Last updated Dec 13, 2023 and written by Aditi Mohan

The Side Hustle Series: e-commerce, our handy guide to the what and how.

Looking to make some money alongside your full-time responsibilities? Look no further than our side hustle series. Today, we delve into the world of e-commerce. Are you interested in selling goods and services online, read our handy guide to learn more. 

What is e-commerce?

E-commerce stands for electronic commerce, it is the buying and selling of goods or services online. Basically online shopping, it includes everything from Nike’s online sites to Amazon to Etsy. 

Once upon a time shopping entirely online was inconceivable. You either had to walk to the shopping mall to buy some new fashions or use a catalogue and phone number system. Then in 1994, Dan Kohn, sold a Sting CD to his friend in Philadelphia via his website NetMarket and an advanced encrypted software. His friend paid online using a credit card and the rest is history. A week later in August 1994 Pizza Hut began selling pizzas online (Pizza Hut claims they were the first thing purchased online, but Dan Kohn says he got in a week before). 

Now e-commerce has become commonplace, with groceries to laptops to anything you can possibly imagine being sold online and arriving at your doorstep. Anyone can sell goods and services online, and, we’re here to tell you, it could be the perfect side hustle for you. 

How to start an e-commerce business. 

1. Choose what to sell. 

The first step to starting your e-commerce business is deciding what to sell. Capitalise on any existing skills or hobbies you may have, this way you don’t have to spend extra time learning a new skill to start. Maybe you make amazing baby bibs, maybe you have a knack for Canva or Indesign and can make stylish templates or you’re an avid plant parent with many plants ready to propagate

Of course, you don’t have to make the product yourself, you can find a supplier and sell their product to the market too. This is called Dropshipping. You might also have an eye for preloved and vintage fashion or jewellery, which you can find in Sunday markets and charity shops to sell on online. The world is your oyster! 

2. Do some research. 

Now that you have your chosen product/service in mind, see what your existing competitors are doing! How much are they selling their products for, how are they advertising/marketing it, on which sites. Are there any advice blogs or youtube videos about your chosen product or service?

 For example, if you want to get into the business of canva template making, check out sites like Creative Market, an e-commerce website especially for digital designs. What kind of templates sell, at what prices, what kind of licensing agreements etc. Maybe one of the sellers has a blog or youtube where they take you through the ins and outs. 

3. Choose your marketplace. 

Now comes the task of choosing where to sell. It is important to choose a marketplace which is best suited to your product or service. Such as Creative Market is perfect if you’re selling some graphic artwork, canva templates or photos but it is not suited for clothes. Instead you may be better off on a site such as Depop, Vinted or even ASOS Marketplace. If you want to sell items like plant propagations perhaps Etsy is your best bet. Or an all round e-commerce site such as Shopify might be a good place to begin. 

You can, of course, use multiple sites to expand your income chances, however, multiple sites require a bigger time investment, in terms of admin, set up, daily maintenance, than a singular one. So if you’re still finding your feet or want a low commitment side hustle, pick one marketplace. There’s no reason you can’t scale up your business as the side hustle picks up traction! 

4. Design, market and go! 

All that’s left is to design your marketplace (sites like Shopify, ASOS Marketplace, Creative Market allow you to do this) and/or start your marketing efforts. Spread the word about your new business, maybe create a logo and brand name and social media for the business. Of course, if you’re looking for a passive side hustle you may choose to get the word out on your personal social media and use word of mouth to generate clients. 

Marketing is key to success but can be time consuming, so it may be in your best efforts to focus on making a great product and then automating your marketing using digital tools such as social media scheduling or focusing on one app such as Instagram or TikTok. It is important to be patient, and hopefully you’ll see an uptick in sales when your efforts pay off. 

5. Manage the day-to-day.

Now your e-commerce business is up and running, it is important to manage your inventory, sales, expenditure and your business admin too. Each type of e-commerce business will require different levels of stock management. For example, if you’re selling Canva templates then you’ll never be out of stock. But if you’re selling plant cuttings, you can easily only produce 5-10 a month. 

As a business, you’ll have to make sure your books are all legal and compliant with the law. Follow any tax requirements, or if you choose to incorporate make sure you’re filing your yearly annual accounts and confirmation statement. 

If you are unsure whether you should incorporate your e-commerce business, read our blog here on the what and why of becoming a limited company vs sole trader. 

Now, you may be thinking this is a lot for a simple side hustle, but most administration or bookkeeping can be digitalised now, it may be that once a month you’ll have to spend a few hours making sure your business is running smoothly. By picking the right kind of services you can optimise your admin work. Opting for business-friendly banks such as Tide will help save you hours of invoicing time due to its compatibility with bookkeeping services such as FreeAgent. All in all, by picking the right software your business can run smoothly with just a  small time commitment. 

 

E-commerce can be a great side hustle if you are willing to put in the effort and time. With the right strategy and execution, you could turn it into a full-time business and become your own boss. 

Looking for more information about starting your e-commerce business? Our friends at Superscript have written an extremely detailed guide about everything you need to know