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Your Own On-line Business
Can you build it? Yes, you can!

In the previous issue Your Own Business MM10 I presented some of the main considerations for anyone contemplating going into business on their own for the first time. Even though I have been there myself, I never realised how complex it actually was until I started listing the elements that I believed required addressing both before and after starting up. For this reason, I felt it best to discuss the current topic separately because, although the advice already offered is pertinent to any new business venture and should be read in conjunction with this article, the on-line version and the environment it operates in really is a world apart.

For starters, no contact is face-to-face. Unless an on-line store has a concrete-and-glass counterpart that you can walk into and wander round, you have no idea how big or small it might be, whether it is honourable or shonky, if the goods and services it is offering for sale are genuine or merely pretty pictures of something you will pay for, but never receive. That's the worrying aspect. The up-side is that you can have your own website that looks as good as all the others, and you can operate it from a laptop! That means limited overheads and, depending on what you are selling, a work-schedule customised to your desired lifestyle. Once your business is out there, it is open 24/7 and available to every potential buyer from Moscow to Meekatharra. All you have to do is manage it. Well, maybe there's a little more to it than that...

Let's assume you already have the basics, they being something to sell and the means to supply. Obviously, the first thing you need is a shop window, a Website to display your merchandise or services, plus your trading terms and conditions. You can employ someone to create this for you, but it won't be cheap. Your own time, however, is free and If you want to do it yourself you can; but you'll need the knowledge and expertise if you aren't already conversant with web design and creation. Should you fancy learning the ropes, it will take time as we discovered, because that's what we did with And we got all the information we needed off the Internet. There are courses in scripting from basic HTML to Java Script and more. These will train you how to write the instructions that produce both simple and sophisticated web pages, and many of these tutorials are free. For those of you who think it's too complicated, or simply want to get started sooner rather than later, you'll be employing someone to do the job for you.

They will be creating the basic design of the website, firstly the "Home" or "Index" page which is an overview of what you have to offer, plus any extra pages - those that list goods in separate categories. For example: saddles on one page, bridles and tack on another, with a third for boots, blankets and accessories. Don't forget to include some good pictures that catch the eye. Your website must be easy for visitors to navigate, saving them from becoming trapped part way through and having to go back to the Home page and start again - chances are, they'll just leave and won't come back. Each page should be attractive, informative and above all, every single facility must work. In particular, that means the hyperlinks allowing prospective customers to go straight to their desired location such as the payment agency when they decide to buy something. There is nothing more annoying than to click on a link and be presented with an almost-blank screen bearing a message telling you that the page you selected cannot be found! It is inefficient and will result in lost sales. So, my first bit of advice is: check, double check, and triple check your web pages prior to uploading them, and again once they go live. The second is to ensure you are given the ability and knowledge to edit pages yourself so that you can change items, prices and images. If your web designer has to do it for you, you'll pay, pay pay!

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