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Archive for May, 2017

Most of my work for this class this week has been on building my website- making it look nice and be functional. I’m not sure I’m there yet, but things are improving. I really need to figure out how to get some variations available in my products, like color, and adding a place for someone to give me the name they would like embroidered for custom items. Etsy really works better for the custom order situation at this point, I’m afraid.

The lessons this week were focused on business licensing and tax issues. They weren’t actually lessons, though- it was more of a “go do some research and tell us what you found out.” That frustrates me. I’ve already done that, what I want is to know where I screwed up and what I’m missing! Because I already have my business license and trade name I’m a little ahead of things at this point, which is nice. I did the research, though, and felt like I was okay. However, once I tried to connect my website to a third party that accepts credit cards, it asked for my EIN. When I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it, so I asked Google if my EIN was the same as my UBI. Nope. Turns out that I missed a step and needed to register with the IRS, not just my state, for this thing. That was taken care of (and free!), so now I’m good there, I hope.

I guess I’ll just keep learning a little at a time and hoping I get everything figured out eventually.

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This week we read about and discussed site design. I used what I had learned from my Intro to Graphic Design class about the principles of design and really thought about what makes a web site look good and function well. I compared a few websites, and really searched to find a site that sold products similar to mine to get a feel for how I want my site to look and which features will help me get the most of out my business. What I discovered is that people who sell embroidered products online generally have really unprofessional looking websites. I did get some good ideas, however, and ended up doing a major rehaul of my website to improve how everything looks.

We also discussed check out systems and took a closer look at PayPal. I was happy to find that their company has shopping cart options that will work well for me, so that I can include options for personalization with my products. That gave me a huge sigh of relief, because I’ve really been struggling with trying to figure out how to do that part of things.

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This week in class we focused on choosing a site builder and a hosting company. My first step was to read carefully the details of each company that were provided in the course materials. I felt that the language of the course builders favored SquareSpace over many others. My next step was to discuss a few options with my brother, Ben, who is a web designer by trade, and knows a lot more than I do about this sort of thing. He strongly recommended SquareSpace for my skill level and the things that I want in an online business. I continued to research several other companies, but I felt that they were the best to reach my needs, and they offered a great student discount.

After reading the discussion boards in class, I started to second guess myself, since Weebly was so highly recommended. I don’t like their templates as well, but I’m also not as picky as my brother. Because their website didn’t mention any sort of student discount I sent them an e-mail asking about it, and I included the price I could be getting with Squarespace. It took them over 48 hours to respond to that e-mail, and although the discount was much less than what I could get elsewhere, it was the response time that cemented my decision that Squarespace was the way to go.

However, as I began to look at hosting companies, my views were swayed again. iPage offers $1.99 hosting, which is a HUGE difference. So I really looked into what that would mean, since I would have to choose a different site builder. After a whole lot of research, I realized that iPage would be nickel and diming me for lots of things that Squarespace includes- like backing up my data in case of loss, and the ability to restore it, protecting my site from hackers and protecting the information of my customers, as well. The research process made me realize that there are quite a large number of factors that go into making a decision on a builder and host. I’m glad to have my mind (mostly) made up.

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This week in our class we focused on brokers, manufacturers, and wholesalers, as well as affiliate marketing and drop shipping.

We were asked to compare some different wholesale options, both international and a US based company. One of the main things that I noticed from this assignment is that you really want to dig deep to make sure you understand things before you pick a wholesaler. The majority of my group felt that the US option was better, but they based their findings on faulty reasoning (they didn’t understand the pricing of the company and they assumed that the product was manufactured in the USA and that somehow it was automatically a better quality than an international option would be). As I dug further into the company I found conflicting return policies and some other things that made me confident that they would be a bad option for a web-based business.

During the second half of the week we focused our attention on affiliate marketing and drop shipping. I learned about Amazon’s affiliate program and that users can earn up to 15% (one place said 10%) when someone purchases an item from your link. Thus, and affiliate marketing strategy would require a really high amount of traffic in order to make a significant return, especially if readers aren’t coming to your site with the intent to purchase something. I feel that it works better as an addition to a business, not as their sole source of revenue.

Drop shipping is the process of a company (often the manufacturer) letting other companies advertise and sell their products, while the original company takes care of shipping and inventory. Some companies give you a reduced price for the item (dictating how much you can sell it for), but most simply sell you the item and you can mark it up for whatever price you choose, dictating your own profit margins.

I like the drop shipping model for a company, but you have to keep in mind that because of it’s appeal, it is popular and can be highly competitive.

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