How to Sell Online

The free step–by–step guide

Are you looking for a foolproof method to start selling products online? Well you’re in luck! Read my comprehensive guide on how to set up your own online store, without any prior web design or development experience.

Read now Written by: Benjamin Gordon
About the Author

Hi. I’m Ben Gordon, a freelance web designer & developer from the UK with over 10 years of industry experience. Learn more…

Introduction

I’ve been building websites since 2001, and in that time I have learned a lot about how to create a website and do business online.

Selling your own products online can sound like a daunting challenge, however; if you read my startup guide ‘How to Sell Online’, then you should be ready to go in little over 30 minutes! If you do happen get stuck at any point don’t worry, you can contact me via the support pageI reply to every request for help I receive.

My ‘How to Sell Online’ Process

In order to get set up and selling online, I am going to walk you through 3 steps in this guide:

  • Step 1 – Choosing your online store platform
  • Step 2 – Choosing a domain name & web hosting
  • Step 3 – Setting up your store

Step 1 – Choosing your online store platform

Expanding your business online, and creating an online store, doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. You can create a great looking, and functional, online store with very little effort and begin shipping your products to customers worldwide in no time at all.

When I started building websites back in 2001, it was difficult and time consuming to create even the simplest of websites, let alone an online store. Thankfully things have moved on since then, and open-source software has paved the way for numerous individuals, like you and I, to successfully sell products online.

One piece of open source software in particular has helped more entrepreneurs become successful online than any other – WordPress.

WordPress is a CMS (Content Management System) that forms the backbone of your website and takes care of the hard work for you. With over half of the internet’s websites running on the WordPress platform‚ that many people can’t be wrong!

Combine this with another bit of free open source software called WooCommerce and you can have a powerful CMS and e–commerce website within a few simple steps.

How to Sell Online with WordPress
How to Sell Online with WooCommerce

Here are just some of the reasons why you should choose WordPress in conjunction with WooCommerce as your platform of choice:

  1. WordPress & WooCommerce are 100% FREE.
  2. There are thousands of different FREE themes/layouts and plugins that you can utilise to improve your online store
  3. It’s intuitive and easy to use
  4. You can be setup within a matter of minutes

This very site also runs on WordPress; it’s always my weapon of choice when it comes to launching a new website.

There are of course other alternatives available to WordPress & WooCommerce but for a beginner with a limited budget this is the very best option.

How about the services that offer me a free online store?

There are services out there that offer to create you an online store for free such as Shopify, Bigcommerce and Volusion.

It may sound too good to be true‚ and thats because it is: all three only offer a 14 day free trial. You can spend hours adding your products and perfecting how your online store looks only to be told you’re going to have to pay a pricey monthly subscription to keep it.

In addition to this‚ these services charge you a fee of between 1.5 – 2.5% of the purchase price, plus 30¢ for every single sale you make. This may not sound like a lot but it soon adds up to being a very expensive solution.

See the calculation below as an example:

$49.99×50=$2‚499.50
+2.5%=$62.49
30¢×50=$15.00
+$29 monthly subscription=$106.49 per month

Figures based on Shopify pricing. Correct as of Jan 2015.

That’s over $100 per month, before you’ve included any other sales!

Plus once your business grows and you outgrow what these services can offer you can’t transfer your store to an independent solution such as WooCommerce. There would be no other choice but to start from scratch, and that wouldn’t be good for your business.

You always want 100% control over your own online store without hidden costs, right? Of course!

By all means give Shopify, Bigcommerce or Volusion a go, after all you get a free 14–day trial – what have you got to lose? That said, I’m certain you can create a better online store with WordPress & WooCommerce.

Convinced? Then read on…

Wait a minute!   I’m not super confident with computers. Is WordPress & WooCommerce going to be too complicated!?

My answer: What is the worst that could happen? You lose 30 minutes of your time?

I understand how this could be a daunting prospect if you’ve not made a website before, but imagine how much money you could save, and the sense of achievement you would have, once you’ve managed to launch your own online store. All without spending thousands of dollars on monthly subscription services, or paying someone else to create it for you.

I’m also offering free email support. So if you ever get stuck while following this guide then get in touch via the contact form.

Step 2 – Registering a domain name & finding a web hosting provider

Before progressing onto setting up WordPress & WooCommerce, you’re going to need a domain name, for example: http://www.howtosellonline.org. You will also need web hosting, in which to run your online store on.

So before we go any further, you’re going to need to spend some money. WordPress & WooCommerce may be FREE, but you’re going to need these two things before you can start selling online.

A .com domain name should cost you around $10 per year and web hosting is around $5 per month. Thats an outlay of just $70 per year. Remember how much it costs to use a service like Shopify?

I would personally recommend using iPage to purchase your domain & web hosting. I’ve used them to host my own websites and clients sites in the past, and I have always got a great deal. In addition to being affordable, here are 3 other reasons why you should use iPage:

  • Install WordPress with a click of a button
  • 24/7 technical support
  • $100 Google Adwords voucher to get you started

If you already have a domain name and hosting elsewhere then great! Skip this section and proceed to Step 3 – Installing WordPress & WooCommerce.

However‚ if you don’t yet have web hosting and a domain name continue reading.

Tips on coming up with a domain name

  1. If you already have a business, then the most logical thing to do is to try and register your company name. For example: MyBusinessName.com
  2. If you’re setting up a new business, and you don’t already have a name in mind, then it’s a good idea to try come up with five keywords that best describe your product. You can then combine them until you find something that works and is available to register.For example‚ if I wanted to start selling fairy lights then I could brainstorm keywords like; lighting, fairy, shop, led, fantastic, lights. From these keywords I came up with FantasticFairyLights.com
  3. Make sure your domain name is easy to remembereasy to type and brandable
  4. Avoid domain names that are really long‚ contain hyphens or numbers and try to keep the domain name as short as possible. The longer it is‚ the harder it will be to remember!

Top tip: If you’re struggling to find a domain name that’s available with a combination of your keywords, then try putting your keywords into a thesaurus to find synonyms. I often use thesaurus.com to do this.

Have an idea for a domain name? Great! Lets continue…

Purchasing a domain name & web hosting

In addition to coming up with a domain name you will need to find somewhere to register the domain name, and also host your online store, so that users can access your site on the internet.

There are literally thousands of web hosting companies out there looking for your business, and some are better than others. I’ve used quite a few different web hosting providers in the past and I recommend using iPage.

As I mentioned earlier‚ iPage is an excellent choice if you’re looking for great value and reliability. Here are a few more reasons as to why I would recommend them:

  • Great value for money – just $3.75 for hosting and free .com domain
  • 99.9% up–time
  • Established for over 10 years

However‚ please feel free to use any web hosting provider you wish. Just make sure you do your research on the provider before parting with any cash.

Step 3 – Setting up your online store

Once you’ve registered your domain and signed up for web hosting, you should receive a confirmation email with instructions and credentials to allow you to login to your control panel.

If you’ve signed up with iPage or another reputable web host then you should have the option to do a “1–click install of WordPress”.

To install WordPress using this method take the following steps:

  1. Login to your hosting account (Instructions should be in the welcome email)
  2. Go to your control panel (usually called cPanel)
  3. Look for ‘Wordpress’ Tip: Press CMD+F on your keyboard and type in ‘Wordpress’
  4. Select the domain name you just registered if asked to
  5. Fill out any other information such as username & password
  6. Click ‘Install’

If you can’t find the 1–click install option then follow my guide on how to install WordPress manually.

Once the install is complete you should be automatically taken to your new WordPress site and see something like this;

Wordpress default theme
The default WordPress theme homepage

If you’re not automatically redirected then just browse to the homepage of your website.

Install WooCommerce to create an online store

Before you can start selling products online, we need to turn your WordPress site into an online store. In order to do this you will need to install a plugin called WooCommerce.

To install WooCommerce as a plugin follow these steps:

  1. Login to your WordPress control panel by going to www.YourWebsite.com/wp-admin and entering the username & password you created during the WordPress install
  2. Once you’re logged in, select the ‘Plugins’ option from the left hand menu
  3. On the ‘Plugins’ overview click ‘Add new’
  4. Search for ‘WooCommerce’ in the search field to the right.
  5. You will then be presented with a list of search results. Hopefully the first result will look something like this:WooCommerce Plugin
    The WooCommerce plugin install panelClick ‘Install Now’
  6. Once the plugin has installed select ‘Activate Plugin’
  7. You will then be prompted to install WooCommerce pages. Click ‘Install WooCommerce Pages’ like so;Install WooCommerce Pages
    WooCommerce pages install prompt

Congratulations you’ve just installed WooCommerce!

However, there is one last step before you can start adding your products…

Choosing a theme/layout for your online store

You have WordPress & WooCommerce installed, but in order for your site to function as an online store you’re going to need to install a WooCommerce compatible theme.

There are hundreds of excellent FREE WooCommerce themes available but if you’re looking for something a bit more professional then take a look at the premium themes available here: http://themeforest.net/.

If you purchase a premium theme or download a theme from an external source then read my guide on how to manually install a WordPress or WooCommerce theme.

For the sake of this guide though I am going to show you how to install a FREE WooCommerce theme. To do this follow these steps:

  1. From within your WordPress control panel select Appearance → Themes from the left hand menu
  2. Select ‘Add New’
  3. Search for ‘Storefront’ in the search field to the right
  4. You will then be presented with a list of results. Hopefully the first result should be the Storefront theme by WooCommerce and should look like this:WooCommerce Storefront ThemeWooCommerce Storefront theme install
  5. Click ‘Install’
  6. Once the theme has installed select ‘Activate’
  7. Select Settings → Reading from the left hand menu
  8. Change your settings to Front page displays a static page and select ‘Shop’ from the dropdown as shown below. Then click ‘Save Changes’ Wordpress frontpage displaysFront page displays WordPress settings

If you browse to your homepage you should see your online store, now all you need to do is add some products and start selling! If you also need some help adding products to your online store then read my guide on how to add products to WooCommerce.

If you need help on getting set up then please remember that I am offering FREE support. You can contact me here.