How to start an online shop when you don’t have any stock

If you want to start a side-hustle business selling your designs and products but don't have the premises for a physical shop, online retail could be the solution. All you need are plenty of creative and unique designs and, wait for it, no actual stock..!

If you want to start a side-hustle business selling your designs and products but don’t have the premises for a physical shop, online retail could be the solution. All you need are plenty of creative and unique designs and, wait for it, no actual stock..!

When starting a retail business online you may think that you’ll need plenty of space (or a spare room, at least!) to store all the stock you’ll be selling on your website. Well, think again, because there IS another way to sell your creations online without having to lose space in your home. Here are some ways you can make money from your creativity and launch your business online without a huge investment.


If you’re an artist, crafter or maker of any kind, there’s no need to make multiples of your product if you’re planning to sell online. Using a platform like Etsy allows you set up an online shop and to list your products, ready to sell. That doesn’t mean that you have to have everything in stock and ready to send out at a moments notice.

Usually, Etsy sellers hand-make items to order, and buyers understand that the delivery times on unique, handcrafted items will be longer while the maker produces something special just for them. All you need to do is make one of each product and photograph it beautifully to create your product listing page.

If you’ve made only one of each item, this allows you to provide a personalised service as customers can request a specific colour or a slightly different design for their order. If you had already made multiples of the product there would be only option available to customers, which might mean they look elsewhere for an item that’s more tailored to them.


If you’ve got plenty of designs and want to showcase how your product could look but don’t want to produce every single design just to photograph it, mock-ups are a quick and easy way to do this. Simply choose a product (such as kid’s t-shirt, for example) and then you can superimpose your graphic design onto the mock-up product image. This makes it easier for customers to see how the finished t-shirt will look when worn.

This way, you can add 100s of your own designs to your online shop inventory without having to make and photograph every single t-shirt on a model. You can then take orders from the mock-up product page and you only have to physically produce the items you’ve actually sold, which saves you time and money.

Mock-ups also allow you to show the t-shirt design in a range of colourways so that the customer can have a greater choice of finishes. Again, this offers buyers a much more custom-made service – they could choose whatever size, fabric and print colour they like, and you could even add an option to personalise the design with text. Then all you have to do is make up the customer’s order and post it out to them.


Whenever you sell a product online and then make it ‘in real life’, remember to take a photo of the finished item. If you take a snap of every product you complete, you’ll then have more photos of ‘real items’ to add to your image bank for future product listings.

Adding extra images to your retail website allows you to grow your business slowly, and you can eventually phase out your mock-up images if you prefer. This lets you create a business site that’s full of your actual designs without having to splash out that initial investment in the materials needed and time required to make every single item in your inventory.

I hope that this blog post has given you inspiration for getting your web-based retail idea off the ground (even without any stock!) and please do share your tips from your own experience of starting a side-hustle business online in the comments below.


This article is sponsored collaboration. The pink links in the content indicate a sponsored link or information source. The blog post reflects my own experience and the sponsor hasn’t had any control over my content 🙂

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Cassie Fairy
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