Being your own boss can be fun but it will not be successful without a lot of hard work and a few late nights thrown in! This guide is to help you get off to a flying start whether you sell at online auctions, party plan, market stall or shop and to make your business a profitable one!
Online businesses and mail order - Presentation is key - good photographs and well written descriptions are a must as it gives the buyer more confidence that you are a professional person. Photographing on the back of a door or on the floor is not ideal. We use a painted board and good lighting. Invest in a low-cost half Mannequin . This gives life to your clothes and makes them look more appealing. Invest in some photographic editing software such as Adobe. There are lots of great low cost books on how to edit your images.
Items put together as an outfit sell much better and for a higher price than single items - this is how the big catalogues do it as most people are unsure how to dress or what colours / styles go together. Display with products that compliment them either by colour, accessories or season.
Do your research - check out the latest fashion trends, key words, colours and use them in your marketing. Make your next shopping trip a market research exercise. How much do items cost and what is selling well now. What do you see children wearing - research different age groups. What age range, type of customer, products are you going to sell.
Who is your competition? Try and find an edge over them - what do you or could you do differently? It could be as simple as offering gift wrapping. Don't be afraid to ask your customers opinion. It will make them feel valued and foster loyalty.
Don't panic if there are other people selling the same products as you. Look at different ways to promote or present them. Remember you are selling a service not just a product.
Quality check all items on a regular basis especially zippers and buttons. Take time to fold them when packaging and if they are a more expensive item take a tip from the posh boutiques and buy some inexpensive tissue paper to wrap them in. Use good packaging - we use poly self seal bags - saves time, damage in transit and looks professional. If you have a boutique/ shop buy plain bags in white or buff paper and tie the handles with ribbon. This is simple and low cost.
Printed labels are a must for mail order/ internet as it looks professional and ensures that the item is clearly marked. Take time to check the postal address - if it looks odd email the customer - they will thank you for checking.
For mail order and Internet sales get a proof of posting certificate when sending items out. If a customers purchase is over £27 send in a separate parcels as the Royal Mail covers up to £27 per package. Your customer will appreciate the extra effort if their parcel goes astray!
Communicate, communicate! That is a key to your success. Keep your customers informed at all times. If you make an error let your customers know as soon as possible. Let them know when you have received payment and then again when you send the item out.
Do special promotions in the middle of a month when sales are naturally slower and think of ways to foster customer loyalty and keep their interest.
As your business grows keep records and receipts for everything!!!!! It will help with your tax returns and stock checking and save you time and be less stressful in the long run.
If you are doing Party Plan or any other mobile selling keep them small at the beginning as they can be surprisingly stressful even with friends! Put a sample of each item out on hangers and travel clothes rail and label them clearly with price, size and colour. People don't like to ask especially if they are on a limited budget!
Make sure you have enough stock but don't over invest. Nearly all your profits in the early days needs to be re-invested in stock to keep the business growing. If you want to have a £1000 turnover you need at least £750 of stock (1.5 months) This way you have no low stock points and it keeps your stock looking fresh.
Try and stick to a budget and keep some cash in reserve. Don't be too tempted by 30 day accounts. If you have a slow month you will still have to pay for the stock at the end of the month. Credit cards are a much better way to purchase as you can choose how much want to pay off. If you have a great month you can pay off more and buy more stock. We have seem many small businesses fail within the first few months as they take in too much stock before they know what sells and the suppliers need paying before the stock has sold.
If a line is slow - take a step back and think about why. Is it the picture, description or the way you have displayed it or just simply the weather! If you have a shop or website keep moving the stock around and try to display it with complimentary products. If you get fed up with it mark it up at just above cost and sell it through and buy some more stock with the proceeds!
Brainstorm all the ways you can promote and sell your goods, website, online auctions, toddler groups, coffee mornings, party plan, open house days, fund raising fashion shows etc. Getting other people to do parties for you and paying them commission is another great way to sell more. There are loads of cheap and effective ways to advertise - village magazines, nursery notice boards, leaflets and don't forget word of mouth. It is very easy to drop into conversation subtly. You could try and get to know the local journalist and get some free editorials.
Keep records from the start - think big and then you will find it easier when your business grows. Buy an accounts book, use a simple excel spreadsheet or you can buy inexpensive software. Remember to account for everything - packaging, tape, petrol, phone calls to suppliers, heating and lighting used for your business, paper, printer ink, wear and tear on your car. It all helps reduce you tax liability should your business take off
Last but not least! If at first you don't succeed keep trying!!! Keep experimenting and changing the way you do things and keep your buyers interested.
Best of Luck!,