Starting your online shop may seem daunting, but getting it up and running doesn’t have to be so hard. Here you’ll find the basics that you’ll need to create a minimally functional e-store.
1. First you need a website
This is the first thing that you should have. If you already have a website, feel free to skip to #2. Your website serves as a platform to sell your products. The easier it is for people to find and use your website, the more sales you’ll have.
You don’t need to be a programmer to set up a website. There are plenty of services out there that can help you with this. Each service has different elements, and you can choose what suits you best. Here are some options:
1. Shopify – this platform was specifically created to help people make online stores. They offer different templates and options for customization, so you don’t necessarily need a designer or programmer to set it up. The basic plan costs $29 a month. Here you need to come with your own domain name. (Scroll further for info on domains)
Shopify is our most highly suggested platform, as it’s designed to set up e-commerce sites. It’s also currently the only e-commerce store that has a ready-to-use integration with Printful, so if you want to fulfill your orders automatically (that means less work on your end), then this is currently your best bet.
2. Square Space – this site lets you easily create all manners of website (not only e-commerce stores). They show you a live update of what your site will look like, as you edit it. They offer a free domain name, but it will be something along the lines of www.examplename.squarespace.com.
Square Space shows you live changes of your website. You can alter your website by re-writing the text, dragging the images to resize them to the size you want, etc.
*If you want to use this platform for your online shop, then you have to be from the US or Canada.
3. Big Cartel – this site was initially created to offer artists a platform to sell their art. Bigcartel is free for up to 5 products. Here you can either take their free domain name (example.bigcartel.com), or replace it with a domain you own.
This might be the best option for you if you’re just starting out, since you don’t need to invest any finances into the project. Big Cargel also integrates directly with Printful.
You can choose from their offered design templates, and then customize it to suit you.
These options are all great, because they all have easily-integrated payment systems, which don’t require a lot of work on your side. Just make sure that you have a Paypal account to be able to receive payments.
2. Buy a domain name.
A domain name is the address of your website. This is what people type into their browser to find you. For example, our domain name is www.theprintful.com. You can get your own special domain name by purchasing the licensing for it at different places. We suggest www.godaddy.com. First check to see if the name you want for your website is available. Then check if the price is something you’d be willing to pay (these won’t be free, you’ll most likely have to pay $10-$20 for your domain). Then you purchase the domain you want.
*If you don’t want to pay for a domain, then you can use their automatically generated, free subdomain
Choosing the right name for your company is an important factor in the success of your business. It should be simple enough for people to remember, but say enough to describe your business. Since news about your product travels by word of mouth, you’ll also want to avoid difficult spellings or misspelled words, to make it easier to find. Finally, give your new name time to sink in. After a while when you feel the right groove, then you’ll know it’s right for you.
3. Now you need products
To be able to make money off of your e-commerce store, you need to be selling a product of some sort. This is totally up to you. It can range from software to hand-made jewelry to a t-shirt collection. Whatever you see a need for in the market. But if you’re interested in having Printful fulfill and send the products, it has to be in one of these categories :
- poster (framed or unframed)
- framed canvas print
- sweaters (hoodies and hoodless)
What you sell is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to create something that is so great that you would buy it. Somehow it should have value. If you already have a website that people follow, then you might want to offer a t-shirt for your followers that has your logo on it. A great example is the guy who started ImpossibleHQ. He had a blog that lots of people followed, and made a t-shirt with his logo that his readers could wear with pride. You can read about his experience in launching his t-shirt for some inspiration.
If you have something to say, for example clever little messages or fun memes, you can have them printed out. You don’t necessarily need to be a designer to sell stuff like a clever text or a simple meme.
On the other hand, if you’re artistically inclined, you can also sell any designed items. For example the stylishly designed quotes by Startup Vitamins. Other digital items you can sell are things like ebooks, templates, whitepapers, among others.
4. All about payments: pricing, profit, payment systems
Having a functional payment processor is essential to being able to sell anything on your site. This is the function that will allow you to receive your income. Most website building platforms (like Shopify, Square Space and Bigcartel) will support integrating payment processors into your site. However you’ll have to separately sign up to each payment processor (PayPal, Braintree for credit cards, and whichever other processor you’d like to support in your e-store) , before you can integrate them in your online store. These are third-party services, which function based on their own policy and will most likely ask for transaction fees. Here’s a list of third-party payment systems that you can consider to use.
The most popular payment methods that you should consider offering are Paypal and Credit Card.
To be able to profit from the products you’re selling, the price you sell at (this is the price displayed on your website) should be higher than the price it’s costing you to make the product. Say, for example, you’re outsourcing your t-shirt printing needs to Printful. Printful asks for $7 for a t-shirt, and $3 for shipping. So you know, that you already have to offer the t-shirts a higher price than $10. So you know that if you sell your t-shirt at $15, $10 will go to making the shirt, leaving you with a $5 profit.
Of course you can set your price higher to create a higher profit margin, or lower, to have more competitive pricing. It’s completely up to you. But good finance management says that you should always strive to reach a 15% profit margin.
This is called drop shipping. The definition of drop shipping is when the retailer (that’s you) doesn’t carry any of the sold goods in stock, but transfer to the order to someone else, who creates and ships the goods out directly to the customer (that’s us). There are many drop shippers out there, and you should only choose to use a drop shipper you can trust and rely upon, since in the end you are responsible for your sales, at least in the eyes of your customer.
5. Display your products on your site
To be able to sell something online, people will want to see what it looks like. That means putting up a picture of the t-shirt you’re selling with the logo on it, or what the poster will look like.
There are two ways you can display a t-shirt with your design on your website:
1) You can put your design on a template (image) of the t-shirt. We’d like to make this easy for you by offering pictures of the product without anything on them. All you have to do is layer your design onto the product (the design should be in .jpg format). This way, you can put the items up for sale on your site without having to do the photo-taking yourself. But right now we don’t have this ready yet. You can buy a template here if you want.
2) Alternately, if you want to do the photography on your end, we can send you a set of the items with your design on it for the price it costs to make it. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get that sorted out.
6. Get people to buy!
Arguably the most important aspect of your e-commerce business. For your e-commerce website to be successful, you have to have people buy your things. How you advertise your products is up to you.
A good place to start is by sharing on social media like Facebook and Pinterest. If it’s art that you’re selling, Etsy might be a good place to put some pictures up. Here’s one way to use Pinterest to your advantage:
Simply upload a photo, link it to your new e-commerce website, and add the price. The price ribbon will automatically appear.
There’s a lot of material out there about marketing your products. But for starters, you can read this article on the best ways to boost your e-commerce sales, and here’s a tutorial on getting your first 1,000 visitors to your website.
Source: The Printful. Article by Julia Gifford (http://blog.theprintful.com/6-steps-to-starting-your-first-e-commerce-store/)