There are three things I see most often asked by my clients and in the different groups I hang out in:
Should I use WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace or what for my website?
How do I connect my MailChimp* form to my website
How do connect my product/service to my website so I can sell it on my website
*or ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, MailerLite etc…
While I could write about which website platform to use or what to do with your email marketing service, I haven’t seen too many tutorials that cover the necessary steps to selling online.
Settle in, get comfy and make sure to pin this page to reference when you’re ready to actually make this happen.
Part 1: Why do you want to sell anything online?
Internet Retailer predicts that online shopping will exceed $400 Billion by 2018! That’s a pretty crazy number and while I can’t say that what I offer doesn’t fall into the retail end of things, this just demonstrates that people are getting more comfortable with shopping and spending online.
As a blogger or online business owner I’m guessing that the ultimate dream is to make your business your full-time income. It’s completely achievable, you just need to think a bit before you dive into the idea of selling your product or service online.
Why do you want to sell your product online?
Let’s focus on a product offering you’re thinking about versus your service. Before you even think about setting up your first buy button, think about why you want to sell something and what you want to sell.
Just picking something thinking it will make you a bunch of money doesn’t work. You want to think about your ideal audience and make sure you’re offering them something of value. Something that will help your audience make an improvement or solve a problem.
Figure Out What Your Audience Needs.
While having the idea is awesome, if it’s not something that audience needs then it’s not going to sell.
So how do you figure out what your audience needs?
There’s many ways you can go about this and Search Engine Journal makes a few great suggestions:
Survey your audience
Keyword Research – Trends, Related and Adword Tools
Product Forums like Support Desks
Don’t forget Facebook Groups and Amazon Comments. Both are great places to discover what your audience might need.
Before you even think about putting up a product for sale, think about what your audience needs and build your product from there.
Part 2: What will work best for you
I find that this is where people hit the most snags.
I always recommend to my clients to take sometime to figure out what products they would love to create. This could be a product like an ebook, ecourse, or videos or maybe you want to send an invoice for a project and want to be able to invoice your own client.
You may also want to be able to accept payments for a course or program you’re planning on offering. This course could be in person or online, maybe both.
I usually find most of my clients have a combination of ways they’d like to get paid. The most common is how to get paid by their service or coaching clients. Followed by ways to be able to accept payments for a digital product or program.
At this point in your journey, take some time to answer these questions.
Knowing the answers to the questions will make your decision on what services you’ll need to start generating revenue.
What ways do you offer your services if you offer a service?
Via Phone, Skype or Google Hangout
Online group sessions?
What longer terms goals do you have for generating revenue?
Offer an ecourse
Offer an ebook
Group programs online or in person
Membership Club with recurring revenue
Don’t worry at this point about the technical steps that will need to happen to make it all possible. Just take sometime to dream about what you’d like to create and to share.
Each of these formats have different ways you can take someone’s cash. Before we get into the how to of it all, let’s talk about some of the applications that are available that can help you.
Part 3: The Tools You Need
The steps to sell your services online and to sell a product online have similarities there are differences.
The applications you choose will likely be different for both and that’s okay. It’s part of the process.
Here’s a look at what you’ll need…
A Payment Gateway
A Payment Gateway is a way for you to be able to process someone’s credit card payment.
Popular services at the moment are Stripe (my preferred) and PayPal. You can find applications out there that do more than just take payments, like PayPal. You’ll want both a PayPal Account and Stripe Account to give your buyers options.
Note: Located outside of North America? There maybe a local application or service that will work better for your situation.
To keep track of your payments and expenses you’ll want to get started with an accounting program right way. You can start withExcel or Google Sheets and grow from there. To get started right, look for a an accounting service that includes integrations with your bank, Stripe and PayPal. I use Zoho Books.
Recommended Apps: Wave, Zoho Books, Zoho Invoice
Workflow for Accepting Payment for a Service
Here’s the workflow that’s required on a basic level offer your service:
Book a consultation >> Send Contract >> Contract is Signed >> Invoice Is Sent >> Payment is Made >> Client Project Starts
The graphic is simple. Yet it shares the steps for pretty well any type of service, coaching or consulting business.
Book a Consultation: While this step in the process may not happen right away, it’s likely (hopefully) they have signed up to be on your email list and they are now wanting or are interested in working with you and you want to book them in for a consultation.
You could do this with a bunch of back and forth emails or use a system like Acuity Scheduling which allows them to book a consultation at a time that is convenient for them.
Send Contract: Yahoo! The client is ready to move ahead!. Depending on how you have your systems set up you can send the a contract by email using a service like HelloSign.
Invoice Sent: This is where a lot of folks get hung up, and often over complicate things in the beginning. If you’re just getting started using the invoicing available in PayPal will work just fine.
I recommend getting yourself set up right away with an account application like Wave or my prefepreferredred service Zoho Books and use the invoicing option available within the service. Be sure to set up your Stripe Account & PayPal to give your clients a choice when making a payment.
Payment Made: You have received payment using your invoice service of choice and if you’ve used an accounting service that is integrated with your your payment processors your accounting system is all update and everything has been tracked for you. After this is time to amaze your client and do your thing!
Workflow for Accepting a Payment for a Product or Program
Before I walk through the steps to make this happen. I want to share is my recommendations for someone getting started. There are many, many apps and options available to make this happen
Here’s the workflow that’s required on a basic level to sell your product online:
Create Your Product >> Create a Sales Page >> Add a Buy Button >> Visitor Clicks Button & Redirect to Shopping Cart >> Makes Payment >> Visitor is redirected to confirmation page >> Visitor is added to your email list >> Visitor Receives Welcome Email & Other Follow ups
While this is a simplified workflow, this process will (and does) work for pretty well any type of digital offering including ebooks, ecourses, memberships (though there’s a couple extra steps), group programs etc..
Create Your Product: Yes, you need to have something to offer be it an ebook, ecourse, stock photos etc. You can at this point only have the idea and offer a pre-sale, with a commitment to deliver your product at a specific date. I often do this to test the waters to see how viable the product might be before even creating anything.
Create a Sales Page & Add a Buy Button: This is an article all on it’s own. You need to have some form of sales page to direct your potential buyers. It could be a simple checkout page.
NOTE: There are many resources and experts online that can help you with the key elements of your sales page.
Visitor Clicks Buy Button & Redirect to Shopping Cart: I generally recommend that you use an external shopping cart to manage the delivery of your product and to handle the payments. In the next section I’ll go into my recommended services to handle this part of the process.
Visitor Makes Payment: Yahoo! Celebrate you got paid for your product. This feeling never gets old seeing the paid notifications in your inbox for something that you’ve created. This is a screenshot of my label in Gmail that I called !ChaChing
Redirect to a Confirmation Page: At this point you want to make sure that your buyer is comfortable with their decision. Send them back to a page that confirms you have received their payment and what they can expect.
Add Them to Your Email List: Be sure to look for a set of applications that will integrate with each other to ensure that your buyer is automatically added to the right email list or tagged with the right label to ensure you can easily send emails for follow ups and thank yous.
Okay, congratulate yourself for making it this far. This post has covered a love of information and details.
I know for many of my clients it can be a completely overwhelming process to figure out how to get paid for the awesome things they offer and do.
It’s okay to start out with a simple set up and then build on that as you grow, the important thing is to just do it. Don’t be like a few clients I’ve had where they were doing work for free because they just couldn’t stomach trying to figure out how to get paid.
Part 4: My Recommendations To Make It All Work
This final part I’m going to share my recommendations for the apps you need to get yourself started to sell your services and your products online.
Note: Anything with an asterisk * is what I’m currently using and fully recommend. The links below could also be an affiliate links.
PayPal* – kind the de facto way to accept payments for both products and services. While globally recognized, can be hard to deal with if you have issues with money and most of the time their exchange rates totally suck.
Stripe* – a newish kid to the payment processing game, it’s quickly becoming the default service that most folks use to accept payments online.
Accounting or Invoicing
Wave – If you’re tight on cash this is a great way to get started. It’s free to use and will work well for managing your accounting and invoicing. I don’t use it because I found the ads too overwhelming and wasn’t a fan of the interface.
Zoho Books* – After years (yes, years) of searching for the accounting system that meets all my needs I finally found it in this app. The price point starts at only $7/month or $70/year for a robust and fully functional accounting program that works well.
Zoho Invoice – If you’re just needing a way to track your invoice and some expenses Zoho Invoice is a good way to start. There is a free plan and you can always transition to Zoho Books when you’re ready.
WooCommerce – If you have a website this is pretty much the default shopping cart to get recommended. The plugin is free to download, but to get the most functionality you’ll likely need to purchase some of the add-ons. While I think it works well for physical products I don’t necessarily think it’s ideal for digital products or services. Yes it can be used for both, but not my first recommendation.
GumRoad – Want to the test the waters for selling your product or digital or otherwise then Gumroad is a great way to get started. It’s quick and easy to set up, Gumroad will handle the payments and pay you every Friday. The service has a free plan and you’ll only pay for the service when you actually sell something. If you’re just testing the waters for a product offering this is a fantastic way to go!
SnappyCheckout – a very simple service that will connect with both Stripe and PayPal. You can use SnappyCheckout to sell your services and your products if you want. There’s no upfront fee to use SnappyCheckout you pay a small percentage when someone buys from you. I personally like the diversity of what this product offers, it’s pretty easy to set up and you have a whole bunch of flexibility with it.
SendOwl* – This is my shopping cart of choice, what I like about it is it’s easy to set up, their plans start at only $9 per month. You can upgrade to offer an affiliate program when you’re ready and you can include subscriptions or payment plans when you upgrade. SendOwl also integrates with leading email marketing services like ConvertKit and ActiveCampaign. Plus it has an integration with Zapier.
Email Marketing Program
MailerLite* – I only discovered Mailerlite a few months ago and tested it out a bit before deciding to move completely to Mailerlite. I love the interface and their free plan gives you access to all of the features for up to 1000 unique subscribers and when you’re ready to go to the next level it’s very affordable. They are also adding automations & tagging in the coming months to make it even more powerful.
ConvertKit – I have tested and used ConvertKit and it’s what I’m using now (Read about why I switched, again!). It’s a good solid service that helps you build your list. ConvertKit is becoming very popular in the blogging and online business environment. If you’re looking for a well built product with a great team this is one to look at. It also has some pretty nice automation features that can really help you build your list.
ActiveCampaign – I used ActiveCampaign for about year before deciding to move to Mailerlite. This is an extremely feature rich program that rivals Infusionsoft, but at a much better price point. You can easily get started for $9 per month. There is also an option to use their CRM features if you manage a lot of deals.
That’s a wrap
Phew! I covered a lot of details in the blog post, but I am a firm believer that it’s important to be an informed business owner. Just like having a basic understanding of how your car works so you know what is happening when you go to get your car fixed, same goes with the technology you use in your business.
Whether you’re a solopreneur wearing many hats or a business owner with a team this post has hopefully provided some clarity on the processes and what happens behind the scenes when you start accepting payments for your products or services.