We’re sooo lucky to be living in the internet age. The internet enables us mere mortal folk to set up our very own shops – without the scary-ness of business rates, renting/buying a shop, kitting it out and all of the other pallava that comes with running a premises. And another thing; the internet means that our shops are open 24/7, leaving us with time to hold down a day job, sell at craft markets (wink!) or look after the little ones.
Us crafters have a good few options for selling online. Craft shopping sites such as Etsy; Folksy, Artfire, Misi, DaWanda, Not on the Highstreet all provide a virtual ‘craft shopping centre’ inside which you can set up your own shop for a fee. These shops are pretty easy to set up and the shopping craft and payment systems will already be in place (so that’s one less hassle!). As less cash (compared to setting up your website) is needed to set up, these shops are a great way to test the waters .
The other option is to have your own website with your own web address and everything. When I set up my business I knew that I wanted my own website. Back then Etsy was still in it’s infancy and I knew I didn’t want to trade on Ebay. Anyways, I liked the idea of having my own website address 🙂
So, my bag making supplies online shop went live in Nov. 05. I first had the idea to set up the shop the previous winter. In all it took me 8 months from initial idea to going live. In that 8 months I sourced supplies, got myself a website, and all of the other necessary stuff in between in order to be able to trade online. In this post I’m going to list all of the steps I took to get my online shop off the ground, I’m hope this will be useful for anyone else who wants to trade via their own website.
So armed with a loan from my family and no knowledge whatsoever of how to go about it I set up my first website – YIKES!! This was how I did it, in the order I did it:
- Sourcing supplies – I ordered my supplies first because I needed samples to be made and approved, the factories would need time to produce the items (which could be anything from 6-8 weeks) and the thing that would take the longest time was that I wanted the items to be shipped to the UK (rather than flown). Shipping is far cheaper than flying but it can take months rather than weeks.
- Website design– I knew from the start that I wanted my own website rather than sell through eBay or Etsy. I phoned around LOADS of website designers from friends, to agencies to freelancers. I was quoted prices from £200 ($400) – £2000!! I decided that agencies were too expensive and I settled upon a freelancer who seemed to be very knowledgeable in e-comm and I asked someone else to do the website design and logo. I found them both through this Freelancers site. The design process took approx 3 months in all – I intentionally gave them a long time to do this because there was lots of to-ing and fro-ing with asking my opinions on design and re-jiggling and testing. etc.
- I opened a business bank account – keeping your business finances separate from your personal finances makes life much sooo easier.
- I set up a merchant bank account – this type of account receives funds from the sales of my items and sends to my business account. I later added Paypal as a method of payment. Card payment and Paypal are as popular as each other.
- I set up the payment gateway – because card payment requires this to be in place in order for it to work. Payment gateways act as a go between the customers bank and your own Merchant account.
- The samples arrived from the factories – 8 out of the 12 custom designs were great so I ordered a shed load of them. The other 4 designs look pants so I complain and they need modifying…
- I purchased office furniture – good old IKEA, they have great office furniture.
- I purchased postage & packaging stationary – I looked at the dimensions of my smallest and largest items and chose padded envelopes accordingly.
- The admin part of the website is ready – the part where you upload items and make any changes to your website is now ready and I can start uploading products to the site (even though it’s not live yet).
- The finished goods from the factories, bag patterns, and the fabrics start arriving – sooo exciting, but loads of work. I have to check through all of the orders to make sure I have been given the right amount of everything and that all items are in perfect condition. I now have heaps of photos to take and photoshop. I have to go through all of my invoice sheets for each item and price and describe each item. Before going live this process took me 3 weeks of working on it every flipping day!
- I register myself as a self-employed person – oooerr…no going back now! I tell the tax people of my self employed status and I tell them that I am going to be a sole trader (which in the UK is the most basic form in which a company can trade).
- I’m live; U-handbag lives!!!! – The site goes live on the 11th Nov 2005 and I bite my nails down to my elbows (virtually sitting on my computer) until Michaela from the UK makes the shop’s first ever order on the following day.
- I start looking into pay per click advertising with Google – this is sooper expensive (at least it was because I don’t need it as much now because of my blog).
- I start approaching various craft mags to let them know I have started my business – some of them aren’t that interested, but a few of them do mention me in their magazine which is ace!
So that’s how I brought U-handbag.com into existence. I don’t know if that’s the best way to go about creating a website as I had no knowledge of how to go about it, but it all seemed to work out fine in the end