Ecommerce outside Ebay – Free Tools Tried and Tested – Part 1

Ebay was my first port of call when I decided to start selling online – I had already been a convinced Ebay buyer for several years.  I have really enjoyed selling on Ebay for over two years now, and have done reasonably well from it.

Meanwhile I have been on the lookout for other solutions for selling online.

Ebay has helped me create a very useful part-time income, however there are a number of reasons why I believe I should diversify. Many of these reasons you may have heard before, but it is part of the story so here goes :

– Ebay charge significant fees which reduce profits (but it can’t be denied they also bring heaps of traffic to me!)
– Ebay have been known to suddenly close accounts, even successful ones with a good reputation – on a whim following a buyer complaint or some types of policy infringement. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
– You don’t own your Ebay store, Ebay does. They make the rules, set their fees, and allow your competitors to be there in front of your buyers. They do not always protect sellers against bad buyers or against foul play from competitors, even if their own policies say they will.
– Ebay policy and fee changes, and competitor sellers’ changing activity mean that you must constantly be alert, putting up listings is not just “fit and forget”. Actually a lot of hard work is involved and there are setbacks.
– There are some items you can’t sell on Ebay UK.  Like : used washable nappies, digital goods delivered electronically, services, items requiring a further deposit (rentals), although some sellers have managed to do some of these in creative ways.
So, where to start?

Other auction sites.

Ebid, um well yes I did set up an account and put up a trial listing, but no sales. Should try harder. Apparently they are getting bigger. I don’t really like the interface.

Other free ecommerce sites.

What I was looking for –

  • Without inane ads preferably.
  • Without a free month then a monthly fee.
  • With personality.
  • With very easy customisation.

Well I have found a few.

Ecrater. A simple place where you can set up a reasonably pretty shop, make your product categories, set up your products, and NO FEES!  Based in US, caters for UK sellers but it takes a bit of effort to figure it out. Got my first proper ecrater order today, after a couple of recent enquiries. Very pleased!  I will make the effort to copy more of my listings there. Works with Paypal. Support limited. Interface could be better. But definite potential. No digitally delivered goods.

Freewebstore. I recently found this one, you can list up to 15 items for free. Within that you can specify and price a lot of options. You can design a limited number of store pages. No ads except for freewebstore itself.
Worrying policy that they can shut your shop down at any time. Also, if you don’t login for 3 months your store is deactivated, and you are sent a reminder email to log in. If you don’t respond after a further 3 months they will delete your shop permanently.
But anyway definitely worth looking at. Digital goods allowed!

Etsy. For handmade and vintage items, and craft supplies. Used to be good but apparently too many sellers now and not enough buyers! Tested a bit, not enough yet.
Very cheap to list, reasonable selling fees. You can personalise your own storefront. Premium membership available for better exposure. I’d have to remind myself of their digital goods policy.

Amazon. I will write a separate article on my experiences with this. Not good for the smaller seller I would say. However maybe with ebooks there would be an opportunity here?

All the above involve squatting on existing selling platforms, sitting amongst all the competition!

But what about your own territory? What about making your own website?

In the next part I will look at some not-free-but-close options for your own website with cheap hosting, see _________

Host your Own Ecommerce WeBSITE

Shuffle to a new post? Expand

I am not a web designer. I have learned a bit of HTML from improving my Ebay listings.
I do not wish to pay a monthly fee for a hosted web store, when I am ramping up slowly. I want to make my money, not them!

When I opened my Ebay shop in late 2010, I bought a domain name for it from GoDaddy. Some months later I bought web hosting from Hostmonster, a good price for unlimited sites and email addresses.

Since then I have experimented with WordPress. But despite various claims I do not believe it is a beginners tool, at least not when you are trying to design your own website and you are not a web designer!  I am a bit frustrated with it. I need a helping hand but I want it to be simpler so I can do it!
Anyway I have experimented with homemade product pages and Paypal buttons.
That is simple enough. Now I am tidying up my Paypal accounts to look a bit more “businessy” when used with my website.
I have had a look at Opencart and Zencart as I am looking for a good and flexible cart that I can use with my website. But they are very complicated. I spent a couple of days testing each cart but have left it to return to another time.

I also discovered Weebly.com, during a Google search I think.
I was sufficiently impressed with the free version that I bought the Pro version.
Although it has limitations which I will probably discuss in a separate article, I believe it could be a good solution for a variety of simple websites. Such as landing pages, squeeze pages, sales pages, and a simple blog site (one site can contain multiple blogs).
You can use Paypal buttons on a Weebly site too, though support for product options is limited to what the Paypal buttons will do.
Other advantages of Weebly which drew me towards it are :
– no ads
– you can set up a simple digital goods site,
– you can set up a one page site or a small sales site, or a blog, or set of blogs
– templates are nice and easy with lots of choice
– I can write to a Weebly blog on my Galaxy Tab, though only the Firefox browser works with Weebly’s blog interface;
– simple interface at least from a PC.

A few disadvantages :
– the drag and drop web builder is impossible to use from my tablet.
– there are some limitations to what you can create, and you can’t unpublish a single page or post without deleting it
– you can’t as far as I know create a membership site with it
– many of the add-ons recommended by weebly are actually paid add-ons.
– even with the pro version you are limited to 10 sites.
– getting it to run from your own domain name is tricky.
And that is pretty much it for the moment!

I will update this post or create a follow up post later when I have more experiences to add.
Please add any comments below if you’d like to share your own ideas or experiences on this subject.

Leave a Reply