The key to a good side hustle is that it doesn’t take away too much from your normal life. There’s no point in seeking an additional source of income if doing so means sacrificing the time and money you need to live the way you want to. So finding side gigs that are profitable but that also require little startup funds is key.
One of the options you have that lets you do this is an eCommerce business. Yet perhaps the idea of doing this without any real budget seems somewhat counterintuitive.
In some ways it is. We all know the saying, “it takes money to make money.” To get an eCommerce business going on the side, often times people will suggest outsourcing certain tasks, such as content creation, to help prevent your business from consuming all of your free time.
But the world of eCommerce lets us do some things that probably weren’t possible before the advent and subsequent universal adoption of the internet, and one of those is starting a business with virtually no budget. Here are some tips for getting an online business going without having to invest a small fortune:
Sell other people’s stuff
One of the most resource-consuming aspects of starting any business is product development. The amount of research, not only about the product but also about the market you will be pursuing, is so immense, that you really do need a good amount of money to build and sell your own products.
The solution? Sell other people’s stuff. The most effective way to do this is through affiliate marketing, and perhaps the best of this category is the Amazon Associates program.
By reviewing and recommending products on Amazon and then collecting a commission when visitors to your site buy something, you are passing off almost all of the work to someone else, especially the expensive work such as shipping, stocking, packaging and so on. This also means you don’t need to compete on price, as the prices you are offering are the same ones consumers can find on Amazon, or whatever site you use.
You don’t need to use Amazon’s affiliate program, though. There are tons of different options out there in a wide variety of niches. Of course, the catch here is that you need to have an authority in some niche. For people to follow your advice and buy the products you are recommending, you need to establish yourself as a credible source.
However, this is more than doable with a tiny budget, particularly if you have a good content marketing strategy. This, however, can sometimes get expensive, which brings us to the next point about launching your online business without a budget.
Create your own content
There’s an expression amongst digital marketers and eCommerce entrepreneurs that “content is king,” and it really is. Without good content, there’s little chance your business is going to have success. You need good content to get people to your site, and then you need just as good if not better content to then convert the people that come to your site into customers.
And good content can be expensive. It’s hard to find good writers and graphic designers who will produce consistent quality content, and they know this, so they often charge higher fees.
So, what’s the solution? Do it yourself. Now, to be completely honest, this is much easier said than done, as it takes time to develop good content. But if you do it on your own you will be saving yourself a major expense, and honestly, it will do you better in the long run.
You’ll have to do lots of research to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and this process of trial and error will help you figure out your own content strategy moving forward. This way, when you start making some money, you’ll be able to outsource your content creation more effectively, as you’ll have a far clearer idea as to what you are looking for.
When you do make this switch, you’ll find you have a lot more time on your hands, but the investment you made in the beginning will help make sure the money you are spending is going to really help you.
Become an SEO wiz
If you’re thinking about going into eCommerce, even as a side gig, and you aren’t familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), stop. You need to take some time to learn about this technique for driving traffic as it will soon become your best friend.
Essentially, SEO is the process of designing your site and its content so that your website’s pages show up at the top of search results for certain keywords. This is invaluable for an eCommerce site.
Imagine you are running a store that sells running sneakers. You probably have a nice page titled “Best Running Sneakers.” Now imagine that every time someone searched for the best running sneakers, your page (which is full of great reviews and affiliate links) shows up at as the first result on Google. This would be huge, no?
Now getting to this position is difficult. As always, the first thing you need to have is great content. Then, you need to do some work to help search engines recognize it as such. The most agreed upon way for this to happen is through links. The idea is that by having lots of people agree that your content is worth referring to, the better your page must be.
Acquiring these links can be hard, and it’s usually done through content marketing. You write or produce content for other sites that offer real value to their audience, and in exchange, they give you a link to your site. But to do this without a budget, you’ll have to do this all on your own. But when your successful, you’ll see how your site practically makes money all by itself.
The tradeoff for starting an eCommerce site with no budget is that you’ll likely have to invest more of your time. But since you are your own boss, you decide how to do this. You’ll never need to cut into the time you want to spend with family or friends or to just relax. And since one of the great ways to make money with eCommerce is to sell the business once it becomes successful, the less you put in up front means the bigger the payday will be when the day does come to pass the business on to someone else.
It will certainly require a little bit more work, but when the income starts rolling in and your able to do so much more with your time and with those you love, you’ll be thankful for the sacrifice, and you’ll be well on your way to a better life.
About the author: Jock is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage which specializes in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. He got his start as an eCommerce entrepreneur, and his first few websites were side jobs. However, after he started having success, he made it his full-time job to help others do the same.