Labor of Love: Simple Steps for Setting Up Your Online Shop

by Jennifer Sandra, February 10, 2015

Setting up a retail business used to take a lot of time and money but thanks to the internet, you can quickly and easily start trading from an online store in no time at all.

With access to numerous free tools and with plenty of cheap web hosting around, it has never been easier to create your own catalog of goods and watch people start to add items to the shopping cart.

Here is a look at the simple steps involved in creating your own online shop and generating an income from your internet-based business.

Should you host your own online store?

There are actually a number of places where you can set up a merchant account and sell your goods through some instantly recognizable sites like Amazon and EBay, but for better control, nothing really compares to having your own self-hosted storefront.

When you host your own e-commerce site, you have much more control over the shop itself and how it is presented to the buying public, than you would have if you chose to use an internet behemoth like Amazon as your selling portal.

If you use an established website rather than create your own, you can avoid heft transaction fees as well as transaction and listing fees, which can all start to eat into your profit margins. One negative aspect of running your own storefront is the fact that it will be more labor-intensive and you will need to update your shopping cart scripts on a regular basis, so that you avoid the problem of security vulnerabilities.

Getting started

You will no doubt have already planned what products you intend to sell and decided on a trading name together with a list of prices that you intend to charge.

Once you have the basics sorted and are ready to put together your online shop, there are a number of steps to take so that your business can get up and running and receiving customers to your website.

Sort out your domain name and register the one you want using one of the popular domain name registrars, who should make it relatively easy and inexpensive to help you get what you want, depending on the domain that you have chosen.

Web hosting is an important step and check out a revealing iPage review to get an honest appraisal of why they come out top on a lot of review sites. Several key attributes that you want from your web host is cPanel with Fantastico scripts or Ensim Power Tools if you prefer a windows-based server. Having these features make the installation of third-party scripts such as shopping cart systems, much easier than it would be without them, so always run through the checklist of what is included before signing up to a particular host.

Dedicated IP address

You will need to order a dedicated IP address for your website, which should cost about $2 per month and in addition, you will need a private SSL certificate, which costs in the region of $50 per year.

SSL is the Secure Sockets Layer protocol that provides the encryption of data required for protecting customer data. You should be aware that a good number of web hosts offer access to free shared SSL certificates, but the issue with these is they can generate warnings in the browser that the SSL certificate does not match the domain name.

This creates an element of distrust with your customers that you don’t really want, so it is better to spend the money on getting a private SSL certificate.

Shopping cart script

Unless you are competent enough to install a script manually on your website, you can get a shopping cart script for free from sites like osCommerce and Zen Cart.

These scripts are the critical support system for many online stores and the advantage of using one of the popular scripts is the fact that they are ready to go and a lot of the technical bits have already been done for you.

Payment gateway

Getting paid for your goods or services is what it is all about and you want a payment gateway that allows you to take credit card payments online.

These payment gateways allow you to validate card payments and allow you to sell to as many people online as possible. The card processing company you use, will take a percentage of the transaction as a processing fee and someone like PayPal, takes between 2.2% and 2.9% of each transaction, depending on how much business you generate each month.

Once you have set up your website and installed your shopping cart system, you can then customize your online shop to get it looking how you want it. All you have to do then is make sure you handle fulfilment and shipping to keep your customers happy, and watch your business grow.