Starting a new business can be daunting, with so many decisions to make upfront. Selling methods, payment processing, accounting, website, marketing... the list goes on.
However, if you make good, practical decisions when you start, you’ll have a solid base to build on, and save yourself some headaches along the way!
I’m happy to share some of the tools I use and recommend. As a side note, I don’t get paid anything to promote these.
Etsy is a global online marketplace where you can sell products you make or that have an ethical supply chain and which you can get accredited. It is super quick and easy to set up and you’ll have great support from the local team.
Even if you have your own web shop, get an Etsy store. Why? Etsy is a big company. They have a very talented team here in Australia, whose sole purpose is to support you and promote your product. Even if you don’t sell much, the exposure you can get from Etsy is worth far more than the hour it will take to set up shop.
Have a look online. You’ll see that while there’s a lot of competition internationally, you may be the only person in your category selling on Etsy in Australia. If you’re the only person - or even one of just a handful - in Australia, then guess who is going to get all the attention from the team? I got my Design Files article through Etsy, which was literally business-changing. I’ve had product showcased at many of their events for major stylists. It’s a no brainer. Do it!
Accounting is something that is probably a long way from the top of your list when you start out. During the first six months, you’ll have a lot of money moving around - mostly going out. It is REALLY useful to know where that money is going and how much you’re spending on your business.
I pay $50 a month for Xero. This seemed like a fortune at the beginning. But in the scheme of things - and come tax time - it is a bargain. Don’t be tempted to keep your own spreadsheet. It will quickly become unmanageable, as I know all too well!
With Xero, you can pull reports at a moment’s notice. And knowing exactly how you are performing is priceless. I use it every day. If you email Xero, you can usually wangle at least the first 3 months for free.
As a side note, I also use separate bank accounts for my business and personal banking, which I also recommend .
I use Squarespace for my website. However, while Squarespace is beautiful and very easy to use, it doesn’t have a lot of the power and functionality you may need when your business becomes big. At some point soon, I’ll move to Shopify, which is much more powerful.
Whichever website you decide on, use a free template and customise it. Either one works. Most importantly, both Squarespace and Shopify look really good on mobile devices. Well over half of my traffic is from mobile platforms. It’s very important to have a website that works on these devices.
DO NOT try to custom build your own website for your new business - unless you are a web designer! This will take way too long, cost you a fortune and not look professional, even if it’s your cousin’s uncle’s friend in the Ukraine doing it for mates rates. Just don’t do it. Worry about a custom website when you actually have a business. You do not need whatever fancy tool you think you need. Take the time and money you’ve saved and pump it into great photography and copywriting.
From the day you decide to start your business, begin collecting email addresses. Treasure them. Take a sign-up form to markets / events and do whatever you can to get as many people as possible to sign up.
When you’re ready, use Mail Chimp and start sending out email newsletters. Make them beautiful, concise and actionable. Learn about what makes a good email newsletter. Do this right and it will easily be your best form of marketing. The return on investment compared to other forms of advertising isn’t even in the same realm. Thank you to Kai at Offscreen Mag for helping me with mine and putting me on to this.
But remember, timing is important. Don’t overwhelm your address list with emails every few days. Send your newsletter on a regular basis, or when you have something very special to share – otherwise your precious list may dwindle if people unsubscribe.
Credit Cards and Eftpos
If you sell products, get a little mobile payment device. At the beginning, you should be doing markets, events and expos, getting out to meet your customers. When people want to buy from you at a venue, it’s important to be able to take payments at a moment’s notice.
Doing cash-only transactions to hide money from the tax man is dumb. Worry about tax when you have a profitable business. There are lots of mobile payment devices you can use. Both PayPal and Square have little card readers that simply plug into your Smartphone or tablet.
Banks also offer cheap machines now. Don’t pay a lot for these or sign up to some crazy monthly subscription. I have a Commonwealth Bank Emmy machine, but I’ll probably take it back soon, as it costs me $20 a month.
Well, these are some of the top tools I use. Please let me know if this information has been useful - and any other tools you use / recommend - in the Comments section below. My next post will be on some of the things I’ve done (like Graphic Design and Copywriting) that have really worked for me.