Create and sell custom products with Cafe Press

I just stumbled across a very interesting site that I thought I should share with my readers. It’s a site called Cafe Press. This site offers a wide variety of print-on-demand products from clothing to housewares and other gifts. You can add your own images to the products to create your very own styles, logos, catch-phrases, etc., which you can sell online in your very own Cafe Press store. The best part about Cafe Press is that you don’t have to spend any money to get started. Because Cafe Press doesn’t produce any products until someone orders them, there are no setup fees or minimum purchases required. Without spending any money, you can create as many custom products as you want, and sell them in your own, personalized online shops.

Each product has a “base price” that covers all of the costs of manufacture and production. To make money, simply set a “markup” price that you will earn as commission on sales of your product(s) (Just a word to the wise…be reasonable: I saw a thong for sale for $200 while I was browsing the site!). That’s all there is to it. It was so easy to get started that I’ve already created my own online shop with a few products that are available for immediate purchase, which I’ve included below as an example of what you can do. Of course, you can also buy your own products directly for the base price, without paying the markup. Continue reading “Create and sell custom products with Cafe Press”

E-commerce wrap-up: What a ride!

Sit back and watch the money roll in! I started this e-commerce series on my blog with only a vague idea of how it would all come together. Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot along the way. I had this crazy idea that Zoho Creator could be used to create an online catalog of products or services to embed in your Web site, which led me to try experimenting with using this same idea to automatically create the appropriate PayPal codes for every product entered into the catalog. The idea sounded great, but I had to delve deep into the Zoho Creator and PayPal codes to try to make it all work.

Although it took me a long time to get everything working the way I wanted it to, I think it was worth the effort. I’ve had some great feedback from my readers about this series, even from the Zoho Creator team! I appreciate all of the support you’ve shown me.

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E-commerce Step 4 of 4: Optional Features/Enhancements

If you’ve been following along with this e-commerce series, you now know how to sign up for a free PayPal account to be able to receive online payments, create an online catalog of products/services, and provide your customers with more information by creating product detail pages. So if you are ready to start an online business, you have everything you need to get started.

However, since everyone’s situation is different, the steps outlined in my previous posts may not work for all of your needs. In this post, I want to introduce you to a few optional ideas or services that can be used to enhance your catalog.
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E-commerce step 3 of 4: Enhancing your online catalog by creating “Product Detail” pages

In my last post, I showed you how to use Zoho Creator to build an online catalog of products to sell on your Web site. With a little bit of scripting, you can even set this catalog up to automatically generate and display the appropriate PayPal “Add to cart” or “Buy Now” buttons to allow people to purchase your products online with PayPal or any major credit card. This is a great feature to include in your catalog, but what if you need to have more information available about your products? Most major online sellers have a page dedicated to every product they sell. They can do this because their product pages are rarely unique, individually-coded Web pages, but are pages automatically created by the server using information stored in a database. In this post, I will show you how to use Zoho Creator to build a similar functionality into your online catalog.

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E-commerce step 2 of 4: Create an easy-to-use catalog of products/services for your Web site

Automatically generate PayPal buttons for every product!Once you have created your PayPal account, you can immediately start adding customized “Buy now” or “Add to cart” buttons to your Web site (you must be logged in to PayPal to access the previous links). This will allow you to begin listing your products online and accepting payments within minutes. This is quite acceptable if you have only a few products to offer and you don’t change to your prices or your shipping/handling costs. Unfortunately, every time you want to add a product, change a price, or change the shipping/handling calculations, you will have to go through the entire process all over again to re-create your buttons. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to make these updates automatic?

Fortunately, there is a way to do this. It does require a little bit of coding on your part, but you do not need to have any previous knowledge of coding to make it work. I’ll walk you through the entire process, and you can have your catalog up and running within a few hours.

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E-commerce step 1 of 4: Setting up a PayPal account

Adding e-commerce to your Web site with PayPal!In my last post, I mentioned some simple ways you could add interactivity into your own Web site. For many people, the principle element they want to add to their site is e-commerce. Whether you started your Web site to support your home-based business, or are just looking for a hobby, online sales can be a simple way to put your Web site to work for you. Over the next few weeks, I will show you how to set up a very simple e-commerce solution for your site. And the best part is, it won’t cost you a penny to start selling your products or services online.

Do a quick Web search for e-commerce, and you will find countless services available to set up an e-commerce solution for you for a price. Many of these will charge you a set-up fee and a monthly hosting fee to use their services/solutions. These fees are quite legitimate, although they vary widely and you need to be careful about choosing the right solution for you. But if you’re reading this blog, chances are you can’t afford to purchase someone else’s e-commerce solution. In addition, many of these purchased solutions require you to have some sort of SQL server available on your Web site to manage your shopping cart. If you’ve followed along with this blog and set up your own free personal or business Web site using Microsoft Office Live Basics, however, you will not have the option to use many of these high-priced solutions.
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Building interactivity into your Web site

070722-finalThe final design and content of your Web site will, quite naturally, depend on your purpose and your audience. While it is fine for many Web sites to be composed primarily of written content and photographs or images, modern Web surfers prefer to interact with your site in some way, especially if they find your site useful or interesting. A few weeks ago, I discussed ways for you to create an RSS feed for your site. This is a quick and easy way to provide a very basic level of interaction for your visitors. By subscribing to your feed, they can stay up to date with the latest news or information about the site. You can even expand on this by using a service such as Feedburner to allow users to subscribe to your feed via e-mail. This is a great way to help your visitors stay informed about your site, but it is, by nature, a one-sided method of interaction. You push out your content, but you can’t get much back from your visitors. The best you can hope for is to get some basic statistics about how many subscribers you have (If you use a service like Feedburner).
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