From September 2016 to December 2017, I spent 14 months running Growth Spark from the back of my Harley Davidson Superglide. My girlfriend, Sarah, and I took off on a cross-country tour -- working the whole time but living a “digital nomad” life. We went from one Airbnb to the next as we traveled our way across the country and back.
If I did it, so can you. The tools are there. And Shopify is making it happen for e-commerce entrepreneurs across the world.
When we eventually came back home, the things I learned on the road about how to manage my business remotely made my work back here even better. More fun. More effective. I’m still working just as hard, but it feels more efficient and I’m making the most of my time.
Growth Spark now has a remote staff of seven full-time employees along with a handful of contractors. Everyone can set their own schedule, and we meet up once a week at a coworking space in Boston to touch base and build personal connections.
Sure, there are challenges. But we’re tackling them as we go. We make sure that every virtual meeting includes time for personal “water cooler” talk. We’re real people, and everything is better when we can connect on that level. We use video conferencing for our calls whenever possible, Slack for a sense of real-time interaction, and play online games together. Shared calendars and clear policies and expectations for communications all help us feel comfortable and connected as a distributed, remote team.
The best part is: we all love what we do, we love that we can do it in a way that fits our individual lifestyles, and that we get to work together with other talented, hard-working professionals.
Shopify is making this kind of business possible for e-commerce companies, too. A lot of our clients work from their homes and contract out their logistics, content creation, and even their product design to remote employees or third-party businesses.
Building a Remote E-Commerce Business with Shopify
Back in the day when brick-and-mortar shops were the only option, the traditional constraints of having to touch product every day held many companies back from building a distributed organization capable of significant growth.
Today, e-commerce entrepreneurs from Cape Cod to Cambodia are using online technologies including Shopify to manage their businesses remotely and grow without the cost and resource-heavy needs of the past. That mental image of a sole entrepreneur on a beach with only a laptop and a drink in-hand is real, and it’s happening everywhere.
Shopify merchants are able to outsource significant aspects of their businesses, including customer service, marketing, and fulfillment. The benefits of these opportunities - whether you choose to work from the road or simply the comfort of your own home - are significant both for business growth and personal lifestyle.
- No Physical Location Required: Shopify merchants need nothing more than an internet connection to build and manage their businesses. They aren’t tied into long-term leases for office or showroom space that could constrain future growth and impact flexibility - not to mention saving the costs of rent.
- Lower Fixed Costs: The fixed costs of a Shopify business are significantly lower than a traditional location-based business. Aside from the cost of a website, start-up costs are minimal.
- Global Customer Base: With an online shop, anyone, anywhere can buy your products.
- Flexible Staffing: While many businesses will still retain core, in-house skill-sets like branding and product design, even these roles can be managed remotely. Other roles can easily be outsourced to third-party providers, saving your business the cost and time of hiring and managing in-house staff; letting you choose from a larger, global pool of skilled talent; and giving you the ability to manage your organization in a more flexible way without being tied to a warehouse or manufacturing center.
- Economies of Scale: If you’ve ever taken a business class, you probably have the same fond, familiar feeling about this phrase as I do. Get bigger, save more. Sounds awesome. But small e-commerce companies just starting out don’t have access to economies of scale… unless they outsource to a larger logistics or fulfillment company. As long as you have the cash on-hand to consider outsourcing, you can benefit from storing, packing and shipping your orders with a third-party business that specializes in doing just that.
- Focus on Your Expertise: When you let someone else take care of logistics or content, you can focus on your unique strengths that will have a greater impact on your bottom line.
If you’re thinking about outsourcing your Shopify site design and development, let us help. We’ll even share some of our tips and tricks for building a remote business. *wink*