Some of this is pretty broad information for all sellers (Shipping 101, Product Photography), and the rest are geared toward those of you who make and market your own items (or would like to).
(Linked articles are snagged from Indiepreneur.org)
HOW TO SET YOUR PRICE
(This is also a good read for buyers to understand general rules of pricing and why really good-quality handmade items are not as cheap as, say, Bodyline and why part-time sellers looking for spare change on the sales comm can sell cheaper than people who try to work as a business.)
How To Name Your Shop
E-Commerce Lesson One: The Website
(Rather self explanatory title. Useful if you're planning to make a non-etsy/ebay/livejournal webshop for your items. Also goes well with 5 Easy Steps To A Website Of Your Own)
E-Commerce Lesson Two: What Are You Going to Sell?
Aka: "Find Your Niche" and "But I Want to Be A Special Snowflake"
Alright, we don't work with housewares, like the article's author. But "Clothing" is a big category. It's a huge category. "Lolita clothing" is a smaller, but still very big category.
Maybe you're smart enough to rule out the items that clearly aren't selling well anymore (Non-Colorful-Non-Fluffy-Boring-Cluny-La
Making a post on egl of "What do you want to buy?" or "What should I make?" can be an OK way to get an idea of what people want, but you're going to get a broad range of answers, from people with a broad range of styles.
Pay closer attention to what people do not want to buy, ask what colors people want to see, ask what materials people are interested in, ask what people are willing to pay for off-brand items (skirts, versus bows, versus hats, versus dresses, versus jewelry, etc) and find out what will be profitable. Ask very specific questions. It might seem like a good idea to be versatile with what you make, but it's also hard to market your abilities to, say, a gothic lolita when your portfolio is currently only sweets jewelry and a couple of alice bows. It's often easier to start off with a specific style, or something that's similar between styles (ex: skirts), build up a portfolio, build up a reputation, and expand later.
As you experiment and work on your portfolio, find your niche. With Lolita, you can do that with something special like screen printing, embroidery (machine or by hand), specialized tailoring skills, millinery experience, or maybe you have the resources to make the plastic jewelry that everyone's going gaga over. Eventually, your research and experience will lead you to what you should be selling. Actively search it out. It'll serve you much better than "I can make anything you'd like, just show me a picture!!!"
That said. If you want to be ~uber speshul~ --Take your dreams and shred them. Now. This may seem a little contradictory after the author and I told you to find your niche, but this is just not the best idea to start with. Why? As Lovely mentioned-- When you're starting off, you do not have the buying or selling power to get by on being ~ultra unique~. In other terms: You are probably unknown, probably have no reputation, no major experience, no client base. And, Lolita as it currently stands is not all about being new and special. Most buyers are currently more concerned with well coordinated outfits. New and special has its place, but it also has its limits.
Example: A completely unique, new and "out there" set of accessories that involve wearing a rainbow sock on your head is probably going to be hard to coordinate with your buyer's existing wardrobe. And how many times have we seen buyers on egl_comm_sales reply to a seller with "Sorry, I don't have anything to wear with it!" or sellers load up their sales post with "These just don't match anything I have, so they've been sitting in my closet! Please make an offer!"
This is not to say that what you make should be an exact copypaste of what brands make, but they should provide a good outline. Instead of making replicas, look at the styles that are popular in major brands. Look at the colors that are popular. Look at what people are actually buying. Look at the WTBs. Bookmark, bookmark, bookmark the major brand sites and visit them religiously when they post new collections. Take inspiration and translate it into what you make. Find your niche in what exists, then play with creativity to make it yours.
E-Commerce Lesson Three: What's Your Limit?
Aka: Set Yourself Up For Failure
Don't buy up the entire fabric store with dreams of dresses and skirts and fluffy things without having a customer base ready- and I do mean ready to buy at least a large portion of it. Invest in (reorder-able) fabric and materials for prototypes, make your prototypes, flaunt detailed photos of your prototypes, add those photos to your portfolio, and then take (a limited number of) pre-orders. Items that are sold ready-made usually sell for less than items made specifically for customers, and "ready-made" always, always, always has the chance of meaning that the item will sit in your craft room for a year and a half, collecting dust. Unless you have severe time restrictions or other restraints, "ready-made" is less profitable.
Now, when I said a limited number of pre-orders, I'm talking about another kind of limit. Now that you've limited your pocket book, limit yourself. Consider your time restraints. Allow for extra time in case something comes up (this can and will probably happen). Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (have you gotten the point yet?) bite off more than you can chew. Doing so can and will ruin your reputation as a seller and seamstress. It is always better to take fewer orders than your limit, rather than more. If you're unsure of your limit, start low. Start with, say, one or two medium items at a time, depending on their complexity. If you find you can whip out three to four skirts per order period, up your limit later. But, always be ready to adjust-- If you know one item will take more attention, take less orders.
5 Essential Reasons to Focus On Repeat Customers
Branding: You’re Already Doing It
(Quote: "EVERYTHING YOU DO, or don’t do, becomes your brand.")