BethanyW 1/23/2008 9:43:00 AM

So, you want to sell things on-line...

Let me start out by saying that you're not going to like this post. But read all the way to the end, read every word. This is hard advice and it comes from years of experience.

In my business, I meet a lot of folks who have an idea that they can make some money by starting a web storefront and then - after maybe a month - retire and sell the business. I see these folks cry, scratch their head, and fail. I see it over and over and over. It breaks my heart to take their money only to see their new venture go down the drain.

What's missing? The same thing that is missing if they were to open up a brick and mortar storefront. 

  • Willingness to work
  • Knowledge of the area in which they have chosen to compete.  

 What is involved in selling on-line?

You need a web site. That's my job.

You need an account with a credit card processor. No, you can't use the processor that you have now. Just ask them, they'll say no, and threaten to close your account. Accepting credit card transactions online is a very risky business, and you have to pay for that risk. Yes, you. Who else?

No, I will not just collect the credit card number and email them to you, or save them in a database. If it's not against the law it should be. Servers get hacked all the time, just read the papers. Emailing the numbers to you would be a violation of your credit card processing contract, I will not be a party to that.

So, call an on-line credit card processor and open an account. comes to mind, they're big, but there are lots. Expect to pay $50/month even if you don't sell a single thing (and in your first few months you won't). Expect to pay about 7% of your gross.

You need traffic.

This is a killer. People think that they can just open up a site and they'll sell things. You won't. I know lots of successful merchants, and they all have one thing in common - they work. All day, every day. Getting traffic to a web site is not easy, it requires the same amount of sweat that any other store would. If you are not willing to do that, then don't bother.

Don't blame the web developer. This sounds like self-serving advice, but I am aware of really ugly sites that get lots of traffic (Like this one, actually). Frequently people call me and ask if I'll redo their site so that they will get traffic. I ask how much traffic they're getting now (They don't know, but they haven't sold anything in months). It's not the site design. You need traffic in the first place. If people are not going to your site, making it prettier will not help. I give these people my half-hour speech on web marketing and send them on their way. If you'd like to hear it, I'd love to share <smiles>

I'm not able to tell you in the space of this article what you need to do, but I am able to tell you that it is a full time job. If you come to me an complain that you're not selling anything or that you're not getting traffic, I'm going to ask how long you work at it every day. Or, how much you pay someone else to do it. If you say none and none, there's your answer.

Sorry for the attitute. Christ commands us to love our neighbors and to do that I'd sooner that you had a full understanding of what it means to operate an eCommerce business than to take your money and see you fail.

May God bless you and your endeavours.


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