Starting an online boutique is an exciting way to launch your new business. As with any new venture, it involves many choices and trade-offs that affect the start-up and recurring costs. Often, the more you can do for yourself, the less money you’ll lay out. Let’s take a look at the average start-up costs for a boutique, when it is wise to roll up your sleeves, and instances when relying on third-party specialists to run your online boutique is a good move.
Thanks to some of the e-commerce platforms out there, building your online boutique is easier than ever. Make your choice based on your tech skills and how much time you’re willing to devote to website building and development as opposed to selling and marketing:
- Shopify is the best choice for the entrepreneur who wants the tech side simplified as Shopify offers customer support 24/7 at no extra charge. Pricing begins at $29 per month.
- BigCommerce offers a bit more customization and brings with it a learning curve to go with those options. BigCommerce offers 24/7 customer service as part of their package. Pricing starts at $29.95 per month.
- WooCommerce is a free, open-source plugin built for WordPress. This is the perfect choice for those who already have strong WordPress skills. While the plugin is free, you’ll need a web host company for your site. Blue Host is a web hosting company that starts at $2.95/month, with a 36-month contract.
Each of these platforms offers powerful tools for you to build a clean, streamlined appearing e-commerce site to start an online boutique. You can choose to further customize the appearance of your site by purchasing a theme, available for a one-time fee ranging from $20 to $200 per theme.
Your domain name is the internet address that leads to your online boutique. It comes between the www. and the .com (or .net, .shop, etc). When choosing your domain name, keep in mind your branding, ease of spelling, and the ease of remembering the name. Consider getting a few related domain names to guard against user error. For instance, let’s say you choose FunFashionForLess.com. It’s both easy to spell and to remember. But you might also want to purchase the name FunFashion4Less.com.
Domain names typically run about $10 per name per year. If you choose Shopify or BigCommerce, you’ll be able to purchase and register your domain names through them. If you choose WooCommerce, you’ll get a free domain name through Blue Host. You can purchase additional domain names at low prices through sites like GoDaddy.
Your new website now needs an SSL Certificate to manage the security of your website. Both Shopify and BigCommerce provide this as part of their service. Blue Host also offers a free SSL Certificate.
Logo and Branding
As you’re starting out with your online boutique, you can keep your branding basic. Stick with a color scheme and a unique tagline to add to your business name. Design your logo or lean on sites like Fiverr, where you can get a logo designed for as little as $30. As you work with the designer, pick someone who allows for plenty of revisions to get your logo exactly right. Outlinematic includes all the modifications you want for $147.
Don’t worry about photography and images as you’re determining how much it costs to start an online boutique. The wholesale clothing vendor you work with will have photographs and images of their items you can integrate into your website. Reach out to them if you want to personalize your site; they may allow you to purchase individual articles of clothing you can use for your own photography. Using your own photos can be vital for your social media campaigns. If you choose to hire a freelance fashion photographer for a fun shoot, expect to pay between $100 and $400 per hour for the photographer to come to you.
Write product descriptions highlighting the details that made you choose each product to offer your customers. Remember to appeal to your audience by focusing on “What’s in it for me” and maintain a tone that keeps with your brand.
The fastest way to make a sale is with pay-per-click advertising with Google. Unfortunately, it’s also the quickest way to lose a fortune if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Start with free social media advertising and expand, as needed, from there.
Drop shipping is a business model you might choose for your online boutique as it is the model with the lowest up-front costs.
Conventionally, you would need to purchase and store inventory for your online boutique. Next, you post images and descriptions of each product on your website. Then, you advertise to bring potential buyers to your online store. Once a product sells, you package up the order using packing materials, boxes, and branded inserts. Then, you pay to ship the order to your customer. The costs of purchasing, storing, packaging, and shipping inventory can conservatively run into many thousands of dollars.
With drop shipping, you still choose the products and post images and descriptions to your website. However, you don’t purchase the items upfront. Instead, once an item sells, you place the order with the wholesale vendor, and they ship your customer’s order directly to them. The wholesaler stores and manages the inventory and handles all shipping aspects, leaving you free to focus on marketing.
Drop shipping limits the amount of work, the amount of risk, and it reduces the cost of starting an online boutique; it is an excellent way to start your business. As you find your footing, you can determine if you want to move away from that business model.