How to Make Money Online: The Basics

You must have a website, says Joel Widmer, founder of Fluxe Digital Marketing. Not only for the obvious — to have something to refer customers back to — but having a website builds your brand’s digital footprint. Keep your site simple and copy-driven with opportunities for email captures on every page.

Three easy steps to having your own website to sell products without spending a lot of cash are:

Select a content management system (), such as WordPress, which is popular for its user friendliness and is free.
Register a domain name and subscribe to a hosting service, such as GoDaddy or Bluehost.
Customize your CMS with ecommerce-enabling plugins and themes. WooCommerce offers free ecommerce themes for WordPress, such as Storefront. Also, eCommerce and MarketPress are additional free ecommerce plugin options.

Or for anyone setting up an e-commerce site, both Shopify and Squarespace are easy e-commerce platforms that allow you to build an e-commerce site yourself.

3. Know your competition and customers.Study up on both competitor and complementary brands (i.e. if you are selling a fire alarm, then look for “house safety” websites). Widmer says your customers will be hanging out on websites for both competitor and complementary brands. He recommends using search tools such as SimilarWeb and Google’s related-search results (located at the bottom of every Google search) to see what sites your prospective customer may be visiting.

Other free research tools to get to know your market, suggests Brandon Schaefer, of MyVirtualSalesForce, are LinkedIn (to see who competitor brands are connecting with and what types of updates they’re posting), Google Alerts (for brand mentions and keywords) and Google Trends.
4. Create an action plan for sales and marketing.

To earn your first million in sales, says Patel, work backwards and put a number on what it takes in monthly revenue to get to a million your first year — meaning how many units, subscriptions or services must be sold. Create benchmarks to reach. Even if you don’t reach them, you have a blueprint.

One way to reach your goal is to figure out which marketing avenues to leverage. Given the wealth of social-media possibilities, start with one or two social-media outlets where you know your audience is. In general, for new products the best channels are Facebook and Pinterest, says Widmer. For expertise and services, try LinkedIn.

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