I launched my first online shop back in 2007. I used all my recourses to get it ready. All my family and friends were involved one way or another. Some friends made the photos, we got the clothing line ready. It took a lot of time and effort and pushed us all way out of the comfort zone. We were all so excited because the shop appeared to be really professional – beautifully built, with great functionalities and appearance. We listed our most requested designs and best photos. And you can imagine the disappointment we had to face when it didn’t work out as well as we expected. Well, it generated some sales, but not exactly what I was hoping for. All the work and costs of building and maintaining a website, constantly listing new items (with appropriate pictures, hiring models and renting professional equipment) was too much of an effort. We kept it on for a year and when the domain expired, we abandoned the project.
It was a local website and we figured out that whoever wants to get our products can visit us at our brick and mortar shop anyway.
Selling online was something that kept my interest because of the endless opportunities it had to offer. But it felt like I was missing something important because everywhere around the internet were articles about how easy it is to sell online.
Knowing what I know now, I can’t stand to think about how much money I have lost through the years. But this was because I’ve made some big mistakes along the way. I want to share them with you so you don’t get discouraged as I did.
Selling online can be really profitable, so don’t leave money on the table. The internet is an enormous market and somebody might be looking for your creation just right now.
So, here is the list of the mistakes I made along the way.
Expecting that selling online is a piece of cake.
Yes, it is easy when you know what to do and how to do it. But it requires more than many people are ready to offer in return, I included back at the time. It is a business like any else and there is not a business that was built without consistent work.Lack of any online marketing skills.
2. Lack of any online marketing skills.
Marketing is a big part of selling, no matter online or not. You should build a consistent marketing strategy in order to make your brand recognizable and trusted. Even the best product would not be found without promoting it. You can choose to promote it free or use paid methods.I found for myself that free promoting channels like social media and blogging work better. Others prefer PPC (pay per click) or other advertising methods. It is up to you and the best way to find out what works is to try a different approach and test it.
3. Lack of at least basic SEO knowledge.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a scary word for a crafter. When I started my online journey, I used to think that it is something only very intelligent people understand. It turned out that it is learnable like any other skill and nowadays there are some legit ways to learn it. Back in the years, all there was seemed to be a scamming scheme. If you are selling on your website, you will have to gather some knowledge. I used this platform to get the basics of SEO and if you prefer, you may do so too (for free). They also have a premium membership which I participate in for almost 2 years now, but this is by no means obligatory. You can be a free member for as long as you desire. They also offer free hosting plans and domain names.
4. Trying to do everything by myself and with the help of friends (for free).
This is very common for crafters because we don’t look at our activity as a business, so we don’t want to invest a cent. The truth is that the investment can result in better profits. For example, if you pay someone to retouch your photos with Photoshop (especially if you made more than one from this items) those pictures will present your product way better and you might sell much more of it and faster. And it will cost as few as $5 at Fiverr.com.
5. Lack of a business plan and a strategy for growth.
I somehow was expecting that people were going to stumble upon the website, buy something they love and keep coming back. No matter how satisfied clients were, they rarely came back if I didn’t
remind them of myself one way or the other. There are just too much going on online and people get distracted. Make sure they are always having you in mind when lookingPictures and descriptions.
6. Pictures and descriptions.
Pictures and descriptions are the only way a potential buyer can get in touch with what you are selling, so do your best there.
7. Not promoting your shop.
Promoting your shop is an absolute must and it doesn’t necessarily have to cost you a lot of money. You can promote yourself totally free through social media or blogging for example. Some of your efforts here won’t produce the desired results, other will give you a good amount of traffic (potential buyers). Again, keep testing what works best for you.
Pricing is a very delicate moment. It has always been an issue for us. We used to set prices that were close to retail ones. We thought that this is a way to be more competitive. This was a huge mistake because all of our designs were handmade and crafted a piece at a time. Their value very often was higher than the price we would set. Keep in mind that your costs should not be calculated on the basis of materials used only. There are a lot of hidden expenses as taxes, rent, bills, etc. that should be considered as well. Calculate all carefully if you want to make some money and not only keep yourself busy.
9. Not offering international shipping.
Offering international shipping is a BIG thing. You can reach buyers that otherwise are not going to be able to buy from you. When we established our online shop I was very intimidated by offering international shipping. I didn’t know how to organise it. The costs for shipping were in most cases higher than the price of the item (we are located in eastern Europe) or the shipping would take more than a month if it was cheaper. But after a proper research, you can select several options that work for both you and your clients. Just make sure that all is clearly stated in your shopping policies.
I think that this is the main reason for closing our first site – we were offering our products to a very limited audience.
10. Not offering guarantees.
Offering guarantees is very important, especially for gaining new clients. This might be a clearly stated return and exchange policy, money back guarantee, safe paying methods, etc. This makes a potential client more likely to trust you and buy what you have to sell.
11. Waiting to get everything perfect.
The best way to figure things out seems to be through trial and error, so start and test. This is the biggest advice I could give. Hoping and waiting doesn’t generate sells, doing does. So just start and adjust your methods, even your product if needed to respond to the market.
Well, those are my biggest mistakes along the way. What about you? Please share if your have anything to add to this list.