How to Start a Catalog

by Jerry Garner; Updated September 26, 2017
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Owning your own business is the dream of many people around the world, and for many of those people, the best way to do it is to simply start a catalog. Compared to other businesses, starting your own catalog business can be relatively simple, easy to maintain, and best of all – profitable. That’s not to say that it won’t require some hard work on your part, but if you are willing to put in the work and dedication, the rewards of starting a catalog are endless. Here is a short guide to help you through the process of how to start a catalog of your own.

Items you will need

  • Business license
  • Product suppliers
  • Shipping supplies
  • Customer lists
  • Web site (optional)
Step 1

Write a business plan. It doesn’t matter if you will start a small catalog that you run from home, or a global catalog business; it all starts with a business plan. Writing a business plan will help you identify the challenges that your business will face and how to overcome them, and give you a plan in advance to take care of these issues. It also helps to keep you focused on your core plan rather than getting distracted and having your attention diverted to the wrong area. Writing a business plan is an essential step of any business and should not be skipped. You can find a number of free business plan templates online, so start your catalog off by downloading one and writing a catalog business plan.

Step 2

Register your catalog business. Registering your business will make your catalog a business venture that is legally incorporated, allowing you to conduct business from the location in which you are registered. In most places, it will also allow you to by wholesale items without paying taxes on them, so long as the items are being purchased for resale. The specifics of how to register a business vary from one location to the next, but the general process is that you will fill out a form and pay a filing fee. Your local Chamber of Commerce or your local County Clerk’s office can tell you how to proceed with registering your catalog business.

Step 3

Find your suppliers. There are basically two methods of putting together a supply chain for your catalog business. If you have a large starting budget, you may wish to purchase a large number of items wholesale, providing you have space to warehouse the items until they are sold. If you prefer to start small, you can enter into a drop shipping agreement with a wholesaler. Drop shipping allows you to have more items listed in your catalog with no risk to you, since you are not buying or storing items in advance. You simply process your orders through the drop shipper, who will package them and mail them with your invoice, as if the item was sent from you directly.

Step 4

Advertise your business. It is important to build a targeted list of people who will be interested in the products you are selling. If your catalog sells baby clothes, for example, it will do you no good for a college male to receive it, because it will probably be thrown away. That is money wasted. If you advertise your catalog in newspapers and on the Internet, you can build a targeted list of people who are interested in what you have to offer, thus giving you a higher return on the cost of printing and mailing your catalogs.

Step 5

Design your catalog. This is the trickiest part. To do a good, professional quality catalog design, you will require a software program that manages graphic layouts, such as Quark Xpress. Learning this program can be tricky, so you may wish to contract this work out to someone who is already proficient with the software. It is best if you can find someone locally whom you can sit down with as you put the catalog together. If you cannot find someone locally, you should have no trouble finding a talented individual who will work at reasonable rates by checking freelance web sites, such as "Get A Freelancer."

Step 6

Print your catalog. Pretty much every town has a print shop within a reasonable driving distance. Consult with the print shop to identify the best options for printing your catalog. The price will depend on the number of catalogs printed, the quality of the paper, and how much color will be required. Printing magazine quality catalogs can be very expensive, but a good print shop will work with you to find a quality product that meets your budget.

Step 7

Start an online catalog. Although this step is purely optional, you will find that it works to your advantage. An online catalog opens your business up to a much larger audience, in a more cost-effective manner. Not only can you skip the cost of printing and mailing catalogs, but you will also pick up new customers who may not have heard about your catalog otherwise. Do not let the Internet intimidate you. Free Internet software, such as OSCommerce, allows you to build an Internet store front with very little effort.

Tips

  • Keep a running list of people who have ordered from your catalog and always send them a copy of your new catalog each time you print a batch.

About the Author

Jerry Garner has been writing semi-professionally for more than 15 years. The body of Garner's work includes informative articles, news and current events and historical essays. He is an avid sports fan and frequently writes about outdoor activities online.

Photo Credits

  • L. Marie, Flickr.com Creative Commons License