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 eCommerce store that actually makes money takes time. The eCommerce 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 website easily.
However, this is only the beginning. While you may be able to take advantage of an eCommerce software solution and existing templates to create a website in a single day, there is more to consider. It will take time to source your products, set up back-end accounting and inventory control systems, and orchestrate a marketing campaign. In short, the idea of “making money while you sleep” doesn’t quite hold water. Running an Internet eCommerce store can certainly be done in one’s spare time though, and given enough time and effort, it can turn into a lucrative career.
Besides the time aspect, there is of course money involved, and this can range from pocket change to tens of thousands of dollars. Larger eCommerce 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 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 eCommerce 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 expenses—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 be figured into the budget, since 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.