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6 steps to starting your first e-commerce store

By Julia Gifford - Reading time: 5 minutes

Starting your online shop may seem daunting, but getting it up and running doesn’t have to be so hard. Here you’ll find the basics that you’ll need to create a minimally functional e-store.

Everything you need to know to get your online shop up and running

Everything you need to know to get your online shop up and running

1. First, you need a website

This is the first thing that you should have. If you already have a website, feel free to skip to #2. Your website serves as a platform to sell your products. The easier it is for people to find and use your website, the more sales you’ll have.

You don’t need to be a programmer to set up a website. Printful integrates with some of the most popular ecommerce platforms. Here’s a breakdown of your options:

Ecommerce comparison chart

Take a look here for more detailed info on all of our ecommerce platform integrations.

2. Buy a domain name

A domain name is the address of your website. This is what people type into their browser to find you. For example, our domain name is www.printful.com. You can get your own special domain name by purchasing the licensing for it at different places. We suggest www.godaddy.com. First, check to see if the name you want for your website is available. Then check if the price is something you’d be willing to pay (these won’t be free, you’ll most likely have to pay $10-$20 for your domain). Then you purchase the domain you want.

What it will look like if the domain name you're looking for is available. Many are already taken, so you'll have to think outside the box to find the perfect domain name for the site you're building.

What it will look like if the domain name you’re looking for is available. Many are already taken, so you’ll have to think outside the box to find the perfect domain name for the site you’re building.

*If you don’t want to pay for a domain, then you can use ecommerce platforms’ automatically generated, free subdomain.

Choosing the right name for your company is an important factor in the success of your business. It should be simple enough for people to remember, but say enough to describe your business. Since news about your product travels by word of mouth, you’ll also want to avoid difficult spellings or misspelled words, to make it easier to find. Finally, give your new name time to sink in. After a while when you feel the right groove, then you’ll know it’s right for you.

3. Now you need products

To be able to make money off of your e-commerce store, you need to be selling a product of some sort. This is totally up to you. It can range from software to hand-made jewelry to a t-shirt collection. Whatever you see a need for in the market. But if you’re interested in having Printful fulfill and send the products, it has to be in one of these categories :

  • poster (framed or unframed)
  • t-shirt
  • canvas
  • framed canvas print
  • sweaters (hoodies and hoodless)
  • totes
  • mugs
  • leggings
  • phone cases
  • socks
  • sublimation shirts

We’ll keep adding more products, so make sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter for news. However, if you’re interested in other items, you can check out other drop shipping wholesale retailers like DOBA, they offer thousands of products that we don’t.

What you sell is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is to create something that is so great that you would buy it. Somehow it should have value. If you already have a website that people follow, then you might want to offer a t-shirt for your followers that has your logo on it. A great example is the guy who started ImpossibleHQ. He had a blog that lots of people followed, and made a t-shirt with his logo that his readers could wear with pride. You can read about his experience in launching his t-shirt for some inspiration.

If you have something to say, for example, clever little messages or fun memes, you can have them printed out. You don’t necessarily need to be a designer to sell stuff like a clever text or a simple meme like these:

A clever text

A clever text

A meme

A meme

On the other hand, if you’re artistically inclined, you can also sell any designed items. For example the stylishly designed quotes by Startup Vitamins. Other digital items you can sell are things like ebooks, templates, whitepapers, among others.

4. All about payments: pricing, profit, payment systems

Having a functional payment processor is essential to being able to sell anything on your site. This is the function that will allow you to receive your income. Most website building platforms will support integrating payment processors into your site. However, you’ll have to separately sign up to each payment processor (PayPal, Braintree for credit cards, and whichever other processor you’d like to support in your online store) , before you can integrate them in your  store. These are third-party services, which function based on their own policy and will most likely ask for transaction fees. Here’s a list of third-party payment systems that you can consider to use.

The most popular payment methods that you should consider offering are Paypal and Credit Card.

To be able to profit from the products you’re selling, the price you sell at (this is the price displayed on your website) should be higher than the price it’s costing you to make the product. Say, for example, you’re outsourcing your t-shirt printing needs to Printful. Printful asks for $7 for a t-shirt, and $3 for shipping. So you know, that you already have to offer the t-shirts a higher price than $10. So you know that if you sell your t-shirt at $15, $10 will go to making the shirt, leaving you with a $5 profit. Here are some examples of pricing models:

Alter the price you sell at to adjust your profit.

Alter the price you sell at to adjust your profit.

Of course, you can set your price higher to create a higher profit margin, or lower, to have more competitive pricing. It’s completely up to you. But we recommend you strive for a profit margin of 30%.

This is called drop shipping. The definition of drop shipping is when the retailer (that’s you) doesn’t carry any of the sold goods in stock, but transfer to the order to someone else, who creates and ships the goods out directly to the customer (that’s us). There are many drop shippers out there, and you should only choose to use a drop shipper you can trust and rely upon, since in the end you are responsible for your sales, at least in the eyes of your customer.

5. Display your products on your site

To be able to sell something online, people will want to see what it looks like. That means putting up a picture of the t-shirt you’re selling with the logo on it, or what the poster will look like.

There are two ways you can display a t-shirt with your design on your website:

template

1) You can put your design on a mockup image of your product. We’ve made this super easy for you with our mockup generator. Simply upload your design on a blank product and it’ll generate a mockup. Note that not all products are available yet, but we’re working on it!

2) Alternately, if you want professional photos of your products, check out Printful’s Photography Services. For a fee, our in-house photographers will shoot professional-grade shots of your products and email them to you, ready to use. If you’re interested, request a quote!

Check out this site for your product photography tips.

6. Get people to buy!

Arguably the most important aspect of your ecommerce business. For your e-commerce website to be successful, you have to have people buy your things. How you advertise your products is up to you.

A good place to start is by sharing on social media like Facebook and Pinterest. If it’s art that you’re selling, Etsy might be a good place to put some pictures up. Here’s one way to use Pinterest to your advantage:

Simply upload a photo, link it to your new e-commerce website, and add the price. The price ribbon will automatically appear.

There’s a lot of material out there about marketing your products. But for starters, you can read this article on how to make your first sale, and here’s a blog post about the foolproof way to get people to buy your product.

Would you like some advice? We’d be happy to help you out with any questions you might have. Get in touch with us support@printful.com.

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  1. syed

    i kind of follwing everything you are saying..now the problem with me is the Legal ones… alhtough i can run my business, but still now sure about the pricing and stuff…and the payment gateway system is Pain… real pain its too costly for startups like me… i hope soon they will simplify everything
    and yes my advice… if you want to run a business.. you should know how to code..how to SEO SEM And SMO…how to procure , how to ship and so on..that was actully biggest problem for me

  2. Jenny

    Anyone interested in buying ready setup online shopping marketplace website like snapdeal ?
    One of Mumbai base company want to sale their eCommerce marketplace website. Having having registered sellers, product listed, having strong social media pages, seo optimized, coupon site tie up, mobile responsive design, having keyword ranking on top 5 pages in google, genuine & professional website.

    Reason for sale – Having offline business & therefor difficult to manage both business,
    Contact us to jenniferroy8431@gmail.com

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hey Mehdi!

      We always recommend consulting a professional for taxes. But if you use Printful, you’ll have to collect sales tax for orders going to California and North Carolina because we have a presence there.

      1. Mehdi

        I want to deliver to Canada. After reaserch, it’s not valuable to use Printful in Canada, not because of Printful, but beacause of the complicated System. Printful never talk in their videos about legal things, but they have to …

  3. Michael Ferreira

    Hello, I’ll try this one more time. The first step in the article above states that you need a web site to start selling products, then you refer to eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Big Cartel. What does that mean? Can’t I just manually order t-Shirts one at a time with your mock up generator each time I get an order from my web site or do have to use one of eCommerce platforms like Shopify. Please advise

    Thank You

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Hi Michael,

      Sorry, it looks like I missed your earlier comment!

      You can place orders with us manually when a customer makes an order from your website. But some ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, etc. integrate directly with Printful. So that means that when a customer places an order from you, it’ll go directly to Printful for fulfillment.

      Both ways work – if you prefer placing orders with us manually, that’s fine! But if you want to host your store on a platform that integrates with us, that works too.

    1. Nora Inveiss

      Sure! You definitely don’t have to fulfill all of your products through us. Simply sync the products you do want to fulfill, and click “ignore” for the ones that you don’t.

  4. Lesley

    Hi, let’s say one’s e-commerce site is set up. Does Printful own your art once you upload it for sale? Do you have a copyright policy regarding artwork uploaded? If one maintains rights to their own art, can one remove it at will?

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