Hundreds of websites offer eyecatching "easy e-commerce solutions", but they are rarely as simple as their claims might suggest. If you want to set up a merchant account which receives credit card payments you'll undergo a fairly grim application procedure not dissimilar to opening a bank account; this might also involve set-up fees, complex tables of commissions, and even additional charges if you estimate your future earnings inaccurately. Should your application be successful, you then have the task of setting up a secure online site. Such hoop-jumping is clearly meant for businesses with money to invest, so it's not surprising that other options are available to the humble artiste who wishes to sell their music, books or art without having to hazard a guess as to their annual turnover.
Paypal has been discussed previously in this column; it's perfect for eBay transactions, but building Paypal functionality into an online store can present problems, as reader David Poole points out. "When I attempted it, the biggest problem was that whoever wanted to buy something had to open their own Paypal account first. And as any online seller will tell you, the more obstacles you put in the way of a sale, the less likely that it'll be completed."
For small-time sellers, then, a quick and easy option is using a site that specialises in selling items of a particular genre. Indiestore.com is a good example; it allows unsigned bands to sell their songs in download format - even via external sites such as MySpace - with 80 per cent of the resulting revenue transferred to their bank every 90 days (or 30 days if you opt for their "Pro" account).
Koopa, the hot new band from Essex, is currently on indiestore.com's front page. They cracked the UK top 40 last week after the chart rules were changed to permit songs that didn't have a physical CD release. Reader Kevin Burrows sees this as a healthy development. "Prior to sites like indiestore.com and cdbaby.com, if you couldn't get your music on iTunes you were sunk. Now smaller acts have a decent option."
Outside the field of music, your suggestions came in thick and fast: unpublished writers can have their own books printed up and sold at lulu.com; budding artists can auction their work via the eBay-alike site artbyus.com; those with a flair for photography can place their snaps up for download at istockphoto.com and, if you have ideas for T-shirts or other merchandise, cafepress.com can take care of it. Should your artistic endeavours flounder, you can always sell your more obvious money-making skills at elance.com. Or, as a last resort, sell your house at housenetwork.co.uk.
Next week's question comes from an understandably anonymous source:
"I've just started a new job, and all our e-mail passwords are set as 'pass123'. Seriously! How best to convince my luddite boss that this is a bad idea?" Any comments, and new questions for the Cyberclinic, should be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.Reuse content