Not everyone has a big dream – making it big in Hollywood, being recognized walking down any street in the world, or transforming the way the world does business. But even small dreams need nourishment and work to make them come true, and any dream that comes true is satisfying and worthwhile in the long run. What is your dream: making handcrafted furniture, unique toys, or stunning jewelry? Manufacturing beautiful soap, scented candles or hand-worked clothes? Do you have your items squeezed into every spare inch of your home, with ideas for so many more, but no idea how to go about marketing your items? Setting up an online shop is the solution.
Online is the Answer
You may not feel that you are technically proficient enough to set up and run a website, especially if you have seen and heard about web design from the very early days, when programming was intensive and detailed and having a dollar sign, $, in the wrong place made the website glitch or crash. These days, software is designed to be user-friendly and can often self-correct any small issues caused by an inexperienced operator without causing too much damage to the site.
But you do not need to worry about the bare bones of the website: there are web hosting sites that will do all the heavy lifting for you. If you opt to house your website on a retail-specific server, you will even be offered a ‘template’ retail option, in which the pages for product descriptions, ordering, even secure payment pages will all come as standard, set up for maximum efficiency and ease of use, and encrypted to high industry standards.
Once you have opted for an online presence, you can begin to photograph your products and fill in product descriptions. Much of the information will be fairly easy to upload: you will know how long a custom order will take, you should know (or could easily find out) how much postage and packaging will be, and you can offer your customers good deals, guarantees and commitments based on your own work ethos.
Your Website Can Help You
Once your website is properly set up with all the relevant information, it can become your biggest help as far as running your business is concerned. If your provider has properly set up your data, customers should be able, to a large extent, to help themselves. They can browse the stock that you have available, select an item and pay for it, filling in their own address ready to be printed as the packing label: a neat way of making sure that any typos in the addresses are avoided and ensuring that customers will get their items to their desired address. They should be able to read through your frequently asked questions, and – if not able to find the required information – they should be able to fill in a contact box, asking for more information, be it on product details or pricing. You should have some sort of notification when a contact form is filled in, as this will allow you to respond promptly, setting their mind at ease, giving a quote, or reassuring them as regards delivery times.
Part of the website will include a database. Set this up to store all the customer information that they consent to. You can keep in touch with them via email with a periodical newsletter or let them know about any new product lines that you are introducing. You can also let them know when their items have been dispatched or if there is going to be a delay for any reason. Your website can help you to manage all these tasks, almost taking the place of a personal assistant.
One thing you might want to consider is running a blog on your website. People who choose to buy personalized or customized unique items tend to do so because they crave a human connection in the items in which they invest. Do not be scared to tell people a little bit about your life (obviously, common sense should be applied: do not give out any information that will make it easy for an unscrupulous person to take advantage of you!). In general, if people feel that they know and like you, they will be more forgiving should you take a little longer than planned with an order, or if you need to take some time off for a family matter. Update your blog weekly, and curate it carefully to have the right tone of voice – you will soon pick up a healthy subscribers’ list – all of whom may become customers in the near future!
With your website taking care of the nuts and bolt of the business, you are free to indulge your passion: actually making the items that you sell. It will not be long before your much-loved hobby turns into a full-time job, bringing in enough money so that you can support yourself and your family without needing a ‘day job’ or a side hustle. And wouldn’t that be your dream come true?