So you’re thinking of starting a small business from the comfort of your home. Maybe you’re into baking and want to sell small batches of your goodies. Maybe you’ve finally decluttered your home and want to send pre-loved items to good homes. Or maybe you’ve gotten into art and want to offer merchandise!
If you’re looking to start an online store, there are some things you’ll need to consider. So while you’re doing the planning, here are a few steps to guide you through the process and get you all set up.
1. Choose your product
First things first — if you’re looking to start a store, you’ll need something to sell! The very foundation of your store and brand will be your products. Think about the resources you have on hand, or what your skills are. Got an artsy side? Try making art prints, charms for keychains or craft goods. Good in the kitchen? Pastries and other food items are always popular!
It’s also important to keep in mind how much you’re able to sell of these items. Production costs go down with larger quantities, but the products might be difficult to make or design. Be realistic with your logistics planning so you don’t stress yourself out in the long run, after you’ve started.
2. Pick your platform
There are a variety of digital selling platforms at your disposal, with each suiting different needs. Your products and production logistics will help you decide which one to use, so do your research thoroughly!
If you’re looking more into selling to your local community, with handmade or hand-designed goods, then Instagram and Facebook are excellent platforms to market yourself. They’re straightforward to use, and free, so it’s easy to set up accounts for your business. Hashtags are a great way to get yourself noticed, and you can cross-share to other platforms to boost your viewership!
For wider reach and a more professional setup, try an e-commerce platform. Etsy, Shopify, BigCartel, Gumroad, Itch.io — there are a whole host of them out there, often with free plans that let you stock a select number of products! These platforms often offer integrated systems to let you track inventory, orders and buyer information. They’ll also offer both seller and buyer protection for that added security.
Make sure you look up each platform beforehand to weigh the pros and cons, since each platform functions differently. Some also deduct fees, or monthly charges for hosting your store. Some are more suited to selling specific products — Etsy, for example, is great for selling craft items since it has a thriving marketplace — so dig up that information before you sign up!
Make sure you also know which payment platforms you’ll be using. PayPal and Stripe are fairly universal, and also offer credit card payments. You can also offer bank deposits, or depending on your product and service, even cash on delivery!
3. Find your production sources
This part may feel tricky, but as long as you’re systematic, it’s very straightforward. There’s a whole host of production and fulfillment services out there for your product of choice; it’s just a matter of comparing cost quotes and quality.
If you’d rather not handle production on your own, platforms like Redbubble have their own in-house production. All you need to do is upload your designs, select the products you want to offer, format the product, and presto! Redbubble will handle manufacturing and shipping for you. Each product comes at a fixed base price, while you earn profits from the mark-up.
For things like food or handmade goods, production is entirely up to you. Then it’s just a matter of finding reliable and consistent sources for your materials. If you can, shop local! It’ll help support your community, and maybe even net you some customers.
You can also leave the production to the professionals. If you’re designing flat or paper merchandise — think stickers, cards, bookmarks, etc. — check for print shops! PrintPapa offers printing services for a variety of products, including kiss-cut stickers, full-color bookmarks, postcards, and more. They’ll also ship your finished products directly to you! Meanwhile, Zazzle lets you custom-create items like throw pillows, posters, and even tote bags!
4. Market your store
You’ve got your products, you’ve got your manufacturing sources — now you need to get your store out there. That involves getting photos of your products, posting them to your platforms, and getting word out that you’ve got something for sale.
If you’re new to photography, check out the Elevate Your Instagram course by A Beautiful Mess to get the most out of your Instagram or product feeds! It’ll walk you through not just taking and editing photos, but networking and monetizing your Instagram account, and taking advantage of the IG algorithm — absolute musts if you want your IG store to grow. They also have Start Small Dream Big, a workshop on how to grow your own small business, with indispensable advice as you start your online store. Marketing partners like Tailwind can also help you optimize your feed for maximum exposure.
If you want a logo to look more professional, check out services like My Brand New Logo to help you out (and get 25% off while you’re at it)!
5. Fulfill your orders
When the orders start coming in, and your products are ready to go, the next and last step to your online store is sending out the orders! This is probably the most tiring step, but don’t worry — you can optimize this easily.
Local orders are easy — just offer pick-up at your home (or wherever you’re basing your business out of), or deliver the items yourself! It’ll save you shipping costs, and simplify order fulfillment.
You can absolutely pack and ship all your orders yourself as well (just be prepared to be smothered in bubble mailers). Set aside an afternoon or two to sort through all the orders you’ve received, put together each individual package, and label them for shipping. Payment platforms like PayPal have their own integrated shipping label creators, so take advantage of that and just print out labels to stick on.
But if you don’t want to deal with shipping and distribution by yourself, just look for a fulfillment partner! Shipping Easy offers seamless integration with a variety of online store platforms, including Amazon, Etsy, Shopify, eBay, Wish, Storenvy, PayPal, and Stripe. It collates all your orders into one easy-to-use .CSV file for your convenience; creates your shipping labels and packing slips; and automates shipping — complete with tracking! Choosing a fulfillment and shipping service takes a huge weight off your mind, meaning you can focus on your product and leave the fulfillment to a company you trust.
There are other considerations that go into starting an online store, but these are the basics that’ll help you get started. Selling online isn’t easy, but with a little creativity and a lot of hard work, anyone can get themselves out there. So roll up those sleeves and go get started!