In the previous section, we discussed how you can make money running a website that doesn't sell a specific service or product. In this section we will discuss the ways in which you can make money by
selling tangible products and digitally-based products and services. Owning a website which sells a product or service can be instantly gratifying because you can start making money right away, whereas a publisher-based website often takes months to product decent income. I personally have a lot of experience with service based websites that sell digital goods and I will share all of the knowledge and experienced I've gained throughout the years.
Types of Service Based Websites
Any website that encourages a visitor to purchase something can be considered a service based website. Selling a physical (tangible) product would fall under this category, and so would selling an intangible (digitally-based) product/service. I will go into more depth about each of these below.
My father has been self employed for the past 25 years, and he sells/services used appliances. He's currently 62 and has never used a computer in his life. My older brother began to do the same thing in a different geographical location, but being a much younger and technically inclined person, wondered how he could use the internet to help promote his services / products. So the first thing he did was use Craigstlist.org
to post simple advertisements of his service along with his phone number, he didn't have a website address at this time. Not only did he receive a lot of business because of this, but also a lot of requests to see the appliances without having to drive to his location first. So I built him a quick site which showcased his products, and the rest is history.
The moral of the story here is that if you sell a tangible product, you can greatly benefit from the internet and having a website for it. Having a tangible product for sale over the internet correlates your website as your "virtual" storefront. Some of these website owners only have 1 product and dedicate their website towards selling that product, and others have thousands of products. Usually the biggest hurdle in establishing a website which sells tangible products is building it, which I will discuss below.
99% of the time I recommend using an existing shopping cart system. A shopping cart system is much like a CMS, except it allows you to easily add products to your website, as well as allow your visitors to order them. All popular shopping cart systems are customizable in appearance through templates. Below are some popular shopping cart systems.
This ecommerce shopping cart system is very popular. They offer a demo in which you can view a live store and the administration backend to see exactly how it functions. This system does cost a certain amount.
- Zen Cart
This is perhaps the best *free* shopping cart system. They have a "Live Showcase Shops" section in which you can see real live websites that use Zen Cart as their shopping cart system.
This is a new shopping cart system which greatly differs from the two mentioned above. This system is fully hosted, which means you don't even need your own web host. You signup at Shopify for a certain monthly fee (depending on what you need), and you control your website from within their system.
All of these systems allow you to customize the appearance of your storefront (aka website), and they all allow you to showcase your products and allow visitors to order them. Once a visitor purchases something through your storefront, you're notified via email with their shipping information, and you arrange the shipping! They also allow you to easily integrate whichever credit card processor you use. Credit card processes are discussed later on in this section with more detail.
Anything that you aren't shipping to a customer can be considered a digital product or service. I personally own several digitally based e-commerce sites myself. I sell 2 different types of digitally-based services at this site. This guide, and my logo design services. I also sell website design at another site, and video tutorials at yet another site. There are many different types of digital product/services out there.
Credit Card Processing
- eBooks / Guides / Tutorials
If you possess specific knowledge and expertise in a certain area, you can write an eBook/Guide and sell access to it for a price. This guide is a perfect example. I sell video tutorials for $49.95 at http://how.todesignyour.com and currently average 1 order per day.
- Design/Development Services
- Social Services
There are hundreds of dating services out there. Some are very broad (like Match.com) and others are very targeted towards specific groups of people. The online dating industry is very competitive.
- Web Hosting
Web hosting is a huge industry online. Every website needs a website host, and there are billions of web pages on the internet. While there is a lot of money to be made in the web hosting industry, it usually requires owning your own server(s) and thoroughly understanding server environments.
- Design Templates
Sites like TemplateMonster make a lot of money by selling and reselling design templates. There are also a lot of other services that sell design templates for specific CMS's like vBulletin, Wordpress, phpBB, etc.. I personally know a webmaster who owns a template service specifically for vBulletin and makes over $10,000 a month reselling a handful of well-designed templates.
- Subscription Based Services
Any type of service that requires a recurring fee to be paid from the customer(s) is considered a subscription based service. Web Hosting and Dating services are 2 great examples of subscription based services. I have my own subscription based service where I teach people how to design websites and logos for $14.95. The great advantage of a subscription based service is the recurring income you generate. Some sites have thousands of members that pay $X per month. Imagine the money!
There are many, many other types of digital services. The possibilities are endless!
If you're selling something online, you need a credit card process. And fortunately there are a lot of options to chose from. Below is a list of the most popular credit card processing services.
Paypal offers 2 services for processing. Paypal Payments Pro, and Paypal Payments Standard. The major differences between Pro and Standard is that Standard only allows visitors to pay through a payment page hosted at Paypal.com. Pro allows you to have your own billing form hosted on your website within your own design. Pro however comes with a small monthly fee. Both of them take a certain percentage per transaction (under 3%). Paypal payments pro also comes with an additional service that allows you to charge clients through subscription based services.
- Google Checkout
Google Checkout is a popular alternative to Paypal payments.
Clickbank offers credit card processing (but only through a hosted clickbank order form) as well as an affiliate network. Affiliate marketing is covered in the next section, but in lesser words, it allows other webmasters to promote your product(s)/service(s) for a fee that you determine you want to pay.
If you're selling at high volumes, you might want to consider acquiring a merchant account. A merchant account is provided by a bank, and sometimes they can offer lower per-transaction rates which can ultimately save you more money. If you go the route of a merchant account, you need a third party processing such as Authorize.net
. Authorize.net ties into your merchant account and allows you to process credit cards through your website