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Has the thought ever crossed your mind to open up your own online shop? Not an Etsy shop, but a real website that’s really pretty, shiny, all your own? Well I’m here today to tell you that it can be done. And while you should expect to shell out some cash- it’s not at all impossible or out of reach. In fact, it is totally doable and I’m here to give you some advice on how to get started.
First, get a domain name, install WordPress, and buy a theme that’s compatible with Woocommerce. There- you’ve got an online shop! Ok, no, it’s not that easy. But If you can learn to do this- you can learn to do everything else that goes into running, promoting, and growing your online business. I learned, but it was a slower process for me. I’m here to lay out the basic steps for you so maybe you won’t feel so alone in the process like I did. This is not going to be easy, and it will require a lot of learning on your part. Are you ready? K.
First thing’s first. You’ll need a domain name and hosting with an easy way to set up WordPress. I recommend Godaddy for hosting- they make WordPress set-up oh so easy. And because you’re my loyal reader, you can click here and get 25% off WordPress Hosting from GoDaddy!
Your second step will be to buy a theme. You can find tons of themes on Theme Forest– and below are a few that I like.
If you’ve never used Woocommerce before, that’s ok. The reason I love this plugin is that it is free, simple to use, and the internet is full of people who already use it, and share their knowledge with us. If you’re not sure how to get started, here’s a step by step of the basics. More of a visual learner? Youtube has a lot of tutorials, so grab a cup of coffee and strap on your thinking cap. It’s time to do some learnin!
The next thing I love about this plugin is that it is so popular, that people have developed amazing WordPress themes to go along with it! That means less worky more drinky for you and me. Here are some of my favorite themes on the market right now:
5 Minimal Design E-commerce Themes
Minimal design is all the rage right now. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to open up an online shop. All you need is a little WordPress knowledge, and a beautiful theme to help you sell your products. Check out these minimalist E-commerce designs that are compatible with Woo-commerce. In my opinion, Woo-commerce is the best E-commerce plugin out there. It is easy to learn, has a simple user interface, and just looks great. I use it for my design shop to make it crazy easy for my clients to place their deposits!
1. Minimal Multi Purpose Woo Commerce Theme by Template Mela on Themeforest. What I love about this theme is not only the minimalist design paired with lots of options built into the theme, but that it comes with free installation, and theme support!
2. WordPress Flat Responsive Woocommerce Theme by UX-Themes on Theme Forest
What I love about this theme is the option for endless customizations. No two shops will look alike! With email support, and their detailed documentation, it doesn’t take a seasoned WordPress vet. to figure how to use this theme- and I love that. So many themes offer so much- but give you no idea where to start. That can make buying themes a little bit scary, but if you put in the time to learn from the documentation, you can have a shop that really stands out!
3. Bare/ Responsive WordPress Woocommerce Theme by Love Themes on Theme Forest
Less is more. The Bare theme cuts out the noise and let’s your products speak for themselves. Pair this theme with some amazing photography- and you’ve got yourself an online shop! Who knew it could be that simple (and still be beautiful!).
4. Glamo- Responsive WordPress Ecommerce Theme by fitwp on Theme Forest
Ok, so while this particular theme may not be as minimal as the others. What it lacks in minimalism, it makes up for in innovation. I am just in love with the design quality of this theme. Not only is it well designed, but the designer had the eye to make products literally pop while the user scrolls. If that’s not a great way to get your customers’ attention than I don’t know what is. The products take center stage as your eyes are kept fully engaged with the movement of the page elements. This theme also comes with 3 different page layout options- and a huge bundle of customizations!
5. Snap Shop Responsive Woocommerce WordPress Theme by Shindiri Studio on Theme Forest
My favorite part of this theme is the option to create a grid, Pinterest-style page layout for your products! I just love the fact that with this theme, you can create a shop that will look great whether you have 20 products, or 200! Options people- options are a great thing when we’re talking WordPress themes! And this theme is packed with them.
Branding Your Online Shop
When you’re opening up an online shop, branding is a really important (and fun!) part of the process. What types of products do you sell, and who do you sell them to? Use that information to develop the look of your logo and packaging. If your business prides itself on being environmentally conscious, then use recycled packaging. If you’re selling to high end clients, think about how your logo can communicate that high end look. I’m a design nerd, so I’m a little bit partial, but I think branding is one of the most fun parts of the process of opening up a new business.
If you are not a design nerd, and don’t know where to start, I have a few ideas in mind for you. If you have the money to hand your branding off to a professional- then by all means- do it! Did I mention that I’m a designer? But don’t worry- I’m not just here to plug myself. If you run into a brick wall when it comes to finding the funds to hire a designer, you’re not screwed, and you’re not alone. It might take a more of a time investment on your part to DIY your branding, but if you’re willing to do the learning, the knowledge can be had. Here are some resources & tips to help you put together a brand on a budget:
- Not sure where to start? My buddy Regina created a workbook for you that helps you plan out the different aspects of your branding. And it is EPIC.
- Take A Skillshare Class – At only $9.95/month and lots of design courses to choose from, if you put in the time, you will learn. You may not get your PhD in design (do they even have those?) but you’ll probably be able to pull of a logo and the brand materials you need to start up your shop. Think simple! Oh, and if you sign up by clicking here, you (and I) get a free month!
- Font Squirrel & Da Font are my favorite free font resources. Make sure your logo’s font is readable, and pick something that your target customers would like. If you sell horror comics, don’t chose a pretty script font. If you sell pretty wedding favors, don’t choose a font that’s got blood dripping from the letters. “Ok Margo, I may not be a designer, but I think I know that.” Ok I’ll shut up now.
- Take your time, develop your style. Use Pinterest to gather inspiration, and try to create an overall look for your brand through creating a moodboard. Then move onto the logo, and then on to your other materials such as business cards, packaging, and website graphics.
Things to keep in mind when opening your online shop
Starting your online shop doesn’t stop with buying a theme. There’s a lot of hard work in store for you, so if you’re ready, roll up those sleeves and let’s get to work!
- Great – no- amazing product photography is a must. Luckily (and professional photographers are going to gag at me right now) your smartphone is likely to have a great camera. With the right lighting and setup, you can DIY your product photos. But if you have the money- hire a photographer. Product photography is not something you want to cheap out on- ever. If you’re going the DIY route- prepare to spend many frustrating hours getting your photos just right. After all- your photos are the only link your customers have to your product. You put so much work into developing your products. Expect to spend just as much time developing amazing photography. But like I said, hiring a photographer can make your life a lot easier.
- Develop unique copy. Don’t just give me the specs- give me a story! Why is this product unique? Why did you make this necklace? Did you wrestle a shark to the bottom of the sea, and yank out his tooth with your bare hands to create this one of a kind piece? No? But I bet you put just as much passion and care into creating it. Maybe you give your products quirky names or clever puns. One of my favorite examples of this is Modcloth. Whatever your writing style, give your product copy a lot (and I mean a lot) of thought. Confession: Writing copy for my products is one of my least favorite things to do. I spend hours on one paragraph trying hard to come off as playful, quirky, funny, helpful, and informative. Expect to spend a lot of time developing a writing style to go along with your products. You thought this was going to be easy, huh? I didn’t say it was going to be easy- I just said that you can do it!
- Developing a customer base takes time. This one is just no fun. Building an online shop selling your own products is absolutely exhilarating (can I get a hell yeah from my fellow entrepreneur geeks?) Once your shop is up, it is likely that next to no one will see it at first. And this is where blogging, developing a following on social media, and amazing customer service comes into play. Treat your customers like gold, so that they not only come back to you, but maybe they tell a friend about you. Start hitting your blog hard. Write about topics related to your products, but please don’t spam the world. That’s not good for anyone- especially you. If you own a jewelry shop, write about jewelry trends, or put together outfits that look amazing with your jewelry. Then, start following people on social media. Interact with them, make some friends. Join The Blog Loft and post in our forums!
- Promote Promote Promote. Through your blog, through other peoples’ blogs, and through social media. When I say promote, I don’t mean blasting out 20 links to your products a day, or spamming your mom on Facebook. That’s not nice, and again, it’s not good for anybody. So how do you promote the right way? By making connections with people online. There’s no easy formula, or get rich quick scheme. Getting your products in front of people who want to buy them is going to take work- and money. One of the best ways to get your product seen is through paid advertising. Make sure that you set aside a portion of your budget for advertising. A person might need to see your banner ad 20 times before even clicking on it. That’s not a very fun fact is it? No, but it is true. Brand recognition is the best way to build a sense of trust in your customers. People are more likely to buy a product if they are familiar with the brand. And this, like everything else, takes time (and money).
Resources To Help You Promote Your Shop
- Passion Fruit Ads: It is free to join if you’re an advertiser, and you buy ads directly from the blogger. Ad spots range anywhere from free, to $500 and up. What I look for when I’m buying ad space is a blogger who has one or two large ad spots that are high up on the page. The higher up on the page, and the larger the ad, the more likely it is that someone will click on it. These are usually more expensive spots, but you’re investing in good placement so that your ad doesn’t blend in with all the smaller ads below. I also always look for blogs that have a lot of traffic in my target demographic, and who offer sponsored posts, & social media shout outs to their sponsors. Because bloggers charge what they want, and place ads in different locations, your research and find a couple of blogs that are right for you.
- Mail Chimp : People are more likely to buy from you if they trust you enough to let you into their inboxes. I recommend that you start collecting emails right away, and never stop. Offer something valuable to them- please don’t say “Sign up for my newsletter”. No one knows (or cares) what a newsletter is anymore. If I’m on your mailing list, it’s because you’ve offered me something of value. Think: coupons! I use Mail Chimp to build my email lists because it is the best email plugin I’ve found. Their analytics tell you who opened and email from you, and if they clicked on anything. Mail Chimp also allows you to do split A/B testing, to see which subject lines convert the best! That’s a valuable tool for anyone trying to sell anything- and worth your while.
- Google Analytics : Google Analytics not only allows you to see where your visitors are coming from, but you can also view your audiences interests as well as track your conversions (i.e. sales). Not sure how to use Analytics to your full advantage? Here’s a wonderful video tutorial by my friend Kim over at Bear & Beagle Creative on how to set up demographics and interest reports. You can also check out this article, for more info. on tracking conversions.
When I opened up my first online store (selling jewelry) I knew almost nothing about how to sell online. I learned all of these lessons the hard way over the course of about two years. I hope the lessons I’ve learned and mistakes I’ve made will save you a couple years of learning this all on your own! If you’re thinking of opening an online shop- do it. Go at it with all you’ve got. If it’s something you never thought you could do because you don’t know this or that- we’re here to help. You’re not alone. If you have any questions or get stuck along the way- please post in The Blog Loft forums, we’re listening, and we’re here to help.