Maybe you’ve always been crafty. Maybe you recently picked up a new hobby and your friends and family have all put in orders and enthusiastically suggested you start selling. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself, and have always fancied the idea of a little side business.
While opening an online store sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to make some money while doing a hobby, ecommerce is a lot of work. So if you’re thinking of starting an ecommerce business, here’s a few questions you should ask yourself before jumping in.
Is your product as good as you can make it?
You have to be confident in your product if you’re going to be successful at selling it. It’s better to wait until you’re 100% behind your own work before you can expect people to pay for it.
What is your competition up to?
You have to be aware of your market, and a good way to do that is to check out your competition. Get a feel for their pricing, their style, their social media presence, their customer service, and just about anything else you can manage. Knowledge is power.
Are you patient (and stable) enough for a year or two of struggle?
It’s not as precarious as starting a restaurant, but opening an online store is a risky business. To make it work, you’ll need to put in a lot of work, and you’ll need to be ready to weather the storm.
Do you have the skills (or the pals) you need to succeed?
Obivously you’ve created a product, or you’ve mastered a service. But can you troubleshoot the problem when your site goes down? Do you at least know who to call? You’re going to have to wear many hats, so it pays to know a haberdasher or two.
Do you have a merchant account at the bank?
Where’s the money going to do when it starts to roll in? Make friends with your business banker and have her number on speed dial.
What are your local tax rules?
Many business owners, believe it or not, open up an online store and just wing it. Tax schmax, they say, never claiming anything on their income. That can be a problem come tax time, so make sure you speak with an accountant who can steer you in the right direction. Ecommerce is tough enough without worrying about auditing.
Is your brand on social media? Have you set up the accounts?
You probably have personal accounts, and hopefully you’ve honed your ability to gather likes, shares, fans and followers. But now you need to do it again, from scratch, for the store. Once your brand name is settled, lock down accounts for as many social networks as you think you’ll need and even those you might not. You never know what you’ll try down the road.
Do you know the shipping rates?
Have you ever tried mailing packages to Australia? Or even across town? Depending on where you are, and what services you want to use, shipping can be prohibitively expensive, so it’s good to know the local, national, and international rates. Shipping is a major cost, so figure out a plan for those costs.
Do you have a source for shipping materials?
Depending on your product, shipping materials – envelopes, boxes, pallets, crates, etc., – can add up quickly. Source deals from local suppliers and personalize to your brand to save money and reinforce engagement.
Are your policies (shipping, return) ironed out?
Don’t be caught unawares when customers ask for special treatment. Your customer service interactions could
Which platform is right for your business?
There are plenty of options when it comes to an online shopping cart solution. Many people dip their toe in using Etsy, then make the leap to a standalone, hosted store provider like Volusion, or BigCommerce. We happen to like Shopify (and in the interest of full disclosure, clicking through this link to build your online store will help us keep this blog running) because of their experience in the industry, robust feature-filled platform and wide variety of available templates.
For a little more info. on why Shopify might be right for you, check out some of our interviews with Shopify merchants. We spoke with Allison from online toy boutique Rose & Rex, the folks behind unique workout symmetry trainer the Yoak, the brothers who invented Griffin beard oil and a whole bunch more who all swear by the ease and ability of Shopify’s ecommerce solutions.