Advice for starting your own online shop
Interested in starting your own online shop? It’s both easier and more time consuming than you expect. But if you build it, people won’t just find it by magic and start ordering tons of stuff. I’ve learned from personal experience. A few years ago, as an antidote to corporate misery, a friend and I started an online t-shirt shop called Six Eighty & Co. I create apparel and accessories like my Life is a Shipwreck sweatshirt and Irrational Frivolity tote bag. It’s a fun side project, and I’ve toyed with the idea of turning it into a bigger business. More on that later. For now, here’s my advice on starting your own online shop.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas Edison.
When I was in design school, I had an instructor who had been an ad exec. He came to class each day in a suit, and was a stickler for details. Years later, I can thank him for making me draft my name perfectly or lose a letter grade. There was a rivalry between our major (commercial graphics design) and the fine arts program (visual communications.) The vis-comm kids thought they were going to be art directors. This professor told us that was ridiculous. We should expect to start at the bottom and work our way up. And it was good advice. So I’m telling you now, success takes work and your shop won’t make a million bucks overnight. But it’s fun, and if you pay attention to the details, you can create a successful shop with relatively little money up front.
So where do you start? I suggest Etsy. It’s free to setup your shop, then 20 cents per listing. You add a credit card to your account, and then Etsy handles payments for your listings. Once an item has shipped, Etsy deposits the proceeds into your account. If you are personally packaging and shipping your items, Etsy offers discount shipping rates and you can print labels directly from your account. It has an excellent API that lets you connect directly to companies that will print and drop ship for you (more on that below.) Etsy also offers stats on your listings so you can see which ones are popular, and which ones are not. But once your store is setup and you’ve posted your listings, you’re not done. People may stumble across your shop, but if you want to make sales, you have to advertise.
When I first started the shop, I thought I could create a following and drive traffic through social media. I started with Instagram and Facebook and pretty quickly realized that I didn’t have the time or the patience to post on a daily basis. But I was lucky to have a teenage niece who not only loved to have her picture taken, but also loved to post on Instagram. She had a lot of great ideas. Some worked for us and some did not. For example, she edited every photo so that they had a unified color palette. That gave the feed a really nice flow, but it was time consuming and when she graduated and went to college, I didn’t bother to keep doing it. She also posted video to our stories and gave them categories. That was also great, but not something I had the time to do myself. I still maintain a similar palette and feeling for the photos in our feed, but I don’t do a lot of editing after the fact. Instead I choose the most vibrant photos and maintain a similar feeling when I’m shooting so not much editing is required. I haven’t been very good about posting to social media in the past year. In 2022, I’m getting organized and I’ll use an app to plan and schedule my posts in advance. Look for info on social media scheduling tools in a later post.