We’ve met a few website builders but this one’s a first.
Founded by Michael Dragich, ShopaFree is a Shopify Experts store setup service that offers all its services to Shopify store owners for free. That’s right!
We spoke to Michael and he shared some interesting insights about new store setups and gave useful advice for Shopify store owners.
He also spoke about Shopafree’s unique business model and how they pull it off.
Let’s see what he has to say!
1. How did you start ShopaFree? What inspired you to help out Shopify store owners for free?
Having worked with WordPress for years, and seeing the success of SaaS startups like HelloBar and HappyTables, created rapidly with WP, I began outlines for a series of SaaS’s, where clients would have their site designed and set up for free.
All they had to do was pay for the hosting and software service. Each would focus on a separate market, and there would be one referral SaaS linking all the others, with multi-tiered incentives that empowered a virtual salesforce via ongoing revenue share commissions for every merchant on each platform.
The more merchants they signed up, the higher the monthly commission would be. Around that time, a few clients had requested assistance with Shopify.
To be blunt, it seemed wasteful to me. I thought the idea of an expensive dedicated hosting solution for eCommerce wasn’t worth the money and found it strange that merchants were attracted to the model at all, especially considering additional monthly app costs (the drug app-diction model 🙂
Then I began to understand what they truly wanted and were willing to pay for – simplicity, less stress, great support.
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” ~ Einstein
While investigating Shopify further, I learned that they offered an ongoing commission of 20% for partners that bring new merchants on to the platform. This entirely supplanted my longer-term goals with WordPress.
Shopify had the infrastructure, 24/7 support, and an ongoing rev share partner model. It was like finding a shortcut. Shopify was my bag of magic beans.
Sure, there are caveats, such as not controlling the company that controls the commissions, and essentially being subject to the whims of the mother-shop, but the trade-off of time and effort for risk seemed worth it to me.
So I set about becoming a Shopify Partner and then qualifying as a vetted Shopify Expert. Thus the beanstalk grew and ShopaFree was born 🙂
2. How are your services different from the other agencies that charge a fee for setting up a Shopify store?
Most digital and interactive agencies move through a series of time-consuming, detail entangled, red tape webs when it comes to clients.
This includes multiple iterations of discovery, wireframes, information architecture (IA), user experience (UX), design, and revision cycles.
In my work as a freelance creative director with the boutique to mid-level New York and California agencies, I found that these superfluous “dog and pony” show deliverables alongside arduous and extended communication cycles, were the primary bottleneck of both cost and delivery.
They also seemed to exist for no other reason than to justify the bloated salaries of project managers and middle management in general. “What would you say it is you do here?”
Search your .store domain NOW!
“The best part is no part, the best process is no process. The thing I’m most impressed with when I have design meetings at SpaceX is, ‘What did you undesign?’ Undesigning is the best thing. Just delete it, that’s the best thing.” ~ Elon Musk
Removing the barriers of an outdated design and development process, in conjunction with increasing the speed and efficiency of the client communication cycle has revealed a somewhat counterintuitive but nonetheless disruptive business model.
Essentially we consult, design, code, build and train via interactive 2-3 hour screen share sessions.
Currently, our free session is 90 mins with an option to purchase 90 more for $420 (same day only).
There are three simple requirements to book the session, theme selection, 2-3 inspirational sites you like the look and feel of, and a Google Drive with whatever creative assets you have (logos, imagery, brand guidelines, fonts, content, etc).
3. What are your most popular services among Shopify store owners?
For sure the most popular service we provide would be our Free Shopify Setup and Design. Although our monthly subscription support service for Shopify design and development called Tweǝkly is ramping up nicely since the soft launch earlier this year.
4. What’s the thought behind a $14000 fee to skip the waiting line to avail of your services?
EDITOR’S NOTE: the 14k is changing on the site soon to $27k and involves more than just skipping the queue 🙂
Some folks have more time than money. Some have more money than time. We have options for both 🙂 At the moment our primary paid option is for $27k and is as follows:
- The site is complete in 2-3 weeks via 3-7 sessions.
- Design, development, setup, and training are all done during the sessions.
- Complex code customizations and other tedious tasks take place between calls.
Sessions cover the following deliverables and can be altered as needed:
- Discovery: Establish goals. Select theme. Review assets and app needs.
- 1st Build: Wireframing & Information Architecture (IA) a.k.a. Menus.
- 2nd Build: Content population and User Experience (UX).
- Reveal Review of the completed design.
- Revisions: Design and content refinement.
- Training: Overview of the Shopify admin.
- Wrap: Final tweǝks & celebratory drinks (BYOB 🍺 )
- 90 days of free support for small tweǝks.
Current pricing can be referenced on our Shopify Experts Profile.
5. What is that one piece of advice you’d like to give Shopify store owners?
Keep going. Too often folks befriend fear in the Valley of Despair (or Kubler Ross change curve) and get stuck in the cycle of quitting just before the gears click into place and tangible progress is made.
ShopaFree was not profitable until our third year. Even then, it was just a “finally paying the bills” level of profit. I sold each of my three rental properties every year for three years, betting everything I had, time, money, effort, hope, all of it to make this a success.
In the eleventh hour of the third year, when I was out of money and resources, it finally started to work. So when I see merchants quit because they didn’t make any money for the first few months, I just kinda chuckle at what they consider to be trying.
Read Elon Musk’s biography by Ashlee Vance. Did you try that hard? No? Then you can try harder.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Edison
6. What do the next 5 years look like for ShopaFree?
Theme development. Scaling. Exit. ShopaFree is just one stepping stone in a much longer journey.
I started incredibly late too, at 40. I am 44 now, and for the most part, still remain a juggernaut of lethargy with constant concentration issu… Squirrel!
If I have the option of working or napping, a nap wins almost every single time. So what little time I do dedicate to work, I try to use to build automated systems that can run just as well whether I’m there running them or whether I’m watching Rick & Morty reruns. Get Schwifty.