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You’ve done your market research, analyzed your competitors, and are planning or ready to build an online store. Shopify is your platform of choice. Its 14-day trial will enable you to test the platform, but two weeks isn’t enough time to fully understand the intricacies of creating and managing a store. A 30, 45, or 60-day trial period would be more convenient, but Shopify isn’t likely to offer those timeframes anytime soon. Given 14 days is all you have, let’s explore the activities and resources that will prepare you for success. Depending on your business model, online experience, and starting position, some ideas will take less time or may not apply.
Shopify Free Trial Checklist
- Get your mind out of the free trial gutter.
- Take it slow and keep it simple.
- Learn and learn some more.
- Critique Shopify stores.
- Develop business, marketing, and sales plans.
- Commit to operating a low-cost business.
- Run the numbers.
- Understand financial and tax matters.
- Investigate legal matters.
- Separate your business and personal affairs.
Get Your Mind out of the Free Trial Gutter
A 14-day trial can be a stress-inducing, soul-destroying experience. Also, there’s no way you’ll develop the store you want in that timeframe. If you’re committed to building a store, be prepared to pay for a plan to continue your journey uninterrupted. Instead of limiting yourself to 14-days, commit three to six months to your project. If you’re uncommitted or curious, lower your expectations and stick with the 14-day trial.
Take It Slow and Keep It Simple
You should treat building an online store like a marathon, not a sprint. The same goes for other online businesses such as blogging, affiliate marketing, and YouTube channel development. Give yourself time to execute and embrace the “slow and steady wins the race” mindset. By the time you get around to your trial, it should feel like one more step in the right direction.
Regarding products, you don’t have to list all your goods right away. Add a few, manage your store, learn, and gain confidence. Then, add the next round of items.
Learn & Learn Some More
Shopify supports users with a treasure chest of learning resources, and the more you learn, the better prepared you will be. The Shopify Academy offers online training and business courses that are taught by industry leaders and real-world entrepreneurs. Dropshipping 101, Build a Print-on-Demand Empire, and Grow Your Business with Instagram are three such courses. E-learning websites offer many excellent business and marketing courses too, for example, Coursera and HubSpot Academy.
Shopify’s blog features very illuminating content, and I frequently link to its articles, for instance, How to Start a Business. You have a comprehensive knowledge base at your fingertips, guides, podcasts, and a YouTube channel.
It’s possible that after increasing your ecommerce IQ, you still might need help. Shopify has enlisted a directory of experts to assist you.
Critique Shopify Stores
A fantastic way to understand Shopify and ecommerce is to monitor what others are doing and saying. Visit stores, critique them, make notes, and take away ideas to use for your store. You can do SWOT analyses to assess their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
What about arranging a meeting with a Shopify seller? If you set up a meeting, prepare an agenda and questions. Ask the seller how she would like to be compensated for her time, for example, money or a gift card. Offering compensation demonstrates that you appreciate the person’s time and understand “time is money.”
Develop Business, Marketing, & Sales Plans
Your objective should be to build a successful company, not only an online store. I recommend spending a couple of weeks on business planning before proceeding with Shopify. A business plan is a document that describes a company, business model, products and services, how it will earn money, financing, and other pertinent details. Your business plan doesn’t have to be longwinded; it can be one to a few pages. Also, you should review it periodically.
How will you promote your store? Are you going to blog, pay for advertising, recruit affiliates, or run contests? Marketing and sales plans outline the strategies and tactics you’ll use to reach your target market and sell goods. Similar to your business plan, your marketing and sales plans can be brief. (Your plans will likely require more details if you want to obtain capital from a bank, lender, etc.)
Commit to Operating a Low-Cost Business
One of the pleasures of managing an online business is how little I spend to run it. I pay for website hosting and a few software services. I work from home, so I don’t pay for office space or transportation. I’m committed to keeping my monthly expenses low and operating a lean business.
Keep costs low by doing things yourself, using free and freemium tools, and hiring freelancers on Fiverr. Shopify and HubSpot offer 25 free tools combined. Some entrepreneurs play the “I don’t have the bandwidth” card as an excuse to pay for unnecessary support, products, and services. Do what you can before outsourcing to minimize your expenses.
Run the Numbers
Forecast your monthly business expenses. Business expenses include overhead, legal, marketing, manufacturing, storage, shipping, and so on. Dropshipping and print-on-demand business models may incur different costs. When you have an estimate, calculate how much you must sell to break-even, i.e., the point where expenses match revenues. Additionally, conduct different price and sales scenarios to understand how many units you must sell to reach your financial targets. For example, at $4.99, you must sell 1,000 coffee mugs a month. At $3.99, you must sell 1,250.
Understand Financial & Tax Matters
You must understand how you will track your finances such as business expenses, sales, sales tax, profits, bank transactions, and cash flow. Shopify’s software tracks some of those details automatically. Hundreds of accounting and tax apps are available on the Shopify app store. Also, many financial software applications integrate with Shopify, for instance, FreshBooks, QuickBooks, and TaxJar. Finally, consider working with an accountant. (See Basics of Small Business Accounting Guide.)
Investigate Legal Matters
The probability of facing legal issues depends mainly on the products you sell, claims you make, and the terms/policies you enforce. Shopify has legal guides for Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand. It gives an overview of business structures, privacy, and trademark registration. However, Shopify isn’t a lawyer and states, “These guides are for informational purposes only, and do not constitute professional legal advice.”
Should you operate as a sole proprietorship, corporation, or limited liability company (LLC)? Should you buy commercial insurance? Legal professionals handle those types of questions. You can obtain inexpensive legal advice and incorporation services from Nolo, IncFile, Rocket Lawyer, and LegalZoom. Their blogs are also worth reading. If you want to get quotes for business insurance, start with Hiscox and The Hartford.
- Which Entity Should You Choose to Incorporate Your E-commerce Business?
- Commercial Insurance: What Is It, And Do You Need It for Your E-commerce Store?)
Separate Your Business & Personal Affairs
You may not need to separate your business and personal activities immediately but at some point. It will make your life easier and operations more efficient. For example, you could open a business bank or PayPal account for your store. For correspondence, create a business email address for yourself and a general one like info or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can create social media accounts/pages specifically for your store (as per your marketing plan).
Another step you can take is to get a business address that will differ from your home address. You might also want mail handling services or to create a virtual business through Regus. Delivery companies and local post offices will have facilities to support you as well.
A free trial doesn’t cost anything, but it requires a time commitment on your behalf. My checklist includes topics you should review, but don’t necessarily have to act on right away. For example, you might operate as a sole proprietorship for a few months before transitioning to an LLC (if it makes business/financial sense). Make the most of your Shopify experience by researching different topics in advance, experimenting, and having fun with the process.