Entrepreneur.com is a virtual gold mine of information, but sometimes it's nice to have all your top questions and answers in one spot. That's why we decided to create a kind of FAQ section just for homebased startups, culled from questions posed to our former Startup Expert, Keith Lowe. Read on to glean tons of useful tidbits from these, your top start-up questions.
Q: I have decided to start a business on the Internet selling computer hardware, software, books and accessories. Do I need to obtain the products for sale on my Web site from the manufacturers? Is this allowed, or do I have to go about it another way in order to sell products online?
One of the reasons why I am asking is to make sure this is allowed or whether I will require licenses in order to sell my products. I would also like to know if I am too young to do this.
A: There are a few ways to go about this. One is to buy some products, store them in your basement and ship them to customers as you sell them. The positive side to this is that you can usually make more money if you do this by taking more risk. The negative side is the possibility of getting stuck with stuff you can't sell. That's why you sometimes see department stores having sales for 75 percent off-they are trying to get rid of stuff that they bought and now can't sell.
Another way to go about this is to use a fulfillment company. If you go to www.google.com and search on "fulfillment company," you'll find out more than you want to know about how they work. Many will handle everything-they'll give you a list of products and the wholesale prices, you take the orders, and they do the rest.
I'm not quite sure what you mean when you ask, "Is this allowed?" If you mean can you buy products, keep them in your basement and then resell them, the answer is yes, provided there are no city zoning restrictions that would prevent you from keeping inventory on the premises. Check with your city's zoning department on any restrictions, for inventory or otherwise. And check with your city on any needed licenses or permits.
When in doubt, a good attorney or accountant will be able to answer these types of questions, and it's always a good idea to consult them when starting a business. I think you are on the right track, and I would encourage you to keep trying and keep pushing until you get this thing going!
Q: I am just itching to get into the business world, but I have limited financial resources. Can you give me any suggestions on low-cost businesses to start that mostly involve the Internet?
A: Well, there are so many opportunities, I don't know where to start. First you need to find something that interests you-it is pretty easy to find tons of services to offer (from Web site promotion to retail to being a technical writer to you name it).
There are many ways to go about this, and many can be done without a lot of risk or investment. One way is to start on eBay. There are lots of people making great money just selling things on eBay (but you need to pick something you have expertise with). I've got a friend who sells several hundred thousand dollars' worth of used golf clubs per year on eBay, works his own hours and has a blast.
If you wanted to get started with something like that, try buying and selling a couple of inexpensive things (but be careful!) just to see how things work. One word of caution: To do well on eBay, you must sell something you know a lot about-my friend is very successful, but mostly because he's an expert in golf clubs.
I've got another friend who quit his job in Atlanta, moved to a small town in Georgia and became a ghost writer-he will write articles and books for people and get them published. He lives in a small town with a low cost of living and works in a local coffee shop. What a life!
The key here is to find something that interests you, hopefully something that you can be passionate about!