Starting An Online Shop
Considering Opening An Online Shop?
Ever thought of opening your own online shop?
Perhaps the idea appeals to you, but you wonder,
- Do I have enough time to devote to it?
- How much can I earn?
- How will I get customers?
- What company should I go with?
I have 3 online shops on Zazzle.com. I've opened them gradually over the years.
Zazzle is a company that prints your artwork, photos and designs onto their products.
If you create artwork, photographs or designs that you want to put onto ready-made products, you need a Print-On-Demand (POD) company.
If you create artwork, photographs or designs that you want to put onto ready-made products, you need a Print-On-Demand (POD) company. POD means the ability to print one item at a time.The company provides the products and you provide what goes onto them.
You upload your images onto the company's site and, using their product-design program, place the images onto the products.
The company takes care of customer payment and shipping. When your customers have had sufficient time to return the products, the company sends you payment for your product sales.
You can put your images onto a variety of products (tees, mugs, mousepads, etc.) or onto paper or canvas (posters, prints, canvases, cards, etc.). Each POD company has its own set of products. Zazzle.com is a POD companies.
Earnings From A Print-On-Demand Company
What you earn is the markup you set on your products. The company sets the base price of each of the products. Then you set the markup amount.
Some shopkeepers select a markup percentage for their shops. Others set percentages for each individual product. At some PODs, you can also set a dollar amount as your markup, either overall or for individual products, instead of using a percentage figure.
Another large POD company is Cafepress.com. Both Zazzle.com and Cafepress.com have, more or less, limited the amount that you can make on any products that customers find through a search of their marketplaces, that is, their home pages. (See Zazzle.com's and Cafepress.com's Terms of Service for details of their pricing and markup policies.)
You can change your markup for any new sales any time you want to. So you can experiment and see what works best for you.
If you make handmade products, you will want to work with companies like Etsy.com and Artfire.com.
Companies That Host Handmade Shops
Etsy and Artfire are low-cost companies. Etsy charges per item listed in your shop, while Artfire charges a monthly fee. Both companies provide an active community of sellers.
To open your own shop, you need to
- open an account
- create a shop banner
- create a shop logo, aka avatar or profile photo
You upload the banner and logo to the site. Then your shop is ready to stock.
With a handmade shop, you must take photographs of your products. This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the online handmade shop. You will need to:
- learn how to create good photos yourself
- hire a photographer or
- hire a service to enhance your photos.
(You may want to check out my HubPages article Brighten & Bring Out The Color In Your Photos to learn of simple photo enhancement techniques that you can use to improve your product photos, using the computer programs Adobe Photoshop Elements and Microsoft Office Picture Manager.)
Uploading your photos is fairly simple and straightforward. With both Etsy and Artfire, you set your own prices and package and ship your products. The companies mostly process the financial end of things and send you a paycheck for those items that are charged. If you have a Paypal account, Paypal will send your earnings directly to you. If you accept checks or money orders, your customers will send those directly to you.
Creating A Shop Banner Using Digital Paper
A fun and simple way to create a stylish banner for your online shop is to use digital paper, which you can purchase online.
When you're shopping for digital paper, be sure to read the shop policies concerning what you may do with the paper. You want to be able to:
- use the paper to create your banner
- publish your banner online
- create designs with the digital paper
- sell those designs in your shop.
You can look for digital paper at CreativeMarket.com. If you join the site, you can take advantage of the "freebies" that they offer. Sometimes digital paper is included. You can also find digital paper for sale in Etsy shops, but check the shop policies first. Many Etsy shops will not sell to those who plan to incorporate their products for commercial use.
Above you will see a shop banner created with digital paper.
To create a digital-paper banner in Adobe Photoshop:
- Create a new picture file of the correct proportions with either a transparent or white background. Online companies specify the banner dimensions.
- Place the digital paper over the new picture file and adjust it to suit your taste.
- Merge your layers.
- Create a thin rectangle of color in the center of your banner and create borders above and below it.
- Add your shop name in the center of this rectangular color block.
- Save your file.
To add more dimension to your banner, add another layer:
- increase the length and width of the banner by 50 pixels.
- Paint over the banner with the color you'd like to use for your border -- for instance, one of the colors in your digital paper.
- Then place the banner file you previously saved onto this new rectangle of color. You will have a 50 pixel border on all sides.
- Bevel the top layer slightly and then merge the layers.
- Then slightly bevel the border again.
- As a last step, re-size the banner to its correct proportions and save.
Following these easy steps, you can create a shop banner that is both stylish and memorable. (See the sample shop banner above.)
Once your shop is fairly well established, you will want to inform the world of your shop's arrival on the scene.
Letting The World Know About Your Shop
Of course, your first priority is to create an attractive shop and stock it with appealing products. Then you can explore your company's opportunities for joining its community and interacting with other sellers.
Once your shop is fairly well established, you will want to inform the world of your shop's arrival on the scene. There is always the option of paid advertising. But you can also use cost-free means to make your shop known. These include:
- Showing your products on social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, etc.), with links to the products
- Starting a shop-related blog where you show your products, with links to the products
- Publishing articles about your shops, with links to your products
- On your blog or in your shop, offering free gifts or drawings for free gifts
- Joining groups that are interested in either the products or the designs that you offer and subtly letting them know about your shop and products (see "Marketing Through Groups" below)
- Interacting with other sellers at your company, through their forum and blog (Other sellers are potential customers.)
- Entering contests at your company and on other sites
- If allowed by your company, sending newsletters to customers (Your customers must sign up for your mailings; otherwise, you would be spamming.)
- Opening a Flickr.com account and posting images of your products there
- Creating profiles on any site where you are a member, giving links to your shop (Join sites so that you can post a profile.)
This sounds like a lot to do, and it is. But remember that you don't have to do everything at once. You can start with what feels comfortable. And then, step by step, you can add to your marketing efforts. Gradually, you'll find that marketing activities become a natural part of your day. It is an essential part of having an online shop.
Marketing Through Groups
Online (and offline) groups offer an opportunity to market your shop.
- If your shop offers products with dog designs, join a group that focuses on dogs.
- If your shop offers business cards, join a group that is focused on ways to market small businesses.
- If there are groups on your shop site, join ones that are active and appeal to you.
- Join active groups on facebook, ones that relate to your products and/or designs.
Most importantly, when you join a group, be active in the group. You can learn from the members while you make them aware of your shop.
Marketing With Your E-mail Signature
One simple marketing tool is to add a signature line to your e-mails (see sample below). You can either use hyperlinks or give the URL of your shop and blog. To add a signature, open the email options and look for a rectangle where you can input your name, title(s), your shop and your blog. If you haven't started a blog yet, you can put your shop name and URL or hyperlink your shop name.
Once you have saved your signature line, it will go out to everyone to whom you send an email.
Don't be timid about using your email to market your shop. Most companies have signature lines for all of their employees. Your shop is your business. You can title yourself as an artist, a designer, a shopkeeper, a photographer -- any title that applies to what you're doing.
Not all of your e-mail recipients will click on your links. But many will be curious and check out your shop.
Artist & Designer
Sally’s Dog Shop
Sally’s Dog Shop Blog
Why Not Give It A Try?
Is an online shop a good idea for you, something that you're capable of doing right now? You can only find out by giving it a try.
Your individual situation will determine your approach to your shop. You may have only a small amount of time and energy to devote to it, due to other responsibilities and duties. Or you may be able to focus most of your time and energy on it.
There are only so many hours in the day. If you have a full-time job, you will only be able to work on your shop during the time you're not at your job. Friends and family have to be taken into account, too. Relationships and the responsibilities that come with them also require time and energy.
Your individual priorities and responsibilities will determine the shape of your shop. Each online shop is unique. There is no ideal shop with rigid rules. You set up your own rules and determine for yourself how much time you'll spend on it.
Your shop can be a hobby, a creative outlet. It can be a part-time job. Or it can be a full-time occupation.
What will make your shop a success is not its size or even the income it brings in. Its success derives from your happiness in creating and running it. Only by giving it a try will you find out if an online shop is the right venture for you.
So why not give it a try?