Is it always necessary to pay to create an internet store? The majority of web material and common wisdom says yes: an ecommerce site is a complex piece of software with many moving parts; it’s also typically necessary to utilize high-powered, often expensive hosting to sustain a scaling store and seasonal traffic spurts. But what if all you need is a few Buy buttons on your current blog that lead to a shopping cart? We’re here to tell you that paying money to build an ecommerce store isn’t necessary, particularly for simple product galleries and rapid online store essentials like a checkout module. We’ll show you how to establish a free online store and discuss the platforms that can help you do so in this post.
What are the components required to build a free online store?
- A website
- A checkout module
- Payment processing software
- A domain name is the name of a website (optional but highly recommended)
And we have great news: despite their rarity, all of these elements are completely free!
How to create an online store for free
This tutorial will show you how to set up a store, design it, add products, and accept payments.
Step 1: Launch a website
You may have heard of the best ecommerce platform for building a website and displaying an online store, as well as ecommerce capabilities such as payment processing, email marketing, search engine optimization, and receipts. The world’s Shopify, Bigcommerces, and Squarespace are what we’re talking about.
They’re all great tools, but none of them come with a free plan.
On the other hand, several other well-known firms have accessible ways to create websites and sell things. We recommend utilizing one of these to create a free online store with a shopping cart and payment processing:
- Square Online
Starting with Square Online is preferable because it’s the only free online shop builder. Ecwid and Sellfy also have free plans, but they have caveats or limitations. For example, Sellfy’s free plan only allows you to sell ten physical products; you must pay to sell more, as well as digital and subscription products.
Unless you upgrade, Ecwid also limits you to 10 physical products. We still like them, and you might prefer Sellfy or Ecwid for their services, but Square Online is free and has a comprehensive feature set.
Square Online offers a free package that includes limitless products, an online storefront builder, shopping cart features, social media selling, and SEO tools.
So, go to the Square Online page to begin the procedure. Select one of the Launch or Get Started for Free options to get started for free. This takes you to the sign-up page, where you can create a store without providing any payment information.
During the initial setup process, you will be asked questions about yourself, your ecommerce business, and more.
Fill up your name, email address, and the password you want to use to log into your Square Online store on the first page. To continue, click Continue.
Indicate if you are an individual or a business merchant. Then, enter the name you wish to appear on customer receipts on the next screen.
Next, decide what kind of online business you have or aim to have. We’ll use Clothing and Accessories as an example, but square lists hundreds of industries.
To proceed, select the Continue button.
Fill in your business’s address, then indicate if it’s also your home address. Then, on the next screen, click the Continue option.
The next screen inquires if you operate a mobile business or if your business address differs from your home address, both of which require additional information to enable proper payment processing.
To proceed, click the Continue button.
It’s also crucial to clarify what you intend to sell on the internet. In this way, the Square Online store provides you with various product page alternatives.
Choose what you want to sell in your online shop.
After that, make a note of how you want to fulfil orders, choosing from the following options:
- Ship items
- Allow pickup
- Allow delivery
- Allow self-serve ordering
You can choose multiple fulfilment options, then click Continue.
Choose the website experience that works best for you to complete the process of creating your free online store with Square Online. You have the option of:
A single shop page provides a simple store with a one-page website.
A shoppable Instagram page allows you to link to a one-page online store from your Instagram profile and posts.
A complete website and online store: the most comprehensive ecommerce solution, including several website pages, your online store, menu functionality, and a website designer.
To finish, click the Continue button.
Square doesn’t have a vast template library; instead, it develops an attractive, modern, high-quality template that works for most businesses.
You’ll then be sent to the Square Online dashboard, where you can add things, customize your website layout, set up shipping, market products, fulfil orders, and much more.
Step 2: Design the Website
Now that you’ve got a Square Online account and a dashboard full of website-building tools, it’s time to make your site seem nice.
You can customize your online business in a variety of ways. The Website> Edit site menu will take you to the site builder, but we recommend following the dashboard Setup Guide to make sure you’ve checked all of the boxes necessary to run your site.
This guide may be found by selecting Setup Guide from the upper right corner of your dashboard.
You can also click the Design Now button located in the centre of the dashboard.
Square Online directs you to their ecommerce website builder, which is essentially an integrated version of Weebly because Square purchased the Weebly website builder for this purpose.
On the site builder, you’ll notice an online store preview to the right and tabs on the left to alter various aspects of the site.
For example, you can upload a picture as your logo by clicking the Logo button.
Colours, Fonts, and Styles can all be tweaked using the square tabs. We added a logo and altered several button styles, as you can see in this step-by-step instruction, both of which are visible in the preview to the right.
Square returns you to the main menu for the website builder after you click the Done button, which includes menu choices for customizing:
- The Header
- Main Banner
- Featured Products
- Newsletter by email
- Branding in the Footer
And these are just the default parts to get you started; you can use Square’s Add Section button to add more content blocks further to personalize the look and functionality of your Website. You may also use various apps and add-ons to enhance your store’s functionality and activate everything from drop shipping to a link with Amazon, eBay, or even WordPress.
Open each of these editing tabs to ensure the site appears the way you want it to.
For example, we may use the Header tab to adjust the navigation, add or delete shopping and search icons, and even introduce a button.
The Main Banner tab also has options for inserting an image into the banner space, adding buttons, modifying the wording, and more. If you’d prefer to click on an element and change things like text or drag an item somewhere else, the preview to the right also acts as a drag-and-drop visual editor (ideal for beginners).
Square Online also offers a direct connection to free Unsplash photographs, which you can use to build your ecommerce website with images. Otherwise, you can use your computer or Instagram to upload photographs.
Once you’ve decided on an image, it will be uploaded and displayed on your ecommerce website’s banner. As usual, you can adjust all of the content displayed, such as the welcome text, buttons, or headers.
Each content area has its own set of customization options, such as changing layouts, colors, alignments, and section height in the main banner.
Step 3: Fill Your Square Online Store With Products
It would be impossible to learn how to make a free online store without learning how to add products!
Fortunately, Square Online makes it simple with a variety of options.
One option is staying in the website builder and clicking the Featured Items section tab. Because your website’s homepage includes a gallery of featured items by default, you may accomplish two jobs in one by adding products to the store and showing them on your website.
You may also add products by heading to the main Square Online dashboard and selecting Items > Site Items > Create New Item from the drop-down menu.
Open the Featured Items tab, then click the Create an Item button for the Featured Items approach.
A popup window called Add Item displays, allowing you to quickly fill in product information and add it to your website.
You must choose an Item Type in the first field. Physical, prepared food, donations, events, and other options are available. By navigating to the more detailed Site Items section on the main dashboard, you can even turn it into a Digital Product.
While Square allows you to sell digital things for free, the fulfillment process currently requires you to submit the digital files via manual email. Square is reportedly planning to provide more automated fulfillment functionality in the future, which is ideal for individuals learning how to establish a free online store but who want to sell digital goods.
Fill in the Item Title, Item Price, and Item Description fields for each product.
Upload photos and enter Shipping or Local Delivery in the Fulfillment form (these are store-wide settings that may be obscured if you didn’t enable them during the setup process).
To add the product to your store, make sure you click the Save option.
The saved product is now visible in your inventory list and the Featured Items area of your homepage.
Feel free to change that section’s layout and colour scheme to best showcase your products.
Although the Header, Main Banner, and Featured Items sections are the most significant, we also advise you to personalize sections like the Email Newsletter, Footer, and Footer Branding, or eliminate them if you don’t intend to use them.
They all show in a lovely gallery in the Featured Items area when you add many products!
Step 4: Set Up a Domain
Is it feasible to link your free online store to a free domain? Both yes and no.
Square Online does offer a free square subdomain, making it the closest thing you’ll find to a free online store builder. You can also add a custom domain to your account, but you’ll need to upgrade to a premium account to do so.
As a result, you have two choices:
- Pair a free sub-domain with a free website builder like Square Online.
- Sign up for a Square Online premium account and transfer a free domain from another provider.
When you sign up for a premium account with a website builder, look for one that gives free domain names (Square Online, Shopify, and many others offer this).
As you can see, having an entirely free internet store isn’t ideal. You’ll have to pay for a domain name or a premium account at some point. However, we believe Square Online is the most affordable option because you can start an online store with a free Square sub-domain and then upgrade when you’re ready to add a custom domain.
Click Setup Guide > Set Up Your Domain to add a domain to your Square Online store.
Choose one of the following three options:
- Find a Custom Domain: You look for a domain and pay for it with Square.
- Use a Domain I Own Elsewhere: This is a bit more complicated to transfer over, but it allows you to find a free domain elsewhere.
- Please make use of a Square Subdomain: it’s completely free!
This article uses the free Square sub-domain because we’re hoping to learn how to establish an online store for free. Fill in the desired subdomain and click Change.
Step 5: Verify Your Identity and Activate Online Payment Processing
Square’s primary business is payment processing, so it interfaces directly with the square payment option for collecting payments through your store, as you might expect. They do a brief identification verification to activate your Square account like they do with all Square accounts.
Click Setup Guide > Verify Your Identity to finish the process.
Note that because Square sells its payment processor, you won’t be able to link with Stripe or Authorize.net.
Fill up your legal name, home address, date of birth, and other information.
Continue by pressing the Enter key.
The following steps will lead you through linking a bank account for deposits. Select the Continue option.
Choose whether you want to get paid the next day or the same day after a transaction. A 1.5 percent fee is charged for speedier deposits. Because there’s not a long time to wait, and because that 1.5 percent fee is added to the 2.9 percent +$0.30 transaction fee, all of your transactions will be more expensive, we recommend the Next Business Day option.
Continue by pressing the Enter key.
It’s now time to connect your bank account. Fill in the account holder’s name, routing number, and account number. When you’re finished, click Continue.
After that, Square will notify you whether or not your identification has been verified. Your online store’s payment processing has been successfully configured if this is the case. the “done” button
Step 6: Configure Shipping Rates
For the Square store to function effectively, you’ll need to set up shipping costs.
Set up shipping rates by going to Setup Guide > Setup Shipping Rates.
You can either create a UPS account for live shipping prices or add shipping rates based on the shipment address in this module.
Step 7: Collecting Taxes
Because most online transactions necessitate the collection of taxes, Square includes it in the setup process from the outset.
It’s one of the last things you need to do before launching your site, and you can find it under Setup Guide > Collect Taxes On Your Sales.
Note how you intend to fulfill orders, as this choice may affect how you collect taxes from clients.
Shipping, Pickup, Local Delivery, Self-serve Ordering, and Other options.
When you’re finished, click the Next button.
After that, you can decide how your items will be taxed. Among the possibilities are:
- All goods are charged at the exact cost.
- Rates vary depending on the item.
- There are no taxes because my items are exempt.
- Select one of these options and then press the Next button.
Because it gathers live data for individual states and localities, Square Online performs a superb job automating the taxing process. The various tax rates given can then be activated or deactivated. To finish, click Save.
Square also has several different tax options if you wish to incorporate taxes in your item prices, charge delivery fees, or do anything similar.
Step 8: Make Your Free Website
Now that you’ve set up every aspect of your Website, it’s time to go live. Go to Setup Guide > Publish Your Website to do so.
A confirmation popup will appear, along with a URL to your site’s front end.
At all times, the main dashboard has a link to your Website.
We encourage you to go to the front and play around with the buttons, see what needs to be changed, and make some test payments. This ensures that the site functions correctly and that customers do not have a negative user experience.
As you can see, every Square Online website has a full Shop page with filters, sorting, and a product gallery.
Product titles, pricing, Buy buttons, and product descriptions are highlighted on the product pages.
Finally, shopping carts slide into view on free Square Online sites, creating a seamless, user-friendly environment. The customer eventually selects the Checkout button and enters their payment information to complete the transaction. Other payment options, such as Google Pay and PayPal, are also available.
A Word on Fees for Transactions and Credit Cards
When using their systems for free, you’ll discover that several ecommerce platforms levy transaction fees ranging from 1% to 10%. The platforms are nominally free in terms of upfront charges, but there is a price when you sell. Fortunately, there are no transaction fees with Square Online and Sellfy.
Credit card processing costs, on the other hand, are unavoidable. When customers use credit cards, every payment processor takes fees, basically paying the card companies for the privilege of using their services. Per transaction, the standard is 2.9 + $0.30. Anything higher than that should be avoided.
Additional Platforms for Creating a Free Online Store (Or Almost Free)
As previously stated, finding a free ecommerce platform is rare. Square Online is the closest thing to a free service, but you’re stuck with a Square subdomain or must upgrade to a paying account to import a free domain from somewhere else.
Here are some alternative systems that can assist you in creating an internet store for free or close to it:
Sellfy: They have a completely free plan that allows you to make unlimited sales with no transaction fees. You are, however, limited to ten products and can only offer authentic goods. You’ll be given a Sellfy subdomain; custom domains are only available on the premium plans.
Ecwid: A free plan with no transaction fees and the ability to sell physical (but not digital) products are available. You’ll get a free Ecwid sub-domain and a limit of 10 goods. Upgrades are required for custom domains.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial to let you create a comprehensive online store before you launch.
Wix: This platform offers a free personal website plan, but online retailers will need to upgrade to one of the cheaper ecommerce plans. Most premium programs include a 14-day free trial period and free domain names.
BigCommerce: Build a site with a 15-day free trial before launching it.
Where Can I Get a Free Domain?
Free domain names are available at the following websites:
- Dot. tk
- Freedomain. name
All of these sites are good for saving money on personal domain names, but they’re not suggested if you want your online store to look professional. Not to add that switching that free domain to an ecommerce platform (which will happen soon) will need you to pay for the platform’s premium plan. As a result, you’re probably not saving much money.
When studying how to build an online business for free and buy a cheap domain, we recommend NameCheap because it is by far the most trusted and affordable domain name registrar. Instead of transferring DNS information from another registrar, purchase a domain through your host or website builder.
You learned the following in this article:
- It isn’t easy to come across a platform that allows you to create an online store for free. There are, however, a few solutions that are either free or allow you to create a free ecommerce store on a subdomain.
- When it comes to learning how to build a free online store, Square Online is your best bet, mainly because the free plan has the fewest restrictions on selling things.
- Sellfy and Ecwid are excellent, but their free plans limit you to 10 things.
- If you want to keep everything completely free, you’ll have to use a platform-provided subdomain. If you want to use a custom domain on any of the tested platforms, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium plan.
- There are a few options for getting free domains, but they’re primarily for personal branding or are challenging to obtain. Choose NameCheap if you want to get the best deal.
- Even though transaction and credit card fees aren’t upfront costs, they should be included in your budget.
- Depending on what you choose, apps, plugins, and other extensions may cost money.
- Extended free trials are available from Shopify, Wix, and Bigcommerce, and some of them include free domains for a specific time.
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