I think for a lot of independent designers online stores work quite well. You don’t need a physical store, you don’t lose part of your profits through wholesaling, and you can connect directly with your customer. The downside is that you need to find a way to draw customers to your store in the first place (but that’s a topic for another day!). If you decide that an online store is the way to go, you are left with a number of options – I obviously can’t tell you about all the options, but I do know about the ones I’ve tried, and have some general advice.
- Get your own domain name, and if possible try and host the store yourself. By which I mean, you need a website and a web host (ie a place to store all the background info that creates your site). I use JustHost and really like them. Buying a domain name is not that expensive (a friend of mine just bought their own domain name through google for $10), and I honestly think that if you don’t have your own domain then people are not going to take you seriously. Hosting your store yourself puts you on a different level than say having just an Etsy store.
- Make sure whatever platform you use, that is is easy for you to use and easy for your customer to use. If it’s hard for you to navigate and maintain, then it’s going to be hell running your store, and you could end up overselling, or not filling orders, or doing a host of unprofessional things. Similarly, if it’s difficult for your customer to navigate your store then they’re unlikely to feel comfortable buying something, or worse they may not be able to figure out how.
- Think carefully about where you want to go, and set yourself up from the beginning to get there. Do you want your store to be your main website, or do you want a website that’s separate from your store? Do you have a blog and do you want your store to be linked to it in an integral way? Are you starting small with the intention to get bigger – then make sure your store has room to grow and will work for a small as well as large number of products.
- Don’t be afraid of spending money, because you’ll have to spend some. Unfortunately, there is pretty much no way you can run a store for free. Basically if you are going to take peoples money, you will need to pay someone to do that for you. All of the options I am about to discuss involve using Paypal for transactions- which I like because its easy to use, their fees aren’t too ridiculous, and since everyone is familiar with paypal they trust it. Having said that, everything I’m going to talk about is a low cost option. There are a lot of other people who can help you create a store if you’re willing to throw money at it, but I think for a lot of people low cost is the answer in the beginning.