How I Started A $120K/Year Shopify Design Agency With Just $100 [From India]

Vishal Goswami
Founder, Friction Studio
$10K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
8
Employees
Friction Studio
from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
started January 2020
$10,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
8
Employees
2.93M
alexa rank
60
followers
8
followers
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How I Started A $120K/Year Shopify Design Agency With Just $100 [From India]

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello, this is Vishal Goswami, an eCommerce consultant and founder of Friction Studio, a Shopify Agency. At Friction Studio, we believe in making commerce better for everyone. That is, we help you sell in a frictionless manner.

Through our years of experience and expertise, we help DTC brands design, build and grow their store on Shopify. We help them build a brand presence and grow exponentially by working on the right strategies and creating conversion-focused Shopify stores with a functional user experience. As said above, we are a team of Shopify experts focused on removing the friction between eCommerce design, development, and strategy to enable DTC growth.

This venture of Friction Studio has been a roller coaster ride. It reminds me how back in the days, I had started this agency with just $100, and we are making $10k/month on average today. It feels excellent to cater to big brands in the industry and onboard Shopify plus merchants. Today, I feel privileged to be creating a significant impact in the eCommerce ecosystem and helping merchants ease their selling journey.

how-i-started-a-120k-year-shopify-design-and-development-agency-with-just-100-from-india

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I wasn't always a Shopify expert until I had to become one!

As any other Indian kid, I have had the same routine: school, homework, eat, sleep, and repeat. However, my eternal interest and love for computers have brought me here. At 17, I learned HTML, CSS, and Javascript all by myself. Back then, I was working on WordPress for some local clients. However, one day I came across dropshipping and Shopify. I then kicked off my Shopify journey by starting a dropshipping store.

As always, I had this forever interest in website designing and development, so I designed one for myself and posted it in a Facebook group full of brand owners. I got to see there was a lot of traction on my post, which also led me to my first client from that. Thanks to my forever passion for trying new things, I started designing and developing Shopify stores for small brands.

When I started all this in 2016, the times were tough, and I could not even afford a laptop on my own. I recall when I was issued a laptop during my high school from the government’s side for being a scholar. I used to learn everything from coding to designing from the free tutorials available on the internet.

After creating few stores I started an agency with my partner and built it from scratch to become Official Shopify Experts. Later I left the agency I built with my partner due to some reasons in late 2020. Then I started thinking about creating a new one from scratch with a strong and unique vision.

That's when it all began. I began learning the ropes of branding and aligning design with it for myself and later for brands struggling with it.

In December 2020, I finally took the call of taking everything I had learned so far. I started with setting up stores for D2C brands under the name of Friction Studio. We wanted to make the experience of taking your brand online 'frictionless' so that businesses don’t have to spend weeks and months building a great store that converts.

As I got into the eCommerce industry, I saw brands struggling to find someone who could understand their vision and help them translate it into an impressive storefront. Since that day, Friction Studio has delivered optimized design solutions to brands of all sizes. We optimize, redefine, and provide you with a custom-made Shopify storefront based on your niche.

I saw a gap in relating the goals and vision of the brands. Either their understanding of the store setup was not up to the mark, or it resulted in a website that did not represent their brand's message. Their websites lacked the functionalities which could turn visitors into customers. Let alone even create a lasting impression on these visitors!

Creating an impactful Shopify website is challenging, with best practices constantly evolving. However, with Friction Studio design and Shopify experts guiding the way, brands enjoyed exceptional conversion rates. I had this mindset of fueling the business growth of various brands through commercially-optimized website designs.

We took matters into our hands from brand strategy, design, and custom implementation while setting up an online store. We worked closely with D2C businesses over the next few months. It started as a learning curve and resulted in what you know as the Friction Studio today!

Back then, my finances didn't look great. I barely had some $100-200 to invest. I had to start it all from scratch as I had zero clients that time.

Take us through the process of designing your services.

I started working with Shopify store owners from various community and Facebook groups. I worked on the design and development front by taking help from some experienced designers in the industry and exploring new design trends per various niches and products.

The first few clients were from Facebook groups. I had built certain valuable connections by answering queries and generating value in groups and communities. Later I saw we needed to specify some niches and break down our services and offerings. Looking at my previous clientele, I derived that we were good at building stores for supplements, fitness, health wellness, CBD, skincare, and lifestyle brands mainly.

I needed to set our work process to develop the best results for brands and provide them with the best experience. So I made a small team of freelancers and made SOPs for them. This included a concrete system for our sales, onboarding clients, discovery sessions, and service delivery.

We focused more on brand targeting, needs, story, goals, and vision. I developed a foolproof process to understand their vision, mission, and goal.

The first person to join me was my closest friend - Devang Tiwari. He is a man with excellent management skills. He reduced my workload, and I knew my business was in safe hands right after I handed him specific responsibilities. He is good at crises and can manage things even at the last minute. He has always been with me in every stage of building Friction Studio.

Do not ever come out without a plan and clear vision. Otherwise, you will end up spinning in a fixed cycle without any goals.

I further made a full-service breakdown and optimized delivering the best service. Building the right team was one of the biggest challenges for me. Finding people with the same vision and goals as yours is always hard. However, after spending numerous hours and energy, I found some good people who could join us and improve the quality.

In those days, I used to work 15 hours a day. I handled everything by myself, from making work, communication, client updates, sales, and everything you can think of in a startup.

how-i-started-a-120k-year-shopify-design-and-development-agency-with-just-100-from-india

This picture of early days in January, me learning systems and management so I can handle the projects in a better way.

Describe the process of launching the business.

Friction Studio has been a dream project! Seeing everything turn into reality kept giving me goosebumps. To say I had everything planned from day one will not do justice. Instead, I kept proceeding steadily, and every next step has been a discovery for me. My friend helped me decide the name of our venture as "Friction Studio" while we were just chit-chatting about websites and services.

Initially, our major focus for marketing was content marketing and SEO. We started with Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and website marketing. In the first phase, while launching, I hired 2 designers, 2 developers, and one account manager.

Launch was pretty hectic for me as we needed to build case studies and reviews first so I spent a lot of time getting some great work and case studies done. It took me 2 months to get my first client and after that, I was out of clients and didn't know where my next client would come from.

I worked a lot on our content, positioning, and targeting. Now our main focus is SEO, Content marketing, blogs, and paid ads (that we will try this year). Moving ahead, we thought of onboarding some big brands, followed by rolling out case studies that speak of our work and distinguished skills.

Check out our recent case study of a Streetwear brand: ANARCHY

Click here to check out all our case studies.

Today, with great learning, we have successfully got hold of some good case studies from some prominent brands in the industry. We are also on the verge of launching our podcast soon this year (2022). As we know, 'content is the King,' we are also focusing aggressively in this direction. We shall be focusing on blogs, emails, social media, and various other channels to provide value and get ahead with more prominent brands.

I love building businesses, working with brands, and scaling them to the moon. I am building this agency with my sheer dedication. Nevertheless, I have many huge plans lined up for this year. The past year has been full of ups and downs with a great experience.

This agency startup cost was as meager as I started from $100 with just a domain and legal registration. I bought a few software after having a few clients.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Niching down is the key to retaining customers and becoming the best in the industry. After a few months, we realized that, and then we started to break down to different niches. We now target supplements, CBD, lifestyle, and beauty brands. My primary clientele today includes the CBD and supplement industry.

We have given a shot to content marketing initiatives that have helped us get most of the community's clients and referrals. We are now trying all the methods, including Google and FB ads, email outreach, and LinkedIn.

how-i-started-a-120k-year-shopify-design-and-development-agency-with-just-100-from-india
Image: First email outreach campaign we launched

Having worked with notable and famous brands from various industries, we are now looking forward to rolling out a press release this year along with featuring some great case studies.

I see a pattern in our work process and service delivery that removes the friction, and people love that. We work towards driving value and offer time optimizing solutions to brands. As they say, "time is money," we at Friction Studio make sure to save our client’s time and deliver the best experiences. Thus, they can focus on increasing their sales strategy while we do all the work.

Another way to hold on to your prospects is to communicate with them and create an emotional, real human value touch. Remember, your customers want to be heard, understood, and valued simultaneously. Understanding their challenges, knowing their investment plans will help you strengthen your bond with the brand. So the next time they are looking for something, they will straightaway contact you instead of looking for another solution provider. So please consider this as a pro tip to form an emotional bond with your audience for that longer retention.

I will further continue with the quote as they say, 'your hunger to bring the better must never stop.' I am still on the way to building a seamless process for DTC brands. We do not take just any brand. Instead, we try to find out if they are serious with their venture. If they have some real visions attached to their online eCommerce journey and their plans on achieving them during our discovery sessions.

Content makes authority and brings quality leads and clients, so we are more focused on that.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We follow value-based pricing in terms of margin and pricing, which is still the least offered price in the market. Despite that, we are increasing our branding and value and making the price feasible for everyone by the day.

As of now, we are securing around 40-50% margin, we have a good client base, and we are focusing on getting more into Shopify plus and headless commerce. Our future goal is to create more custom storefronts and work on VR (virtual reality) for Shopify brands.

Do not ever come out without a plan and clear vision. Otherwise, you will end up spinning in a fixed cycle without any goals.

We are focusing on many segments, including helping brands create advanced user experiences with the help of new tech in Shopify. We are launching a new podcast, especially for brand owners who can learn from other founders.

Our central vision is to create an agency that removes friction from growth and makes the brands accelerate their performance and make more sales.

The past year has helped us achieve some notable achievements. With our sheer dedication and zeal, we were able to accomplish over 35 projects since our establishment. Our team that started with just three people expanded to a total of ten members.

A big shoutout to all our partners and clients who made it happen.

how-i-started-a-120k-year-shopify-design-and-development-agency-with-just-100-from-india
Screenshot of one of our client’s Shopify dashboard

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

The biggest mistake I made was hiring guys with a poor skillset. Later on, it cost me a lot in terms of work and understanding the concept of our brand. A poor skillset will break the business and the culture you want to maintain. Another thing that we didn't focus on for quite a long time was our online presence.

I will suggest having a good team and creating good brand values. That will make you more sustainable and keep the growth rate higher.

I have collaborated with some prominent agencies in the initial phase, which turned out to be a really good decision. I made partnerships with several marketing, social media agencies, and Shopify apps. That keeps your cash flow in the initial phase when you don't have any clients and are new to the market.

The best thing that helped me was learning about marketing and sales. If I had only stuck to the designing and development areas, it wouldn't help me grow. As an entrepreneur, you need to invest more time into growing the business than creating the products. So I started learning about marketing and sales. That helped me a lot to give this agency the right direction. I followed forums, books, magazines, and courses.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

My favorite tools are:

  1. Slack (for communication)
  2. Clickup (for project management)
  3. Zoho Books
  4. Calendly

At friction Studio, I am always experimenting with all the new technology that keeps coming. As for now, Shopify is our primary platform to build eCommerce stores. Other than Shopify, we use Hubspot as CRM, Snovio for outreach, G Suite for emails, ClickUp for client management, and data-keeping. All our casual team chats are done on WhatsApp and Skype.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

E-myth revisited and Hooked are two of my favorite books to recommend to others. These books have had a lot of impact on my dealing with the business.

I am also a fan of TheFutur podcast by Chris Do. Chris is an expert in creative services and helps creative business owners to expand exponentially. Besides “The Futur,” I listen to Shopify Masters, mainly based on commerce and marketing.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

If you wish to start an agency in the creative field, make sure you have a sound vision, mission, and purpose of the agency and how you wish to impact the ecosystem. There are many startups and big techies who are excelling out there. Do not ever come out without a plan and clear vision. Otherwise, you will end up spinning in a fixed cycle without any goals.

  • Create a complete lead, sales, and service delivery system.
  • Build a team that can deliver beyond expectations.
  • Don't fall for big numbers. In the beginning, everyone is different, and they charge what they are worth, so start with small and scale it to high.
  • Make sure you are getting at least a 50% margin. Else it will be hard to push forward.
  • Don't get into a price cycle because you target small business owners when you start. They pay less, but once you have a good portfolio and process, scale your pricing and marketing to more prominent brands with a full and charge value-based pricing.

how-i-started-a-120k-year-shopify-design-and-development-agency-with-just-100-from-india

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always looking for creative, full-of-energy subject matter experts in their respective fields.

Friction Studio is currently looking for experienced eCommerce UI and UX design experts who are well versed with Shopify and its ecosystem. Suppose you have an enthusiastic approach and consider creativity a gifted skill. In that case, these roles are definitely for you.

We are currently looking forward to people who match the following skill sets:

  1. UI designer 2. UX designer 3. Motion/ graphic designer.

Feel free to spread the word among your known ones.

We would also love to include two junior Shopify developers and two senior Shopify plus developers in our fun-oriented development team.

To ease our sales process and help us convert more, I am also looking forward to adding a salesperson and a lead generation expert in my team who can generate and nurture leads.

I love to see my Friction Studio family expand more. Feel free to reach out to my team at [email protected].

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Vishal Goswami, Founder of Friction Studio
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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