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Beginner's guide: How to start a successful Shopify business

Starting a Shopify business is almost too easy. There are fewer steps involved in setting up a Shopify business than in baking a rudimentary cake. While this ease of setup is great, it creates a somewhat perilous illusion. Just because you can start a business with less effort than it takes to scratch that annoyingly hard-to-reach area between your shoulder blades doesn't mean it'll be successful. Success is harder. It takes study, intuition and stubborn determination.
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Here’s a quick overview of a few things you’ll probably need to do within the first few months of starting a Shopify business if you want to see lasting results.

Learn from the masters

Ever heard of Alex Becker? There’s a good chance you’ll have stumbled across his name if you’ve been looking at ways to earn money online for any amount of time. He’s kind of annoying. He’s definitely cocky. He also happens to be a sales wunderkind. Whether he fills your heart with rancor or not, this is exactly the kind of person you should be listening to as you start out. His objective success is something that can inform your own journey.

So step one: take a look at Alex Becker's Shopify course. Then follow your nose to find other experts and visionaries you admire. Sure, draw liberally from the brains trust of folks who know Shopify. But look more broadly than that too. Find people who sell products in ways you admire and spend time breaking down what they do. The courses are great! So are books. If you can strike up an online conversation with people who run Shopify businesses for a living, then lucky you! The bottom line is, it’s important to be relentless in acquiring information and finding your unique way of working with that data to best effect.

Get time-savvy

Then there’s time. Ugh. Time is hard. The vast majority of people moving into online business models see it as an escape from the nine to five grind. And it is, definitely. But for the vast majority of us, the sad fact is that you’re unlikely to see meaningful profits in your first month. So here’s the bad news I hate to heap on your plate: Your Shopify business maybe your escape plan, but it’s probably going to be a slow escape plan.

Here’s the thing though. If you can curb your enthusiasm a little and slot a Shopify biz onto one small corner of your life, your chances of success instantly increase. Why? Because you’re not relying on something potentially precarious to pay your bills. By doing it this way, you’ve given yourself a miraculous gift — the option to make mistakes and learn from them. By keeping Shopify as a small side hustle when you start out, you don’t need to lose sleep over missteps. You just learn from them, modify your approach and move on. Build your Shopify lark beside your main income source at first. Trust me, it’s so much easier.

Market test

Market testing will save your bacon. It’ll save your bacon right when you’re starting out and it’ll continue to yield delicious pork products (figuratively speaking) through every major chapter shift in your business evolution. Here’s why: You’re not objective. No offense. None of us are. Enthusiasm and excitement for an idea will cloud your judgment and you’ll miss things. Your idea might sound amazing to you. Your family and friends might be into it too. Your grandma might even say you’re the brightest business spark since Hugh Heffner. But you, your family and especially your grandma are likely to be at least quasi-delusional.

What you need is an objective analysis of your product, your business approach, and your marketing. The good news is, there are all kinds of ways to market test effectively. Start by joining a group to test your product and selling approach. Another great option is to set up a crowdfunding campaign page to test the waters.

The best thing you can do though is finding ways to speak directly with your demographic. Segment out who you plan to sell your product to, and then talk to them extensively about what would drive them to the point of sale.

A Shopify business is still a business...

Shopify may be a “platform.” It may also be a groovy approach cool folks with great hair are talking about on YouTube channels. But it’s also a business. And at some point (early on) a business needs a business plan. Again, much of the challenge of writing a real and effective business plan is that you’ll need to push against your intuition. Starting a business is exciting and when humans get excited they start to run toward shiny things. The problem here is that many, perhaps even the majority, of small businesses that gain initial traction will lose it when they begin to scale up. Success is great, but you need to plan for it just as much as planning for failure.

The way you navigate the unknown is by constantly planning — and we’re not just talking about the cool marketing moves you’ll make to get your brand known. We’re also talking about the boring reality of careful expansion, dealing with tough competition and getting an accurate and evolving gauge on your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. The US Small Business Administration business plan template is a great place to start. Will all of it be relevant to your Shopify business? Probably not. Will it provide a useful focus exercise for you that’ll serve you in good stead later? Ab. So. Lutely.

Network With a purpose

Of course, you’ll need to network online. You need contacts, prospects, advisors, and reality-checks from within your chosen industry. But it can be incredibly useful to think local, too. Check your neighbourhood for small-business meetups. Having locals you can bounce ideas off can be invaluable, especially in the early days of growing your business.

Sure, being in touch with local people with experience in online business and marketing is going to be great, but don’t discount the perspectives of local bricks and mortar business owners. How they sell might differ, but many of the fundamental principles they’ve acquired through years of business are deeply applicable to online sales. Be humble and talk to these people, even if they’ve never heard of Shopify. If someone has successfully laid brick for twenty years, they survived in the marketplace for a reason. They beat out their competitors for a reason. Find out what those reasons are.

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So there you have it! Building a Shopify income stream is definitely exciting. And you only need to take a cursory look around the Internet to see that it’s working sustainably for a lot of people. But don’t let shiny thing syndrome (or your admiring grandma) cloud your judgment! If you follow a few basic, tried-and-tested business growth strategies, your chances of success will be that much higher.

30 Aug 2019 18:00