6 Things I’ve Learned From My First Try At E-Commerce

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been pursuing my latest business venture: a small fundraiser for grad school. I’d never sold anything online before but decided to give it a whirl. Well, folks, it has given me a whirl right back. Here’s some insight I’ve gained from my mini side hustle.

  1. Be realistic!

You don’t need an MBA to sell things but you do need to exercise common sense. Think about your offer and expectations.

I wanted to raise a little cash for grad school and boost my brand as a photographer, artist, and designer. I found a good deal on short run (small quantity) custom note cards. Because stationery is usually hard to sell, I was content with a limited stock. I strategized selling points but kept my expectations low in terms of profit.

  1. Have a plan!

A business endeavor is doomed to fail without sufficient research and planning. Make sure to consider all options when it comes to production, marketing, selling, and shipping.

It was a tedious process but I researched over a dozen printing companies before selecting one. Then, I spent several hours reading about different payment options. To market my cards, I developed a value proposition centered around eco-friendly materials, my original travel photography, and free shipping.

  1. Be persistent!

The economy is not at its best so folks are even more reluctant about extra spending. Add to that, new brands take time and energy to pick up speed. If you’ve done the groundwork, you should have helpful insights about your target market so use them to your advantage.

I definitely don’t like bombarding people with emails and sponsored ads so I didn’t do that. Instead, I stayed active on social media, like my Instagram, and engaged my social circle. Persistence shows folks your passion and they’ll gravitate to that.

  1. It costs money to make money!

Most business ventures, even small ones, require capital. There are a million ways to get up and running so you can minimize startup costs and maximize your ROI.

I chose to buy my stock before taking orders to apply a printing promotion. When it came to selling, I first considered Etsy. However, I knew Etsy charged listing, transaction, and payment fees. On the other hand, Shopify had fewer fees but charged monthly to use the platform. Since I already had a personal website, I decided to upgrade my WordPress plan to utilize the Simple Payments feature which worked through PayPal. I also encouraged friends and family to use Venmo since there were zero fees.

  1. Think ahead!

It’s important to stay open to future prospects. Whatever you put out there could lead to new opportunities so always consider the options.

One of my customers asked if I could design holiday cards for her. In addition, my little fundraiser helped me open up shop for commissioned portraiture.

  1. Do it with passion!

Creating note cards combined three of my passions: photography, pen-palling, and nature. In fact, my brand is called Treehugger Trading because I believe in sustainability and, yes, I actually hug trees.

I’m by no means an expert but I hope these tidbits are useful and that you enjoy bringing your own passion projects to fruition. 🙂

P.S. Go hug a tree for some good entrepreneurial energy!

Thank you!

This thank you goes to amazing artists like Shannon Fay and Ashley Grayce. As talented artists and female entrepreneurs, they inspire me to be bold and challenge myself. Check them out ASAP because their work is incredible and they’re lovely peop


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