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Things to initially think about when opening an online shop

As a little introduction into me and what I was doing before starting Scaredy Bones I had finished my degree in illustration at Falmouth University, moved to London and worked part-time as a cake decorator/ freelance illustrator. I knew I wanted to create a store full of illustrated products so I started small with greeting cards then as time went on developed into creating bigger products such as cushions, art prints, mugs, tote bags etc which meant my brand slowly became a quirky illustrated home decor brand.


The most important first step which is usually missed out at the beginning is... RESEARCH!


What products are already available online?


I found this so helpful because not only will you see what is out there, you will see what is not available & what gaps you can fill in the market. If there are products similar to your ideas, how could you make yours different or even better?


What products are similar to what I want to make and how could I make mine different or even better?


Perhaps you make handmade candles, while searching through current businesses it may spark an idea or make you realise there is a lack of something. I would suggest you think about doing something different. For example think about why someone would use/ buy your product. For relaxation, a fantasy game experience, aid stress, as a gift, for decoration? This may also help you figure out who your audience is.

Printed products and how you can use print to make your business more professional.


There are plenty of printing facilities for custom prints, whether it be on fabric, on badges, posters, mugs etc. So have a search around, below I will list where I print products & fabrics for Scaredy Bones. I have used other sites but these are my favourites, with great customer service.

  1. Awesome merchandise- These guys print products so beautifully on good quality products. I've used them to print tote bags, notebooks, business cards, thank you slips for sending out with orders, art prints, mugs, badges & the list goes on! They are great but can be expensive for some products as they have a minimum amount you have to order. They also have a 'free sticker Friday' sticker draw/ competition each Friday to enter into to get the chance to win your own design as a sticker. (they choose multiple people at a time so more chance to win.) I've won some once and I never win anything!!

  2. Contrado- These guys are the best by far for fabric printing I have found and have such a big range of materials to print on. I print all of my fabric for the cushions in the scaredy bones shop with Contrado. They also can make products for you for example face masks; however the profit for these would be greater if you made yours from scratch.

  3. Print Space For custom prints I liked to use these guys as they do beautiful Giclee printing on 300 gsm paper. There is also an option of adding a border onto the print, and a frame. I like to use these as the quality is so gorgeous your customers will always be happy with the result. I haven't printed anything else with them but if you have please comment below, I would love to hear more about them!

If you don't print art products then still consider using print facilities to help shape your brand. Be playful with this, think about what would suit your products and how you can excite the person opening the product. You could even print your products at home to save money to begin with.


An example of what I use print for, to build my brand identity & what I include in orders:


  1. I packaging my orders in pink recyclable boxes which suits my brand and is better for the environment. Or for larger orders eco black mailers.

  2. A thank you sticker or decorative sticker on front of parcel and a sticker to seal the parcel shut (all of which are illustrated to match the shop.

  3. A A5 thank you postcard inside so I can write a personal message to the customer. This adds a personal touch and as you have the time to write a thank you... why wouldn't you! Bigger brands don't usually have time for this type of thing and it gives you a leg up on the competition. These are also good for putting your website address, contact info & networking handles. Also include an illustration/ image on other side that the customer could keep.

  4. A free sticker - nice to add a little surprise into orders it always creates a great reaction!

  5. I also include a free patch as it is nice to be nice and add little extra surprises. You don't have to do this; you could add confetti, candies or whatever suits your brand.

  6. What I aim to add to orders in future is a discount coupon so they return and feel valued <3.


Already have products...Test your products on Etsy.


Etsy is great because people can search for a description of a product, therefore they could come across your store when normally they wouldn't of known you existed. It is also cheaper initially selling your products on Etsy rather than a personal shop and it's a great way to test if a product will be popular. Just make sure you use all the hash tags you can to give more chance of people finding you (try to imagine what you would type into Etsy to find a similar product).


It is worth having an Etsy even if you decide to have an official online website for your shop, as it brings in people who wouldn't normally find your website. People who are already searching on Etsy.


After looking on Etsy I had an idea of what my site roughly needed:

  1. an about me, (your brand identity and values)

  2. product descriptions (what is your product and why is it special)

  3. product size

  4. colour

  5. price

  6. professional product photos

  7. what material the product is made from

  8. washing instructions

  9. Info on postage and packaging.


Do you want to be a eco friendly brand?


Now we all need to be a little more eco friendly so why not make your business eco friendly too? Look into ways to make your shops eco footprint smaller... For example:

  1. Could you 'make to order', so you only make products when the order comes through so there is less waste?

  2. Could you make smaller batches of products?

  3. Could you send your products out in eco packaging?

  4. Could you add less packaging so there is less waste?


Now let's talk about your brand and who is your audience:


It's very important to know who you are making the products for... some questions you may want to ask yourself:

  1. What age group are my target audience? - knowing what age group they are in can really help you with knowing how to best communicate with them.

  2. How do they think?

  3. What challenges/ needs do they have?

  4. male, female, gender neutral?

  5. Would you buy your product? if not who would?

  6. Where are they from?

  7. What other brands would they like? - this can help you to understand what they like about yours.

If you are unsure about these it is a great idea to look at your analysis on other channels. For example if you have photos of your products or work on Instagram, you can see who is most engaged in your posts (age, gender, type of person). I keep checking mine to see what posts are getting more attention and why? (was it the time of day I posted? The image itself? Was it that the caption had a question?


Product photos:


Now imagine you have never seen your product before and you are basing your judgement of the product in the photo alone. Consider these questions when photographing your products:

  1. Are you showing all angles of your product?

  2. Can you see the whole product in the photo?

  3. Do you need close up photos of the details?

  4. Are the colours true to the actual product (without distracting filters?)

  5. Are your photos using natural lighting?

  6. Is it clear what item in the photo is for sale? (make sure any decorative props are half out of the frame)

  7. Could you photograph your product being used?

  8. Is there something within the photo to indicate the size of your product?

I hope this information has been helpful and I wish you luck with starting your own shop, now go get em tiger!