At one point, I was a full-time portrait photographer with a cute little studio at the edge of my city. I clicked my shutter at kids, pets and families for a living and loved every minute of it. But, I knew I needed to expand my income — without taking on more appointments. Impossible? Not at all.
Hello, e-commerce store.
As a creative entrepreneur, I knew I just needed to get my product into the hands of more people by offering additional ways to enjoy those precious images. The next step for me was opening an online store that was connected to my photography website.
How Does E-Commerce Work?
Let’s back up a moment. If your business is currently focused on one-time transactions or a brick-and-mortar location, it may be time to build your online presence with an e-commerce store.
A Forbes article by Sujan Patel highlighted a study that found more than 50 percent of consumer spending happens online and reported that, “online shopping accounted for more than one-third of retail sales growth, with $341 billion generated online in 2015.”
Think of an online store as rented or purchased real estate space on the internet. At the time, I was renting space on a popular photography portfolio site where I displayed my images to attract clients. They saw my work and called to book an appointment — simple and direct.
One day, I realized that I could increase the earnings from each portrait session if multiple people could order from the proofs. Before starting an e-store, access to the proofs was limited to the person booking and paying for the session. They made an order, I filled it and our time together was done until they booked another portrait appointment.
When I opened my online store, the images could be shared with friends and family. They too could make purchases if the original client gave them the password to view the files. Guess what happened? Sales skyrocketed. Soon grandmothers, aunts and even neighbors were ordering high school graduation and wedding pictures of their friends and family.
As things were rolling along, I learned to listen even closer to my customers’ wants and needs. They craved photo products like mouse pads, coffee mugs and key chains. Some even wanted their images printed on stretched canvas. With a few clicks, I added these options to my e-commerce store, increasing my income per session and pleasing my growing customer base.
Who Can Benefit From Online Sales
Absolutely any small business person with a tangible product or downloadable content can benefit from an online sales outlet. Starting an e-commerce store instantly expands your business from a local or regional venture into a global platform overnight.
With my photography business, extended relatives in far-away states could view and order family photos of their loved ones with just a few clicks. Clients loved the ability to order and pay online. Instead of making the trip to my studio, many clients had their photo products shipped directly to their home.
As a small business owner, going online with my photography products was huge. I was literally making money in my sleep while clients shopped on my website. I’d wake up, print out the orders from my email and get to work fulfilling their needs. You can do the same with your products.
Implementing an online store was an incredible way to optimize my time. I no longer needed to schedule in-person appointments with clients so they could place or pick-up orders. Eventually, I saved enough time that I could open more slots during the day to photograph more clients. In turn, I generated more online sales without adding any extra hours to my work day.
Breaking Into the E-Commerce World
It can be daunting to think about setting up a website, creating inventory listings and keeping everything running. When I ventured into my web store, I rented space from a bigger site and they handled everything on the back end. My user interface was simple to manage, which was perfect for my business-of-one. If you have basic computer skills or the budget to hire a web designer, a self-hosted website with an e-commerce plugin can set you up to sell online within hours. It’s really that simple.
Entrepreneur suggests focusing on e-commerce software that’s secure, user-friendly and scalable for when your business is booming. Personally, I’ve found WooCommerce easy to implement and update on my WordPress website. Other plugins to explore include Exchange, Shopp and Shopify.
Sure, your days may already be hectic, but this logical and potentially profitable transition in your business operations is worth sacrificing a Saturday to set it up. Every entrepreneur wants to work smarter, not harder. E-commerce is the ticket to exponential growth in the always-on digital landscape.