Setting realistic expectations...

29 0 10


I run a T-Shirt and Hoodie shop specialising in designer graphic, movie and tv (this isn't my niche) and my local football team.

I've been up and running properly for about 6 months, I took a break over X-Mas with a view to step away for a bit and re-focus after the family stuff was out the way - this thing is a time-sink and whilst I'm committed to it, didn't want to be at it every day over the festive period (plus I knew not much would happen anyway).

So... I've learnt soooooo much over this time, things I know now that I didnt' 3-4 months or even weeks ago, my expectations then were very high, expecting quick sales etc, but now I know that's not necesarily how it works and that building solid foundations, getting the basics and mechanics right is more important.

Store look is one thing, SEO etc are another and whilst I'd built a great looking website, I neglected the latter - thinking if I promoted enough on Twitter, FB, Instagram that the sales would come - well they don't, at least not like you want, and self promoting takes a LOT of time and energy!

My question is, and I suspect the answer will be along the lines of 3-5 years - how long does it really take to become established online, to feature more in searches through natural organic growth - I've gone from an average of 3-4 customers a day (some of those were probably me!) to 50-60, so I'm seeing that rise and it's encouraging - even if sales don't come instantly.

I had a mini-crash using an app the other day and it broke all the links to my variant images, I'm working through fixing these, but as you know - it's a very time consuming process.

I'll share some stats, especially as I know it helps newbies like myself 🙂

Since I launched I've had around 5,000 visitors and achieved £1.5k of sales - which for me is a big achievement - I went from spending 2-3 months wondering where my first sale would come from to now aiming for £10k of sales and really building good foundations.

And when I think about it, this was also done OFF PEAK - although T-Shirts are an all year product, there are still peaks and troughs and we didn't start until after summer last year - so I'm excited (and nervous) entering this years.

Any recommendations would be very welcome at this time, sales are a bit weird at the moment with the odd one here and there, but nothing consistent (very frustrating) so I am focusing more now on the technical / SEO side of things rather than spending so much time socially and designing (I've been very active in both areas).

Best wishes with all your ventures!

Paul @ Firelake

Replies 42 (42)
224 0 15

Hello Paul,

Grace from SEO Doctor here.

After reading your post, it's good to know you are finally focusing on the SEO side of things. To begin with, did you know that the first step to any successful SEO is On-site optimization? Checkout this app for your website optimization. It fully scans and detects your SEO errors; where you can fix them accordingly. What's more, it can be set to auto pilot and the App will do the work for you. Have fun with it.

Happy Selling!

SEO Doctor App (
New Member
5 0 0

Hi Paul, tha'ts a great post and good to see you are making some progress after putting the work in. I've just started and I'm looking where to concerntrate my efforts.  The learning curve is quite steep when you're first starting out and it can be quite dishartening when you have no traffic or sales.

29 0 10

I've actually used a few SEO apps (including SEO Doctor) and my site apparently doesn't have any issues - go me!

What I have focused on, is writing proper descriptions on key products and collection pages, rather than using a generic `amazing t-shirt 100% cotton blah blah blah` message - this seems to have had a good impact on organic traffic (unsurprisingly) but I'm seeing very few cart adds right now.

I know it's not summer, but weather is warming up, holidays are approaching so we're entering key planning time and should start to see an increase soon / now - I'd like to understand what my customers are doing on site more and how I can get them through to the checkout more often.

Having sold a fair few tees, I know the designs and quality of product are liked and receive amazing feedback from people that have bought, so I'm struggling a bit to understand why conversion are so low right now - although there seems to have been a few threads on this lately (I hope it's not Shopify related - i.e. somethings broken, people like to tweak, try more apps, pay for more apps etc).

I run with the basic and most functional, I don't pay extra for apps on top because my business just isn't established enough yet - guess I can just keep plugging away and generating awareness / build the brand 🙂

I did try ads by Varinode and found it irrelevent, although I've removed it - I can still see its name popping up in the progress bar - is this hijacking my traffic? (edit - found the little bugger in my theme.liquid still pulling a snippet to link to their site - I hate this kind of crap with apps! if it doesn't uninstall properly, then it shouldn't be on the appstore)

22 0 2

Great progress so far dude. Love to keep track with how you go in the next 2-3 months.

SEO is crucial for sustainable long term results.

Prime Jewelry @ | Digital Marketing Consultant @
29 0 10

I installed a little app yesterday called `Cart Activity` - this thing is a godsend in terms of seeing what people are doing on the site cart wise...

Last night I watched 4 people add items to cart and then not complete check-out - I have no idea why, one of them even came back later, added the same item and then dropped out again...

Shopify should provide some basic level of visibility of what your customers do in store, without having to pay $10-$20+ on top - if I openened a retail store, I would visibily be able to see what my customers were doing - it feels like Shopify deliberately leave you blind to get you to buy apps?

I know that more expensive packages may allow more reporting etc but I don't know if they let you see what people are doing in real time? Although I suspect I can do a lot of this with Google Analytics (that takes time to learn), I think you really need to look at the graveyard of dead stores that people with less tenacity have given up on, as missed opportunities and failed customers - there's a lot of people that get sucked into the whole `ecommerce is easy` thing and setup stores daily (Shopify must see a LOT of these open/close).

There's nothing worse than staring at your store page and not knowing if someone is `in your shop` or `what they're doing` and therefore I would advise people to try the above app so you can at least see when customers are adding to cart.

I doubt I'll be paying monthly for it, it doesn't have enough features and I suspect I can get similar results with GA - but it gives you some confidence that people are actually considering purchasing from you, especially when you're staring at a £0 sales figure for the day 🙂

I guess for me the most frustrating thing with this, and something to learn the best way to handle, is that with 15+ years of retail high street sales and management experience - I know each of those 4 people that `walked around my store` with goods in their hands, wouldn't have left empty handed - there would have been engagement from myself/staff and the sales would have been closed.

Unless you force people to create an account before adding items to cards (nobody wants to do that) you have no way to re-capture those lost opportunities - unless there's an app I haven't seen? (I have Tidio / Messenger etc installed, although I don't think these are very intuitive - again unless you pay for Tidio, you can't specifiy when you're `open` and customers get a `we're not here right now message` when you are)

GA also seems handy in showing you people that made it to cart, but again, there's no way to capture their detaisl to re-establish contact...

188 0 31

Hi Paul,

My recommendation is - AUTOMATE anything you can. So it keeps running without you.

Social Media is one such area, takes up a lot of time and brain cells if you do it on your own. Try this tool called OrangeTwig.

It automates your social media marketing for you i.e Designs your social media posts and posts them across all the social media channels for you. Thus, your brand stays kicking and alive, and visible to your fans and followers without any effort from you.

It's cheap at $10/mo approx. Start with a free trial.

How OrangeTwig helps:

  • First off, it covers all social media channels - Twitter, Fb, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr.

  • Next, it lets you set a posting schedule, like 2 posts daily across all channels for a month.

  • What's unique is - It places your products in designs you choose to make your social media posts eye-catching.

  • Messaging - You can add CTAs like "Buy Now" and "Shop Till You Drop" to your social media posts to drive conversions.

  • It helps you create occasion based posts, like for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day etc

  • It helps you schedule and push sales, and Daily Deals like 5% Off on a different product daily. Shopify itself does not allow you to do this.

  • If you do not want to offer sales, it helps you make and schedule engagement posts like "Tag a Friend Who'll Rock This Dress <insert dress image>", and "Quote of the Day".

Make posts like this for your store:

Try it for FREE now: OrangeTwig.

Karan Jassar
Make great ads for Free.
See demo with your store:
Learn about ads here:
29 0 10

Thanks for the sales pitch, however, I'm well versed in social media automation... Instagress / Tweetfull / Tweepi / PinPinterest / Crowdfire.

For anyone else reading this, here's a big tip - avoid automating followers, you'll end up with hundreds / thousands of people that `follow` you but don't give a damn - even if you target their / your market.

Social media is like junkmail through your door now, unless you connect very specifically to people, there's only one place you're going to end up and it aint at the checkout 🙂

Part of me still thinks, farm 10's of thousands of followers, based on people that like our type of product, the more stones you throw the more chance you have of hitting, right? but then I can also tell you that ONE very targetted post in the right place will drive more quality traffic than 10,000 people you followed / unfollowed in the hope that one day they will buy and you'll end up staring at your social media account wishing you could ditch the majority of those accounts and SEE who actually cares about you / your brand 🙂

188 0 31

Hi Paul,

To clarify: OrangeTwig does not add followers. It keeps the one already following you engaged.

What people do is go about acqusition but forget to show their products to people who already like their brand. So it is a good idea to keep showing them your products, and giving them offers (free shipping or discount).

One guy had asked in another thread - Shall I buy traffic?
The ans was obviously NO, because that traffic is useless, it will never convert. Just like you seem to be saying.

Same thing here. Don't add followers by way of automation for the heck of it; don't know how that is possible even. But keep people following you engaged and involved.

I'll check out the app names you shared.


Karan Jassar
Make great ads for Free.
See demo with your store:
Learn about ads here:
29 0 10


Sorry I wasn't suggesting that's what you were implying - it was just some general advice 🙂

The other apps all do various things, from automating post content (very useful as you can spend 30 minutes creating 2-3 days worth of posts across various platforms).

Automating followers works by mass following / unfollowing - but with those apps you can be more specific about the markets / interests you follow - again - you may pick up 1-2 sales from that, but more likely you'll end up with an account full of 1000's of others that do exactly the same thing - or - just aren't engaged with you - throwing content at them continuously afterwards as well to try and engage them, is a turn off and comes across as junk.

I've worked in retail and sales for a long time and know that service wins over pushy sales tactics, it's just harder to build that online.  You need people to find your product and then sell them on your service, not shove it in their face and push them to buy 🙂

I'll have another look at your app later incase I missed some features, but I'm closer to giving up trying to engage people on platforms such as Twitter & Instagram and will just use them to post regular updates / new designs to build awareness "oh I've seen that company posting on twitter", in favour of going old school and spending my time in online communtities / forums related to the designs I do - it's a lot more painful and time consuming to do this, but at the same time, applying a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing doesn't work either 🙂

Don't get me wrong, I've made most of my sales from Twitter actually, but it hasn't been through `engaging` with people individually, its been about raising brand awareness and having people see your name / product often (which is what your app appears to do)

P.S. I'm a marketing newbie, it was never my strength or role that I performed in any of my `jobs` so it's a real learning curve and definately the HARDEST part about running your own business.

@orangetwig - one question - can you literally leave the app to it - can I tell it to promote (with a pre-defined message) any of my products (it picks them from my product range randomly) on a given interval (say hourly) and leave it to it? if it does, then I'm sold - if it doesn't, then you need to make this happen 🙂

188 0 31

Hi Paul,

Thanks for checking out the app 🙂  OrangeTwig.

To your question:
"can you literally leave the app to it - can I tell it to promote (with a pre-defined message) any of my products (it picks them from my product range randomly) on a given interval (say hourly) and leave it to it?"

The answer is: YES. OrangeTwig has a tool called Autopilot that takes the shortest number of steps/ clicks on the seller's part.

Breaking it down:

  • Can you leave the app to it - Yes
  • With a predefined message - yes, and OrangeTwig adds a link leading to your store, on its own
  • Any of my products - The app picks all the products automatically from your shop. You can choose to exclude or include certain ones.
  • Given interval - yes

And I'd like to add - OrangeTwig posts across all of these social channels: Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr for you, with top performing hashtags (if you make hashtag lists).

This is what the Autopilot tool looks like. I would love to hear your feedback, good or bad. Try it for free. Visit OrangeTwig

With Easter a week away, and Mother's Day coming up you could explore OrangeTwig's design templates for these occasions.

All the best!

Karan Jassar
Make great ads for Free.
See demo with your store:
Learn about ads here:
29 0 10

Ah looks like I used my `free trial` installing it before to have a look (although never posted anything)

Shopify Partner
98 0 12

Everyone and their apps...

Simply put social media is social, every one is trying to automate it, but what actually works is building an organic following, growing it and selling directly to your followers who have become friends and ambassadors. They all know when your engagement is automatic.

I've built up a few Instagram accounts such as and . It's fairly easy, but time consuming to do, but people on Instagram are extremely tuned in to their own niches and they love products that satisfy their niches.

If all you're looking for is successful social marketing at reasonable prices I build up organic followers for between $600-1500.

You can have a look at more of my work at

Scott Luscombe

Creatibly Inc. Brains Matter. | | 905-550-5023
New Member
1 0 1

For me, it took a solid year before my SEO was getting reasonable and I started getting more sales. I think the automation of store management and fulfillment is important since I personally find those pieces the most tedious. If you can get rid of the tedious parts, the rest will feel fun.

I debated whether it was worth the effort to keep the store going, since the profits still aren't great, but in the end, I decided that I would double down and open a second store with different products. We'll see if the strategy pays off. 

I started with and I just launched 

The other thing that I've done is that I focused on higher end products so that I don't have to sell as many to make it work. It seems to take just as much effort to fulfill a $20 order as it does to fulfill a $5000 order. 






8 0 9

Hi Paul,

I think expectations really vary depending on your product and market. I started my store just over 3 months ago and like you I was worried about how I was going to get my first sales to strangers. But the first sale came within a day or two. In that first month I was super excited to get one order a day and now 3 months on if I don't get at least 2 or 3 per day I am unhappy. I certainly don't feel like I have made it yet but things are tracking along pretty well and I figure I must be doing something right.

I haven't used any fancy apps or paid any SEO experts to build my store - just stuck to the basics and have done everything myself.  I read all of these Shopify forum posts - there is a lot of useful advice in them but you do have to do some deciphering of the useful stuff from the not so. I read everything actually - even the stuff that I initially don't think will be relevant as you just never know what little tip you can pick up in the strangest place.

I have focused on Social Media content (for me its instagram mostly and I post 2x a day without fail). Early on I did a lot of manual grunt work to get followers. It is hard when you don't have a lot of followers as people see that you are new but I kept at it and am now approaching 1000 real followers (I often get 100+ likes per post so I figure 10% engagement is pretty good). I ran some competitions early on to get extra followers too and will probably do some more soon to give it an extra kick. I am also collaborating with similar companies that don't directly compete with me - we have similar customers but sell different products so it is a win/win for both of us.

I also sent my product to some influencers - I tried the more aggressive approach of just sending them product and not emailing first. This was risky in that you could waste time and money. In my case I have sent out to about 20 people and at least 3 people picked it up and posted on IG so I think it was worth it.

I have done some paid advertising on IG (relatively modest amounts) and have they have been great - have certainly seen payback for the relatively small amounts I have put in.

The other aspect I focus on is customer service - I get a lot of feedback from customers about this. These are little things but they are important to me and I think they can be a huge help to a business in the beginning.

Not sure if this is helpful but if you have a good product and do the basics right it certainly is possible to make a successful store.

Good luck!




12 0 10

Hi Paul,

I've run an e-commerce fashion business for 6 years. I'm not trying to sell you anything; here's my take:

  • It takes time. 3-5 years is realistic. If you make a lot of good choices.
  • You already know stuff. Trust yourself over everyone.
  • There are no magic beans that work. Trust me I've tried them all.
  • Consumers don't sit at home Googling keywords very much - It's 2017 they have peers, they trust their friends, they have a life.
  • Social media has to be social- like really, really, really social. Yes, it's time consuming. Treat it as an invitation into your wonderful world. Learn to enjoy it.
  • Automated Sch-mortomate.
  • People are more inspired by your mission than your product.
  • Post emotionally not logically and you will see results. Make people feel.
  • Consider removing a large amout of your inventory from you website and adding product one or two pieces at a time monthly or fortnightly. A new story is enticing.
  • You'll get a lot out of reading "Business For Punks" by James Watt- co Founder of Brewdog.

I checked out your Instagram and it's 90% product shots. Mix it up to 70% lifestyle/ 30% product shots. Show us what you do,  what you drink, where you eat, how you roll, who rolls with you. Inspire us, motivate us, make up quotes that we can't help sharing. Ultimately the goal is to get everyone else taking about Firelake.

Be braver. Good luck.


IG: @ageofreasonstudios





Shopify Partner
19 0 3

Hi Paul 

Here's my two cents (10 yrs established online with a busy .ie website and IOS app and and .com under development). 

Your problem is not technical, seo, social etc. It's your product range imo. 

The first thing that struck me was it's almost exclusively male focused. As far as I could see anyway - you'll probably correct me. 

Second thing is it feels slightly confused - you're pushing your own brand with Firelake and you're pushing slogan type tees. Feels a bit off to me. Attempting to build a new clothing brand and convince people to go around with your logo in their  clothes is optimistic imo. 

You don't appear to have that many different designs either. So if the "Firelake" designs don't appeal, there's not a huge range of slogan/movie/humour designs to actually choose from. 

So to answer your question, I think you're a couple of years away minimum from gaining some traction and you need to focus on your product range. That's ALWAYS where you'll win. 

From your posts, you sound incredibly clued in and on the ball (way more than me) so I've every confidence you'll get there in time. 

Best wishes


12 0 10

I'd have to say Patrick is right about the branded tees. Give people things they already love and recognise with a new twist- But save logos for logos sake until you're 15 years in and your following is so loyal they can't get enough of the brand. I have a loyal following- but still not enough to assume cusomters would wear my logo. I'm not Stella McCartney - yet. 😉


New Member
3 0 0

Hi Nicole and Paul (oringinator of the post). 

If you both don't mind, I could really do with some help with my brand and website, as I don't get a lot of traffic to the site at all. I've spent a lot of money in building the brand with professional photo shoots, videos and of course designing, etc but I am struggling to gain visitor to the site and sell to those "outside" of my network, I.e. Friend and family.  It would certainly be nice to have at least one person whom I don't know to buy one of my products. 

Is there any opportunities for me to make contact with either of you directly for help and assistance as I could really do with the help, please?

Thank you in advance

Paul Saleh | | 


29 0 10


Amazing replies and taking it all in - I have varying reasons and logic behind things which I'll cover briefly (in my usual long-winded way no doubt!) 🙂

The range is / was predominently male oriented, because I figured rather than try to conquer the world and compete with types of womens clothing that can't provide (bare shoulder etc) there are enough men in the world to sell to first.

I also started with a more 50/50 male/female range (defined more by colour choices than styles) but found the womens side gained less interest (reasons above) and so wound things back to focus on the guys first and build a base to expand from - after all, I'm a guy and I know guys better than I know what women want from their clothing.

However, all of our tees are now available in womens fit (just pick from the dropdown) and these come on fitted t-shirts made for women - NOT unisex tees - I'd like to throw in more styles, hoop necks / deep v-necks etc but managing so many variants is a BIG job.

So we do have something there at least now and I guess at the end of the day, people buying graphic / speciality t-shirts, don't expect to have them in too many different styles (cold shoulder) - it's just whether we aim to be a graphic tee store (and hoodies) or a `fashion label` (probably the former).

Most (all) of the product images are on a mens / unisex shirt and do not say `Hey, this is available in ladies too!` - it's something on my to do list, and the option is there, but figured I need to build a base first without trying to conquer multiple markets at the same time and that's a whole lot of product images that need creating too - but I appreciate and understand the `can't see it / why would I buy it` mentality.

Re the branding, I've actually found people have brought into the `Firelake` tees more from a design aesthetic than branding - you're right in that I'm not Gucci, Armani, Stella or even Ugmonk - but I personally wouldn't buy a t-shirt from any of those just for the sake of a name, it has to be the design and quality, I think a lot more people are like that these days.

That's something I've moved away from and a lot of the `Firelake` tees were designed in the early days - I recognise that a lot of people just don't want a brand (any) slapped across their chest, but I think in comparison to some retailers, we actually have as many if not more graphic design tees and I'm weary of flooding the site with too many - but a review is definately on the cards soon, to tighten the range, get rid of the older ones etc.

But all in good time, I believe it will take 3-5 years to get moving, for me it's been 6 months and a fast learning curve.  The advantage I have is that I understand business and retail in general, my weaknesses have been in SEO and handling `faceless` customers in a different way.

I have a group of loyal customers however, 6-7 multiple purchases each, not even friends or family, so this gives me faith in my products and service 🙂

No mater how big or small the brand grows, it will always replicate me, my ideas and my commitment those investing in their clothing.

#phew 😄 (I'm taking a break to watch a movie now, but feel free to reply / msg me etc)

Hope this is all usefull for people starting out 🙂

Founder/Designer/Tea Boy/Cleaner of Firelake Clothing Co.