Starting Out - Next Steps
Ok...so you've got the basics of your site ready. Now there are a few more things you need to think about. How will you accept payments? Do you need a shopping cart? What about shipping costs and taxes?
This part gets a little tricky. Setting up a shopping cart can be tedious depending on what your products are and their various options, if any. You will also need to access your website's HTML code. This is where creating your own page with an editor comes in handy.
4. HOW WILL I ACCEPT PAYMENTS?
One way to decide this is to see how other crafters are doing it. All you need to do is check out a few sites and you'll get a basic idea of how they go about it. That's what I did in researching this particular aspect for my site.
When you make online purchases, are you most likely to buy an item using a credit card? You'll probably answer yes to that question. Credit card transactions are the easiest way of buying things online, and that makes it important to be able to accept credit cards at your website.
We'll get back to the credit card transactions in a moment...but first I'd like to say if you do not want to bother with a shopping cart and all that's involved with that, I've seen quite a few craft websites handle payments very simply:
Provide phone number and have orders called in to you
Have orders sent to you via e-mail
Design a page with a printable order form that could be filled out and sent to you along with a check or money order, or credit card info if you do have a merchant account. (I've seen this method quite a bit.)
Having said that, I'd like to get back to the credit card topic, which also gets us into shopping cart systems since they sort of work hand in hand. Even if you think you'll go with one of the above options, read on. You might find this a good alternative as does provide your customers with more payment options.
First we'll talk credit card processing....
Now, in keeping with the "free" theme, I did not want the expense of a merchant account. With that in mind, I luckily found a few third party payment processors that will do the credit card transactions for me. I recommend PayPal.com. If you've ever bought auction items, you've probably heard of them! You will need to open a business account with them, and you'll also need to verify the account which requires connecting it to an account at a financial institution, such as a checking account. It's all very easy and that part is FREE. I also found Paypal to charge the lowest processing fees, which is important, since you want to make a profit selling your craft items without having to charge too much for them in order to recoup the fees. The other third party processor I checked into is CCNow. Please check both of their links for more information about each of them. I've also just found out about Propay. They charge a one-time fee of $35 for sign-up and their fees are slightly more than Paypal. They also don't require your customers to sign-up for an account with them.
Here's a page with a list of links for credit card processing.
5. OK, I'VE CHOSEN A PAYMENT PROCESSOR, NOW WHAT?
Alright. I'm going to focus on the PayPal method since to me it is one of THE easiest ways to accept payments. For single item purchases, one option is to create "buy now" buttons and add them (by inserting HTML code) to your site. You'll be able to set the price, shipping amounts and tax, etc. in the button so your customers will only need to click the button in order to make a purchase. They'll be taken to a secure page to complete the order. (By the way, PayPal has help files on their site that explain how this works.)
However, if you have more than one item to sell and do not want your customers to have to make individual purchases, you're going to need a shopping cart.
Paypal also offers their own shopping cart. I did not use their cart, however, because I wanted to make other payment options available to my customers. Aside from that, my products are more involved and require the customer to make several choices, and I needed MORE. (I do see now that PayPal offers a premium service cart for $10/yr and you CAN use other payment methods besides PayPal.)
6. FINDING A SHOPPING CART...
Here is a list of Free Shopping Cart services. Before you click on that link, however, please read on. I went through that list and checked out several of them. I will tell you right now that after looking at all of the options and trying to use them, I decided to go with Mal's E-Commerce and here's why:
Number one, it's FREE!
Number two, you can use PayPal with it! (If you want to use your own merchant account, there is a low monthly fee.)
It has excellent administration and help/support areas and it is so customizable. It was exactly what I needed to offer the options I wanted, not only for payment purposes, but also for my craft items.
There are several alternatives for shipping charges, and it also figures in tax.
The cart itself is hosted on their server. You can configure the cart with your own graphics, etc. so it looks like your website. By using their server, you do not need to worry about your web host provider accepting CGI scripts, etc. (This is important...check with your host company before you pick a shopping cart.)
Their server is SECURE.
You can also get a free listing in Mal's Mall.
You will need to use HTML code with this shopping cart. The site offers many samples that you can cut and paste, but you need to be able to edit the HTML code in order to add your personal information to it. If your items are straightforward, this shopping cart can be very easy to use. I'm also in the process of creating samples for you to copy and paste if you need more options for your craft items. They are not available yet, so if you are interested right now, please e-mail me. and ask.
Alright, NOW go ahead and check out the list of other shopping carts if I haven't sold you on Mal's! (PS: Please note that I am no way reimbursed or profiting from recommending the Mal's cart. I just found it the best thing out there and I can't say enough good stuff about it.)
Since I don't know what cart you'll choose, I can't help you install it on your site. You'll need to use the cart's admin area or support features if you need them. Just make sure that you test it out to verify that the calculations work properly, etc. I tested mine out by putting fake orders through and choosing the "check" option so no money was actually going to be charged.
SPEAKING OF CALCULATIONS...
Make sure you know the tax regulations in your state and you charge the appropriate taxes on the items you sell. Most shopping carts should take that into consideration and you'll be able to insert the percentage when setting up the cart. If you don't use a cart you'll be able to do that manually as customers call in, mail or e-mail their orders to you.
Also, you'll be shipping your items, so you might want to get a postal scale and determine whether or not to charge a flat fee, based on weight or number of items purchased, etc. (Mal's cart works excellent for this.) Make sure you cover the cost of the shipping materials, too!
Ok...on to the last steps!