Roughly a year ago I decided to follow through on something that I have wanted to do since drunken midnight conversations at university! My friends and I went through a phase of wearing retro t-shirts and ironic nostalgic clothing because we a) thought it was hilarious and b) we simply loved it. We would source many items of clothing from the holy grail of retro tees Truffle Shuffle rocking Marvel themed superhero hoodies, Fresh Prince of Bel Air shirts to 80s cult classics like The Goonies and The Karate Kid tops. There were always conversations about what kind of ideas and designs we would create if we "could be arsed" to make t-shirts, but of course these chats went nowhere. And as we 'grew up', my friends seemed to move past this phase like every functioning adult in society, yet I continued well into my thirties to dress (and act!) like an eighteen year old student. I was determined to run away from adulting and make a fort in my childhood. I just needed to figure out how to integrate my love for all things old skool with my everyday life, and then Fresh Retro Juice happened.
After the initial designs for my tees were made, and I Forest Gumped my way through creating a brand, social media marketing, Facebook Ads and not losing the will to live... I found my stride-ish. BUT not without sweat, tears and the huge realisation that I was making it all up as I went along.However, like a cheesy but beautiful Rocky boxing montage, I made a lot of mistakes, struggled and I still find myself learning (and nervously laughing!) everyday. Here are my top 6 things you should know when trying to sell clothing as an independent online retailer.
1. Putting Yourself Out There Is Brutal & Scary
Self promotion is something that makes me cringe on a daily basis. I would prefer to just be silent, get more sleep and still have people shop on my store. But alas we all know that in order to get customers... you better work bitch!
If you want to succeed and actually come across like you know what you're doing, then you have to fake it til you make it! Spamming your friends and family and anyone who has eyes with your brand might feel like desperation, but it does pay off and is necessary. You have to get over your fear of being judged within an inch of your life because you're being judged anyways so you might as well try and make a few quid doing it!
2. The Interweb Has ALL The Opinions
Another reality with starting your own business online, is the fact that you are now opened to being crucified by complete strangers. It's so much fun... said absolutely nobody... ever.
I've had comments from complete randoms telling me how my tees are ugly, the design sucks, how I should've done it differently, why it's factually incorrect and my favourite, "I could've done that!" Well honey you didn't... so go suck a dick!! IS what I would like to say... but of course professionalism and passive aggressive retorts are my friends. Having an online business means developing a thick skin otherwise it'll be tears before bedtime.
3. Customer Service Can Be Full On
Especially if you don't know what you're doing. I am so grateful for my many years in the past working in customer services for various stores and online retailers, as I feel equipped with answering queries without wanting to punch my computer screen! I know what good customer service looks like so I can pride myself on not ruining my business before it's even started with disgruntled shoppers. The customer is not always right. There I said it! They will work your last nerve and smash out a few choice words in CAPS LOCK... BUT compromise, compassion and not being a prick helps when trying to provide a good customer service experience. It also helps if you are passionate about your brand, then you will 100% care that much more about your customers.
4. Copyright Infringement & Intellectual Property Are Not Made Up Words
You might have an awesome idea for a tee design based on your favourite film, brand or celebrity but chances are you won’t be able to use it. You might also think that you’re such a small indie retailer that nobody will notice… but trust me… someone will always find you! Now, you can read all the legal articles on what is and is not ok when it comes to producing your own print on demand clothing, but you probably still won’t be any clearer on what the hell will keep you on the right side of the law. Unless you have a commercial license agreement for the image, or have permission from the original source of the image, then the general rule is thus: DON’T BOTHER! That’s unless you fancy paying out a fair few quid when you’re caught… and you will be caught eventually. The other flip side to copyright infringement is when it comes to your own work. Some unimaginative schmuck at some point will copy your design or just straight up lift the exact image and sell it on merchandise themselves. These people are scumbags but you can’t police the entire internet. Just keep an eye out and if you see your work being displayed elsewhere without your authorisation… swear a lot and curse Zeus! AND THEN contact the website immediately asking them firmly but politely to take it down. It might take a while and require you to jump through various hoops or threaten legal action, but do not let some random profit from your work. Fight the power!
5. You Will Spend A Lot Of Money
Whether that's on Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Instagram influencers or just a PR attempt to harness some new eyes on your store... you will definitely start having panic sweats about your outgoings.
The old saying of you need to spend money to make money is annoying as hell... but so damn true. You do need to inject some cash into a business to give it a chance. Unless you become an accidental viral star overnight, then you will be throwing a fair few fun tokens to get your new venture off the ground. I can promise you that there will be times when you think "screw this... it's not worth it" and question your life choices. Now I wouldn't exactly scream Carpe Diem and continue spending like Monopoly money because it's your dream and Beyonce said so! Because life isn't a Hollywood movie and re-mortgaging your parents home to get out of debt is never ideal! I would however suggest to have a plan, stick to the plan and if you find yourself financially struggling then pause. It doesn't mean you are a failure. It just means you need to switch it up and try something else. Practice makes perfect and failing is really just life-ing!
6. YouTube Videos Of Successful Entrepreneurs Is Bad For The Soul
Now I love me some YouTube. Especially those times when I'm sucked into a black hole of Flash Mob videos or watching intros to 80s cartoons... but I digress. It's also a really handy learning tool. I have been heavily invested in Facebook Ads over the last few months and I educated myself through trial and error plus many hours watching YouTube videos of people doing the same as myself. I would say about 2% of the videos I watched were straight forward, honest and focused on actually helping you. The other 98% featured entrepreneurs who looked about twelve, wearing back to front baseball caps whilst driving Lamborghinis and telling you that you too can be a millionaire if you do this one thing. AND that one thing was always a buying a course from them that would set you back around £3k! It's a no from me. Take what these 'influencers' say with a heavy pinch of salt because not one size fits all. Make notes and adapt strategies to your business model and don't be distracted by chasing the money or the lifestyle perpetuated in the videos... because you will feel like absolute shit. Just do you babe!