When a global health crisis is crippling the people’s employment and source of income, the only way to survive is to adapt. Since staying home is the ‘new normal,’ many parents have been thinking of putting up an online home business or acquiring a home-based job.
It’s easy enough, yes. But if this new normal will persist for longer than anticipated, you’d want your online business to have staying power. A huge part of creating that is having the right foundation.
5 things to keep in mind when setting up an online home business
We asked successful home-based online business owners and founders some pointers about how to start one. MK Bertulfo, founder of Filipina Home-based Moms (FHMOMS) and fellow FHMOMS Janice Berte, owner of Kapeng Barako By HomieGrab and Homie Massage and Spa; Lei Ermitanio, founder of MOMpreneurs Club PH and owner of Belle Ame Essentials; and Melissa Profeta, owner of Melpro Marketing Consultancy Services and co-founder at Social Media Academy and Influential Branding Coach for Online Entrepreneurs were happy to give their tips they gathered from experience.
Ermitanio shares she started with a capital of less than Php1,000. She only bought a couple of sample bottles to design and take photos of and then posted them and started to get pre-orders. Berte started her coffee business with just Php50,000 and was able to break even after just four months.
"Our Internet is shared so it's only Php600. For the laptop, it's an old laptop of my father-in-law. After a week of working from home, I bought my own laptop for Php12,000," Bertulfo shares. For her online business, her only investment is the time since they're all paid online training.
Profeta says building your own brand and dropshipping, or selling items without stocking them may require at least Php10,000 of capital. You can get your money back in one to two months.
Here are some tips from these successful entrepreneurs:
You need at least a five Mbps Internet connection.
Since we're talking about online businesses and jobs, a fiber Internet connection will make your life so much easier. But if you have no budget for that yet, Bertulfo suggests at least a 5 to 10 Mbps Internet connection. Anything lower causes uploading videos and photos to take forever, Profeta says. While Ermitanio was started, she only relied on her mobile’s 4G internet connection.
The gadgets you’ll need depends on your online business or job.
“A smartphone is all you need to set up your online business,” says Berte. If you want to expand your business, then you can invest in high-quality cameras and computers. Advanced e-commerce sellers who already do market research, manage Facebook ads, and the like, will find it easier to manage the business with a desktop or laptop.
If you can shoot good photos with a smartphone, then you might not need a DLSR. When Ermitanio was just starting, she scoured Pinterest and the Internet for inspiration photos to make her shots look nice. If you have the budget, you can hire a professional for a one-time photo shoot.
If you’re setting up for an online job, Bertulfo says investing in a desktop or laptop with at least an i5 processing unit and 4GB RAM will suffice. “You can only use other gadgets such as a tablet or mobile phone as a backup and for simple tasks,” she said.
Identify your niche market and build your brand’s personality.
If you’re planning to get into online selling, the first step is identifying your market. Who will need your product, and what will your clients get if they buy from you? Ermitanio suggests packaging your brand and selling it in a way that will touch your target market's hearts. “People buy with their emotions and justify it with their logic,” she explained.
Building a brand is more than just a name or logos, albeit equally important, it’s about personality as well. “Treat inquiries as people who are dropping by your store. Be masungit, and you’ll offend people. Be accommodating and win a customer,” says Profeta.
Building your network will make your life easier.
Bertulfo underlines the importance of building lasting relationships through community building. It would be easier to connect with fellow freelancers or business owners and your target market if you have a good community. “Join different support groups so you can gather more information and potentially build your network of customers,” she added.
Building your brand can always start with family and friends and on social media. But keep in mind that networks tend to grow organically based on great products and reputation.
Creating an online payment system is crucial.
There are many online payment avenues you can explore: bank transfers, GCash, Paypal, and Payoneer. Profeta suggests building a shop in Lazada or Shopee, aside from your Facebook page, to increase your credibility as an online seller. If you can create a simple website about your online store, that's better.
It's not easy to detect shady transactions. "The best way to protect yourself as the seller or service provider is to ask for a downpayment,” Profeta said. “Be cautious in every transaction and listen to your guts. Bring out the street-smart personality in you,” Berte added.
Bertulfo suggests doing a social media or Google search if you wish to check if a client or customer is legit. “When looking for online jobs, don’t pay for anything and never provide sensitive information such as your birthday, maiden name, or bank account details, etc.,” she stressed.
When should you register your online home business?
You can test the waters first and see if you want to grow your business. If the client asks for a receipt, just be honest and explain to them that you are just starting your business and provide them a delivery or acknowledgment receipt instead.
According to Berte, home-based businesses that needed an investment of below Php3,000 need not be registered. “But if you want to grow big, join groups and events, do register to the DTI and seek local government certifications,” Ermitanio suggests. Profeta advises online sellers to consider registering their business after hitting their first Php100,000 profit in sales. For service providers, doing so will prevent your business from getting flagged as shady.
Bertulfo, for instance, decided to register her business to make sure that she can accommodate big clients. “Huge companies will only work with companies or businesses that have documents. So if you don’t have any, then you are missing the opportunity to earn,” she explained.