Some may say “It takes a village.”
I say, “It takes the right tools.”
Below are my top 16 recommended business resources for online shop owners.
Online Shop Platforms:
1 | Shopify
The perfect solution for the non-tech + tech savvy alike. Shopify is my number one recommendation if you’re starting an online store. It’s simple to set up and there are beautiful free + inexpensive themes to customize your shop right out of the box. It’s an all-in-one e-commerce solution that handles all necessary security features and easily integrates with other top tools to simplify your experience. They also have a robust app store so you can easily expand as you grow your business.
Investment: $29/month + credit card and transaction fees
2 | Etsy
If you sell handmade or vintage items, Etsy can be a great starting place. As you grow and commit to your shop, my suggestion would be to at least host your main shop page and blog on another platform that links to your Etsy shop – which will allow you to collect emails and establish a permanent “home base” online.
Investment: $0.20/listing + credit card and transaction fees
3 | WooCommerce
Another simple e-commerce solution which can easily be setup on a self-hosted site. If you already host your own blog on WordPress, adding WooCommerce can be a simple addition depending on your current theme. If you need to purchase your own hosting for WordPress, I recommend SiteGround which I recently switched to. Their customer service is seriously top notch + they’re rated one of the safest hosting providers (super important for online shops!)
*A key difference between the two platforms: Shopify handles all the security layers and certificates for you which I think is a huge bonus (and relief), whereas with WooCommerce you need to purchase for your site through your hosting provider.
Investment: platform itself is free, but you will have to pay for your own hosting (typically $3.95-$9.95/month) plus SSL certificate about $100/year + credit card and transaction fees. (SiteGround provides a free SSL certificate.)
Email Service Providers:
4 | MailChimp
My top recommendation for email service and what I’ve used for the past year. They have very flexible pricing plans, starting at free (yay!) for less than 2,000 subscribers. They have a ton of cool features for e-commerce, such as recover abandoned cart + customized product recommendations.
Plus, if you sign up through my link you’ll earn $30 worth of credits. Perfect for when you want to upgrade to advanced features, such as abandoned cart recovery.
Investment: Free up to 2,000 subscribers, starts at $10/month
5 | MailerLite
A great secondary option for email service. Out of the box for free (up to 1,000 subscribers) you get access to features such as autoresponders so you can send welcome campaigns.
Investment: Free up to 1,000 subscribers with access to advanced autoresponders, starts at $10/month for over 1k subscribers
Shipping + Logistics:
6 | Stamps.com
No more running to the post office every shipment, with Stamps.com you have the ability to print USPS®-approved postage right from home.
Investment: Free 4-week trial, then $15.99/month
7 | ShipStation
Sell through multiple channels (like Etsy & Shopify)? ShipStation is a shipping solution for online retailers; designed to streamline your fulfillment process. ShipStation imports your orders from just about any selling channel, so you can easily create shipping labels and ship packages out in a snap!
Investment: Free 30-day trial, begins at $25/month
Curious about comparing shipping rates? You can start with this site to compare USPS, FedEx, and UPS rates; as well as package selection and expediting costs. And I recommend this label printer for shipping.
8 | Printful
Kind of the holy grail if you’re a designer and want to create passive physical products. It’s an easy on-demand order printing, fulfillment and shipping service. Upload your art files to Printful, select which products to carry, set prices and then integrate with your online store. They work with Shopify, WooCommerce, ShipStation, and more!
Learn more about creating passive income with Printful in the free email challenge: Passive Income for Creative Shop Owners
Investment: no upfront cost! Pricing is per product and you set your retail giving you complete control of your profits. Once an order is placed, they print + ship for you, take their “cost” and you receive the profit!
9 | Boardbooster
Automatic scheduler for Pinterest. This tool is my #1 secret weapon (except that it’s not so secret) and has absolutely exploded my growth with the least amount of effort. Simple rundown: you can spend a couple hours a week or month loading up pins and Boardbooster will then pin for you based on set time periods and the number of pins you want shared each day. It can even loop old pins to re-surface older content and cut down on the number of new pins you need to curate each week. It allows me to completely implement a set it + forget it Pinterest strategy, yet still gain about 100 followers per week (even when on vacation and not lifting a finger!)
Investment: Start your free trial today (first 100 pins free), begins at $5/month
10 | Tailwind
Scheduler for Pinterest. This tool has amazing analytics to help you make the best decisions for the type of content that’s performing well on your account. It also has an easy to use interface and allows for more precise scheduling if timing is important – such as when a big product launch is happening or if you’re planning seasonal content in advance.
Investment: Start your free trial today (first 100 pins free), begins at $9/month
11 | Planoly
Automatic scheduler for Instagram. You can bulk upload multiple photos and craft captions in advance for later posting, which helps you be more consistent and intentional in your messaging. You can also view all your images in an Instagram “grid” so you can visually see your photos look together and adjust if needed for a more cohesive feed.
Investment: Begins at $7/month
12 | Iconosquare
Really simple, but powerful analytics tool for Instagram. Easily see which posts receive the most engagement, your follower growth, and hashtag performance. One of the most useful parts is being able to find your best times to post, responding back to comments on desktop if you need, and seeing your trend with gained/lost followers based on how often you posted.
You can learn more about my favorite Iconosquare features here.
13 | Hootsuite
Automatic scheduler for Twitter + Facebook. You can set up several feeds to even manage your Twitter account from within the tool (re-tweet, reply to comments). Hootsuite also allows you to “auto-schedule” so you just upload your tweets and it will schedule them at an optimized time depending on the limits you set.
14 | Gleam
Easy tool to run giveaways. It makes entry easy, has built-in viral social sharing, and randomly picks winners to avoid any issues.
The advantage of social sharing is huge and can lead to a lot of extra traffic and customer leads for you, definitely worth checking out!
Investment: Free — $39/mn for Pro or $149/mn for Business (free or Pro works well for most small businesses)
15 | Genius Referrals
Referral marketing program, your customers can easily share your brand or promotional content on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Email, etc.
Investment: Get started for free, next tier is just $19/month
16 | Ambassador
Let your raving customers sell for you through word of mouth (Did you know 82% of customers look for recommendations?). Ambassador is a referral program that automates the manual process of enrolling, managing and rewarding referrals.
Investment: Schedule a (free) demo today to learn more, starts at $300 so ideal for established small businesses
17 | Creative Market
They also have free weekly offers: they could be free fonts, social media templates, a new theme, illustration packs, etc; so it’s worth signing up to check ’em out!
Powered by Creative Market
Investment: varies by purchase
18 | Themeforest
Investment: varies by purchase
19 | Station Seven
The brand creators behind my site! They offer beautiful WordPress blog themes – all compatible with WooCommerce as well as Squarespace kits, plus some stunningly simple design kits for perfectly branded social media templates.
Investment: $59/theme, $19-29/ design kits
20 | Wave
Accounting tool for small business owners. It’s a free cloud based software program for your accounting, invoicing and receipt tracking needs. If you need to get a handle on your finances, I strongly recommend signing up – they literally built this tool for businesses in mind with less than 9 employees. They’re serious when they say for small business owners.
21 | FreshBooks
Another accounting tool option and a seriously awesome step up. FreshBooks is a cloud accounting software with the small business owner in mind. If you’re a freelance designer or artist, this is your tool to painlessly create invoices, track your time on projects, and get paid in a timely manner (Think: easy automatic email reminders). They also have a great expense tracker, both for your sanity + for tax time; I recommend checking out their free trial.
Investment: Try it free for 30 days, then plans start at $15/month
PS. If you’re thinking why would I need invoicing? Because it’s perfect for collecting wholesale payments! If you’re looking to make that leap, start here with 24 terms wholesalers need to know.
22 | Trello
A flexible way to organize and prioritize your projects or blog ideas. Trello uses a simple format of boards to house information, organized by lists and cards within. I fell in love with Trello while searching for how to organize my blog post ideas (scraps of paper weren’t cutting it – shocker) and it completely changed how I ran my business. See how I use it for my blog editorial calendar here.
Investment: Free forever or upgrade to TrelloGold
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you sign up or purchase a service I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for trusting in my recommendations + supporting The Shop Files!
What are your favorite + must-have business resources for your online shop?
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