How to Grow your Freelance Business with Shopify

Ben Crudo set up Ben Crudo Consulting Inc. in 2011. Within six months of starting his business, he already had the momentum to create enough work for a small team and was able to take on three full­time members. He’s now looking for a fourth.

Their speed of growth is impressive, so it might surprise you to learn that a massive ninety per cent ($100,000­ – 150,000 worth of sales) of their business comes via just one source: Shopify. Fifty per cent of this comes directly from his business being listed on the Shopify’s Experts directory.

This success isn’t down to chance or luck, and Ben’s experience with Shopify is by no means unique.

We spoke to Ben to find out how he’s made Shopify’s Experts programme work for him, and how it can work for other businesses too.

Shopify: A powerful designer friendly hosted ecommerce platform

The Shopify website

How Ben grew his Business: Starting Out

The retail industry is in Ben’s blood. He was brought up around his family’s retail business, and as a young adult he worked in the family company full­time for six years, starting from the bottom and working his way up to the top. It gave him a rich understanding of how retail businesses work, from managing the warehouse, through to the administrative system, and purchasing and reporting systems.

He knows just what it takes to run a retail company, and more importantly, he understands what they need from an ecommerce platform in order to run their business effectively .

Combining this knowledge with his passion for information systems and computing programming, Ben was naturally led to pursue an education in software engineering, so he enrolled at Concordia University. Through this he began consulting jobs related to ecommerce.

Ben learned about Shopify while he was researching ecommerce platforms for one of his customers. He was looking for a platform that was easy for the customer to use on a daily basis, and it needed to be just as easy for Ben to customise it for them. Shopify more than fitted the bill.

Ben Crudo designed Shopify Store

An example of one of Ben’s fashion orientated Shopify stores

Why Shopify?

Elegant Design

Ben was impressed with the design of the platform’s templating system. He says: “It’s one of the most elegant I’ve ever seen. It seems simple, but it’s extensible enough that if you have major needs you can add them on, and get all the extra bells and whistles.’

No Limitations

An online store is one of the most crucial elements of a retail company; it must represent the company and paramount to this is the look and feel of the store. A good ecommerce platform understands this and must provide customers with the ability to make the shop look and feel any way they need.

One of the reasons Ben works on the Shopify platform is because it doesn’t restrict his ability to make a shop anything it needs to be.

Fully Customizable

The platform can be fully customized on the front­ and back­end, meaning that not only can the store look the way it needs to, but the client can have the way it works completely customized and tailored to their needs.

Affordable

The platform is very affordable, making it more appealing to clients, which means there is no shortage of potential clients for designers and developers who work on the platform.

Adding Value

Shopify allows Ben to spend his time adding perceived value to the platform instead of simply administering it.

Ease of Use

“It’s a breeze to work with.’ Says Ben. “Other template ­based systems we’ve used in the past have been significantly more complicated to use.”

Streamlined Workflow

Using Shopify has allowed Ben’s company to focus on one platform that does it all, without needing to work with multiple ecommerce systems. He says, “Shopify has created the platform I’m standing on. Ultimately it has enabled me to build my business.”

Bamboletta Shopify powered store by Ben Crudo Consulting

Bamboletta Shopify powered store by Ben Crudo Consulting

How has the Experts Programme helped win Business?

Shopify’s Experts programme currently has over 500 members and is still growing. In the past eighteen months alone, the programme generated an impressive $18m USD worth of contracts.

Ben Crudo Consulting Inc. has been a member of the programme since it began in November 2011. By February 2012 he was already able to take on a full­time staff member. Now, around fifty per cent of their Shopify work comes via the Experts programme alone.

Currently, their work via the programme is approximately eight per cent theme customization, fifteen per cent app building, and five per cent setup.

There is no doubt that being part of the Experts programme has played a substantial role in the growth of the business.

Prior to being listed on the Experts directory, Ben was sourcing work by utilizing his connections and knocking on doors – a process that, as many of us know from experience, can be very time­ consuming.

Now, finding business is much easier, and Ben contributes this success to these advantages of the Experts programme:

Networking

Ben has found that being an expert has helped his business tremendously by allowing them to connect with people who are already on the platform and need to get more from it.

Reviews

The Experts programme has enabled them to take on a lot of smaller jobs, which would have been much harder to find otherwise. Having the review system in place has also helped them to bolster their reputation as reliable and experienced Shopify developers.

Portfolio

The Experts programme is essential for capturing the attention of potential clients. Ben attributes this for getting him to where he is now by providing a steady stream of work. “It has been a wonderful way to share my portfolio and experiences via reviews,” he says.

Time­ Saving

Not having to spend as much time seeking out work frees you up to focus on bigger projects in order to keep growing your business.

How the Experts programme can Work for You: Top Tips

Shopify are always looking for Experts to join the programme. Ben’s experience is by no means unusual and many other people have had similar experiences and successes.

So how can you make this work for you? Ben suggests the following:

Strong Portfolio

“Don’t underestimate a strong portfolio. This can be a struggle when you’re just starting out, so if you don’t have any projects under your belt already, create a demo store and a custom theme with some design concepts in order to demonstrate that you understand the solution, and that you know how to make things look good. There is a huge knowledge gap between Shopify experts and the end user, so having work to show them that you know ecommerce and can provide a solution is essential.”

Reviews

“Reviews are extremely helpful – everyone reads and looks through them. At the beginning you will most likely have to fight for work, but after you’ve received around 40 reviews, things really start to flow and you will have clients knocking on your door rather than the other way around.”

Get higher up the Directory List

“Being higher up the list is definitely beneficial for finding work. Providing excellent customer service and going beyond the base offering, and doing custom builds and tailoring sites specific to customers’ needs will always help to improve your position in the Experts directory.”

Never worked on the Shopify platform Before? Don’t Worry!

If you haven’t worked on the Shopify platform before, you might be put off by the thought of needing to learn something new – actually, all you really need to work with Shopify is a knowledge of HTML, CSS, and Javascript, and the technical barriers to working on the platform are very low. Shopify have produced a whole series of short screencasts tailored for newbies on their Shopify for Designers page.

As testament to this, Ben learned Liquid (the designer friendly templating language used by the platform) on the job working on his first contract!

Ben enthuses that it’s one of the easiest platforms on which to learn Liquid, and it’s so elegant that it makes it very obvious how to implement and customize it. “It seems like a simple language,” he says, “yet it can provide some very complex front­end logic.”

What’s next for Ben Crudo Consulting Inc?

Ben Crudo Consulting Inc have positioned themselves well and are extremely strong technical partners on Shopify. Going forward they will work on crafting more general solutions that are independent of the consulting business and will continue to work within all areas of the Shopify platform.

They have custom themes already in the apps market and will remain in consulting. With such a strong start, Ben Consulting Inc looks set to continue its growth and success.

What’s Next for You?

If you work on the Shopify platform already and have a good knowledge of how it works, you’ll most certainly be eligible for joining the Experts programme.

Not used Shopify before? Don’t sweat: it’s extremely intuitive to use and as long as you have a working knowledge of HTML, CSS and Javascript, you’ll most likely be eligible for the Experts programme in only a short space of time.

Shopify are in need of more experts, whether you’re a designer, developer, setup expert, marketer, or photographer; and with over 65,000 online stores, and around 2,500 to 3,000 new stores popping up each month, opportunities are plentiful.

If you think this is for you, you can apply to be a Shopify Expert.