If you’re thinking about starting a business this year, now’s a great time to do it!
Be your own boss, be in control of your life and make your own money.
Here are 5 things you need to do before you make your first sale online.
Starting Your Own Business
Hi, my name is Mei Pak and I help makers, artists and designers make a living from selling their handmade products online.
I’m not going to talk about taxes, accounting or anything legal because I’m not licensed to do that nor do I know enough to talk about it confidently.
I definitely recommend you seek out professional council in this area, if you need it.
This post is going to be more about the business and marketing side of things, for example, how you set up your online shop.
There are a million things you need to do.
I want to highlight that you don’t need to have all your ducks in a row and everything doesn’t need to be perfect before you launch your website!
My goal for you is to launch ASAP.
The sooner you get out there, the sooner you can start making sales.
You really only need these 5 things to get ready before you launch.
This is the exact list my husband and I used to start our new shop selling print on demand art in late 2019.
In the first month, we made five figure sales, and in 2020, we made over $900,000 in sales.
So this list works, if you follow it.
1. Validate Your Product
The very first thing you need to do is validate your product.
You need to have 100% certainty that strangers will pay your price for your product.
A lot of creatives who get into starting an online shop without researching their product, really struggle.
That was my experience when I started out too.
Making sales will be so much easier for you later on, if you invest the time initially to do this carefully, and do it right.
Get feedback from people about your product, ideally from people who can give you an objective, unbiased opinion.
That’s what I did.
When I started making things, I would go to online message boards and share photos of my work.
It wasn’t for the intention of selling it, but to ask people what they thought about it and if they were willing to buy it.
I knew I was onto something when people sought me out to say they wanted to buy one of the things I posted.
Another thing you can do is spend some time researching.
The question you want answered is, “Are other companies selling something similar and doing well with it?”
If they are, you have the proof that your product will sell well too.
Competition is a good thing and you can use it to your advantage.
You don’t want to be the only person in the world selling some sort of proprietary product.
It takes a lot of resources to make a business like that work and it’s not easy.
Just do what already works!
Some places you can do your online research are:
- You can even pick up some magazines to get a good sense of what’s out there.
2. Product Photos
You need to have great product photos, a great brand and website.
People shopping online can’t touch, feel, smell or experience your products like they could if they walked into a gift store down the street.
That means we have the pressure to make sure in the form of pictures and words that we are still communicating:
- What our product is
- What size it is
- What it feels like
- What it smells like
It is imperative that you do a good job with this because it is the only way people will buy from you.
I’m not going to lie, this is a time consuming step, but it’s part of building out your shop.
Take your time to learn how to do product photography, to set up your website, and to get a good logo and branding colors.
It is easier than ever to do all of those things nowadays.
If you don’t want to learn, pay someone to do it for you.
Because it’s so easy to do these things now, it’s become a lot cheaper to hire help.
3. Email Marketing
Email marketing is going to be a huge asset for your business, so you need to set up the foundations for it now, from the very beginning.
Don’t wait until you get popular and become famous because you will have lost out on a lot of potential sales.
All you need to do is set up sign-up forms on your website to make it easy to capture your website visitors’ email addresses.
That way, you can continue building that relationship with them over email.
If you don’t do this, after they leave your site, they’re gone forever and you just have to hope they remember you enough to come back again later.
That’s called hope based marketing, and you will not build a consistent income or living off of that.
You’ll want to have automated emails written out, designed and loaded into your email service provider so you can have a reason to show up in a person’s inbox, and start building that relationship with them.
You want them to:
- get to know you
- your shop
- your products
- why your products are special
- what or who they should buy your products for
- why they should choose you
It’s like any other relationship! Like dating someone or making new friends.
4. Influencer Marketing Campaign
Do a campaign of influencer marketing.
Send your product for free to influencers. It can even be smaller influencers.
The goal here is you want to get their feedback so you can put it on your website for social proof.
This will help new customers visiting your site feel that they can trust you.
The second goal here is to potentially get user generated content (UGC).
That can either be photos or videos of your influencer with your product.
UGC’s are so powerful for your marketing and are a great way to build trust and social proof as well.
You’ll want to use these videos or photos on your website, in your product listings, and in any of your marketing where it makes sense.
The cool thing about all of this, is you don’t have to pay the influencer any fees to do this, or at least I don’t.
Frame your email to them as an exchange: your product for their time.
If they love your product enough, the right influencers will say yes.
5. Social Media
Social media is such an imperative part of online business these days!
Even though I’m not a huge fan of it, it is important for you to set up your Instagram and Facebook accounts for your shop.
The only reason I suggest this is because you want to have some social presence so your customers can check you out there as well.
This will help in case you get that small percentage of people who go to your website, but they’re just not sure if they trust you enough to buy from you.
You want to give them a reason to feel comfortable buying from you.
So have your profiles set up, and load it up with content, and schedule future content so you’re staying active on there.
I hope these steps help you get your business started with more confidence.
If you’re starting a business, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.
Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more handmade business tips.