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10 essentials for selling on the net

19 February 2013 No Comment

If you are planning to start your business online, here are 10 essentials to get you going.

1. Webhosting

You will need webhosting, which is some ‘virtual space’ foryour website. You may get space included with your email account, but will probably need to switch to paid hosting if you are serious about your business. A growing website will quickly use up any free space. Free hosting also often comes with advertisements, which can make your site look less professional.

2. Legal requirements

There are certain requirements you must meet when selling over the internet. Your website must list full contact details including a name, email and geographic address. You need fair and meaningful terms and conditions too. You need to be clear about what you are offering, and how much it costs, as well as fees for delivery and taxes. Explain how the ordering process works, and what the customer should do if dissatisfied. Send a confirmation to each customer after they order. Customers have a right to cancel within seven working days for most good and services.

3. Privacy

You should have a policy on privacy: how you safeguard customers contact details. You may need to comply with the Data Protection Act. Only collect information you need from your customers, and be clear that everything you are collecting has a purpose. Tell your customers what information you will keep and why. Ensure that information is kept securely, and that customers are clear about when you will share their information and who with. Find out more about this at the Information Commissioner’s Office, www.ico.gov.uk

4. Standards

Make sure you display any professional bodies you belong to and details such as VAT registration. Talk to your local business and enterprise agency, visit the Trading Standards websiteorthe Office of Fair Trading website forfuller information.

5. More features foryour website

There are lots more features you may want to have built into a website. A web statistics programme will tell you how many people have visited your site, what they have looked at, where they found your site and much more. This really helps you make your site work well and tell what online marketing works too.

6. Taking payments

You need to be able to take payments, and most businesses with an online presence will want people to be able to pay through the website. Paypal is one of the simplest systems to set up, and charges a small per cent for each transaction. You could also look at setting up a merchant account with your business bank and using a secure online payment gateway like Worldpay, ProtxorStreamline. This is more flexible than Paypal, but you will need to pay a fee of around £20 a month. This may include a certain number of transactions, after which there are further charges per transaction. Other schemes just charge you per transaction.

7. Blogs

A blog,orweblog, can be a useful addition to your site. It’s like an online diary where you can easily type in news and upload images. Many blogs are free, with the option forpay a few pounds a month forfeatures like more space forimages.

8. Keep it fresh

You may want to think about what else you can offer on your site. Keep it updated and add new items to attract people back. Think about using regular offers and promotions. Ask site visitors fortheir contact details and send out a regular newsletter. Some businesses also have more than one website, as different set ups will attract different people

9. Online marketing

Once you have a website, you need to get it known. When creating your site you need to think about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The words on your site, and the ‘tags’ used in your website coding are picked up by search engines. SEO means planning the wording carefully to ensure your site is picked up by people using search engines to trawl forrelevant terms.

10. Online networking

When you are promoting your website it is worth networking online. Look for fora frequented by your customers. Join up, offer helpful advice where you can, and get to know what people are looking for. Fora have varying rules about promoting your own business so check the regulations before mentioning your business. There are also small business fora. These can be an invaluable source of help and advice, especially if you are starting a business from home and feel isolated.

If you are an experienced online business owner, what could you add to this list? Please share your tips below!

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