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Build a Shopify Website for Passive Recurring Income

Build a Shopify website for passive recurring income.

What is Shopify?

Shopify is basically an e-commerce platform. This makes it very similar to something like Magento or WooCommerce.
E-commerce simply means that you’re creating an online store like Amazon where people can buy products from the comfort of their home.

Among the top 10,000 websites on the Internet, Shopify is the most popular known option with its trending going upwards.

shopify screenshot of stats in a circle diagram

Image source

Shopify differentiates itself from other e-commerce platforms in a number of ways. For starters, Shopify is hosted. That means that you don’t need to install it yourself on your own server instead, you just sign up and create your own account and store.

And because Shopify is hosted, this means it’s rather powerful. While some self-hosted options severely limit the number of items you can have in stock, Shopify lets you sell up to 5,000 items from your store at once.

Shopify is exceedingly quick and simple to get started with, so if you want to add any kind of e-commerce to your site and start selling ebooks, courses or physical products this is a great way to start out. In fact, it only takes a few clicks to get set up and running with your own store.

There are many more cool features that Shopify offers. One particularly neat one is the option to use your own POS (Point Of Sale device) in the real world. So if you had a physical high street store and an online store, you could sync up your inventory and take orders on the go using a chip and pin device. Imagine being able to head out into the street and sell your ebooks to passers-by.

You can try it out with a free 14-day trial, it’s worth giving it a go.


a laptop in a shopify banner 14 day free trial

Getting Started

To get started, click on ‘Start Your Free Trial’ and then just enter your email address, password and a name for your store.

On the next page, you’ll be given the option to add your details such as your location and your phone number. This is for tax purposes so that the store knows how to handle the legal side of things.

The next page says:

Tell us a little about yourself.

shopify screenshot of tell us about yourself


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Here you just need to answer a couple of questions such as whether you’re already selling products, how much your business is making and whether you’re developing for yourself or for a client.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in. From here you can see some of the different options for your store which will include the option to access settings (where you can change things like the name of your store) and where you can start adding items and creating your store.

screenshot of shopify settings


To start creating your store, click ‘Add Online Store’. You can then choose a theme for your store. There are plenty of themes that are available completely free and these will be easy to install with the click of a button and then customize.

If you want to get a little more professional and fancy with your store, then you can go to the Theme Store to select from numerous other free and premium themes. “Click customize theme” to edit what your store looks like and change things like the logo, the heading and the arrangement of items on the page when people first load up. Once you’re happy, hit ‘Publish Theme’ and you’re ready to go.

On the next tab, you have the option to select ‘Navigation’ which will let you add individual pages and content. This is where you’ll put your ‘About Us’ information, a blog etc.

You can use ‘set up a custom domain’ to use your current web address ( and to add your first product you simply have to click ‘Add a Product’ from the front page.

To add products, you’re just going to enter a title, an image and set a few elements like the price. With a little more setting up (you’ll need to add your own details to get paid for instance) this is how quickly and simply you can start selling products with Shopify.

Adding Apps

On its own, Shopify is a very powerful tool with a lot of great features for creating your online store. However, in order to set up our online business with passive recurring income, we’re going to need some even more powerful and tailored features.

Fortunately, Shopify has essentially limitless capability thanks to the existence of an app store. For those familiar with WordPress (which I assume you are), this section of Shopify works very much like the plugins section of WordPress and extends the capabilities of your store.

Some apps are premium and will require you to pay extra for their use. Others, however, are completely free particularly those that are provided by Shopify itself.

In order to start looking for apps, use the burger menu on the left-hand side of the screen and select ‘apps’. From here, you can then search for apps and you’ll be able to see the price and ratings alongside each listing. Once you find the one you want, click to install and then confirm.

To start with, try adding the ‘Digital Downloads’ app. This is a basic and free app that essentially gives you the ability to sell digital products like ebooks and apps from your store and have them delivered automatically. This way, you don’t need to send out an email with an attachment each time an order comes through and you can just let Shopify handle that for you.

This is pretty handy seeing as we’re trying to generate passive income here. You don’t want your holiday to be ruined by hundreds of emails with product purchases. At the same time, this will ensure that your buyers get their products instantly rather than having to wait for you to send the email. This is particularly important if you intend on selling to an international audience.

Click to install this app and then find your product listing. On the page where you’re selling your product, click the button at the top with the three dots and this will open up a list of actions that are made possible by the apps you have installed. You should now see the option to ‘add digital attachment’ and once you click this, you’ll be taken to a page where you can add your file.

Nice and easy. From now on, when someone buys that product, they’ll be sent an email with the file attached and they can enjoy it without you having to lift a finger.

That’s service!

This was just an example though. If you’re building a subscription service you might want to hang on for a moment as we’ll be looking at another option for your digital downloads.

Have a look through the apps because you’ll find there are all kinds of useful things you can use here to add to your store. One great one is a ‘Preorder Manager’ which will allow you to set up pre-orders for your products. The possibilities here are huge. You can generate a lot of buzz for a product and then collect funds ready to launch. You could even run your own crowdfunding campaign without having to hand any of your hard-earned funds over to Kickstarter.

Apps to Use to Collect Recurring Payments

image of shopify subscription apps

Image source

Okay, now we’re getting close to setting up our first membership site or subscription service. As you might have guessed, setting up subscriptions and recurring payments will require the use of another app.

There are actually several you can use here. Recurring Orders by Bold apps is one option. Others include Chargebee, Recurring Billing, Subscription Order, and Charge Rabbit.

Most of these options will cost you around $20 a month to use so you need to work this into your calculations when deciding whether it’s worth it for you or not.

One of the options that are free at the time of writing this article is ChargeRabbit. A neat feature for this one is integration with another app called Sky Pilot which is another digital downloads plugin.

The great thing about combining these two is that you can sell a monthly membership that will deliver PDFs, videos or any other kind of file each month. This is a perfect way to set up a business selling PDFs or digital downloads.

Of course, you do get what you pay for to some extent and you can expect that paying a little more will get you more features. At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you want to pay a little more or whether you’re happy with a more basic service.

With Charge Rabbit installed, you’ll then need to set up a Stripe account, choose your payment system and then set up customer accounts within your Shopify store. A stripe account is a tool that allows you to charge people in much the same way as PayPal. If you would rather use PayPal to collect your payments, then you might want to use another plugin.

This is the basic system you’ll use for most of the plugins and apps. Creating a profile for each member is, of course, important so that you can track who has paid and who hasn’t and help them to receive their products automatically.

If you are selling a subscription to your website, then you’ll need to create a members only area. You can do this by again using a number of plugins. Most of these plugins will require you to set up and create accounts for your individual paying customers when they pay for your products.

Types of Products To Sell on Subscriptions for Recurring Income

Okay, so now you have your Shopify Store and you know how to add apps to charge recurring payments, the next step is to start actually adding those products so that you have something to sell.

This is going to work just the same as adding any kind of product to an e-commerce store. The only difference is that the product is going to need to be the kind of thing that people are willing to pay a recurring fee for.

This is where things get a little tricky. If you’re selling an ebook from your site currently for instance, then that’s just not going to work. People only want to pay for ebooks once and from there they expect to get as much access as they could possibly want.

The point is that different types of product work different for different types of business models. For subscription sites, you need a very specific type of product that people will be happy to pay for regularly and that they will be happy to make such a commitment.

Let’s take a look at some of the types of products that work particularly well for this model.

Subscription Sites

human figure of man holding up a sign which says online members

A membership site is, of course, a website that you charge people to become a member of and by doing this, you’ll thereby grant them additional access to more materials on your site.

To make this work, you need to understand why someone would be moved to sign up to a membership site in the first place. The answer is because you offer great value on a recurring basis and they don’t want to miss everything that you’ll be uploading.

At the same time though, there’s also something psychological going on here: people like to be ‘members’ of things because it makes them feel like part of a community or movement and because it makes them feel important.

If you want to help your membership site thrive then, you need to offer the kind of content that people can’t get anywhere else, you need to make that content comprehensive and you need to create excitement and buzz around your community.

On the public areas of your site, tease people by saying how your ‘VIP members’ have access to exclusive information and share the kinds of exciting and valuable discussions that are going on in your forums.

On your site, you might want to consider adding the following things to make membership all the more enticing:

A members forum

If you can build a big community around your site then this will be a huge boon in general and will keep people coming back. If you then have a restricted area where the really exciting discussion happens, a lot of people will be willing to take the leap.

Premium content

What counts as premium content? This will be just like the free content on your site (which you still need to provide to keep your visitors biting) but it will probably be a lot more comprehensive, in-depth and well put together. Better yet, try to make sure that your premium content delivers some kind of value that will provide a real ‘takeaway’ for your readers. Solve a problem, or help them with their own business so that they can see ROI from signing up.

The latter option is a very reliable way to get more subscribers and to keep your existing members happy.


If you can create some kind of comprehensive resource on your website, then this is a fantastic thing you can charge membership for. Create the definitive index of information, tools and more on your website and make sure that it offers real value to your users so they keep opening it.

Newsletters and Ezines

Using the combination of Sky Pilot and Charge Rabbit, we’ve seen that it’s very easy to charge a recurring fee for digital products that you deliver each month.

So what kind of product would work well here?

There are plenty of different options but a particularly good one is to send out a weekly or monthly newsletter or ezine. Of course, this will need to offer more value than your typical ‘free’ newsletter, so make sure you’re providing real value. One great example of how you can do this is by updating your readers with insider industry news that helps them with their own businesses.


Another popular type of subscription service utilizing digital products is a course. Send weekly or monthly emails and you can train your customers to learn a variety of skills or to set up their own business. Instead of selling an ebook for a one-off price, why not split those chapters into individual lessons and send them out on a monthly basis? You can actually charge more this way and at the same time, it will feel like less of an investment for your customers. Video course also work very well.

Web Apps

A web app can be anything from a business tool to an entertainment tool. Feedly, Evernote, and Netflix are all examples of subscription-apps that have a paid option. If you are handy with code and you have a good idea, this is a great way to offer value and to charge a recurring fee for it.

Physical Products

Believe it or not, a subscription model can also help you to sell physical products. This will only be suitable for certain businesses but there are some great examples of subscription-based-serves online at the moment.

One of the best of these examples is the subscription diet service that sends you food that will be tasty, save time and help them lose weight/eat more healthily. You can even get clothes on a subscription that send out a selection of clothing items that will look stylish and fit you. These are great because they prevent your wardrobe from stagnating.

Use a bit of imagination nearly any product you sell can be turned into a subscription service. Now you have the means, think about how you can provide something better for your customers and better for your bottom line.

How to Promote Your Shopify Website

Subscription Site Tips and Tricks to Get More Paying Members.

Okay, now you have your store, the next trick is to start getting some actual customers. To this end, there are a number of different internet marketing techniques you can use and largely this will be the same as marketing any other kind of blog or e-commerce store. At the same time though, there are also some additional methods you can employ to help convert your visitors into happy subscribers.

Internet Marketing for E-commerce

As far as internet marketing goes, all the usual strategies apply. The most important of these is going to be content marketing. Just to bring you up to speed, content marketing essentially means creating a blog and then adding lots of great
content to it. This works wonders because it means that you give your visitors a reason to keep coming back so that they can read more and more of what you’re uploading.

the letters SEO on dominoes

At the same time though, content marketing is also crucial for SEO (search engine optimization) because content is what Google is looking for on your website.

Additionally, content helps your social media marketing because it’s what people are going to share on social media.

Content marketing becomes even more crucial if you are selling membership to a website because this is what will serve as your free ‘sample’ of what visitors will eventually be paying for. Make sure to add content regularly to either an external blog or the blog page on your Shopify store and at the same time, be sure to include subtle use of keywords so that your content shows up on Google.

Another useful tool is PPC. (Pay Per Click) advertising and is one of the main forms of advertising online. Look into Google AdWords and Facebook Ads and use these to get paid exposure for your site.

A mailing list is another very useful tool that you can use to build trust over time and then convert readers into buyers.

How to Get More Subscribers

Here are just a few tricks you can use to get more subscribers:

Offer a ‘free trial’ of some sort. If your product is genuinely good, then this is a great way to get people hooked.

Offer discounts. A short-term discount is a great way to create urgency and to get more clicks.

Use your existing members. A strategy many subscription sites use is to offer discounts to members who manage to bring in more members. This is a set-up that benefits everyone.

Other Tools for Shopify

The great thing about Shopify is just how packed with apps and features it has. There are so many here that you can create whole new business models and marketing opportunities just by clicking and installing a couple. Here are some that are worth checking out.


image of shopify integration to mailchimp

Image source

Chimpified is a great app for anyone who has a MailChimp account. MailChimp is, of course, an autoresponder that lets you create a mailing list. By using Chimpified though, you can integrate this with your Shopify account and thereby use cookies in order to identify the behavior of your subscribers. For example, you can use remarketing and send targeted emails to your visitors based on what products they looked at.

Plugin SEO

This helps to automate a lot of the complicated SEO stuff for your store now you can get more visitors from Google without having to worry about things like meta tags.

Shopify Widgets

If you have a website already, this will let you add products and services to your site in the sidebar. This is a great way to get more exposure and it also means you can embed your stock elsewhere.


Why would someone else want to feature your products? Why, if you were to sell affiliate products of course. This way you can share the commission with other marketers and have an army of people promoting your items.


This is a useful plugin that will let you take your Shopify store and turn it into an iPad/Android friendly store. The store is well optimized for mobile anyway but this will make it even easier for mobile users.

Mobile App for Your Shop 

shopify mobile app image

Image source

Better yet, why not create a mobile app version of your store.

Facebook Store

This is an incredibly powerful plugin that can turn your Facebook page into a Shopify store. In other words, anyone who likes your page will now have the option to buy your products and even sign up for a subscription through that page. This is a fantastic way to fully monetize your Facebook marketing efforts.

Other Ways to Provide Subscriptions with Physical and Digital Products

At this point, you’re probably in no doubt as to the potential power of a subscription site or product. With a subscription, you can sell recurring memberships and charge your customers on a regular basis and that way finally has some kind of stability and predictability in your online business model. This makes a huge difference and of course, there’s no reason you can use both recurring subscription products and your current advertising/one-off sales revenue at the same time

But perhaps this all seems like an awful lot of work? Maybe you’re feeling anxious about the idea of creating an e-commerce store? Or perhaps you don’t have a big enough audience, a website or any content.

In these cases, there are some alternative options you can use.


A youtube icon

YouTube now lets creators set up paid content on YouTube which can also include subscription offers.

If you have a website but you don’t want to worry about setting up an online store, installing plugins or dealing with sales funnels then having a subscription channel on YouTube is a great way around this. You can charge as much as you like and as long as you put in some work to create high-quality videos, there’s no reason you can’t turn over a large amount of cash on a regular and reliable basis.

Don’t have the know-how to create your own YouTube content that people would be happy to pay for? There are a number of ways you can get around this limitation. One is, of course, to pay someone to create content for you. As long as you can get enough subscribers. Try out Fiverr to outsource your content. Another good one is Kwork.

To create video’s you don’t even need a camera.

Did you know you can create PowerPoint presentations and then simply export those as MPGs? This way you can create tutorials, educational videos and more. Other options include using screen captures or doodle animations. Either way, this can be a great way to sell subscription content without the hassle. If you can find viewers on YouTube then you won’t even necessarily need a website or any other platform of your own.

Finally, a third option is to use a WordPress only subscription service for your website. If your main aim is to charge for restricted content on your website, then the best method might be to use a plugin such as s2Member  which will allow you to charge subscribers by PayPal while bypassing the need for an e-commerce store like Shopify.

Best of all, 2Member is free and it allows up to four ‘levels’ of membership. The plugin has very
good ratings and a lot of downloads, so take a look.


And there you have it a ton of options to help you get set up with recurring income using either Shopify or one of a number of other methods.

Hopefully, you now recognize the huge potential for setting up recurring payments and how this can transform your business and your profits. If you have been consistently delivering value to your customers and you’ve built up trust over the years, then you’ll be surprised just how willing they are to pay for more content and services from you.

At the same time, subscription payments can work wonders for selling digital or physical products and can even help you to provide an even better service. Get creative and look for ways to sell your products as subscriptions and you can drastically increase your revenue and your customer loyalty.

Related post…Dropshipping for beginners

You may want to take a look at this website for more information about building your own website.

I hope my article on “Build a Shopify website for passive recurring income” was helpful.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact me in the comments area or contact form.



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