This guest post is written by Patrick Fostera seasoned ecommerce expert with several years of experience under his belt. Today he shares his hard-won knowledge on Ecommerce Tips, a leading blog that looks at every aspect of running an ecommerce business. From marketing to web design, Patrick has you covered. Find the latest posts on Twitter @myecommercetips.

The life of an ecommerce entrepreneur isn’t an easy one. Growing your business from the ground up can be challenging, especially in such a competitive market. But it’s not impossible. With determination and hard work, you can achieve ecommerce success. And of course, it doesn’t hurt to know a few handy tips from someone who’s been there and done that either…

Stay on top of your finances with simple money management

Most Shopify entrepreneurs didn’t go to business school. They’re just everyday people with ambition and passion, so they might not have the financial savvy necessary to stay on top of their business.

Luckily, Shopify makes it easy for you to manage the incoming and outgoings of your ecommerce business. Shopify Payments lets you accept payments from most major banks, and there’s no hidden costs to sting you when you least expect.

And if you find the labyrinthine world of taxes confusing, you can rest easy. Shopify calculates state and country-specific taxes automatically, saving you considerable time and effort.

If you do need some extra money help — download some finance apps and speak to a business advisor. Ecommerce can be a complex financial undertaking, so spend time getting to grips with key metrics like cost of sale, profit margins, break-even etc.

Use the in-built data dashboards to help you find out exactly how much your business is bringing in, and invest more time and money into the kinds of customers who spend with you on a regular basis. Repeat business and long-term customers are essential for a financially sound business.

Take advantage of free and effective CRMs

Staying on top of your customer base should be a top priority when it comes to building your ecommerce brand. Shopify knows the importance of customer relationships, so they make it easy for you to do so. (Thank God).

You might have already heard of Kit, a virtual assistant who helps you increase sales and fine-tune your marketing efforts. But the ecommerce store builder took their CRM capabilities further with the introduction of Shopify Ping earlier this year.

Ping is an all-in-one app that consolidates every messaging channel into one place: Facebook, ChatKit, and more are all readily available to use, saving you time switching between them. And because it integrates with Kit, Ping streamlines all your marketing efforts for easy administration.

Building a brand is all about building relationships, so get chatting and get down with Shopify’s CRM offering to help you scale your business.

Get custom with your Shopify design

Shopify has a wide range of great templates in their Theme Store, with designs to suit every niche. And they integrate with a number of third-party theme marketplaces too, so Shopify users have a huge variety of templates at their disposal.

But for those entrepreneurs who want only the most unique theme for their online store, Shopify lets you submit your own custom designs too. Keep it for yourself or share the love on the Theme Store — it’s up to you.

But if you do choose the latter, it’s a strong way to create a reliable extra revenue source on the side too. Plus, it works great as a marketing tactic to spread the word about your growing business empire.

Either way, a custom store design allows you to have a more unique and fresh aesthetic, and will keep you from looking like any other cookiecutter store out there. When it comes to brand building, being unique is essential, and having a custom theme will allow you to assert your personality.

Invest in a helping hand — but choose wisely

No matter how determined you are, you won’t be able to grow your online store without a little extra help. I’m talking about the plugins and widgets available in Shopify’s App Store. With thousands available and more being added all the time all the time, there are plenty of apps for you to grow your store with.

It has the standard essentials that every entrepreneur needs — email automation, abandoned cart solutions — as well as some useful extras too. For example, LoyaltyLion is a handy app that gives shoppers points in return for email signups, product reviews, and more. It’s a great way to gather social proof and build email lists in a natural, organic way.

If you’re building your store from the ground up, these apps give you a perfect head-start into the industry. But they’re also super useful for turning around pre-made businesses —  pick up an existing 5 figure store and really ramp it up to six figures within a year just by choosing few select apps to grow your business.

But with so much app choice at your fingertips, it can be easy to splash out and get anything and everything. So be discerning: identify goals for your business and do your research to find the app that achieves them.

Go seasonal with your selling

The huge profits (and crazy queues) of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (or BCFM to those in the know) aren’t just for brick-and-mortar stores. Ecommerce businesses too can get in on the hype and take advantage of the seasonal spikes in sales.

And it’s not just shopping events like these that your new ecommerce enterprise can benefit from. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July are just a few of the seasonal events that your business can take advantage of for special promotional sales.

But to do this right, you’ll need to prepare well in advance. Create strong, relevant campaigns in the lead-up to the event and spread them across your social, email, and PPC marketing. Create seasonal discount codes to lure customers to your store — you could even create a seasonal competition for a free voucher.

Let Shopify help you grow

Perhaps the best thing about Shopify is that it pushes its entrepreneurs to succeed. Newcomers to the world of online selling can learn a huge deal from Shopify’s Ecommerce University, with courses covering everything from marketing and finance to dropshipping and order fulfillment.

On top of that, Shopify also has a regular podcast series with on-point tips from ecommerce experts, plus a comprehensive blog through which they regularly share vital knowledge and insights. It’s a valuable resource that’s aided by a closely-knit community of fellow entrepreneurs who are always willing to help you out.

It’s a good idea to engage with the community on social media — many Shopify entrepreneurs make a lot of passive income by selling on their Shopify knowledge in the form of videos or online courses. Think about all the lessons and hacks you have learned, and share that with your audience.

Face-to-face meets in cities around the world are also a great opportunity to network with potential suppliers, customers, and investors. Be brave and get out there with your own elevator pitch.

Reach out to Shopify’s 24 hour support team when you have a specific question or problem, but be ready to provide detailed information like screenshots and error codes.

What you get from your ecommerce business depends on what you put into it — you are responsible for your own success. Invest in a select few apps to grow your store, and make the most of the in-built features. But above all, keep your eyes on the prize. Remember why you got into this business and keep pressing on, and you’ll soon reap the reward.