Through sites like Etsy, Folksy and eBay, many are achieving dreams of owning their own business. But as more and more people are drawn to these sites it’s easy to get trampled by a herd of competitors. Owning your own online business can be fun and fulfilling; it frees you to explore your creativity and sell your products to a global market. But being self-employed is a lot of work.
Unlike the regular 9am-5pm grind, self-employment in an ecommerce world doesn’t have a punch-out time. For all it’s benefits, the internet has also produced a world of consumers who are spoiled to “instant gratification.” We want what we want, and we want it now! If you’re not able or willing to meet that need, there’s several other competitors who are. If you’re wanting to be successful, always keep that in mind.
With that said, here’s some tips from my personal experience as an online seller:
Before opening your business do all the research you can. Research the fees and requirements of various sites, and compare the demographic of each site. Where do you fall into that mix? Are you a creative artist, who wants to explore their craft? Or, are you a discount hound that thrives on finding and reselling a bargain for a bit of profit?
Look at the differences of sites like Etsy vs. eBay. eBay is known to be the world’s largest garage sale, whereas Etsy’s a trendy artistic site. A necklace may sell on Etsy for $30.00 or more, whereas eBay customers will expect five of those same “handcrafted” necklaces for half that price. It may take you ten days to sell on Etsy, whereas you could make a sell everyday on eBay. Know your market.
Most online commerce sites have forums filled with experts, who’ve been in the business a while and novices (like you), who need a guiding hand. Be helpful where you can, answer questions, and be proactive in getting to know the online community your joining. These friendships (even with competitors) can do more to help you, than harm you.
Becoming friends with a community of sellers helps you to become a known and respected seller. Friends will help draw business your way, provided you do the same for them. No-one can scratch their own back without a little help.
This is your business. Take pride in it and make it as professional as possible. Print business cards and letterhead stationary. Send small thank-you cards or notes with each sell.
Get to know the YouTube and Blogger community. Use Keyword searches to seek-out those, who’ve shown interest in the kinds of products you sell. Offer a few samples of your products for review and/or giveaways on heavily trafficked areas. In-turn, they will advertise and draw customers to your shop.
Visit their channels and blogs frequently and read through the comments. Get an idea of what the viewers think of your product. It’s free market research that major corporations have paid tons of cash for. If there are questions, even though they’re asking the blogger or video broadcaster, be proactive and answer their inquiries. It shows you care about your product and how it’s perceived. It also shows you’re great at customer service for the would-be customer. Also, write your own blogs. Give tutorials on how to use or wear your products.
High-end shops to dollar stores label their shopping bags for a reason; it’s advertising! When people order through the mail, they like to feel like they’ve received something special. Wrap their package in colorful tissue paper with a ribbon and an elegant sticker naming your shop on the OUTSIDE of the wrapped package, include your web and email address. You’re essentially advertising to anyone and everyone, who’s handled that package. If it’s pretty enough, the customer will keep it. By doing that, they’re advertising to their friends.
I’ve listed it in all caps, because photos are critical to the success of your online business. Invest in a good quality camera that works well in all types of lighting and can focus well on small items like jewelry. Practice with it and learn photography techniques. Review the photos of competitors selling similar products. Look at their sales, and see how well they do.
If you offer a wide variety of “one-of-a-kind” products, you’ll spend most of your day setting-up and taking photos. As a time-saver, it’s best to maintain a large supply of stock, so you’re not constantly having to update and edit your shop’s site.
Always keep in mind that people are easily distracted by the variety of supply available to them. When a potential customer asks a question, be available and quick to respond before their distracted by another seller’s product.
To save yourself some time, set-up a “FAQ” page on your shop site, with quick-reference answers about shipping requirements, return and exchange policies, custom orders, etc. Try to foresee and answer as many of potential questions as possible on that page. Then, let them know the hours that you can be contacted directly for a quick response.
I’m simply offering helpful tips, based on my history of selling on such sites. Feel free to add to these, or take away from them. That’s the best perk of having your own business, you get to make all of the decisions.
I wish you the best of luck!