Starting an online store is still a solid way to create an additional income stream as part of your financial independence plan. Once you have decided on your audience, product focus, and product source, you will need a website. In order to build trust with your customers and establish your brand, you will need a website that has a polished professional appearance, loads fast, and can grow with your business.
Shopify and WordPress with WooCommerce are both solid choices with one key difference. Shopify is a single source managed cloud application, while WooCommerce is an extension of WordPress where you have many choices for hosting – some with built-in management services, and some more DIY.
Shopify – fast setup for low-tech users
Shopify is an excellent choice for low-tech users that want to get their store up and running fast. The Shopify marketplace includes many polished and professional website templates to fit your business. Shopify’s interface is easy to use for beginners with a wizard to walk you through the setup process and helps you with basic configuration tasks.
Shopify’s entry level account is $29 per month per store and includes the basic you will need to launch your store. 24/7 live chat and email support are included to help with setup questions and troubleshooting.
Shopify is one of the major ecommerce platforms in the market, so you can easily integrate nearly all the common dropshipping and POD product pipelines and marketplaces easily with a plugin.
Is Shopify right for you?
Very little technical knowledge needed. My mom’s level of tech savvy is using her iPad and setting up her Fire TV. If she wanted to start a store to sell her crotchet creations, I would advise her to use Shopify. Everything you will need for a basic store is included and you can be up and running in a couple hours.
Shopify’s costs can add up. As you expand and want more features for your website, Shopify can become quite expensive. For more features, you will need to upgrade your plan, and you may also want to install paid plugins that are paid monthly with your subscription fee. If you’re not careful, your monthly Shopify bill could easily reach $200 per month.
Shopify is mostly worry free. Shopify takes care of your site’s security, software updates and backups. There’s nothing for you to configure or setup with these big ticket web maintenance duties.
WordPress with WooCommerce – flexible setup for advanced users
WordPress with Woocommerce is a good choice for more advanced users. Users that aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and deal with installing lots of plugins, editing html, and talking that talk with tech support.
WordPress is the granddaddy of open-source blogging platforms. It’s free to download and use and when paired with the also free ecommerce plugin, WooCommerce, you have the foundation of a robust ecommerce presence. There are two ways to manage your WooCommerce based store: hosted and self-hosted.
With self-hosting, you select your web host based on your budget and needs. Web hosting can be as cheap as $3 per month up to as much $99 or more, depending on the hosting features like storage space, number of websites per account, automatic SSL, bandwidth and more. Pro tip – if your eyes glazed over reading the previous sentence…launch your store with Shopify. You’ll thank me later.
Self-hosting allows you to have full control over the look, feel and functionality of your site. The only limit is your creativity, budget and time. Also, with self-hosting, you can launch multiple stores with one hosting account. For example, NameHero offers an account for $19.95 per month that includes one free domain name and the ability to host unlimited websites. This is perfect if you want to launch multiple online stores with different product niches to road test each and see which one sticks without paying additional fees.
With hosted WooCommerce solutions offer a bit of both worlds, ease of setup like managed cloud site like Shopify and flexibility like a self-hosted site – but it will cost you.
WP Engine is a good hosted WooCommerce host with its mid-tier account (that supports multi-site creation and offers 24/7 phone and chat support) for $50 per month.
Is WooCommerce right for you?
Room to expand. WooCommerce is flexible enough that you can easily expand your business by launching multiple stores and/or expand a single store into a large enterprise offering thousands of products.
Hundreds of template options. WooCommerce has hundreds and hundreds of high quality free and paid templates to help provide your store with a professional look and feel.
Limited support. With a self-hosted WooCommerce site, you are the support. You must manage your site backups, updates and security plugins. There is, however, a robust and active online support forum where you can find the answers to most questions, but you must be tech savvy enough to know the right question(s) to ask. With a host WooCommerce site, chat and email support are offered. However, this support is more tech focused and less “hand holding” focused.
Almost unlimited ecommerce features and tools. WooCommerce has an extensive library of plugins for nearly every function or feature you can think of. Most plugins are free for the standard version, which helps keep costs down; unlike with Shopify, most plugins are not free and are paid on a monthly subscription basis.
Which should you choose for your website?
Pick Shopify if you want to launch a single store quickly, or you are not tech savvy.
Pick WooCommerce if you want maximum flexibility to launch multiple stores for less cost and are tech savvy.