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The Blogger’s Guide to Selling Online
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You’ve reached the point in your blogging career that you are ready to put your blog to work. After all, you’ve raised and nurtured it. Shouldn’t it pay you back by bringing in a little cash? Or a lot of cash?
If you’ve got a sufficient following, you’ve probably thought of selling via your blog. We’re here to help you get a handle on all the aspects of online selling that bloggers need to know.
Why Should Bloggers Sell Online?
Obviously, everyone could use a little more mad money, right? But maybe in the past, you thought it would take more time than it was worth to earn income from your blog. That’s obviously true for some online sales models, but as a blogger, you actually have a leg up. In fact, bloggers with a loyal following of readers are better placed than almost anyone else to sell products online.
The Benefits of Selling Online
There’s a lot of buzz these days about passive income. Passive income is a “set it and forget it” method of selling online, meaning that you create something once (e.g., an ebook) and it can generate sales for you on an ongoing basis without any additional work on your part. But passive income isn’t the only thing that bloggers get out of opening an online store.
- Get paid for your work. You’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating the content on your blog and getting the word out about it. Don’t let that work go unrewarded.
- Support your hobby. If your blog focuses on niche interests or subcultures, selling items can help you pay for the hobby you’re writing about.
- Establish your authority. If you’ve got an ambitious goals, selling items or informational content in your area of expertise can prove you’re an authority on a topic.
- Get rid of your stuff. You can use your blog to promote what you’re selling on eBay or through local swap meets.
- Reward your readers. Selling doesn’t need to be all about you. Fair pricing on fan-friendly products can reward your readers for their loyalty.
- Donate to charity. You can raise money for your favorite causes in amounts you wouldn’t be able to match with your solo contributions.
What Can Bloggers Sell?
Almost anything you can imagine. You can even sell cars if you have a distribution method!
To stoke your creativity, here are some ideas for products:
- Digital products are probably the first things that come to mind when a blogger considers selling something. Ebooks, music, videos, memberships, subscriptions, online courses, and reselling other services (like web hosting) are great product ideas, especially since their inventory doesn’t take up space.
- Physical products are also worthy of consideration. You could ship them yourself from home or join up with a third party to handle your inventory.
- Donations are another type of “virtual product.” You can ask people to support your blog or solicit donations to your favorite charity.
Types of E-commerce Solutions
A few years ago, if a blogger wanted to sell something online, they had two choices: (1) Direct readers to their eBay store or (2) become a full-fledged business to sell items through Amazon.
Forget about selling digital products because very few individuals could afford the shopping cart functionality that was available to digital businesses like iTunes.
Today’s bloggers have dozens of options for selling almost anything. You can use many tools right on your blog, including:
- Standalone sites (eBay, Etsy) that you link to from your blog
- Store overlays you can add anywhere, including social media
- Blog plug-ins
- Embedded widgets
- Online store site builders
Using a Website Builder
While specific e-commerce solutions may seem like a no-brainer, going for an ultra-intuitive website builder plan can save you some dough. Many website builder plans, in fact, offer e-commerce themes with integrated payment options and niche specific features. Media Temple is a great starting point, starting at $10 per month, not to mention a 10-day free trial.
Bloggers often have different needs when it comes to online selling compared to other businesses, especially if you don’t have your own retail brick-and-mortar store.
If you’re just starting out with selling, you might easily be overwhelmed by all the available features. Don’t wig out! We’ll explain what features are available so you can find the perfect tool for your blog with a minimum of confusion.
Factors to consider for bloggers who want to sell online:
- Trial period — Does the host allow a free trial period to test your store?
- Setup fees — Does the online host charge an initial fee or a monthly hosting fee?
- Per transaction fees — Does the hosting company take a percentage of your sales? Also, does the payment provider charge fees on every sale you make? Do fees increase based on the price of the item sold?
- Ease and speed of setup — How easy is it to get your store up and running?
- Blog integration — Is it easy to make your store look like part of your blog?
- Availability of sales earnings — Does the store host or payment provider hold earnings in escrow or pay immediately?
- Existing sales portal integration — If you’re already selling online (e.g., eBay or Etsy), can you take advantage of your existing setup?
- Scalability — Do you need a store that will scale as your product catalog grows?
- Additional features to consider — customer reviews, marketing via email list, appointment scheduling for service providers, digital rights management, shipping options, sales tax/VAT, accounting services, donations, and handling product returns.
What’s Your Blogger Profile?
We know that when it comes to blogging, one size doesn’t fit all. So we’re going to break down each online store option we found by the type of blogger it’s best for.
- New bloggers
- Experienced bloggers
- Entrepreneurs who write blogs to support their existing business
- Geeky bloggers who prefer functionality over design
- Artsy bloggers who prefer design over functionality
Online Stores by Blogger Profile
We’ll take you through some of the most popular store options. Unless otherwise indicated, all the stores below come with:
- Stripe and PayPal payments
- Automatic shipping, tax, and VAT calculations
- No setup or transaction fees (doesn’t include fees from payment gateways)
- Sales of both digital and physical products
- SSL security certificates
- Responsive design
- Inventory management
- Coupons or promotional pricing
- Multiple currencies
- Extensive help and onboarding tutorials
- Demo stores or free trials
Ecwid is an online store that’s actually cloud-based app that works as an overlay. You can use it to sell items on your blog — and just about anywhere else. Besides your blog, you can use Ecwid with Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Etsy, and site builders. It has a free plan (10 products) that you can keep forever and sets up in about five minutes.
A unique feature of Ecwid is that it allows you to create a branded app for your store.
If you don’t want to try out a free account, you can try Ecwid’s demo store.
Ecwid is best for: Any type of blogger since it’s easy to use and extremely flexible.
Cart 66 is a WordPress-only paid plugin that adds store functionality to your blog. It can be seamlessly integrated into any of your blog’s pages, posts, or widgets via shortcodes. It will even grab your site’s theme to skin your shopping pages (through a process called “Page Slurp”) so that every part of the transaction looks like it’s on your blog.
A unique feature of Cart 66 is that it is PCI compliant, which is a step up in security from the typical SSL certificate that you get from most online store providers.
You get a 14-day trial, but you can see how a store looks to customers in the Cart 66 demo store.
Cart 66 is best for: Experienced or Artsy bloggers who know exactly what they want their store to do and how it should look.
WooCommerce is a free, self-hosted, open source WordPress plugin. Unlike Cart 66, which is all-inclusive, WooCommerce is modular and can be customized with extensions to do just about anything you want while skipping features you don’t need.
WooCommerce’s extensions allow for unique functionality like adding product reviews, payment via cash-on-delivery (COD), the ability to sell courses with Sensei’s learning management system (LMS), and appointment booking.
WooCommerce’s plugin is free to download and install, but many of the extensions are paid.
WooCommerce is best for: Experienced or Geeky bloggers who are familiar with working on the backend of WordPress and want to pick-and-choose store functionality.
E-junkie is an overlay that can be added to any web page or social media post. E-junkie stores are great for selling digital products because it allows for expirable links, PDF stamping, and selling digital items on eBay and Facebook.
E-junkie also has unique tools like integration with the US Postal service, discounts for nonprofits, name-your-price sales, and the option to create your own affiliate program.
E-junkie is best for: Artsy or Entrepreneurial bloggers because it focuses on helping creators sell their work and allows you start your own affiliate program.
You’ve probably already heard of Shopify It’s a store hosting site that lets you embed a Shopify widget anywhere on your blog as well as on social media. You can even add Shopify to Pinterest or get your items sold on Amazon.
Shopify has other handy sales tools like drop shipping, the ability to sell gift cards, and free tools for creating simple logos and slogans.
Be careful, though, because, unlike other online stores, Shopify does charge credit card fees, transaction fees, and payment gateway fees.
Shopify is best for: Entrepreneurial bloggers because of its extensive and deep sales functionality.
Wix is a site builder that includes online store functionality. Of course, as a site builder, Wix comes with a lot of other features, but it can be used as a store only if you like.
Wix stores have unique features like integration with Etsy shops, product price comparison tables, customer reviews of products, Google maps, and live chat.
Wix is best for: New or Entrepreneurial bloggers because it offers easy drag-and-drop site builder functionality and many features that businesses can use.
Gumroad is a standalone online store. Although you can embed links to your products in your blog or social media posts, visitors will need to click through to your Gumroad store to buy items.
The nifty thing about Gumroad is that it’s built around “makers” (musicians, crafters, authors, app developers) who are trying to build an audience and sell their creations online.
To that end, it has some unique features like multiple product versions (e.g., mobi, ePub and PDF ebooks), license keys, pay-what-you-want, and rentals. Authors and musicians can even offer pre-sales and set release dates for your work.
Be aware that Gumroad does charge transaction fees.
Gumroad is best for: Artsy bloggers because of it’s “maker-focused” toolset.
If you’re thinking of getting into the monetization game on your blog, online stores are a great way to go. So get out there and start selling!