Selling products from your website is a great way to add another revenue stream to your business. You can sell physical products and downloads with ease. On my site I sell ebooks, greeting cards, stock photos and prints with ease. But to do this, you do need to take credit card payments and have a shopping cart.
There are two ways to accept credit card payments:
- Have your own merchant account
- Use another business’ merchant account
To create your own merchant account, you need to set up a business checking account at your bank. Then set up a merchant account with them. When approved, you will pay a monthly fee and a fee per transaction. The transaction fee us usually a percentage of the sale, plus a flat fee per transaction.
Having your own merchant account is fine for larger businesses, but can be expensive for one or two person businesses. In that case it’s better to just use someone else’s merchant account.
There are a lot of companies that let you do this, including: PayPal, 2Checkout, Authorize.net and ClickBank. When deciding which one to go with, don’t only compare their fees and price per transaction, but what other features they offer.
For example, PayPal offers Buy buttons, printing of invoices and mailing labels and more. Also, go online and do a search for “Complaint” and the company name. All of these companies have complaint sites about them; just see if what people say is something you can live with.
Next you need a shopping cart, and possibly a fulfillment service. Fulfillment is when a company sends out the purchased items for you. Some of the merchant account companies offer this, or there are other companies that specialize in this service. I found that E-junkie worked great for me because they could deliver purchased ebooks without me having to lift a finger.
There are website companies that offer shopping carts built into the websites they provide, like Photoshelter, PhotoDeck and Zenfolio. Other companies offer stand-alone shopping carts, like E-junkie and RedCart.
With places like RedCart you pay once, unlike companies like Photoshelter, where you pay a monthly fee. Some of these places include additional features, like a pricing module. So if a client wants to buy a stock photograph from you, they put in the usage they want, and a price is automatically calculated so they can buy instantly.
Which way you go depends on your needs. It’s best to make a list of the features you need to automate and not automate with these services, and then find the company that best meets those needs at your price point. Keep in mind that online sales are usually pretty low, so don’t spend a lot of money until your online income justifies it. You can always add features as your sales increase.
So what do I do? I mainly sell ebooks and prints from my website. While I wanted my ebooks sales to be automated, I didn’t want print delivery done that way. With prints, I feel it’s necessary to examine them before shipping to a client to be sure they meet my standards. While this can also be automated, I didn’t want to run the risk of a bad print being sent out.
I set up a PayPal account to handle my credit card sales. Then I created an account on E-junkie for fulfillment. I started out using PayPal for my Buy buttons, but I’m switching over to E-junkie because their buttons let me offer coupons, discounts for high volume sales and more.
- E-junkie sends the sales request to PayPal.
- PayPal tells E-junkie when the sale is complete.
- E-junkie sends an email to the buyer with a unique link where they can download the ebook(s).
- E-junkie sends me a copy of the email that the client received.
- E-junkie and PayPal send me emails telling me what was sold.
- E-junkie deposits the money into my PayPal account where PayPal takes its transaction fee. E-junkie takes a flat monthly fee out of my PayPal account. I can sell one copy of an ebook a month, or 10,000 copies, and it’s still the same flat fee through E-junkie. Their monthly fee is based on how many different products you sell.
All of this happens in the blink of an eye. I just check my emails once a day and see how much money I’ve made in the past 24 hours.
For prints, I use a Buy button and complete the order manually. It takes a little more work for the client, which may cost me sales, but the volume is so low that there’s no reason to automate the process.
This system works well for me, it may not work well for you. Only you can decide.
Do keep one thing in mind. When you use a website like Photoshelter you’re pretty well locked into them. If you decide to move to a different provider, like Zenfolio, you will need to upload all of your photographs again, put them in their proper folders, add titles, keywords and more. That’s a lot of work.
Your options for making sales online are anywhere from almost free to expensive, so choose well and balance your needs with the costs. Happy sales.