Episode 76 – How to Build Your Online Store – The Right Way!

May 9, 2018

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • How to choose online store platform
  • How to buy your domain name
  • How to upsell a client
  • How to drive traffic to your store

Resources & Links

Episode 76 – How to Build Your Online Store – The Right Way!

Show Notes

If you are planning to start an online store, this episode is a must listen. Don’t make the fatal mistakes so many others do. This episode is your step-by-step guide filled with tips and tricks.

Should you go online?
If you plan to sell designs/styles that will be replicated.
If you plan to sell for fashion/entertainment.
If you can sell one-offs and ‘extras’ – company orders big order of polos and include info to “go online and buy the hoodie, jacket, sweater, etc” to all staff.

Basic Steps to Opening an Online (E-commerce) Store:
– Research your shopping cart platform (DIY or full custom development?)
– Pick your Website URL (Listen to Episode 73 about trademarks)
– Make a plan and set a launch date
– Pick your online products (consider inventory)
– Take quality images of a product
– Write great product descriptions and details
– Set up emails for @url
– Get the right security to take credit cards
– Set up a merchant (credit card charging) account
– Pick a shipping plan/providing
– Test before you launch

Plan to change things monthly / annually. Always keep up to date and remember this is your ‘store’ so keep it clean, it represents your company.

Listen to this episode, follow these steps and success is around the corner!

List of eCommerce / online store/shopping cart software:
– 3dcart
– Volusion
– WooCommerce
– Bigcommerce
– Magento
– Infusionsoft
– Inksoft
– Wix
– DecoNetwork
– BigCartel
– BigCommerce



Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone, and welcome to episode 76 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast! My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today, we’re going to talk about how to build your online store, and really the right way to do it.

Mark S: I wish you would have told me that, because I would have made some notes or something. I’m completely unprepared!

Marc V: Don’t worry! I’ve got all notes ready to forward from here.

Mark S: Before we get started, I just want to say that we may have a special guest.

Marc V: Today?

Mark S: In this episode, even though we didn’t intend it. We have embroidery training going on right behind this wall, and our trainer, Michelle, is fantastic. So, if you hear a little embroidery training wisdom come through on the podcast -.

Marc V: How does it make it through the bricks?

Mark S: I don’t know. Wait, wait! The bricks!

Marc V: Alright, then. Well, everyone, what are we talking about today? How to build your online store. Should you build an online store is maybe the first question to answer in this. We’re talking about an ecommerce store, a place where you can send your customers to and you can send marketing to, and folks will see something, and buy it there, whatever it might be. And we can discuss some of those ideas.

Mark S: Ecommerce is one way to talk about it. Some people will talk about it as a shopping cart, or a cart. Some people will say just an online store. We’re talking about the same thing. We’re talking about a place that you can go on the web, where someone can click and buy your products. They can put in a credit card number or PayPal, or something like that.

That’s just so we’re very inclusive, because we have a lot of people that are at different levels, when it comes to online stuff. In the custom apparel world, you may be a home embroiderer, and you just upgraded to a brand new Avance 1501C, which is a great embroidery machine, by the way.

You just did that, to do your business. You’re figuring out how you’re going to market and sell, and someone told you that you should have an online store. You are welcome, as well.

If you hear anything here you need clarification on, if you’re not really understanding what’s going on, then you are definitely welcome to email us, or make a comment on the podcast or the YouTube video. We’re happy to help. I just wanted to say that, up front.

Marc V: Great! The place to start is really, should you have an online store? Because we are in the custom apparel business, and does it make sense to have an online store for everybody?

I could probably make a case for every business, on why you should.

Mark S: I’m going to say no.

Marc V: Yeah. Sometimes, it’s no. I think it’s just because it’s work. There is complexity involved, and you have to be able to justify the amount of money that’s going to come out of that website, versus the amount of time and money you have to put into it.

Mark S: Even in our industry, while it’s very popular to buy stuff online, it’s easy to go find a custom t-shirt or embroidery design, and buy that online. But most of our customers, the actual people that are in business, get the vast majority of their business from local companies.

Marc V: Face to face.

Mark S: Yeah, it’s face to face, or it’s word of mouth, or it’s people within ten or 15 miles of their home or business.

Marc V: I guess I’m thinking of two different people, then. Right? If you’re listening to this, and you say “I want to sell online, because I’ve got some great t-shirt ideas or fashion ideas,” or “I just want to have an online store. I’m going to generate business through Google or Facebook, or whatever it might be,” then keep going, naturally.

But if you’re thinking about what you just mentioned, “Well, all of my business is face to face.” Here’s the case that I’m going to kind of make right now, and then you decide if this is good for you. But the way I envision it is if that’s your business, if 99% of your business is face to face, in person or referral, typically what happens is we want to upsell. Right?

We want to sell to that customer again. Having an online store gives you the ability to do this scenario, and hopefully, just a few sentences will help everyone understand what it is.

You talk to a customer. They say “I need 45 golf shirts for my local small business,” or local company. You provide them the golf shirts, with their logo on it; embroidered or vinyl, or whatever it might be. You deliver it to them, and then the job’s done, and you say “Come back again, when you need more.”

The online store portion of this is, – and every shirt has a little card in it, or whoever is in charge of this, you send them an email and ask them to share it with the company. “By the way, if anybody wants a replacement shirt, a cap, a tote bag, anything like that, go online, and they can buy them one at a time, right off of my website,” without having to go through you.

This is just a great way to earn additional customers, and earn that little small business later on.

Mark S: It’s very convenient. Also, while somebody is on your website, they may see something else that they want to purchase, that they weren’t aware of, that you missed communicating.

Marc V: And this is the opportunity for you. Maybe you sell to I.T. firms, and that’s who a lot of your business comes from. Maybe you’ve got a little small business idea that you’ve been working on some funny t-shirts, that have to do kind of with the I.T. computer geek community, and you want to push that line.

Here’s a great way to get people in front of those, and test them out. See if anybody buys them. See if people like your ideas.

Mark S: I like that. So, from a local business perspective, you might want to have an online store, so you can get reorders more easily, so you can expand your average sale. People may see something online that they did not realize that you carried.

It also gives you the opportunity to get found by businesses outside of your usual walk of life. So, we’ve got several businesses that got kind of big. This was a little bit earlier on. But because they decided they wanted to do a screen printing and DTG business, and they started to produce some really good shirts.

People started calling them from different parts of the country. They had no idea how the customer found them, or anything like that. But they found their website, and they started placing orders. That was a source of some real success.

Marc V: Yeah. And we have customers that, because they have a website, not necessarily an online store, even, but their online presence allows them to actually do business out of their local area. So, if you say 95% of their business is local, that 5% trailing could come from anywhere else.

Mark S: In this scenario, we’re talking about a business that is already running, or that has got some local business at least in their pocket, and they’re using a shopping cart as a way to facilitate that and increase that.

The one thing I’ll say, and we’ll get into details about this later on, is that if you produce great shirts, and you’re good at marketing in person, then your website has to be the same. If you are really good, if you make beautiful shirts, like the voodoo shirt or like these jeans that we had done with the Digital HeatFX system.

If this is your thing, you have to be able to present that beautifully online, just like you would in person. You can’t just take a bad picture on an ugly website, and expect people to react positively.

Marc V: It’s just like anything else in business, or in the world. If you get all dressed up to go out, and you look fantastic, and then you have muddy shoes on, people are going to look badly at you for that. Here you are at a black tie event, and you’ve got muddy shoes!

Mark S: I may even say something! I may even say something.

Marc V: It’s the same thing. If you do fantastic art, you’re a great personality, you do a lot of business, and a lot of people like you, and then you have this website that looks like it’s from 1999, people are going to think poorly of you.

Right now, at this point in time, I think if you’re still listening, and you’re still going through, you have made the decision that you want to at least be educated on what are the steps to building your online store, so let’s go into it.

Mark S: But before we do that, I just want to say one more thing. The answer to the question of should you sell online is, if you are going to devote yourself to selling online and to being good at it, then it’s a good option.

If you’re looking at yourself, it’s like buying an Alfa Romeo. Beautiful car. If you can fix it yourself, or you’re dedicated to finding a good Italian mechanic that will take care of it, that might be a great purchase for you. If you don’t change your own oil, or you don’t spend any money on maintenance, not the car for you.

Same kind of thing for websites. Okay? If you’re going to devote yourself to it, if you’re going to dedicate yourself to be good at it, then it’s an option. If you’re not going to do that, I don’t care what anybody says around you, that you should be online. Don’t do it. It will just look bad for you.

Marc V: So, the decision really is, are you going to put the time, effort and money into it? And then, are you going to get that out of it?

Mark S: Now I’m ready to go forward.

Marc V: The answer definitely is yes, if you are willing to do it. If you’re willing to at least see what maybe is entailed in doing this, let’s go right into it, and talk about what’s the first step.

The first step truly is just making a plan, having a very basic plan.

Mark S: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I thought the first step was finding the coolest software!

Marc V: No, no. The first step is getting a really cool website name. No.

The first step is just a basic plan. This is something pencil and paper. It does not have to be a complete business plan. That’s up to you, how far you take it.

What do you plan to sell online? What’s the goal of the website? Is it to sell funny t-shirts? Is it to back up the sales that you make in real life? Is it to build a brand of apparel? Is it to advertise online, like on Facebook or Google, or something like that, and bring people to a website, and get them to impulse buy? What’s the goal?

Mark S: Right. We had one customer recently, that actually asked me the question, like “I’m going after big contracts. What kind of a website should I have? What should my shopping cart be?” So, that’s another goal. What are you specifically trying to do with the website?

Marc V: And then, also with that, that will answer the next simple question or part of the plan. How intricate should this website be?

If I were selling, in the scenario I brought up in the beginning, if I sell in person, and what I want to do is I want to have kind of an ancillary spot where customers can come and buy additional one-off pieces or reorders, I would probably have just a core group of maybe ten products, a nice simple shopping cart type of a website.

Where it’s just like “Here’s the two polos I offer. Here’s the two long-sleeved shirts. Here’s the three t-shirts, the two caps, jackets, bags.” You have your main items. Here’s the colors, the sizes.

And then, as far as a logo goes, you can have them – there’s a lot of simple things you can do. It doesn’t have to be complicated. They can even just type in “Wells Plumbing.” That’s the customer, and you know that you have the logo.

Or do you want something really intricate? “Okay, my vision is that a customer is going to be able to go online, and they’re going to be able to take a picture of their kid, and upload it onto the website. I’m going to take that picture, and I’m going to put it on a koozie.” All of these things.

Mark S: An online designer.

Marc V: Yeah, an online designer. They can input birthdays and all of this stuff. Do you want an online designer? These are all different things to consider.

And then, how deep are you going to get into the marketing side of things? How complicated do you want that to be?

Mark S: Do you want to organize quantity discounts? Do you want to organize different pricing for different technologies that you offer? Or do you want to offer coupons?

Marc V: Yeah. Are you going to have, say schools purchase from you online, where they’re going to pay with purchase order numbers, and they’re going to need to receive an automated invoice?

These are all things to consider, in your plan. Once you kind of have that, then you know the next step, which is finding a software that can do that.

If it’s something very simple, like “Hey, I just want to sell some shirts online. I want to have simple features. I want to have a dropdown list of colors, a dropdown list of schools that I do business for, a dropdown list of sizes, and then as many products as I decide to add. That’s it, and I want to be able to do it myself.”

If that’s your goal, there’s a ton of software out there.

Mark S: Yeah. If that’s your goal, and let’s say you are the creative one, and you’re not really looking for customers to bring you designs, you’re going to create designs for people to buy. You’re going to do t-shirts, and you’re going to do other things.

You may decide at this point, after you write your plan and what you want to accomplish, that you don’t mind paying the fees at Etsy, for you not to have to do any of this stuff. That’s a valid decision that you could make.

Marc V: And you could do the same thing through Facebook or eBay. There’s tons of places where you can do this, too, so you don’t necessarily have to have your own software store set.

Mark S: That goes to, what’s your plan? What specifically do you want to do? Who do you expect your customer to be? What do you want them to do, when they get there?

You can look at all of those things, and actually you’ve got another place where you can make a decision; whether or not to go off and do this stuff yourself, or participate in one of these other services.

Marc V: The last step in the plan is, after you write it all down, then you really just say “Now that I have this idea, how are people going to come and find it? How are they going to find me?” And just have a plan for that.

You might say “Well, I’ve been researching SEO, search engine optimization. I’m going to write a bunch of blog posts about a very specific niche market. I’m going to be doing comic book-themed t-shirts, and it’s going to be very specifically for millennial female comic book fans.”

Well, you’ve got this great niche, and you can write a bunch of blog posts and do a bunch of videos, and that might be your plan. Or your plan might be “I’ve got great designs. I’m going to advertise them on Facebook.”

Or your plan might be “Well, I don’t really plan on anybody accidentally finding my website, or finding it in Google, really at all.”

Mark S: “I’m just sending my own customers there.”

Marc V: “I’m just sending my customers there, or my potential customers. If I have a meeting with somebody, ‘Here, visit my website. You can see all of the styles I have to offer.’”

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: Then, there’s all types of things you can do when you have a website, as well, that you get to plug in with these customers, as well; book appointments, and there’s all types of other cool things. So, write all of this stuff down in your plan.

Once you’re done that, now you have to pick some software. We can just name – we can rattle off a bunch.

Mark S: Shopify.

Marc V: BigCommerce, Big Cartel, Wix, [inaudible 00:15:36].

Mark S: WooCommerce.

Marc V: WooCommerce is often used with WordPress.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: X-Cart is one, Magento is another. Shopify, I think we said that in the beginning.

Mark: They all have pros and cons. They all do fundamentally the same thing.

Marc V: In the end, they allow a customer to – in looking in the front end of it, you might not know what the software is behind it, in looking at any of these. You can take the same website, and duplicate it.

Mark: You probably won’t know.

Marc V: Yeah. You replicate it, to look exactly the same. When you go there, it’s not about the look. It’s about what it can do on the back end.

Do you want to be able to do it yourself? “I want to be able to take a picture of the product, upload the picture, type out the description, type in the price, decide where it’s going to go on the website, and hit Okay, and then it’s going to be online.” If you want to be able to do that, make sure the software allows you to do that.

You’ll be able to tell right away, because that software is generally going to tell you right away, when you get to the website, “Build your own website. Do it yourself,” that type of stuff.

Mark S: Or it’s going to say “Hey, you might want to hire somebody.”

Marc V: Yeah.

Mark S: I just want to give you a couple of examples. Colman and Company, they’ve got – it’s got to be close to 5,000 products now.

Marc V: Yeah. Over 5,000 sku’s.

Mark S: And Marc is a very complicated guy, when it comes to ecommerce marketing. By that, I mean like Colman and Company is always pushing the envelope on better ways to attract new customers, better ways to help people find the right product, and to message to them, encourage them to buy things, after they get there.

We just launched our new paid training site, at Training.ColDesi.com, and we’re about to launch our How to Get Into the Custom T-Shirt Business course, on the CustomApparelStartups website. And both of those, we selected WooCommerce for.

Marc V: We should turn this into a course, too, and get really deep into it.

Mark S: I think we should.

Marc V: We just made a decision live, right here, for you.

Mark S: We’re going to turn off the mic now, and get started.

Marc V: But there is so much to go into this. One of the things we mentioned was how were we going to keep this under an hour, because there’s so much information? I think if we go into the basics – we’re only like 17 minutes in, so we’re doing great.

So anyway, how do you find one of these? You can just start searching some of the names we found. You can also just search “shopping cart software,” “ecommerce store.”

Mark S: We’ll put some in the show notes, as well.

Marc V: Google search. If you are in any Facebook groups or if you go on any type of online forums, LinkedIn, social media – ask people.

Mark S: There are industry-specific ones, too, like DecoNetwork, and I think it’s InkSoft, I think has one.

Marc V: There’s a ton. Volusion is another one. There’s tons of them out there. You’ll find the right one. It’s all going to matter on do you have big dreams, where you want to hire a company to do it? And then, they might choose for you. So, that’s another thing you could do.

If you say “I don’t want to do anything with it. I just want to be able to make the shirts, when the orders come in. I just want to take care of the orders, not run the website,” then you could get a referral and find a good firm that will build it for you.

Then, you tell them everything you want to do, and they will say “You know what you could do? Just get this one. It’s simple. We’ll manage it for you. We’ll upload.” You could just use, say Shopify. “Even though it’s simple, we’ll do all of the uploading for you, and you can take it over if you ever want to.”

Mark S: Or that decision that they make might be based on what they have the most experience with.

Marc V: That’s very true.

Mark S: For example, like if you trust me, and you come to me about a shopping cart, and I’m most familiar with WooCommerce, and then my second is Shopify, those are the two that I’m going to talk about. So, a service provider is not going to go out and learn a new shopping cart for you.

Marc V: That’s right.

Mark S: They’re going to take what they’re most familiar with. 99.99% of the time, they’ll be able to make it work.

Marc V: Yeah. And also, the question to ask is going to be “If I want to take the keys from you, and drive it myself, can I? Can I upload all of the – how simple is it going to be?” See the answer to that, and make sure you’re comfortable with what that answer is.

I would not be able to take over, and do all of the development for the Colman and Company site, by myself. I don’t have that knowledge. There’s too much into it.

Mark S: But you meet my minimum standards for any website. I have to go in and I have to know how, and be comfortable with editing the text, the descriptions and stuff. I have to be able to upload my own pictures, and put in a new product.

That’s kind of my minimum.

Marc V: And it’s great. You have to find that spot. So, once you know what you’re going to want to do, if you’re a complete DIY person, make sure that you don’t get in over your head, which is a common mistake. Somebody looks into it, and they look at something like Magento, which is a great software.

But you can literally do anything, so when you can do anything, it gets very -.

Mark S: There’s a lot to do!

Marc V: It’s the equivalent of like the little Legos, having a giant tub of them, and just splashing them on the floor, and just build a castle, versus the big ones, for little kids, and it has instructions on how to build a castle.

You can really get into a mess with those big ones, and you could get lost into something that you never come out of, and you never build a castle.

Mark S: I think that’s the first Lego example you’ve ever used. Congratulations! That’s great.

Marc V: I really wanted to try to work in the biker bar example again.

Mark S: No! Speaking of that, we do have some kind of things that you need to think about after you’ve made the decision, and you know now, some of the criteria for picking which platform you want to do.

So yes, you’re going to do a website. You’ve got a plan in place. I’ve selected my software that I’m going to use, or a contractor that I’m going to use. What’s the next step?

Marc V: For one, make sure in that decision, the final thing in that decision is don’t do it just because it’s free, and you say “Well, it’s going to cost me nothing, so it’s no risk.”

Mark S: It’s never going to cost me.

Marc V: It’s a trap that you can fall into, where you get something you’re not happy with, and you give up.

Second, don’t base the decision 100% on price. Base it on your plan. Just make sure you can afford to invest that, and keep it up.

If you’re going to spend a lot in the beginning, it’s going to cost you a lot when you want to revamp it. If you spend very little in the beginning, you’re probably going to be very limited on some of the things you can do.

Mark S: You’ve got to be prepared.

Marc V: So, find limitations, as questions. Every one of these companies has either people you can talk to on the phone or live chat with, or email. Ask them all of the questions you can think of ahead of time.

If you have friends that have online stores, or you know anybody who does, ask them what they do, why they chose, and why they made that decision.

Once you get that – some of these things are not necessarily in the exact order.

Mark S: They’re not in the right order.

Marc V: Necessarily, there isn’t an order for these, but they’re things you should do.

One is you need to pick your URL, your website name. You need to make sure that you, just because you have a business name, and that business is unique to your state, does not mean that the website is available online.

Mark S: Right. For example, if you are going to go into the embroidery business, and you have the word “sew” in your name; SewStitch, SewFunny, SewGood Embroidery, anything with that S-E-W, I guarantee it’s taken.

Marc V: Yeah. All of those are.

Mark S: Everybody does the same thing.

Marc V: Or if it’s InStitches, chances are that your website is going to be taken. So, look at that first.

Mark S: And the URL, which is what you type in when you do www., that name is your URL – it does not have to be the same as your company name.

Marc V: It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, either. It could be similar. There’s plenty of rules. But it has to be something that’s easy to get to.

You can purchase and search the availability of these through Google, through Amazon, through GoDaddy. There’s lots of places you can do it. You can do it through the software that you’re going to purchase. They oftentimes will provide that as a service, as well.

Or if you’re hiring a firm to do the work for you, they can do it, as well.

Mark S: You’re going to pay for that, by the way. When you pick that name, you’re going to register that domain name, and that’s going to cost you a couple of bucks.

Marc V: Yeah, and you own it. It doesn’t cost a lot. Make sure you shop around for this stuff. Don’t just go to the first place you Google search, find, click and buy, and impulse it, because you don’t want to get ripped off, or you don’t want to be stuck in a situation where it’s kind of a mess.

Mark S: Pick that URL, and also, I’ve got a little note here, listen to episode 73, about trademarks.

Marc V: We talked about trademark names, and is the name taken by somebody else. We had an attorney/marketer on this episode.

Mark S: Yeah. You don’t want to go after Nike, Nikeeeee.com, if you’re selling shoes. Don’t try to be tricky! It’s not going to work out well for you.

Marc V: That’s the whole lesson for that; don’t be tricky. Listen to that podcast. It will help you out when you’re building your brand, your name, your images, your website feel. A lot of people come in here, and they find a copycat of a big brand, or a sports team or something like that, and they want to start an online store.

I say the same thing every time. I say just know that you’re walking on dangerous territory, if your entire business is built around this. Have a plan B, because you might get a letter one day.

Mark S: And you’re breaking the law.

Marc V: And you’re breaking the law.

Mark S: I just want to say that. If you’re doing like college stuff, or you’re doing sorority stuff, you’re breaking the law.

Marc V: So, just make sure. Listen to that episode, because it ties in with building your website.

Mark S: Don’t go online with any of that.

Marc V: You don’t want to spend $5,000 – you don’t want to spend $200, and throw it in the trash. You don’t want to spend $5,000 or $20,000 on whatever your dream website is, to find out that you’re infringing on somebody’s trademark or copyright.

So, listen to that episode. It will give you some good tips, and will help you when you’re building your site.

Next is, now you have software. You know what you’re going to use. You’ve got the website URL set up. You feel comfortable about your trademark and all of that.

It’s time to just set a date. How long is it going to take you to build it? If you’re doing it yourself, talk with the software company, whether on IM or email or on the phone. Say “Hey, this is all of the things I want to do. Here is kind of my plan. How long should it take me to build that?”

Build in some time for you to make mistakes, and want to change things. If you’re working with a company you’re paying, ask them how long it’s going to take. How long is the project?

Set a launch date. This way, you’ve got a goal. You need to set a goal for a website. Otherwise, it will never launch.

Mark S: Especially if you’re dealing with a contractor, honestly. In a lot of cases, they may have a bigger project that comes in, that bumps yours back. You really need to get a commitment from that company, that this is when the site will go live.

Marc V: If you are talking to a company, get a launch date. If you are doing it yourself, then give yourself one. You go to Shopify, you’re live chatting with somebody. You tell them “These are all of the things I want to do.” They say “Yes, absolutely, Shopify can do all of that stuff. Here are some plugins you can purchase,” etc., etc.

“How long would it take me to build it?” They say “Oh, you could do this in probably just eight or ten hours, maybe.” Then, say “Okay. I’m going to go ahead. I’m just going to give myself ten days, because I need to take pictures,” and we’re going to get into all of the other things you need to do.

So, you say “I’m going to give myself ten days. I’m going to give myself 30 days,” or whatever it is. Set a date, and then try to hold yourself to that.

Next, I mentioned images.

Mark S: Please take good pictures of your product!

Marc V: Yeah. Take good pictures. There’s a few rules on that. One is the image has to look good on a big computer monitor. Just think about it that way. Just because it looks good on your 13-inch laptop, which it probably already doesn’t, but it needs to look good on a big monitor.

Just make sure that your images have good resolution. It needs to look good on a mobile device, and mobile devices have amazing quality now.

Mark S: Yeah. They really do.

Marc V: So, if you have a poor quality image, then if it looks fuzzy – if it looks what you call pixelated, which all squares – then it’s going to look bad. It’s going to give you a really bad image.

Mark S: Here’s the way to think about it. It has to be like pictures of somebody else’s kids. Right? Because if you take a picture of your own kids, it could be a bad picture, and you still freaking love it.

So, if you have created this great design, and it’s your logo, and you take a picture of it, and it’s a little fuzzy, it’s a little off to the side and it’s not as bright as it should be, you’re going to look at that and say “Man, my logo looks good!” But if it’s somebody else’s, then you’re like “I really can’t see stuff.”

If I go to Amazon or if I go to Etsy, or if I go to White House Black Market or American Eagle, I’m going to take a picture, and there’s going to be a beautiful person in a beautiful shirt or jacket, in a beautiful setting, taken perfectly.

You don’t have to do that, but you’ve got to do better than fuzzy and dark.

Marc V: Yes. Fuzzy, dark, and aspect ratios that are incorrect, too, is another thing that people do incorrectly. These are just things that you’re going to have to just learn a little bit about. You do not have to be an expert on this.

But what you’re going to do is you’re going to go to your store. Say, you set up one of these big commerce stores or something like that. You go to the store, and it says “Here’s where you upload your logo.” Right next to it, it will have numbers; three or four numbers, X, three or four numbers.

This is the size of the image that they want it to be. They want it to be this size. If it says 1200X600, you know, first of all, just Google search yourself, and learn what those numbers mean, and what that is. It’s minutes of work. Understand it. Find a YouTube video.

Once you understand what that means, 1200 might be – if we’re just talking in numbers, if you were to say 12 inches – not exactly, but just to give you a reference point, if you don’t understand. You could say 12 inches by 6 inches. Imagine just a photograph that’s 12 inches wide by 6 inches tall.

If that’s what it needs to be, if you put one in, if you buy a picture frame, and the picture frame is 12 inches by 12 inches, and you slide that image in there, it’s not going to look right, if it’s in the wrong size frame.

Mark S: That’s a really good way to think about it.

Marc V: It’s essentially what it is.

Mark S: I also want to encourage you that if you have seen pictures of Colman and Company products or ColDesi’s products, or you’ve seen our stuff online, I promise you that 97% of that stuff was taken with my Samsung or an iPhone, or something like it. We don’t have a studio here. That’s what I’m trying to say.

We don’t have like a $10,000 commercial camera and a big studio. This fake brick is as fancy as we get. That’s it!

Marc V: Yeah, so go ahead and just use your phone, use a really nice quality webcam. If you have a nice camera that you use for family photos and stuff, use that. Get some good lighting.

There’s a ton of YouTube videos on how to take good pictures. There’s tons of them.

Mark S: We should do a course on that.

Marc V: Yeah, we should. But there are tons, so get on YouTube, and learn about how to take a good picture, understanding image quality. If your logo is supposed to be this wide, – I’m holding my hands out, for those listening – if your logo is supposed to be a foot wide, and it’s supposed to be in a rectangle shape, and you put it into a square box, and it forces it into a square, and squishes it in -.

Mark S: It’s not going to look right.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s not going to look right. It’s going to look bad. Don’t squish or stretch images. So, there’s just some basic image stuff.

Mark S: I’m going to make “no squishing” part of our show notes.

Marc V: No squishing, no stretching.

Mark S: The next one is one that is particularly dear to my heart here, for this stuff. That is great product descriptions and details. Because I see lost opportunity in most of the apparel websites I go to.

What someone will do is they’ll go to SanMar, who is a blank apparel supplier that we deal with, who’s great. They’ll provide you with blank, beautiful images of their apparel, of their blank shirts and bags, and things like that.

I’ll see someone put up pictures of four or five different blank shirts, and the description will be “Cotton,” “Blend,” “T-Shirt,” “V-neck.” You’re missing a couple of opportunities.

First of all, you’ve got to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. They need to understand more about why your shirt is different than other peoples’. So, you’ve got to put the weight and the blend, and the feel, and any kind of descriptive language, technical and non-technical, as you can, in that product.

Because people are going to make their decision on whether or not to buy that product, based on what’s typed there.

Marc V: Exactly. You’ve got a great product. Every store, every shopping cart, online store you have, gives you a place to put a description, where the public can read it. So, when they land on that page, they see the picture, which has got to be good quality. It does not need to be – don’t hire a photographer, to get started.

Just have a good quality image, and then a good quality description. Some nice clean sentences, facts about what the product is. If it’s a particular type of cotton, what type of cotton is it? If it’s a blend, what are the blends? What are the materials in it?

If it’s snag-proof, put that in there. If it’s colorfast for washing, put that in there. Any positives that your apparel supplier tells you about this product, share this with your customer.

The more details you can put in there, the more comfortable they’re going to be, in choosing to buy this apparel.

Mark S: Etsy’s sellers are good at these kinds of descriptions, as well. Think about putting in there the stuff that you like about it. Write this down. Write “I added this to the site, because after the first time I held this shirt, I could feel that it was great quality. I think you’re going to love it!” Make that part of your description.

Also, realize that if someone is searching online for a custom t-shirt – this is if you’re looking for that found business from SEO – they’re not typing in usually the model number of the shirt. If somebody types in V-neck, they’re not going to find you.

But if the description of your shirt is “I picked this shirt because I love it. It’s got great washability. It looks great with my direct-to-garment printer process. It’s very colorfast. This is a great custom t-shirt for golfers.” “This is a great polo for work wear.”

Put all of the words that you can think of, that people might search for.

Marc V: Sure. And it’s great for just when you’re sending your customers there, because what I envision is, is a lot of folks that are listening to this, they get most of their business from in-person.

Now, they’re going to build this online store, and they’re going to tell the people they meet in person to go to their  online store, to help them pick which apparel they want. Especially if they’re not feeling samples of it, in person.

Then, when they get there, you can put in the description, “This is great! Recommendations for uniforms, golfing, etc.”

Mark S: I love that idea.

Marc V: You could put recommendations in there. You could put why it’s your favorite shirt, maybe. “Within our company, this is our favorite t-shirt. Here’s why.” Just put a really good description of what the product is, how you’re decorating it.

You can also put a lot of other things in here, as well. You can put wash instructions here, if you have specific wash instructions.

I’m going to talk about something else in a minute, but link to a sizing chart, because folks are going to want to know “How do I measure myself for this shirt?”

Mark S: And if you have a really simple site, you could also mention that “This hat matches this shirt perfectly, so if you wanted to get a set, it’s a good idea!”

Marc V: Yeah. You can recommend other products. “Goes great with this product.”

Mark S: If you do all of that right, I just want to describe the power of it, if you do it right, and you do it consistently. If you go in right now, and if you Google search for a commercial embroidery machine, you will find the Avance embroidery machine everywhere, because we pay attention to these descriptions.

Marc V: And good images. That’s the other thing, is that Google and all of this stuff, they like good images.

Mark S: That I took with my Samsung!

Marc V: There you go! Now that you’ve got images, you’ve got descriptions, you know what software you’re going to use, you’ve kind of set a launch date, at least you have a plan for your images and descriptions.

Next is just a simple thing. Get your email set up. If it’s MyShirtCompany.com, then you’re going to want to get Support@MyShirtCompany.com, Help@, Sales@, you know. Or your name. However you do the business, whatever the personal touch you’re putting into it.

Mark S: Usually, that happens when you buy that URL. If you go to GoDaddy or BlueHost or something, and you decide to look for a domain name there, they’ll offer you “Hey, get five business email addresses for X.” That’s the easy way to do it.

Marc V: And you could this, again, through Google and Amazon. All of these services have it. This is all stuff that’s very inexpensive. So, if you’re looking at this and you’re seeing a three-digit number, you’re probably already spending too much.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: It’s a two-digit number to get your email, the domain, the basic things set up, or very low into three digits. So, it’s inexpensive.

Make sure that when you’re getting your email set up, that it’s in a platform that you’re going to understand how to use. Some of these, you’re going to go to a place where you can buy a domain registration, and they might have an email that they provide you, or an email service that might be free or included. But in order to access it, it’s very complicated.

Mark S: Right now, for example, maybe you get your emails on Google, or you get your emails – so, you know how to access your email pretty easily. What we’re saying is, is that some of the services that are offered when you buy your website or get your domain, require extra work, in order to easily see and respond to emails.

Marc V: Yeah. So, if you’re going to purchase an email, you know, Sales@MyStore.com, then how am I going to access that email? Ask the question. Ask the support from the company that you’re going to purchase through.

Most of these things, also, these companies can re-route all of these things, too. So, if you want to use Google or Gmail or Yahoo -.

Mark S: Somebody can walk you through that.

Marc V: Yes. They can connect these things together.

Mark S: Not if you want to use Yahoo.

Marc V: I would not. But there’s a lot of folks out there that are really just really happy and really dedicated to their Yahoo email address.

Mark S: That’s because they haven’t been hacked yet.

Marc V: I personally like the Gmail service. That’s the one that I would recommend. You can do all of this through Google and through Gmail, and it’s pretty easy to work with, and they have some support that will help you. And the GoDaddy service is really easy, too.

If you want a get somebody on the phone type of a service, the GoDaddy one is cool, because you can actually just call somebody, and do it all on the phone.

Mark S: Which I like.

Marc V: I guess the order doesn’t really matter as much. We can talk about merchant services. Merchant services, this is the ability to take a credit card online.

Mark S: And it’s tied in to that security on the website. So, you’ve got to do both.

Marc V: Correct. The other thing is making sure that you have the right security for your website. So, when you go to buy your website, – your URL, I should say – then you go to buy your hosting. The hosting is going to be the space where your website lives.

Imagine that if you have a store, you have to lease a spot in a commercial space. Right? That’s what the hosting is. It’s a spot that you’re going to lease. It’s on a computer somewhere, on the internet.

When you go through to purchase your ecommerce software, like Shopify, they will probably say hosting is included. They’re including the hosting, and they’re going to include all of the right security.

Mark S: It’s easy.

Marc V: If you’re going to do it through GoDaddy or Google, they may ask you “Do you need additional security, like SSL certificates or HTTPS?”

Mark S: And you do.

Marc V: These are security. You do need these things, if you’re going to take credit cards online. If you go to set up your merchant account, they’re going to ask if you have this. If you say yes, and you don’t, they will know. You can tell if this exists. It’s not something that can be lied about. It’s just very simple, and that is right there on your website, and it can be searched online.

The other thing you can consider, when you’re buying and getting into all of this, is the privacy of your domain. If you are going to have really offensive t-shirts that might offend a lot of people, but you know you can sell a lot of them.

Mark S: We will not be giving any examples.

Marc V: You can pay to not have your name associated with the website, your name and your personal address and your personal phone number. If you don’t pay for that additional service, and believe me, all of these companies will attempt to sell you this stuff, because they make money for selling you these services. So, that’s something to consider.

Mark S: It’s like back in the day, you had to pay for an unlisted phone number. If you didn’t want your home phone, your AT&T phone bolted to the wall, if you didn’t want that phone number to be public, you had to write somebody a check.

Marc V: Wow! I forgot that that existed.

Mark S: It’s the same thing now, though.

Marc V: It’s the same as this. The other thing, when you’re going in and you’re buying your URL, they’re going to ask if you want the security. You’re going to need all of these things, but that’s why I like to say start with the ecommerce platform, with the software you’re going to use.

Because oftentimes, the software is going to cover all of these things for you. If you’re customizing this yourself, and you’re buying from different places, because you’ve kind of put it together, they’re going to ask you these things.

More so, I’m not telling you this stuff because you need to make sure you’re buying the right things. I’m telling you this stuff because I don’t want you to buy every single thing that they try to sell you, when you’re buying your website URL. Then, you end up owning a bunch of stuff that you don’t need, or you’re not going to use.

Mark S: Which I’ve done at least three times, at least.

Marc V: That’s why when you start with the software, they might cover most of this stuff for you, and you’re all set. You don’t have to worry about it. If they ask for an add-on, you want to understand what that add-on is. Always ask a representative from the company.

Mark S: I just want everybody to take a deep breath, though, because it’s not like buying a car. You’re not going to walk out of there with a $50,000 bill, with insurance and warranties. Nothing terrible is going to happen. You can make all of these mistakes, and it’s okay. It’s going to add a couple of bucks to your monthly payment or to your annual contract, or whatever. But it’s nothing to sweat. You should just be really well educated.

Marc V: Yeah. You’re talking about, this could cost you $50 or $200.

Mark S: Right.

Marc V: And what do you need in that? While you’re purchasing other things, these companies who sell the URLs and the domain names and etcetera, these domain registrars, they are going to offer you to buy other website names that are similar to yours. And this might be a good idea.

Mark S: What do you think about that?

Marc V: It depends. If it is a word that you know everybody is going to misspell, like for example, my last name, Vila. People insist on having a second L in there, even if they’re Hispanic and they understand that two Ls is not the L sound.

Mark S: Isn’t it “Vila,” with only one L?

Marc: No, not in Spanish. But even people who speak Spanish don’t spell it right, but we don’t have to get into that.

But if it was going to be MarcVilasTshirts, I know that a ton of people are going to put two Ls in there. I know that it’s going to happen. So, if that is available, I’m going to buy both. I’m going to buy the wrong one, so I can take the wrong one, and redirect it to the right one. And whoever you buy it from can do that for you.

If it’s going to be a misspelled word, or if you want to have a short version. If it’s MaryAnnsEmbroideryShopAndGiftsAndChachkis – which is a word – .com, that’s a really long name. It might just want to be MarysGiftShop as a second one you buy, that’s something you can say to somebody, that they can remember real quick, or type easily.

Mark S: I do want to say that Marc Vila is both Spanish and Italian, so he’s talking with his hands, constantly. Picture big fish, little fish.

The other thing that I wanted to say about that, if I can remember it again, after my fish example – but I can’t.

Marc V: Okay, then I’ll tell you something else, and you think about it.

You can also, with the extra URLs, sometimes when you’re talking about buying your domain name, it might be .com, it might be .co, it might be .us. There’s a lot of these other things to do. Just consider, when you’re telling folks where to go, that a lot of people are just going to automatically go to .com.

Mark S: Anybody over 40 is definitely going to go to .com.

Marc V: Yes. So, if you are buying .co, you need to make sure that it’s very clear, or .us, that you’re very clear, that you understand what you’re getting into.

But there’s going to be a lot of other options, and these companies who sell this stuff are going to try to upsell you all of them. You don’t need all of them. They will give you 40 options.

Mark S: Because no matter how big your brand gets, nobody is trying to buy Nike.us. Nobody has CafePress.biz. Really, you’re not going to get spoofed. The odds are very low.

Marc V: The odds are low. And as you grow, these are all things that -.

Mark S: However, the one thing I’ll say is if your brand name and your URL are the same, trademark everything. Then, it won’t matter if someone gets a domain close to yours.

Marc V: Yeah. And there’s an approach to all of this, to be considered. The very, very conservative high goal approach would be “I’m going to dedicate my life to this. I plan on making a million dollars here, and I want to buy all of them, because I want to own that from the beginning, to protect my investment.”

That is a conservative approach, but realize that that might cost you $300, compared to $25.

Mark S: Every year.

Marc V: Every year. And what’s the risk and reward involved in that?

Mark S: We say buying domain names and URLs, but we don’t mean “buying.” Because it’s not permanent ownership. You’re renting it, over a period of time.

Marc V: For one year, three years, five years. I’m a big fan of in the beginning, just do the year. Because you might up end up, in the end of all of this, saying “You know what? The ecommerce thing wasn’t for me,” or “I’m dropping this brand, because I don’t really like the brand I was building up. I’m going with a different niche.”

So, in the beginning, do a year, because it’s cheaper. Spend less money. Spend the money doing something else. Spend the extra $20 on something else. Then, maybe the next year, you buy the five-year plan or the ten-year plan, because you can do that, and save money over time. But in the beginning, it’s not necessary to buy the whole ten-year plan for everything. Buy a year.

Mark S: Okay.

Marc V: Now, we can dive deeper into the merchant account. You’re going to need to be able to take credit cards online. Your shopping cart software will recommend services that work with them.

Mark S: And when we say “merchant account,” that’s what we’re talking about. A merchant account is one that gives you the ability to take credit cards. It can refer to the ability to do it, and it can also refer to a specific vendor.

Like you sign up with PayPal, that is fundamentally a merchant account.

Marc V: Yes. And PayPal is often a very recommended one, because of their user-friendly approach. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the money has to sit in a PayPal account, and you can’t access it.

Mark S: Some of the shopping cart software actually comes with. Some of those services comes with.

Marc V: Yeah, and there’s others. I think there’s CirclePay, Authorize.net. There’s a bunch of them that are out there. You will find that when you go to set up your website, so you’re on WooCommerce, and it’s asking you which merchant service are you going to use. Or you’re on Shopify, “These are the ones that we work with.”

Wherever you are, they’re going to let you know, and you’re going to have to sign up. Now, signing up for that is something that can take a couple of days, to get approved and get done. They’re going to fraud check. They’re going to make sure that you’re not a criminal of some sort, trying to scam people.

Mark S: If you’re using a company name, then they’re going to make sure that you have an actual company with that name. If you’re using a personal name, then it’s different.

Marc V: They might require proof of a business checking account, that you actually have a business name opened up. Things like that. So, you might need some steps.

So, when you get to this portion of the merchant service, understand that you might need to get approved. This may or may not involve personal credit. It may or may not involve a business bank account or business licenses or state licenses. It’s going to vary, where you are, and which software you’re using, how robust it is.

Also, understand that when people are being charged on their credit card, this is what’s going to show up, is this. So, if you put it in your personal name, that’s fine. You can do that. You can set up your online PayPal, and have it in your name. But understand, when somebody purchases from your website, it’s going to have your name on their credit card bill.

Maybe that’s okay, because it’s Mary’s Embroidery, and if it comes up as “Mary” on their credit card, it’s not a big deal. If it’s ReallyOffensiveTshirts.com, and you’ve hid the URL, but then you put the PayPal under your name, the credit card is going to show your name. So, understand that that’s all tied together.

That process is an approval. It takes some time, so this is something that you want to set up, and then be patient, because it might not happen instantly.

Mark S: And this is part of your plan, right?

Marc V: Correct.

Mark S: These are things that you should maybe have thought about and considered, before you start the process.

Marc V: Yeah. And while you’re doing this, ask some smart questions, if you need to, when you’re making this decision. How is fraud handled, if you get a fraudulent charge brought to you? What about a chargeback? If somebody says that you falsely charged them, how does that get handled?

Understand the process of this. Ask the questions of whoever you’re going to choose to work with. Oftentimes, they’ll have an FAQ list that you should read through anyway, because you’ll have a bunch more questions, that we didn’t even think of. So read, again. Read and understand.

The next thing I’d say is shipping. Get set up. How are you going to ship your product? Are you going to ship it? If you’re a local business, and you’re just sending your customers – say you deal with a whole bunch of youth sports teams, and what you do is you’re going to tell everybody to go and order there.

So for example, the one that I had worked with in the past, when we ordered the shirts, there was no shipping option. They didn’t send it to us. It was “Pick up at field,” on this date.

Mark S: I like it.

Marc V: It said “On your first game day, all of the garments will be there. Be there, and the coach will have it.” Maybe that’s how you do it. Maybe you just deliver on Fridays, directly to the business. So, if somebody orders something, as long as they order it by Wednesday, they’ll receive it by that Friday.

If they order any time between Saturday and Wednesday, they’ll receive it then. Maybe that’s how you do it. Maybe it’s only pick up at your shop, because you’re only doing local business.

So, whatever it is. You can decide, are you going to do USPS flat rate boxes or bags? That can be very inexpensive, if you’re just selling one-off t-shirts.

Maybe speed and time of delivery is very, very important, so you’re going to choose UPS or FedEx. That’s how we are, at Colman and Company. The people need to know exactly when they’re going to receive their supplies, exact times and dates, so we use UPS, because of that function.

They can choose the date they want. Right in checkout, it says “Get it by Wednesday,” and it’s going to be there that day, 99.9% of the time.

Mark S: Don’t forget the other things, because we see that question a lot on the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, is are you going to put your clothes in bags, before you ship it? Are you going to put it in a branded bag? Are you going to put it in a box?

What are you going to include, when you ship it? Is somebody going to get a packing slip in the box? Are they going to get a copy of the invoice? Are they going to get your business card?

Marc V: Yeah. There’s a lot of steps. It’s simple, but complicated. Everything has a little series of things to think about.

Mark S: You don’t have to do it all at once. But you are going to get a big order one day, and you’re going to go “What do I put this in?”

Marc V: “What do I do next?”

Mark S: Then, you’re going to down and spend your profit on a box that you have to have custom made.

Marc V: And the other thing I really want you to consider is that it’s not going to be perfect, out of the gate. So, what you should have is like “This is what I’m happy to launch with. This is a short-term goal, and this is a long-term goal.”

You could say “You know what would be perfect is that I have this beautiful website, with perfect images. They order online. They get this beautiful custom-branded box. When they open it up, it’s in a custom-branded plastic bag, with tissue paper and a sticker.” All of that is great, and it’s an awesome experience for buying a high-end t-shirt.

Maybe in the beginning, you do just start with just tissue paper, in like a USPS flat rate box. I’ve ordered beautiful high-end stuff, and it’s come in that. I open it up, and it’s tissue paper and maybe you go to Walmart and you buy some thank you notes. In the beginning, the personal touch is writing a thank you note.

Then, you say “But one day, I’m going to buy custom-made boxes.”

Mark S: It’s all part of your plan. It’s knowing what you want to do, and how you want things to look. Actually you should, after this is done, maybe go and listen to our Customer Experience podcast.

Marc V: I was thinking that, too.

Mark S: There’s a lot of good stuff in there, because that delivery step is important, especially if it’s an online business.

Marc V: Also consider other things. Are you going to offer free shipping? I like that. I think that free shipping is really important. Not everybody is going to feel the same way about that.

Mark S: Especially in Accounting.

Marc V: Yes. Are you going to do some sort of a flat rate? “All shirts ship for $3,” or you can say “Everything ships for free.” Or orders over $50. Your shopping cart or your ecommerce software will allow you to write and create these rules, and you can decide what’s good for you.

Just remember that everybody is offended at shipping, no matter what you charge, so always keep that in mind. You are better off to raise the price of your product a couple of dollars.

Mark S: Okay! Move on, move on!

Marc V: Anyway, it’s important to consider all of those things. Are you going to deliver? How are you going to deliver? Who are you going to use? Is that going to integrate with your website?

Oftentimes, if you’re going to choose to use, say UPS, your ecommerce software will have a direct plugin to UPS, so your customer can get an estimated shipping right in their shopping cart.

Mark S: I’m going to bring up a very current example. We have always traditionally shipped UPS for smaller items, and people are always asking us why you can’t just mail something to us. That’s because it’s not the easiest thing to implement, in the shopping cart that we have. Right?

So, that’s a great example of we’d like to do these things, where if 15 years ago, when we first started Colman and Company, we had thought “Okay, one day we might want to be able to ship through these five different ways. What’s the best platform for us to do that?” We may have made a different decision.

Marc V: And you’ll see, when you build your website, you’ll begin to empathize with some of the things that we go through. Because there’s also like agreements between these companies and shopping carts, and how it can be implemented, and all of these things.

So, it’s going to be something. Again, it can be very intimidating, but in the beginning, pick something. Then, have a goal for later on. You can say “What I’m going to do in the beginning, to keep it simple, is I’m going to choose this one, because it looks really easy to set up. Then, in the end, maybe I’ll do this.”

Mark S: “But in 18 months, -“

Marc V: Yeah. “Next year, I’d like to do this. But for now, I’m going to start here.” So, find a place to start.

Mark S: I like it.

Marc V: Next is really just art and design that comes along with building a website. When you build a website, if you’re doing it on your own, they are going to have templates you’re going to choose from. A template meaning it’s going to look a certain way.

There’s going to be a header on the top. On the left, there’s going to be a sidebar, with an image. On the bottom, there’s going to be a footer, with an image. Then, here’s where your product image is going to go, etc.

Mark S: It’s like moving into a retail space, where they’ve already got the shelves set up. So, how easy is it to move one shelf to another place? What do you need to do, to fill the shelves?

Marc V: Yeah. It’s the picture frame analogy, again. If you go to the craft store and you buy a picture frame that holds 20 photos, then some of them are going to square, some are going to be 4×6, some are 5×7, one’s an 8×10. You have to figure out what’s going to go in those spots.

With that, you’re going to have your logo, images that might go in the header, images that might go in the footer, what you call the favicon, which is the little icon that’s on the top of the browser – that tiny, tiny little thing.

Social media links, plus all of the social media images; images for Facebook, images for YouTube, if you’re going to have these pages.

What you do is, the easy way to do it, which again, everything sounds complicated, but if you do it in steps, it’s easy. You pick the theme that you want, and you take a look. “Where do I need to put images?” There’s a main header. That’s a big image. “I need one big image. I need three little images for the bottom. I need one long image for the side. And this is my basic website template.”

“What do I want to put here?” Are you good with art? Can you do it yourself? If you’re a graphic artist and you’re in apparel – there’s a lot of great graphic artists that are listening to this – you could do it yourself. You’re going to know a lot of this stuff.

If not, you might want to hire a company to make all of those for you. Don’t have your cousin do it, who kind of knows how to use Photoshop.

Mark S: I will say here, though, that if you pick a stock template from a website, and you only use stock photos for your products and for your header images and things like that, it will look like somebody overseas designed it. Or it will look like everyone else’s website. It will not be an attractive website.

Only stock images – it would be better to have a picture of you and your shop or your equipment, or the last three t-shirts you designed, as the big header image on top, than it would be just having some generic “Buy a t-shirt from me,” and a guy in a blank shirt. Right?

Marc V: Yeah. You want to make sure that, again, it’s got to match up with your brand. Your home page, your main images, whatever is in the template, this is an important place to go and just make sure you have good art, good images. It’s going to make the website really look nice and clean.

Make sure that you know people who are going to be really honest with you, brutally honest about how your website looks. So, when you share this with them, they can tell you “Hey, that image on the top feels fake to me.”

Mark S: Or you can approach us. We’ll definitely tell you if you have an ugly website. I’m not shy about that at all. I will! I love to kill peoples’ dreams of their websites!

Marc V: Have great art. Be prepared for it. Again, the company that you’re working with, whether it’s an economy platform or you’re working with a high-end firm, oftentimes it will have art services built into it. So, you can pay for this stuff, too.

You can also, again, build over time. In the beginning, maybe you just have like a really simple image, which is just a picture you took on your phone, of a shirt you embroidered. And you start there. It’s not your dream one, but you know that in 90 days, you’re going to dedicate $500 to getting all brand new custom art designed for the website.

So again, stages. It doesn’t have to be perfect, to launch it, 100%.

Next is a privacy policy page. This means, what are you going to do with the information that you collect? You should be collecting email addresses from people, so you can email market to them. You also might collect names and addresses, and things like that.

Oftentimes, the email service you use or the merchant service, or whatever software you’re using to collect this information, might need you to post a privacy policy.

Mark S: What a privacy policy is, it’s just how your company promises to treat the information that they receive. So, a lot of standard things that you’ll see in a privacy policy is that “I will not sell your information. I promise to keep your information as secure as I can, within reason. I will not market other products to you, outside of what you see on this website.”

Marc V: And it will also say something like “I use a third-party email marketing company that manages my emails for me. However, they also have privacy, as well.” You might need to have some of these words in there.

The good thing about this is, circling back, the software will more than likely have a template for you.

Mark S: Everyone uses a template.

Marc V: Yep. There’s a template already built in for you. And if you do have, say if you get a new software plugged into your website, they will tell you “By the way, in order to get -.” Like we have Shopper Approved. We do reviews on ColmanAndCompany.com. With this, they said “By the way, in your privacy policy, you have to put that when people post reviews, this is what happens.”

It ends up on your website through Shopper Approved. It’s on a Shopper Approved link, to show that a third party verified it. So, we have to put this little section that by the way, when you make a review, your name is going to be on Shopper Approved.

Mark S: Which by the way, if you really want to read some great reviews, you should look at ColmanAndCompany.com, and their Shopper Approved reviews.

Marc V: There are some good ones on there.

Mark S: They’re really, really good. I highly encourage you to do that.

Marc V: Now, if you want to read all of my replies to like the one-stars, you can do that, too. Most of those are me. Pick your favorite snarky one, and that’s probably me. I’m kidding!

Mark S: I like that. There’s nothing but snarky!

Marc V: No, I’m kidding. Reviews are another thing we didn’t mention yet, but if the platform that you choose to work with has the ability for customers to leave reviews, that’s great.

Mark S: You should do that.

Marc V: Also, we have a Shopper Approved episode, where we had the gentleman from Shopper Approved on.

Mark S: That’s right. That was good.

Marc V: You can listen to that, too. They offer a service. But also, the software that you use might offer a service, as well. And you can also link to your Facebook page, if you encourage customers to leave reviews there.

Again, these reviews don’t have to be from everyone buying online. They might be from folks that you deal with in person.

Mark S: I would say, make sure that you’re good at what you do, and that you treat people well.

Marc V: That really helps.

Mark S: Because if you’re bad at what you do, and you’re still figuring things out, and people give you bad reviews, they will last forever.

Marc V: Well, we’re at an hour, and I think we can throw in like five more minutes here.

Mark S: Okay, let’s do that. What do you want to talk about, for five minutes?

Marc V: Well, not for five minutes. But I think, to finish it up, once you’ve gone through all of the steps, and you’ve set everything up, if you’re going to DIY it, make sure you work with a company that’s going to have the ability to help you on the phone or live chat or email.

This way, when you’re all done, you actually have a website that works, and you don’t end up having to go and pay somebody, when you didn’t plan on doing it from the beginning.

If you are going to pay somebody, make sure that you have a quote, a set date, how much it’s going to cost, when it’s going to launch, and how they’re going to manage it in the long term.

Once you have that all set, you want to test your site, before you start telling everybody to go to it. Click on every single link. You should do this yourself, or pay somebody to do this for you. Test every link. Actually check out. Go through the process yourself, or pay somebody to go through the process from start to finish.

Every page, read everything. Read it again. Have somebody proofread for you. Look for typos, look for grammatical errors, look for errors that possibly could happen – when you click here, you get an error.

Do that before you officially launch, and start putting it on your business card and telling everybody to go there. Or worse, pay for advertising to a web page that’s broken.

Mark S: Which we’ve never done!

Marc V: What are just a few? Let’s just fire off other things to consider and think about, when they’re doing this, a lightening round.

Mark S: Okay. My favorite is where are you actually going to get traffic from? We didn’t talk about you build a beautiful website, how are people going to find you, other than you telling them physically to go to your website? If your plan is to have people find you nationally, or outside your immediate family, then you’re going to have to have some idea of how people are going to find you.

Marc V: Correct. And you might have to pay for that. You might have to do really well, at getting found on Google. Or your plan might just be “I’m not going to be found nationally. It’s just a place for my local customers to find me. And if somebody finds me by accident, that’s cool.”

Mark S: Part of your plan.

Marc V: Part of the plan. I say one of the things is, if you’re going to do that plan that I mentioned in the beginning, where you’re going to send people there, have something on your home page or in the main area, something else you’re going to sell them, besides what they’re buying.

Mark S: Lessons on upselling. That would make a good podcast series.

Marc V: If you’re telling people that they can go online to buy replacements for their polos, if they rip it or tear it or stain it, or want a new one, what you should do is on your home page, have laptop bags, that you offer that. “You can also get your laptop bag with a logo on it, too.” Offer an upsell.

If you’re going to make it a really big project, if you have a huge dream, be prepared that the bigger the idea, the harder it sounds, the harder it is to explain to somebody, the more it’s going to cost you, and the more it costs you in the long run, too, to manage it for the long term.

Mark S: Right. That’s a big deal.

Marc V: Yeah. Software is going to need to be updated. Things are going to change. You’re going to get an update to PayPal, that breaks something in your UPS.

Mark S: It happens all of the time.

Marc V: And you’re going to have to have somebody fix all of that. The more complicated it is, the harder it is to fix. If you get a nice simple service that’s managed, like Shopify, when that stuff breaks, you don’t even know it breaks. There’s a team taking care of it.

If you custom built it from the ground up, and you hired a firm to do that, they’re going to have to fix it for you. Or you’ll have to fix it yourself, if you built it yourself.

What else? Anything else that we have here?

Oh! I think just a final note from me, this is like a living live place that you go, now. Even though it’s virtual, it’s not. I think virtual means real but not real. Right?

Mark S: It is your online store.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s a real place, now. Just because it’s digital, and it exists on the internet, does not mean it’s not a real store. It is a real store. People talk about a virtual store, and stuff like that.

The definition of virtual is real but not real. No. Your store online is real. It’s a real store, that people can go. They can put their credit card in, they put their email address and their address and their name, their personal information. They share it with you, in exchange for a product.

So, be sure over time, that you’re going to keep it up to date. You’re going to keep it clean. You’re going to be prepared that next year, it’s going to cost you some money again, whether it’s like hosting fees or paying for your domain registration.

Mark S: Just look at it like you would if you have a retail space in a strip mall or in a mall, or a free-standing building. What are you going to do as the owner, or as the manager, every day, when you go in? The first thing that you’re going to do is make sure everything looks good.

You’re going to make sure everything is clean, that it’s all in the right place. And you know what the other thing that you’re going to do is? Every once in a while, you’re going to paint. Every day, you’re going to look at a display that you did yesterday, and you’re going to go “Is this as good as it can be?”

So, you’re going to spend time every day or every week, regular scheduled time that you’re going to look at your website with an eye like it was your retail space, because it is. And you’re going to say “Is there a purpose for this picture? Is this the best place for this product? Do I need to freshen up these designs?”

“Is there anything I need to clean up? Can I change the description? What can I do every day, so when people walk into my business or go to my online store, that they are encouraged to buy something? Or to buy more than they had expected to spend?”

Marc V: Yeah. And I would set some rules for yourself, too. Say “I’m going to make one change to my website a month,” or however often it needs to be. It’s going to be different for everybody. It might be a day, it might be a month.

I make a change every day. Every single day, I’m making a change here. But we have a different store than you might have. If you have 20 products, just “Once a month, I’m going to add a new image. I’m going to update a description. I’m going to take questions that my customers have asked, and I’m going to add it to product descriptions or FAQs, or the other pages.”

Mark S: I like that.

Marc V: That’s what I would say. Just remember that it’s a living thing, that it really needs to be updated and changed. It needs to look great. You need to plan that. And five years from now, if it looks exactly the same as it does today, you’re probably doing something wrong.

Mark S: You are. I went to a website the other day, that hadn’t been changed since the 90s. It was literally terrible.

Marc V: Yeah. It looks bad, and it poorly reflects on you. Just understand that this is your store, and treat it as if it was a real live store. What would you do?

Mark S: I agree. We’re going to wrap this up. The last things I want to say are for you to please look for the show notes. If you’re listening to this in your car or on your phone, then definitely spend the time to go to CustomApparelStartups.com, and look up this episode in the show notes. Because we’re going to link to the shopping carts we mentioned.

We’re also going to link to a couple of the episodes that we mentioned. And we’re going to embed the video of Marc and I talking right now, on the website, just because your eyes may need some pain. They may need to be affected in some way.

Marc V: And after all of this, I know that all of this can sound very intimidating. It should be a little bit, but it shouldn’t be something that you have to be scared of. And I really think that more people than less should have an online store, because it costs so little to really make it. You only have to sell a handful of things, to be able to pay for your store to exist. Really, literally a handful.

I’m a big fan of small businesses being able to utilize the online world, to get somebody while they’re standing right there. “You can buy that shirt on your phone right now. While I’m with you, I’ll show you how to do it.” So, it’s cool.

It’s also a place where you take credit cards, which is another cool little feature.

Mark S: Okay! Well, I think that’s it. This has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: You guys have a good business!


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