How agencies and freelancers can use Out of the Sandbox Shopify themes to create great stores for clients

by Michael P. Hill

How agencies and freelancers can use Out of the Sandbox Shopify themes to create great stores for clients

Using Out of the Sandbox Shopify themes to design and create sites for clients is a great way to get started on building an e-commerce store — whether you’re a big, full service agency, a smaller design team or even a solo freelancer.

Deciding to modify Shopify themes for others

If you’re a full fledged web development agency then you’re likely already familiar with all of the intricacies of quoting and managing projects for others, so it can be a natural decision to move into the Shopify theme space.

While probably not required, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that someone on your development team is familiar with Shopify’s coding language — Liquid. It’s fairly easy to learn, especially if you already have developer experience in any number of programming languages.

Other than that, you’ll also want to have experience with CSS, HTML and JavaScript.

If you’re new to the notion of completing website or other digital projects for clients, you’ll want to carefully consider if you’re ready to take on this responsibility, which is a must-have if you want to create great stores — and happy clients!

For example, if you’ve just completed your own store setup and think that you might want to make some extra income on the side by building shops for fellow store owners, you’re in a bit of a unique situation that requires some careful thought.

First and foremost, keep in mind that designing and developing sites for others can be quite time consuming and might take your focus away from running your own Shopify business, meaning that your store could suffer and your client might not get the best results.

Second, be sure that you have the skills needed for the type of clients you’re expecting to get. If you’re considering offering more “setup” services where you configure everything under the “customize” menu, then you don’t need to have many special skills beyond what you have already.

However, advanced design and layout changes will require familiarity with HTML, CSS, Liquid, and JavaScript.

Keep in mind, that even projects that start simple can quickly evolve to a point where you may not be able to handle all the requests.

That comes to a final concern — cost. With web development projects, it’s very easy to underquote the total cost of the project since it’s often based on how much time it will take. This, in turn, can be difficult to calculate and should also be carefully considered based on what you think your time is worth.

For those unfamiliar with managing projects for others, also be sure to consider:

  • Having a formal written contract or scope of work that outlines exactly what will be done and for what cost.
  • The contract or scope should also include deadlines — including deadlines for the client to provide feedback or materials, and note that if these deadlines are missed, all other dates are subject to change.
  • Clearly outline what is not included in the contract or scope.
  • If advanced features are scheduled to be included that you don’t have direct experience with, you may want to work with another developer who can work on that part of the project for you — but be sure to allot enough budget dollars and time to allow for this! Out of the Sandbox, like most theme developers, does not provide assistance with development like this for free or for a fee, but we do have a great bunch of companies who might be able to help out.

Designing using our Shopify themes 

Even though Out of the Sandbox Shopify themes come with pre-made styles this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re stuck in that design. You can always experiment with the hundreds of settings under “Customize” in every theme to create unique looks.

If you have more advanced CSS skills, you can make even more changes — getting to the point where it’s next to impossible to tell it was based on an Out of the Sandbox theme. This will give your client a truly unique look, though it will take a higher skill level and more time to develop.

That said, for clients who only need the basics, Out of the Sandbox Shopify themes are always a good pick for developers and agencies since they come pre-loaded with great design and best practices in user experience which gives shoppers a familiar, comfortable look that makes it easy to complete a purchase.

Another great way to flex your creative muscles is using sections on the homepage, page.details and product.details templates. These options give you multiple layouts and presentation methods to work with and determine which looks and works best for your client.

Handling Shopify theme registration

When purchasing an Out of the Sandbox theme for a client, we strongly recommend having the client make the purchase using their contact information and credit card. This is the cleanest way for the license to be linked to that person.

Keep in mind that whatever email address is used to purchase the theme is the one that must be used to register the theme.

We always recommend that agencies or freelancers working on sites for other clients preemptively install our Shopify Theme Updater App and take care of registration before handing the site over for clients.

By taking care of this, you can save your clients the confusion of how to register and which email address to use.

Out of the Sandbox also offers an affiliate program, which was recently updated to focus more on allowing Shopify experts, agencies, developers, and designers to earn a portion of each theme sale.

You can send your affiliate link to clients for them to make the purchase at regular prices while you’re referral fee is “hidden.” Please be sure to review our FAQs about tracking for areas that frequently cause issues.

Shopify theme updates

You’ll also want to consider how to handle theme updates with your client. In most cases, you likely won’t want clients hitting the “update” button in the theme updater app since they might not have a full understanding of how updates work and the testing required.

Instead, a good option is to remind clients to get back in touch with you when it comes time to update. Not only can this generate repeat business and a long term client relationship, it will give you the chance, as the person who created any changes to the code, to work directly with the code you’re already familiar with — rather than having your client have to go elsewhere.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn. While comments and feedback are always appreciated, Michael regrets that, due to the volume of inquires received, personal responses are not possible. For specific assistance or support with Out of the Sandbox themes, visit the help center.