Resources

How To Start An Online Business Book

How To Start An Online Business

A complete step by step guide to starting your online E-Commerce business.  Before you spend a lot of money with a professional development company you may be surprised to learn you can do it by yourself.  Our step by step guide will walk you through the process.  100 pages of lessons and beginner explanations for everything you will need.

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Free E-Commerce Resource Guide

Below is a curated list of the resources we have used over the years as we have built and launched hundreds of e-commerce and online businesses. We will add to the list as we find and use new great tools. If you would like to download the resources as a PDF, Click Here.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. The cost is no different to you, however, we are paid a small commission if you make any purchases using these links. We only feature products and services that we have used and that we would recommend to our friends and family.

Domain Names

GoDaddy: They are one of the largest players in the domain name registration industry. Their prices are typically the cheapest available and their site has become very easy to use. GoDaddy is where you will register your domain name, for example, www.YOURWEBSITE.com

Logo

99Designs: This site lets you hold a mini contest for your logo design. Hundreds of freelance designers from around the work submit their logo concepts based upon your instructions. You can invite friends to vote for their favorite designs. Ultimately, you pick your favorite design and award a winner.

Fivver: A site where thousands of people from all over the world are willing to do tasks from logo design to video production for $5.  It is amazing what some people are willing to do for $5. Worth noting is that most freelancers on the site will include kickers on deals to increase the over all value, however, the entry price is $5.

Contracts

Legal Zoom: If you are looking for boilerplate legal agreements that you can trust you can get them here.  From standard purchase agreements to partnership documents, Legal Zoom offers a simple solution for contracts.  Save hundreds of dollars on legal fees.

Hosting

BlueHost: One of the cheapest and most reliable hosting solutions for a WordPress site or other basic sites that you may be hosting. You can easily have a WordPress site up and hosted for $5 a month.

Host Gator: This is another one of our favorite affordable hosting solutions.

 Email

Google Apps: The most powerful email and online business suite available.  At $5 a month a user you won’t find a better solution.

GoDaddy: When purchasing your domain name you may decide to just get email through GoDaddy.  Its inferior to Google Apps but may make your setup one step easier.

Faxes

eFax: The leader in the space eFax lets you setup a fax number and receive all your faxes as scanned pdf files to your email inbox.  You can also send faxes by emailing attachments to an email address.

Task Management

Trello: This online solution is free and lets you create boards for organizing your daily tasks and projects.

Basecamp: This is a more involved solution for project management. Basecamp was designed to help parties from different organizations work together and keep all communications in a centralized location. If you are working on a large project, basecamp is an excellent option.

E-Commerce Platforms

Shopify: Our e-commerce platform of choice because of the ease of use, customizations available and healthy third party eco-system. If you are not set on hosting your e-commerce site elsewhere, we highly recommend shopify.

Volusion: This is a more expensive solution that we do not believe is as user friendly for beginners but has a huge following and is a viable solution that thousands of users love.

Square Space: They have carved out a niche with beautiful themes. A common complaint about the platform is their rather weak SEO performance and a lack of customization options.

Images

Remove the Background: With an e-commerce business you are going to be working with product shots. If you are trying to manipulate images or standardize all of the images on your site, you at some point will have to remove the background of your images. Thank heavens remove the background exists as they remove all of the complexity for you within 24 hours.

Canva: This lets you be a graphic designer by using pre-designed templates and layouts.  Its free if you don’t pay for their stock photography and an incredible tool to make your site and social sharing images professional looking.

Flickr: This is owned by Yahoo and a repository of millions of images online.  You can search for stock images that you are allowed to use commercially for free.

Unsplash: This site posts one image a day of beautifully shot scenes that are royalty free and you can use in your advertising or site design.  Doesn’t have the depth of Flickr and you can’t search the images but they have beautiful shots.

Favicon Generator: A favicon is the little image that shows in the top of the browser when you are on your website.  Its a tiny little icon.  This site lets you upload your logo or image of choice and converts it to a favicon so you can upload it to your site to replace the default one.

Tiny PNG: This site lets you upload any of your png files for free and it will smush them down in size to increase your website loading time.  It will reduces the size of your png images about 30% on average without decreasing the quality of the picture. It’s magic.

 Email Marketing

Mailchimp: This is our choice for email advertising and list building when starting out. A great user interface, simple drag and drop tools and beautiful templates are a few reasons we love mailchimp.

Constant Contact: The leader in the space, Constant Contact offers all the same features as Mailchimp and just as reliably.  Its just not as user friendly from a user interface perspective.

Aweber: This is our choice if you are building your own site and hosting outside of one of the e commerce platforms available.  They are very reliable and have incredible drip email campaign tools.

Phone Systems

Google Voice: A free solution to get a business number to route to your phone and also transcribe your voicemail into an email.

Grasshopper: This is an easy to use phone system that lets you setup a phone tree and forwarding to multiple phones and various people.  Its a simple self service phone system that lets you look like a big company inexpensively.

RingCentral: This is another option and competitor to Grasshopper.  They have a great app that comes with their plans that lets you make outgoing calls from your new vanity phone number so you can call from your 800 number etc.

One Box: This is similar to both Grasshopper and Ring Central and very easy to use.  Owned by the same company as eFax, it offers many of the same features as the other two phone services.  We have used all of these services and they are pretty much the same but each offers different phone numbers.  If you are looking for a particular area code you may need to check each out.

E-signatures

Sign in Blue: Full disclosure,  we built Sign In Blue so we are biased here.  I will tell you up front this is not the most robust solution on the market and if you are a super advanced user there are other options out there.  However, if you are looking for a simple, easy to use, e-signature solution thats what Sign In Blue can offer you.

Storage

Dropbox: The single best recommendation we can make is to signup for a Dropbox account now.  Its free and incredible.  Without getting too technical, dropbox lets you have a folder on your computer that is automatically backed up to the internet and available online at your account and any other computer you install it on.  For example you have a folder of pictures on your computer.  Merely dragging new folders into that folder will upload them to the internet and download them to other computers you have.  Never fear losing files again and you are able to easily share files across computers.

Box.com: Not as cool as dropbox, box.com is a little more corporate in nature.  Its acts similarly to dropbox although not as effortlessly but allows you to set more restrictions on the files for sharing.  You can share files with coworkers and put expiration dates and track file downloads.  Its a more complicated solution than dropbox but if you are a larger operation it may make sense.  Its not cheap though.

Google Drive: Part of Google Apps you actually get storage space within the Google ecosystem.  If you have a Gmail account you are able to save your attachments directly into Google Drive.  Its convenient from that perspective but in our opinion does not stand up to Dropbox.

Traffic Analysis

Webmaster tools: One of the most important tools to make sure your website is configured properly and performing as best as it can for search engines is Google Webmaster Tools.  This free tool from Google provides insight into what sites are linking to your site, what pages of your site are indexed in Google’s search and how you can improve your site to please Google, which is important.

Google Analytics: This is probably our most entertaining tool and one that every online site should be using.  Google Analytics is also free and is an incredibly powerful traffic analysis tool.  Amongst hundreds of other statistical points you have access to these types of data points.  Number of visits, referring sites, time spent on site, geographical breakdown of site visitors, entry pages and exit pages, sales conversions and how they came into your site, bounce rate, number of pages viewed, frequency of visits, and real time (creepy) stats of people on your site at any time and what they are looking at. Its amazing and free.

SEO

SEO Moz / Open Site Explorer: If you are looking for more advanced search engine optimization tools then Moz is one of the leaders in this space.  They have an incredible free blog which is chock full of educational articles about SEO.  Their service is not cheap but lets you monitor and track progress of your rankings for particular keywords week after week.  If you are making a formal SEO push for particular terms it may make sense for you to try Moz.  They also offer a great free tool called Open Site Explorer, which lets you research the backlinks of competitors sites to see where their may be an opportunity for you to get links as well.

Ahrefs: A competitor to Moz, ahrefs offers a similar product ot Moz which is very powerful for tracking the progress of your search engine campaigns.  We find the backlink checker and reports more accurate and more detailed but other than that they are a competitive solution.

Marketing Email Automation

GetDrip: This is a great tool for easily adding a popup to your website and having people opt into a timed email sequence.  While you can implement this by yourself with your mailchimp or constant contact or aweber account, getdrip has been designed specifically for this purpose.  They actually will help you draft your email campaign and setup the popup on your site.  Interesting fact is that after testing thousands of calls to action they have determined that adding crash course to the end of your title has a substantially higher opt-in rate.  Ex 7-day GPS Tracking Crash Course.

Advertising

AdWords: The secret behind Googles piles of cash, AdWords lets you bid to have your site show in their search results based on what users search for.  If you can’t organically rank for the terms you want to show up for you can pay for it.  How much are you willing to pay for each click through to your site.  An incredibly powerful advertising tool for your website allowing you to laser focus advertising dollars on people showing intent for specific keywords you define.  Its self service and can take some time to setup but its worth it.

Bing Ads: A complete knock off of Google AdWords, Bing offers a cost per click tool as well.  Their pay for keyword search results also feeds to Yahoo and you can sometimes get a cheaper cpc then on Google.  The good news with Bing is that once you have fine tuned and configured your AdWords campaign you can easily export the settings and import them into a new campaign at Bing.

Facebook: One of the newer advertising platforms Facebook continues to refine their capabilities for advertising but with their latest upgrade you are able to focus your ads and define where, who, and how much you are willing to spend for your ads.  Similar to AdWords you don’t have to pay if your ad isn’t clicked on.  The addition of income brackets and facebook interest targeting makes it a powerful tool for targeting potential customers.

Amazon: Already the largest retailer online, Amazon doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned.  Apart from potentially selling your products online at Amazon, they offer and advertising platform to show your products in search queries where they may not have a matching product in their expansive catalog.  While we are honestly the least experienced with this particular advertising avenue, I think there is substantial potential to pick up some customers from some more obscure offerings for a relatively cheap cost of acquisition.  Its worth a further look.

Yahoo:  Still one of the largest content providers online, Yahoo has an incredible amount of traffic on their site.  While they made a deal with Bing to power their keyword search results, they have made an active push over the last year or so to increase revenues streams for the company through small business advertising platforms.  It has flown mostly under the radar but you can actually get quite a bit of exposure inexpensively through Yahoos new Gemini ad program.  You don’t have to pay for impressions and can also pay for performance only.  You would be surprised at the amount of exposure you can get for small budgets.  I would recommend you experiment with Yahoo.

Pinterest: One of the latest platforms to release advertising for small businesses is Pinterest.  While they are currently touting Promoted Pinas as a secret invite only feature, anyone can sign up.  You basically pay for the amount you are willing to pay when someone clicks on one of your pins which takes them to your site.  This is a great outlet for advertising.  You only pay for clicks and not repins or likes and views.  Furthermore, when someone clicks on the link they have actually already seen the product you are showing them.  Their intent is great.  Their platform is still a little clunky but they should work that out over time.

Social Posting

Hootsuite: This allows you to pre-schedule your tweets in advance.  You can enter them and set the time of day and day that you would like them shared.  You can configure how many times to share it and gives you the ability to automate a lot of your tweeting work.

Buffer: Another option to manage your social media posts and statistics.  Buffer is an easy way to track what is working and what’s not.

IFTTT: The acronym for “If This Then That” this service allows you to setup automated procedures or recipes as they call them.  This service lets you perform some amazing tasks for free that are triggered by other events.  An example is to share all your facebook posts on to twitter.  Another is to download all images posted on your Instagram feed to your dropbox account.

Google Alerts: Allows you to setup a notification, either daily, weekly or in real time at no cost for mentions of your brand or name online.  Google Alerts lets you enter whatever terms you want.  It will then scour the internet and any mentions of your brand or name will be emailed to you with a link to the post.

Outsourcing

Elance: This is the defacto source for outsourced work on the internet. From content creation to legal work and programmers, you can find almost any type of service professional on eLance. Within minutes of posting work you will receive bids to complete the work from freelancers all over the world.

Fiverr: This site lets you shop through thousands of different services from people online mostly from developing countries for $5.

Printing

Moo: Beautiful business cards or printed materials.  A step above all the cheapy online solutions that offer free cards.  You get what you pay for.

Office Supplies

Amazon: It seems crazy but sometimes its actually less expensive to order office supplies online then to get them at the local office supply store.  Look at the amazing office supply prices amazon has.  You will be surprised.