Starting an Online Business: Part 2 (where to set up shop)

 

 

 

Did you see part 1 of the Online Business tips, found here

It may help you if you need a few tips for taking good pictures for your shop.

 

 

Disclaimer:  Okay, when talking about online businesses, I have to say again that I am not really an expert.  I don’t have any business training and some of you may laugh at my suggestions.  It has surprised me every step of the way when something has worked……so please don’t think this has all been well thought out and/or is the only way.  Or even a good way.  And if a piece of my advice is ridiculous, just laugh right along with me.  Because I laugh about some of the things I have done too.  No biggee.

 

I just had to throw that little disclaimer in there…..you know, just so you know I don’t pretend to be an expert.  But I just remember back when I started, I just needed a starting point.  Something to think about.  And advice from someone who started simple, and from scratch.  So if that’s you…….this may be helpful for you.

 

Anyway, another really common question I get is where to open an online shop

Most people are starting small and don’t want to hire a designer to create a whole online shop for them……..I didn’t either.

 

 

So here are 3 locations I’ve used to open an online shop:

     

 

 

 

I know there are plenty other places to open up shops…..but these are the ones I have used.  And I’ll tell you when and why.

(And remember, these are just from my own experience and may not include every detail.  They are just things that stood out to me while using each location.)

 

 

1. Blogger

 

I started a tiny little hairbow shop on just a regular ‘ol blogger blog 5 years ago.  (Remember?  I explained a little about that first shop here.)  I had little experience with a blog at all but figured out that I could insert paypal buttons for customers to buy the things they saw.  I added new products to the blog under different posts and numbered all of the products.  I added little paypal buttons to the blog’s sidebar and people purchased bows right from the blog.  I would receive notifications in my email that someone placed an order and then I would  make the orders and ship them out. It was pretty simple but was hard for people to navigate all of the products.  But it was a great starting point.

 

Pros

  • It’s Free!  No financial risk.
  • You can design it however you want to.
  • It’s your own solo location…..no other shops popping up.
  • The learning curve is pretty low.  If you can blog, you can set up shop here.

 

Cons

  • It’s harder for customers to navigate.  It can be confusing.
  • Customers may be more leery to shop from a single private blog (though having paypal helps).
  • Search tools aren’t as refined.
  • No Q&A to ask other shop owners questions.
  • Learning Paypal and inserting into appropriate spots on blog can be time consuming and sometimes confusing.
  • Because I was so small, I wasn’t showing up in searches.  My shop was only spreading by word of mouth.

 

Overall: A great starting point for me.  I needed to learn small first and I was glad it didn’t cost me a penny to try it out!

 

 

2. Etsy

 

I closed down that little hairbow site on Blogger when I was pregnant with our little guy.  It was too much for me and sending out orders got to be too hectic.  But after he was about 6 months old, I was in a better routine and my hands ached to make and sell things again.  So when I started Make It and Love It and was sharing some of the things I was making for free, I also opened up a little Etsy shop to sell some of the things I made. 

 

Pros

  • All of my items were on one page, and easy to navigate.
  • Opening a shop is free.
  • Business tips and advice are plentiful and really helpful.
  • Online community where you can share and ask questions.
  • Their search tools are refined and if someone is looking for something that you have but have no clue you exist, the search tools can help them find you.
  • You can list as many items as you want.
  • You can use their “convo” system, which is like an internal email system, so you don’t have to share your real email.
  • Buyers/Sellers can leave feedback on their shopping experience.
  • All items sold have a status feature where you can quickly view all items and see which sold items are “waiting on payment” or “paid” or “shipped”.  This helpful when you have multiple orders and can’t remember if you made and shipped something out or not.  And whether or not the item has been paid for or not is automatically updated. 

Cons

  • Placing one item in the shop costs $0.20.  If the item sells, you have to relist it and pay another $0.20.  That’s fine if you have more expensive items to sell but when you’re selling a lot of $2.00 items, that adds up fast.
  • When you sell something on etsy, you are charged 3.5% of the sale price.  Not a ton but it definitely adds up.  
  • Because Etsy is so large, it’s easy to get lost amongst the other sellers.  Even though people can search for you, often times they have to look through pages of product before they even find you.
  • The shop header is really tiny and the whole look of the shop isn’t really customizable.
  • Sometimes customers get lost on Etsy.  They may click on something that takes them to someone else’s shop.
  • Once an item sells, the item disappears from the shop (unless you paid to have more than one listed).  You have to go back in and pay another $0.20 to have it listed……..or pay $0.60 (for example) to have it listed as a quantity of 3.  If you’re not right on top of this, a new customer may miss out on something they would have purchased.

 

Overall:  A really great starting point.  I never would have been able to move on to Big Cartel if I didn’t start here and gain some customers.  I was being found in the internal Etsy searches and that really helped with my growth.  Also, I give a lot of credit to the etsy community…..because even though I never commented in the forums, I would read topics that pertained to me and then used what I needed.

 

 

3. Big Cartel

 

After a while, I was feeling really confined with Etsy.  None of my items were very pricey but I was selling a good amount.  The fees that I was paying every month was over $100.  So the $0.20 re-listing fee was really adding up……and then the 3.5% fee wasn’t helping either.  That’s when I talked with a friend (hey Shey!) and she told me some of the great things about Big Cartel.  So I made the switch.

 

Pros

  • There is a one time monthly fee of either $0, $10, or $20.  You pick which level works best for you.  Obviously, the more you pay, the more you get……but only having to pay a one time fee was fantastic for me.
  • Your shop can be as unique as you want it to be.  You can design the heck out of it…..or keep it simple.
  • You can include little widgets on the side that offer your customer little tidbits about your shop, including most popular item sold.
  • Your shop isn’t going to link to anyone else’s Big Cartel shop.  It’s all yours.
  • You can mark an item in your shop as “sold out” or “coming soon”.  This lets the customer see what else you have or can make.
  • You don’t ever have to go in and re-list anything.  So your items are always visible.
  • You can add huge links to your other blogs or social media.  You can really customize it.
  • There is a contact form that sends messages right to your email, so you don’t have to login to Big Cartel to answer them. But no one can see your email address (unless you email them back) if you want to keep that private.

Cons

  • You have to do all of your own self promoting.  There isn’t a big site to come to and then search for the products you want.  It’s just your solo site.
  • You don’t have as many features with shipping updates and such.  You can’t mark an item as “shipped” or “pending”.
  • 300 is the maximum number of items you can list.
  • You have to log into Paypal to see if an item has been paid for or not.  Can be time consuming.
  • If you don’t know how to use html and don’t want to hire someone, your shop will look bland and robotic.

 

Overall:  The switch over to Big Cartel was worth it.  It just fit better with what I wanted.  And it has saved me some cash!!  However, my Etsy shop was open for a good period of time so I know people had “bookmarked” or “favorite-ed” the shop…….so I decided to keep it open.  Transitioning over to a new shop takes time.  So I changed all links over to Big Cartel and pointed people that way but those who already knew my Etsy shop can still find it. And I still come up in Etsy searches so until that shop goes dead, I’ll keep it open for the stragglers.

 

In conclusion:

For first time shops, I always recommend starting with a community based shop, like Etsy, to start your growth.  But if you already have a name for yourself, and some customers, starting right out with Big Cartel makes more sense.  Etsy really helps you to grow and send customers your way, so it’s a great place to start.  However, if you are noticing a large bill from Etsy each month, it may be time for a little transition.  But whoever you go with, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What kind of business do I want to be?
  2. How big do I want to get?
  3. How are customers finding out about me?
  4. What is my monthly budget?

 

 

And just for fun……..here’s a little glimpse of my headers, starting 5 years ago.

 

It took me some time, but I finally found this little gem, from my hairbow shop (talked about here).  It makes me laugh now, but I loved that header from the moment I traded someone some hairbows for a shop header.  I had no clue about photoshop or digital scrapbook paper.  The gal who made this was so sweet to me and after she sent it over, I was so impressed.  But this is where it all began (even though it was a completely different shop, and not Make It and Love It).

 

 

I loved that old header.  My taste has definitely changed since then……but it’s where everything began!

 

 

And just so you know, my header changes with my mood and the season. 

ometimes I like clean and very uncluttered and other times I like a lot of detail. 

 

 

The Make It and Love It Etsy Headers…..starting in 2008.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These last two have only been used in my Big Cartel Shop…….starting in 2010.

 

 

(This green header is currently being edited, as is my blog.  Come to find out….green is a finicky color.  Tell me, is the green color on my blog “slap you in the face green”, “slightly highlighter green nauseating” or is it “strong yet springy green”??  One computer to the other, green tends to change.  Makes me crazy!)

 

 

Anyway, hope that helps.

 

And best of luck opening your shop!

 

Related posts:


Comments

52 Responses to “Starting an Online Business: Part 2 (where to set up shop)”
  1. 1
    Hi says:

    I love ruffles too! I love your blog too! I have made a few things from it and I really like them.

  2. 2
    Sarah says:

    At first I was slightly startled by the *bright* green, but now I like it. I think it suits you well. :)

    Thank you for this series. I’m going to share it with my mom who’s been thinking about opening a shop. Question- how do you keep your products (for example, knit hats) from being lost in all the other knit hat sellers? Is it basically slowly growing your business so you become more recognized? I know you touched on it, but do you have any tips?

    • 2.1
      Ashley says:

      Haha…..sounds like it’s highlighter green for your monitor. Dang. haha!! (Once I got a new computer, the color changed to slap you in the face green. It gives me a headache. A big one.)

  3. 3
    Shannon says:

    Thanks so much for this series. I am hoping to launch a small side business in the coming year so this info is very timely and much appreciated!

  4. 4
    Jamie Gentry says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I opened my etsy shop over a year ago and am struggling to get it right. Photos are a huge downfall for me. I just can’t seem to get them right. It is so encouraging to read the successful stories of others. It gives me hope. I love reading your blog. Thank you again :)

  5. 5
    Andrea says:

    This is a great post! I love hearing about others and what you’ve learned. thanks for sharing this.

  6. 6
    Kristen says:

    Thank you so much for these posts! Very helpful!

    I have a quick question about your Big Cartel info – when you say “one time payment” do you mean once a month or you only had to pay one time? the only pricing I see on their site is monthly.

  7. 7
    Amy W. says:

    Thank you! This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m in the process of opening an etsy shop to sell skirts…..I love skirts! I’ve taken your photography tips and found a large white canvas. My husband has a degree in art and helps me with the details that I may not have considered. Thank you!

  8. 8
    Kayla says:

    Those were great pointers, thanks! As for the green, on my computer it is a beautiful vibrant spring green! I LOVE it! =)

  9. 9
    Edie says:

    Thank you for the great info, I have been considering setting up shop on etsy… at the moment I just have an account that has not been set up as a seller yet. (still on the fence).

    As for your green… for me it is a nice green, sort of makes me think of grass, but not quite as dark. Spring green I guess. I like it, it is a fun color for me, makes your site feel fresh and happy.

  10. 10
    Katie says:

    Just FYI, the green looks great on my computer. :)

  11. 11
    Anonymous says:

    Enjoyed this post, Ashley. I was thinking of starting out on Etsy and I was particularly happy to see that they have forums where you can learn from others.

    As for your green, it looks great to me…not too bright nor nauseating.

  12. 12
    Amanda says:

    It’s like a granny smith apple green. Pretty and cheerful for a header. Thanks for all the ideas and info.

  13. 13
    Nicole says:

    Thanks Ashley!

    Another very helpful tip of different ways to get your business “out there”.

    I started with a Facebook page… I’m liking it so far, but can’t figure out to get PayPal onto Facebook, any suggestions?

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/By-Nicole/113798205387325

    XO!

    • 13.1
      Kas says:

      Hey Nicole,

      I have a shop on Facebook as well (link below). I have not run across any pages with PayPal specifically on their tabs. However, you can link your Etsy to your Facebook or there are several other shop options. I am currently have a shop tab with StorEnvy at the moment, but haven’t used it much. There are no fees to list. I haven’t done sales through them yet, so I am not positive on the fees for sales. As for using PayPal with Facebook, all the shops I know send PayPal invoices directly to the customers email address. This has worked fine for us, however, I can only assume some people like the extra security while shopping through Etsy or another website rather than just having PayPal on record. Let me know if I can help at all. :0)

      http://www.facebook.com/heartmadecreations

  14. 14
    Carolyn says:

    This was a great post, thanks for sharing valuable information. I had heard of Big Cartel, but didn’t really know anything about it.

  15. 15
    Kelsey says:

    Thanks for this post yet again! I am loving this series. I just switched from ETSY to BigCartel myself. I am finding it great as the fees are actually less than what I was paying on ETSY by paying the one time $20 fee, though I have to say it is very hard to get traffic. I am working out an advertising plan to start next month – (I hope you cover this – LOL) to get more exposure and traffic. I have done some ad swaps this month since I don’t have much extra money in the budget and have done blog posts which mention my shop (a party printable shop). I’m also trying to offer freebie printables here and there to help advertise too.

    -Kelsey

  16. 16
    Karen says:

    Thank you for this series! My husband has been informed he’ll lose his job soon. I’ve always enjoyed making things but am not much of a sales person. I’m also a bit computer phobic. But now is the right time to challenge myself and start a blog and an Etsy shop. You’re posts in this series couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks again!

  17. 17

    Thanks for the valuable information. Your green is a strong springy green on my computer, but I’ve viewed it on another computer that made it a slap you in the face green. I loved the turquoise and red, though.

  18. 18
    Stephanie says:

    I was SSSOOOOOOO excited when I saw that you started this series!! I’ve been considering starting an etsy site for a while now. I love all the pointers you are giving!! My question is about shipping – how do you know how much to charge for shipping?

    As for the green, it is a beautiful spring green for me… but I LOVE green, so I may not be the best judge. ;)

  19. 19

    The green is definitely a good green, it reminds me of pears (I’m from a pear community and I love that color). Thank you for all the information and tutorials you post for free. I love your site!

  20. 20
    Heidi Ceto says:

    This is good to know in case I ever have the time to start a shop. Which is a goal of mine in the future…but with a 2year old and a 7month old that is impossible! HA! I have people tell me all the time I need to sell the stuff I make but I just nod and laugh! hehe! Thanks for your blog! I LOVE it!

    The green looks like pea green to me but I love peas so its a nice color :)

  21. 21
    Daisha says:

    Just to let you know I love your blog colors!! My husband just opened his own orthodontic office and I didn’t realize until now that his office is the same color as your site. He has huge bright blue and green walls throughout. Love!! http://www.livegrowsmile.com

  22. 22
    darci says:

    i like the green, its fine to me, but the white font is hard to read on the blue tabs at the top

  23. 23
    Kas says:

    First and foremost… I absolutely LOVE the green myself! :0) I’ve always loved the graphics on your blog as well as the font.

    It was really fun going sharing in your memory lane with the older graphics. I enjoy seeing where shops/blogs/etc come from. It gives me hope that I am doing alright for only a few months in myself. I have such a creative talent in me but then I come here or to my other fav blogs and I get discouraged because, well, you are all so “perfect”. It’s so nice to see that even my fav blogs/shops/etc had to start somewhere!

    Thanks for sharing this. I am having a blast reading your latest entries!

    -Cassandra
    Heartmade Creations

  24. 24
    Joan says:

    Love your blog always! I am really thankful for this advice and look forward to more great tips from you. On my computer, the green is ‘slap you in the face’ when there’s a chunk of it. However, when it is interspersed a lot of white, like in the little squares where photos would be, it is spring-like and delicious.

  25. 25
    Joy says:

    I want to know more about those cute green shoes on your etsy header! Do tell.

  26. 26

    Hi Ashley,

    Have you looked into http://www.ArtFire.com ? That is where I have my shop.

    “Just US $11.95/mo after your trial No Contract, No Listing Fees, No Commissions” That is what they say on their sign up page. I like being there at Artfire. There is a community you can get involved with. I have been able to customize somethings on my site, but not everything and Artfire works to get some promotion out there. I work on it too for my own shop. http://mydaytocraft.artfire.com In cast you wanted to take a look. I haven’t sold anything yet, but I recently opened my shop and not much is there.

    Peggy

  27. 27
    Anna says:

    Love this topic. Ive been on the verge for quite awhile.Still unsure about taking the first step and not wanting to invest if I am going to be “blending into the crowd”. Really too fragile to fail you know? I like the green on my laptop screen. Vivid but not distracting.

  28. 28
    Ashley says:

    So glad that you are doing this series, I just started a etsy shop but have not listed anything yet and I just started a blog-perfect timing .. its ironic because I had just decided right before you started posting the first one:-) I also considered writing a post on “etsy for dummies” starting a shop with a listing of everything needed.

  29. 29
    Sarah Bailey says:

    Another con for Etsy is that you must provide a credit card to sell (not to buy though). I’ve wanted an Etsy shop but we don’t use CC online so that keeps me out of the running.

    For now I’ll be looking for places that can sell my stuff for me :) instead of online.

  30. 30
    Patty says:

    Super duper helpful!! Thanks so much for sharing. I have never heard of Big Cartel but if I ever get to that point I am glad I know about it.

  31. 31
    Cameron says:

    Thanks so much for all the internet business tips – Big Cartel looks v-e-e-e-e-r-y interesting. May have to make yet another site!

  32. 32
    Jodie says:

    Thank you so much for the photo tips and now the business tips. I love your blog so much. I LOVE the green! It is my favorite color. I have a shop on Etsy for three years now, but have never listed a thing. The hole selling thing scares me. I sure have bought a lot on Etsy and recommend it to everyone that are looking for unique items handmade.

  33. 33
    Steph says:

    Thank you so so much for doing this series! I have loved your blog for a very long time and have seen it grow and GROW. You are so sweet to share your success with us! (I already feel my photos have gotten a million times better…maybe its just me thinking that :) but I think you’re initial post helped me so much!) One of my close friends from college and I just recently started a blog and I am hoping to get my etsy shop going (full of stuff!) soon.
    Would love to see a post on marketing or growing a blog.
    Thanks so much for sharing your time and talents with the rest of us!!!

    Everygreatday.com

  34. 34
    Karen says:

    Hi

    Am I right in thinking that you managed to link Paypal to your blog and if so can you tell me how you did this?

    Thanks,
    Karen

  35. 35
    Jaci says:

    I’ve been thinking about starting an etsy store for almost a yr, after a babyshower last weekend and lots of gushing over the things I made the lil ones i decided to do it. My question now is do I have to have paypal to start an etsy store and if so how do I go about getting a paypal account set up and on there?

  36. 36
    Jaci says:

    oops i had another question…..what if anything do you do about taxes? at what point do i need to worry about it or pay some out of pocket?

  37. 37
    Kel in Oz says:

    Green is my favourite colour – my poor house is draped in it, my poor husband-to-be is surrounded by it.

    It will also feature heavily in my upcoming wedding… (not in a feral way I HOPE!)…

    I’m on the hunt for pretty green wedding shoes – do you think I can find them? Nooooo… they will come, I know it.

    As for post – thank you! I’m on the verge of getting on this band wagon… Very interesting indeed. Good luck to you all xx

  38. 38
    Jaclyn says:

    Thanks for the tips! I now have an Etsy store, too. http://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetMaddieMarie

  39. 39
    Vivian says:

    May God Bless You! You have given us so much FREE information, sewing patterns, craft ideas, etc.. Thank you and May God continue blessing you, so you can pass it to us :-)

  40. 40
    Anonymous says:

    I love your blog, so easy to use! probaly one of the best i’ve seen. you may not have buisness training, but in my opinion it doesn’t matter cuz like i said this blog is great!

  41. 41
    Ursula M. says:

    I loved the information it has helped me alot. Thank you very much. I am reopening a business from craft shows to online and it has been confusing. Your information has taken away a lot of the confusion.

  42. 42
    Amber says:

    how do you make a website log?

  43. 43
    Allee says:

    I love storenvy.com. They’re a lot like etsy but don’t charge you any fees for selling your stuff. I created my store on there and only have a few items (some tshirts) listed but within one month of opening my online store I have made a sale. There is a lot of potential to make a good amount of money through storenvy.com as long as you have a good selection of inventory and commitment. You do however have to have a Paypal account and upgrade it to premiere or business (which is also free) but PayPal does charge a small fee for receiving payments ($0.30 flat plus 2.9% on average), they also have discounts on fees for selling a lot or for selling items at low price points under $2.00 (look at the fee chart on their website for details. All in all it’s cheaper to sell stuff on storenvy than etsy and you don’t have to pay anything until you sell something. Check out my store (http://ggvt.storenvy.com/) and the other stores on there if you love etsy you’ll love storenvy.

  44. 44
    Jill says:

    Is there a part 3 to this series yet? I’m wanting to start an online shop, and I’d really like more advice.

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