I have many friends who operate businesses here. One thing I hear from most all of them is that times are tough right now and everyone understands the need to diversify and sell online, but not many have extra money to do it. This article is an effort to help those who are interested in having a web store set one up at minimal, and I mean minimal cost. I am making no guarantees here nor am I offering to do this for anyone. What I am attempting here is to give you the basic knowledge and the resources you need to get this done so that you can diversify your business. The ad in the Mineola Monitor was placed and paid for by BrightSide Media in an effort to get local merchants to find and read this article. Involvement in this community is important to me and this is a sincere attempt to help local merchants.
To Begin With, I Need to Make Some Assumptions About You and Your Business
- You sell a product that is shipable. For instance, if you sell park benches, then you will have far more obstacles regarding shipping than you do if you sell keychains.
- You have basic typing and Internet skills. If you can operate in Facebook, MySpace or the like and upload photos, then you can do this. If you can’t upload photos, enlist the help of any 12 year old kid and they can show you how.
- You have a computer or at least have lots of access to one.
- You have a high speed Internet connection. Don’t try this with dial up. It is too slow and you will only get frustrated because it takes so long.
- You have the time to put forth to add your products to your web site.
That’s really about all you need to get started.
“What’s this going to cost me, Scott?” Good question. Let’s lay out all of the monetary costs involved.
- A domain name. This is YOURWEBSITENAME.com. You can get this using the links below. Cost of a domain name is $15 a year.
- A hosting account. A web site has to live on a web server that is connected to the Internet. I’ll spare you the technical explanation here. The maximum cost of the hosting account that you will need is $10 a month and you can get it from eBoundHost.com. Choose the $3.95 a month option and select CPanel as your administrative interface. It’s fairly intuitive. Don’t let them upsell you. You don’t need all the other stuff, just the $3.95 hosting plan and a domain name. To get the $3.95 deal, you will need to pay for three years up front, otherwise it’s $10 a month. You do what you are most comfortable with here.
So…for less than $135 you are up and running with your web site on your own domain name for a year. Getting it all set up is handled by the host. If you have questions…and you likely will, their support people can get you fixed up. If you opted to pay $3.95 a month for 3 years you are out about $175 and that includes hosting and your domain name registration for 3 years. Like most things in life, the extra time is just a little more if you pay for it on the front end. That is absolutely all it will cost you to get a web site where you can sell your items on the Internet.
OK, I am assuming all of this is done. Let’s move on.
Go to your CPanel control panel and install WordPress on your web site. Make the home directory of WordPress the home directory of your web site. Again, the support people at your hosting company can help you with this if needed. You will then end up with a blog. A blog is a web site where people write out their thoughts on the web. There is little difference in posting your thoughts about politics and posting something for sale from your store. A blog is nothing but a Content Management System. It keeps all the posts together and creates links so that people can navigate your web site. WordPress is absolutely free and there are tons of cool themes and gadgets for it that you will discover as time goes by and you get more comfortable with it.
Progress Check: So now you have your web site set up and WordPress installed on it. You have created a username and password for WordPress so you can log in and make posts. Fun huh?
Now you will want to go in to the settings in WordPress and either allow or disallow people to post comments on your web site. The WordPress default settings are to allow this. I suggest you set it so that people cannot post comments. Afterall, we are not setting up a blog here. We are setting up a web store for your business.
So now you can make posts on your web site and WordPress has some customization settings so you can change the look and feel of it easily. It’s time to move on the the next step. Getting paid!
A web site that facilitates sales transactions can cost as much as you want to pay; the possibilities are endless. If you start doing big business on the web you may want to get an online merchant account through your bank. For now, we are using PayPal. There is a free WordPress shopping cart plugin for PayPal. All you need is a PayPal account. So if you don’t have one, set it up now by clicking here and get it verified. Verification will take a few days because Paypal will deposit a few cents in your bank account and you will have to log in to their site and verify the amount. Once that is done, your bank account is connected and you are in business. If you have issues with connecting a bank account to Paypal, go open a separate bank account and use it just for Paypal if you want. Go to Bank Texas and tell ’em Scott Hazard sent you. They are good people.
Fast forward! OK, now your Paypal account is hooked up to your bank account. Let’s get this plug in loaded and get you to making sales on the web!
Click here to get the PayPal shopping cart plugin for WordPress. You will need to upload this to the wp-content/plugins/ directory of your web site. CPanel has an FTP application you can use to do this. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is a simple program that moves files from your computer to your web server. Don’t let the acronyms intimidate you. Again, if you need help, the hosting company can assist you with this. It’s their job. You will need to go to the plugins page in your WordPress admin area and activate the Paypal Shopping Cart.
In your settings in WordPress you will now see a link that says “WP Shopping Cart.” This is where you enter your Paypal email address and some basic settings for your shopping cart. There are two very simple steps in creating a link for a product. You simply paste a snippet of code into your post below the photo and description of the product you are selling. Take the time to make it look good. Just because it’s done on the cheap does not at all mean that it can’t look professional. Enlist the services of that 12 year old kid we mentioned above if needed. ALSO, when pasting the code for the product, make sure you are in the HTML view in the post you are creating. See the two tabs at the top right of the box where you create your post. They say Visual and HTML. Visual allows you to use the tools to create the post and that is fine, but switch to HTML view before pasting your cart code in. While in Visual mode, put your cursor where you want the Add to Cart button to be, click on the HTML tag then paste it in. It really is that simple.
That’s it. Now you can add your products to your own web site, sell them and get paid all online. Be sure to include your phone number in a prominent place on your web site. Some people will not buy online but will call instead. Be ready for that.
If you get your site up and have questions, post them as a comment to this page and I will do my best to answer them. Again, I am not going to set this up for anyone, but I will do my best to offer advice here only.
Hosting/Domain Registration Alternative Links:
Make sure the package you buy is a UNIX environment with CPanel and at least one database. The package I show in the example above is as good of a deal as you can possibly find. But just in case you don’t like them, here are some links to other hosting companies. Make sure they have WordPress that can be installed from CPanel as an option.
I would love it if lots of merchants in Mineola took this advice and set up their store. I wish I had time to help everyone individually, but I don’t. I’ll be happy to do it all for you for a fee, but that isn’t what this is about. This is about helping people learn to do something. Remember that old saying about giving a man a fish vs. teaching him how to fish? That moral applies here. My true intention is to help you diversify your business and help stave off these hard times by showing you how easy it is to sell on the Internet. One thing I have always believed in is that when times are tough, that is the perfect time to really get busy and do everything possible to improve your business so that when things do rebound, they rebound stronger than ever. This strategy has worked for me at several different times of my professional life. It’s not 100%, but nothing is. You will probably not not make sales the first day or maybe not even the first week or first month. But if you work at this and if you have a desirable product at a competitive price, you will make sales online. Don’t forget to put your web address on all business cards, checks, letterheads, front window and anywhere else you can get it. My next installment here will be to help you promote your web site once it is up and running.
Happy selling and remember, the comments section of this post will act as an area where you can get follow up information.
Disclaimer: Neither Scott Hazard nor BrightSide Media LLC are responsible for any losses, loss of profit or any other damages, real or implied, as a result of anything that happens using the advice above. I have simply put forth information to empower merchants to set up their own web site without paying a fortune. As a result of hosting/domain purchases made using the links on this page, BrightSide Media LLC receives compensation for sending the hosting company a customer. You will not pay more because of this. Whether you use our links or not, we encourage you to explore this and set up a web site of your own. We wish you well and hope that this article has been useful to you.