Starting an online boutique is significantly cheaper than starting a brick-and-mortar retail location. You don’t need to pay rent, buy store fixtures or get liability insurance; depending on the square footage it can cost upwards of $20,000 according to Entrepreneur magazine.
Despite the super long list of costs that are avoided when starting an online boutique, there can be substantial starting capital necessary when deciding to go this route, especially if you’d rather not DIY every aspect of it.
Below, I’ll list all the costs you should consider when deciding to starting an online boutique.
Costs to consider when starting an online boutique
Filing Your Business Entity
A business entity is an organization created by one or more people to carry on business operations. For simplicity’s sake, in the U.S you can choose to operate your business as a Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Company or a Corporation. It’s best to discuss the best business entity for you with a business lawyer and an business accountant.
You can create a business entity at IncFile, it’s cheaper than using LegalZoom. This can cost approximately $250 or more depending on your state fees and the package that you choose.
A domain name is the address where internet users can access your website (ex: my domain is startyourboutique.com). Before choosing a domain name, make sure that you’ve reviewed my exercise on how to choose a unique name for your business.
This can cost up to $20 depending on what provider you use & if you purchase privacy protection. I love buying my domains from Namecheap because they include FREE domain privacy protection with each purchase, their .com and .co domains normally run anywhere from $8-$12.
An ecommerce platform is a software technology solution that allows you to build a storefront where you can sell products. You can choose from either BigCommerce or Shopify (the other options are a nonstarter for long-term growth). I personally have used Shopify for the past 5 years. Click here to read more about why I love them so much!
When starting an online boutique it’s ideal to have lifestyle shots of people wearing or using the product you are selling. As well as stylized product shots that feature a model and/or that are on a solid background.
For the most part you are able to use product shots from the wholesale vendor that you are buying merchandise from. Just double check with each company that you are allowed to use their images.
The downside with using those images however, is that other boutiques may also be using those images.
You can DIY your way to great product photography by just gathering some photogenic friends and using a smartphone + some lens enhancements. Click here to learn more about how to create quality photos with a smartphone.
You can also choose to hire a student photographer who attends a local college.
Professional product photography (your product on a white background) can cost around $20/per image. Do a google search of ‘retail product photos’ to find a business near you. You ship or drop off your products to the studio, they take photos of the products as specified, then you pick up your products or have them shipped to you.
Hiring a professional photographer for a full photo shoot can cost upwards of $1500 as a day rate.
When doing any photography that will include a model, think about the cost of professional hair/makeup.
You will want to set a budget for your initial product purchases. You can start with a purchasing budget of little as $1000. This will allow you to buy enough styles so your site does not to look sparse and enough sizes so you don’t run out of inventory. It’s important to be very clear on who your target customer is; this will help you stock items that s/he is sure to love and buy!
To purchase merchandise for your store you can travel to trade shows or year-round wholesale marketplaces. You can also purchase any of my wholesaler lists and buy inventory from the comfort of your couch.
I’ve compiled a list of 100+ women’s clothing vendors trusted by companies such as Red Dress Boutique, Nasty Gal, Fashion Nova, and Boohoo.
Or if you’d like to start an infant/ children’s boutique, I’ve compiled a list of 50+ trustworthy infant & children’s fashion vendors.
For those of you interested in starting a home decor and gifts online boutique, I’ve compiled a list of 50+ home goods vendors trusted by companies such as Wayfair, Joss & Main and Hayneedle.
When shopping online, the first physical contact customers will have with your boutique is when they are handling the package that has been delivered to them. This is a unique opportunity for your business to make a favorable impression and strengthen your brand identity.
The price for packaging can vary depending on how much personalization you desire. Click here to read this post filled with packaging inspiration for online boutiques.
Designing Your Website
Costs vary for web design.
You can hire a professional web designer to create it for you which can cost upwards of $8,000 for a professionally designed website with theme modifications and upwards of $12,000 for a custom build.
By the way, my course Online Boutique Success shows you step-by-step how to create a professional website in just a few days (including everything from creating pages, customizing a theme, creating beautiful graphics, making discounts, adding a blog, setting up shipping, fulfilling orders and more! Click here to join the course.
Large companies make consistent sales because they are consistently getting in front of potential customers! You absolutely MUST have a marketing budget. Click here to read this post about how to drive traffic to your online boutique.
To get started, I would recommend a minimum monthly marketing budget of $300-500/mo. If you are running paid ads, you can begin testing ads for as little as $5/day. If you will use influencer marketing you can calculate the cost of the product plus shipping it to the influencer and use your marketing budget to pay for that expense.
You can start your online boutique with as little as $3,500 and lots of elbow grease!
Ready to start your online boutique?
You don’t have to figure it all out on your own! Join my FREE masterclass that will help you in creating and building your online boutique business. From coming up of online boutique names, finding vendors, pricing products and more! Join the masterclass called:
How To FINALLY Launch Your Dream Online Boutique In The Next 3 Months… Even If You’ve Never Sold Anything Online Before!
Learn the EXACT framework that helped me become my own boss, work from home, create my own schedule and make an income doing what I love everyday… without having a business degree, years of retail experience or a huge social media following.
If you feel confused, frustrated, stuck or completely lost about how to start an online boutique, then this training is for you.
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