Selling on AutoPilot ✈️
If you’re reading this article, chances are you have enough technical expertise to build an entire e-commerce empire and create your own internet fiefdom. The word, “empire” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the point remains that it’s easier than ever to build a functional, automated, e-commerce store for selling products to people all over the world. With a few hours of focused effort it’s possible to go from an idea, to a domain, to a website, to a store accepting credit cards and shipping merchandise on auto-pilot.
There are several all-in-one e-commerce platforms to choose from. Popular options are Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, and WooCommerce. Unfortunately, most options are cost prohibitive for those who are just starting out. Shopify, for instance, is a whopping $39 per month, which is quite a bit of money for a store that’s not bringing in any revenue. To get around high platform costs you could choose to roll your own solution. However, building a custom e-commerce solution requires serious time and development skills. When you consider the opportunity cost of of rolling your own e-commerce solution, the math just doesn’t pan out. Choosing an e-commerce solution consists of striking a balance between cost and effort; getting up and running quickly without paying and arm and a a leg.
Developers love to play with the latest tech – we start building side projects, and abandon most of them because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. There is a reason why some platforms maintain popularity for many years. WordPress is an extremely capable, easy to use, platform with a huge plugin ecosystem. There are plenty of ready-made themes to jump-start your site, and adding your own personal touch is an absolute breeze. For small teams, you can’t afford to re-invent the wheel; using the best tool for the job is of the utmost importance.
In this article we’ll dive into the tools used to build the store for workingdevshero.com. If you stick with it, you can have a new site and store up and running in a day or less.
Planning Your Route 🗺️
Building an e-commerce store is easier than it’s ever been. Once you’ve done it, building a store feels like driving a car; fast and exciting, yet easy and enjoyable. With an understanding of the following tools you can build a capable web store in almost no time at all.
- Domain Names
- Web Hosting
- Content Management Systems (CMS)
- Payment Services
- Printing and Drop Shipping
In the following sections, we’ll go through each bullet one-by-one, build a game plan, and launch your new store in an afternoon. Psst, if you’re plan to build your site right now, please use our affiliate links for Namecheap, Themeforest, and Printful. We earn a small commission when you make a purchase via an affiliate link and it directly supports our site – thanks in advance!
The first step in any new endeavor is to pick a super cool name. With domain names it can be tricky to get exactly what you want as a lot of domain names are taken. For domain names, Namecheap is a great place to start. If you’re lucky, you can get a .com domain name for as little as $5.98 a year. If you’re willing to be flexible, you can find other top-level domain names like
.us, etc. for as little as a few dollars a year. Pick a domain name and register it so that your store can have a professional and memorable web address.
To start selling, you’ll need somewhere to host the code that runs your store. For web hosting, you’ll want to choose either a managed, or unmanaged hosting solution. Fortunately, for most e-commerce stores there’s no need to touch any code directly, and managed web hosting is a cheap, easy, yet totally capable way to get started. With managed hosting, all it takes to get up and running is a credit card and a few button clicks.
Namecheap offers a managed WordPress solution, EasyWP, that’s cake to set up, and priced to sell. The EasyWP Turbo plan costs a little more ($58.88 a year), but comes with a free SSL certificate, which is important for anyone who wants their store to look professional and be taken seriously. An SSL certificate verifies your site isn’t being spoofed and is important to ensure the security of your customers. If you’re a technical person, you can also use the EasyWP Starter plan ($34.88 a year) and configure your own SSL certificate without too much hassle.
Purchase the plan that suites you best, navigate through the setup wizard, and in a few minutes you’ll be up and running with your new domain and managed WordPress site.
Content Management Systems
According to Wikipedia, a content management system or CMS is computer software used to manage the creation and modification of digital content. In other words, a CMS is a suite of tools that makes it easier to add new content, and personalize your website. With EasyWP, you configured WordPress which is a powerful CMS that has support for publishing new pages, articles, and configuring your site with a WYSIWYG editor.
First and foremost, you want to make your site look awesome. Theming is an area where WordPress really shines. Head over to Themeforest and grab a theme for around $30-$70. For the time it saves, buying a theme is totally worth it. If you’re looking for some inspiration, at workingdevshero.com we used the Roxeen theme. Avada is another theme I’ve used in the past that has worked well. Choose a theme that works for you and follow it’s documentation to add it to your WordPress site.
Accepting payments is a fundamental part of selling items via your e-commerce store. WooCommerce integrates directly into WordPress and allows you to securely accept payments, with no setup costs or monthly fees. If your theme doesn’t install WooCommerce as a prerequisite, you can add it via the Plugins page in your WordPress Admin dashboard. By installing the plugin, you’ll also get access to features like add to cart, checkout, order tracking, subscriptions, coupons and more.
To accept payments via WooCommerce, you’ll need choose your payment gateway provider. For workingdevshero.com we chose to go with Stripe for our payment gateway, but there are several other payment gateways to choose from. Once you’ve connected a payment gateway you’re ready to start making sales!
Printing and Drop Shipping
If you’ve made it this far, well done! You have everything you need to start selling, except for a product! You can add products to your WordPress site and handle order fulfillment yourself, or you can connect your store to a service that prints and ships designs on demand. For workingdevshero.com, we use Printful to add products to our site without the need to manage inventory, print labels, and lug merch to the post office.
To add your first product, install the Printful Plugin via your site’s Admin dashboard. You’ll also need to add a credit card to Printful so that you can purchase items on behalf of your customers. With Printful, your customers pay you via your store, and you pay Printful to ship the merchandise directly to your customer. When you make a sale, you pocket the difference between what your customer pays you, and what you pay to Printful. Be sure to double check that you configured your store’s address correctly so that you can do automatic tax calculation. You’ll also want to configure Printful’s WooCommerce shipping plugin so that you can charge your customers the correct amount to cover shipping costs.
You just set up your own e-commerce site – that’s freakin’ awesome! You’ve seen firsthand how easy it is to go from an idea, to a store, to your first sale in less than 24 hours. You now have a playbook that will allow you to bring your ideas to life, and start building your next online side-hustle. All you need to do is find a domain name, wire the domain to WordPress, plug in WooCommerce, and sync products from Printful.
If you’re still hungry for more, consider getting a custom email address, starting a mailing list, and publishing some content. Email lists are a great way to stay in touch with your audience and develop repeat customers.
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