Having your own website needn’t be complicated as you’ll learn later, but first, you might be thinking: ‘Why on earth do I need to bother with a website? eBay brings me all the profits I need!’

A fair enough opinion – however, there are some VERY important reasons why a website should be part of your online selling strategy…

Your business is very important and as you’ll know I’m always going on about why you should diversify your income streams and ‘never put all your eggs in one basket’!

This is because your business is special and you never know what’s around the corner – this applies both to the products you sell and also where you sell them – whether it’s eBay, Amazon or other online venues.

I’ve noticed that more of you are now realizing that it’s vital you consider setting up your own website to run alongside your online ventures. There are definitely lots of advantages to this, not least that if eBay and Amazon folded tomorrow (unlikely I know but not impossible!) your business can continue uninterrupted and your income will be safe.

There are also the cost implications. Think of all those listing and selling fees you’ll save!

eBay charges a final value fee of 10% in most categories – 12% in some – plus of course there’s the listing fees and PayPal who take their cut too. 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 overheads running alongside your other important venues.

Of course, although these fees are a pain because none of us like to see some of our profits being swallowed up, eBay and Amazon are both fantastic selling platforms and as long as you are making a profit selling your goods on these sites you should continue to do so. What I’m talking about here is adding to your income streams by opening your own online store, rather than choosing one income stream over another.

Please don’t be frightened or overwhelmed by the thought of setting up your own website…

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) used to make me think that I needed to be a computer whizz to set up my own website, or worse pay someone huge amounts of money to do the job for me. But actually it’s not like that at all!

You might think it’s too complicated or time-consuming? Too technical or requires huge amounts of creativity?

Well, actually there’s software out there that 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.

If this interests you and you would like to get started, then the information below will help you through the early stages of planning and creating your own site. I haven’t got enough space to go into the finer details but I am going to cover the main things that you should be aware of so that you can at least get started.

Five things you should consider

  • What will your domain name be?
  • Who will ‘host’ your website?
  • How will you create a storefront to advertise your products?
  • How will buyers select your products?
  • How will those buyers pay you for your products?

I’ll go through each of these now so that you can get started…

1. What will your domain name be?

Your domain name is simply the name of your website, for example: www.myshop.co.uk

So, when you are choosing and registering your domain name you should try and make it as relevant as you can, to your products. (This will help you get found more easily in the search engine results). E.g. If you sell coloured paper, your domain could be ‘www.colouredpaper.co.uk’.

Obviously many popular domains will already be taken so you’ll need to be a little creative, change words around, add hyphens etc. if necessary to get the name you want.

Over at UK Reg you can check if a domain has already been registered, so have a play about and see what’s available. Domain names aren’t expensive, – you’ll be looking at spending between £5 and £10 depending on the words you want to use. Prices do vary but there are lots of sites where you can purchase a domain name – and that’s the first step done!

2. Who will host your website?

In order for your website to be seen you need a company to ‘host’ it.

All hosting companies are different so you’ll need to look at a few and choose the one that best meets your own requirements. The important thing here is to choose a competent company who respond quickly to queries, are helpful and on hand in an emergency.

Always sign up for the shortest term to start with until you are sure that you are satisfied with their service, better still try and take up a ‘one month free trial’ offer or similar. Please don’t be tempted to go for completely ‘free’ offers. It’s likely to be a poor service and very slow with a lot of down time. You’ll also be unlikely to get your own domain name – it will be your chosen name tagged on to the end of the hosting company’s name – not very professional!

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 http://www.fasthosts.co.uk as a host, but I add a separate shopping cart provider.

If you are not sure who to choose, use the following site to look at reviews of the top hosting companies in the UK: http://www.hosting-review.com

3. 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 create your web page so that 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 to simple software that will build your website pages for you.

The simplest method involves WordPress. You’ll find the site at: www.wordpress.org

This is a 100% free tool and is simple to use. You have a ‘control panel’ page on your website and you use this to create your pages and make changes – very straight-forward.

You don’t even need to design a layout, you can just choose one 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!

If that’s not for you then there are hundreds of ‘point and click’ site builders out there – far too many to list here but try EKM Powershop or Pro Stores (an eBay company!)

4. How will buyers select your products?

By far the easiest shopping cart to use on your website is PayPal – whom you will already be familiar with. 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.

5. How will those 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. There’s no use having a shiny new shopping cart but no payment processor! So, if you have decided to use the PayPal shopping cart, it makes perfect sense for PayPal to process the payments too! Go to www.paypal.co.uk

For basic selling, PayPal offer those “buy now” buttons that I mentioned earlier that you can simply cut and paste into your web pages very easily. 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, you may want to switch to another such as SagePay – who charge you a percentage on every sale, but the larger your sales volume, the lower the percentage charge on the total sale will be.

You see! It isn’t complicated at all. These five steps will get you started and the sites I’ve recommended are all here to make your life easier. Have a good look at them and make the decision to start your expansion!