The problem? You don’t have any money to invest in starting a clothing business.
Here’s how to open an online boutique with no money. From discovering products to promoting them online, you’ll get your clothing boutique up and running in record speed—even if you’re budget-strapped.
How to start an online boutique with no money
- Choose a business model
- Select products you’ll sell
- Write a business and marketing plan
- Create a brand
- Open your online store
- Decide on your shipping strategy
- Price your boutique’s inventory
- Get set up to take payment
- Start promoting your online store
- Optimize your online store
1. Choose a business model
A business model describes how you’ll sell clothes through your online clothing store.
Dropshipping clothes is great if you’re starting out with no money. Find a dropshipping clothing supplier, use their imagery on your store, and pay for inventory once it sells. You’re responsible solely for marketing. It’s your supplier’s responsibility to pick, pack, and ship items from your boutique to customers.
Other budget-friendly options include:
2. Select products you’ll sell
Choosing a niche market for your boutique means you can be known as the go-to place for one specific type of clothing line. That might be bestselling items in categories like:
Next, find suppliers that can provide quality products you want to sell. “We follow fashion influencers and publications and conduct keyword research, and we put our own spin on streetwear staples,” says John Petersen, founder of 1550 Brand.
“When we first got started, we had a lot of manufacturers reach out to us, but we weren’t ready to step into mass production yet. Now that we are moving toward that, we were able to vet a manufacturer we like and trust from the list of those who had contacted us in the past.
“We’re also using Alibaba to source suppliers for smaller branded items, like tags and dust bags. We spend a lot of time reading reviews and ratings and reaching out to multiple suppliers until we find one who can meet our needs as a small business with small order quantities.
“It takes time and legwork—and many late nights talking with suppliers overseas—but it is completely worth it to be able to offer our customers unique products and a unique experience.”
3. Write a business and marketing plan
An online boutique business plan details how your store will attract customers and make money online. Use this free business plan template to break down how you plan to work around minimal investment, detailing:
- Your business structure
- How you’ll source inventory
- Whether you need a business license
- If you’ll secure financing or funding
- Who your competitors are
- Budgets for inventory, marketing, and paid advertising
While you’re planning, spend some time crafting a marketing plan that details your target market and how you plan to reach them.
Which social media marketing platforms will you use? What types of content does your target audience engage with? How will you drive them to your online clothing store? Use a free marketing plan template to answer these questions.
4. Create a brand
A brand sets your online boutique apart from the rest. Yours should communicate what you sell, who you sell to, and why someone should buy from your clothing boutique.
To DIY a visual brand on a budget, create:
- A business name
- A tagline or slogan
- A value proposition
- Core values
- A visual identity, including a professional logo, colors, and fonts
Whatever you choose, be consistent with your online business’s branding across all touchpoints with potential customers.
Children’s clothing brand MORI, for example, uses the same heading on its ecommerce website and Facebook page. Anyone visiting either storefront gets the same branded experience.
5. Open your online store
To sell clothing through online boutiques, you need your own website for potential customers to search, browse, and purchase your inventory.
Pay attention to the following elements of your own online store:
- Clothing product photography. Showcase what your boutique inventory looks like in various scenarios, like models of various sizes, hung on a hanger, or folded up.
- Product descriptions.Share your size guide, the material you use, and why your boutique’s inventory is different from other brands.
- Navigation. Help people discover new products in your boutique by linking bestselling products and categories.
- Store policies. From shipping to returns, giving potential customers this essential information upfront often makes them more comfortable making their first purchase.
The best part? You don’t need tons of cash to get started. Start selling online with Shopify’s Starter plan. For just $1 per month, you’ll get all the tools you need to sell via social media.
Mariko Ichikawa found it was easy to get an ecommerce platform up and running for her eponymous brand. “Shopify makes it super easy for anyone to create a really nice, professional, and useful website, so long as you do a little research into what themes work best for you, and are willing to pay a little money for their use,” she says.
6. Decide on your shipping strategy
How will you get items from your online boutique to your customers? Use Shopify Shipping for discounted shipping rates. It will prevent extra costs that deter almost half of potential customers from making a purchase.
Consider domestic and international shipping rates, and whether you’ll offer free shipping—some 78% of shoppers are willing to spend more to qualify for free shipping. Put this into practice by enforcing a minimum spend threshold, such as Kerrits’ “Spend $125 for free shipping” offer.
This problem is taken off your plate entirely if you’re using the dropshipping business model to run your online boutique. Order fulfillment and shipping are the responsibility of your dropshipping supplier.
7. Price your boutique’s inventory
One of the hardest things about opening an online boutique and becoming a small business owner is pricing your inventory. You’ll need to sell products for more than they’re costing you.
Consider different pricing strategies, such as:
Regardless of which pricing model you’re using, calculate profit margins using this free calculator. Bake fixed costs (mainly your domain and Shopify plan) into your product pricing to make sure you’re still turning a profit after paying for the online boutique’s overheads.
8. Get set up to take payment
You’ve set the prices for each item in your online boutique. Next, get your payment processor up and running to collect money from each customer.
The most popular payment method is debit or credit card. Accept these on your online store using Shopify Payments. Customers can use their American Express, Visa, or Mastercard to pay for online purchases.
Alongside debit and credit cards, offer alternative payment methods on your boutique to generate more sales. That includes:
- Mobile wallets, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay
- Buy now, pay later options, such as Shop Pay Installments or Klarna
- Bank transfer
9. Start promoting your online boutique
Your job isn’t over once your boutique is up and running. Smart digital marketing strategies increase the odds of people stumbling upon your online store. The more ecommerce website traffic you have, the greater your chance at making money online.
Promote your online boutique using free promotion tactics like:
- Gifting free products to fashion influencers
- Guest posting on clothing publications
- Posting Instagram Reels or TikTok videos
- Offering a discount code
- Running an automated email marketing campaign
- Hosting a social media giveaway
- Investing in Facebook or Google ads
- Using search engine optimization (SEO) to help your store appear in search results
Odd Muse, for example, creates videos of people wearing its clothes. These videos lean on trending videos or sounds—with some videos racking up millions of views.
10. Optimize your online store
The average conversion rate for an online store is just 3.65%. The type of traffic you’re driving to your online boutique largely impacts your conversion rate. But there are things you can do to squeeze more revenue from existing website visitors.
- One-click checkout
- Trust signals, such as payment processor logos or free returns policy
- A/B testing elements on the page, such as your product photos or layout
- Showcasing social proof, such as customer reviews or user-generated content
- Mobile-friendly design that automatically resizes based on a visitor’s device
You don’t need cash to start an online boutique
Opening an online boutique is a great low-cost business idea. Choose a business model that doesn’t require upfront cash, like dropshipping or print on demand, and explain how you’ll work around a minimal budget with a solid business plan.
How to start an online boutique with no money FAQ
Is owning an online boutique profitable?
An online boutique can become a profitable business, since it allows you to tap into the estimated $1.7 trillion global consumers spend on fashion. The key to success is monitoring your profit margins and selling clothes at a higher price than they cost you.
How do I start a small online clothing business from home?
Start by choosing a business model that doesn’t require upfront investment, such as dropshipping. Find a reliable supplier, sync their inventory with your online store, and start promoting your boutique online.
How much does it cost to start a boutique?
Start an online business for as little as $1 per month with Shopify’s Starter plan. If you’re dropshipping inventory for your online boutique, you’ll only pay for inventory once you’ve sold it.
What can be sold in a boutique?
- Luxury goods
Where do boutiques buy their inventory?
- Thrift stores
- Directly from manufacturers
- Dropshipping suppliers
- Wholesale fashion retailers
- Online marketplaces like eBay