As we are approaching my three year anniversary, I want to go back and explain some of the things that have helped me start my business. Today specifically I want to talk about where is the best place to start or host an online business.
There are several different platforms out there to help you host an online business. But it’s really important to find the right one for your business model and what you’re trying to accomplish. Etsy, Facebook marketplace and websites are the most common.
There are pros and cons to all these options and we’ll go over that here in a little bit but the first thing that you should do before you even decide which platform to use is to figure out how you want to sell your goods. Now this goes for anything whether it’s baking, crafts, whatever it is that you do.
What I mean is are you going to sell custom items, are you going to pre-sell already created items, or are you going to do a mix of both?
Selling Custom Items
I sell mostly custom items. That’s because I get more enjoyment out of the different themes and concepts that come to me from my customers. It allows me to be creative within certain boundaries and that’s the model that works for me.
The difficulty with custom orders is that you need to have a platform for your customers that’s able to track customer requests. These are thinks like how many cookies they need, what themes they want, when they need them by, and so on. The unfortunate thing is that business providers don’t offer such customizable listings without pre-paying for them.
Selling Pre-Made or Pre-Sale Items
Pre-made items are products that you've already made that you are listing for sale. This differs slightly from Pre-sale items that are being sold but that are not yet made.
Selling Pre-made items is an easy way to create whatever you want and people buy what’s there. If you’re selling goods and are just starting out, it may be challenging with this model because you have to keep inventory of items which takes of space.
Pre-sale is nice and is what many people including myself do for big events such as the holidays. I pre-make one set of cookies, photograph it and list it for pre-sale and people can purchase the listing. This lets me control the quantity and the items I’m making. You will still have to build a customer base to get your items seen which can mean paying advertising costs. A great example of a Baker with pre-sale or premade goods is my good friend, Charlee at Confections by Charlee (ig: @confectionsbycharlee).
Regardless if you go pre-made or pre-sale. there are a lot of options when it comes to business platforms just because they’re easy to list and sell.
I strongly caution against doing both custom and pre-made orders. Especially if you’re in your first year or two of business. The reason being is that it can get very overwhelming as you are trying to deal with custom orders for people as well as trying to for fill the orders that are either supposed be pre-made. I struggle with this for the holidays every single year and now block out the entire month of December from any custom orders in order to be able to have enough time to fulfill everything.
So let’s get into the actual platform discussion. Each platform has its own pros and cons and I’ll talk about the main ones that I know of or that I have used as both a customer and a business owner.
Email is a very powerful way of interacting with your customers that people don’t always realize. You should always have a business email set up regardless of the way that you take orders because it looks professional and it’s a easy way for people to call you that separated from your personal email. I recommend using Google because Google comes with a lot of helpful apps to help you interact with your customers.
If you do use Google, it comes with Google forms. This a form maker that is free that you can use for customers to put in quote requests. How it works is they would email you for a quote, you’d send them the quote form link, and go from there. You may also be able to have customers make purchases but I'm not sure
Gmail also comes with Google drive to help you keep your business files up to date across mobile devices. This means I can put photos from my phone and files from my computer in one location
The bad part of using email for all of your orders is the fact that customers don’t have a landing page to view your work or other information about you or see pictures of previous work that you’ve done.
It can be also be difficult to build up a client base with somebody that you’re just emailing. It’s kind of like online dating. You’re not really sure what you’re going to get. If you do end up going to email route, I do recommend setting up an Instagram page or a Facebook so that people can view other photos of your work. Just remember that not everybody has Facebook or Instagram. You can see as I’m discussing it that the problems emails get longer and longer and longer.