Shopify can be very intimidating when you first start using it, but it's a very powerful tool when you know what you're doing. I spent two years working for the Shopify Customer Support team, and I'm also a Shopify merchant in my own right, so I've learned a lot! I have a bunch of ad hoc skills that can be helpful with store management, from laying the groundwork of a brand new store all the way up to minor coding tweaks and customisations.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, stressed out, or just need someone to bounce some ideas off, then I am here to help. Read on for some general ideas about the services I provide, but every store is different so please feel free to message me and ask.
My hourly rate is $30.00 USD per hour with a minimum charge of one hour, and that covers any services you might need from me. Nice and simple!
Can I see some stores you've built on Shopify?
Absolutely! A freelancer isn't much good without a portfolio, right?
I built the following stores from the ground up, using my favourite theme, Turbo from Out of the Sandbox, plus some custom tweaks and a few fancy apps to make them extra sexy.
I've also used Shopify to built a couple of sites that are not commercially focused, including the one you're looking at right now. The following sites were built on Shopify using the free theme, Sense. They also feature a few apps, custom tweaks, and use of the drag-and-drop editor, PageFly.
What is your experience with Shopify?
I would call myself a medium-advanced level user. I can build a shop and even do some basic theme edits using HTML and liquid coding, but I'm not quite at the level where I could build a theme or an app from the ground up yet.
I worked as an email support agent for the Shopify Customer Service team for almost two years, where my role comprised of a combination of helping new merchants learn to use the platform and helping more established merchants troubleshoot problems with their store.
I left in mid 2021 when I started getting too sick to work regular shifts, but I still have all the knowledge that I learned along the way. By the time I left, I was starting to train towards a role in either the technical support or theme design team, as I have a natural interest and intuition for the more technical aspects of running a store.
While I was there, I also built several stores of my own, which I'm still running to this day.
Why should I choose Shopify?
Okay, full disclosure before I get into this. I no longer work for Shopify in any way, so my opinions on this are entirely my own and do not represent Shopify Ltd. in any way at all.
A bit of back story about me. I tried Shopify for the first time in 2014 or so, and I absolutely hated it. I was first trying to set up my store and it was completely overwhelming, intimidating, and exhausting. Plus, it was so expensive for me as a New Zealander having to convert everything to USD! I was not a fan. I swiftly quit and built my little store on Wix instead.
Then, in 2019 my mum sent me a job posting she saw online. It was work from home - which is what I needed for my disabilities - pay was decent, all training included, AMAZING perks. But... it was working for my mortal enemy. Hissss!
I thought about it for a while, but then I realised that this was a great opportunity to gain experience. Even if I hated it, I was getting paid to learn how to use the platform. Besides, I was a different person now to who I was five years ago. My store was not going well, so maybe this was the chance to finally change things for the better.
I went into it super doubtful, but over those first few weeks of training, I became a convert. See, the beauty of Shopify isn't the Shopify platform itself, it's in the community. The Shopify motto is, "make commerce better for everyone", and they take that very literally. Shopify doesn't just empower a bunch of small merchants around the world, but a HUGE network of freelancers and other self-employed people.
The thing that makes Shopify different to other platforms is that they only provide the very basic foundations for store ownership - and open-source tools for unlimited customisation by third-parties with the appropriate skill-set.
The tools that Shopify themselves provide are just the most absolutely rudimentary things that you need to build a very basic store. Then, you add in themes and apps of your choosing to make the store look and behave exactly the way you want it. You can buy these themes and apps from designers, or if you're into it then you can even build them yourself for free.
And this is where it gets brilliant. Shopify checks over the themes and apps that other people have built, and then offers them a place to sell their wares to prospective buyers through the Theme Store, the App Store, and the Experts Marketplace. I could be wrong, but I don't think they even take a cut of the proceeds from the sale of themes and apps or the hiring of experts, they just... give them space to sell their wares and a safe environment to trade directly with merchants.
I think it's really beautiful. I love that when I buy an app or a theme, the money is going to support another small business owner rather than some big faceless corporation somewhere. I'm helping a programmer somewhere in the world feed their kids, not helping a billionaire buy their fourth yacht.
The whole concept can be confusing and annoying to new merchants, which is why I like to explain why it's actually genius from my perspective, because I feel like Shopify gets a bad rap sometimes. People come into it and see that they're paying $29 a month for the platform and then they have to pay MORE for themes and apps, and they get mad because they don't understand that what they're actually paying Shopify for is just the secure server and the credit card processing platform (which you'd pay about the same for from any other company). Anything else you pay for is going to support a small business owner just like you.
I like to think of Shopify like a forest. Shopify itself is the forest floor - steady and reliable and rich in delicious nutrients, but not fancy in any way. It's dirt. A foundation. Stability. A place for other people to grow.
From the forest floor sprouts beautiful trees in all different shapes and sizes, spreading their boughs in all directions - merchants, selling a thousand different wares in a thousand different ways to millions of different people.
But a forest isn't just dirt and trees, is it? A forest is a community. It's the birds and the squirrels and the bugs and the ferns and the bushes and the grass and everything else that makes a forest beautiful - that's the different supporting businesses that thrive amidst the Shopify community. Theme designers, app designers, programmers and graphic designers, artists and customer service staff and every kind of freelancer that you could imagine.
To me, that's what makes Shopify both unique and utterly fantastic. The potential is unlimited, and the community is diverse and creative. I've gone from hating the platform to loving it without reservation or regret. No regret whatsoever.
Can you create a custom theme for me?
No, not yet. I'm learning to code but my skills are pretty rudimentary. What I can do is help you choose an existing theme that suits your style, and customise it to better match your vision.
All themes are customisable through either their settings in the Shopify Theme Editor, or by getting into the back-end code of the theme if you know what you're doing. I'm pretty good at customising existing themes, I just don't have the skills to build one from scratch just yet. Working on it, though!
Can you create a custom app for me?
Sadly, apps are currently well beyond my rudimentary coding skills. But, I am something of an app aficionado, so I can probably help you find an existing app that will do what you need. If not, I have a lot of industry contacts so I can probably find someone to help you build the app.
Keep in mind that apps are very expensive to build, so it's better to find a pre-existing app if you can.
Can you edit an existing theme for me?
I can do some minor things, yes. Depends on the theme and what you want to do. For example, if you're trying to centre a heading across your site, then yes I can probably pull that off. But if you want to build something complex you're better off with a skilled coding professional. I can help you find someone to help, though! I have a lot of industry contacts and I've hired more than a few experts in my day to help me modify my own sites.
Are there any types of businesses that you won't work with?
So long as you're not breaking any laws or violating the Shopify Terms of Service, I generally don't care what you're selling. You want to sell used panties to supplement your OnlyFans income? You do you, boo! None of my business.
But, if your business is one that promotes hatred or violence towards a specific group of people, then I am not the right person for you. I am not comfortable working with businesses that promote hatred or violence.
Can you help with domain-related issues?
Yes! Fixing misbehaving domains is actually something I'm very good at, and was one of my personal expertise when I was working at Shopify. I've yet to meet a domain issue that I couldn't fix.
Can you help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?
As much as I would like to say that I can help you, my knowledge of SEO is very rudimentary. I recommend hiring someone who specialises in the field, because SEO is very much a specialised skill set that I don't have yet.
The one thing I can help with is image optimisation and alt text for SEO. I've gotten quite a bit of practice at that for my own store.
Can you help with marketing?
Only in a very cursory sense. I'm not great at marketing, to be completely honest. If I were a marketing master, I wouldn't need to offer my services as a freelancer to supplement my store income! But, I do know more than the average joe on the street, so I'm happy to share what I know.
I'm also happy to help with grunt labour marketing tasks, if you're willing to train me. My standard rate does still apply throughout, unless we have some other arrangement in place at the time. Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss options.
Can you help with graphic design / branding?
Yes. I'm not an expert, but I'm pretty decent with graphic design and setting up a brand. That said, I am not formally trained so there are some limitations on what I know how to do. I'm not confident with logo design, for example. But, once you've got a logo, I can help you establish fonts and colours that look good with it, and even prepare some marketing images for social media and the like.
Can you help with product photography?
No. I'm studying it for my own store and I'm not too bad at it, but there are two big problems that gets in the way:
1. I run a jewellery store so I'm only set up for taking very small product photos, and I don't have the physical space to learn to take larger pictures right now.
2. I'm in rural New Zealand, so getting products to me would be a nightmare.
There are better options available if you want to get some product photos taken and you're not confident doing it yourself.
Can you help with product photo retouching?
Now that, I can do! I don't have any formal training but I have a lot of experience using Photoshop to improve the clarity of product photos, and I like to think that I have a good eye for colour and space.
Can you help with writing product descriptions?
Sure! I like to think I'm pretty good at knowing the right words to sell a product to a prospective customer, and I'm happy to share that skill with you.
How can I pay you?
One of the perks of building this website on a Shopify store is that I have access to all the payment methods that an online store has, which is pretty sweet!
If you are in New Zealand, I can accept payment via bank deposit, all major credit cards, and even AfterPay or Humm.
If you are elsewhere in the world, then I can accept payment via credit card, PayPal, or Payoneer.
New Store Questions
Can you help me set up a brand new store?
Absolutely. I've built several stores from the ground up using existing themes from the Theme Store, along with a combination of different apps to fill the gaps and custom tweaks that I've either implemented myself or hired more skilled programmers to built for me.
What sort of costs should I plan for?
The exact costs are going to vary depending on your plans, but in general you should plan for:
1. The cost of your stock, of course.
2. The cost of any shipping and taxes you may need to pay.
3. $29.00 USD per month for your Shopify store.
4. Approximately $30.00 per year for your domain.
5. If you want to purchase a premium theme, you should plan between $180.00 USD and $500.00 USD, depending on which one you want. This is optional, as you can do just as well with a free theme.
6. I recommend budgeting approximately $20.00 USD per month for apps, though that's hugely variable depending on what you need. Some stores don't need any apps at all.
7. I recommend budgeting approximately $200.00 to $500.00 a month for marketing, but again that's optional and extremely dependent on your exact business model. Marketing is one of those things where you get back what you put in, so the more money you put into marketing, the more you'll get back. What I did was start small and gradually increase it as my business grew.
8. Lastly, don't forget to budget in the costs of any staff members you choose to hire, including me.
What is a Shopify Theme?
A theme is a template that you apply to your Shopify store, which sets the basic overall look of your store. Think of it like a house. If Shopify's basic checkout system is the foundation of the house, then your theme gives you the layout of the house, the walls, doors, windows, and floors.
Alternately, if you want something a bit fancier, then you can look at a premium theme. Premium themes are designed by third party software developers external to Shopify, and they provide a much broader range of variety than the free themes that Shopify offers. But, they're also more expensive.
There are also Shopify themes available outside of the Theme Store, but the difference is that those ones are not verified by Shopify's development team, so there are no guarantees that they'll work as intended. Keep in mind that if you choose one of those, then if anything goes wrong, the Shopify Support Team can't help at all.
Theme purchases are not refundable under any circumstances, so be careful if you decide to purchase a Premium Theme!
What is a Shopify App?
Building on the metaphor from the last segment, if your theme gives the basic walls and floor of your house, then your apps give you the fittings and fixtures - the wallpaper, the light fittings, and fancy appliances you want to purchase, etc.
Apps are plugins that you can add to your store to give you access to additional features that don't come with the default Shopify platform. For example, the Product Reviews app lets your customers leave reviews on your products, like on Amazon. They let you customise your store to your heart's content.
You can find apps in The App Store. Some are provided for free, like Product Reviews. The vast majority have some kind of price attached to them. Either a small monthly fee, a one-off purchase price, or a usage fee. Depends entirely on the app.
Most apps allow you to try before you buy, but if you install an app to try it out and decide not to keep it, remember to uninstall it before the trial period is over or you'll get charged for it. App fees are almost always non-refundable.
What is a Shopify Expert?
Shopify Experts are professional freelancers who can help with different aspects of your store. Shopify's official support team don't have the capacity to help with store building or customisation, so if you need help beyond basic troubleshooting then Experts are the way to go.
People advertising on that page are not staff members of Shopify themselves, but they have been vetted to confirm their abilities. It's pretty similar to hiring someone from Fiverr or Upwork, except these folks have Shopify's official stamp of approval, and I believe Shopify acts as an escrow service to sit on the money until you confirm you're happy with the work.
I am not an official Shopify Expert yet, though I've been thinking about signing up for the programme. I qualify, but I'm leery about officially committing because of my health issues. Right now, I'm more comfortable as a casual freelancer so I can come and go as my health allows.
Okay, where do we start?
The first step in setting up any new business is to solidify your vision. Sit down with a notebook and draw up some sketches of how you want your website to look. There are a few different pages to plan, like the front page, the product page, and the collection pages. So, think about how you want your site to look when people first arrive. Do you want them to be greeted by images of your products, or a little information about who you are? Where do you want them to go next?
I recommend spending some time looking at other people's websites, to get a feel for what you like and don't like. So long as you're not directly copying someone else's store, it's okay to draw inspiration from how they've done something. For example, the menus on my CK Swagworks website were originally inspired by Mighty Ape, but I took the basic idea and modified it to fit my own vision.
Even very rough sketches can help you identify a theme, and that's where you really need to be before you can start doing anything else. Once you have your ideas solidified, you can either start building your site yourself, or you can give them to me to help guide me as I'm building it for you.
Another important thing to thing about is your branding. If you don't already have a logo, I strongly recommend spending a few dollars to have a graphic designer make one for you. You should also identify 2-3 brand identity colours, and a couple of fonts. If you don't feel comfortable choosing these yourself, then I'm happy to help. I rather enjoy establishing new branding schemes!
Should I buy a domain?
I strongly encourage it. Shopify stores do come with their own little domains, but a domain is a very important part of your future branding, so it's well worth investing in one.
Domains prices vary a lot, depending on where you purchase them from and what kind of domain it is. You can purchase your domain through Shopify directly, or you can purchase them through a third-party host and attach them to your Shopify store later. I personally use GoDaddy for all my domains.
Important: If you've checked that your domain is available, buy it immediately!
Don't hesitate or come back later, get it NOW. There's something out there called "domain squatters", which are basically little evil robots that keep track of what domains people are searching for, and if they see that you're interested in a particular domain then they'll buy it out from under you and try to sell it back to you at a ludicrously inflated price. This happened to me. Don't let it happen to you! It's better to buy a domain and let it lapse next year without using it than to have to fork out to rebrand your whole business, or to buy your domain back from domain squatters.
What are custom domain emails? Do I need one?
Custom domain emails are when you use a domain that you've purchased to create an email address. For example, my custom domain email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you own your own domain then you can set up your own custom domain emails using a service like Google Workspace. It has a monthly cost attached, but it's a great way to add a professional touch to your business.
You can also get more than one email address and either send them to the same inbox, or send them to different inboxes. So, you could set up different inboxes for individual staff members, or separate email addresses for different aspects of your business, like the sales team vs the customer service team.
Do you need one? I would say that custom domain emails are a "want" rather than a "need" in the early days of setting up a business. They're very nice to have and look great, but they're also a monthly cost that you may not be able to afford to start with.
If you need to save some money, just set up a regular gmail account for your business instead (e.g. email@example.com), then you can easily turn it into a custom domain email later on.
I am an Artist / Crafter / Maker. Can you manage my store so I can focus on making?
Sure, I'm happy to do that for you. My hourly rate generally does still apply, but flick me a message and let's have a chat about your circumstances.
What is Dropshipping? Can you help me set up a Dropshipping store?
A Dropshipping Store is a store that doesn't hold items on site, but rather acts as an intermediary between customers and a manufacturer, usually without the customer being aware of it.
With a normal online retail store, what you do is buy products from a manufacturer and store them on site in your own warehouse, then when the customer purchases the item you ship them from your warehouse to their door.
With a dropshipping store, you skip the first step. You wait until a customer orders a product, and then you order it from the manufacturer and have it shipped directly to the customer.
Financially, it's sort of a trade-off. You can get better individual prices on items if you're buying in bulk, but you have to pay storage and warehousing fees, plus wages for warehousing staff, packaging, shipping, etc. With dropshipping, you pay more per item, but you can skip almost all of those costs.
The downside is that you can't put in your own marketing materials with the package (though some manufacturers are happy to slip something in for you) and you don't get to check the quality of the goods before they go out. You're also at the mercy of international transport, which can be... unreliable. COVID-19 did a real number on many dropshipping stores, when delivery timeframes suddenly tripled and shipping costs skyrocketed. But, it is still an option.
Yes, I can help you set up a dropshipping store.
What is Print On Demand? Can you help me set up a Print On Demand store?
Print On Demand (POD) is one of the most brilliant inventions of our modern era, if you ask me - though I am a little biased!
POD is a life-changing service for artists, designers, and small businesses with their own designs. In the olden days, if you wanted to get any kind of customised merchandise printed, you'd have to go to a offset printer, pay for them to set up a plate for their machines, and then buy literally thousands of units of the same thing. You'd then have to store them and pray that they sell before they turn to mold. And if - god forbid - a staff member happens to spill a can of soda on an entire stack of posters... then you're completely out of luck. Example being something that actually happened to me in the distant past!
Offset printing is still available and it does allow you to print larger quantities cheaper in the long run, but what if you only want one or two? What if you're not sure whether a product will sell? What if you just don't have the funds to buy large quantities, or you don't have the space to store them?
Enter digital printing technology. This fabulous interloper swaggered into the industry in the last decade or so, and changed everything. With digital printing, you no longer need to pay massive setup fees for customised items, or buy in bulk quantities. You just upload a design, select the product you want it printed on, and then the digital printing place will make it for you. One or a thousand, doesn't matter to them. You do get discounts on bulk purchases, but the option is there to buy just a handful, or even one by itself.
Print On Demand is a natural evolution of the process. As digital printing became more wide-spread, people started looking for ways to cut costs. The most obvious solution is to simply cut out the middleman. Instead of ordering a product and having it shipped to your headquarters, then sending it on to your customer, print on demand places will print, wrap, and ship your item straight to your customer without you having to ever handle it in any way.
At the moment, the technology is advanced enough that you can essentially print and ship anything, anywhere in the world. There are still a few things that are cost-prohibitive or not available, but the most common things are easily accessible to just about anyone.
Yes, I can help you set up a print on demand store.
Existing Store Questions
I already have a Shopify store, but I want to install a new theme. Can you help?
I should be able to, yes! I say "should" only because there are some themes that behave erratically and may require assistance from a programmer, but as a general rule I should be able to help you install any theme you like and adjust the theme to your vision.
I have a store, but I've broken something. Can you help?
I can certainly try. Send me an email and let me know what's going on, and I should be able to get a feel for whether I can assist or whether you need someone with more advanced skills.
I have a store, but I'm swamped and need extra hands. Can you help?
Yes! I'm happy to jump in and help you processing orders or answering customer queries if your store has taken off and you need a bit of help. That's awesome! Congratulations!
I'm happy to help out with most store-related things, but here are some general ideas of what I could do to ease your burden:
1. I could load new products for you so you can focus on processing orders.
2. I can check and capture payments for you and flag any orders that have issues.
3. I can email your customers to ask follow-up questions on your behalf.
4. I can process dropshipping orders on Oberlo/AliExpress for you.
5. I can process your POD orders on your chosen POD platform for you.
...And more. Basically, anything that can be done remotely, I'm happy to do remotely. The only things I can't do are things that I need to be on site for (like shipping the actual orders) or things that require a telephone, as I am deaf.
I need assistance specifically for a busy sales period. Can you help?
Of course! Please let me know well in advance if you need me for a major sales holiday like Black Friday or Singles Day, so that I can book it in my calendar. I also request payment in advance for those periods, as I'm in high demand then.
I recommend booking a couple of hours a few days earlier so that I can learn your specific system and exactly what you want me doing, too. Better to do that before you need me rather than when you're freaking out in a panic trying to keep things under control, right?
If you're not sure whether you're going to need me or not, then I don't mind if you ask me on the actual day, but please be warned that I may not be available, or I may have to split my time between you and a client who has pre-booked.
I need someone to watch my store while I take time off. Can you help?
Sure! If you're desperate for a vacation or you need to go in for surgery or something, then I'm happy to babysit your store for a few weeks for you.
Since I am not on site there are some limitations about what I can do, but I can handle customer service queries, processing dropshipped or print on demand orders, and that kind of thing. If you use a third-party logistics service (like Fulfilled By Amazon or the Shopify Fulfilment Network), I can probably process those orders for you as well.
Don't forget to write me a nice, detailed list of important information, answers to customer queries, and instructions on how to use your various services, and book a couple of hours so we can run over things together before you leave!
I want to add Dropshipping or Print On Demand to an existing store. Can you help?
Sure. I run a couple of hybrid stores myself, so I'm good at integrating dropshipping and POD into an existing store. They can be a great way to expand your business beyond your physical limitations!