There's a lot to running a small business/online shop, and though I feel I've only scratched the surface, I learned a few things in my first year of running the shop that I thought might be helpful to those of you just starting out. Here are five things I've learned:
Act Like a Business
Be honest, be fair, and work with integrity. Be kind to others. Support other small businesses when you can (packaging, collaborations, raw materials, shipping materials, etc.). This all reflects back on your business. If the products you're selling involve fonts (and really, even if it's only your business logo), do the right thing and buy a commercial license from the creator (if it's for personal use only). These may range from a few dollars to $20+, but it's a one-time fee and it's worth the investment to know you are doing the right thing and supporting the original maker.
Also, if you live in a state with sales tax, apply to become an authorized vendor and collect sales tax on all in-state sales. It's not the most exciting part of owning a small business, but hey - you get a fancy orange sign saying you're a legit business. It's the little things.
Keep Good Records
I use two detailed spreadsheets to keep track of everything for the shop: one includes all sales, business expenses, self-employment taxes, sales tax, etc.; the other includes date, customer name, email, product, and how much I made. Save all your receipts and keep up with records as you go - either each time you make a sale, once a week, or even once per month. This will save you time and hassle come tax season (and every time you need to pay sales tax)!
You Learn As You Go
Everything doesn't have to be perfect when you first start out; in fact, it won't be. You learn as you go. Sometimes, that means learning from mistakes, but sometimes it simply means improving your product, streamlining your process, and increasing sales by doing good work and focusing on quality and better ways to serve your customers.
Know the Ins and Outs of Copyright Law
As a musician (and especially being married to a composer!), I knew a fair amount about copyright for musical works; but this year, I learned a lot about copyright for other creative works (such as text and song lyrics). So much so, that I wrote this post for all you fellow creatives out there looking to learn more about how copyright law plays into what you do. Make sure you know the law before you get your new business up and running!
Do your homework
Learn about the market you're getting into, understand what your customer needs/wants, and know what value you can add. If possible, look for local businesses to partner with (but be choosy!). Research price points for your product, production costs, and your time. Google everything.
Have a question about running a small business? Any lessons you've learned or helpful advice you'd like to share? Leave a comment below!