If you recently started selling jewelry, opened an Etsy shop, or are working on your clothing line, congrats! I find it inspiring that so many people are turning their hobbies and passions into careers. I've always loved thrift shopping and vintage items, so last year I decided to launch a vintage boutique. Since I'm still considered a newbie in the ecommerce world, I'm not going to dish out any business advice. Instead, I'm going to share five lessons I've learned that will stick with me for years to come.
1. You will sacrifice time and money.
It's a lot harder than it looks. The only person who will make tons of money right away from starting online store is a celebrity or someone with a built-in fan base and name recognition. For us normal people, we have to put in extra work on social media and in person. A lot of time will be spent photographing, editing, listing, and promoting your items. And unless you have an investor, VC, or a rich relative backing you up, guess who's paying for all your expenses? There are some short cuts if you know where to look, but try to be prepared to cover all the materials you'll need.
2. If you don't believe in yourself, no one will.
I've had slow weeks when I wondered what I was doing wrong and started doubting myself. As soon as my confidence improved, so did my sales. A positive attitude helps you think clearly, strategize, and stay focused on your goals.
3. It's okay to make mistakes.
Sometimes things go wrong but it's how you handle those situations that make all the difference. A shipping error. A customer not satisfied with her purchase. You decline a business opportunity and later regret it (this happened to me and it sucks). Save yourself the trouble and don't dwell on the past. Just learn from your mishaps and LET IT GO. Focusing on what you did wrong takes time away from what you could be doing right.
4. Have realistic expectations.
If you're just starting out, your store will probably reflect that. You might not have a large selection to choose from or the cool back drops and professional lighting that established companies have. You might be the face of your brand until you have the budget for a model, or maybe you're using a mannequin. Whatever. The point is, you can't be Forever 21 or LuLu's on a shoestring budget. It would be nice to hire a web developer, design team, professional photographer, and a PR team to polish up your brand, but that's just not feasible right away. If your site looks a little rough, don't sweat it. Everyone has to start somewhere. If all you have is the camera on your iPhone and your imagination, go for it.
Also, I want to address the popularity contest amongst bloggers, vintage queens, beauty gurus, brands, and It Girls on social media. It's easy to get caught in the trap of trying to keep up with them, but don't. You won't win. There will always be someone more popular than you with more connections than you, who gets more likes than you. There's no point in comparing numbers and stats. A lot of these girls have rightfully earned their popularity with time and patience. So try to resist measuring your store's overall value to the amount of likes or followers it has. That will get you nowhere. Instead, focus on personal growth.
5. Never stop learning.
There's always something to learn. I'm still getting the hang of pricing, marketing, and building relationships with my customers. Never let the fear of not knowing something stop you from running your store.
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