But, as I said, development costs money. For the Smart Podcast Player, it’s a plugin so it requires constant validation, testing, upgrades, and a solid customer support system in place, all of which costs money. If you have a plan to do something similar for your online business, you’ll need to think about this before you even get started so your processes are covered. Read about the lessons we learned in building the player and how we validated it before launch.
I know that in the ecommerce and physical product world, there are a lot of costs up front, which vary depending on the product. Sometimes you’re going to have to spend a significant amount of money up front to pay for a mold, like Bret Miller did with his product Brik Book, which is a physical product with a specific shape that needs to be reproduced on a large scale. The mold itself could cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. In this case, a crowdfunding campaign could be an excellent option to cover those costs. Listen to Bret talk about the story of Brik Book on SPI 217.
When you work in an office, you can ask your boss about the details of your upcoming presentation when you see her in the company kitchen. But if you telecommute, she’s just another email in your inbox. From letting her know if you’re going to miss a deadline or getting clarification on an email, you’ll have to be proactive about communicating all aspects of your job and any questions you might have with her.
Through this experience, one thing I learned is that development, and the selling of the product you develop, takes time and money. This is a lesson I took to heart when I built another software company, SPI Labs, with my partner Matt Gartland. SPI Labs is behind the Smart Podcast Player, which was a significant undertaking that started out as a custom solution for AskPat and eventually became a successful WordPress plugin used by thousands of fellow podcasters.
For a deeper look into this idea, I recommend checking out the case study in Will It Fly? on Noah Kagan, who is really detailed and transparent about starting his business. He validated a beef jerky subscription company (yum!), which proved to be a unique and inspiring example of determining the costs of items before starting a business. He didn’t pay for anything up front; he was just smart about asking: how much does this cost, and how much money do I need to reach my goal? His goal was to validate his idea by making $1,000 profit in twenty-four hours, and that’s exactly what he was able to do.
There's an audience for everything, whether it's making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don't need to own a lot of inventory. [See Related Story: A Small Business Guide to E-Commerce Shipping]
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