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How To Sell Lots Of Items On Your Website Without Going Broke!

Many people want to have a website where they can sell large numbers of their wares. This could include photographs, jewelry, clothing, collectibles or any other of a wide variety of merchandise. Unfortunately, they have no idea what goes into creating a website that could display a large number of items.

I was recently contacted by a photographer who wanted to have me create a website where she could sell her photographs. She wanted to start off listing 1,000 photographs on her site with another 1,500 to 2,000 photographs added every year. I could easily see this one project giving me enough money to retire several years earlier than I'd expected.

I estimated that it would take about 10 minutes to prepare each image and put it on a web page. Each image would need to have a thumbnail and a 4x5 inch image made from the original, optimize each image, create a popup window for the 4x5 and create a custom PayPal button for each image offered. At my rate of $60 per hour, this would be $6 per image. So it would cost $6,000 to set up the initial batch of photographs, and another $9,000 and $12,000 to add new images each year. This would be on top of the cost to create the website.

This was going to be a major, time consuming and expensive venture so I set out to find the best solution to meet her needs. The ideas I came up with will work for any person who wants to sell large quantities of items from a website. Remember, that no matter what you sell, you'll need a picture of each item, so you'll run into a similar situation.

I came up with three solutions:

Make and run a big, expensive website
Put your items on someone else's big, expensive website
Do both of the above

Let's go over the pros and cons of all these ideas.

Make and Run a Big, Expensive Website

The most expensive thing you can do is to make a database driven website. Each item would be listed in the database, along with its price, description and other information you want listed about each item. A database site lets you easily add, remove or change items and can let each page be designed around the user's needs. So if you have a site selling photographs, and the client puts in a search for Dogs, then a page would be created with only dog pictures.

The down side is the cost and time to create the website. It could easily take several months to create the site, and the price tag could run well over $25,000. A similar sized non-database site would cost only about $2,000 to $3,000, but would lack the functionality of the database site.

I know of one company that had a site like this done for them. The website design company had two full-time and two part-time programmers working on the project, at $100 per hour per person. The project took over eight months at a cost exceeding $130,000. Now that's commitment.

This is not only a sizable financial investment, but if your products don't sell like you hope it could take years, or a lifetime, to recoup your costs.

Put Your Items on Someone Else's Big, Expensive Website

There are many sites where you can list your products. Specifically for photographers there are numerous stock photography agencies. You send in lots of photographs, they select the ones most likely to sell and they post them on their site. The up side is that they do all the marketing, website maintenance, track usage and all the other things needed to sell the photographs. The down side is that they keep about 40 percent of the sales price. But considering all they do, that's not bad.

For other items that you may want to sell there are many outlets.

The obvious is eBay, to sell almost anything.
Collectors of almost anything can find sites where people list these items for sale, including: books, toys, animation cells and almost anything else you can think of.
There are newsgroups for almost any topic, and if the newsgroup doesn't exist, you can create it. Many of these newsgroups let you list your items or put links to your items that are listed on eBay or your own website.

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