Starting an e-commerce store with Felicity Dougherty

Felicity Dougherty turned her side hustle into a full-time hustle where she helps other small business owners manage their web presence and let her clients focus on other parts of their business including starting an e-commerce store.

With a focus on e-commerce, Felicity and I chat about why outsourcing your website is a good idea for someone with limited time.

For those DIY-ers, we also cover a lot of tips and tricks on how to manage your own e-commerce store including how to write product descriptions.

You can catch Felicity here.
starting an e-commerce store

If you want all the tools I use for my side hustles, download my FREE ebook here.

 

 

Transcription

Felicity: Good morning Vince, how you going

Vince: I am, I’m a bit tired but I’m well how are you.

Felicity: I am excellent, excellent. Thank you very much.

Vince: Perfect, I was just telling Felicity before that I just come back from my school camp, which is always as you know a very very tiring day. You are always on and the kids are full of sugar because even though you tell them not to bring chocolate they, they can bring chocolate in. If they tackle everything with that much effort, it would be a great world. Felicity I just want to start by having a chat about you and your background. So, how did you get into what you are doing now with small sites?

Felicity: Well, it sort of started a bit of side hustle for me as well. I am originally was dental hygienist believe it or not. ____university and you know after a little while I had some kids and what have you I thought this isn’t actually what I want to be doing forever. So, I went back to college and did graphic design. From there a started I business doing digital design and development for small businesses so hence small sites sort of came about. I am still working part time in a design and marketing role for a large multinational so you know. Once everything got to a point where I could transition over, I was able to do that as well.

Vince: Very cool and with small sites you are helping other side hustlers as well by the sounds of it starts their side hustles too which is what I am all about. That sounds so cool.

Felicity: Yeah absolutely it sounds. Yeah A big part of what we do is helping particularly young entrepreneurs transition across from maybe it is a market stall or something like that across into an online business. And there it is so much easier now than it used to be. So yeah it is really cool.

Vince: yeah I would like you to go into that because it seems like it is getting more and more simple and more easy and more accessible to have a presence online.

Felicity: Yeah absolutely, it iumreally easy. we run sites that are standard size or e-commerce sites and both of which in the way that we run it because one of the big issues that I found dealing with people is they love their product but the idea of getting online was really daunting to them you know. And I though oh gosh how am I going to be able to do this. So we sort of look after all of the technical side of things so that they can you know and we can look after the design or you know that elements or things. But different people have different areas that they would like to control so you know but it tends to be the technical side of things. It’s just overwhelms people particularly when they are starting on their journey. There is so much you know to think about between attacks and your ABN and do you DG tea and bad said logos and not you know then let’s start your product. So having someone else that you know is going to look after the website and enable you to get your business moving online seems to be a winning formula for a lot ofpeople.

Vince: That’s it and a lot of people who are starting either ecommerce or another field may not have that technical you know. They may not be able to do the “adjust a little bits of code” here and there to get their website running and sometimes like you said there’s so much to do and there’s so much info coming in sometimes it is so much more simple to focus on what you are good at. Focus on your sharing and let guys like you do what you do.

Felicity: Exactly, and that’s what we found as well like particularly people are starting as a side hustle. Most people can learn to do what we do. It particularly teaches you know you your Chloe-bunch. You know what you know. You are on a bear most of the time. (chuckles)It is about you know how much time do you have ina day and you know if it is a side hustler it’s about having people that you can trust in your team and developing that team So that you can you know keep your main job that you know make your site pass or something that is life-giving to you and not something that is draining and feels like a drug.

Vince: Yeah, that’s it and it give you a cure aside how slow at home you’re starting your e-commerce store for example it gives you time to work sort of on your business rather than kind of do all the little pieces that are working for your business.

Felicity: Exactly. What can your product work on your marketing as opposed to you know learning how to get around you know some sort of short code on a website.

Vince: Yeah and I wish I knew about you guys when I started because I was doing a lot of my own like short coding and you know l’d have like two windows and I’d have like a back-end code in one side and like the YouTube video on what to do in the other. I’ve tried to fix it and then like oh my God, I’m glad that Bluehost who I was working with were very very good and very very patient. I would just email their call center and just be like sorry this is a stupid mistake but what happens now, what do I do? But if I could get someone else to do that for me while I was focusing on my product and focusing on what I was doing, the amount of hours spent was a lot.

Felicity: Yeah, it makes a big difference and that’s why we try to make it really affordable for what we do and we have that assistance. It’s easy in what we do because that’s what we found really works for people as because businesses don’t stay the same either. Maybe one or two of the customers had their businesses stayed the same over the time I’ve been with them. Everyone else, their business changes. even people who you think have a static business like the beautician know you think oh well you know we know that what that is but it changes over time because they get different products and they get different techniques and you know they need to communicate that. So yeah I’m yet to meet too many businesses that just don’t make some dynamism in what they do. So that’s why we’re able to you know different people work in different ways. Some people just send us an email and say add this at this, some people will say oh you know let’s do some blogs and I’ll even get a copywriter in or you know we’ll do some newsletters or whatever it is just to set help and support but all for one fee so that they know what’s coming.

Vince: Oh year that’s brilliant and I’m getting a lot of people who are or ecommerce or you know or selling teaching resources and doing that through their blog as well and maybe turning that into a ecommerce sort of site and it is a popular side hustle to start off with selling the products online finding them, selling them, creating them.Like you said there’s a lot of creative out there. I know a lot of teachers also we have a lot of products we are trying to sell out. If you are looking to start an ecommerce site, or you are looking to sort of get into commerce landscape, what are some sort of steps that you would recommend to go about achieving that.

Felicity: Um, first make sure that like any if the same as any business you need to make sure there’s a l market for product. Don’t worry too much about the price of your product to start with because prices can change you know. The price is what you decide it is going to be and what the market is going to pay for it. You know a lot of people come in and they think oh my price should be here but it’s actually the market only says it’s going to be here so you know we need to just but make sure that your product is wanted by the market. Once you’ve done that you know the next step is creating an audience which with where you can talk to people about your product so you know depending on what it it’s just say that you are you three feature and you have it you know great science, programming you’re wanting to sell you know that the notes, the lesson plans and all of the material from that. Well where’s your network you know are you in teacher Facebook groups you know. Make sure that you are out there and creating yourself an audience because one of the bigger problems they have, these people who create a website and then expect that all of a sudden all these people are going to attempt it. It doesn’t work like that. You actually need to create your audience so that you’ve got someone to sell to. So that would be number two. Once you’ve got your audience too sure of your product, that’s when it’s a great time to get online and get your website happening. Don’t worry too much about logos and colors and branding unless that’s your thing and you’re really excited about it. Because that can all come back later. What you need to do first is actually make sure that your idea really works and the way that you know it works isn’t by people saying they are going to buy. People actually purchasing from you.

Vince: Yeah, you can say that last bit again. That’s brilliant.

Felicity: The way that you know your product is going to work and your business is gonna work is not because people say they’re going to buy and say it’s a good a idea because all your friends will say really nice things because they are your friends you know it’s actually about people putting their money into your and purchasing it and one of the things that I would recommend for anyone who is launching a new product is preselling the product before they go into too much development of it so to say you’ve got all our resources together and you think oh I need a graphic designer just to tidy it up for me and put it into pdfs and they go into a package but that’s gonna put me about surround dollars. Why don’t you try and do some free sales of your product to other year three teachers and then you’ve actually got the money to pay for the graphics designer and you’ve got a bit of profit on the other end because you know there’s people that are going to buy your products.

Vince: Yeah, and if you’re doing that as well you can also your you can edit your product in ways that your audience can sort of dictate like they’re gonna come up with ideas through your products that you may have not thought of yet.

Felicity: Absolutely.

Vince: It’s all about solving your audience’s problem which is what you’re doing with small sites as well.

Felicity: Yeah, exactly exactly.It’s yeah making sure that someone you know coz in the end someone’s got to pay for it. You know you can have great ideas but if someone’s not gonna pay for it, it’s not a business.

Vince: A hundred percent is just a very expensive hobby. So as we are talking I’m kind of figuring out that you’ve gone through this process yourself with forging small sites. I want to know a little bit more about the process that you took when doing that so how did you start with the idea of small sites and then how did your develop it into what it is today.

Felicity: Yes, originally we were I mean a parent company publishes digital and we do custom-designed and high-end designed websites for larger businesses or for people who want something you know very customized and that’s that’s also the amount of times I had people coming to me and saying I just need this or I chosen the quote and they get really deflated.because They just can’t afford it because it really just starting out. What I wanted to do was create something that I thought you know provide service and essentially a support service as well for people who are just starting out. So you know instead of having one payment for a website, which you know often is north of $5000. We have a small deposit fee like a setup fee which you know basically covers most of our initial setup costs but then what we do is charge a monthly fee and that includes all that we service so all your blogs and it’s about four to six hours work per month on our side of things which I can guarantee for a novice is equivalent to about 30 hours work. And that’s sort of when we decided to put that out to people, they’re like oh wow, this is something that that I can I can do and before I launch I actually had three featured sign up and that’s where I went okay this is something that the market really really is wanting.

Vince: Yeah, so you saw a user you already, you already had an audience with audiacious.

Felicity: Yes to be honest I didn’t even really go back to all of the people. I’m still going through that process. I know small site, It’s been in the business for three years but I only got two small sites couple of months ago and we’ve been so busy developing our systems that haven’t even gone back to most of the people that did quotes in the last year’s. But by the time I just went to my network if you know my bookkeeper and know a couple of other people, there was three gone. So you know I went okay let’s let’s keep this moving forward.

Vince: And I thing that’s a great sign in itself is don’t just build the audience, look at the audience, look at your networks already have like you said your bookkeeper who has their own businesses and we all know people that are having same issues that we’re trying to solve.

Felicity: Yeah Absolutely

Vince: But it can be a little bit a George King to sort of ask no asking friends and family for business and things like that but you’re not asking for charity it’s an exchange service.

Felicity: Well, I know absolutely, you are not gonna be asking you know your friends if am gonna supply teaching resources and resources you know that’s. But if you are asking somebody who has a problem, he’s hoping well you’re helping them out yeah it’s the way but it’s got to start within your own network.

Vince: Yeah and like it may not be less friends just family like you were looking for your bookkeeper and we all know people who may not be you know best friends but we all know people that are in business or know people that are in the same situation we’re in like if you surety for who’s selling teaching you know teachers you know some.

Felicity: Exactly

Vince: So there is always that network there and once you started with the idea and you were sort of you saw the market and you saw the need and that really goes back to what your were talking about before is like finding an audience. Seeing if at most and then you were able to presell as well and what do you recommend? I know a lot of people that I’ve spoken to have trouble preselling and problem asking for money upfront. I’mgonna go with it further into like how you went about preselling all sides.

Felicity: Yeah sure wow, in general even though I’m a tech-based business, the lower tech that you can do things the cheaper it’s going to be for you when you’re getting started. So literally just sent you know I think with them you know the three that I ended up going to, I just you know one of them. I called the other two and shouted a coffee and said look I know this is an issue for you. Here’s what I’m thinking. What do you reckon. You know if you think it’s ridiculous. You know the idea of paying per month for a website is actually quite novel. There’s not a lot of people doing it that way. Normally, it’s just a one month you know an upfront cost and though I this would be wonderful please how quickly can you do it for me with your response. So you know I just invoiced them straight away for their deposit and away we went.

Vince: I think that’s brilliant and definitely encouraging. Some face to face contacts which is our hero sometimes against the grain especially online business that can be all Facebook. You know basically make your baby while you’re sleeping unaltered everything’s at such a market for what you’re doing no substitute.

Felicity: Look there’s nothing that gives you your confidence as an entrepreneur more than seeing somebody’s face when you solve their problem. You are able to go and they’re yeah this is so solved. You know then it gives you the confidence to set up those funnels because you know there’s more people like that out there. You know however it’s your know your credibility plays into it as well. So you’ve got to build your audience and lose your own credibility there and try and find that little thing that made your friends or your family or your network say a yes. Find what it is about yourself that you know gives that credibility and besides that yes and you know as well as your product because often it’s both that will work together.

Vince: Well pay your people buy from people. It’s the thing about putting yourself out there and finding what makes you and your products unique and what makes you stand out because you’re not gonna be there for everybody which is hard to take at the start because I know when I started out with my first well and I know when I was getting asked at the start and finding your target market and everything it’s something that like you never used to kind think about it a little bit but they don’t write it down and you don’t talk about it. You kind of have a bit ot it and then youactually have to write it or someone will ask you like who is your product for and you’ve got to oh like I gues everyone can use it. I guess and if you don’t know that and you don’t know marketing, how are you gonna know how to reach them right. You kind have to figure out who you are and whoat kind of business with marketing and what kind of business owner you are targeting and then just sort of found them within your network.

Felicity: Exactly and then you know once you’ve got the confidence in you and of course then you’ve got fans. You know fans coming in and you can do your marketing, budget then you can do everything but it’s about you know getting you know. I have seen people invest thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars into startups. You know I’ve seen people pour this super into it and you don’t have to. It’s too risky you know. You can get the same results you know by being smart about it.

Vince: Yeah and I guess because all you know but and businesses like you and what you’re doing and it’s the online world in general. You can almost flip it over and you can start and you can bootstrap something and it can be they can grow really really quickly. You can focus on the right audience.

Felicity: Absolutely

Vince: And that’s something you can do if you were letting somebody else focus on something else that’s outside of our zone of genius and like some focus on things that you know could take me for example. I don’t know at the start it would have taken me like 20 – 30 hours a month to do what you guys could do real cool

Felicity: Yeah, absolutely.So many times people go what would I give me their big list when I say oh that could be a couple of months worth and we get it all done you know for that one month and they’re like oh I can think of more things that you guys can do and so they are all of a sudden they’re doing things that they weren’t expecting. They are blogging they’re you know, able to put landing pages on for specific leads they’re trying to generate. You know although they think they are able to do within the budget that they said simply because we can turn a whole lot quicker. And we do it nice so we what we are doing, we can guide people to you know around landing pages and things like that but you know how to set up your funnel and those sort of things.

Vince: Yeah and just being able to sort of grow to grow that team around you and you become part of that team. It will let you focus on more and you can achieve so much more when you know You know when I would carry the load a little bit.

Felicity: Absolutely, absolutely and it’s fun we love being on the journey with people. It’s really cool.

Vince: Yeah that all part of it too.That’s so cool because you would see some amazing sites coming up and some amazing business people.

Felicity: Yeah, being on the journey is great and seeing this the diversity and how different people can do things completely differently and get you know some people who you don’t expect you know the humble entrepreneurs. This is always may favorite you know that you don’t expect and they’ve got this fabulous powerhouse in the business. You know a lot of them.

Vince: Yeah, that’s so cool and then you and it you know I know from doing things like if I learned something every week from you and every other guest they have on which I tell people all the time it’s like it’s okay. I just it’sit’s pretty selfish in a way because I just get people who I’m gonna learn from. But I just let other people listen in to the conversation as well and hope you’re getting that as well. Like you said you might get a humble entrepreneur who walks in and next thing you know they’ve got some incredible business, they just don’t know how to work the website.

Felicity: Yeah exactly, exactly.

Vince: That’s so cool we’re gonna have a bit more of a chat about I want to get back to the ecommerce and sort of starting it up. I know small sites you do more than just relax. What do you think a good ecommerce site needs to have?

Felicity: Um, you need to have visibility for your products. You need to have depending on what you are but nine times out of ten you need to be designing the SEO so that people can find you. So you know the complete newbies out there SEO is our search engine optimization. It’s a bit of a it’s a bit of a game to be honest getting the right mix of keywords and putting them you know in the right places. There’sa little technique that we do behind the scenes to help.

Vince: and Just quickly, sorry to cut you off.For those that may not know what search engine optimization is, want to go further .

Felicity: So I’mgonna break it down. It’s basically how Google finds you. So Google being the big guy. But essentially how when we search for things, we find say Google. When you put in a search term Will send out (google) a massive net and it will collect back through all the things. You know all these different businesses based on the keywords that are throughout the website of the person. So you know the more content that’s hung inside, the better the better the descriptions of your products are, the better and the more relevant it is to your audience, the better. If you are selling our products to our year three teachers specifically, you want to say that all throughout every product. You can say this is for year three teachers, this is for year three science you know , this is resources for year three teachers. We repeat those terms over and over again not to the point of saturation because then it is a bit of a balance. You cannot do it too much but you got to do it enough to be found.

Vince: I guess yeah in a way Google is almost like a modern day sort of librarian. Isn’t it? It is finding news. Just finding you the best resources out there.

Felicity: Yeah definately.

Vince: So the more you can sort of tailor make your website and tailor make your product description. I know a lot of people I speak to when it comes to ecommerce have a bit of a bit of a problem with product descriptions because they could always try to say a lot with a few words. Are there any thought of I’m putting you on the spot a little bit. But are there any sort of tips and tricks for product description you think of the top of your head.

Felicity: First step, I have a keyword analysis done for your website and for your target audience so that you know who you’re trying to get and what words you know need to be referenced. Keep that besides you like if you’ve got your windows open, have one window which is a keyword analysis and have the other way you’re writing your description but bit short sharp making sure that you are doing the why behind the product not just the what. You need to actually be saying you know why they should be buying it not just what it is. Go great at telling people what the product is and we need to explain why it’s useful.

Vince: Yeah a hundred percent.

Felicity: You could have teacher resources that it might be because this cuts down your time in preperations, it’s a National curriculum so you can meet your goals and what about.

Vince: Yeah that’s perfect. You know at the end of the day when we buy something we’re not buying lika products or a a widget or like something physical. We are buying the results from it and it can be really tricky to get into that though so that’s really good about having the keyword analysis. What am hearing you saying is really working with the surface keyword. Knowing what your purpose is when you move into it.

Felicity: Yeah being savvy about it. You know we are all busy. Don’t waste your time. You know make what you’re doing count.

Vince: If you do not do it properly the first time, your odds are you have to do it twice. You know going back into my ecommerce store, the product description was something I just kind of whipped up at the start and not really knowing too much about it and I was very much you know learning as I went and the amount of times I had to go back and sort them up because I was learning as I was going. Whilst it is good in a way because you will keep learning, it is good to start with something concrete there and something you can build off.

Felicity: Yeah if there is one thing if you can only afford to send one thing to a copywriter and you’ve got a few products on your shop, it would be your product descriptions. That would be my recommendation to you. The rest you can probably particularly to the teachers you can probably have enough writing skill, fix all those reports you’re right to getting to writing new your copy about your product descriptions need to be betting on.

Vince: When it comes to sites, I just want your opinion on this more than anything because I’ve heard both ways. I know with like search engine optimization and SEO and making sure google agrees with what we put on our website, there is a bit of a debate I don’t know if that’s too strong of a term for it but it appears there is a varying opinion on repeating content on your site. So there’s how does that work?

Felicity: yeah and that is why it is important to get it right because you need to make sure that you have unique product description for each product.That’s where the technicalities of having someone who can guide you with your website is good. So instead of creating, just say that you’re doing a science curriculum resources for year three, four and five, instead fo having the same thing repeated. You know just say it’s you know one particular thing I love sciences and that’s the bundle that you are selling. But you’ve customized it for year three and year four and year five. Instead of having it as three separate products, what you would do is have it as one variable product with three different options. So that way you’re not goig to get any penalization from google but you’re able still to get you know. Itsgonna work best. Its one of those things just about you. Twist the way that you think of doing it. So if you are selling them all separately have them listed as one with different options.

Vince: Yeah whilst it may look good to have a shop page with 20 or 30 different products on it, if you are doubling up a lot that’s gonna be ………………

Felicity: Yeah exactly and what google is looking for is a very efficient website, a streamlined website, website without a lot of duplication of copy. So you don’t want three or four pages saying the exact same thing. You want it to be streamlined, you want it to be optimized, you want it to be efficient.

Vince: Yeah, that’s brilliant and that’s their little thing and like when you were starting out you don’t know what you don’t know and letting guys or letting someone take over your website and guide you in the right direction is such a good way to be able to learn along the way, be able to focus on what you need to focus on to get yourself to the point where you can start selling. It is not about the marketing and gives you time like you said it gives you time to blog and time to focus on your content. I know I’m a big believer in every business it’s a content business. Now you ready to see yourself and that takes time and there is no way around.

Felicity: Absolutely and it takes time to build that audience to you and to keep them coming back for your content.

Vince: Yeah exactly, and that’s one thing that is a barrier for a lot of people starting a side hustle. Though is how can I have the car, how can I have the time to have a job that’s funding my side hustle or Popeye. How could I have that and then how could I have an ecommerce then have a blog.

Felicity: and if people stop thinking about how can they do all that and start thinking about do I have a product that’s actually going to solve people’s needs and it’s going to sell, then the rest will fall into place because you can get other people to do things like for my blogs I often dictate it into my phone when I’m driving with the punctuation and everything and then I get it transcribed somewhere else then one of my assistants lays it onto my blog. So I’m not actually its all my content but I’m not spending a laborious amount of time. I’m using my spare time, essentiall I don’t know the dead time in my day to do my content.

Vince: and there is plenty of ways if you’re doing content to repurpose. As I was telling you before Felicity I turned this into a podcast and then I get a transcribe that turns into a blog post. If I was to make a live video a blog post and a podcast everyday, or every week, it would take me hours and hours and hours. But that’s the things you pick up as you go along and you’re not gonna be expected on the first week to have some content making machine that’s kind of turns over fresh new content every day but as you have that time, it’s a little bit more simple. So that’s something that’s really great advice.

Felicity: Yeah

Vince: We are gonna leave that as it is at the moment. So thank you so much it’s early morning for you and you can’t escape to a coffee shop. So thank you so much. Before I let you go though, Felicity just a couple of things. What’s your advice to someone or a teacher who is starting their side hustlers?

Felicity: Let’s go back to product, sell a product. That’s all. Sell a product to someone and your confidence from it can go from there. Product first.

Vince: Awesome, product first, I love it. So Felicity, for those of you out there who want to catch up with me, how do we contact you?

Felicity: head to my website which is smallsites.com.au and you fill in the contact form there or there’s a phone number there, give me a call.

Vince: Excellent and that will be in the notes for this as well. So Felicity, thank you so much again.

Felicity: No worries thanks for having me on the show.

Vine: Awesome have a great day.

Felicity: You too bye

Vince: bye.

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