Small Biz FAQ
Hey there, folks! Welcome to the Small Biz FAQ corner. I'm Raegan, also known as Malma in the creative realm. If you're new here, a big, warm welcome! Now, let's dive into some questions and tips that have helped me along this wild journey of creative exploration and business building.
How do I get my first sale? My mom doesn't count.
Starting out can be a bit daunting, right? I made my first sale of my "Field of Flowers" design on Redbubble, buuut the profit margins are miniscule at best with poor product quality, so I would recommend others such as Threadless, Society6, and TeePublic. These platforms provide exposure, a few bucks to eventually put towards my first order of sticker inventory, and a little spark of creative confidence. Low-risk, no worries about having enough product or packing/mailing orders – perfect for anyone just starting out. You can tinker around with promoting your items on social media, too! PRO TIP: If you can snag a discount that these platforms usually offer for artists, order some of the things you put in your shop so you can use them for a product photoshoot. People like to see how it's actually going to look ON, and your excitement about it will be contagious! One of the most rewarding moments I've ever experienced had was someone complimenting my shirt and me saying "Hey thanks, I designed it." But you know what was even cooler? Running into someone wearing the shirt I designed.
I still use these marketplaces or other Print-On-Demand (POD) services like Printify, Printful, or Gelato to test out a design or product and make sure the product is going to move before buying actual inventory from a supplier. I did this with my Upset Tummy Club beanies because the minimum order quantity for most beanie suppliers was more than what was sitting in my bank account.
**Downside: You cannot really offer these for wholesale on Faire without the prices being VERY HIGH and I overall just don't recommend that. Wholesale is usually 1/2 of your retail price, so you won't be making any profit. I occasionally buy samples to include at markets, but that can get expensive too if you don't have more discounts.**
Who makes your stickers? Your prints? What about packaging?
Ready to get some of your own inventory? I've got you covered. All that stuff is right HERE
Taxes? Legal stuff??
Here's your Small Biz Survival Guide: How to NOT Get Scary Legal Mail (For Beginners):
- Get a seller's permit. (You're going to need this for markets.) You can usually find the application for these on your city's official website. Don't be afraid to send someone on your city's website an email (or call them) and ask how to get one! Business stuff can be confusing, and I have gone a lot farther by simply saying "Hey, I'm kinda lost. Here's what I'm trying to do. Can you help me find my way?" Even if you aren't talking to the person who can help, they will likely direct you to someone who can!
- Some platforms like Faire and Etsy remits sales tax for you, but Shopify won't. If someone hands you a tax form at a market and you don't have a taxpayer ID you can just use your SSN. I remit my sales tax online using Arkansas Taxpayer Access Point (ATAP) so try to find something similar for your state, but for markets you can also remit your tax via cash or a check by turning in the amount owed with your tax form to whoever organized the market after it ends. Because I remit sales tax monthly online, I can simply write "WILL FILE VIA ATAP" on the form.
- I have not filed to become an LLC, so I am a "sole proprietor" by default. This means that the income from my business gets filed with my total personal income. This feels easiest for me right now, but my friend Elizabeth (@thepeachfuzz.co) introduced me to a fantastic chart that can help you decide what's best for you. You can find that HERE.
- I am usually very skeptical and hesitant to pay a subscription for a tax service, but this is the second year I've been using an app called Keeper and it has seriously helped me keep track of write-offs (no paper receipts required) and even files my taxes for me each year so I can relax and save money. You can link your bank account to the app, and it will attempt to auto-categorize transactions that may qualify as write-offs and sets aside ones that aren't so you can manually categorize them in the app. Plus, if you don't know what category something fits into, they will help you figure it out! They also match every subscriber to a professional bookkeeper for any questions you might have. I've already racked up an estimated $1,330 in tax savings this year! Here's my referral link if you want to start finding your missing write-offs.
What E-Commerce Platform Should I Use?
I started out with Square, then eventually moved to Shopify. Etsy's okay for starters too, but Shopify offers more control, lower fees, and Instagram integration. It also integrates easily with Faire if you start doing wholesale! Plan your transition thoughtfully – bribe customers over to your new platform with exclusive discounts or items and make sure it becomes a bit easier to find your new platform than your old one. If you want to try it out, you can sign up for a free trial and get 3 months of Shopify for $1/month on select plans using THIS link.
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