QUESTION:

What infrastructure do I need to seriously sell products and services on the web?

ANSWER:

You need to have a few backbone elements hooked up in order to get your stuff "out there" online.

In order to get a basic website out there, you need:

1. A domain name – the www.yourbusinessname.com part that serves as your web address. There's a yearly fee for this, but it's usually around $9.

2. A website host – this is like renting a place for your website files to live, where they'll be accessible 24/7. This enables visitors to see your website. There are monthly or yearly fees for this – usually around $150/year.

Then, you'll need a website. You'll probably need pages:
1. Describing your product/service
2. Detailing your customer service and delivery policies
3. About your background and history
4. With your contact information

There may be other pages that will be helpful, but these are the basics. There's usually a one-time design fee, and then a maintenance fee when you need to make changes to your site. The fees depend on the complexity of your site and the extent of your changes.

Next, you'll need the shopping infrastructure:

1. Shopping cart software. Unless you're developing a big store, with lots of products, and you have lots of up-front capital, I recommend using an off-the-shelf cart software program to get things started. They've done all the complicated programming, and will handle keeping the whole thing up and running for you. There are usually monthly service fees, but they're well worth it. I recommend One Shopping Cart – it's pretty easy to set up (comparatively) and it works well for both products and services.

2. A credit card processing solution. This sort of provider allows you to take online payments – it lets people put their credit card numbers in an online form, and deposits the money directly to your bank account. There are transaction and monthly fees associated with this service.

You could also use Paypal, but the per-transaction fees are pretty high, comparatively.

These are the basics of getting a website online and selling online.

Next, you have to get clients to your website – but we'll talk about how to do that next time.