. This will secure the information sent between the customer’s computer and your hosting account. It is also required for a merchant account.
  • Obtain a merchant account that will allow you to process all major credit cards.
  • Purchase shopping cart software that you can customize and design.

Set Up Your Home Office

Now that you have the online side ready to go, it’s time to create an ideal home office. Creating the home office that will be best for you will be entirely unique. Everyone has different preferences on where they’d like things and how they like to work. This means that the details of your ideal home office will be up to you. However, you will require three distinct sections of your office:

  1. Computer Area – You will spend the majority of your time at the computer. You will be adding products, designing your store and engaging in marketing strategies. It’s crucial that you develop a comfortable area to work on your computer. Ensure that you have a chair with appropriate ergonomic support and you are not reduced to slouching.
  2. Shipping Section – Unless your store strictly offers digital products, you will require a shipping section. You may even spend more time there than at your computer area. An ideal shipping section will consist of a large, flat surface. It will be surrounded by everything you’ll need to ship a product, such as boxes, packing peanuts and tape. Try to set up your shipping section near your computer so that you can print shipping labels and immediately use them to pack products. Using an online postage meter will dramatically streamline the shipping process – and even save you money.
  3. Photography Area – If you are selling your own products, you will require a photography area within your home office. It should consist of a camera on a tripod, appropriate lighting material and a monochrome backdrop. This allows you to quickly take pictures of new products and present them to your customers in a uniform way. However, if you are reselling products, you will probably not need a photography area and may skip this section.

Be Patient and Diligent

It is very rare that an online store becomes an overnight success. It will likely take a lot of time, effort and patience for your store to become profitable. However, once you enter the range of profitability, you will be able to live your ideal lifestyle and have unlimited earning potential.

About the Author: James Pulaski is a contributing writer who has owned an online store since 2010. He initially started his online business after watching a co-worker quit to run their store full-time. James was immediately inspired and began creating his own online store.

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