We all know that having a presence online is a good thing that can help our creative business in terms of marketing, visibility and selling. I know I’ve preached how important your online presence is and how big a difference it can make on the bottom line if you have a good website, let alone webshop.
Now, creating a basic website with selling capabilities is not as hard as it used to be, actually the reality is that we’re spoiled for choice. It’s finding the right solution that fits your level of technical skill, cost and time that is the real challenge here.
And to be honest with you, online selling platforms are not my field of expertise, but luckily I know just the right person to ask.
My fellow creative business coach, Laura C George, has not only done the research for us, she’s also picked three of her favourite online selling platforms and made a mini guide of the good and bad.
Laura’s Mini Guide to online selling platforms
For the most control over your artistic business, I always recommend you create a website yourself in WordPress.org or hire a web designer to do it for you (also in WordPress so you can easily add, remove, and change content yourself without paying someone every time you have a new product).
But with all the work it requires to get started online, sometimes it’s better to just get a site up the easy way. And as long as it’s still pretty and functional, that’s a really good way to get going fast. Building a site from scratch takes time and often money. Using a hosted shop is usually free or low-cost and you can be up and running in an afternoon.
How’s that for easy?
But how do you choose from all the different platforms out there? Well, I’m going to do a bunch of the legwork for you. First off, let me list some of the popular ones.
- Big Cartel
I’m going to do a thorough run-down of my three favourites: Etsy, Big Cartel, and SupaDupa. But if none of the three fit your needs, do look up some of these other options. Let’s identify the right solution for you. Here goes!
Good: The layout and aesthetics of the site is very modern, clean, and approachable for most customers. You can have five photos of your items. It’s very easy to use: adjusting listings, fixing text, even seeing some basic statistics for your site. Etsy also brings a little (very little!) traffic to your shop because you show up in their site’s own search results and members can include your items in collections, called Treasuries, that often give you a big of exposure.
Bad: The text on your homepage is primarily hidden so if you’ve got something people need to see, you’re likely out of luck. The layout is stagnant – you can’t move things around or make it look how you want. Your only aesthetic control is your banner, your avatar, and your product photos. Your customers can’t purchase without an Etsy account.
Other: There are a number of pages you need to fill out – an extensive policies page and two about pages (one for you and one for your shop). You can only sell handmade items, vintage items, or supplies to make handmade items. The vibe of the site is clean, handmade, crafty, and cute.
Cost: On Etsy you pay a 20 cent listing fee plus 3.5% of the purchase price at the time of sale. If an item doesn’t sell, you are only out the 20 cents. (You may also have Paypal fees or direct checkout fees.)
Good: You have a lot of design control, with multiple templates to choose from, and you can even customize with HTML or CSS if you like/are able. You can purchase a domain name and have your Big Cartel shop on that domain so your site is mydomain.com instead of mydomain.bigcartel.com (this is a feature for paid plans). It’s really easy to edit things. It’s free to list your first five items. Inventory tracking is available.
Bad: It’s harder to get found on Big Cartel since there aren’t any easy ways to just browse Big Cartel shops. The templates aren’t as pretty as some other sites, typically employing smallish photos which don’t perform as well for sales. The number of product images is limited to 1 on the free plan and 3 on the first paid plan.
Other: You have to have a Paypal account. The vibe of the site is clean, down to earth, and no frills.
Cost: On Big Cartel, the first 5 products are free (limited functionality). After that, you pay $10 per month for 25 products and more robust features. There are also larger plans that you pay more for. (You also have Paypal fees.)
Good: You have a lot of design control, with multiple templates to choose from. You can make it look like a normal website with navigation, a homepage, etc. You can purchase a domain name and have your SupaDupa shop on that domain. They’re still fairly small so the customer service is top notch, unlike the other two platforms where it’s much more difficult to get help.
Bad: You won’t get any traffic from SupaDupa itself; it just hosts your site. The back-end isn’t as simple as others, but at least it’s pretty right? SupaDupa has slightly fewer customizable options than Big Cartel.
Other: The vibe of the site is urban and hit, but still professional.
Cost: On SupaDupa, the first 10 products are free. After that, you pay $19 per months for 50 products and more robust features. There are also larger plans that you pay more for.
Again, if none of these feel like the right solution for your business, you should explore the other options I listed at the beginning of the article. The last thing you want to do is get invested in one hosted shop and then have to switch because it’s just not working for you. That process loses you time and money, which are very hard to come by when you’re starting a business. Hopefully I’ve done all the research you need to pick the best hosted shop so you can get your business running today! Hooray!
This post is a guest post by Laura C George
Laura C George liberates and energizes artists who feel stuck, arming them with the knowledge they need to create a career that supports them emotionally and financially. Or, in short, she’s a business coach for artists. Happiest when knee-deep in the art world, Laura is one of the featured experts during the Thriving Artist Summit, a free event all about building and growing creative businesses taking place the first half of December 2013.
You can find Laura here www.lauracgeorge.com