Saturday, January 20, 2007

Getting Started - I Want A Website - But, Where Do I Begin?

I Want A Website - But, Where Do I Begin? Primitive Times Magazine 1/2007 E-Zine Issue

I often hear the following types of comments and questions from other crafters who are thinking of selling online:
You have so many websites and blogs. I want a website - but, where do I begin?

What kind of website should I have?

I'm not a programmer - so, how can I design a website?

Oh, it's just co confusing I'm not sure I can handle it!

It's so expensive. I'm just starting out and I can't afford much!

Selling crafts online can be very, very exciting and yet at the same time - so intimidating. The good news is you CAN easily have a website and it's not as expensive or as intimidating as you may think.

Why is that? Well, because there are many, many ways to create websites online. You don't have to be software programmer and you don't have to spend a lot of money.

In fact, if you utilize a FREE blog or any one of the numerous FREE websites out there you don't have to spend a penny. There are countless website services offering FREE websites to sellers who have a small number of products to sell. Plus, any product can be sold off of a FREE blog. And, there are countless websites out there designed to help you sell your products.

In fact, there are so many possibilities for creating a crafting presence online that the question really should be - Why haven't you created a website yet?

So, what are the various ways?

Basically, you can sell just about anything with a one page website and email address. You don't even need to utilize a shopping cart service such as PayPal or credit card service if you don't want to. Your customers can communicate with you via email and pay you via check if that is the way you wish to do business. You could even just include an order form on your website that they can print off, fill out, and mail to you.

You can utilize any of the countless FREE blog websites out there or use an auction website like eBay or Etsy. Or, you can utilize a DIY (Do It Yourself) type website, easy booth type website, or website in a box type service. You can even sell your crafts from a picture album hosting website if you want to.

If all of that isn't to your liking then you can utilize an online shopping mall, marketplace type website, or classified ads type website to sell your products. Websites of this nature are there to help you easily sell your products and, in essence, you are renting space within their domain name. You do not need one of your own.

Sounds easy enough, but there are a few simple things you need to determine before you jump right in? First you need to determine what you are going to sell, how you are going to communicate with the customer, and how are they going to pay you.

There are several options for deciding how the customer is going to pay you. They can pay you by a check that they mail to you, via an online shopping cart service like PayPal, via a credit card service that you contract for, or even via email billing from you.

Communication can easily be handled by establishing an email address specifically for your business and by including your postal address and telephone number somewhere on your website. Also, by utilizing many of the online shopping cart services communication with the customer and payment to you becomes automatic.

Once you know what you are going to sell, how you are going to communicate with your customer, and how they are going to pay for their product you can then embark on determining which type of website is best suited to you.

If you decide to use any one of the numerous Create A Shoppe, DIY, or EZShoppe type websites or thousands of blog websites that are readily available then your job is pretty easy as these types of websites are basically user-friendly. In other words, you really don't need any programming skills to set them up and you can easily maintain them. Most provide the ability to handle email ordering and/or a PayPal shopping cart.

This is not to say that most of these types of websites wouldn't eventually benefit from some HTML, Javascript, or CSS coding. They would. Rest assured, however, that if you should want to enhance your website with some more elaborate features you could easily copy/paste the HTML, Javascript, or CSS code from whatever website is providing the service that you want, such as a newsletter, subscription service, guestbook, etc. You don't need to understand HTML, Javascript, or CSS to copy/paste code that is generated for you.

If you have many products to sell and want a more elaborate type of website, specifically geared towards you then you can design a website yourself using web design software programs such as: Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Frontpage or Macromedia Dreamweaver and incorporate a shopping cart, such as PayPal, etc. into them.

For these type of websites you will need to utilize the services of a hosting company on whose server your website will reside. You can design your website on your own computer and then transfer it to your internet hosting service via FTP. File Transfer Protocol, is the technical way in which your web page would be transferred to the internet so your customers could see it. It is also the way in which you would maintain and update your website. For websites of this nature you would need to establish a domain name (i.e. a www. location on the internet for your website).
If you have programming skills and know HTML, Javascript, CSS, etc. you can design and hardcode a website yourself. Or, if you don't have programming skills you can hire someone to design, host, and even maintain a website for you. The latter is the most costly way to go.
However, if you want to just get your feet wet and aren't sure about any of this website business as of yet then then you can just participate in any one of the numerous online craft shows for whatever period of time the show is running. Most of these utilize DIY type website, Create A Shop type website, or EZShoppe type website software, etc. They, too, are all user-friendly and would provide you with the ability to see how some of these do-it-yourself websites might function. Plus, most online craft shows provide for either using a PayPal shopping cart, for accepting email orders, or for both.

There are lots of other things experts might tell you that you need to know to sell your products on the internet. They might include: search engine optimization, promoting and marketing strategies, keywords, meta tags, banner exchanges, networking exposure, traffic boosters, affiliate programs, tracking statistics, adsense, etc.

Do you really need to know all of this to start? In my opinion - NO! That would certainly make it intimidating and is, initially, unnecessary for a small business crafter selling a few products. My philosophy is that all you need to do is dip your finger in and sample the water before you decide to drink it. You don't need to learn how to purifiy the water in order to take a sip. Once you are comfortable with the basic workings of a website then you can embark on learning how to put your website on a path to success.

Copyright © 2007 - All Rights Reserved - Written By Linda Walsh of Linda Walsh Originals and Linda's Blog. Linda is a doll maker and doll pattern designer.

1 comment:

dee-q said...

Thank You for sharing those info with us!

web site development is a very big business these days. Almost every company in the world is trying to make their make on the web. However creating a nice looking, functional web site is not very easy to achieve unless you have the right tools and workers to help you.

Search Engine Optimization should be considered during the planning of any web site. And the best time for implementing good SEO is during the initial design stage.

There are companies online that outsource webmaster service that could sure help other people who are thinking of setting up their own business web sites.

I hope this helps!

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