Perhaps I’ve always had an unspoken aversion to an 8-6 (or 9-5 if your company’s more “generous”) schedule because I started to foray into “getting sidelines” and putting up an online clothing shop back at my first job.
I sourced my products, had my sister model them, took photos, posted them online and asked my friends to buy. It went well, but I soon realized that I get tired of things easily. Well, I get tired of things that aren’t really of utmost interest to me. And then when I feel bad about life and how little I’ve managed to carry out career-wise, I’d go back to trying to start an enterprise.
So in the span of four years, I have managed to put up quite a few online clothing shops. I’ve closed them, reopened them, closed them again, re-brand them and change the platform, close them again, re-brand them again and go on hiatus.
While going through all of it, I managed to gain some useful bits of knowledge. I’ll try to relate them to life, in general, but they’re mostly business-related.
It was only recently that I realized how nice it would be to be the one creating the things I sell.
It’s 80% marketing
Product development sounds like an exciting process and the results are, of course, worth all the effort. But even if I haven’t delved into it yet I already know that as much as I would like to devote all my energy to creating things, if I really want my products to be sold I would have to devote more time marketing them.
Through experience, I found out that it only takes you a little time to source your products especially if you already have suppliers. A day would be all you need to have them photographed. If you’re keen on editing photos before uploading them, you can do it within a day. Updating your inventory could be done at night.
But when you finally hit post and put your products in the vast space of the Internet, you don’t just let it stay there.
There are some, of course, that can get away with not marketing their products anymore especially when they’re already established as an online clothing shop or when their earlier marketing strategy rings in a lot of sales for them that they don’t need to constantly remind people of their presence. But for small business owners, making your little voice heard is a major thing. You wouldn’t just want to let people know about how good your product is or how inexpensive it is when compared to others, you’d want to do it again and again and again. That thought is somehow related to the second point I’d like to make:
You have to have great visuals.
People’s attention spans these days are shorter than most would like and expect. We’re obsessed with photos and lists. And since one can’t really know how a thing exactly looks in real life when online shopping, they depend on photos. So it almost goes without saying that you have to have great visuals and photos for your online clothing shop. I still believe that a strong copy should always be the backbone of any ad or promotion but in this fast-paced era, the copy should be great but it should be translated into a greater visual.
Consistency is key.
This one I am guilty of not being able to practice. There are days I’d browse through different online stores and see familiar brand names, ones I started with. Only now their businesses are more stable than mine (seeing that mine had fallen to the wayside due to a variety of reasons). And I guess I can attribute their success to keeping at it all these years. They just continued doing it, whereas I always had second thoughts.
You have to be passionate about it.
Maybe my drive for pursuing the business I started isn’t as fiery as I’d want it to be because, even if it is one of my interests, I’m not entirely passionate about it. I’m sure that some people are just naturally born good at running and managing businesses but for people like me who put a premium on passion, it’s important to really, really love what you do or at the very least love the product you’re selling on your online clothing shop.
You have to believe in the product you want people to put their money on.
Always have a backup plan.
Putting up an online clothing shop can be the escape plan for some (i.e. those who want to leave corporate slavery and try their hand at being their own bosses). But even an escape plan needs a backup plan. You invest money in your business so the goal is to have it returned.
For some, it would take a little while, for the lucky ones it wouldn’t be as long. If you’re going to go at it full-time, you have to have a solid plan that your investment would return at your projected time. But I strongly suggest having another source of income because we don’t want to live on cup noodles for a long time, do we? And if worse comes to worst, even when you’ve gone through all the points I’ve mentioned and it still doesn’t work out, you have to have a strategy to have your (failed) business attempt rest without complications or shelved for the future.