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Hi,

I just read your article on “How To Hire an E-commerce Business Consultant”, and you mention that it’s best to pay for a consultant.

SCORE offers free services for small and large businesses.  What is your professional advice on free services from SCORE (Which they are part of the Small Business Administration?)  I’m wanting to start a small E-commerce site within a specific niche, selling product; and have noticed it’s hard to find the perfect match of a consultant even through SCORE.

What is the basic cost for an small E-commerce site monthly on average, with the total cost of keeping everything running efficiently?

My E-commerce ideal is still in the beginning stages.  I’m trying to put together a check-off list of all of what I would need and want on the site.  But I want to start off small then expand.  What professional advice can you give me on the above questions?  I do have the financial resources available to start and grow this business in the near future.

Thanks,

Rita-(Wisconsin)

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Hi Rita,

Thanks for the question. Yeah, so I checked out SCORE and it looks like it could be a great resource for entrepreneurs just starting out for general business knowledge. I bet there are some highly experienced peeps there who legitimately want to help new business owners. I’m not sure if you’re going to get advanced and up to date E-commerce business structure, strategy and general marketing advisory from SCORE though.

Don’t get me wrong, I think new business owners (in general, not e-commerce) should tap this resource. However, as you mentioned, you’ll likely have trouble finding an accomplished Ecommerce professional within the SCORE network.

If you have a general grip on business structure and basic management already and have a budget to expand, you’re a candidate for an eCommerce specialist or consultant. That’s my 2 cents. There are very few true Ecommerce Consultants out there that are doing it right in my experience.

Another very serious point I need to make is… free consulting is generally poison. I’m a part of a particular Ecommerce Entrepreneurs forum just to police the inexperienced wanna be e-commerce marketers offering poor advice that hasn’t ever run a business. Taking advice from someone that isn’t vested in your business and doesn’t have skin in the game is crazy to me and not a sound business decision.

To speak to the costs of running an e-commerce store, that can vary wildly but I assume you’re talking about a minimal startup budget of some kind. You should review Shopify, here’s a good Shopify comparison to get you started which talks about some of the basic features. Volusion is actually Chapter 11 right now so they aren’t on my list of recommendations currently although I have clients using it to generate 6MM+ in yearly sales. Your overall startup budget can vary from 10k-1MM depending on how fast you wanna grow and how smart you are.

I’ve seen experienced ecom pro’s deploy websites that generated positive income in 6 months. I’ve also had prospects approach me with sites they can’t get anywhere with after a year or two because they didn’t have a good website or their product or service wasn’t in demand. There’s a lot of moving parts to selling online but it boils down the traffic and conversions, sounds easy right?

 

Regarding a to-do list for first time startups, that’s not my typical focus as I mainly work with established online sellers to increase sales and expand. However; I will give you some tough questions to get the ball rolling.

Why are you starting the business? Is this a passion of yours or do you just want a side hustle to create some cash? It’s a huge advantage to choose a niche you are passionate about.

What’s your market advantage? Are you cheaper, faster or better? Those are the 3 typical market advantages I come across. You can certainly build a likeable brand and sell a commodity like socks but it helps a lot if you have one of the aforementioned advantages.

Do you have a cause you can stand behind and add value and likeability to your brand? Supporting a cause that your target audience will be drawn to and appreciate can be a huge sales tool and brand builder.

At the end of the day, realize what you’re getting into before you start working on your website and have a solid plan of what it’s going to look like. Envision what the day to day is going to look like during the first year, 2nd year, 5th year and 10+. Are you going to stock inventory, will you need a warehouse? That’s a whole other game on top of the marketing and online brand building.

The biggest issue that most newbie online retailers face is, they don’t understand they are building a business, not a website. Create a business plan, prepare a budget, have some basic projections, and make sure there’s demand for the service or product you’re providing.

Hope this is helpful and best of luck with your venture!

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