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How to pay off your cash advance by starting a low-cost online store

crafter making money to pay cash advance

Everyone’s doing it: buying online, and mostly, buying on Amazon. The retail giant has locked up the market on everyday items–socks, laundry detergent, earphones. It’s seems there isn’t a doorstep free of the familiar cardboard boxes any more.

Ever dream that you could get in on the action? Would some side-hustle income come in handy right now?

Those with a cash advance deadline often try to scout around for ways to make reliable extra money. Preferably, in their sleep. It IS possible, BUT doing your homework always pays off. If you’re responsible to have landed here, you want to go into e-commerce the smart way: slow, steady and with the lowest costs possible. We show exactly how to do that here.

If you have online store aspirations, but hesitate to compete with a company worth $1 Trillion dollars (yes, Amazon is worth one Trillion with a T), you’re already ahead of the game. You’ve saved yourself the heartbreak of entering into a race to the bottom on price, which too often is the lesson one learns when trying to compete with Amazon to sell easily obtained, generic products.

BUT, even the Amazon has its weaknesses. Namely, it doesn’t have handcrafted items delivered with the personal touches many shoppers crave. After all, how much thought does it take to press a few buttons for a gift item? Crafty people with unique ideas are making “side-hustle” level money ($1,000 to $3,000) by selling their creations online, even selling them right on Amazon.

Best of all, they don’t have to pay the $3,000 to $9,000 a custom starter website costs to do it.

Why should they? Giant, massively popular online platforms already exist, ready to promote merchant products. Heard of Instagram? Facebook? Google Shopping? You can even create your own website on very low cost platforms Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and others. Some e-commerce platforms like Ecwid E-commerce even give you a basic or starter website to get going on. We’ll come back to these. For now, know that you can pay off a cash advance with a little ingenuity and an online store.

Start Selling for Just $15 (or Less) per Month

Once, any digital business had to start with a branded website.

Times have changed. The website is not even central any more. Instead, businesses must go where the customers are: social media and those businesses ahead of them in growth (Google, Amazon, eBay). Today, starting on social or larger websites and adding your own custom website later in your business evolution makes sense . . . particularly if you’re starting your business on a shoestring budget.

In this article, we’ll show you how an E-commerce platform helps you sell online without ever paying a developer a penny. The average cost for a beginning website these days is between $3,000 and $9,000 for a custom job. A template website that’s less flexible runs $200+ per year. It also charges you with creating the design, uploading the content and handling search engine optimization and app implementation. Still, e-commerce companies like Shopify, Woo-commerce and Ecwid E-commerce charge as little as $15 per month (Ecwid) for their beginning plan (better than a very bare bones “free forever” plan). Once you’re a subscriber, these companies will send you promotions. Soon enough, you’ll get an email containing a coupon for half off if you pay up-front for an annual plan. You end up paying $7.50 per month or $90 for a whole year to get:

  • a starter website (10 products or less)
  • a Facebook shop
  • an Instagram store
  • mobile management of your store so you can keep up with on-the-go shoppers

Where a platform like Shopify forces merchants to build their website within their site architecture, Ecwid allows merchants (YOU!) to use their platform as the center or “hub” for many outlying stores (spokes) you create on these larger websites.

Your Quick Start Guide to an Instant Online Store

Want your store up in five minutes? All you need to do is go to www.ecwid.com and click the “get started” button. You’ll have the option to choose your “plan.” If you don’t have a coupon, sign up for the “Venture” plan so you can get the Facebook Shop and Instagram Store capabilities. Watch for the “50% OFF annual plan” email they’re sure to send you within a month or two. Trying to create either of those outlets by yourself will take you weeks of study and, most likely, endless frustration. Ecwid provides a convenient, user-friendly layer between you and these complex social media channels. You just fill out fields and push buttons to get your store up. Ecwid’s engineers have performed the hard coding which still exists but behind simple-to-use screens.

Once you opt in for the “Venture” (or higher) plan, Ecwid starts sending you awesome do-it-yourself videos to help you put your first 10 products on your dashboard. Note that the dashboard is different from the starter site that comes with with the Venture plan. The dashboard is basically your database of products. The website has your branding, many pages, possibly a blog, contact information and more.

With your products listed in your dashboard, Ecwid considers your store stocked and churns out a line of code. It then steps you through putting this line of code into Facebook, Instagram and your starter website.

knitter making money

Now for the Selling . . .

Sales Channel #1: Social Media Stores

Accounting firm giant PriceWaterhouseCoopers reveal that 45% of people today buy products after seeing them initially on their social channels. Social media users go to their platforms to get caught up with friends and family, but when products appear, they also get new ideas of what they want to buy for themselves and as gifts.

But this year, Instagram started a program where merchants could put price tags on products as easily as friends put tags on each other. When Instagrammers click on these tags, they go to a product description page and from there a checkout page–all without leaving Instagram. Now, even Instagram Stories have posts with tags on them and Instagram is even funneling posts with shop tags on them to users who have proven (through previous behavior) that they enjoy shopping.

And don’t think that Instagrammers will resent advertising interruptions of their social browsing. Instagram reported in a press release recently that shoppers have tapped these tags an average of 90 million times a month.

Given that Facebook owns Instagram, we assume that Facebook is experimenting with turning Instagram into its sales arm. In fact, with these changes, a TechCrunch reviewer proclaimed Facebook saw Instagram as becoming “the largest catalog in the universe.” We predict Facebook will put tags into use soon as well on that channel as well so that shoppers can complete their purchases without bouncing off.

Other advantages of selling on social media include:

  • Access to an audience most likely to buy (narrow by income, education, location and many more variables)
  • A display that your store is active and cognizant of the most current advertising techniques
  • Chance to connect one on one with prospects and customers
  • An easy customer service channel
  • A place to put positive reviews

Bottom line: Facebook and Instagram will be going further down the sales path in the coming years. Given their popularity, why not play along?

Sales Channel #2: Website

Despite social media’s new drive to attract merchants to sell on their platforms is exciting. Still, a merchant’s individual website can be a reliable sales channel as well. Plus, if Instagram or Facebook has a big glitch, the website ensures your products still appear on the internet.

Some e-commerce platforms (Shopify, Woo-commerce) do give merchants an opportunity to create a website through their software. Developers think of them as being “closed.” Still, for many merchants, having the store and the website on one channel can be convenient.

Then there are the e-commerce platforms that are open to adding stores to existing websites that were built with Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and WordPress. This second class is called “open-source” because their software plays well with other software programs.

You can either create a relatively inexpensive website through “closed” platforms like Shopify (around $35/month), on a Wix or Weebly ($8 to $30 per month or just go with a “starter” website like those offered on Ecwid ($15/month). Keep in mind that the Ecwid website is a “starter” because it’s just one page allowing only 10 products. Still, it’s a start!

Merchants with websites tend to leverage search engine optimization (SEO) to sell.

potter spinning pot on wheel

Sales Channel #3: Amazon

It may sound crazy, but Amazon lets small businesses sell their products through their gargantuan site. Why? The bigger site they have, the better they show up in the search results. In fact, on this past July’s Prime Day, $1 billion in revenues went to small businesses, skipping Jeff Bezos pockets all together. Today, 55% of American shoppers start their searches on Amazon. How does a solopreneur compete with that?

Take heart. It may sound crazy, but selling on Amazon may be just the way to get around Amazon. If Amazon sees that a product is popular, it will actually advertise that product in its internal search with no effort from the merchant whatsoever!

Selling on the Amazon marketplace has one huge advantage. Customers trust Amazon. The retailer had to review the merchant’s company in order to let it sell there. It does have its standards. If Amazon trusted you, then prospects are more likely to trust you. Further, prospects use their credit cards through Amazon, knowing they’ll be protected.

Another great advantage is, if you sell on Amazon, you can skip the website for now. Everyone’s going to Amazon, so you just need to impress Amazon so that they feature your products. How do you do that? Create something they DON’T sell. They get a little slice of something they haven’t thought to offer yet. (Our next blog post will discuss the unique crafts you can makes easily and sell. LINK) For heavens’ sakes, don’t try to sell books!

Get a little seed money ($15 + raw materials costs?) to get your handmade products online. Start out slow and let the profits from your first sales fuel materials costs for your second batch. A fun crafty hobby can eventually keep you from getting cash advances every month!

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