faq

How to start a pipe selling website

James Pagni

When it comes to selling products online, there are so many options for every little detail. Here we are going to go over some of the main points when it comes to choosing a Web Host and Ecommerce Platform for selling your pipes. And do understand that this will be my advice to someone who was in my spot when I first started. It is some of the things I wish I knew.
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So before you start a site you will need to make some decisions. There are lots of web hosting sites and it is the company that will provide a place for your website to  store all of it's content while also enabling it to be accessed throughout the internet. Choosing your web domain name might come first or at this time, so choose wisely for availability on all social platforms and the Internet. Some of these sites can do everything too. For this website here, we started by using everything on GoDaddy.
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GoDaddy has great customer support and a website builder for only $10 a month. So if you can, try using GoDaddy for web hosting and ecommerce. It might not be the top of the line package for selling items, but it is affordable, it has the ability to add a PayPal button for sales, and it is all in one place. It is a good starting place BUT if your selling pipes, be careful selling on a number of sites including GoDaddy. WIX, GoDaddy, SquareSpace, and many others say something about paraphernalia manufacturing is Disallowed.
The reason we switched is because you can get away with pipes but selling bongs they do not approve of. You have to ask support or go through the policies for each company before settling. You could still argue that it is for tobacco but that might not matter. And when you have your site you still need to say that the products are for tobacco use only and to know you local laws before buying. Just put that type of stuff under policies. And avoid talking about cannabis, bongs, or any other trigger words on your site (unless in context like this). This is because the bank who accepts your customers money does not accept payments for any of that talk or type of products. They can be the reason your site can't even sell products.
Read up here about credit card processing for your site.
Who should you go to? Well we aren't done yet, because I wanted to bring up one platform that I hear is accepting of pipes and does it all. Plus it is only $10 a month, but has it's limitations. They are BigCartel. Go check them out if you are just about ready to sell for the first time. Because it is so important that you don't go over board and spend more many then your going to make, and it might be slow starting out with sales. 
So after GoDaddy (who we still use for hosting our domain name and for added security) we went to a company called Volusion because they are friendly towards having pipes sold on their platform. Great customer support but we outgrew the model they had in place. If we had to many visitors to our site we would go over there limits then they would have extra fees. They changed that after we left and they don't do that now, but the price for a plan double because of it. So we left them 2 years ago for Shopify.
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Shopify is the best of what I have tried. 
From the moment we started using their platform, the possibilities were endless and everything could be figured out with customer support. They can host your site and domain, while providing the platform. It has the security you need for checkout. If you can't do it on the platform, they have apps that you can install into your website to do all those extra things. Shipping is built in and easier to deal with then the others platforms I mentioned. But it starts at $29 a month. That is to high for someone starting out if you ask me.
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The downside to this platform for me is their credit card processing set up. If you don't use there provider, then they charge you 2% for every transaction (Each plan upgrade drops that percent down). The catch for us pipe makers is, we are not allowed to use their processor because of what I said above with card processing banks not wanting the money from sales of pipes and other high risk items. As if it isn't enough the hurtles and fees we have to deal with. 
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SUMMARY
To sum all of this confusion up, start growing your presence on social media and Etsy to keep expenses low (Click Here to read about selling pipes on Etsy). Once you feel you are experienced and have a growing demand, then you can jump to the next step with a website. When choosing your ecommerce platform, start with a smaller provider like BigCartel. As you out grow something small like that, you can upgrade and switch everything over to Shopify.
As you might have noticed as I explained the three providers we went with, that was over the coarse of 5 years. It has been really slow growth and I can't express how important it is to not jump right into a site until you grow your awareness on social media and get the experience of selling online through Etsy. Until you do those two things for a good year, you won't know what your getting into. I bet the worst feeling would be to commit to a career and website to only give up and quit because you didn't realize how incredibly hard and expensive this all is, not to mention a ton of time.
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The last thing I want to add is, if you can, make and sell things other then just pipes. It is limiting compared to having conventional pottery that sells without all the extra mile we have to go through as strictly pipe makers. But trust me, I get it if you can't find the desire to do that, because I only sold pipes for the longest time. Now we also sell materials and right to my point of selling something other then just pipes, it brings in a bigger customer base, and that works towards bringing in more revenue.
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Leave any comments below, and stay tuned for more blog posts about starting your career as an artist.

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