A step by Step guide to starting your own online store ( and saving thousands in development fees )

June 8, 2016

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Do you have an idea or product you have been sitting on, but you don’t have tons of $ to spend on hiring a developer? Frustrated by the limitations of other starter platforms like Etsy and Squarespace and ready to form your own brand?

There are so many benefits to having your own website and using a platform that you can grow, build and manage yourself. In this article we talked about some of the biggest mistakes ecommerce entrepreneurs make.

Some including:

  • Using a platform that’s oversaturated, has branding limitations and doesn’t allow you to grow an email list ( like etsy )
  • Using the cheapest platform out there. ( you’re missing out on features that will increase sales! )
  • Choosing a platform not well design and not mobile friendly
  • Bad Photography

Are you ready to level up your shop? Designing your own website is totally doable. In this post we will teach you how. We’ve built and launched over 50+ ecommerce sites, and Shopify is the easiest ecommerce platform to work with. Check out our Shopify review to learn more about our favorite features, but some include:

  • Modern and easy to use order management and dashboard
  • Sell digital or physical products
  • Beautiful and mobile friendly themes
  • An app store which allows you to really tailor the functionalities of your shop to your customers needs
  • Competitive pricing
  • Awesome analytics to better understand and market to your target customer
  • All in one hosted solution with 24/7 customer support and limited down times
  • Sell in store, online, or in person at markets

So let’s get started! Once you have your branding done, you’ll want to:

1. Buy a domain

First thing you will need to do is buy a domain through a domain registrar. You can buy one directly through shopifynamecheap,  bluehost, and godaddy, to name a few. Still stuck on a finding a domain name for your biz? Use this Business Name Generator to help get you started.

2. Start your Free Trial & Signup

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 12.11.00 AM

Shopify offers a 14-day free trial for you to test everything out and make sure you like them before committing to full plan. You can sign up for your trial here ( this article contains affiliate links and we would appreciate you using them if this info is helpful ! )

Continue to fill in all of your details, and then you will be taken to the dashboard. Be sure to input the store name that you want. Shopify will use this to create a temporary url ( “ie: www.octoberink.shopify.com” ) until you switch your shop over to your permanent url ( www.octoberink.com )

3. Learn the dashboard

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 12.13.11 AM

You will be taken to the dashboard upon signing up. Wahoo! Time to start poking around and get started. One of our favorite resources for learning more about using shopify is the Shopify Manual. I would start by reading the articles there. They cover all of the features of your dashboard, including:

  • General Settings
  • Taxes
  • Shipping
  • Uploading Products
  • Checkout and Payments
  • Email & Order Notifications
  • Domains

BONUS TIP: We often get asked “Which plan should I choose after my free trial?” Shopify has different pricing and plans depending on your needs. We usually recommend starting with the lowest one while designing and getting your shop setup, and then you can always upgrade later on if you need to.

4. Choose a theme

shopifythemstore

Shopify has some amazing mobile friendly free and premium themes you can purchase through the theme store and using the theme editor, you can customize the colors, fonts, background, headers, ect. Each theme as different settings and options for what you can customize.

You can also use the dropdown filters at the top to narrow themes down by price, most popular, industry, ect.

There are quite a few themes to choose from, so here are some things to think about when choosing your theme:

  • Which home layout will work best with your branding and showcasing your products?
  • Does the theme include key features you are looking for? Such as a homepage slider, instagram feed on the homepage, newsletter popup box, ect.
  • Do you like the layout of the rest of the pages ( product page, about page, contact, ect.? )
  • Will this theme allow your shop to stand out from the crowd?

Each theme also allows you to access the html/css so you can further customize your store if you have experience with some coding.

We usually recommend investing in a premium theme since there are more options for making your site feel and look more custom, but the free themes are well designed as well.

BONUS TIP: One way to see if your branding with work with a particular theme before purchasing it is to screenshot the demo of the theme, save to your desktop and then mockup your shop using your own branding in a photo editing software like photoshop. That way you won’t waste money purchasing a theme that you end up not liking. Also, premium themes tend to have multiple versions of one theme, so be sure to mock up your shop with all of the versions!

5. Upload Products

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.30.49 AM

Once you have your theme designed, you can start inputting products and get those bad boys uploaded. Some things you will want to remember when inputting your products.

  • Your photography backgrounds should all be simple, ideally white, and similar in scale ( love this article on diy product photography) This is also a great resource if you want to hire it out instead.
  • Your product photos should all be the same pixel size and dimensions
  • Include multiple shots of your products
  • Put thought into your product description in order to highlight the best features and benefits about your product
  • Use tags and categories to organize your products and shop
  • Optimize your images for better SEO and faster load times
  • We also love this article about increasing conversions on your product pages

6. Set up the rest of your Pages & Navigation

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.31.44 AM

In your shop you will want to include at least an about page ( here are some tips for creating a killer one! ) and contact page so it’s easy for customers to get to know you and contact you, which builds customer trust and increases sales.

Including a Returns and Policy pages is vitally important to your shop, and is where you will want to include some legal guidelines for those using your site in order to protect you and your shoppers. This article goes more in depth with how to set that up. Shopify offers some policy templates to help get you started.

You will also want to set up your main menu and your footer menu to link to your shopping page, about, contact, any other pages you have created, and cart. Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.32.18 AM

7. Integrate Apps from the App Store

One of our favorite features about Shopify is the App Store. Normally creating custom functionalities for your shop would cost thousands in development fees, but with the app store, you can add integrate apps for small monthly fees ( some are free too ) in order to fine tune your the functionalities of your shop. Some things include creating a wholesale shop, adding a popup newsletter, sending digital files, and so much more.  

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 11.23.42 AM

Here is a list of some of our favorite apps we consistently use.

LIGHTBOX

https://apps.shopify.com/pop-up-window

WISHLIST

https://apps.shopify.com/wishlist-pro

CUSTOMIZING NOTIFICATION EMAILS

https://apps.shopify.com/receiptful

WHOLESALE

https://apps.shopify.com/customer-pricing

PERSONALIZING PRODUCTS

https://apps.shopify.com/custom-options

DIGITAL DELIVERY

https://apps.shopify.com/sendowl

NEWSLETTER

https://apps.shopify.com/chimpified

8. Launch

OK, now the fun part! Once your site is designed, you’ll want to start building buzz and excitement around the big launch. Some of our favorites ways to do that include:

  • Showing sneak peaks on social media
  • Set a firm launch date and countdown to that date
  • Hosting giveaways to build buzz around the site launch
  • Offering a first time purchase discount code in order to build your email list
  • Reach out to influencers to help spread the word about your new product and site
  • Collect emails on your landing page and offer an exlusive discount or promotion to your first subscribers, and send out an email once you launch!
  • Pin some of your products and blog articles to pinterest to bring more traffic to your site
  • Host a soft launch party and invite friends and family to review the site and give you any tips
  • Create a hashtag and start using it with all of your prelaunch posts and materials

BONUS TIP: Ideally you want to have your site done 1-2 weeks before you are set to launch. That way you can work out the glitches and focus mostly on launching that week, instead of stressing out about designing and launching all in the same week! 

 

So you don’t forget anything during your launch, we created a free launch checklist to keep you on track. Download it below!

Happy launching!

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Morgan is a branding and marketing expert catering to small businesses and creative entrepreneurs all around the world.

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  1. […] your own shop online isn’t as hard as you think (In case you missed it, check out our Step by Step guide to creating your own shop and selling […]

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