Starting an Online business

From Slashdot | Getting Started With Part-Time Development Work?

Work for yourself (Score:3, Interesting)

by br00tus (528477) on Friday January 02, @04:33PM (#26304591)

I want to go out on my own, …starting my own company … doing Java development, but I’m not sure of the best way to get started, and my family needs the stability of my current job. I’d really like to start out part-time at 5-15 hours a week to use it as supplemental income (which my family could really use at the moment), but I really don’t know where to start.

You say this yet most of the people focus on the part-time moonlighting consulting part. I agree with them that moonlighting can affect your present position negatively, kill your free time and make your family time and social life lessened and more stressful, and will likely not really give you much of an income supplement. On the other hand, it is a way to make contacts and improve your technical skills, so it’s all what you want.

When the dot-com boom was happening, I had a server stored at a colo facility for free. In 1998-1999 I saw so many idiots getting $10-20 million VC I started a dot com site which nowadays would be called a “Web 2.0” site. I started to get a lot of traffic, and in early 2000 I was even scoping out disk arrays for the site (it used a lot of disk space). But then in spring of 2000 the dot com market crashed, and I gave up the idea – a few months later I stopped taking new users, and I closed the site up in late 2001. I am not a programmer yet I did all the programming on the site, so that’s the main thing I gained from the experience.

Nowadays I have a side business as well. Unlike the earlier one, you see a lot more cash upfront. I sell things online. Not the sexiest thing in the world, but it makes money. I haven’t tallied up revenues for last year but I know I ordered over $10k of stuff from one of my suppliers. One reason I don’t have more revenue is I do not want more revenue at this point. An important point which I will go into. But anyhow, on the technical end I have an osCommerce (PHP) web site which I modify when I need or want to. Right now I sell everything off of it. I was selling off of FeeBay as well, but they raised their rates too high for me. My web site is registered on Google Base/Shopping and right now I am getting 99% of my hits from that, which is free. Via it, (looking now at my osCommerce screen I see) I have had 25 separate orders from December 10th to today, with an average price of about $50 (price and shipping). I used Google Ads previously, and still like them, but I am not trying to grow revenue currently. I also wrote a suite of screen scraper stuff in PERL so as to get me advantageous information. They are helpful, but they can be a pain to maintain by myself.

Anyhow – at the beginning of this year, I called my main supplier and asked for a good price on the item we sell the most of. He gave me a price and I ordered 70 of it, and 6 each of five similar items (100 in all). I called back a month later and said I was selling more of the five similar items and could I have a break on those prices as well. I got a break on all six. I promised I would order at least 100 every quarter (he had wanted me to commit to 100 every month but I said I couldn’t do that). He also said if the manufacturer started charging more they’d raise the price. I was selling about $1500 a month on eBay, plus more from Google Ads and Shopping/Base on the web site. I was often shipping out 2 to 3 items a day. Between work, night school, and everything else, this shipping got to be a pain. Also I was only making one or two dollars on each shipment, and margins got tighter as time went on. In the summer, the supplier raised their prices on everything including this stuff. I used that as a point to stop ordering at the 100-a-quarter pace, as I didn’t want to keep going at that rate, and it was a good excuse to end the deal we had. I learned that shipping is time-consuming and something I didn’t want to spend time on. I was considering hiring a part-time person to do shipping for maybe an hour or two 5 times a week. But then the economy took a dive. My sales have kept up actually, but now I want to have more capital before I take that step, and also more job security. Also, I want my ERP accounting/taxes flow through stuff to be more in place before getting too big.

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