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5 Best WordPress Ecommerce Plugins Compared – 2019

Are you looking to build an online store? Want to know which is the best WordPress eCommerce plugin?

Choosing the right eCommerce plugin is crucial for your business because a better platform means more opportunity for growth. Often users end up losing money because they didn’t do proper research when choosing the eCommerce platform to start their store.

In this article, we will compare the 5 best WordPress eCommerce plugins for 2019. We will also explain their pros and cons to help you find which eCommerce plugin is right for your business.

Best WordPress eCommerce plugins

What to Look for in a WordPress eCommerce Plugin for Your Site?

There are plenty of WordPress eCommerce plugins in the market. But not all of them have the right set of features for your use-case.

For example, some eCommerce plugins are made for selling digital goods like eBooks, photos, music, etc. Others are better suited for selling physical products that need shipping.

If you want to run a drop-shipping business, then you’ll need an eCommerce solution that provides better support for drop-shipping.

Basically, you need to consider what you will be selling and what kind of features you would need to efficiently run your online store.

Apart from that, following are some of the most important factors you need to look for when choosing an eCommerce platform.

  • Payment solutions – Your eCommerce plugin should have support for your preferred payment gateways by default or through an extension.
  • Design and customization – Your store’s design is your customer’s first interaction with your business. Make sure there are plenty of templates and easy customization options available
  • Apps and integrations – Check out integrations available for third-party apps like email marketing services, CRM software, accounting software, etc. You’ll need those tools to manage and grow your ecommerce business more effeciently.
  • Support options – Make sure that there are support options available. Good support can save you a lot of money in the long run.

What Do You Need to Run an eCommerce Website?

Ecommerce websites are resource intensive, so the first thing you will need is the best WordPress hosting that you can afford.

If you’re on a budget, then you can start with Bluehost. The Ecommerce plan comes with SSL Certificate which you need to collect payments securely, dedicated IP, and a dedicated support line. They also install WooCommerce by default, which is the most powerful WordPress Ecommerce plugin (as you’ll find out later in this article).

If budget is not an issue, and you want the best performance, then we recommend using a managed WordPress hosting provider like WPEngine.

Next, you will need to choose a domain name for your website. Here is our guide on how to pick the right domain name for your eCommerce site.

Lastly, you will need to choose essential business plugins that you will need such as OptinMonster which help you reduce shopping cart abandonment and increase sales.

Having that said, let’s take a look at the best WordPress eCommerce plugins.

Best WordPress Ecommerce Plugins – The Contenders

Now that you know what to look for in an eCommerce platform and what you need to get started, here are our top picks for the best eCommerce platform for WordPress users.

  1. WooCommerce
  2. BigCommerce
  3. Easy Digital Downloads
  4. MemberPress
  5. Shopify

Let’s take a look at each one of them and compare their pros and cons.

1. WooCommerce

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is the most popular WordPress eCommerce plugin. It is also the most popular eCommerce platform in the world. WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com blog hosting service) in 2015.

There is a large number of addons and themes available for WooCommerce. They also have a passionate developer community behind it. Recently several hosting companies have started creating specialized WooCommerce hosting solutions.

Pros of Using WooCommerce

Here are some of the advantages of using WooCommerce as your WordPress eCommerce plugin:

Extensions and Themes – There are hundreds of extensions and themes available for WooCommerce, which makes it easy for you to add new features to your eCommerce site. Large collection of themes means you have tons of options when choosing your site’s design and layout.

Supports Both Digital and Physical Goods – With WooCommerce, you can sell physical as well as digital downloads (such as ebooks, music, software, and more).

Sell Affiliate or External Products – Using WooCommerce, you can add affiliate or external products to your site. Affiliate marketers can create product sites and provide users a better experience.

Complete Inventory Management – WooCommerce comes equipped with tools to easily manage your inventory or even assign it to a store manager.

Payment and Shipping Options – WooCommerce has built-in support for popular payment gateways, and you can add many other payment options using extensions. It can also calculate shipping and taxes.

Support and Documentation – There is excellent documentation available online for WooCommerce. Apart from documentation, there is knowledge base, help desk, and community forums available.

Cons of Using WooCommerce

Too Many Options – WooCommerce is very easy to use, but the number of options available on the settings page can be quite intimidating for a new user.

Finding Addons – There are lots of addons available for WooCommerce, sometimes a user may not find the right addon for features that they need.

Theme Support – WooCommerce works with any WordPress theme, but it is not always as easy to setup or good looking with all themes. You need a WooCommerce ready theme to take full advantage of its features without too much hassle.

Scalability – As your store gets larger, you will need to move to a managed hosting provider like WP Engine to scale your WooCommerce store.

WooCommerce is the perfect choice for any kind of eCommerce website. It has a large community of developers and users, a lot of addons and themes, excellent support for multilingual websites, and best free and paid support options.

2. BigCommerce

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a fully hosted eCommerce platform that offers seamless integration with WordPress. This allows you to use a scalable eCommerce platform while using WordPress to manage your content and run your website.

It has a powerful integration plugin for WordPress which makes it very easy to embed your products in WordPress. It automatically creates the sign in, cart, account, and other important pages for you.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of using BigCommerce as your WordPress eCommerce platform.

Pros of Using BigCommerce

  • High scalability – It includes all the features you will need with enterprise grade security, high performance, and easy scalability.
  • Less Maintainence – Keeping your eCommerce engine separate from other content makes it easier to run your WordPress site.
  • Sell across Multiple Channels – You can use it to sell not only on your website but also on other channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon.
  • No transaction charges – Unlike some other eCommerce platforms, it does not charge you on each transaction. You can choose from dozens of top payment gateways and only pay the payment service provider.

Cons of Using BigCommerce

  • Limited Integrations – BigCommerce integrates with all the top third-party apps and tools. However, its app store is still growing, and you may not find an integration for some less popular apps.
  • No Mobile App – Currently, it does not have a mobile app to manage your store on the go.

BigCommerce is an incredibly powerful yet very easy to use eCommerce platform. It is a SaaS eCommerce platform, but with their BigCommerce WordPress plugin you can have the best of both worlds.

It takes away the pains of scaling your hosting requirements as your business grows. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about security, performance, or finding extensions for SEO and caching.

BigCommerce is a rising contender in WordPress for headless eCommerce. It takes care of technology infrastructure, so you can focus on growing your business.

3. Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital Downloads

Easy Digital Downloads allows you to easily sell digital downloads online using WordPress. It is very easy to use and comes with powerful features to create beautiful and functional digital goods store.

We use Easy Digital Downloads to sell our software like WPForms and MonsterInsights.

Pros of Using Easy Digital Downloads

Designed To Sell Digital Goods – Easy Digital Downloads is built from the ground up to sell digital downloads. Unlike eCommerce plugins that can be used to sell all kind of products, EDD provides a far better experience for selling digital goods.

Easy To Use – Easy digital downloads is very easy to use, from the start you would instantly figure out how to add products and display them. This is really useful for the first timers.

Extensions – There are hundreds of extensions available for Easy Digital Downloads including addons for payment gateways, marketing platforms and services.

Themes – Easy Digital Downloads works with almost any WordPress theme, however if you have not choosen a theme yet, then Easy Digital Downloads has themes built specifically for the plugin.

Awesome Support – The plugin is very well documented, and you have free support forums, videos, tutorials, and even an IRC chatroom. There is also a priority support option for premium users.

Cons of Using Easy Digital Downloads

Digital Downloads Only – As the name suggests, Easy Digital Downloads makes it easier to create eCommerce sites for digital goods. But if you want to sell non-digital goods along with digital downloads then it will become quite complicated.

Selling External Products – If you want to add an external product or an affiliate product to your EDD store, then you will need to install a third-party add on for it.

When it comes to selling digital products online, we believe that Easy Digital Downloads is the best plugin to do that. We have used Easy Digital Downloads with great success, not only on client sites but also on a few of our own projects.

4. MemberPress

MemberPress

MemberPress is allows you to sell subscription based digital products and services. It is the best WordPress membership plugin with tons of integration options. It can even integrate with WooCommerce.

Let’s take a look at pros and cons MemberPress.

Pros of Using MemberPress

Sell Subscription Based Products – Allows you to easily sell subscription based products, membership plans, pay per view content, and more.

Powerful Access Rules – Powerful access control allows you to define user access levels and content restrictions. Only users with permissions will be able to access restricted content.

Powerful Extensions – You can integrate it to your WooCommerce store or LearnDash LMS. There are tons of extensions to connect MemberPress with third-party services.

Cons of Using MemberPress

Limited Payment Options – MemberPress only supports PayPal, Stripe, and Authorize.net.

Yearly Pricing – Pricing plans are available on yearly terms alone.

MemberPress is the perfect eCommerce plugin to sell subscription based products, sell courses, or build a membership website. It is beginner friendly and can be easily extended with addons which allows you to take your eCommerce website in any direction you want.

5. Shopify

Shopify

Shopify is a fast growing eCommerce platform that handles everything for you. Shopify isn’t a plugin but it’s an all in one solution that’s completely hassle free. See our guide on Shopify vs WooCommerce for detailed side-by-side comparison of the two platforms.

Let’s look at the Pros and Cons of Shopify.

Pros of Using Shopify

Super Easy for Beginners – No need to worry about the technical aspects of an eCommerce store such as setting up SSL, integrating with different payment gateways, handling shipping, worrying about taxes, etc. Shopify handles it all.

Supports Both Digital and Physical Goods – Whether you’re selling physical goods like shirts or digital downloads like music, Shopify can handle it all.

Complete Inventory Management – Shopify comes with an inventory editor and bulk importer combined with an order tracker which makes managing inventory a breeze.

Payment and Shipping Options – Shopify makes it easy for you to accept credit card both online and in person. Their shipping system streamline your fulfillment process with direct integration with popular providers like USPS.

Facebook Store, Buyable Pins, and Twitter Buy Buttons – Shopify integrates with everything. Whether you want to create a Facebook store, add a buy button on Twitter, or create buyable Pins on Pinterest, you can do it all with Shopify.

Cons of Using Shopify

Monthly Platform Fee – Shopify charges you a monthly fee to use their platform which is comparable to purchasing hosting and individual addons using the other plugins in this list.

Shopify Payments – Shopify encourages you to use their payment platform which is powered by Stripe and is a very good option for beginners. However if you want to overcomplicate things and use external systems, then Shopify charges you an additional fee.

If you want to have a powerful platform without having to deal with technical issues, then Shopify is the solution for you. While the monthly fee sounds bad at first, the hassle-free approach and peace of mind are definitely worth it because it allows you to focus on what you do best, your business!

Shopify does not have a native integration with WordPress. BigCommerce #2 solution in our list gives you everything Shopify offers while offering a seamless integration with your WordPress site.

Conclusion – The Best WordPress eCommerce Plugin is:

If you want maximum control, flexibility, and features, then WooCommerce is the best solution for you.

If you don’t want to manage all the technical stuff, then BigCommerce is the best option for you. It allows you to use a SaaS eCommerce platform side by side with WordPress as your content management system.

If you are just selling digital goods, then Easy Digital Downloads could be the best option for you.

That’s all we hope this article helped you find the best WordPress eCommerce plugins for your site. You may also want to see our comparison of 5 best drag and drop WordPress page builders.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

The post 5 Best WordPress Ecommerce Plugins Compared – 2019 appeared first on WPBeginner.

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How to Start an Online Business: A Budget-Friendly Checklist

April 12, 2019

Want to start an online business from scratch so you can make money online? You could spend thousands of dollars on courses + fancy tools, but it’s simply not necessary. The internet is full of free, high-quality information and useful, budget-friendly tools. It’s just a matter of knowing where to find them and how to put them together. I hope to do just that.

How to start an online business: a budget-friendly checklist

I’m in the US so this is written from that perspective. Also, I’m not an accountant or a lawyer. This is not financial or legal advice, just my personal experience. Finally, this post contains affiliate links. If you click through and take action, I may be compensated. For more, read my disclosure policy.

Steps to starting an online business

  1. Choose a style that suits you
  2. Outline your strategy
  3. Establish your systems
  4. Prepare to make money
  5. Set up your website
  6. Start an email list
  7. Create a productivity schedule

Before you start…

Yes, it’s free. True, I could have packaged this information and sold it as a digital product, like a course. Instead I’ve opted to make money from it via affiliate marketing. A different monetization strategy, that’s all. Free for you and more my style. Win-win.

Don’t read through this post, work through it. It’s meant to replace the weeks- or months-long courses you see elsewhere. Tackle it like you would one of those. Except it shouldn’t take you as long.

Does this post really replace a course? Yes and no. Yes, because it covers the steps you need to get off to a solid start. In some ways it covers more. No because there aren’t extras like multiple formats (i.e. video + audio + printable transcript + worksheets), a community (i.e. a Facebook Group) or deep dives into specific steps. Deep dives are awesome, but in general, I think they unnecessarily delay and overwhelm a beginner. I’m a firm believer in launching quickly then deep diving as needed.

Follow the steps (and sub-steps) in order. They build on each other. Great care was taken in arranging them in such a way to minimize backtracking and disorganization.

Understand content marketing. It’s the business model we’ll use and one of the most popular online business strategies today. It takes time to get traction, but it works. Plus, it’s low risk, low investment and low barrier to entry. Read What is Content Marketing? for an in-depth explanation.

Step one to make a clickable image

1. Choose a style that suits you

Consider your temperament. This matters. There are many ways to run an online business. Different methods suit different personalities. Don’t follow someone else’s path blindly. Tailor yours to you. For a clear example of how I differ significantly from a fellow online entrepreneur, read the “Consider your style” section at the end of my Elite Blog Academy review post.

What do you dislike about blogging, social media or the online world? Maybe you don’t like Facebook Groups, or Facebook in general. Maybe you don’t like writing. Or podcasts. Make a list of the things you avoid or have no interest in. Now, going forward, don’t do them. Really. I’ve been at this a long time and I’m telling you, no matter what so-and-so guru says you “need” to do or you “should” do, you do not have to do those things. Figure out a different way. That’s what the most fulfilled online entrepreneurs do. If you can’t eliminate all the things you dislike, for those, delegate, automate or streamline.

What are your bottlenecks? What are the things most likely to slow you down or hinder your progress? Get personal. Name them. Face them. Have a plan to tackle them. For example, do you get distracted by what everyone else is doing? Turn off social media. Do you procrastinate? Set deadlines for yourself. Do you waste time? Use a time tracker and get accountability. Discipline yourself to stay in your lane.

What are you passionate about or good at? Make a list of 3-5 things. Prioritize them. If you need ideas, read my posts How to Find or Re-find Your Passion and How to Decide What to Blog About (ignore “blog” in the title for now). Your main, overarching topic is called your niche. It’s the thing you’re known for. For example, Nike’s niche is shoes. Martha Stewart’s niche is home things. Now, starting with your first niche idea, answer this…

Can you talk about it weekly, for several years? You’ll be producing a lot of content about your topic. Content marketing is a long game. Brainstorm a list of possible content pieces. If you can quickly come up with dozens of ideas related to that niche, you’re probably good. If not, revisit your list in the step above and choose a different niche. Then answer this…

Can you be a go-to resource in that niche? In other words, when someone thinks of that topic, will your name immediately come to mind as a great resource? If not, niche down. Here’s what I mean.

Pick 5-7 main topics that fall under your niche. Look at the list of content ideas you brainstormed above. Gather them into 5-7 sub topics. As you go, you can use these in all kinds of ways: as categories on a blog, hashtags on social media, Pinterest board titles, etc.

Pick a medium. You will be producing a lot of content on a regular basis. How do you want to communicate — writing, talking or showing? The answer to that question should guide your choice of medium. Here are the main medium choices: blog, video or podcast. Not sure? If you prefer writing, choose a blog. If you prefer talking face to face, or if it’s better to show how to do your thing, choose video. If you prefer talking but not necessarily showing, choose a podcast. Example: My friend Heather MacFadyen is a people person and connector. She started her online journey with a blog but struggled to maintain her enthusiasm. Once she switched to an interview-style podcast, her platform exploded. It was a much better fit.

Step two to make a clickable image

2. Outline your strategy

What will you sell? Whoa, that escalated quickly. Yes. The fact is, if you want to make money, you have only two choices: (1) sell your own stuff or (2) sell someone else’s stuff. Pick one income stream to focus on at the start. (You can and will add others.) More labor-intensive streams: physical products, membership sites, services, handmade goods. More passive(ish) streams: affiliate marketing, digital products, online courses, book writing and drop shipping.

Let go of the hub & spoke model. For years, common advice to new online entrepreneurs has been to start a blog then sell stuff from there. It’s the classic “hub & spoke” model. I’m no longer a fan. Instead, your suite of products (i.e. what’s going to make you money) should be your center. Everything else you do, including your content, should point to it.

Who is mostly likely to buy what you sell? Call them your target audience, customer avatar or buyer persona. Or, cut to the chase and call them your customer. These are your people. Now imagine one person from that group who represents the average. Give him/her a name.

What are they like? Where do they live? What’s their family like? What’s important to them day to day? What are the products they buy, writers they read, shows they watch, influencers they follow, magazines they subscribe to, stores they shop at, music they listen to? Keep this list of attributes so you can use it for ad targeting in the future.

Why will they buy what you sell? What problem does it address or need does it fill? This is their pain point.

Why won’t they buy what you sell? Do they have a limited budget? Can they get it somewhere else? Is there a better version available? Does it take too much time? Too complicated? Do they not know it exists? Are they unfamiliar with you? Are they not convinced it works as promised? Face these head on, not only in the thing you’re selling, but also in how you talk about it. Answer these objections directly on your sales page(s), as FAQs and in your content.

Where do they hang out online? That’s the social media platform you’ll master first.

What do you want them to say about you? When one of your people is talking about you to their friends, what three qualities do you hope they’d use to describe you? Get ideas from a list like this or this, or, think of a company you admire and see what they value. Filter everything you do through this list. Ask yourself if the content you produce, the people you associate with, the projects you take on, the things you promote and the conversations you engage in help you become more of those things. Got your three words? Now put them together in a sentence. Congratulations, you just created your values and mission, without an expensive consultant or weeks of committee meetings.

Summarize what you do. Do you want to help, inspire, teach or entertain? Choose one. Then use this template: I help / inspire / teach / entertain (YOUR PEOPLE) with (PROBLEM or PAIN POINT) by (SOLUTION or WHAT YOU SELL). Having trouble with that template? There are more to choose from here. Congratulations, you just wrote a tagline. Also use it for your elevator pitch, when people ask you what you do, on your about page, contact page, sidebar, social media profiles, Gravatar (more in a minute), media kit / advertising page, business card and WordPress site description. Also use it when you apply for affiliate programs.

Step three to make a clickable image

3. Establish your systems

Keep track of everything (ongoing). Save everything business related in one spot. Of course this includes money (more on that later). I also keep track of receipts, account information, invoices, tax info, copies of important emails, phone call notes (date, time, with whom I spoke, questions I asked, answers, etc.). Be slightly obsessive but don’t overcomplicate it. It’s key to staying organized, saving time later and avoiding hassles at tax time or in the event of an audit.

Contact your city, county & state (and maybe HOA). Are you allowed to run an online business where you live? If so, are there any requirements you should be aware of? SBA is a resource as your local Chamber of Commerce or City Hall.

Pick a name. Be thoughtful about your name choice. Read this post for tips. Is anyone else using it? Check availability and trademark use with Formal Founder. Or, use Namechk to make sure it’s available as a domain, and on all major social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.). Go to Google, type the name in the search box with quotation marks. Try it as a .com in Google Chrome. Do a trademark search of your own. (Note, just because it looks available, doesn’t mean it necessarily is, but it’s a good start.)

Sign up for G Suite ($6 per user / mo). Sign up for G Suite using the name you chose. Register the domain name during signup. G Suite is all the Google Products you know (Gmail, Drive, Calendar, Keep, etc.) but packaged for small business. You’ll get a lot of things at once if you use G Suite: a domain name with privacy, a domain email address which you must have for your email list, domain emails for any team members you bring on in the future, a separate workspace for your business for healthy work / life boundaries, a login & password storage tool eliminating the need for a tools like LastPass or 1Password, access to all the Google apps on your mobile devices plus syncing and so many integrations with other apps, tools & services online.

Set up Drive in G Suite. Create three folders: Make, Market and Manage. Going forward, file everything appropriately in these folders. Make = anything related to creating content like content ideas, writing, video, scripts, etc. Market = anything related to promotion like branding, social media, networking, etc. Manage = anything related to running your business like finances, taxes, operations, business forms, etc. (This is my adaptation from Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, a worthwhile read.)

Set up Gmail in G Suite. Create three labels in Gmail: Make, Market and Manage. As emails come in, label and archive them accordingly. For example, you might have a G Suite receipt in your inbox. Label it “Manage” and archive it. We’ll deal with it later, during your “Manage” time.

Set up Google Keep in G Suite. Use it for brainstorming & ideas, always add a label! Suggested tags: ideas, receipts, topics, hashtags. Simpletivity has some good Google Keep tutorials.

Take a headshot and photos. Make this simple. And free. Find a friend with a new-ish smartphone (an iPhone with Portrait mode is great), go out at the “golden hour” (i.e. an hour before sunset) and have your friend snap photos of you. Keep the background simple and clean. Here are more tips for getting a headshot right. If you’re a high achiever, take extra photos with various backgrounds, outfits, expressions, props (relevant to you). Save a duplicate of the originals in your G Suite > Drive > Market folder (because this is part of your branding). If needed, edit your photo in PicMonkey which allows transparent background and has other cool tools. For free. Use this photo whenever a profile picture is requested.

Set up a buzz file. A buzz file is a designated spot to store nice things people say about you. This comes in handy if you need testimonials (ask permission to use first) or if you need encouragement and want to be reminded what you’re doing is helping others. Take screenshots and/or save emails. Most of mine come via email so I have a label in Gmail. Otherwise you could save them in G Suite > Market (because they’re part of promoting and social proof).

Save your signature in digital form. That way, when you are emailed a document to sign, you won’t need to print it out, sign it by hand, scan it and send it back. Save time by using a saved, digital version of your signature instead. How? On Mac, use Preview to save your signature. Then drop it in a PDF. On Windows, use Adobe Reader. More options are here. Save your signature in G Suite > Drive > Manage (because it has to do with business finances / operations).

Sign up for all social media accounts. Use the domain email address you created when you signed up for G Suite. Use the same username everywhere. Choose a business account for Instagram and Pinterest. Use your tagline (see “Summarize what you do” above) in your profiles for now. Use your headshot for profile pics. You’re only going to master one platform at a time, but better to sign up before someone else takes your username.

Sign up for a Gravatar. Gravatar is a service you sign up with once and it makes your picture show up next to comments you leave on other blogs and around the internet in general. Use your domain, headshot and tagline from above.

Get a PO box ($8 per mo). You’ll be asked for a business address in many places. Plus, you must have a physical address for your email list (do not make one up). An address other than your home is good for privacy. Go to the USPS website > PO Boxes. Check different towns for prices, box sizes (the smallest is sufficient) and availability. Where I am (TX), price depends on box size and length of contract but is less than $100 a year. Are you going to be able to check your mail regularly? Consider that when you decide on a location. My post office allows me to use the street number with my box as a suite number instead of “P.O. Box” as the street.

Step four to make a clickable image

4. Prepare to make money online

Get an EIN (Employer Identification Number). This is a unique identifying number for your business, much like an individual’s Social Security Number. I always use my EIN instead of my SSN for business related documents and forms. Despite its name, you do not have to have employees to obtain an EIN. It’s free to apply and only takes a few minutes, but if you need a walkthrough video, here ya go. Use this on bank account forms (coming up), the W-9 (also coming up) and other financial forms.

Get a State tax ID Number. Will you need to pay state income tax? If so, you may need a state tax ID number. Check with the SBA in your state.

Open a business bank account. Keep your personal and business finances separate. Get an online account or an account at a brick and mortar bank. I use and like Spark Business. Just keep your personal and business accounts separate and look for free (or fee-waived) options. Here’s a list of free business accounts by state.

Apply for a business credit card (maybe). We are 100% debt free, including the business, so we don’t do debt. However, if you pay a contractor (designer, virtual assistant, accountant, etc.) with a credit card, you may not have to issue them a 1099 come tax time. Or just pay them with PayPal…

Apply for a PayPal Business Account. Many online money transactions involve PayPal to one extent or another so it’s important to have your own PayPal account. I recommend a Business (Merchant) account. The sooner you sign up with PayPal the better, because it takes time to verify your account and link it to your bank account. Sign up here.

Apply for a Stripe account. Stripe is another payment service you are likely to use at some point. Sign up here.

Do you need to charge sales tax? If you sell your own product(s), you might. To find out, find your state here. I made 3 phone calls and asked 3 different people (on purpose) to make sure I got the same information. You should also be aware of Nexus.

Consult or hire professionals about your situation. You may choose to do this if applicable. Reasons why you might: register a trademark (I used Gerben Law to register the Useletter® when I was ready), get liability insurance, choose a business structure (in my case — yours might be different — I operated as a sole proprietor first, then formed an LLC through Nolo, and have since become an S Corp) or whatever might apply to you.

Fill out and save a W-9. Many companies will ask you for a W-9 before they pay you. I keep one filled out completely, except for the date. When I’m asked, I simply type in the date and email it as an attachment, or upload where indicated. You’ll need your name, business structure, address, EIN and your signature. All of these you worked on above. Download a PDF version of the W-9. Edit the PDF like I mentioned above (for Mac or for PC). Save in G Suite > Drive > Manage. Just drop in the date when asked.

Set up an (easy) accounting system. Don’t overcomplicate or overthink this. Just keep all money-related things (money going out and money coming in) in one spot. It’s so worth having it set up from the start. The easiest way to do it is to use a Google Sheet similar to this. Of course, save it in G Suite > Drive > Manage. You can also use free accounting software like Wave, or premium software like FreshBooks or QuickBooks. If you don’t want to do keep the books yourself, you can hire someone like Sarah Khornak or use the services of a company like Bench Accounting.

Set up business expense categories. I used the IRS business expenses to determine my categories. Makes it easier at tax time. These are some of mine: advertising (FB Ads, marketing materials), contractors (designers, tech help, virtual assistants, etc.), professional services (lawyer, accountant), education & training (courses & resources for learning), travel (overnight travel away from primary residence including airfare, hotel/lodging and taxi/parking/rental car), meals & entertainment (during a business trip or meeting with a client, not lunch breaks in your hometown), office supplies (things you use and replace like hardware, software, postage, stationery), 0ther expenses (bank fees, PayPal fees, business insurance, affiliate commissions that you pay to your affiliates). Related: 10 Tax Tips for Bloggers.

Track non-cash items too (ongoing). Like products you are given, conference swag, Swagbucks and similar things. These are all taxable.

Link your accounting software to your bank account (if applicable). This process will vary depending on the system or software you use.

Enter any transactions from the above steps in your accounting system (ongoing). For example, you can now pull out your G Suite receipt from Gmail > Label > Manage and record it as an expense. Get caught up. This is an ongoing task.

Scan your receipts (ongoing). Have you collected any receipts in this process? Scan and file them! Use the Google Keep app (for Mac or for Android). Save them in G Suite > Drive > Manage (because it has to do with business finances). This is an ongoing task.

Step five to make a clickable image

5. Set up your website

Set up your website. Regardless of your medium (blog, video, podcast), you need your own website. Why? You want a place you control where people can always find you. I have a WordPress site on WP Engine which I recommend if you’re serious. (Use coupon code wpe3free to get 10% off your first payment.) If you need a very budget-friendly option, follow my tutorial here. If a blog is your medium of choice, it’s automatically built into your website whether you use WP Engine or Bluehost.

Secure your site with a SSL certificate. Here’s why. WP Engine users, here’s how to do it. Bluehost users, do this.

Install a theme. If you went with WP Engine, you have your pick of Genesis themes. Here’s what I use. If you used Bluehost and need something free, I recommend GeneratePress. Watch my video about how to use GeneratePress here.

Configure your site settings. Make sure your permalinks are set correctly. Also, replace your admin user and set your general settings as I explain in this video tutorial.

Delete & install plugins. I have a love-hate relationship with plugins. Only add plugins as you need them. The ones I recommend for sure are Yoast SEO and Antispam Bee. A good backup plugin is UpdraftsPLUS. I also use WP Rocket to make my site fast. You can see all the plugins I use here.

Install Google Tag Manager. This allows you to put all your tracking codes and pixels — like Google Analytics, the FB pixel, the Pinterest Tag, etc. — in one spot. No more having to paste all those things separately or use plugins! If you’re using WP Engine, read their post Google Tag Manager for WordPress. Alternatively, Jason Whaling has a good GTM setup tutorial. Or, check out Google Tag Manager Fundamentals in Google Analytics Academy.

Install popular tracking codes. Use Google Tag Manager to install these immediately. Why? Because they will start tracking your site traffic and data from the get go. It will be so beneficial down the road when you start to get a bit more advanced. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did this at the beginning. Here are the codes to install first: Google Analytics, the Facebook pixel and the Pinterest tag. (See tutorials above.)

Set up Google Search Console. Do this via the Yoast plugin you installed above. Here’s how. It may take a while to populate.

Write your must-have pages. These are: About (how to write an About page), Contact (I prefer a FAQ format to preempt emails), Tools (here’s mine), a Blog page (if you will have a blog), Privacy Policy (here’s a free privacy policy generator) and Disclosure Policy (free disclosure policy generator).

Step six to start a blog

6. Start an email list

Sign up for an Email Service Provider (ESP). Your email list is one of your greatest digital assets. Don’t send to your list via your personal email account; it’ll be messy and you may violate the CAN-SPAM Act. There are lots of ESP options, but a good, free option to start with is MailerLite.

Set up your email list. Here’s why an email list is so important. Use the instructions for the ESP of your choice. Here’s the getting started page for MailerLite.

Write your welcome email. Do this within your ESP Dashboard. Set it to go out to brand new subscribers as soon as they sign up for your list. Read How to Write an Effective Welcome Email (and 12 Examples That Get It Right) for some good tips.

Create & set up a lead magnet. Sometimes called a freebie, your lead magnet should be an “intro” to the main thing you want to sell. An easy type of lead magnet is a PDF which can be created directly in G Suite (Drive > Docs > Make). Make it a quick win for the recipient. Here are some examples of lead magnets.

Create your email signup landing page, almost done page and thank you page. These are all separate pages on your website. For each one, go to your WordPress Dashboard > Pages > Add New. On your landing page, make sure you have an opt-in form (gotten from your ESP). Here’s my landing page for the Useletter®. An “Almost Done” page is if you choose double opt-in with your ESP (my recommendation). Here’s my Almost Done page. Lastly, create a Thank You page. Here’s mine.

Record the places you put opt-in forms. Save this list in a Doc or Sheet in G Suite > Manage. Why? Because if you ever switch ESPs or need to edit your optin forms, you’ll have a list and won’t need to go hunting for them. Additional places you might consider putting opt-in forms: home page, about page, contact page, at the end of your posts, sidebar, footer.

Test your subscription process. Subscribe to your own list! Opt in for your lead magnet. Send a test email to yourself. Stay subscribed. This will help you catch any glitches your list experiences.

Set up a Feedly account. Feedly allows you to follow RSS feeds in one spot (What is RSS?) . It will keep your information consumption organized. Subscribe to your own RSS feed. Subscribe to others in your niche.

Step seven to start a blog

7. Create a productivity schedule

Calculate the amount of time you have to spend on your business in a week. Do you work alone? What other responsibilities do you have? If you need help, read Tell Your Time. How many hours can you realistically devote to building this business? Don’t worry if it’s not a lot. In that case, just apply the formula below, put your head down and do what you can!

Make a weekly work schedule on your Google Calendar. Split your time 3 ways. Allot 60% to Make, 30% to Market and 10% to Manage. As you can see, at the beginning you’ll spend the majority of your time creating content. Once you’ve got content to promote, you’ll spend 30% of your time doing that. The rest of your time will be spent doing the administrative stuff (Manage). KEEP IT SIMPLE. There will be a thousand people saying you “should” do a thousand different things. Resist. High quality content is your key. At the beginning, you have one job: BUILD AN EXCELLENT PORTFOLIO OF CONTENT. Here’s how to create a schedule with Google Calendar.

Work the plan. If you do the above things on repeat, you’ll eventually start to see progress. It will take a while. As your portfolio of content grows, these percentages will shift. Less time can be spent on content creation and more can be spent on building relationships and promotion. Also, these percentages are a rough estimate. Tweak as you go and find your own rhythm. Just work the plan.

Next

Affiliate Marketing: The Ultimate (Free) Guide

 

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