Blogging through WordPress is a fantastic way to pursue your interests. You can share your perspective and opinions, connect with like-minded people throughout the world, bolster your professional profile, and — sometimes most importantly — derive a great deal of enjoyment from expressing yourself in a creative way. And since the platform is free (you only need to pay for the hosting), it’s easy to give it a try.
But it also has the potential to be something more than that. If you have enough dedication and passion for your blogging, you can build a big enough audience to make monetisation viable. Your little side venture that you initially pursued as a hobby could even become your main source of income… but how can you make that happen?
While there are various ways to turn a blog into a money-making operation, the most reliable (and profitable) is to adapt it into an ecommerce business. Here’s how you can take a humble WordPress blog and forge it into an online selling operation:
Ask your audience for feedback on the idea
The very first thing to do if you’re considering the ecommerce route is talk to your readers about the idea. After all, if you’re in a position to consider monetisation, it’s because of their support — and if you’re going to sell, it’s likely to be to them (to begin with, at least).
Reach out to your audience through a blog post letting them know that you’re thinking about starting a store, and ask for their thoughts and suggestions. It might seem like a terrifying step, but don’t worry about getting negative comments or being called a sellout — you may get some negativity, but for the most part the readers who enjoy your content are going to be supportive.
You don’t have to follow their suggestions, of course, but they should prove informative. You might find that they openly state their willingness to buy certain types of product from you, giving you valuable data for the next step.
Consider the product types you could offer
If you’re going to sell online, then you obviously need something to sell, and there are enough possibilities out there that you need to narrow things down. If your blog covers a particular niche, then you should certainly start by looking for products relevant to that niche: for instance, if you ran a health blog, you could look at nutritional foods and supplements.
The flexibility of ecommerce means that you don’t have to commit to a long-term inventory, so this step doesn’t need to be decisive. Instead, try to get a good idea of how many products you want to offer, and what you want the main theme of your store to be. You can figure out the specifics while you’re working on your store.
Create some simple brand guidelines
Whether you end up selling branded merchandise, or simply selling generic products through a branded storefront, you’re going to need some brand designs. Developing a strong brand will be key to making your business viable in the long term — start by selecting a logo, a colour scheme, and a brand identity.
These things should all be easy enough to create. A designer can help you create a logo (check out these tips if you prefer to try the DIY route). To select a colour scheme, try something like Colormind — and for your brand identity, simply extrapolate from your blog. What sets your blog apart? Is it humour? Insight? Visual flair? It’s the key to your success so far, so make it a core part of your business.
Set up your storefront
You might think you’re not ready for this step, but remember that a storefront is easy to configure. It’s best to get something ready to go now, then work on it as you fine-tune the specifics. How you go about it is up to you, though, because there are two great approaches:
Option 1: use the free WooCommerce plugin
Since your blog runs on WordPress, you can simply convert it into an ecommerce site by installing WooCommerce, a free selling plugin that’s extremely popular. After a simple installation process, you’ll be able to start creating an inventory and listing items on your existing site — that way, any existing visitors will inevitably get to see your new ecommerce venture.
This does have downsides, though. For a start, it will disrupt your blog, taking some of the attention away from it. It will also slow your site down, and require you to upgrade your site hosting to be suitable for retail — and if something ever goes wrong with the ecommerce functionality, your entire site might go down temporarily. If you want to keep the business side separate, try the next option.
Option 2: use a separate ecommerce site
Given how cheap it is to keep a WordPress blog going, it might be better to keep it as a dedicated blog and create your ecommerce business as a separate site that you link to from your blog.
That way, your online selling will complement your blogging, and you’ll have a fixed destination for social promotion (e.g. through Instagram).
Making a store is easy — just create a fresh WordPress installation and install WooCommerce. Some entrepreneurial types take the website flipping route — buying and reworking a pre-made store.
Set up dropshipping and print-on-demand services
At this point, whether you’ve turned your blog into a store or created/bought a separate one, you’re ready to start working on your inventory. If you have production skills (maybe you’re an adept carpenter) then you can think about eventually selling your own items, but to begin with I strongly suggest sticking to a production-free process. This is because it’s very risky to invest in stock when you haven’t even shown that your business has real potential yet.
There are two keys to selling without stock: dropshipping, and print-on-demand. Dropshipping sees you list generic items that are stocked and fulfilled by third-party suppliers, while print-on-demand lets you offer customised items (using your logo, for instance) that are subsequently produced and shipped on your behalf.
Which should you pick? Well, I recommend both, since there’s no downside to using them together. Provide your store with some relevant dropshipped items and some branded print-on-demand products, and see how your audience responds.
Follow this guide to convert your WordPress blog into a viable online selling business. Where you ultimately take it will be up to you, but these steps should get you into a solid position to start experimenting and see how you enjoy ecommerce.
About the author:
Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer and small business owner, and an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy. Find more of her advice at Micro Startups.
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