20 Things No One Tells You About Running An Online Shop

Hi, hello there. Did you know I run That Lame Company? Course ya did if not head there now.. *hint hint*. Anyway I’ve seen so many people posting about starting up Etsy shops and online shops and I am so so happy to be able to share creating thoughts with all my Twitter buds. But before you do, here are the 20 things no one tells you about running an online shop.

  1. You won’t sell much if you don’t spend the entire day off social media. Ooh that family party or weekend away sounds absolutely lovely to me, but yano, it probably means no sales unless scheduling every hour of the day sooo.
  2. There is no such thing as spare time. I haven’t sat and done *nothing* in months. What does sitting down and just watching TV feel like? An hour sat doing nothing is an hour wasted, an hour that could have been put to productive use. Every waking hour is pretty much a working hour. 
  3. Tax and fees are a bitch. A £2.49 sale of a print sounds super doesn’t it? Take off those fees, 50p, take away that postage, 64p, take away packaging (thank you/compliment slips) 30p, so what are you left with? £1.05. Oh way, take away 20% tax 50p, = 50p. You made 50p. Oh, but if I take that out of the bank (I have a limited company, not self employed) then I have to pay 20% more tax… so… a profit of 40p. A mere 40p profit is made from a £2.49 and the effort of doing it.
  4. Time. Coming home from a long day at work, when all you want to do is have some food and sleep. But you’ve got to package up lots of orders. The ultimatum is to sleep, the other is package up, sleepily and go to bed after. Or what I prefer to do is wake up 10 minutes earlier per order. So sometimes that’s a 5am start... yawn.
  5. Trial and error. Everything about running an online shop is trial and error. I can spend what feels like an entire year on a new product and nobody buys it. It can be so upsetting. Then another product you bring out, that takes a few minutes can sell like hot cakes (is that the saying?!). You begin to learn what your fans like.
  6. People will copy you. In fact, people with 10 times the following than you will copy your designs and they will sell hundreds of them. But what can you do?! Complain and lose your following. Who knows. Such is life.
  7. There will be angry customers. No matter what you do you’ll always end up with at least one angry customer. Perhaps you send something and they claim they never received it, demanding a refund. What can you do? It’s so horrible to get an angry customer, when you put everything into running a shop.
  8. Everyone is a competitor. Whether it’s your bestie or a stationery competitor. On Etsy, it doesn’t matter whether you like someone or not. The main thing is that everyone is a competitor whether you want to believe it or not. It might seem nice to have a best friend with an online shop but then again, if they get to someone before you then you’ve lost a customer and they have gained one.
  9. There’s a limit to how much cardboard you can put in recycling every fortnight. Not enough. Ordering 500 notebooks is fine until you realise they are packed in 25’s, which equates to 20 boxes, which includes 20 lots of jiffy bubble too. Nightmare. Oh and don’t forget Amazon and their ridiculously over cautious packaging. Packaging will be coming out of your ears.
  10. Positive feedback and positive reviews are what makes everything worth it. Spending every waking hour for no monetary return to your own personal bank whatsoever is rather rewarding and makes you feel happy (obviously some people do take money from their shop)
  11. Counting stock is crucial, there’s nothing worse than accidentally running out of products and having to purchase more or refund a customer. It doesn’t matter how many times I check stock levels something always runs out before I notice. Count stock frequently!
  12. Stock will absolutely take over any space. Thankfully my brother is as Uni, so his room, my room, porch and conservatory is pretty much full of stock/packaging/boxes or just anything TLC related.
  13. Being inundated with emails. I think I might receive around 15 blogger review requests everyday, then there’s marketing emails, order emails and enquiries. It might not seem that much but it’s physically impossible to reply to all the emails.
  14. There is always a reason to purchase more stationery. I love stationery shopping so having an excuse of ‘it’s for the shop’ is always a valid reason.
  15. If you pay for products on different banks cards at the beginning of setting up a shop, it will mess up your tax return. You’ll spend hours trying to track how much money you’ve spent and how much money you took out of the bank. Little fyi… use one bank card and one bank card only. Bladdy track it all. ALL.
  16. Onto tax again… your tax return deadline will come round super-fast. One day you’ll be happy singing along in the Summer without a care in the world and next minute tax return deadline is looming and you need to find an accountant and get your shit together.
  17. If you tell a customer ‘you can only use this discount code on X item’s (some websites are very limiting) I guarantee multiple people will not read the terms of a discount code and will use the discount code on whatever they like. No you can’t cheat the system like you can with chain shops (ie. Newlook). If you use it I will simply refund you.
  18. Wine gives you the idea, coffee puts the idea to paper and gets you through it. FACT.
  19. The amount of Netflix you get through whilst sitting on your bedroom door packaging up orders/packaging up greetings cards or even just designing is scarily high. Quiz me on a Netflix show, I dare you. It’s the only thing that keeps me from getting too lonely spending so many hours in my room.
  20. Perhaps 10% of my customers contribute to 90% of my sales. Those are my favourite buddies who buy anything and everything as soon as it comes out. I love you guys.

Making money from a shop is not a fast fix. If you’re looking to just make money I would suggest a different path. But this path is very rewarding and it’s so amazing to scroll down your social media feed and see items you’ve designed appear in people’s photographs. I highly doubt all 20 things will apply to all small business owners however hopefully some can relate.

Have you ever thought about starting an online shop?

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2 Comments

  1. February 22, 2017 / 4:21 pm

    And I thought working full time and having a blog was hard! Well done, sounds like A LOT of work but also super fun xx

  2. June 13, 2017 / 9:48 pm

    Great post! I’m think about starting on online shop.

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