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There are many e-commerce options available for people to choose from. We’ve tried to list the most common or useful in a specific scenario.
A few of the options below are free (usually just the website creation part, not the e-commerce part), and then require payment to look more “professional,” accept credit cards, remove ads or connect your domain name.
If you are planning on selling online, you should be prepared to pay a monthly fee to an e-commerce vendor, although some of them take a bigger cut when you make a transaction and give you the shopping cart for free. For some businesses, the add-ons you can purchase will be very valuable and will more than pay for themselves.
Don’t use these if you just want a blog or a simple site that you control. For people who don’t sell online, a WordPress install and a nice theme (see the WordPress section for details) would be a better fit. If you only send invoices or even don’t have a website at all but still want to get paid, check out the invoicing subcategory below.
E-Commerce & Shopping Cart Vendors:
- Shopify: well-known brand to help you run an online shop. 90-day free trial but no free plan. Lots of included features and a vast developer network that builds plug-ins to extend the functionality (you pay extra for the plug-ins). $9 a month “lite” plan for those who sell only on Facebook. It can handle a lot of traffic. If you have a very big business and are looking for a new vendor, they have Shopify Plus.
- Square Online Store: Not to be confused with Squarespace, this is owned by Square, the online payment processor (which confusingly, a lot of the other options on this list use as a payment processor). They have a free option, which could be a good fit for someone just starting out. They own Weebly, below.
- Weebly: offers a free plan (not much included), but have some slick themes and a nice look.
- Wix: Basic website creation and hosting and also e-commerce options. Have specific themes and options for music artists, restaurants, and photographers.
- 3dcart: They have a large customer base and some strong pricing for the features you get, so you might want to check them out. They also have a $9.99 plan for dropshippers. Been in the business a long time.
- Squarespace: Nice templates and clean designs. Some features only get added with additional monthly fees.
- Volusion: They have some nice themes and charge monthly instead of transaction fees.
- Magento: Owned by Adobe, so their website is a mix of useless jargon and wild claims as usual. Unlikely a good fit for new & very small businesses, but if you sell a lot on Amazon, you can look at their Amazon integration.
- WooCommerce: WordPress specific e-commerce plug-in. Good choice for existing WordPress sites and they also offer a hosted solution. Free to use, you pay for add-ons that extend the functionality. It requires some technical know-how to integrate but is very, very capable, and powers a lot of big websites.
- Facebook Shops & Instagram shops: Allows people to checkout via a Facebook or Instagram Shop. They take a 5% fee when something sells, so a good option for someone who wants no upfront costs (since your Facebook and Instagram pages are also free, you don’t need a website or a domain either).
- eBay and eBay Stores: yes, eBay is still around and still very popular. Whole businesses are still built on selling on eBay. You can chose to list items and then pay a fee when it sells, or subscribe to a store plan.
- BigCommerce: this is for big stores, as the name suggests. It is something you upgrade to when you want something bigger and better and have developers on staff to handle it.
Subcategory: Booking and Appointment E-commerce solutions
Business that run on appointments usually want software that can help them set up those appointments. Sometimes this is built into an e-commerce solution, other times they will use a specialist booking app. Massage therapists, plumbers, contractors, personal trainers, or other businesses where the client pays by the time spent with the owner are good fits for these solutions.
- Square Appointments: Owned by the payment processor Square, it is free for an individual, they make their money back by charging a percentage of the transaction when the client pays you because they are the payment processor. A lot of nice features are included.
- MassageBook: Obviously directed at massage therapists, they offer a full year’s free trial and allow you to use Square or Stripe as your payment processor.
Subcategory: Digital Goods
These vendors specialize in helping sell digital goods, like software, downloads, books, etc. While most of the vendors above can also do that, sometimes you want download tracking, file hosting, automatic download starts, or for the file to be available for a certain time & password protected. Photographers & musicians should check out our list in the Free hosting & Websites Section for portfolio sites, some of which also do e-commerce.
Subcategory: Arts & Craft E-commerce
- Etsy: the big name in town, almost everyone in the business uses it to start. No monthly fees and opening the store is free, so a great fit for people starting out. You pay a small fee to list items and Etsy takes a cut of the transaction when you make a sale.
Subcategory: Photography, Art, Music & Writing
There are a lot of places to sell your art & photography. Besides the ones on this list, we recommend the print-on-demand category was well, which prints your art on just about anything.
- Flickr: Yes, they are still around and still very large. They are mostly a portfolio site, you can’t sell any photographs through them, but you can integrate with SmugMug for that.
- 500px: can post your photographs and license them out and market workshops to other photographers.
- Behance: Owned by Adobe, it is a popular portfolio site to share your work in photography, fashion, graphic design and other related fields. If you have a subscription to Create Cloud, you can also use Adobe Portfolio. Typical of an Adobe product though, the website is filled with generic jargon and you’ll actually have to find out how to use it from other people.
- PortfolioBox: a portfolio site with a built-in e-commerce store for selling your stuff directly from your portfolio page. How it works.
- BigCartel: geared towards artists and “makers” (whatever those are), a nice thing is that you can sell up to 5 products for free (as in you don’t have to pay a monthly fee). If you’re venturing out into the waters of selling your art or music and don’t want a lot of upfront costs, this could be for you. They also have an abundance of beards and flannel among their employee pictures, so they’re probably hip and with it.
- Medium & Substack: These are writing platforms that help you get paid for your writing or blogging.
- Soundcloud: if you’re a musician you’ve probably already heard of this, as they are the biggest name in town. This is how you get on Spotify and the other music services.
- Etsy is also a great choice for people to sell art and photography.
- Society6: a place to sell artwork. It prints on demand and sells it to customers through an online store. How it works.
Subcategory: Print on Demand:
These vendors allow you to upload artwork and then sell items using your artwork, such as t-shirts, canvases, stickers, mugs, towels, pretty much anything. They do the printing and ship the item to the customer. Almost all of them are free until a customer buys something. There are many, many more besides the ones listed here. Most of the time you can only sell through their marketplace, but some allow you to put the product on your store. They are a good fit for anyone who wants to sell art, or groups such as bands, DJ’s, comedians, non-profits etc.
- Basic Vendors: Teespring, CafePress, Amazon Merch (owned by Amazon), Threadless, Ript (geeky focus), Society 6 (artwork and home decor focus), DesignbyHumans; Teerana (European focus).
- Printful: different from the ones above, this integrates with your online store, like Etsy, eBay or Shopify & many, many others to allow you to offer printed objects to a customer directly from your store. Printful prints it and then ships it for you and it arrives with your own branding.
- VistaPrint Reseller Program: For stationary, brochures or other printed products. You order them and they ship products to your clients without labeling.
Subcategory: Subscription Boxes
These companies help you create your own subscription box company and sell subscriptions.
- CrateJoy: both a marketplace to allow customers to find your subscription box and a way to set up recurring billing & shipping, etc.
- Subbly: an alternative to CrateJoy. How it works.
- Bold: a Shopify Plugin for running a subscription business.
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Invoicing is the practice of sending someone an invoice, which they then pay. An invoice lists the things you have done for them and the amount they need to pay, along with a method for the business to keep track of it, usually an invoice number. Sometimes you give your client or customer a certain amount of time to pay. Instead of a transaction between a business and a consumer, invoices are usually business to business. In most cases, you don’t want or need a full-fledged online store, you just want to get paid, and you want it to be convenient for your customer to pay you. We’ve listed some big players, but don’t forget your accounting software probably does this too, so visit our Accounting Software section.
A word about payments: sometimes you send an invoice and the client physically stops by your business and pays cash or mails a checks, sometimes they want to pay by credit card or bank transfer. Most of these options allow everything, and provide invoice templates for you to email or print out and mail.
- PayPal Invoice: Send an invoice for free without having a website. The ability to send invoices (and accept payment by credit or debit card) without having a website is a nice feature, so is a good fit for contractors, freelancers, nomads or solopreneurs who just need to send an invoice to get paid. Also allows you to print out invoices if you need to give a paper one to a client (there’s always someone). Paypal makes its money by taking a percentage when someone pays you.
- Stripe billing: A bit more complicated technically to set up, they have similar fees and integrate with a lot of other software. Can pay extra fees for reconciliation.
- Square Invoices: Free to use and no fees to accept cash or checks. You pay a transaction fee on credit and debit cards and other payment methods. They give the customer a lot of options to pay, like Apple or Google Pay. It can do estimates, recurring payments, payment reminders and you can pay extra to immediately transfer funds to your bank the same day, or if you sign up for the Square Business Debit Card you can spend funds immediately.
- Bill.com: targeted towards small, mid-size, and bigger businesses, this is not a fit for solo entrepreneurs or companies without a lot of money coming it. It’s targeted towards a company with revenue who does a lot of billing and wants to make it faster on the productivity side. Has a lot of integrations with accounting software and can also pay your suppliers as well. This would be a good fit for companies with a busy billing department who wants to get more out of each billing employee.
- Harvest: a time tracking piece of software, it can be a good fit for people who need to bill by the hour or minute on multiple clients a day. It allows you to send invoices based on the time tracked.
- Accounting & bookkeeping software usually offers this built-in, so you can get both if you are planning on adopting one of those. See the Accounting and Bookkeeping section or visit the major vendors below:
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