Have you ever seen a lovely online store and dreamt of creating your own? What a great way to live. Be your own boss, spend your time selecting beautiful merchandise to sell, uploading the pieces to your shop, promoting it and watching the money roll in. If you happen to have a physical store as well, its worth getting your shop front right, a friend looked into shop signs and loves what they have been able to get! But I digress. Well, I did it and so I’m sure you can too. Today I would like you to walk you through the 5 steps to taking this from dream to reality.
What are you going to sell?
Unless you already have something to sell, this is possibly the hardest step of all. You will find that it’s easiest to sell things you know about and have enthusiasm for. If you are a crafter then you can sell your own wares. Have you a hobby, then sell spares for it. Some choose to import stock from the far-east, others look to local suppliers. The big secret of success is to find a niche which is quite unique and something you love.
Now that you have chosen your merchandise, you need a shop and a way of taking money. There are lots of companies who would love to sell you a shop. It’s probably best to choose one that is located in the same country as yourself. This means that support should be available when you need it.
Things to consider when choosing your store provider
- The number of different lines in your shop
- Do you want to link to other selling sites such as eBay automatically?
- Which payment methods do you accept – Paypal? Credit Cards?
- Do you want a blog attached to the shop (Highly recommended)
- Do they provide a secure shopping cart (essential)?
- Have they a template you like (cheapest option) or are you going to hire a designer?
- What is the monthly cost and contract length?
Shop and domain name
You will need a name for your shop and a domain name to match. Try choosing something that reflects the items you’re selling so potential customers know what to expect. For example, if you are selling shoes and your name is Sally then SallyShoes for both would be good. SallysShop would not be a good choice.
You will usually be offered a range of shop templates to start with. I wouldn’t spend too much time on this as you will change your mind several times before settling on a final look.
How will you take payment?
The final choice you need to make at this stage is how to make money. Paypal is quick and simple but many customers prefer to pay by card and so you need to apply for a card merchant account.
Add your items to your shop
You are going to need photographs of the items you are selling and a good description. Actually, the process of selling through your own shop is very similar to selling through sites like eBay or Etsy. Good photos sell items. Honest descriptions prevent returns, earn you good feedback and repeat customers.
When deciding what price to put on your items it’s vital to balance between offering a bargain to the customer and making a decent profit for yourself. It’s best to include the cost of packaging within the item price. You will need to show shipping costs or you can bundle those into the item price as well. Are you going to ship internationally? It can be a bit scary but very profitable.
It’s probably best not to launch your shop until you have 30 or more items in it. The more lines you have the better as customers will take their time to look around and probably come back again. Stores with fewer items look amateurish and untrustworthy.
Promote your shop
Now that you have your shop ready – you need customers! You job now is to market your store. There are lots of customers out there, you just need to learn how to get your shop in front of them. The tools you will need for this include:
- Good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) on your site. Read this article on how to get your shop on the first page of Google.
- A Facebook and Instagram page with a similar name to your shop. Also, consider Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and other social media platforms.
- A Blog linked to your site where you can write about the exciting items you sell and more.
Your First Sale
I will never forget the first sale I made in my own store. That was 15 years ago now but it was so thrilling. Out of the blue, an order can arrive so make sure you have adequate packaging material on hand. Also check that payment has cleared before sending.
It’s not necessary to rush to the post office instantly, but make sure you set your customers expectations up front in your terms and conditions. Shipping within 2 working days is acceptable to most customers. As long as it arrives safely they will be delighted.
Remember that customers are entitled to return items if they don’t like them. I find returns run at about 1% and factor that into my pricing.
So, is it time to set up your own shop? I’ve made a successful living for 15 years this way. Your own web store gives you much more freedom than selling on a third party site like eBay or Etsy. Also, you will save a fortune in fees every month. A final word of advice – treat your customers as you would want to be treated and they will keep coming back for more.
Anne Haile is an online entrepreneur about to retire to a life split between adventure and inspiring ladies to blossom and grow. Anne would love to meet you and can be found at yogaladies.uk and her online store at AntiquesAvenue.co.uk.