3 Simple Steps to Bootstrapping an Online Store

December 27, 2015

6:00 pm

You have an amazing business idea, but no cash to invest in a new business; however, you don’t need a lot of money to start an online business. That’s not really a secret, but the perception is you need a lot of cash upfront to start a new business. The reality is there are easy ways to bootstrap your product and build an online store. With the right tools, you’ll be in business in no time.

One of the best parts is you can truly profit from your new online business. A recent study of side hustles in the UK, Australia and the United States discovered that the average income from a side business is $24,500. Now that doesn’t mean you will magically make thousands from your bootstrapped store. But it does mean you have the potential for creating something really amazing. And you don’t have to risk your life savings or invest thousands of dollars to start your own business.

Step 1: Digital or Merchandise Line

If you’re bootstrapping a new business, you can’t afford to manufacture your own product. But you still have some great options. The first is to create a digital product, like an eBook, PDF, video tutorial, online course, etc. You can’t get cheaper than creating a digital product. You won’t have any overhead other than production costs.

When creating a digital product, you can really think outside the proverbial box. Two-time Survivor player, Rob Cesternino, and entertainment journalist, Josh Wigler, created an entire product line of Survivor re-caps and analysis called The Evolution of Strategy that could prove helpful.

Your second option is to create your own custom product line using a platform like Zazzle. This site allows you to customize t-shirts, mugs, hats – basically anything – with your own logo or custom artwork. This is great if you already have a brand to sell and a potential niche.

Step 2: Sell From a Blog or Online Marketplace

Again you have a few choices for setting up your boostrapped store: a blog/website or create your own eStore using an existing platform. If you already have a blog, you can sell directly from that site using a simple eCommerce plugin like Selz. You can build your own eStore using the Selz platform or integrate it into your existing WordPress or Blogger sites. But the best part is it’s free to set up.

Another option is Easy Digital Downloads, which also integrates with WordPress. It’s also free to use and set up, and only works with WordPress. You do have to pay for additional gateways, or payment options (PayPal, Stripe, etc.), but it’s a fast and easy system for WordPress users.

If you’re using a platform like Zazzle, you’re going to belong to a larger marketplace. These sites are extremely seller-friendly and cheap to set up. You’ll have major competition, but you also have an instant market that’s looking to buy products like yours. In 2014 Etsy, a marketplace for handmade and vintage items, sold almost 2 billion dollars of merchandise. So while you’ll definitely have competition, you’ll also be able to tap into some serious buyers.

Step 3: Choose a Social Media Strategy

There are a million cheap ways to market your new business, but the cheapest is to start with social media marketing. It’s all free to set up and use, and you’ll be able to use specific content to drive visitors to your new store.

Don’t sign up for every social media site out there. Do a little research to find out exactly where your potential target market is before you start marketing. For example, Pinterest has a different base market than LinkedIn does. Try using a site like Canva to create fun and interesting social media posts. It’s free unless you use their premium images, and then it’s only $1 per image. Social media marketing takes time, effort and luck. But it’s the perfect way to start marketing on a bootstrappers budget – $0!


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Liesha's a freelancer by day and Kyokushin Black Belt by night. A late-blooming academic, she's happiest teaching business and globalization at UoPeople. Her newest project is Work Mobly, an online magazine called which helps freelancers find freedom, happiness, and profit while working from anywhere. Get in touch with Liesha on Twitter.

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