I often bang on about the need to diversify your income streams and “never put all your eggs in one basket”. That’s because you just never know what’s around the corner, so it’s entirely possible to be doing very well indeed from your solitary income stream one day, only to find your earnings dry up completely a few days later.
Why you should diversify your income streams NOW!
A good example is when eBay banned eBooks from being sold at their site a few years back, and left hundreds of specialist digital product sellers to flounder or very quickly find different products to sell. This problem of being left high and dry if your sole income source goes belly up, applies to both the products you sell as well as to the places where you sell them – whether it’s eBay, Amazon or other online venues.
And that is why I personally think it’s vital that you consider setting up your own website to run alongside your other online ventures. There are lots of advantages to this, not least that if eBay and Amazon folded tomorrow (unlikely, I know, but not impossible!) your business will continue uninterrupted and your income will be safe. Maybe your profits will be lower in the immediate aftermath of such life-changing events, but eventually your income will be buoyant again.
There are also cost implications to think about. Think of all those listing and selling fees you’ll save by having your own website or using some other free or low cost Internet or offline selling venues! Think how much money you’d save by listing your products on your own website, compared to eBay charging a final value fee of 9.9% in most categories, plus of course their listing fees and then there’s PayPal reaching out for their share of your profits also.
Likewise, Amazon currently takes 17.5% as a final value fee. These are all costs that eat into your profits, so it’s sensible to have another income stream with fewer and lower overheads.
But even though these fees are a pain and despised by some sellers, eBay and Amazon are both fantastic selling platforms, and as long as you can still make a profit selling your goods on these sites there’s little you can do but pay up and go with the flow! And let’s face it, we all can make a good deal of money on eBay, also on Amazon, despite their costs being high, so we’re never going to willingly abandon either.
What I’m talking about is adding to your income streams by opening your own online store, rather than replacing one income stream with another.
Now, a long time ago when I had been selling on eBay for a while, I was extremely keen to make even more money. I knew I needed to “expand” and I knew exactly what to do – I needed to set up my own website. But the thought of starting my own website made me very
nervous, and I would literally go into meltdown mode just thinking about the ins and outs of it all!
Those who know me are well aware that I am not technical in any way, shape or form and the thought of all that design work, computer jargon, html and all manner of other things, (some of which are still a mystery to me even today), caused me to think that I needed to be a computer whizz to set up my own website, or worse pay someone hundreds of pounds to do the job for me.
If you subscribe to my monthly Source Report you will know that I always recommend you sell your goods in a variety of different places, such as on eBay, Amazon and from your own niche website, offline too. But even after you’ve got to grips with the eBay and Amazon sales models, the “building a website” situation can be a bit of a stumbling block.
Just as I once did, you might think it’s too complicated or time-consuming. Or maybe you think it all sounds too technical or requires huge amounts of creativity! Well actually, it’s not as difficult as you might think, mainly because there’s new software out there that literally does it all for you. All you have to do is point and click!
These days you can build your own website using services specifically designed for us non-techie types. For example, just take a look at some of the information over at www.godaddy.com where you can build your own small website with their help in a matter of hours.
So, if this interests you and you would like to get started, I’m going to give you some important information to help you through the early stages of planning and creating your own site. Unfortunately, there’s insufficient space to go into the finer details here but I am going to cover the main things that you should be aware of so that you know exactly where to start.
Five things you should consider
The very first thing you need to think about is what will actually make up your online store? By this I don’t mean a long complicated list, because there are literally just five things you need to think about, being:
I’ll go through each of these now...
What will be your domain name?
Your domain name is simply the name of your website, for example: www.myshop.co.uk
Importantly, when you are choosing and registering your domain name you should try and make it relevant or as closely relevant as you can, to whatever products you are selling. This will help you to be found more easily in the search engine results. So, for example, if you sell coloured paper, your domain could be “www.colouredpaper.co.uk”. If you sell lots of different items but all in the kitchen equipment niche then your domain name could be ‘www.kitchenequipment.co.uk’. And so on. Obviously, many of these popular-worded domains will already be taken so you’ll have to be a little creative by changing words around or adding a hyphen to get the name you want.
You can check if a domain has already been registered by someone else when you search for the domain you want. To try this out, go to www.ukreg.co.uk and simply input the domain name you require. The results will tell you if that domain is available or if it is already registered to someone else. If it has already been claimed, you’ll get a number of alternative suggestions based on your original keywords to give you other ideas.
If whatever name you keyed into the search box isn’t already registered you can then purchase and pay for it online. Domain names aren’t expensive, so you’ll be looking at spending between £5 and £10 depending on the suffix – .com., .co.uk, and so on – you want to use.
There are many more sites where you can register and purchase your domain other than UK Reg, but prices will vary so my advice is to check out a few others such as:
- www.godaddy.com – The world’s largest registrar. They can help you with all aspects of setting up your own website.
- www.123-reg.co.uk – Again, they can help you with other aspects of your website.
Who will host your website?
In order for your website to be seen you need a company to host it, or in other words to get it live on the World Wide Web. Hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own and from where they hire out space for others to use.
Hosting has become big business and is extremely competitive which means there are many good hosting companies available but each will offer different features, so you’ll need to check them out as per your own requirements.
Some hosts offer shopping cart software as part of their plan – something you will need if you intend selling products on your site – and some don’t.
For instance, I use www.fasthosts.co.uk as a host, but I then layout my own websites and add my own shopping cart and payment provider that I subscribe to elsewhere.
Hosting packages start from as little as £1.99 a month depending on the features you choose. You just need to do a little research to find the best host for you, but if you are not sure who to choose you can use the following site to look at reviews of the top hosting companies in the UK: www.hosting-review.com or alternatively go to www.webhostingsearch.com if you don’t mind using a hosting company based elsewhere in the world.
I don’t personally think it makes a difference if your hosting company is in the USA or the UK, as long as you make sure their customer service is adequate and also remember time differences if you need a problem sorted out quickly.
How will you create a storefront to advertise your products?
Once you have registered your domain name and found a host for your website, you’ll need to actually create your web pages so you have somewhere to place your products. This is the part that many people think is really, really difficult, But it’s not! There are loads of options here, from full domain registration, hosting and design packages through to simple software that will build your website pages for you.
By far the simplest method for this stage is to use WordPress. You’ll find the site at www.wordpress.org
This is a 100% free tool and is simple to use without any technical knowledge whatsoever. You literally have a control panel page on your website and you use this to create your pages and make changes to your website – it’s all very straightforward.
You don’t even need to design a layout, you just choose a design template and then type in your text and add some product images. WordPress will create all your pages, apply your chosen layout to them, and add a link to each one from the menu bar. It’s a very quick way to get a simple website up and running for your products! More or less idiot proof!
Now, if you are currently an eBay seller and you want something just as easy but with everything under one roof, so to speak, then you should definitely take a look at what ProStores has to offer. This is actually an eBay company and is not the cheapest website package available, however it does score points on ease of use, plus there’s a 30% discount on the subscription available if you are a PowerSeller!
How will buyers select your products?
OK, so once you have created your web pages and got all your products listed and priced up, you’ll need some form of shopping cart so that your customers can choose what they wish to purchase and place it in their virtual baskets ready to buy. Many sites that offer site building, also offer a shopping cart as part of the package. www.ekmpowershop.com is definitely one to look at for a complete solution, as is www.easystorecreator.com which is not the cheapest but is definitely one of the easiest to use!
By far the easiest shopping cart to use on your website is PayPal a company you will already be familiar with if you sell on eBay. PayPal will walk you through the whole process of creating a “Buy Now” button for each product on your website which then feeds into a shopping cart at PayPal. You’ll be able to see your orders just like you can see your eBay orders in PayPal.
How will buyers pay you for your products?
Besides setting up your online store and adding your shopping cart you will also need a company that will accept credit card payments on your behalf so that customers can actually pay you for their chosen products. So, if you have decided to use the PayPal shopping cart, it makes perfect sense for PayPal to process the payments too! You’ll find the details here.
For basic selling, PayPal offer “buy now” buttons that you can simply cut and paste into your web pages very easily with minimal HTML knowledge. What’s more, anyone can purchase from your site via PayPal as they don’t need to have an account with PayPal in order to pay. Again, this is an inexpensive way to get started.
Once you’re up and running (or if you anticipate lots of business from the start), you may want to switch to something other than PayPal such as SagePay – who, like PayPal and other companies, will charge you a percentage on every sale. However, for most companies, the larger your sales volume, the lower the percentage charge on the total sale will be.
So you see, it isn’t complicated at all and those easy steps will get you started, and the sites I’ve recommended are all here to make having your own website a very easy option.
by Amanda O'Brien
Online Trading Expert
Amanda O’Brien is an extremely successful online trader specialising in eBay, Amazon Marketplace and niche sales websites. You can sign up for her free weekly eletter here:
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