I talk a lot over here about building & growing an online shop but one thing I have failed to mention is how to actually create a physical product to sell. I mean you can’t have a shop with no product, right? (My bad ya’ll)
I started my career hand making jewelry (and still do till this day) so I know a thing or two about turning your idea into a tangible product worth selling. Today (in this very lengthy post) I’m going to show you how to do just that.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
1. A clear idea of the type of product you want to create.
2. An open mind to change your idea along the way
3. Patience to get you through the trial & error process (because your product will probably suck the first few tries).
WHAT VALUE WILL MY CUSTOMER SEE IN THIS PRODUCT?
Before putting in your time, effort & money, you need to first think about if your potential target customers will even want or need what you have to offer. Ask yourself…
1. What value will they see in my product?
2. How will my product stand out from others in my industry?
3. Are my customers willing to pay for a product like this?
If you need a little help figuring out exactly who your target customer is, check out “What You Need To Know Before Marketing Anything”.
WHAT MATERIALS AND/OR TOOLS WILL IT TAKE FOR you TO MAKE THIS PRODUCT?
This is where you will begin to think about every component of your product. If it’s something like a bracelet, maybe all you need is a strand of beads, elastic string and beading glue? If it is something a little more complex like handmade pottery, then make sure you are well aware of all the materials and tools that it will take to bring your product to life. This will not only help you with putting your actual product together but it will give you an idea of what type of budget you should set yourself.
AM I ABLE TO MAKE THIS PRODUCT MYSELF?
Think about your product, the materials, the tools & the time it will take to bring it to reality. Is this something that you can create yourself, efficiently? Meaning if you do not already possess the skills to bring this product to life, are you will to invest in classes to learn the skills needed?
If the answer is yes, then ask yourself..
Will I have time to make these products & still run a business?
Starting out you may be running a one woman show, and that is totally ok! But before you commit to making EVERYTHING in your shop, think about how you will make time to still run a business. What has helped me with Early August is selling in small quantities’ so that I don’t have to make a trillion products at one time. And to make sure I am making the most out of my time and still getting everything done, I set certain days specifically for creating products and for doing the administrative side of business.
If you’re unable to make the product yourself or don’t think you will have the time to devote to it, then think about outsourcing the work, purchasing wholesale orworking with a manufacturer. When I created #TheEverydayTee for Early August, I knew there was no way that I could sew a t-shirt without it looking a hot mess. So I decided to outsource it (We’ll talk a little more about that in a few) and then add on my own personal touches.
WILL I HAVE TO HIRE SOMEONE TO MAKE THIS PRODUCT FOR ME?
If you’re are unable to physically bring your idea to life yourself, then you have the option to purchase items wholesale or having your product created through a manufacturer. Since starting this blog and my coaching services, there was no way in hell I’d be able to learn how to make things like rings and earrings that I wanted to begin offering in the shop. So I decided to go the wholesale route.
This is what I did for #TheEverydayTee, I found an amazing vendor who created and sold t-shirts since I did not have the resources to have my own manufactured from scratch. I already knew the cut and feel that I was going for so I purchased a few of their samples. After trying them on and making sure that they matched up with the look and feel I was going for, I placed my order.
Wholesalers usually sell their product under retail price but will often require you to purchase a certain minimum (usually $50 or more).
A few things to know about purchasing wholesale.
- There are many wholesalers that are not located in the U.S, so be aware of shipping times. A package from China can take any where from three weeks to two months to ship due to how far they are and the package getting through customs. If you're going to purchase from a wholesaler in another country, then its best for you to place your order a few months before you plan on opening your shop.
- Be aware of company policies (especially if you're ordering oversees). Some wholesalers will not allow cash returns on their merchandise. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, homegirl, make sure you are very aware of their company policies before making a purchase. The last thing you want to do is spend a crap ton of money on something you may not end up liking just to find out that you can't return it.
- Look for reviews. Believe it or not, not all businesses out here are legit (surprised, right?). If possible search around online for reviews on the companies before making a purchase. If others have had nothing but issues purchasing from them, then it's possible you will too.
- Not all wholesale products are good quality. Do your research before ordering large amounts & don't be afraid to ask for a sample.
- When purchasing wholesale, be sure that what you're buying still matches up with your brand. While you often have choices like sizes and colors, you don't have any say on the actual design. It is extremely easy to want to buy all the pretty things on a wholesale website but just remember it's not about you, it's about your business. (Oh and don't forget that you have a budget to stick to!)
GOING THROUGH A MANUFACTURER
Working with a manufacturer means that you will basically send a factory your original design & they will be responsible for bringing your idea to life. Although this way can be a little pricier, this is one of the quickest ways to get your products made in bulk (without forcing family & friends to work for you in exchange for pizza).
A few things to know about manufacturing your products.
- The best way to find a LEGIT manufacturer is to go through a popular manufacturing directory like Makers Row or Alibaba or asking for referrals from other business owners in your industry.
- Most manufactures will want you to pay your balance in full before beginning production.
- You should always request a sample before moving forward.
- Gather quotes from several different manufacturers before settling on one.
- Once you have decided on who you want to work with, always check their references!
What to ask a manufacturer
- Do they have a list of testimonials or referrals?
- Will they create a sample before production & how much will it cost you?
- What is the production turn around time?
- What is shipping time & costs?
- When and how do you pay?
- What are their order minimums and is it negotiable?
SET A LAUNCH DATE
Whether you are creating a product yourself or outsourcing to a manufacturer, now that you have all of the necessary details for your product, you should set an estimated completion date for the final product. If having one big goal is overwhelming for you, try to break it up into smaller goals.
For example, if you're creating your product yourself, give yourself 3 days to find all of the materials & tools you'll need to create it. And then spend another three days making and perfecting the prototype. Breaking it up into a few smaller goals wont seem so overwhelming once you notice all that you are actually getting done!
TEAR APART THE PROTOTYPE
Once you have a product sample, ask yourself these questions.
- What would I change or make better?
- If anything, what would I add to it?
- If I had to, would I be ok with selling this today as is?
Depending on your answers go back to your original design & make the necessary tweaks. A lot of times i'll create something & then absolutely hate it once I see the final product. And that's ok! That's why I said in the beginning that you would need a lot of patience to get through the trial & error process.
ORDER/CREATE SMALL QUANTITIES
Once you have gone back & forth with yourself, wholesaler or manufacturer, get the final product made in bulk. (And I'm using the word bulk very loosely) Since you're just starting out, try to have a small amount on hand if possible.
Ordering in small quantities will help soften the blow if you find out no one likes what you're selling (but they will love it if you remembered to show value!) and it will also cut down on start-up costs. I still have unused jewelry supplies from like 3 years ago because it didn't sell as well as I had hoped =/
PRICE YOUR PRODUCTS
To effectively price your products and make sure you're covering costs & making a profit, just follow this simple equation.
Cost of Materials (any materials, tools, manufacturer or shipping costs)
Your hourly rate (this is if you are physically making your product yourself.)
Cost of Materials + Your Hourly Rate = Original Amount
Original Amount x 2 = Wholesale Price (if you decide to sell your product in stores)
Original Amount x 3 = Retail Price (What you will list your product as on your website)
And just like that, you're done! Follow these steps and you'll be well on your way to having your very own online business filled with amazing products!