Today, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to start an online store. I recently had the chance to interview Sarah Titus of Million Dollar Shop and SarahTitus.com, who explains exactly how to start an online store and make extra income. If you want to learn how to make passive income, this is a great option!
Here’s her easy-to-understand definition of what she does:
“An online store is the same thing as your local grocery store, except that it’s online. So you go to your grocery store, you see a bunch of products and you buy them. Same thing here. It’s a digital store. So instead of buying celery, you’re buying printables that help you organize your entire life, that create calm in the chaos for you.”
If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle, learning how to start an online store may be something that you want to look into.
Check out the interview below for more information. She answers questions such as:
- How much money she currently earns
- How much time this takes her
- What exactly an online store is
- What you can sell with an online store
- How she finds customers
And much, much more!
Read below to learn more.
Related articles on how to start a Shopify store:
- Want To Make Money From Home? Here Are 17 Of The Best Online Jobs
- 75+ Ways To Make Extra Money
- Ways To Make An Extra $1,000 A Month
- My Online Business Income Reports
- 8 Items To Sell Around Your Home For Extra Money
1. Please give us a little background on yourself, how you started your online store, and how it’s going for you right now.
I was walking by my husband’s phone and he got a text. For some reason, it caught my attention and I looked at it. It was from a girl. She was saying she loved him.
My whole world, tears, came crashing down in an instant. He ended up taking my debit cards, then physically abusing me. I had ¼ tank of gas and had to get away. I called a local Pastor who helped me get out safely and ended up living in a homeless shelter with my two babies.
Fourteen years of marriage, down the drain in a millisecond.
After I got out of the homeless shelter, I got my first apartment. I was bent on not working outside the home. My kids ALREADY lost their dad. I wasn’t going to let them lose ME TOO!
I did what I knew. I sold on eBay. I’d go to yard sales, pick up stuff to resell. I’d get things, whatever I could, to survive and be home with my little ones.
I started doing pretty well. Making enough to pay all my bills. Then, I started niching down on eBay to selling Littlest Pet Shop toys. I was the highest paid Littlest Pet Shop toy seller in a market with over 40,000 ads on any given day.
My store on eBay was thriving. I was doing really good, and I learned how to sell something better than my competitors. I would dress them up like Barbies. Ship in pretty organza bags so they felt like they were getting a GIFT. I gave them coupons for future purchases ($10 off $50). I created a free website for Littlest Pet Shop coloring sheets, wallpaper, games, everything. I created a Pinterest account to drive traffic to my eBay store for Littlest Pets.
I was making good money ($18,000 a year at the time). Things were great.
But I wasn’t satisfied in my SOUL, you know what I mean? I was feeling like, selling a toy doesn’t change the world. It doesn’t help people.
I wanted to do more with my life. Be more.
So, I started blogging. Friends were asking me a ton of questions about how I was making income from home and living so well on so little.
They told me they were making $60,000 a year, yet here I was, making $18,000 a year and I had way more than them. WHY? HOW? They asked. Each question they asked, I turned into a post and that’s how I started blogging.
A few years into blogging, I was making really good money. Six-figures/year at that point, but I wanted to not have to work so much. Yeah, I was making six-figures, but I was working 80-120 hours a WEEK (yes, a WEEK!) for three YEARS straight.
I thought to myself, if I ever DO get married, I’m sunk. I can’t even date someone. I’ll never get married because I’m too busy always working my guts away. I wanted a different life. A life that could be more autopilot. I had this dream that, if I ever got married again, I’d make enough, passively, that we could travel or do whatever. We wouldn’t be tied to the computer working so much. And he could be home with me, as a family.
So, I took six months to start closing loose ends and systematizing everything. Once I got a handle on things, I wanted to sell my first product, a Blogging Binder. I put it on Podia but it didn’t sell but a couple copies.
I sat there in the middle of the night contemplating, what will I do? Give up? Is it the binder? No one likes it? I decided to make one last ditch effort, put it one more place. Through a google search, I found Shopify and tried that. It sold 52 copies! Just the platform alone did that!
My Blogging Binder released on May 9, 2017 and by June 17, 2018, it had sold 13,667 copies. Just that ONE product. No shipping, no envelopes, no lost in the mail, no post office fees. I’ve been able to keep a lot more profits than when I sold physical items. Plus, it’s not like eBay, where they nickel and dime you for everything. With Shopify, it’s one small low-monthly cost and a tiny transaction fee (for the debit card processing part). Easy peasy!
2. How much do you currently earn through this?
Within my first month on Shopify, I made $52,060!
I knew pretty quickly into it, I hit on something pretty major. All those 21 years on eBay paid off in Shopify. I knew how to market, how to sell, how to give discounts, how to treat customers, and most importantly, how to set up a store in a way that GETS people to give you their debit card number and BUY!
Since opening my store in the middle of the night on June 1, 2017, I’ve made $6,481,108.60 to date (July 12, 2019). I make $5 million a year currently in Shopify.
What started out as a bad situation, turned into something much better than I ever thought imaginable. It sucks about my ex-husband. I’ve been blessed more than I ever thought possible.
Opening a Shopify store for me, has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my entire life! 😊 Not just because of the money, but because now I don’t have to work a bunch of crazy hours. I’m truly FREE!
3. How much time do you dedicate towards it?
Between me and my team members, we work a combined 16-20 hours at the moment (this number includes everything I do: my blog, the store, courses, etc.)
I work around 9-10 hours a week myself. I do work on printables sometimes online as a hobby, but it’s just goofing off or stuff I wanna do. I WORK 10 hours a week. 😊
Mostly, I only have to MAINTAIN the store now. In the beginning, I had to put more time into it because I was creating products to sell. Now, I just create one new binder every month. It takes me 2-3 days to create a new binder usually. If it’s a really hard one or super lengthy, a week, but on average, it’s just a few days to create.
Binders for me, are what I use to GET people to the store as well as to stay on my list. I give the binder free for the first three weeks, then charge for them.
Outside of that, it’s just email support, which is VERY low because I have most all of that automated. This helps keep the customer service requests down so I can spend my time creating more products. 😊
The last thing I do for my store is email my newsletter list. Most of the time, it’s just about getting them to the store with the free binder and they do the rest. They see other things they like and buy them or there’s a deal in the header bar at the top of the site that gets sales. So, I just focus on that and it’s not salesy or pushy in any way. They build up my reviews and then because of the reviews, others come along and buy.
My audience also sometimes pays for things that are free. They are seriously sweet. They say they receive so much free stuff from me, they wanna pay. It’s the sweetest thing ever.
I don’t do any paid promoting at this time. I would like to get into Facebook ads soon, but right now, how I get all my sales is simply giving out free stuff and coupons to drive traffic to my store.
Related: How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year
4. What exactly is an online store? Can you explain this more for those who have no idea? Do you have to be a blogger?
An online store is the same thing as your local grocery store, except that it’s online. So you go to your grocery store, you see a bunch of products and you buy them. Same thing here. It’s a digital store. So instead of buying celery, you’re buying printables that help you organize your entire life, that create calm in the chaos for you.
You can sell absolutely anything you want to (within reason, not illegal stuff, etc. obviously) 😊 in your store and best of all, you own it. It’s stable because it can’t be taken away from you!
You don’t have to be a blogger to sell on Shopify. But if you want to start a blog, you can have a separate blog, or you can even have your blog on Shopify, which is great as well.
The only upside there to having a separate blog while selling on Shopify is that Google tends to send more traffic to a great SEO’d website over a shop, but one of my friends gets just as much traffic as me to JUST her Shopify blog/store, as I do to my separate blog and store.
So if you’re just starting to set up a store, I wouldn’t recommend setting up a blog at the same time. It would be too complex. Just focus on one at a time and then add another as time goes on if you want them separate.
Either way, you do not have to be a blogger, as long as you promote your store. You have to have a way to drive traffic to it. That could be on social media, YouTube videos, talking to friends about it, handing out business cards, handing out fliers. I mean, there’s a bazillion ways to get traffic to your store, ESPECIALLY if you offer something FREE!!! 😊
5. Is Shopify easy to use?
Shopify is THE most easiest thing I’ve ever learned to do online. No kidding. I literally remember setting up my shop in around 5 minutes and was like…am I done?
I was actually done. Then, it was just about making things pretty and professional and using my knowledge of how to get sales and get those conversions.
That’s the part that no one seems to know. And using my 21 years’ experience on eBay, I know EXACTLY what to put and where to make people feel comfortable enough to buy my stuff. Your store is like a map. You need them to come and buy, not come and leave and it’s all about HOW YOU SET IT UP that matters.
It’s easy to set up. But so many people set up a Shopify store and never make more than fifty bucks.
There is a lot more than goes into it. People are giving you more than their email address. They are giving you their home address, phone number, and debit card number.
Do you just give that stuff out to anybody?
Neither will your customers. You have to set up your store in a way that makes them feel SAFE. Like they TRUST your site and YOU. So you have to set it up very specifically or sadly, it won’t convert. All of that is taught in my Million Dollar Shop® course. 😊
How to get reviews, how to set up reviews so you get them and why it’s so important, how to set up your store so they buy, what free apps to use that’ll make your life so much easier, what bylines and legal verbiage you need to use to protect yourself, how to systematize your store to keep customer service requests low, how to set up products and what to say to get people to buy, and so much more is included in that course! I go through it all. Absolutely everything you need to know to run and have a successful Shopify store.
Click here to check out Shopify.
6. What can a person sell? Where do you find products when starting an online store?
You can sell literally anything you want (within reason). There’s a list here of things a person CAN’T sell on Shopify here under the B.5 section. Things like drugs, copyrighted stuff, gambling, pornography, get rich schemes, etc. These are all outside to scope of what any of us would want to sell.
But for example, if I wanted to sell Littlest Pet Shop toys again today, I’d have my OWN store on Shopify rather than go through eBay, where there’s SO much competition. Having my OWN store, makes the sales come easier (if it’s set up properly) because I’m not fighting anyone else for that sale. The buyer is just seeing MY stuff at the time. I have their full attention.
However, after selling physical products for SO long, I highly encourage you to sell digital products instead. There are far lower overhead costs with digital products. You don’t have to worry about shipping, people not getting orders, things breaking in the mail, a wrong order being sent out, cost of the product, shipping costs, gas to pick up or find items to sell, etc.
Some people try to drop ship as well. I find most of those stores fail. Most drop shipping (99.9%) is just a scam. The other, legit 0.01% is not worth it because of the things mentioned above. I’ve seen a lot in my years of making money online and wouldn’t touch drop shipping if my life depended on it. It’ll just ruin your credibility and it’s not something YOU own. You can’t control it when they ship the wrong order and you lose a customer because the customer gets mad. I’d stay away from drop shipping. You just don’t want a business that relies so heavily on someone else like that. If they go out of business, your whole empire you built is gone in an instant.
For me, I sell printables. If you don’t know how to make printables, I have a full course where you get to sit side by side with me and watch as I create them from start to finish! I show you the entire process. It’s one of my favorite courses, because it’s so much FUN. Creating printables is addicting for me. It’s the most funnest thing ever and I get really into it. 😊
One of my other courses, Top 13 Things To Sell in Shopify (That Makes the Most Money), is a great course if you’re trying to determine which path is right for you to sell. It covers the top 13 most profitable things to sell on Shopify and then gives a bird’s eye view of good, working strategies of HOW to go about selling that particular thing successfully.
7. How does an online store owner find customers?
This is the fun part! You can find customers in any way you want!
There are a bazillion and one ways to find people who will fall in love with your stuff and pay you to have it. You’re only capped by your imagination really, but the first thing you’ll want to do is establish how YOU want to go about getting traffic to your store.
The easiest way is to work off what you already have going for you. So, if you have a blog already, add a store and drive traffic that way. If you have social media pages or groups, drive traffic that way.
Another way to drive traffic is by paying for advertising. This is something that I haven’t ever done yet (I hope to in the future, but haven’t yet). Things like Facebook ads or Instagram ads would work great.
Likewise, having an Instagram account for your store is a great thing to do. One of my friends, makes $5k/month in her Shopify store consistently and she drives traffic from her blog, her newsletter, and she created a cool Instagram account specifically for Instagram. She says she gets most of her sales from Instagram (she does a mix of posts and little videos showing how to use her products).
Social media is great! You can create YouTube videos (unboxing videos, product videos, etc.) For me, I have videos that show the printables like a book with the pages turning. I show how to create those specific videos in the Million Dollar Shop® course under the products section.
Another way to drive traffic is by installing an affiliate app. You can get affiliates to help spread the word. I don’t currently have affiliates on my store as I just sell way too much to keep up with what I have now, but I know there are some affiliate apps out there worth giving a shot to.
After a while, you become known and people remember you. For my site, direct traffic is the #1 way I gain traffic. People remember, know me, and come back, and they’ll do the same with you.
The best overall way that I’ve personally found to drive traffic to my shop, is to give away something highly valuable to other people. For me, that’s a 100+ page binder. They like it, sign up for my newsletter, and instead of giving them some download straight from my blog, I make them order it free, using a discount code, in the store.
This gets them used to the process of ordering in my store, they already have an account, etc. so the next time they want to order, they are already in the system and feel comfortable using the platform and have no reservation purchasing.
My returning customer rate is really high. In the past 30 days, it’s at 70.2% and I’ve gotten 8,775 traffic sessions (this is sessions, not pageviews).
You definitely want to strive to get repeat customers because it’s MUCH easier to sell something to the same person then selling something to a completely new person. However, you do want new customers too, so a good balance is what you want to shoot for.
I personally shoot for no more than 75% repeat customers. This means I’m getting at least 25% of people in the store that are new and I’m growing, gaining traction, and getting new word of mouth sales. You can determine your own goals and what works best for you. When I first started, it was near 50/50 and that’s a great balance too. 😊
Both the Top 13 Things to Sell in Shopify and Million Dollar Shop® courses go over how to get traffic in a much deeper way.
8. How much does it cost to start this type of business and how much on a monthly basis to maintain it?
It doesn’t cost as much as you’d think. A Shopify store is only $29/month and that includes a blog if you want it. Then they have super tiny transaction fees by PayPal when you make a sale. If you want additional apps, those can vary in price. I use several apps, which I go over in Million Dollar Shop® and only pay $15/month in apps.
Then, when you start making $1k/month+, you’ll want to move to the $79/month Shopify plan because that includes better analytics. You can see how much sales you’re making for each product and that helps you determine what KIND of products to create MORE of.
All in all, it’s very inexpensive. They don’t nickel and dime you like some other platforms do and if you ever get stuck, they have 24/7 chat support, which is a really great feature that most other companies do not offer.
Another great thing is that they give you the theme free. They have many themes to choose from and I’ve BETA tested a few of them and share all my findings in the Million Dollar Shop® course. A free theme on Shopify is great, so that’s another thing you don’t have to worry about paying for.
If you want to save even more money, you can talk to chat and they can give you deals if you purchase by the year or 2 years, etc. Since my store is extremely stable and makes me a lot of money, I bought the 2-year plan and it saved me some significant money.
When you’re just starting out though, you’re only looking at $44/month + tiny transaction fees based on the price you sell your item at. Shopify gives you a generous 14-day free trial period to take it for a spin too and get things set up before you have to start paying, which makes it super nice.
9. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to learn how to start an online store?
I think the main thing is really deciding if starting a store is right for you and if it is, going for it full throttle. Not saying, “Well, if it works, it works, if it doesn’t, it won’t”. That kind of wishy-washy attitude won’t get anyone anywhere. You have to be bold and just jump in!
Having your own online store is such a fantastic way to earn money. In my 20+ years of making money online, I’ve quite literally seen everything, and this is by far, THE BEST way to earn money the fastest and easiest, that I’ve ever seen.
Think about it. After 20 years of my selling on eBay, I was making $3k/month. After 2 years blogging, I was making $23k/month. After 2 years on Shopify, I’m making $5 million/year.
The other ways of earning money are fantastic and nothing to sneeze at, for sure (!!), there’s just a lot more POWER and profitability when earning money in a store. It’s also the fastest way to go. If you start a store today, you can be earning money by this afternoon. With other options, it takes more time to set up, to establish yourself, etc.
They are all great ways to earn money, but I believe that Shopify has a lot more power to make money quicker. If you wanna make money online, that’s the way to go, for many people.
10.Why should a person take a course on this subject? Is it hard? What will they learn with your course?
The truth is that a lot of people set up Shopify stores and they think they can go it alone. But they can’t. They crash and burn and never get any sales and wonder why.
The problem is because they haven’t laid the proper foundation. Even if they try to mimic or copy me, they don’t know WHY they’re doing what they are doing. Not having that knowledge of WHY do this or that or how to make their own decisions of how to determine what works best for them, isn’t going to make someone succeed.
Another problem is that, some people try to start a store on their blog and use plug in stores like WooCommerce, etc. Those plug in stores, out of all the people I’ve coached, I’ve only seen it work for ONE person and that’s because her husband is an engineer!
100% of the people I’ve coached, who’ve started out on a store plug in on their blog, move to Shopify and they INSTANTLY start making more sales. This is because customers TRUST Shopify and PREFER THEIR checkout over other solutions. My last customer I worked with, made 400% more just by switching platforms (WooCommerce to Shopify). Like my own fail with Podia, it really IS all about the platform and how you set it up.
After you set up your store on the right platform and in the right way, you need to begin your strategy of how to get people to your shop and how to get sales. Million Dollar Shop® teaches all that, from start to finish. It guides you through the entire set up process, then teaches you how to get sales, in a hand-holding friend style.
Then, if you want to sell printables and don’t currently create them in professional software (that’s key to your sucess) or don’t know how to make them, How to Create Printables, is the perfect course for you.
Million Dollar Shop® trainings (the whole platform) has sold over 40,000 products to date. These courses aren’t just something put up by someone, somewhere online. They are taught by someone who’s been in e-commerce for 21 YEARS and have been tested by tens of thousands of students to work! 😊 You just can’t get this information anywhere else. It’s a complete system that I created myself and have perfected over the years.
Are you interested in starting an online store?
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giulia lombardo says
I really love read these kind of posts are really inspirational so thanks for sharing
Sarah Titus says
So glad it’s inspiring, Giulia. <3 We are so blessed to be in an era where we can literally make money online in so many different ways! 🙂
Im confused when you head her shop it’s not on Shopify it’s on Teachable? And there’s hardly any traffic to it? Just super confused how how she makes $5m a year on Shopify? Because I am genuinely interested in knowing how she did it and if I should make the move.
Michelle Schroeder-Gardner says
Her shop is here – https://www.shop.sarahtitus.com/
Sarah Titus says
Great questions. 🙂 The shop is on Shopify, however, I teach how I do it all via courses hosted on Teachable. For traffic, I have worked REALLY hard at focusing on high conversion rates (my conversion rates are between 60-80% on average) rather than focusing on trying to get a bunch of random traffic. So the traffic I DO get is super qualified and most purchase b/c they see all the reviews and my brand is pretty well known in the printables sect. 🙂
For how I make the money, I have all my Shopify income reports for the first couple years-ish (month by month) on my blog here, so it shows the progression, what I’m doing, what I released, if it failed or was successful, etc. all here: https://www.sarahtitus.com/category/income-reports/
Shopify has literally changed my life forever. <3 My biggest regret is not starting to create my own products sooner, so if you're thinking about doing that, definitely consider it, because it's huge income for so many people (all different kinds of products, not just Shopify). 🙂
Sarah Titus says
I found the link to your site, Corey. 🙂 For what you’re selling, I think you could go either way (stay where you’re at or move to Shopify). My only concern of how you have it now is that you don’t have any reviews. Probably the platform doesn’t allow it? But I would say definitely #1 priority, get reviews on there because honestly, that’s the driving force behind why people buy (think of it like social proof). People buy popular products, it builds trust, credibility, etc. so I would have a ton of reviews. On Shopify, you can get a reviews app and have it automatically email every purchase and then collect them on autopilot that way. Super easy. Another great way on Shopify is to get a pop up that shows someone just purchased (when you’re new and building reviews). I think a Shopify store for you will look a little more professional and so people would be more apt to buy, but again, what you have set up is really great. You’ve done a wonderful job and it looks like you have solid products! <3
WOW! Just amazed by this story and online business success! One of the best ones I have ever heard (in this case, read) in years! Congratulations, Sarah!
Sarah Titus says
Awww, thank you so much Marcelle. <3 <3 <3 Anything is possible. Truly!
Marcos Ramirez says
Thank you for the post! This is really inspirational. I recently just made a new shopify store and I was planning on connecting it to my actual blog website. However, after reading your recommendations I am now a little hesitant on drop shipping… If I have built a shopify store already, which one of your courses would you recommend for me? So you really do recommend digital products rather than physical?
Just wondering, thank you.
Sarah Titus says
Great question. 🙂 Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend drop shipping. There’s a lot of problems with it. It’s hard to find an honest, legit company to drop ship and when you do, from what I’ve seen and my friends have dealt with, it’s a lot of mistakes and your neck is on the line, not the drop shipper. On the other side of that transaction, any time I deal with a company that does drop shipping (and you can tell), every single time I have personally, my order is ALWAYS wrong and it’s a huge nightmare to deal with. For the customer and for the seller, it’s just a hot mess. Also, you make a lot MORE MONEY selling digital products over physical. There’s less overhead and you make more because you can sell the same digital product over and over and over again. I think it’s great you want to start a Shopify store and connect it to your blog, but I think drop shipping is just a massive waste of time, mostly because the profits aren’t good. Even if someone says they make a lot of money doing drop shipping, they are usually not counting shipping, cost of products, etc. It really ends up being a small fraction of the amount they are telling you because of all the costs involved. It’s just best to sell your own work, then you have 100% FULL CONTROL over it all. 🙂
Chrissy @ Fun Loving Families says
This was a very inspirational post.
I currently put out a ton of free printables on my blog, and have been toying with the idea of creating printables for sale.
I think this post has definitely encouraged me to pull the trigger and do it.
Thanks, Sarah for sharing your story. And thanks, Michelle for the interview!
Sarah Titus says
Absolutely, Chrissy. So glad to help. 🙂 Just remember if you sell printables, the standard rule is to create them with professional software. Many people don’t know that but they won’t sell good unless you do, so keep that in mind and you should be okay. <3