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Selling online starting from scratch: A Complete Guide!

Find out what you can sell online, how to have a virtual business without investing money, how to advertise your products, and more.

Selling online

Find out what you can sell online, how to own a virtual business without investing money, how to advertise your products, and much more.

Selling online is a great opportunity for those who wish to start their own business without having to leave home

However, many people mistakenly think that starting an online venture is easy and that success occurs overnight.

The first thing you need to know is that to get good results with online sales, you need to plan, be diligent, and work hard. 

No miracle will make you rich overnight or without any effort.

But if you do serious work in a structured manner, you’re likely to achieve your main goals, such as having more time to spend with your family, working while traveling, being your own boss, making more money, among others.

To help you, we’ve prepared a complete guide with everything you need to know to start selling online from scratch! 

1. Find out which products and services can be sold online

The first thing you should think about when you decide to sell online is, “What will people actually buy?”

Yeah, this sounds obvious! But, it’s common to hear people complain that they don’t make sales. Usually, this is because they didn’t do their research first.

But, what can we sell online?

We have selected the best options:

Consulting

Consulting is a great option for those who know a particular subject well and have specialized in this segment. 

Let’s check out an example!

Imagine you’re an expert in personal finance and investments. You might have studied this or have acquired knowledge by working in a company in the industry. 

The important thing is that you know a lot about economics and asset management, and know the best strategies for personal investments to obtain high profitability.

Now, imagine that you’ve created a blog and a YouTube channel with tips and short lessons on the subject. 

Over time, by using strategies to disseminate your content, you’ve reached a loyal audience that always reads your posts and leaves comments, as well as participating in livestreams on your social media.

These people are interested in your content and may require personalized attention or advice. In other words, what you can sell online is a consulting service for people who need your help to improve their personal finances. 

To attract your customers, a form on your website might be enough. Your consulting service can be provided in person or by videoconference.

A consultant analyzes their clients situation and helps them achieve their goals, planning and executing strategic actions. 

We are only giving one example. You can offer consulting services in various niches, such as fashion, management, marketing, etc.

Services

Services are another option that can be sold online. 

Suppose you have a lot of knowledge about the English language and, as in the previous case, you offer content for people who need to learn it.

If your audience trusts your knowledge and teaching ability, they will probably want to take classes with you, right? 

That’s exactly what you can sell: your private lessons, face-to-face or by videoconference.

You can do the same in different segments: if you have online content in software development, you can sell this service (such as creating a mobile app, for example). 

Or if you’re an architect, you can also offer projects online. 

This kind of work is known as freelancing and includes many possibilities, with significant profits! 

However, the downside to selling services (and also of consulting) is that you can only serve a limited number of customers. First of all, you’re only one person and you’ll have to dedicate a lot of time to each of them. 

In other words, in these cases, you won’t be able to scale your business.

Physical Products

Physical products can also be sold online and are very popular. More and more people are buying from online stores, because it’s much more convenient than going to a physical store.

This is a good option for those who already have an offline store and want to take their business even farther, or for those who want to start and sell products without having expenses with the facilities (rent, utilities, etc.).

To own an e-commerce, you need a good website with photos, descriptions, and prices of your products. 

In addition, it’s necessary to have a payment platform and a team that handles all the technical side of things. 

But certain platforms already offer the entire basic structure for an online store, such as Shopify, and Amazon.

Another important item is that you’ll have to deal with the management of your actions and with the logistics of the shipments. 

One good tip is to use drop shipment. In this case, you don’t need to have the product in inventory. When the customer places an order, you forward it to the wholesaler, who will send the purchase directly to the customer.

Digital Products

Digital products are sold online in digital format, and can be consumed by computer or any mobile device, such as e-readers, tablets, and smartphones. 

The most popular are e-learning and e-books, but also include others, such as mobile applications, online conferences, and downloadable templates.

The audience consuming digital products is growing more and more, for many reasons. Here are a few of them:

  • People don’t have to leave their homes to make the purchase
    • If it’s a product like a book, for example, there’s no need to wait for it to arrive: just download it in a few minutes or seconds.
    • If it’s a product like a course, for example, you don’t have to commute to classes, and students can do everything at their own pace, wherever and whenever they want.
  • The prices are attractive.

There are several advantages for those who decide to sell this type of product online, such as being able to start with very little or no investment, having a scalable business, being able to work from anywhere, and much more.

In order to be a content creator, you need to develop different activities. 

In the case of online teachers, for example, it’s necessary to define the niche, plan the course, write scripts, record video lessons, and promote the content on the web.

We recommend that you have a platform that handles payments, automatically sends the product to the buyer, and offers two options: for the customer to download the product or have access to a members area.

Online courses 

Online courses are rich, usually educational, materials that cover a variety of topics, from conventional subjects to a cooking course, for example. 

As the name implies, this type is consumed exclusively online, and the most common format is video lessons

Contrary to what many people think, it isn’t necessary to be a trained teacher to be in the online course business, as long as you have knowledge about a certain subject and want to share it with others.

Of course, this applies only to unregulated courses, which are not tied to any educational institution. In these cases, the school or college is responsible for creating and distributing the content. 

However, the fact that it’s a democratic market doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to your material creation. 

As with any content that is recorded and made available online, it’s necessary to have a pre- and post-production routine to ensure that the material meets your audience’s needs. 

You can check out all the details about creating an online course in our complete post on the subject

But you should know that you’ll have to outline an ideal buyer for your product (also known as a persona) and look for a topic that interests this audience. 

In addition, you’ll have to select good keywords to attract buyers and produce quality content, both from the point of view of the subject matter and the capturing of images and audio, and other technical details. 

Despite being labor-intensive, having your own online course can provide excellent financial results for entrepreneurs. Without a doubt, it is a quickly growing market

eBooks 

eBooks are books in digital format that can be read on any electronic device, such as a computer, smartphone, e-reader (digital book reader, such as Kindle), or a tablet.

This product is very popular among online entrepreneurs because it’s simpler and cheaper to produce. Using programs installed on your computer, you can also create this material without any design knowledge. 

Your audience will also find this format quite interesting since it can be consumed with a simple data package, unlike videos and other formats, which require good internet quality. 

Learn everything you need so you can create your own eBook

In addition to online courses (e-learning) and eBooks, we have others, such as apps, online events, and downloadable templates.

Third-Party Products

A good idea for those who want to sell online without worrying about product creation and management is to join an affiliate program

Affiliates promote other people’s products in exchange for commissions. 

Shall we check out another example?

Let’s suppose you have a blog about healthy living and physical exercise. Most of your audience is interested in losing weight, eating healthy, and doing activities that help burn calories.

Now, imagine that you have discovered an online fitness program with video lessons that the student can follow from home, performing the exercises in their own home. 

Surely, your audience would love this product, right? So, you recommend it on your page, with a specific link, also known as an Affiliate link (or in the case of Hotmart, promotional links).

Every time someone makes a purchase thanks to the link you posted, you will be paid a commission for the sale.

This type of strategy is great for those who want to sell online, because you don’t need to invest in buying physical products, and you can use several forms of advertising your links, such as blogs, social media, and a YouTube channel.

Do you think you have an affiliate profile? 

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Marketplaces

Marketplaces are segment-specific websites that gather products from various websites and brands in one place. 

On this type of website, buyers can choose the product they think is best, considering its features and prices.

A few examples of this type of online sales are Booking and Airbnb

Marketplaces are quite interesting for buyers, because they don’t have to spend hours searching for the best price and can make the payment directly on the page.

This can also be a great option for those who want to sell online since (as in the previous case) there’s no need to develop a specific product. 

2. Start a virtual business without investing money

If you want to sell online without too many risks, you can choose to have a virtual business that doesn’t require a lot of initial investment. 

Selling physical products, for example, isn’t highly recommended in this case. However, selling services, digital products, or third-party products might be great options.

With this in mind, we’ve selected a few tips to help you: 

Don’t worry about perfection

You probably want to have the perfect product before you start selling it, right? 

It’s normal to want to offer something that has excellent quality (and this is ideal, of course). 

But before you know whether your business really works, you can start with a basic version of the product, also known as MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This kind of prototype can be built with less investment and allows you to test how your audience receives your product or service. 

If you’re going to create an e-book, you don’t need to hire a designer to handle the visual part. You can start with a simpler template and create the e-book yourself, using one of the templates we suggested earlier in the eBook topic, for example.

Another example is online courses. If you’re recording a video, you obviously want the quality to be as good as possible. But to get started, you don’t need a studio or a super professional camera.

If you have a room in your house that is well lit and has a wall in a neutral color, without many objects and colors, you’re ready to get started. 

But, remember to choose a comfortable place with little noise. Another option is to record in a beautiful and quiet place in your town.

You can learn more about video lighting by reading this post!

In addition, you can use your smartphone camera, as long as it has an acceptable image and audio quality. If you wish to learn more, we recommend reading our post on how to create online courses, which has lots of advice on the subject and all the steps to get you started!

Choose free tools for your work

There are many great tools for selling online, and several of them are free, or have basic versions that you can use at a low price.

IToadvertise your product and attract customers, AdWords would be a good option, which is Google’s advertising tool. But if you don’t have money to invest, you can use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies to place your website on the first page organically, i.e. without spending money for it.

Another example: 

If your product is an online course, you’ll have to use a members’ platform so that your customers can log in and access modules, videos, forums, activities, etc. 

You can use excellent options that only charge a percentage of the product’s price when you make a sale.

The most important thing is to search for good tools that meet your needs and are more affordable. If you do this, you’ll see that it’s possible to start selling online, even if you don’t have the money to invest.

3. Choose the right product to sell online

If you’ve decided to sell online, the most important point is to determine what you’re going to sell! To do so, we recommend that you write down, on a sheet of paper, 3 ideas of products that you could create or advertise, considering the following items:

What are you passionate about?

Ideally, you should choose to work with something you’re passionate about. 

As Confucius said, “Choose a job that you enjoy ,and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

Think about your tastes and imagine the products you could create and sell online from there.

If gardening is your hobby, you can create an online course that teaches techniques of growing plants at home.

Ideally, choose a subject that’s even more specific, such as indoor gardening, growing vegetables in small houses that don’t have a yard, or growing orchids, because these terms attract a less generic audience, since they meet a clear need.

If you like taking pictures, you can create an e-book with photography techniques. You can focus on nighttime photography, portraits, landscapes, Photoshop techniques, and many others by considering specific subjects.

Consider your tastes and skills, and you will certainly find something perfect for you!

What do people need?

Although you have to love what you do, your love alone isn’t enough. Other people must love what you do too!

People must need your product. There’s no point in developing something that you think is wonderful,but that won’t be useful to anyone.

To do so, you need to identify a market and study it.

It’s necessary to conduct a survey of a specific niche and understand what problems consumers have that need to be solved. 

But don’t worry, this is what we’ll be talking about in the next topic.

How can you scale your business?

Another important question to consider is, in order to sell more, will you need to invest more time and money? Or with a single effort, can you achieve “infinite” sales?

If you sell a service, such as financial consulting, every time you make a sale, you’ll need to invest more hours of work, because you’ll have to meet with your customers, study their situation, and work out strategies to achieve their goals.

However, if your product is an e-book or an online course, once it’s ready, you won’t have to worry about anything else, only about selling it. 

In other words, you’ll create the digital product only once and you can sell it to thousands of people around the world. This is why, ideally, you should think of something that can generate more profit with less effort and for longer.

4. Identify and study a market

After listing the 3 products you can sell online, choose the best option by conducting a market survey.

  • Find out what problems of your persona you can solve. If you are creating a gardening course, check what users are asking about the topic on Google, etc.
  • Look for products that already exist on the subject and analyze what they don’t have. How can you offer something different that stands out from the others? But be careful, if your product is new and there’s nothing similar, there might not be an audience or a real demand for it.
  • Analyze your competition and get inspired. But, of course, don’t copy what they’re doing. And be aware of one factor, beating your big competitors is very hard. If you want to compete with well-known companies and brands, you might have to choose another option or a micro-niche in which to operate.
  • Survey people you know who fit your target audience. You can also do this online, through forms, and in places where you can find this type of consumer. If you’re going to sell an online cooking course to mothers with young children, for example, you can go to a kindergarten or school and ask mothers who have this profile to answer a few quick questions.

Understanding your future customers is the most important thing for you to succeed!

5. Create your product by starting from scratch

Once you have defined the product you will sell online, you’ll have to create it (unless you are selling a physical product that’s ready).

If you want to sell video lessons online, check out our complete step-by-step guide to help you create your online course. And, if you want to create an eBook, don’t forget to read all of our tips for creating your digital book from scratch.

Check out the Hotmart Academy if you need some help getting started.

6. Choose a platform to sell your product

When your product is ready to sell, you’ll need to choose a platform that allows you to make it available.

In the case of digital products, we recommend that you choose one with the following features:

  • Allows you to have a custom product page built on the platform, or let’s you use an external, integrated sales page.
  • Stores products on a reliable server.
  • Manages purchase orders.
  • Executes the entire payment in an automated manner.
  • Allows your customers to make purchases in different currencies.
  • Has a Members Area, if your product is an online course.
  • Allows your affiliates to promote your product and increase your sales.
  • Has a support team for your customers.
  • Has a responsive design (i.e. that works well on tablets as well as smartphones).
  • Has a sales funnel.
  • Presents reports so you can keep track of your sales and manage your business.

All of these benefits allow you not to worry about the business’s technical aspects, only about creating the product and advertising it.

And, of course, a free platform would be ideal, with no membership fees or monthly payments. With Hotmart, you only pay a percentage of your product’s price when you make a sale.

7. Promote your product and demonstrate authority

The most important aspect of selling online is, without a doubt, winning over your future customers.

To do so, above all, you need to generate trust. People have to see you as someone they can rely on, as someone who can and wants to help them in a transparent manner. And to do so, you need to offer quality content.

Here, we have a few online tools you can use to promote your product and advertise your content.

Blog

A blog is the #1 channel that’s indispensable for anyone who wants to build an audience, being in constant contact with the audience, and demonstrating authority.

Some advantages of this tool are:

  • There’s no limited space for your content: you can type as much as you want
  • Blogging helps to improve your Google ranking organically
  • You can interact with your audience in the comments section
  • You can post different types of content: articles, videos, infographics, surveys, and more.

Here, in our blog, we have already published an article with valuable tips on how to write your blog. If you wish to know more about the importance of investing and how you can make money with a blog, watch this video:

Facebook

Facebook is the largest social network, with 2 billion users. This means that your potential customers are probably on this network.

Some of this tool’s advantages are:

  • It’s a dynamic social network, connected to the present and very attractive to users
  • You can create paid campaigns targeted specifically to your audience (and measure their results!)
  • You can interact in real time, creating livestreams
  • It’s a very important channel for the advertising of your blog’s content

Before creating your page, pay attention and avoid making the most common mistakes on Facebook.

Instagram

Instagram is another popular social network, which already has one billion users. The major difference with the other networks is that its approach is visual, with an emphasis on photos and videos.

Stories, which are photos or videos that disappear within 24 hours, are good ways of getting the audience’s attention.

If you work in the gastronomy niche, you can publish short videos with recipes, photos of the dishes you prepare, stories with interesting tips; the sky is the limit!

If you’re a beginner, learn the best tips on how to sell on Instagram.

Product Page

Your product page is your display window for buyers and affiliates (if you want other people to promote your products and help you sell more).

Without a doubt, the quality of this website will have a big impact on its credibility and level of authority. So, it’s necessary to consider the following:

  • Your sales page should describe your product and its advantages, provide information about you, and have an eye-catching video. In addition, you should include other information, such as a legal notice (where required), contact and payment methods. (Check out our post about sales pages to learn more).
  • The layout is very important, since it’s the first thing your customers see when they visit your page. Pay attention to the visual part of your page, such as colors, font size, and content organization.
  • Proofread your texts and make sure that grammar and spelling are correct. But the most important thing is to pay attention to your copywriting: your texts must be attractive and impact your readers so they buy your product.
  • Don’t forget the Call To Action, so that visitors can perform the action you expect of them.

Tip: Having your own domain is a good idea to make your page more trustworthy for your audience.

Email marketing

Email marketing is extremely important for you to create an engaged audience that identifies with your brand. It’s probably the most cost-effective marketing tool.

The good thing about email is that it goes directly to your lead or customer’s inbox, which increases the chances that the message will be read.

Moreover, if you send targeted email campaigns, you can reach your audience in a customized manner, according to each person’s needs.

If you aren’t already using this strategy, understand how to use email marketing to sell online.

Tip: Use testimonials from people who are already your customers as social proof to make your audience trust your work even more.

Sales Video

A sales video is also a great option to demonstrate your authority, introduce your product, and call people to make a purchase. See our advice:

8. Other options

If you aren’t familiar with any of the formats we presented above, don’t worry! There are other options for those who want to work online.

Let’s talk about some of them.

Digital Influencer

Digital Influencers use their follower base and online influence to endorse products and services. This professional can also generate income through partnerships with brands, advertising agreements, participation in events, among other things.

To work in this area, it’s essential to have a solid online presence, especially on the most popular social networks, such as Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube.

As the US is one of the countries that spend the most time online, this can be an excellent market for those who want to monetize their popularity.

Blogger

Blogging is a great option for those who want to turn their hobby of creating content into a profession.

Working as a blogger you can generate income in several ways, either with sponsored posts, ad linking, through Google AdSense, and content marketing, which is a long-term strategy of creating quality content optimized for search engines as a way to increase the engagement of your online page.

Although many people think that social media has overshadowed this market, the moment has never been better for those who wish to have a blog.

Learn the best ways of making money with a blog.

9. Have strategies to provide customer service for your audience

Have you ever heard the phrase “the customer is the soul of the business”? For many, it might sound like a cliché, but believe me, it makes a lot of sense when we talk about any type of enterprise, including for those who want to sell online.

Therefore, it’s essential that you think about the best actions to attract, engage and dazzle your customers. When searching for your service, users already know that they will solve their pain, but in order to close the deal, you need to demonstrate value.

Always try to answer the following questions:

  • What makes me different from my competitors?
  • How do I make my customers more satisfied with the product?
  • How can I can sell to the same customer again?

Below, we have a few points to be taken into consideration:

Choose the best service channels

If you’re willing to sell online, you need to make sure that your service channels will also be digital.

Therefore, when studying the market, also analyze how your customers want to receive customer service. Nowadays, scalability is possible by investing in messaging apps and message automation.

Additionally, virtual customer service also brings your brand even closer to the audience, serving to sell a product and as a support channel.

If possible, have a team

As business increases, so does demand. This results in more questions and curiosity from customers. After a while, you’ll realize that you’ll need to expand your customer service team.

IToreach this conclusion, measure the daily customer service demand and the real need to expand the team. 

Soon, after this initial step, if necessary, don’t be afraid to invest on new people and tools to make this contact even more efficient. Over time, you’ll find that customers will come back to buy because of the product and also, because of the service.

Always think about your customer’s success

Many entrepreneurs, when they start selling online, focus all their efforts on improving the service, but forget about the customer’s success – which needs to be the basics.

As much as there’s a need to always evolve your product, make sure that your customer service follows the same flow.

10. Your logistics must be well defined

Good logistics makes a difference in any kind of business – whether virtual or physical. By applying good strategies, you make sure that the product will reach the customer in the best possible way. And you can be sure that the entire operation is working.

Logistics handles the manufacturing of the product until it’s delivered to the end customer. Any problem during this entire process can result in failures, especially in the quality of service, which impacts the enterprise’s reputation.

Inventory control

Inventory control allows you to know which options of your products are available (if there’s more than one), which need replacement, or which need to be manufactured from scratch.

Inventory control can be carried out in several ways. There’s specialized software in this area, which can signal when something needs to be restocked, for example.

Certain businesses that also sell online perform this check manually. Regardless of which you choose, always check the quality and restocking of your inventory and update the information on your sales page.

Make sure you have exchange and return policies

When we’re talking about selling online, we need to mention the possibility of exchanging a certain product. Many times, customers don’t have the possibility of trying the service before purchasing it.

For example, if you sell handmade sandals online, you may find that some users aren’t satisfied with the sizes they’ve chosen. Therefore, they need to exchange the product.

It may seem like a complex process, but it’s more common than you think. Therefore, the company needs to have exchange and return policies in place.

This subject is so important that it’s even included in the Consumer Defense Code. For the exchange to be valid, it must follow certain deadlines: up to 30 days in the case of non-durable goods; and up to 90 days for durable goods.

11. Final Tips

Throughout this post, our goal has been to provide you with an overview of how to sell online. But don’t leave just yet! Before you close this window and start planning your business, we have a few important tips:

  • Make sure your business is as automated as possible. Use a platform that performs all the technical stuff so you don’t have to waste time on bureaucratic activities, and can focus on what matters most: your product.
  • Measure your results consistently and analyze what is working well and what can be improved.
  • Try to understand your customers and listen to what they have to say. They are the most important part of your business.
  • Perform your work with focus and dedication: if you do what you enjoy, we’re sure that you’ll be happier in your day-to-day life.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably already realized that selling online is an excellent alternative for making an income and being your own boss. 

Check out 7 business ideas to help you get started!