How to make the transition from selling as a hobby to building your online store
Many people now use online stores to buy and sell goods. In fact, it has become the easiest and most convenient way to shop, or to get rid of something you no longer want or need, while making a bit of cash in the process. Millions of people have turned to websites such as eBay, Amazon, and Gumtree to post items online and see if they will sell. Of course for the majority of users, these online sales sites serve as a way of enabling people who have regular day jobs to possibly earn a little extra, or simply sell things on a one-off basis when they are no longer personally needed.
In recent years however there has been a growth in the number of people who look to create online stores, and turn what was once a hobby into a successful business and their dominant source of income. Opening an online shop can be hugely rewarding and those who have done it best have seen a massive return on their investments, have been able to quit their ‘day’ jobs and work entirely for themselves.
It may be that you have a skill or talent which enables you to sell your wares through an online store, arts and crafts are particularly popular items that sell well online. However, you don’t have to be particularly creative to set up a successful online shop. Nowadays you can buy anything and everything online so with careful planning and investment in the right product you could see yourself making a pretty penny in a number of ways, and not necessarily by selling a product which you yourself created.
So how do you make that transition? First, it is good to start small. You must decide on the product or products you have in mind and stick to them. If you want to be recognized as an online shop you need to have a theme, not a bunch of random products that don’t relate to one another. It could be fashion, textiles, electrical equipment, furniture -the possibilities are endless, but make sure your shop looks like a shop, even if it is only a virtual one!
Set yourself up on eBay and monitor your sales closely, refine your products continuing only with those which are selling best and making the best margins. However remember that while selling on eBay is a great way to get started, it is limiting and also charges you for the pleasure, so when you feel confident in what you are doing then it may be time to move on and expand the number markets and therefore customers which you expose your shop to. You don’t need to shut down your eBay shop as soon as you do this. Keep the money coming in from there as you build your own website, or rather, online storefront. When you first set up remember that you aren’t likely to suddenly find that floods of traffic head your way immediately, instead you need to employ tricks and tips to gradually entice your customers over. At this stage you can be a bit cheeky and add some links from your site to your auctioned items -just remember that if you do too many eBay will not be happy, and you could get banned! You can however, add a link to your website on your ‘about me’ page and hopefully potential buyers will click through to your site - it is in their interests to do so so that they can buy the item they want right away, and you can offer them a much better, more personalised customer experience, put discounts on your site to encourage customers to buy from there, you won’t lose any money as this is what you would have to pay in fees if they bought through eBay anyway.
Other hand tips to encourage customers to check out your online store is to include your business card and any other marketing materials in any goods you send out. Include a future discount if they shop again at your store, and when customers turn up at your online shop encourage them to leave their contact details.
Whatever your hobby is, do think carefully before turning it into an online business, being successful takes time and commitment, and you may end up having to deal with dissatisfied customers, large orders and spending time keeping track of your finances. Having an online store can be a fantastic way of making money, working for yourself and freeing up your time to follow other pursuits, but you do have to be committed, passionate and up for the challenge so make sure you are before you start setting up your online store!