Google Analytics is a great free tool with many benefits that allows you to learn more about the visitors to your site and measure the effectiveness of your internet marketing like email and AdWords Campaigns.

Here are examples of what information is provided:
- Number of visitors to your site, such as number of total visits, number of unique visitors, geographical location by county and city of your visitors,  etc.
- Traffic Sources to your website – direct access, Google search, referrals from others sites, email campaigns, etc. 
- What pages on your website are visited the most

The best time to start with Google Analytics is before you open your store for Operations.

Click here to sign up with Google Analytics http://www.google.com/analytics/.

If you are using an eCommerce product like Big Commerce you need to configure your Analytics Settings to integrate with Google Analytics.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

Inclusion in Google search results is free. Google crawls the web all the time to identify new sites or updates to existing sites. However, if your site is very new, you might want to register it with Google.  To determine whether your site is currently included in Google’s index, do a site: search for your site’s URL. For example, http:// site:startnetbiz.com. 

You can register your site manually at  http://www.google.com/addurl/

You can also register with Google Webmaster Tools account. It is a collection of free tools to help Google to understand your website.  To sign up click here www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ . You will need to tell Google what your website is. Add an entry with the regular name of your website and also an entry with the name of your website without the www. in front of the name.  Google will ask you to verify your ownership of the site. This will require adding a meta tag that Google provides you to your home page HTML template. If you are using an eCommerce product for your website you can search the support database with ”How do I verify my site with Google” to get futher instructions.

To further improve Google’s ability to search for pages on your site, you can submit a sitemap using Webmaster Tools. In your Webmaster Tools dashboard, click the “Submit a Sitemap” button. If you are using an eCommerce product like Big Commerce they create a mapsite for you that you can submit to Google.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

You will need to make several decisions about shipping your product.

First, you will need to determine your shipping address. For home based businesses, you can choose to use your home address or rent a mail box. You probably don’t want customers showing up at your home. So in most cases it is probably better to rent a mail box. 

You can rent a US Post Office box, a UPS mail box or a mail box offered by a third party. They come in a variety of sizes and prices.  It is good to shop around as prices vary from one location to another even for a post office box.

I found that renting the US Post Office box is the least expensive option. In many locations in New Jersey, it costs $46 for the smallest size mail box for a period of 6 months. The UPS Store nearby had asked for $19.95 per month. When choosing the location of your mail box, it is better to have it closer to where you live.

In addition to the cost of the mail box, the other consideration is the actual cost of shipping. USPS offered lower and more simplified price structure with its flat rate delivery for priority mail across the US.

One other thing to remember is that UPS will not deliver to a PO box.

Overall shipping using USPS and renting a PO box offers a good alternative for home based businesses.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

At some point before going live with your store, you will need to determine how would you process payments.

I have looked at three main options:

1. Using Credit Card Payment Option through your eCommerce Platform
Big Commerce charges a $19.95 monthly fee and 2.1% of each transaction.

2. Using Pay Pal
It is widely acceptable and you don’t need to have an account with them to pay with a credit card. It is also the most expensive option.
Monthly fees depend on sales amount and number of transactions.
For sales up to $3,000 the charge is 2.9% from sales amount and 30 cents per each transaction
For sales betwee $3,000-$10,000 the charge is 2.5% from sales amount and 30 cents per each transaction
For sales above $10,000- $200,000 the charge is 2.2% from sales amount and 30 cents per each transaction

3. Using Google Checkout
This option is gaining momentum but not as popular as Pay Pal. It offers the lowest per transaction fees – only 2% from the sales amount plus 20 cents.

Here is a quick illustration of the cost for $1,000 and $5,000  in Monthly Sales :

  Big Commerce   Pay Pal   Google Checkout
Monthly # of Transactions 33   33   167
Average $ in Sales Transaction 30   30   30
Monthly Sales 1000   1000   1000
% per Transaction 2.1   2.9   2
Monthly Fee 19.95        
Additional Transaction Fee 0.25   0.3   0.2
           
           
Total Monthly Seller’s Cost 49.28   39.00   26.67
  Big Commerce   Pay Pal   Google Checkout
Monthly # of Transactions 167   167   167
Average $ in Sales Transaction 30   30   30
Monthly Sales 5000   5000   5000
% per Transaction 2.1   2.9   2
Monthly Fee 19.95        
Additional Transaction Fee 0.25   0.3   0.2
           
           
Total Monthly Seller’s Cost 166.62   195.00   133.33

Clearly Pay Pal option becomes more expensive as you sell more and have more transactions.

Initially, I have decided to go with the Option offered by Big Commerce. It becomes more attractive as the Sales Amount increases above $2,000 per month. Later, it was brought to my attention that some people really like the security that comes with PayPal. In this case, it might be a good idea to offer both options.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

In NJ, all businesses are required to file quarterly even if there were no sales and no tax is due. Filing is on or before the 20th day of the month following the close of the quarter. This will be 4/20, 7/20, 10/20, 1/20.

To file a return online, go to http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/. You can find filing instructions in http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/pdf/other_forms/sales/ezfilein.pdf

You don’t need to file before your registered business start date. For example – if during registration you have indicated that you will start selling after 4/30/10 then your first filing date is before 7/20/10. If you need to change your registered business start date, you can call 609-292-9292 option #2.

It is important to file as penalties are very high.

Additional information about NJ Sales Tax is availabe in http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/pdf/pubs/sales/su4.pdf

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

Doba has a business model that sounds great. They provide you with product pictures and descriptions. You post the product on your website. Once the customer buys the product, you place the order with Doba, who then ships the product to the customer. Sounds easy, right! I have signed for their free trial and spend a lot of time going through their product catalogue. They only had 3 major suppliers for the jewelry category and their wholesale prices where close to the retail price or sometimes higher. I have also checked the prices for selected camera equipment and found once more that the prices were higher than what you can buy these products on the Internet.

If you are considering using Doba, I suggest you sign up for their 7 day free trial offer and check the catalogue and prices for the products you are interested to sell. If you decide that Doba is for you, I suggest you don’t sign up right away. A salesperson will most likely call you after you signed up for the free trial and will try to give you discounts. From their advertised $50-$60 per month he came down to a special of about $20 per month. Good Luck!

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

Sourcing your product is probably the most valuable activity in your business and for the most part will determine your success and the profitability.

Most popular ways to source your product are:
1) You create your own product – you have total control over the cost and quality of the product. 
2) You work with a manufacturer who creates the product – you buy an inventory at an attractive wholesale price. The more you buy the better the price you can get. The downside – you have to invest a lot of money in inventory and you assume all the risk if the product doesn’t sell.
3) You work with a supplier who provides you with product pictures and descriptions and you show the products on your website. The supplier will ship the product to you after the customer placed the order. In this case, you don’t need to have a large investment capital but your wholesale price is not as good because you buy in small quantities. So you profit margin is lower in this model. In addition, since others can buy the same product there is a tough pricing competition that further lowers your profit margin.
4) You work with a supplier that provides you with product pictures and descriptions and sends the order to your customer. That is called drop-shipping. You don’t invest money in inventory but the wholesale price in some cases is as high as the retail price. So your profits can be really low or you might not be able to competitively sell. In addition, if you process customer returns instead of the supplier you might end up with a lot of unwanted inventory that you have to pay for.
5) You can work with artists/designers on a consignment basis where they provide you with the item (or item’s picture and description) and the payment is only after the product is sold. You pay more for the product this way but you don’t have to invest money in inventory.

In all cases, the more unique is your product the better is your ability to sell it and make a good profit on it.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

Within the first month of starting a business, I have hit two lows and two highs. The lows had to do with challenges or obstacles and the highs were around overcoming these obstacles. The lower the low, the higher was the high that overcame it.

I have originally set to start an internet business as part of Tim Ferris’s $100K competition. That required working with a Shopify eCommerce product. Unfortunately, I didn’t like their standard website templates and finding a Shopify developer was too expensive and time consuming. After more research on the internet, I was able to find the BigCommerce product. I loved their product! However, it meant that I no longer could participate in the competition. I had to let go of that idea.

My second low was harder to overcome. I realized that my original product sourcing idea will not work and that seriously put the whole business model in jeopardy. I had to come with some new options.

Challenges and obstacles will always be part of the game. I think it should be expected. It is important to remain open and flexible and continue to pursue new ideas.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

If the templates offered by the eCommerce products do not work for you, then most likely you are looking at some development effort. You can hire a web developer/designer to either modify a standard template of the eCommerce product or to develop a new website for you.

There are several companies that allow you to post your project and have multiple vendors bid on it. I have tried www.elance.com and www.odesk.com.

There are several key considerations when posting a web development project:
1) You need to know how you want your website to look like.
It works better if you can provide websites similar to what you like. If you need help in this area, you will need to hire a web designer who can work with you on the look and feel of the website. Many web developers know the technology side but will not be very helpful in designing the look of the site. Ideally, you can find a vendor that provides both web design and web development and has done websites similar to the look you want. Make sure you have looked at their portfolio of work.

2) You can describe all the functionality and features of the website.
The better description of the project you will provide the more accurate bids you will receive. It is very important to have all features documented in writing especially if you are working with an offshore vendor. There are features that relate to the display of the website for example – you want the website to display related products when looking at a specific product or you want to have a sort feature that will sort products by price. There are also features that relate to back office functionality that the customer doesn’t see. For example – ability to enter new products, abilitity to bulk load multiple products from a file, ability to load images, ability to delete a product, ability to integrate with a payment provider like Pay Pal, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), etc. It can be a good idea to subscribe to a trial version of an eCommerce product and study all the features that are provided. Don’t assume that a vendor will know what features you want. Unless specified, vendors might provide a bid with the least amount of features so that their bid looks attractive from the cost perspective. Before starting a project, you should have a summary of all included features and functionality in writing so you can have an agreed upon project scope. Either you or the vendor can create this summary.

The cost for a custom website depends on design complexity and number of features. Prices can start as low as several hundreds or go up to thousands of dollars. A website designed from a known website template or another website will be the least expensive in this category.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.

There are many options to create a website that range from very inexpensive and immediate to very expensive and longer time to complete.

One of the fastest way to get started is to use an eCommerce product like BigCommerce – http://www.bigcommerce.com/?PID=1594212.  BigCommerce comes with many features like web hosting, website building, shopping cart, credit card payment, content management, marketing tools, etc. Website building is a very easy process that consists of choosing a template, customizing it and loading your product content. No programming is involved.

There are many eCommerce products and you can get started with a starter package as low as $24.95 per month. Here is a 2010 review of the popular eCommerce products available today – http://ecommerce-software-review.toptenreviews.com/. BigCommerce ranks #1 on this list. The review also lists all the important features that you should look for to help determine what is important to you.

At first, I tried the Shopify product but I realy didn’t like their website templates and it was too expensive to hire a developer to start modifying their template. After reading the review above, I tried the BigCommerce product. I liked their templates right away and was pleasantly surprised by all the features they offered. You can create a professionally looking website in a few days.

No doubt, using an eCommerce product is the fastest, easiest and least expansive way to create a website.

Click here to visit my store – www.musebazaar.com.