Tips for starting an online business and selling online

Do you dream of starting your own business, being your own boss and selling products that you’re passionate about? How about doing it all from the comfort of your own home?

Starting an online business needn’t be a pipe dream. You don’t need to be a technological wizard to sell online, nor do you need any prior experience. All you need is a computer, access to the internet and the dedication to see your company succeed.

This article will detail the steps you need for setting up an online store, selling online from home and becoming a fully-fledged ecommerce business. 

Learn from our online selling tips and tricks and find out how to start an online retail business.

Make a business plan for selling online

online business plan

As tempting as it may be, you shouldn’t dive straight into your online business without first constructing a plan. A business plan is the foundation on which your company is built. It will help you to visualise short term and long term goals, project costs and revenue, and provide a road map for reaching long-term success. You should make your business plan as detailed as possible, covering all areas of your business — from where the funding comes from, to how the products are marketed, to managing sales. Only once you’ve established your plan and are happy with the direction you wish to take your online business in should you commit to the venture.

Tip: once you’ve finalised your business plan, stick to it. Deviating from your plan in one area will have a knock-on effect on other areas. This is why it’s crucial to ensure your business plan is feasible before you start.


Choose which items are best for you to sell online

best products to sell online

Consider which products you will be selling online. Will you sell a range of products that are of interest to the general consumer (commoditised products) or will you be focusing on a niche product that will only be of interest to select consumers with a particular interest or hobby (niche products)? Will it be an online clothing store? A general UK webshop?

There’s no right or wrong answer, but deciding what to sell online should be included within your business plan. You should consider:

  • How will the products be manufactured?
  • How easy will it be to ship these products?
  • Are there any age restrictions for these products?
  • Will I offer these products in various colours/models/sizes?

If you are going to resell products, consider what the top-selling products online are. You need to balance demand with competition. You should analyse the market to find out which are the most popular items to sell and which are the most bought items online.

Tip: Selling commoditised products will give you a larger pool of potential customers but you will also have more competition. Niche products will only appeal to a few select customers but you will have fewer businesses to compete with.


Find your unique selling point

It’s no secret that the online business space is saturated. You’ll be competing against thousands of other businesses, many of which will already have been selling for years. The key to getting ahead is to position your business as unique to your competitors. 

You should analyse your closest competitors and identify what you have to offer that they don’t. Find your niche and build your business around it.

Tip: Your USP might not be evident until you’ve analysed your competitors. Don’t build a company and then hope you are unique; find out what other businesses aren’t offering and make that your USP.


Choose a retail platform for selling online

selling on Amazon eBay etsy

Your website or platform will be the address your customers visit to find out more information about your products or make a purchase. You may wish to build an entirely new website with its own domain or use an already established site like eBay, Etsy or Amazon to sell your products. Pre-established sites are the easier and cheaper route, and they’ll often help with shipping and insurance. However, your own website will make your business independent and professional. You’ll have full control over the style, layout and how you interact with your customers.

If choosing to build your own website, you’ll need to buy a domain from a hosting provider. Domains containing common, popular words will be more in demand and therefore at a premium. You need to balance price and accessibility when choosing a domain.

Tip: Platforms like eBay, Etsy and Amazon often charge a commission when you sell an item. Keep this in mind before you commit to selling on one of their platforms.


Build your stock inventory

online stock inventory

One of the worst mistakes you can make as a new business is to acquire a backlog of sales that you can’t fulfil because you don’t have the stock prepared.

You should always have a large supply of stock available to ship so that you can fulfil orders. This may require hiring a storage unit if you don’t have the space available at your home.

Tip: Not all storage units are of equal size. Calculate which size you’ll need by assessing the size of your products and the amount you need. See our storage size guide for more info.


Hiring a storage unit

renting a business stock storage unit

Many storage facilities offer general storage for customers to store items. However, you should opt for a storage company that offers business stock storage, as this will be the most suitable option for your business.

Business stock storage is typically much larger than regular storage and offers maximum security to protect your assets. 

Tip: Businesses that offer business stock storage may also offer other storage and protection for other business assets. Take advantage of document archive storage and even serviced office rental if you have the opportunity.


Vanguard Storage Services offer business stock storage, archive storage and serviced office rental for all your business needs. With over 55 years in the industry, we’ve continuously improved our facilities to ensure they meet the highest standards of safety and security for your assets. Featuring 24/7 CCTV and a range of fire and burglar alarm systems, you can be confident that your business stock is protected at all times.

We offer storage solutions for businesses of all sizes, so whether you’re just starting up or have been established for years, we have the storage units for you. We have branches in London, Manchester self storage in Salford and Bristol self storage near Temple Meads. Find your perfect storage unit and move one step closer to your business goals.