Thousands of people every day have the dream of setting up an online shop and making extra money, or even turning it into a career, but few realize the true costs involved in terms both actual cash outlay and time involved.
First, let’s take a look at the time factor. Despite the constant barrage of marketing claims of “instant” online stores and “making money while you sleep,” setting up an e-commerce store that actually makes money, takes time. The e-commerce software solution you use will simplify the actual nuts and bolts of creating the site and putting in place a shopping cart system and payment gateway. Web design software also has advanced to the point where it is possible to create an attractive web site easily.
However, this is only the beginning. While you may be able to take advantage of the e-commerce software solution, design software, and existing templates to create a web site in a single day, there is more to consider. It will also take time to source your products, set up back-end accounting and inventory control systems, and orchestrate a marketing campaign for your e-commerce store. In short, the idea of “making money while you sleep” doesn’t quite hold water. Running an Internet e-commerce store can certainly be done in one’s spare time though, and given enough time and effort, it can turn into a lucrative career.
Beyond the time aspect, there is naturally money involved, and this can range from pocket change to tens of thousands of dollars. Larger e-commerce sites that have hundreds or thousands of products, and require a high degree of customization, may prefer to create their sites in-house and host them on their own secure servers, and such a deployment can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, it is possible to get your e-commerce store up and running with very little money, if the initial site is not too complicated. The least expensive option in terms of initial expense is to use hosted systems, both for the web server and for the payment system. This option typically does not carry a large up-front cost, instead focusing on offering reasonable monthly fees. At the very least, it is possible to create a site from existing web design software, or to buy the software (often available for less than a hundred dollars), and use a web host (less than twenty dollars a month). A hosted e-commerce solution will yield another monthly fee, although this too, for small sites, will be easy on the budget, often starting at twenty or thirty dollars a month with a negligible up-front fee.
Other expenses may be incurred, regardless of whether you use a hosted or on-premises system. One thing to consider is office expense—you will need to spend money on initial organization, such as incorporation, and deploying a separate phone and fax line for your business. And of course, marketing must figure into the budget, since all of the technical side of the business will come to nothing if you cannot get customers to visit your site. Marketing too, can be started on a low budget; for example, a pay-per-click campaign using Google AdWords or another similar service can be started with less than a hundred dollars, tweaked as you go to polish your campaign, and added to from there.