March 30, 2011

The Road to Financial Independence: Selling Online

One of the most popular ways to work for yourself these days is to set up an online store, but which site is the best for you? I've used several, but I'm just going to give you a quick run down of three biggies.

eBay has been a popular auction site for a long time. Some people have great luck selling on eBay, but it depends greatly on what you are selling and your customer base. Many people visit the site looking for something for nothing and, sadly, many sellers are willing to give it to them just to get the sale. There are also a lot of fees involved. Be sure to read and understand all the fine print before you start listing. You want to make sure you can sell your goods at a fair price and cover your costs for listing. If you're going to be selling a large number of items, you may want to look into opening a store front. You'll pay a monthly fee and get discounted rates on the other fees that eBay charges.

Etsyis a site that specializes in handmade and vintage items. On Etsy, you will pay a fee every time you list (or re-list) an item and you will pay a final value fee when you sell an item. It's fee structure that is very similar to eBay's. Etsy gets a lot of traffic. And I do mean a lot. However, it can be hard to be seen here. You will need to spend as much time promoting your store as you will spend creating things to put in it before you will see much traffic to your specific store. If you're lucky enough to snag a feature, you'll probably get very busy. If you don't (and with thousands and thousands of stores you probably won't), you'll have your work cut out for you.

Artfire is the new kid on the block. It is also dedicated to handmade and vintage, and also features fine art and design. Artfire has several options for your account (your "studio"). You can set up a basic account for free. You will be able to list an unlimited number of items, but you don't have access to all the seller tools that a paid account does. There will also be ads on your studio pages. If you're brand new to online selling and don't want to invest a bundle this is the way to go. You can also get a "pro" studio. With this category, you will pay a monthly fee. No listing fees and no final value fees. If you're a serious seller with a lot of inventory to list, I highly recommend this option. Artfire also offers the most tools to their pro sellers of all the sites. You will need to spend some serious time promoting your studio here, too, but Artfire's search functions differently than Etsy's, making results a bit more random. Which, in turn, makes it a bit easier to be found in the crowd.

Of course, there are lots of other options out there. There are other auction and storefront sites on the internet. There is also the option of having your own website with a shopping function. You really have to do some research to see what will work best for your situation. This is just a brief synopsis to help get you started. Good luck!

**Full disclosure: I've had a store on all three sites. Currently, I only use Artfire as it has come to be my favorite and the most economical for me.**


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