Building Blocks for Starting an Online Shop

  • 12 January 2021
  • 7 min read
Building Blocks for Starting an Online Shop

The last year has brought on a lot of change, making it a record-breaking time for starting an online shop. Maybe you're looking for a new source of income in the wake of a changing economy, or taking your business online as retail spaces closed and virtual events are all the new rage.

No matter your reason or approach, we're here to help you get set up for success in record time. Before you get started, consider creating a personal roadmap for the year ahead to understand what you want to get out of your online store. Is it a hobby, or an extension of your profession? Should this replace lost income, or create a new revenue stream for your biz?

And along the way, if you're ever unsure about something, a ton of info for beginners and experts alike can be found on the Big Cartel help site. Our top-notch support team has created step-by-step instructions for each section of the Big Cartel store admin, and they're standing by to answer any additional questions you might have.

For the folks who want some of our hottest tips for what to keep in mind during shop setup, we're sharing those right here. Sit down, stay a while.


Customization and Design

The free themes built right into your shop admin are a good, safe place to start with designing your shop, but don't be afraid to get in there and mix things up!

There's a lot of trial and error that goes into picking the right design for your shop, so if you don't like how things look, you can always close the customization page without saving your changes, and no one will be the wiser.

  • Check how your shop looks on different screens: if you have a phone and computer, take a look at both. On a computer, resize the window to get an idea of what different customers might see. And cruise through all of the built-in themes: which one feels best might surprise you.

  • Keep in mind your friends with different vision. Flip on grayscale to get a rough idea of what someone with color blindness might experience, and watch for tiny or low contrast type that might be hard for someone with low vision to read.

  • If you're feeling stuck on where to start with selecting colors for your shop, start with what you already have: what colors can you take from your logo or from your most popular products? Are your product photos taken on a colored background? Using colors you already utilize in your branding will make everything feel cohesive and intentional.



When it comes to what you can sell on Big Cartel, the sky's (just about) the limit! Just remember you'll need to figure out how to produce and ship the items, while keeping your costs covered, and playing nicely with our Merchant User Agreement.

  • If you've previously set up shop somewhere else, use the Import Product Data feature to speed things up.

  • Use a print-on-demand service like Printful or Art of Where to start filling out your online shop without big upfront costs.

  • Offer a few different price points. An enthusiastic fan with a tight budget will be excited to buy a sticker without breaking the bank, and a completionist collector can't resist a limited edition item with all the bells and whistles.

  • Create a detailed product listing. Always err on the side of more info! The perfect product description helps with SEO and includes measurements, care instructions, unique features, materials, and any details that might be important to people with allergies.

  • Product photography should look clear and be helpful. We love a beautifully styled image, but it also helps to show the details of your product. Perhaps share an image or two of your item in its packaging and in use.



Think about some recent orders you've received. What got you excited, what was thoughtful, and what made your new purchase feel quality and special? How can you reinterpret those qualities in your own shop?

  • Turn first-time buyers into repeat customers by including a card with a discount code for their next purchase.

  • Ship an item to yourself so you know what it looks like upon arrival: is your packaging tough enough to withstand the journey? Does the item get bent or broken?

  • Use the shipment tracking feature to improve communication with your buyers, and cut down on customer service questions by creating a few shop policies.

  • To save time, use a shipping integration to create tracking numbers and print shipping labels from home, and e prepared for all the different shipping scenarios you might encounter with your shop.



Figuring out how to talk about your shop and build a relationship with shoppers is often the difference between a thriving brand and one that fades away into obscurity.

Additional Resources

Running an online shop is something you'll get better at over time. You learn a bit with each new product and each new order, so just keep refining and improving your business as you go. It's important to start strong (that's where these tips will help), but even more crucial that you keep learning and adjusting as the times and tools change. And when you need a helping hand, we'll be right here.

12 January 2021

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