How To Set Up An E-Commerce Site For Your Creative Business
Getting your e-commerce site set up is a really big step in taking your business to the next level. Now that we’ve been up and running for a while now, I thought I’d share a bit about what it was like to start the site while I still remember all the details. I’d like to do a deep dive into each of the steps, but for now this will be an overview.
While I have a background in retail and librarianship and I’m used to processing products, this was a whole new world for me. I knew next to nothing about pretty much anything relating to e-commerce, but luckily with the tools available these days, it makes it pretty easy to figure out. The first big hurdle is figuring out what platform you want to use. This could be a whole big blogpost, but we ended up using Shopify because it has a lot of really great e-commerce features at a pretty low price.
Getting enough products ready for the launch was also a big concern. How many designs is enough to warrant a shop? That really depends. We started out with an assortment of 15 items. I felt comfortable opening a shop once I had a steady stream of commission inquiries for custom portraits to cover the costs of keeping the shop open and a subscription to my newsletter software, Flodesk (Click this affiliate link to get ½ off a subscription).
Knowing how much to order was a big mystery to me. I opted for ordering less, even though it would cost more for this first run, since I wanted to get a sense of what would sell. When you order in bulk you can get a discount, but we weren’t quite ready to order that large of a quantity. It was very clear what needed to change in even the first week of opening. I had an individual thank you card and people kept buying 8 or 10 copies of that same card. Duh! Thank you cards should come in a set, so we were able to make those changes moving forward.
You’ll need to know a lot of details about your products for when you put them up in your shop. How big is it? How much does it weigh? What is it made of? Is it eco-friendly? What packaging will it come in? I made a handy-dandy spreadsheet with all this information including a SKU (which is an identification code for the item), item title, item description, cost, and all the other little details.
Pricing is probably the biggest question that people have about adding products. Especially if you are an artist, it is hard to judge how much your art is worth. If you ask your mom, it’s at least one million dollars, if you ask some random person, they might say five dollars. In order to price an item, first you have to know how much it costs you to make it. let’s say it costs you $1.50 for the materials for a printed card, envelope, and packaging--you definitely want to make sure you charge more than that. In addition to looking at the original price, you’ll want to look around and see what other people are charging. You don’t want to charge $7.00 for a card if most cards on the market are $5.00. Be careful when looking at prices on Etsy, since there is a lot of competitive pricing that drives the cost down. Look at websites that have the same products as you for reference points.
Shipping was something that I was pretty intimidated by at first. Luckily Shopify makes it super easy to figure out shipping costs. I got a scale from Stamps.com for my commission pieces that are not on my website and I used that to weigh all the products. I got some great shipping boxes from ULINE that fit my products perfectly. You can really go to town on personalized packaging, but we opted to have plain Kraft colored boxes with a label sticker from Sticker Mule on the outside for now. Here is a link that will give you $10 off your first Sticker Mule order!
Inside the box is where the branding happens. We have a little “Thank you for your order” card and a backing for our stickers. We have belly bands for if people order multiple cards too. I LOVE packaging and I am eager for when we get to a point where everything can have just the loveliest branding, but for now, this does the trick.
These are a few little tidbits about some of the big head-scratchers we ran into when creating our e-commerce site. If you want to know more about the nitty gritty details, join my email list to get my “Setting up your e-commerce site” checklist!