Food, sports, fashion, arts; no matter what your passion and talent it is, you can use it to start an online business and sell what you are good at.
This article will tell you exactly how you can successfully implement this online. We will be using examples of avenues which involve the need for a booking system.
There are some basic things you should know about when you first start out. Laws and taxes, regulations, and fees. Here is a checklist to help you out.
Most of us start our journeys alone, and when you start out conducting classes, sessions, or workshops, you have to do everything yourself. You have to make the logistical arrangements, class preparations, handle finances, calls, bookings among other things.
Then there are other complications. You may have to limit bookings as per your capacity, you have to take feedback, and to top it all, you have to develop a system that makes sure this cycle runs smoothly, each time and can scale successfully.
Don’t freak out.
Whether you are selling food, opening a restaurant, taking classes for fitness, arts, or crafts, or want to give sports classes for kids, music lessons, or baking workshops – no matter what your business idea – we have two words.
WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world. But it doubles up as a store management platform with a plugin called WooCommerce. This allows anyone to buy and sell products on their website.
And just like that, with a simple click of the button, you can turn your web presence into an online store. By installing another plugin, the Bookings & Appointment plugin, you can turn that store into a booking platform, and using this, you can easily start your online business.
First, you install the Booking & Appointment plugin. It’s super easy. After you have set that up and activated the license, you can start by creating ‘Products’ specific to your business.
These can be titled to suit your product; you can name it Ski Class, for instance, or call it a Bakery Workshop, Origami Tutorial, or Catering service. You can have a week-long Photography tutorial or a dinner reservation at your restaurant – just make sure that the title explains exactly what the product is.
Under each product, you will see a ‘Booking’ box appear, which will let you control and customize the settings of each of your products. So if you are teaching people to make brownies on Monday, pies on Tuesday and cookies on Wednesday, you just create three different products and enter the relevant settings for each.
As you see, you get to set the price of the product, and then enable the booking option. An ‘only day’ booking would typically be used for products like catering or day-long workshops, while date and time would be used for hourly bookings. Since you can have these settings at an individual product-level, you can offer a variety from the same store.
As you see in the screenshot above, you can choose the day the product is available. If you select the ‘Date & Time’ booking option, you can also select the hours you want to dedicate, as shown in the screenshot below.
For instance, you can select Fixed time slots for each day. Say your baking classes are on all weekdays, but their timing differs, to use the example from before. You can create the specific time slots, and have even different time slots for the same product.
Additionally, you can set special prices and discounts, for those seasonal offers and sales.
Other features that will help
There are several other features that will help you as you start your online business, which would otherwise have been difficult to manage by yourself. These include:
- Rescheduling bookings: Imagine you had to constantly go back and forth with people’s changing schedules.
- You can also easily add a manual booking, so you don’t lose that personal touch with a familiar customer. (Friends and family do tend to be supportive, so maybe they don’t want to go online to book.)
- Sending reminder emails and texts. This is important since follow-up ensures greater participation. Often, people will register for something but not show up. (How many times have you marked ‘Going’ on an event on Facebook and forgotten about it?)
- Put a cap on bookings: Instead of informing everyone who inquires on whether there is a slot available, you can just check the dashboard and voila, you have your answer.
No flipping pages, no scratching out bookings, no deleting and typing things again and again and again. That’s how a business can run smoothly.
Setting up each product like this is the only initial labor you have to put in. After that, the plugin does it all for you. There is even a Google Calendar sync so you can plan your schedule outside the dashboard too.
WordPress is free. So is WooCommerce. The Bookings & Appointment plugin has an annual cost of $119 (including support), which is worth maybe one or two persons’ worth of fees, for a single session. You save a lot of time, which you can in turn use for marketing, promotions, creating content, and other tasks.
Test it out for a month, and if you don’t like it, you can get a full refund.
From the day you have your first business idea, to actually turning in the proposal, raising money, finding a consumer-base, building a community, marketing, spreading the word, getting vendors, suppliers, budgeting, cutting even, and a gazillion other things, starting your online business is not easy, though it is extremely rewarding.
But one thing will be easy; managing it online. That we can promise.