If you’re an artist with a website, being able to sell your work online is absolutely required. Few people are going to dig around for their checkbook and an envelope or pick up the phone to buy some of your work if you don’t offer online, secure transactions with a credit or debit card.
You’ll need to use an online company to process your card payments, and you have to pay processing fees like a brick-and-mortar store, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off, as you obviously can’t go to the complexity or expense of setting up your own secure online system.
Three big companies – Google, PayPal and Amazon – take care of all the details for millions of web-based sellers and businesses. They deal with their own website security, card verification, charge-backs, bank transfers and the rest, so you don’t have to deal with much except for shipping, emailing receipts to customers and transferring money to your bank account.
Before deciding which service to use, you should to go to each site and learn how each works. If you administer your own website and know your way around online things, you’ll find it’s not too difficult. If you do find it intimidating, ask around and find other artists who sell online.
Google Checkout is fairly easy to set up and use, and that service also allows you to email invoices. PayPal is the oldest of the three (if you use eBay, you already have a PayPal account), while Amazon is the newest and more geared toward businesses than individual sellers.
All online payment systems work by opening an account at those sites, then verifying that account (with emails and sometimes with an automated phone call) as well as a bank account (with a small deposit that you confirm), all which can take a few days.
You’ll need online access to your own bank account to check for verification of deposits and cleared payments, but many people and businesses already do much of their banking online already.
The next step is getting the links on your website to your payment process; each service will walk you through the process of adding “Buy Now” buttons or other links on your website to your payment processor. When a buyer clicks on those buttons or links, they are transferred to your account page at your payment processor, and then back to your website when done.
Non-profit organizations can also use online payment systems to sell items and – unlike commercial ventures – take donations. If you are a nonprofit, there are other systems that might be better for you, such as JustGive.org and NetworkforGood.org, which are geared toward organizations. They use online payment set-ups, which are very similar to Google, PayPal and Amazon.com
Ask around and look at the websites of artists and organizations you know to see what online payment systems they use; and if they might help you get set up with a payment processor on your own website.