With e-Commerce at an all time high, you should definitely be joining in with your own store. It’s never been easier to be successful online than it is today and although you can just enjoy sales from sites like eBay, you won’t be charged massive fees on your own site. Not only that, but owning your own site is better for your overall look and it will open up new and exciting advertising and promotion options for your business.
Paid vs. Free solutions
You’ll have to make the choice now whether or not you’re going to pay for your store. I’d always recommend you do and use an all in solution like Shopify for as low at £19 ($29 USD) a month, especially since you can now get a 14-day free trial, but you can of course opt to take the slightly harder route of trading for free.
If you do choose to open your store for free, you’ll have to sort out your own hosting (000WebHost is the industry leader for this) and your own store solution (Magento if you know what you’re doing, or WordPress with WooCommerce if you’re new to online stores).
The major benefit to using an all in solution like Shopify is that you will have support from them for any issues you have with your store (you can still always contact your Print Pit account manager for assistance), your website will be much faster, the back end is far far easier to use and you can customise the website very easily. You’ll have to make the decision whether or not these major benefits (plus a plethora of minor ones) are worth your £19 a month, if not then skip to the How to create your store for free section. Otherwise, read on.
Creating your Shopify store
It’s worth noting here that Shopify isn’t the only all in eCommerce solution, but it is by far the best. Shopify kills it’s competition dead in the support department and has the least clunky back end by a country mile.
First things first, you might as well get the first 14 days for free, so click here to start your Shopify free trial. Go ahead and click the “Get started” button. A box will open at the side where you input your e-mail address, a password and the name of your store. When you continue you’ll see Shopify start to set up your store, when that’s done you should come to a screen like this one:
Go ahead and fill that in with your information and click the next button, you’ll come to a screen that asks you 3 questions, the first one “Are you already selling?” you’ll want to answer with “I’m already selling just not online”, this tells Shopify that you have already chosen the type of products that you’re trying to sell, but you will get the full help as they assume you’re totally new to e-commerce. Next it will ask you “How much revenue does your business currently make in a year?”, it’s best to say either $0 or up to $5,000 as choosing the other options is likely to force an offer of a higher band store which you don’t need at this point. Sure, in the future if your store is going well feel free to upgrade it for benefits like lower transaction fees and more in depth reports, but for now the basic plan is fine. The last question is “Are you setting up a store for a client?”, leave this box unticked and click “Enter my store”. Once your dashboard has loaded you should see the options to add products, customise the look of your site, set up a domain and bookmark your store. As you go through these tutorials more will appear so keep checking back to see if there’s anything new. Once you have your products on and your store is ready for the world to see, click the green “select a plan” button and choose basic. Your store is now live :) Something to note here is that if you don’t already own a .com domain don’t buy one yet as you can buy one through Shopify and it’s much easier to apply, if you already own a domain though click here to see how to add it to your new site.
For tips on choosing a design and what to put when you list your products please see the Best Practices: Your website section. For more in depth guides on Shopify click here to get to their amazing guide section.
Creating your store for free
Before I go on I will again mention that this is not the only method of setting your store up, but it is the most workable way and often you’ll find free store providers want to charge you for basic necessities such as Google visibility. So, if you’ve opted for a free store there’s a few things you’re going to need, these are:
- Domain (the web address)
- Hosting (your space on the internet)
- Back end platform (the admin panel that allows you to edit your site)
- An e-commerce solution (back end addons to make your website store ready)
The best domains such as .com and .co.uk are unfortunately not free, but quite a lot of countries do give out their extensions for free which is seriously helpful. It’s the difference between your domain being www.myshirtstore.freewebhosts.com and something like www.myshirtstore.tk, remember you don’t want your customers to be immediately notified you’re not paying anything to run your store as this will make them lose confidence.
To get your free domain the best place to use is FreeNom as they do an extensive search across all the free domain providers and are more likely to find one that you want. Click here and type in your stores name as one word and click the “Check Availability” button. Choose the domain and click “Get it now” then head over to checkout. Click the continue button and you’ll be asked to input and verify an email address so make sure you use your real one. Once you’ve clicked the verify link in the email you’ll be asked to fill out some details, once you’ve done that click the Complete order button.
The industry leader in free hosting is (and probably always will be) 000WebHost. Free hosting providers are notorious for massive downtime rates and super slow sites (not to mention security issues). Plus, if things start to go well for you, you can choose to upgrade your hosting package and move straight over to faster and more secure servers without any need to switch providers and little to no downtime. So, go ahead and click here to sign up, in the first box type the domain you just registered, skip the next box and then fill in your name, email, password and the captcha code at the bottom, agree to the terms of service and your form should look like this one:
If it looks good, click the “Create My Account” button. Once you’ve confirmed your email (if you can’t find the email check your junk folder, 000WebHost has a tendency to send out pointless newsletters and has such been blacklisted by a lot of email providers) you’ll see that your site status is “Building…”, this doesn’t take long so click the “Refresh Status” link every minute or so until the status changes to “Active” and then hit “Go to CPanel”.
You’ll need to get a little technical now as we’re going to change your nameservers to make your new domain point to your hosting, so click here to be taken to the my domain section at FreeNom and then next to your domain click the “Manage Domain” button. Click the “Management tools” button and then hit “Nameservers”. Click use custom nameservers and change Nameserver 1 to ns01.000webhost.com and Nameserver 2 to ns02.000webhost.com and click the “Change Nameservers” button.
We’re going to install your back end now and i’d only recommend using Magento if you already know what you’re doing, so i’ll focus on WordPress/WooCommerce. Head back to your 000WebHost cPanel and scroll down to Software / Services. Click the “Script autoinstaller” button and choose WordPress new installation. If that worked skip the manual instructions part of the guide. If that didn’t work (which often it doesn’t) we’re going to have to install WordPress manually.
Click the back to Control Panel link and scroll down to the “Files” section. Choose the “File manager” link and a login screen appears, don’t change the username and use the password you used when you signed up to your hosting. Click here to go to WordPress.org and up in the top right hit the “Download WordPress” button.
Scroll down to the blue “Download WordPress x.x.x” button and click it, you should now be downloading a file called “wordpress-x.x.x.zip”.
Go back to your browser and checkmark the Public_HTML folder and hit delete. Open up the wordpress file you downloaded and rename the folder called “wordpress” Public_HTML. Now back in your browser hit the upload button and in the archives column click choose file and select the wordpress archive you downloaded then click the green tick and your upload will start.
Close this tab and go back to your cPanel and scroll down to “Software / Services” and click the “MySQL” button. Set your database name and your username to the same thing and choose a password then click “Create database”. You should be taken to a page with your database information on, make sure you leave this tab open!
Create a new tab and head to your website (myshirtstore.tk in my case) and if you’ve done everything right you should see a page that tells you to make a config file. Press the button to start it and then fill in the information for your MySQL database (you should have this open in another tab). Leave the “table prefix” as it is and hit “Submit” and you should be prompted to set up your website, fill this information in and you’ll find yourself on your WordPress dashboard (you may be asked to log in first).
Ok, now you’ll need to install your e-commerce solution, in our case that will be WooCommerce. On the right hand side of your WordPress dashboard you’ll see plugins, hover over that and click “Add new”. Type WooCommerce into the search box and hit enter. Go to the WooCommerce plugin and click “Install Now” and then click “Yes”. Activate the plugin and you’re now ready to start adding products to your online store.
For tips on choosing a design and what to put when you list your products please see the Best Practices: Your website section. For more in depth guides on WooCommerce click here to get to their guide section.