An over-the-shoulder shot of a woman browsing an online shoe store on her laptop. She reclines on a couch with her legs stretched out in front of her. Her feet are bare and her toenails are painted red.
Once you have your business set up, try to find affiliates that complement your boutique's offerings. — Getty Images/AndreyPopov

Starting an online boutique is more accessible than starting a brick-and-mortar store, but there’s still a lot of work that goes into it. Here are eight steps you’ll take to start your online boutique.

[Read more: How to Start a Small Business at Home: 6 Tips for Success]

Choose a product niche

The first step you should take is to figure out your product niche. You can’t appeal to everyone, and a well-defined niche will help you stand out to your target customer.

To identify your niche, decide on the types of products you plan to offer. For instance, will your boutique specialize in clothing or jewelry? From there, you can break it down even further—like if you plan to start a store offering athletic leisurewear or high-end children’s clothes.

Name your boutique

Choosing a name for your business can feel laden with pressure because people will form an instant opinion about your boutique after hearing the name. Choose a memorable name that isn’t hard to pronounce or spell.

Once you come up with a name, do a quick Google search to ensure that name is available. And make sure you buy the domain for your business name with a “.com” extension.

Come up with a business plan

A business plan will serve as your guide as you’re starting and growing your business. It will also be necessary if you ever want to apply for small business financing. A strong business plan should contain the following elements:

  • An explanation of the viability of your business idea.
  • Your target market.
  • Competitor research.
  • Your unique value proposition.
  • An outline of your marketing plan.

Work out the financing

While an online boutique will be less expensive to open than a brick-and-mortar store, there will still be startup costs you should plan for. You’ll need to pay for web hosting, inventory, marketing costs and more.

It may be hard to qualify for a small business loan from a bank as a brand-new business. A business line of credit, business credit card, personal loan or vendor financing can help you access the cash flow you need.

You can source your inventory through a wholesale supplier or by using a dropshipping model.

Register your business

Anyone can start a business as a sole proprietor without filling out paperwork or paying state taxes. However, it’s worth it to spend the time—and money—that it takes to register your business as an LLC. Operating as an LLC will give you liability protection that you won’t have as a sole proprietor.

You’ll start by applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. From there, you can register your business on your secretary of state’s website and set up a business bank account.

Find inventory for your store

You can source your inventory through a wholesale supplier or by using a dropshipping model. Wholesale suppliers are easy to find and vet online.

With a wholesaler, you’ll purchase your items in bulk for a reduced rate, and you’ll have more control over the shipping and branding of your products. However, this route will be more expensive, and you’ll need a place to store your inventory.

With dropshipping, a third-party supplier will package and ship items to your customers. You won’t have to keep any inventory on hand, but you won’t have any control over the branding. And if the supplier makes a mistake, you’ll be held responsible.

[Read more: What is Dropshipping? Here’s What You Need to Know]

Decide on an e-commerce platform

Now that you’ve done the necessary legwork, it’s time to set up your online store. The easiest way to do this is by using an e-commerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce.

These platforms provide you with a storefront and shopping cart so you can make sales. And you’ll also have the back-end tools needed to run your business. Spend some time thinking about what features are important to you before deciding on a platform.

[Read more: How to Build a Mobile-Friendly E-Commerce Website]

Prepare to launch your store

You’re finally ready to launch your store and start making sales. As you begin marketing your store and making a name for yourself, it’s a good idea to partner with complementary brands. For instance, if you sell high-end women’s clothing, you could partner with a store that sells accessories.

And make an effort to reach out to bloggers and brand ambassadors who you believe embody the values of your online boutique. Building these mutually beneficial relationships will help you as you’re growing your business.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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