Selling Handmade on Shopify

Creative Entrepreneurship, Empowerment | 15 comments

Selling Handmade on Shopify | the merriweather council blog

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:

  1. Etsy controls your storefront – if they make a sitewide change, your shop changes too be it for better or worse.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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*).

Pages, Collections + Blog posts

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.

15 reasons why I love selling handmade on Shopify. The merriweather council blog's personal experience building her Shopify site. | the merriweather council blog

Blogging to help with selling handmade on Shopify. | the merriweather council blog

15 reasons why I love selling handmade on Shopify. The merriweather council blog's personal experience building her Shopify site. | the merriweather council blog

Products page for selling handmade on Shopify. | the merriweather council blog

Inventory

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!

Shipping

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.

Product variations

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.

Apps

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.

Accounts

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.

Fully customizable

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.

If this is super scary and intimidating, don’t worry, I can help! Click here to get my FREE shopify training video.

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Oh, hi! Welcome to The Merriweather Council. I’m Danielle and I am a maker in business and mentor to other makers in business. I teach you how to turn your crafty tendencies into profits!

Oh, I’m also really into crafts, boy bands + iced coffee. Email me anytime to say hello or send cute Backstreet Boy videos or dog pictures .. or whatever! danielle (at) merriweathercouncil.com Thanks for stopping by.

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15 Comments

  1. The only thing I didn’t like about Shopify were the coupons. I was told the coupon part showed up inside of paypal itself. I was confused and so were my customers… do you know anything about this?

    Janelle

    • Hmm, i’ve never had any issues with coupons. The customer just enters in at the check out portion on shopify and it deducted….? Was this a long time ago? Maybe it’s been changed.

  2. Danielle, you are my pioneer woman with Shopify … thank you for the referral last year, I LOVE it! I never have “enough” time to work on my website (and I’m too cheap to pay anyone to do it for me), but I love the user-friendly aspect and the endless possibilities for customization. I find it really similar to WordPress, and thank you for telling us about the plug-in’s – that’s news to me, and I’ll definitely snoop around for some fun & helpful add-ons. It is so important for us all to OWN our brand by running a domain & store that is 100% ours! Traffic to my site is slow for me, I’ve only had a couple of sales, but I know this will pay dividends down the road. Thank you as always for your thoughtful content! xo Kara

  3. I am on Shopify too! I love it as well. I also have an Etsy store and added my Shopify website and store last year for the reasons you noted. I found it very easy to IMPORT my listings from Etsy over to Shopify. In fact I still list on Etsy first and then import them to my store on Shopify, this way I don’t have to do duplicate work. I have to do a few minor tags/tweaks once they have loaded onto Shopify but it is much faster than re-listing from scratch. Just wanted to share this time saver! Cheers!

  4. I love having my site on Shopify! I’m not a techy so I needed to use something easy, friendly, and intuitive.
    I still have my Etsy site, but I felt it was important to have my own brand stand alone. I’m also trying to expand my wholesale and having your own site is preferred rather than sending store owners to Etsy.

  5. I think I have looked into shopify before but the cost per month stopped me. I think I will definitely think about it in the future as you make it sound so good!

  6. Thanks for all the info about shopify! One of my biggest challenges with etsy is sales tax. I’ve got two complications. 1. Some of my items are NYS sales tax exempt (clothing), but I can’t itemize sales tax based on which item a shopper wants to purchase. 2. Sales tax for NYS is broken down by locality and to preemptively set up rates by city would be time consuming if not insane- possibly I can’t even do it.

    I read on the shopify site that sales tax is figured automatically- how does that work exactly? Do they collect and handle that on their end? Or does that mean there are capabilities and I still have to deal with it and report tax on my end? And can specific items have manually entered different sales tax rates (ie. purses have state and local taxes but scarves are exempt from state and only get local taxes)

    • shopify can collect the tax based on your specifications and rates / locations. but unfortunately you always have to submit it to the state yourself / your accountant

  7. This article is a great reminder for me, that while I’m doing your Etsy optimization course it would be good to also update my Shopify website. I like your idea for advertising for your Shopify site instead of Etsy site. It just makes so much sense! :-)

    One of the apps I like for shipping is Shippo – I think it’s an additional 5 cents per shipped item to use their service. It’s linked to many shipping services, ie UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc. and you can print an order slip and shipping label through them.

    My site needs some help, but I’ll share anyways: http://www.blissjoybull.com

  8. me to moved from one platform to shopify and cant believe how easy it was to set up and all!

  9. If you’re paying $30 per month for the site, does that mean you keep all the money from the product? No commission fees? $30 a month sounds quite expensive, unless someone is selling a lot of product.

  10. I understand what you are saying about Shopify, but as a consumer, I dislike sites with Shopify. Etsy is friendlier in my opinion. With Shopify, I don’t always know if I am logged in depending on how certain vendors have set it up. With competitive sales, I have lost out more on Shopify than Etsy. I’ll be honest and say that it intimidates me when I see a newly found seller with a Shopify shop if they say they are starting a sale at 8PM as the images will still stay fogged out, even though they are available. Precious seconds can be lost. I understand I may be in the minority, but having made quite a few purchases from both in the last 2 months, that is just my opinion.

  11. Interesting bc just today a shop was listing about 10 items around $150 each and her site crashed. I am not 100% sure if it is a Shopify site, but she is going to resort to listing on etsy now and all her potential buyers who eagerly awaited for her sale start time are now discouraged and some can’t participate bc of time zone issues, etc. Also, with etsy you can see all the items for sale on one page and decide which one to get. With Shopify, when there are 10 items, if I am not exactly sure which one I want, I have to click around, losing valuable seconds. I am just wondering if other people have brought up these issues?

    • If her site crashed, that means she needs better hosting, that doesnt sound like a Shopify thing. The way a shop is arranged is entirely up to the shop owner – not at all contingent on the platform. Most sellers do not have this issue of HUNDREDS of people on their site at once. Also the point of this post is to encourage sellers to have autonomy – my preferred platform for that is shopify – no question about it – sellers need their own sites.