Some of you have heard me talk about the first iteration of merriweathercouncil.com – a beautiful looking site that was custom built for me, but that was a complete and utter nightmare to manage. Because it was such a train wreck on the back end – which I didn’t realize before I got into this whole thing – I barely used it, never updated it, and made basically no money from it. It was not good, my friends, not good.
After much deliberation, I opted to discontinue use of the custom design and the platform it was built on and move elsewhere. After much research and reading, I switched over to Shopify.
Shopify is like a dream. Seriously, it’s so good. I’ve been having a little bit of a love fest with my Shopify site recently and I just wanted to rave about this service for a little bit because it’s THAT GOOD. And yeah, this post contains my Shopify referral link but I wouldn’t bother writing about it if I really didn’t love – and more importantly, TRUST it.
Stand alone + diversify
I don’t want you to fall into the same predicament I was in. I want you to know going into it that you’ve made an informed choice for your domain + stand alone shop.
Many people are looking for ways to supplement their Etsy income or simply diversify or establish their own domain for professional reasons and I think Shopify should definitely be a consideration in these cases.
Etsy is great for lots of things, search traffic being one of them, but I personally believe it is silly to advertise (especially with cash money) an Etsy shop. Why? Because you could use that money, time and effort to advertise your own site which is always preferable for a few reasons:
- Etsy controls your storefront – if they make a sitewide change, your shop changes too be it for better or worse.
- You don’t get as much brand recognition on Etsy – Etsy is great for making money and obtaining new customers, it’s not great for building brand awareness (though you certainly can and should brand your shop, more on this at another time). People will 98% of the time say “I bought this on Etsy.”
- When you pay to advertise your Etsy shop, you are really just advertising Etsy + everyone who sells there. There are hundreds of exits from your shop on any given page. You are paying to bring traffic to Etsy more than you are paying to bring traffic to you. So use your funds to direct traffic to a site where you are the only seller.
For all of these reasons, I suggest optimizing your Etsy site to get as much organic traffic as possible (which I can help you do) and putting your efforts into advertising your own shop off Etsy. Obviously you can still feel free to promote your Etsy site too. There are no rules – you do what works for you. Party on, Wayne.
So if you are ready to take the next step toward brand independence for your handmade product, Shopify might be the best option!
Here’s why I love selling handmade on Shopify:
Low cost monthly plan, tiered pricing + free trial
I pay $30.00 per month plus a little extra for some plugins (which I’ll go over later) which is barely a blip on the radar really, and is much less than I generally pay in Etsy fees even on a super slow month. You can upgrade and downgrade as you need and the kind folks over at Shopify will prorate you. There are different plans with different features, so you can select what you think will be best for you and your needs.
Incredible customer service (no, really.)
This is HUGE when you are taking on projects like building your own site. 24/7 support is available for users in the form of phone, live chat and email. I am constantly live chatting random questions with the good folks over at Shopify and they are incredibly responsive, helpful, and kind. They never make me feel foolish for asking “silly” questions and they follow up to make sure you’re all set. It’s crazy how awesomely supportive the team is. I really feel very relaxed knowing they are on my side and easily accessible. Again, this is hugely important to me as I know I will encounter little issues or questions along the way.
Product listing creation is simple
Unlike my old host, Shopify makes it delightfully easy to create new listings (you can also COPY listings which, DUH I love.) You can drag and drop photos (heavenly), manage inventory, individualize shipping and taxes, and you can see search engine preview as well.
SEO + Stats
You can work your SEO within your Shopify listings and you can get plugins to help with that as well. Shopify also shows you stats for your site – not super in-depth the way Google Analytics does (but you can sync your site with GA) but enough to give you a sense of things.
Transactions + payments
Similar to Etsy, buyers can pay with a credit card processed through Shopify’s system (though many other payment gateways are also supported) or PayPal! It’s a secure system and funds collected via Shopify Payments are lump-sum deposited to your bank account just like how they are on Etsy.
The back end is easy and intuitive
My main priority for the new host of merriweathercouncil.com was an easy to use interface and backend. I knew that I had to be able to EASILY add products, update text, and publish content there without wanting to pluck my eyeballs out of my face. Shopify is actually quite similar to WordPress and it’s all very organized and laid out in a way that the human brain can easily process and navigate. (Such can not be said for the old host *insert flat line face emoji*).
I use WordPress for my blog (you’re reading it right now) but you can blog on Shopify. I use the shopify blog feature as a portfolio. You can also create pages, much like you would on your blog for various things such as “about”, “contact” or “policy”. Another great feature is Collections which I use to organize my shop by product type or loop themed products together for holidays or sales.
Pretty basic, but you can easily manage inventory for your products and you can allow customers to place orders even if the item is out of stock too, if you’d like. That’s a little above my pay grade at the moment, but hey, it’s an option.
Filling orders is simple
It’s a one click fulfillment + customer notification and it’s great. All the customer info is on the page with their order – name, address, email, notes, order, payment info, subscriber status… even a little picture of them if they have an account set up. It’s wonderful. My old system did not have this, and the order notes were only viewable in edit mode, which is like, really dangerous!
You can get apps that help with shipping but currently I’m shipping through PayPal. Many of my current products don’t require shipping – for those that do, I don’t find the copy and pasting four lines of text to be that big of a deal but if you are doing serious volume of hundreds of orders, you might consider Ship Station or other plug in. These do add an additional fee of course but it could very easily be worth the money.
I will say this took me a few tries to figure out how to manage variations but once I got it, I was thrilled. The fact that you can add so many variations is a huge plus for me and has so many applications and if you don’t need them, just ignore it. Easy.
There are so so many apps you can add to your Shopify shop to make it suit your needs better or make workflow smoother. I have one that auto delivers digital files which is fabulous and costs about $10 a month – worth the money to not have to email files over each time someone purchases. This app also auto delivers stitch instructions with my kits now, so you can combine physical products with digital ones.
Set up + design
You can absolutely hire a pro to build you the site of your dreams with custom design elements and that’s obviously something many people would like to do ideally, and Shopify has a whole directory of recommended professionals you can work with. If you are trying to keep costs a bit lower, there are tons of free or affordable themes you can purchase to start with. Often times you can find a theme you love and then hire a web developer to make a couple tweaks to it if you’d like – which gives you that custom-made feeling without the price tag. I like the idea of themes (for blogs and Shopify) because I change my mind a lot and like to change things up every now and then.
Your customers can create accounts for your shop so that they can easily log in and purchase over and over and all their details are saved – all totally optional which is great too. Makes your shop super legit, right? Right.
You can pretty much do anything with Shopify’s platform. It’s versatile and it’s always evolving to give more flexibility to users. Some features that Shopify offers with tiered pricing are gift cards, reporting, abandon cart recovery, extra file storage, and discount codes.
If you have any questions about usability on the back end, feel free to ask! Or go on and start your free trial.
(If you ask them nicely, they will probably extend your trial a little bit if you need some extra time to get set up behind the scenes. These people are like, SUPER nice and helpful.)
If you’re using Shopify, please feel free to leave a link to your shop in the comments so we can see some examples too.