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How To: Accept Payments Online

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How To: Accept Payments Online
Photo by Flickr user seanmcmenemy

Do you ever wish getting paid was just...easier? Meaning instantaneous, inexpensive and automatic?

It's not just a fantasy. The good news for entrepreneurs is that there are a number of online payment solutions that make getting paid easier than ever before. Below, we'll look at some of the most prominent solutions.

The basics of accepting payments online

"The check's in the mail" is a phrase that many a freelancer or entrepreneur grows to dread. That's why services that allow you to invoice and collect payment all in one go are a godsend. If you simply need to be able to send out invoices and collect money via the web, Harvest and Freshbooks are two to consider in this regard -- they allow you to time track, invoice and accept electronic payments.

Mobile payments

If you've ever been in a coffee shop where the barista whips out an iPad with a little plastic doodad attached to it where she swipes your credit card, then you have probably seen Square in action. This mobile payment service is taking the retail world by storm. When you sign up, you get a free credit card reader. Square then takes a small percentage of each purchase (or a monthly fee).

Ebay, Etsy, Amazon

If you're interested in setting up an online shop, but are have a little trepidation about all of the steps involved, your best solution may involve piggybacking on a large online retailer like Ebay, Etsy or Amazon. While Ebay is known for resale of used items, all kinds of different retailers hawk their wares there (and use the service to embed listings on their own websites). Etsy is a crafter and artisan's paradise, offering not only customizable storefronts and modest transaction fees, but also a large community of artistic kindred spirits.

All of these shops are great solutions for those who don't want to get deeply technical in the setup of their shops. If you're ready to get your feet wet on a site like Ebay, check out "Five First Items to Get You Started Selling."

Further, a storefront system called Shopify offers a little more customization, but is still good for people without a lot of technical knowledge.

An Affiliate "Shop"

With affiliate marketing, you present someone else's products and get a commission every time an item is purchased through your shop. Amazon Associates is a popular program for setting up an affiliate shop, while ShopStyle is a great site for fashionistas to check out.

Setting up your own shop

Setting up your own shop online has become much easier and inexpensive in recent years, making it among the best business you can start on a budget. It's helpful to have an understanding of everything you'll need to get it off the ground. It's a little more complicated than setting up just a website, but not much more.

Here's what you need:

  • A domain: register this at any number of providers.
  • A web hosting account: the place where the files and media that comprise your website are stored. Basic web hosting accounts start as low as $5 a month.
  • A private SSL certificate: a SSL certificate is what you need to protect customer data during transactions. If you don't have one, shop visitors will get that warning that says the SSL certificate doesn't match the domain name. SSL certificates can be procured from your web hosting company for about $50 a year.
  • Shopping cart software: this software is what allows a customer to select one item or multiples and put it into a virtual "cart" to ultimately check out. ZenCart is a popular free solution -- but check with your web host, they may have an easy, one-click install.
  • A payment gateway: this is the critical component that allows you to get paid by credit card. The most popular and recognizable payment gateway on the web is Paypal. Alternatives include Authorize.net and 2Checkout.

Want more on how to set up a profitable online business? Don't miss this report on "muse businesses."

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