In our previous article, stylist Anita Hosanna looked at how technology and the COVID-19 pandemic are disrupting the fashion industry. Now that you’re ready to take the plunge into new technology, long-time fashion designer, Arfie Lalani offers six tips for starting an online clothing store today.

As an artist today, you are expected to build and maintain your fanbase in addition to creating art and releasing it for the world to experience – all while trying to make a living. Sounds difficult. And it can be. Thinking outside the box can help you to buffer yourself financially on your way to your dreams, and this is where our two worlds can come together successfully; this is where fashion meets the artist.

Fashion allows you to take your brand farther. Did you ever wonder how so many artists nowadays have merchandise ready to sell to their fan base? Guess what? You can do this too. Today, setting up an online store is both doable and affordable for the average entrepreneur or artist. It not only serves as marketing for your brand, it also provides a source of income.

For over 10 years, I’ve dedicated my career and passion to fashion design. In an industry full of ups and downs, as well as dynamic changes in the way people shop, I have learned how to create, executive and market a clothing collection. Building your brand can come at a large cost, but I’m going to share how you can do this through online services at a very low cost.

Here are six tips for starting an online clothing store from the comfort of your own home today.

1. Get a domain name

The first thing you want to do is get a domain name. I like to compare this to buying property. Your domain address is like the “land”, or a space that you are about to own on the internet. It’s the name that your clients should recognize and be able to type out easily. I usually go to sites like godaddy.com or doteasy.com to search for and find domain availabilities. My suggestion would be to purchase a domain name that is both affordable and easy to find on Google.

2. Find a web hosting service

Once you’ve bought your property, you must create your “building” or somewhere to live. On the internet, this is called server space or web hosting. There are many sites that offer custom, easy to use web building tools such as wix.com and weebly.com, and those that are popularized for easy ecommerce builds such as shopify.com and squarespace.com. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads everywhere. While still comparing this idea to properties, these templates are the equivalent of a condo built by a contractor, rather than you having to build each piece of your home, brick by brick. Each server space comes with a monthly fee, and depending on the scale of your business, I would recommend getting the basic versions at the lowest rate. Most of these services will probably offer a 14 day trial with their subscriptions.

3. Find a suitable template

Once you choose a platform, simply choose a fitting template for your work, and revise each element of the template making the site unique to you. The last thing to do in setting up your site is to connect your domain name to your website. You can find out how to do that by searching within your web platform.

4. Add your products

Now that you have your website and it’s looking exactly the way you want, it’s time to make it functional and add some product.

The most affordable way to do so is by creating print-on-demand drop shipping merchandise. Wait….what? Print on demand drop shipping merchandise. This is the trick of the trade. Garment production companies like printful.com and theartofwhere.com have created a method that will allow users like you to design merchandise on their website, create a mock-up, and then link the product to your websites instantly.

Once your customer buys the product off of your website, it will alert the production company. They will then create the item and ship it directly to the customer. The customer pays your retail price, and you pay the production company their wholesale price. The whole transaction happens so smoothly that you’re never really spending a dime. This process allows you to have merchandise available to sell on your websites without ever having to hold any physical inventory, and without spending money on startup costs. You may make a little less profit in comparison to buying in bulk, however there’s no large upfront cost and it’s an incredible way to get started.

5. Find a reliable payment processor

Like anything, you will need a valid credit card or PayPal account to have on file, but don’t worry, these corporations are trustworthy and assure your online safety. This is why I suggest going with a company like shopify.com and printful.com. Your charges and income will appear on the same credit card once setup properly.

6. Market your store and merchandise

Now that you have a running website, you can focus on promoting your website and merchandise on all your social media channels and ad campaigns. Invite people into your “land” and give them something beautiful to explore. Give them an opportunity to leave with a piece of you through your merchandise, and begin making money online.

If you’re an Ottawa-based artist, retailer or fashion designer looking to make the transition to online click here to find out more about Invest Ottawa’s Digital Main St. program. The program includes an e-commerce website design, your own digital marketing team, and other online support from Invest Ottawa, all for free.

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