How to Start an Online Store

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Online business is more popular than ever, especially after the pandemic. I’ve had an online store (selling teaching resources) myself since 2012, and I’ve been building them for other people as a freelance web developer since 2017. And online stores are more popular than ever, to be honest. Maybe you’ve been thinking of staring an online store, but you’re not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place!!

How to start an online store:

1. Choose a platform for your online store.

This is honestly probably the biggest decision you have to make here, but never fear! I’ve tried to simplify the options to make the choices more clear. Plus, there’s a both/ and option for those of us who can’t choose. Basically, the options for platforms for your online store are:

A: Build a store on an existing website. For example, you might open a store on Etsy for handmade items or on TPT for teaching resources. The advantage is that they provide the infrastructure and traffic. If you’re just getting started, these are things that are hard to get for yourself. However, the disadvantage with existing third party sites is that they take fees and/ or a percentage of your sales. For me, getting started, I knew I couldn’t buy that kind of traffic for the fees I was paying, so it made sense to start out (and stay!) on an existing website.

B: Build your own store on your own website. Of course, the advantage here will be lower costs and fees, and you will have complete ownership of everything. But, the disadvantage is also that you have complete ownership, lol. That means you’re responsible for building and maintaining everything. That can be really overwhelming, especially if you’re just getting started. If you’re trying to create and build a business and build & maintain a whole website, this could just be too much.

C: Use a website builder/ softeware like Shopify. At first glance, this one seems like the perfect combination of the two above options. But I’d caution that it’s actually the worst of both worlds. You won’t have as much control over your site (and you won’t really own the content), AND you also won’t get the benefits of all the traffic/ marketing. There are some benefits to infrastructure here, sure, but I personally don’t think they outweigh the negatives.

2. If you’re building your own store, set up hosting, WordPress, Divi, & WooCommerce.

(If you’re going with an existing third party platform, like Etsy or TPT, you’re all set! Just start uploading your product listings and start marketing to get sales. Voila!)

This part is technical, true, but it’s actually not that hard. And of course, you can always hire a web developer to just do it for you. But if you follow the steps, most people can set this up on their own. Plus, you can always get helpful tech support from SiteGround’s or Divi’s customer service if you get stuck.

A: Hosting: I use and recommend SiteGround. You just need the most basic version. Don’t be fooled by special store/ WordPress hosting, you really don’t need it yet. Plus, you can always upgrade if you need something faster or start to run out of storage or get a ton more traffic that you expected. Make sure to get your SSL certificate (free on SiteGround) so that your site will be secure and you’ll be able to accept payments.

B: WordPress: Once you have your hosting & domain, install WordPress on your site. If you’re using SiteGround, it’s one click installation, super simple.

C: Divi theme: Download and install the Divi theme on your site. There are other free themes available, but you likely won’t be able to edit & customize them the way you can with Divi.

D: WooCommerce: Install the free WooCommerce plugin. It walks you through the set up so that you’ll be able to accept sales and payments on your website.

3. Build your landing page (or use a premade layout).

If you want to be fancy and get really, really into it, you can watch Divi tutorials and build your own custom landing page for your home page on your website. The sky is really the limit when it comes to your branding and design and the look and feel of your online store. But you also don’t have to go crazy here, because they already have tons of layouts premade for you. Just pick your favorite one, add it to your home page, and then change out the text to match your own store instead. If you decide you don’t like it or it’s not really working for you, you can always swap it out. I’d recommend adding a new page if you want to do this, so you won’t have to delete your original. That way, if the new one doesn’t work out the way you hoped, you can always switch back.

4. Add product listings to your online store.

Once you have everything set up and your home page up, the only thing left to do is add your actual products! It doesn’t really matter what kind of products you have, the process for adding them is pretty much the same. This tutorial shows you how to set up your store and add products to your WooCommerce shop.

5. Keep working on the design & seo for your site to keep growing and getting more and more sales!

You can probably get your online store up and running in a weekend without any trouble. But of course, this isn’t the field of dreams, so you do have to do a little more than just build it to make the buyers appear. The set up is done, but now the real work begins. Keep adding content to your site to build up your seo and start getting more traffic. And keep adding to and working on your design to clean it up and improve your user experience. But both of these can be done while your store is already functional. So you don’t need to wait until everything is perfect to start getting sales!!

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