Setting up shop Part 2: Now accepting Bitcoin! And you can too.

Well I’ve made the jump. In my last post on the subject, I was looking for ways to ditch eBay and start my own store, accepting bitcoin.

And the winner is…

I ended up choosing Shopify. I had considered Square and, if I wasn’t in Australia I might well have gone with them. They have great products and services to support your business, but in the end they aren’t available to me in Oz so I went with their competitor.

On a side note, there’s a lesson there for those businesses who want to take the global-readiness of cryptocurrency and offer it as part of their business model: it’s no good thinking globally but only being available to businesses in one country or region. This is a problem relating back to bank payments though, so I really don’t hold it against Square which is why I would still tell you to check them out if you’re in America.

I also looked at etsy, but it didn’t have the cryptocurrency integration I was looking for. A blog-based shop was also an option, but required a bit more work in following up on payments and controlling stock.

Shopify has some fine points to recommend it:
1. It’s cheap. You can start small, like I am, with a $14/month plan and free themes to get a professional look on a hobbist’s budget.

2. It’s based on the wordpress platform, so if you are one of my fellow bloggers you will already be comfortable with the process. Even if you are not, check it out: it is much simpler than you think!

3. You will be delighted at how simple it is to integrate bitcoin payments. Bitpay is used, all you have to do is sign up for a Bitpay account, follow the prompts to direct funds to your wallet and then copy and paste the API on bitpay’s site into the form on the Shopify dashboard.

4. You can manage stock automatically. When entering the details of your product, you can elect to have shopify track stock for you, and even choose whether to stop or allow people to progress with checkout if stock has run out.

The Set Up Process.

I started from scratch, with no formal webdesign, marketing or business training and was able to get an operational store front up and running in under 2 days. That was including making my own logo, taking pics of my first stock item, writing copy and then putting all that onto the Shopify dashboard. In fact, all that work on my stock and branding is what took the most time. Getting it to work on the Shopify site was the fast part!

The best part is, so long as I can clear $140 worth of sales, I will already be ahead of eBay’s fees. And I can still accept all the payments I did on eBay (paypal & direct to bank account) but now I am ready to accept payment in the form of bitcoin.

This past week has seen some interesting talk about Paypal wanting to intergrate bitcoin payments. I say “too slow Pal!” There are plenty of people who have btc, who want to spend it, and who have been spending it without Paypal. I’m glad to be joining the growing number of legitimate businesses who welcome those bitcoin consumers.

It’s also worth asking why would I want to use a low transaction fee payment method, like bitcoin, through an escrow service that charges so much? It reeks of a cynical attempt to claw back business that they’ve lost to the cheaper competitor. Personally, I’m in bitcoin for the long term. What I earn in btc I will be keeping and spending in btc. And Paypal’s reluctant efforts to cover that market leaves me with no great feeling of good-will towards the payment giant.

It just reminds me of that old saying: “Too little, too late.”

If you’re in the market for kidswear, either for your own kids or as a gift to expectant friends and family, please check out my new store on Shopify: Mother Cunning.

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Setting up shop: Part 1.

I’ve been selling second hand items, off and on, for a couple of years now. I’ve always used either eBay or their free-to-list version, Gumtree. What I don’t like about eBay is the fees. They have updated their fee schedule again, and now in addition to double dipping by  charging you a fee as eBay then again as their other company paypal, they want to assess their final valuation fee off the price of the item plus postage.

And here in Australia, that’s a killer. A regular post pack comes in sizes of upto 500g ($8) between up to 3kg ($13) or 5kg ($17). So 10% of those postage costs will now be coming out of your profits on the item sold.

This was after an unsuccessful attempt by eBay to get sellers to offer free postage (they claim this entices more buyers) but add the postage costs on to the item itself. A neat way to give them a bigger cut of the pie that obviously didn’t see the take up they desired because now they’ve changed their fee schedule to ensure that they do get paid a slice of that postage cost, whether you like it or not.

So on to gumtree which is fine but not without it’s problems. For one thing while it is free to list, you will be competing against other people who are paying to stay at the top of search results in categories. To stay at the top for 7 days costs $1.99 but if you really want to shine, the full service treatment costs $14.99, which is pretty unaffordable if you what you’re selling is worth less that $150.

Plus it is a much smaller market, more geared towards household items and furniture that would usually be pick-up only. As such, it’s not really a solution for those items you might sell on eBay seeking a larger audience reach. People searching on gumtree first select their region, so you are not really going to reach many people outside of your area unless they are really looking. Fine if you are holding a rare collectible I guess, but for regular items you are looking to sell quickly and easily, you may be disappointed as your listing slips further back in the search results without ever engaging with people outside of your region.

Additionally, gumtree is set price. There is no auctioning items to the highest bidder. I have recently sold a baby carrier designed for hiking. I thought my price was pretty good, but judging by the number of people contacting me after it sold, the market might have been able to pay a bit extra. If I’d been auctioning it off, I might have made more. Then again,if I’d gone the eBay route, maybe whatever I made would be eaten up by fees.

Lastly, I want to accept payments outside of paypal. Gumtree is almost entirely cash, which is fine, but it means strangers will come to your house to pick up. Staying at home with the baby, I don’t really want random strangers knowing my address. On eBay, I want to encourage people to not pay by paypal, but for a long time, offering paypal has been mandatory. Offering bitcoin payments has been a matter of adding wording to the ad itself and then you are on your own as to how to facilitate that. There is no smooth integration, like with paypal, I guess because eBay doesn’t get a cut of that. (Call me cynical, but that’s their racket, so of course they’re going to block and discourage alternate payment options.)

Thus I have come to the conclusion that eBay and gumtree are no longer viable ways to sell online for me. Additionally, I want to expand from just selling second hand items into crafting some original stuff and I think a proper shopfront is the way to go. To this end, I’ve been looking into etsy, shopify, square or running my own shopfront through a blog, like my buddy Drew over at cryptoparacord.

In my next post I will be detailing what each of these options offer to someone like me and hopefully encourage you to think about why you might choose one to start or expand your own business.