Full Guide: How-To Start an Online Boutique in 2022

Full Guide: How-To Start an Online Boutique in 2022

How to start an online boutique in 2022 how to start a boutique with no money

Online Boutique Center is giving you the FULL step by step breakdown to launching a profitable online boutique in 2022. Running an online boutique can be a great side hustle and/or can become a business empire. Time, commitment and consistency is what will separate your business from the next and help you reach your goals faster. We have curated several products for boutique owners that will help save you loads time along your business journey. View all of our products here.

We are sure you have a general idea of what you need to do:

  • Get clothes
  • Get a website
  • Market like crazy

While that is essentially what you will need to do, this guide will help you with everything in between. 

  1. Choose a Business Name & Logo
  2. Secure a Domain & Claim Social Media Accounts
  3. Select a Target Customer
  4. Legal Requirements for Boutiques
  5. Choosing an E-Commerce Platform 
  6. Inventory
  7. Styling Products and Photoshoot Tips
  8. Branding and Packaging
  9. Pricing Strategies
  10. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) - Boost Your Organic Traffic from Google
  11. Marketing (Email, Social Media, Influencer)

How-To Choose a Business Name 

With there being so many online boutiques across the world, there is a possibility your dream name may be taken. Check out a few boutique business names that haven’t been taken here. Before stamping your business name in stone and risking having to change your name later, you need to do your due diligence by checking a few places to be sure that name isn’t taken already. You should search the following:

  1. Google Search
  2. Instagram 
  3. Trademark Search http://tess2.uspto.gov/ 
  4. Search if the Domain Name is Available - you can search for a domain on any domain site such as Google Domains or Godaddy

It sucks to give up what you feel is the perfect name, but it’s seriously just not worth keeping it. Check out our great "namestorming" worksheet to help you get your business name together quicklyHere are a few different ways brands come up with a great business name whiles "namestorming":

  • Identifies what you sell (I.e. Fashion Nova sells fashion, House of Lashes)
  • Choose a unique name that can still work if you want to sell products in multiple categories (i.e Nike)
  • Try using acronyms to spell something cool or leave out the vowels in your ideal name (i.e. WRLDINVSN
  • Try adding popular foreign words  (i.e. Crème de la Crème Boutique)
  • Use your own name and add the category you will sell in. Great if you plan to sell in niche specific categories only like: lashes, hair, children's clothing, candles, nails, etc. (i.e. Lilly Lashes)
  • Is catchy, unexpected or memorable (i.e. Nasty Gal)
  • To get customers to respond to your business on an emotional level, choose a comforting or familiar name that may conjures up pleasant memories. (i.e. joythestore.com, toysrus.com)
  • Try not to pick a name that's long or confusing (social media usernames can be limited characters)
  • Try alternate spellings of popular words (i.e. Lillyskloset.com, Klosetenvy.com
  • Use a thesaurus to look up synonyms for popular words

Once you have thought of a bunch of different keywords, you can use a generator to help you put those ideas into a name. Our favorite generators are: 

After finalizing your business name, you can go ahead and start designing your logo. You can choose between designing your own logo or outsourcing your logo design. Below are our favorite tools for DIY and outsourcing your logo:

  • Canva (get a 30 day free trial) - DIY logo templates
  • Tailor Brands - Top AI-generated logo design online
  • Fiverr - outsource logos to professionals

Your logo doesn’t have to be finalized now, just as long as it’s ready for your website, packaging, branding and launch date.

Secure a Domain & Claim Social Media Accounts

You have the option to go ahead and secure a domain and claim your social media accounts now to ensure they are not taken when you’re getting close to launch. Keep in mind, once you decide on which e-commerce platform you plan to use, you can normally purchase directly there. 

Outside of an e-commerce platform, you can secure domains for as low as $.99 with sites like Namecheap or around $12 with Google Domains. *just be sure to add WHOIS privacy protection if its not included.

Depending on how unique your business name is, the higher your chances are to secure your exact business name as your domain. In the case your business name isn't available, try adding some of the bolded words to the domain:

  • shopyourcompanyname.com
  • yourcompanynameonline.com
  • yourcompanynameworld.com
  • theyourcompanyname.com
  • yourcompanynameboutique.com

Securing your social media accounts this early is again, optional, but highly recommended. This is more important than getting a domain early because your desired social name could get taken while you’ve been building your boutique in the background. This happens because people make businesses everyday on Instagram with or without a website. The main socials you should secure are:

If you’ve already searched for your business name on Instagram earlier in Step 1, you should have no problem securing your socials. *Be sure to switch your newly created account to a BUSINESS page. You can learn how-to do that here.

Now, your domain and socials are secure and if you want, you can start building an audience with inspo posts, memes, behind the scenes and more.

    Select a Target Customer 

    When you select a target customer (aka target audience), you are increasing your chances of selling to the right people. There are people that want what you sell, they simply just don't know you exist. You have to find your people to get the most success out of running an online boutique. To do this, you will need to answer a few questions like: 

    • what age range do you want to sell to?
    • what gender(s) do you plan to sell to?
    • what problem can your business solve in your niche?
    • who are my competitors customers?

    Get our target customer worksheet to help you narrow this down here

    If you're not quite sure where to start, try some of the following places to determine who your target customer is:
    • Search online for research others have done in your niche (i.e. trendsetters, fashion stats)
    • Search blogs, forums and survey results where people in your target market may communicate their opinions
    • Start up your social media accounts early and post inspo pics to see who gravitates to what. Begin reviewing the demographics in your insights/analytics. 
    • Determine who your competitors are targeting and aim to target that audience
    • Use Google Trends to search for popular products and what age group buys them
    If you're already in business:
    • Review demographics from all social media analytic tools (and any other analytics you may have)
    • Manually review customer orders and separate by income, age, repeat customers, locations, etc. (if you have the info available)
    • Re-evaluate your customer base and inventory. Do they match? Has your customer base changed?
    As you really get into your groove of owning your boutique and processing orders, it is more than okay for your target customer to change. Stay true to your brand, but always take account to what naturally flows into your business as well. Things you can take note of are:
    • customer engagement and demographics on social media 
    • amount spent in your store
    • repeat customers
    • reviews (good and bad)
    • and more

    Getting Legal and Choosing a Business Structure

    When running an online boutique, or any business, you are going to need to get a few legal requirements out the way.

    Before filing your legal docs, be sure you have:

    • a business address
    • a business phone number (optional)
    • a business email address 

    One of the first things you will need to is determine your business legal structure. You may get asked for this information on one or more of your legal docs, so its best to already have this figured out before filing. The most common legal structures for new businesses are:

    • Sole Proprietorship - Most new small business start as a sole proprietorship because you can pretty much start selling with your social security number or EIN number, little to no startup costs and you can file on your personal tax returns. The only real issue with a sole proprietorship is risking your personal assets being taken if your business is sued.
    • LLC - An LLC, aka limited liability company, completely removes your name and/or social security number from the equation. All of your business information will reflect your LLC's name. There are initial costs to create an LLC which differs in each state. Unlike a sole proprietorship, your personal assets WILL be protected in the case your business is potentially sued.  

    Get a detailed overview of sole proprietorships and LLCs here.

    After selecting your business structure, these are the main legal docs you will need to run a legal boutique: 

    • Employee Identifier Number (EIN): Think of this as a driver's license for your business - with no photo. Although this is not required for sole proprietors, I recommend you go ahead and get it either way. It's free and you will need it eventually if you plan to hire employees, get business funding and more. Apply FREE through the IRS secure website here
    • "Doing Business As" (DBA): Unless you are naming your business the same as your legal name, you will need a DBA. This is the "fictitious" name that you will be using instead of your name. Find out the cost of a DBA in your state here. This document costs anywhere from $10-100 and will need to be renewed every 5 or 10 years depending on your state. Find out where to get your DBA in The Boutique Startup Plan.
    • Seller's Permit aka sales tax permit, reseller certificate, etc Wholesale License: A seller's permit is a state license that allows you to purchase products from wholesale companies without paying taxes on them. It also allows you to collect taxes from purchases made in the state your business resides in (and any warehouse locations outside the state if applicable). To order wholesale online or view products/product prices, you will need to obtain this document and likely upload to the wholesale website. Find out the price of this document in your stateThe following states do not require the collection of taxes: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon If you haven't yet got your seller's permit, but you're ready to start purchasing inventory, here are some vendors that that do not require a seller's permit to purchase.
    • Business License (if applicable in your state) - Depending on your state, you may or may not need a business license (or can get a waiver) for online businesses. A business license is a essentially a permit that allows you to conduct business legally. To find out, search “Do I need a business license to sell online in (YOUR CITY)"
    • Trademarks - you probably won't be filing for a trademark early in your business endeavors. But if you have created products from scratch or see that your business is growing rapidly, you may want to look into filing for a trademark. To learn more about getting a trademark for your online boutique, click here.

    Choosing an E-Commerce Platform

    Although there are several e-commerce platforms out there, we recommend you start a 14-Day FREE trial with our favorite, Shopify. 

    Why Shopify?

    • No credit card required to start
    • User-Friendly
    • Hundreds of Apps to Encourage buyers to bundle and purchase
    • Some of your favorite brands use Shopify (Fashion Nova, Sorella Boutique)
    • An informative and educational blog, tutorials and more explaining the platform and how to make the most out of your business
    • Purchase a domain directly in Shopify with WHOIS Privacy Protection included
    • Easily integrates with other apps (Linktree, Facebook, Ebay, Etc.)
    • And so much more!

    In fact, we use Shopify for all our ecommerce businesses. Shopify starts at $29 per month, but again, you can try it out FREE here for 14 days. After signing up, you can check out our Free Shopify Boutique Setup Course here if needed.

    Other popular ecommerce platforms are Wix and Squarespace.

    Inventory

    So the big question is, how will you obtain inventory? Well, this greatly depends on your capital or what structure works best for your current situation. Luckily, you have several options on selling or reselling products in 2022.   The most popular ways of getting inventory into your online boutique are:

    • Wholesale: This is a favorite for online boutiques. You can order wholesale both online and in-person. We offer several wholesale vendor lists like: women, plus size, children, men and more. Browse all of our vendor lists here. I also created a wholesale buyer guide to help you avoid first time wholesale buying mistakes. Get it in the Boutique Blueprint here.
    • Dropshipping: This is quickly rising as one of the go-to for new business owners. It is a great way to start an online boutique with no money. Dropshipping is the selling of products manufactured and shipped by a vendor. You do not have to keep inventory on hand. There are advantages and disadvantages to this option. Read this blog post to get the best dropshipping vendors for online boutiques. **Exception: If you're selling t-shirts, I highly recommend dropshipping. Check out our List of Trustworthy Dropshipping Vendors
    • Manufacturer or Handmade: If you decide to create and design your own products, be sure you consider the supplies and time you will need to complete products. Products can be made-to-order or a small quantity can already produced. Etsy is a great place to sell handmade items. If you’re designing tshirts, you have the option of DIY or what we recommend, print-on-demand. Simply create and upload your design to a print on demand service like Printful (which integrates with Shopify, and they will ship out your shirts (or totes, hats, etc.) directly to customer. Similar to dropshipping.
    • Reselling Cheap Items: If you don’t want to order wholesale, but also don’t want to dropship, you can find low priced items and resell them in your boutique. For example, you can get trendy, cute items from cheap sites like Aliexpress, Lovely Wholesale, Ni Hao Jewelry, etc. You can then resell for a nice profit in your online store, eBay, Etc. Check out this list of vendors that don’t require a seller permit. 

    You can of course use a combination of them all. See what works for you and your customer base.

    Styling Products and Photoshoot Tips

    When that inventory comes in, you can start The way you style your products for your website and the themes of your photoshoot is marketing within itself. A signature style is how your brand sticks out compared to the next.  Pick a good mix of solid background pics and lifestyle photos. Some vendors allow you to use their stock photos, however, that means so can everyone else. You can literally have a photoshoot free anywhere in the world. Here is where creativity takes the wheel. Our video library has tons of photoshoot inspiration. Access the library in the Boutique Resource Library Check out some of my favorite photoshoot tools to add-on with your phone camera:

    Save money by capturing your own product photos with a quality camera phone and hosting photoshoots with the tools above without ever needing a high-priced camera or photographer. 

    Branding and Packaging

    Your branding is a great opportunity to impress potential customers. The key to great branding and still staying on a budget is to add small details that go a long way in consumers remembering your brand and experience with you. It starts with your business name, color palette, and logo. Once you have established your brand colors and logo, you can start taking your branding to the next level. This includes being sure the exact colors and typography is being used across all social media accounts (watermarks), your website and packaging. Packaging is a great way to make a great physical first reaction. Poly Mailers (primarily in white, but multiple colors available) are one of the top ways to ship boutique products alongside boxes. For an extra touch, take a look at some of these custom shipping supplies such as poly mailers, tissue paper, packaging materials and more. Get our list of low-cost packaging supplies

    Pricing Strategies

    Pricing your products is probably one of the most difficult parts of running your boutique (profitably). You will be asking yourself over and over again,  Are my prices too high? Too low? Will people purchase at this price? Etc. Trust, every boutique owner goes through this exact meltdown. You are not alone. There are several unofficial "official" methods used in the industry for pricing products and then there's you testing the waters with random pricing aka freestyle. To each its own. A great place to start is by searching your competitors pricing. Also be sure to determine what you will still profit if you are running a sale.  Check out these popular pricing strategies:
    Keystone pricing method: Simple. Double the price you paid for the item.
    Example: $7 wholesale = $14 sale price
    Charm pricing: Adding .99 to all of your prices. 
    Example: $29.99 vs $30.00
    *You can also just  freestyle your markups according to the quality and audience you intend to sell to. 

    SEO (Search Engine Optimization) - Boost Your Organic Traffic from Google

    SEO is going to be your savior when it's comes to boosting traffic to your website for free. Yes social media has a huge advantage in driving traffic to your site, but how do you target the traffic that is not on social media? Such as the people typing "sleeveless little black dress size small" into the Google search? To target search engine traffic, you will need to optimize your website worth keywords related to your products, brand and niche. 
    What you can do:
    If you are not familiar with SEO, it can be difficult and time-consuming. Get SEO tips in the our Online Boutique ebook

    Marketing (Email, Social Media, Influencer)

    First of all, if you're scared to market, you're in the wrong business. When you own a business, marketing is a 24/7 job-that goes for online and in person. The great thing about today is that you can automate and delegate many marketing tasks.
    • Email marketing: Your newsletter and promotional emails are a great way to convert visitors to customers and customers to loyal, repeating consumers Easily capture users that are not yet ready to purchase with an attractive newsletter popup when they arrive or leave your page, coupon for exchanging their email, etc. Connect your email addresses to your favorite email platform and watch your list grow through targeted emails and automations. 
    • Shortly after getting a domain, unless included - setup a hosted email address that matches your business name (i.e info@onlineboutiquecenter.com). Zoho is my go-to and what I use and highly recommend for email hosting. Why? Because it is only $1 per month! Period. No strings attached.

      Learn more about email marketing in the Social Media Boss Bundle
    • Social Media marketing: Next to organic traffic (EO), social media marketing holds the top spot for marketing in 2019. Having a social media account for your business is an absolute must. It is a great way to connect with users that prefer social media searches over internet search engines. When using hashtags correctly and creating engaging content, social media can grant your business tons of traffic and sales. By engaging with social media users, you can build a loyal tribe that will return time and time again. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are going to be your top social media channels to promote on and its recommended you create business accounts for each to see insights/analytics. 
    • Influencer marketing: Influencers essentially do the marketing for you in combination with social media marketing. This is why it is one of the most popular ways to market and goes hand in hand with social media marketing. By delegating the marketing to influencers, you do less work for a fee. There are three types of influencers that brands use: Megainfluencers, Macroinfluencers, Microinfluencers.  Each has their own unique advantages depending on your target market. When starting out we understand you want to get sales quickly and may want to get larger promoters, but the engagement in the comments is what matters. What's the purpose of collaborating with an influencer that has 200k followers and averages 6-10 comments a post? Something is not right there and is an immediate red flag and waste of your money/product. Compare that to an Influencer with 10k followers averaging 120+ comments per post. This means people cares and trust the influencer with 10k followers more. There are website platforms dedicated to hosting trustworthy influencers or you can hunt via Instagram (recommended choice). Search through the hashtags to find someone in your niche to ensure your best ROI and pay/negotiate respectively.  


    By following the above steps, you are on your way to running an online boutique. Obviously this isn't everything and there's a lot more tips where these came from. In the How-To Start a Profitable Online Boutique ebook learn even more about making your dream business a success and getting the largest profit for your time put in.  
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    2 comments

    Agreed with SMM point. Next to organic traffic (EO), social media marketing holds the top spot for marketing in 2019. Having a social media account for your business is an absolute must.

    James @eWorldTrade

    Excellent article! This is my blueprint for starting my online boutique. Before I came across your content, I was so clueless! Now, I have the information I’ve been looking for to get started. Thank you!

    Sammie

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