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How to turn a hobby into a profitable business

eCommerce and the precise execution of the fulfillment allow you to transform a small business into a more structured, international and profitable source of income. Let's see how to do it!

From home-made earrings and bracelets to small artistic creations, up to everyday objects: there are many people who, thanks to the internet, have managed to transform their hobby from a home-based business to a more structured one, selling products all over the world.

The number of eCommerce sites on the web today has increased by over 136% in the last three years and the number of purchases made exclusively online is enormous (Linkfluence data). According to a recent analysis by Global Web Index, more than three quarters of total internet users have actually purchased a product on an eCommerce. Therefore, it is evident that online shopping offers a lot of potential for developing your own business.

Let's start by saying that, unfortunately, there is no ready-made recipe to ensure the success of the transformation from hobby to business. But this shouldn't be discouraging, because there are still many possibilities to make money through eCommerce, if exploited in the right way. In this article, we will explain which aspects you need to consider if you want to turn your hobby into a successful business.

The preparatory phase

If you want to transform your small activity into a more structured business, you will need to prepare yourself by carrying out careful market research and creating an action plan that will guide the strategic choices of the new job.

The internationalisation process we are witnessing has created new opportunities but it also has its related risks and difficulties. Consequently, planning and scheduling means reducing risks to a minimum.

To this end, it is necessary to study the target market, analyse the target audience, set goals and observe your future competitors to better understand the characteristics of their products and the strategies they use.

Since you will initially run a small business, it is useful to find your own niche and position yourself with products that have the most unique characteristics and qualities. It is this differentiation that will allow you to be competitive during the early stages.

The production phase

If you are used to crafting items as a hobby, one of the most difficult steps to turn your home activity into a source of income will be to increase production.

It is practically impossible to significantly increase production rates overnight, so before starting to accept large volumes of orders, it would be better to have some products already stocked. We will see in the next paragraphs how to identify the best solution to store them.

At the beginning, it is also useful to gradually open up to the market. Although eCommerce can allow you to ship products all over the world, you could start by accepting requests only from certain geographical areas, in order to start creating your own brand and expand into other areas as soon as the production phase will be up to the task.

You should also have a customer support service. With the increase of the number of orders, it is normal to encounter some problems and unhappy customers. However, what really matters is how these contingencies are dealt with, so as to act promptly to resolve issues and replace defective items when necessary. We have already listed the best ways to assist your customers, so we will repeat ourselves. However, keep in mind that it is an activity that requires a lot of time and precision.

Finally, a piece of advice: always check if the institutions in your area have launched tenders to encourage the digitisation and internationalisation of small businesses. They could help you find the resources you need to build a solid online business.

Selling on eCommerce

We have already discussed the characteristics that a successful eCommerce must have (ease of use, speed, security in transactions, etc.) and how to choose the right platform for your online store (based on payment plans and customisation opportunities). Another thing that matters is to choose the solution that best suits the characteristics of your business.

Make sure that all information on products, shipping methods and replacement/refunds are simple and easy to access. You should also accurately explain the characteristics of the goods you want to market and add high-quality photos and videos for each individual item for sale.

That being said, in order to transform a hobby into a real job, it is not enough to create a page with the list of products that you intend to sell. Once your eCommerce is online, it will need to be advertised. Obviously, a budget for marketing campaigns will hardly be available at the beginning, but there are still a number of small tricks for everyone’s pockets.

Strategies for increasing sales

One of the main barriers to online shopping concerns the reliability of the store and the brand, and the quality of the products one’s about to buy. As a result, it can be helpful to provide supporting evidence of the qualities of your products, such as reviews from other customers.

In fact, what motivates the purchase of a particular product on one eCommerce over the other is often a positive review: a study by Brightlocal has shown that almost 95% of users rely on reviews when choosing to buy goods on the Internet. So, leave a space for reviews under the product tabs and encourage them.

Another trick to entice users to buy is to include the cost of shipping in that of the product itself. In this way, the buyer will not find out it has to pay a higher amount than what was first estimated. In addition, to increase earnings, you can implement some sales strategies to promote the purchase of more products such as:

  • Up-selling: increasing the quantity of products offered without excessively increasing their cost.

  • Cross-selling: offering compatible/matching products at an advantageous price.

The fulfillment

Once all the previous steps have been optimised and the orders start coming in, it's time to handle them better. Fulfillment is the most difficult part of the eCommerce sales process, but its scrupulous execution can allow you to optimally manage the goods available and ship them to your customers all over the world in a quick, safe, economical and efficient way.

Fulfillment is an essential process for all eCommerce activities, especially for small businesses that are entering the world of online sales for the first time. If this phase is not managed effectively, all previous efforts will vanish. Taking good care of the management of the orders, the storage, packaging and shipping of the goods, and managing any returns and consequent complaints is essential to guarantee an efficient service, entice customers to buy again and make sure they trigger word-of-mouth.

Dealing with such processes, which also include the management of transport and customs documents and the logistics of shipments, is certainly not easy. Therefore, for beginners it will be useful to rely on external fulfillment services, which will not only allow to optimise time and resources, offering the customer an optimal service, but also to be able to count on the support of professionals in the sector, who are able to deal with all tasks, even the most unexpected ones.

To sum up

As we've seen, eCommerce platforms are a great way to generate extra revenue. But they also allow you to take the next step, and transform a hobby or a small activity into a full-time business that generates huge income.

Obviously, it will require planning, commitment and dedication. Once you have identified the type of market on which you intend to operate and how to stand out from the numerous competitors, it is necessary to be able to produce large quantities of goods, find the most suitable platform to showcase your creations and encourage users to purchase your products.

Finally, it is necessary to ensure that the goods purchased by customers arrive at their destination as quickly as possible. Relying on a professional fulfillment service can prove to be the winning choice: inventory management and control, preparation of shipping documents, management of all bureaucratic aspects and, above all, optimisation of the return flow are elements that require special attention, time and specific skills. Having all this managed externally allows you to dedicate yourself to other essential activities, such as the production phase and customer service, knowing that the fulfillment is in good hands.

IFS Italy offers customers from all over the world its twenty years of experience in fulfillment, boosted also by the partnerships with the main local postal and international delivery services. For more information on IFS Italy fulfillment services, you can download the catalogue or visit the fulfillment & eCommerce section.