The response to my informal Sunday-only “make money from your hobbies” series has been positive. A number of you have submitted stories and questions. I’ll do my best to post these in the coming weeks, but I want to keep the topic confined to Sundays for now, so that restricts how much I can post.

This week, Denise writes:

I was reading your entry about making money from a hobby and I have a few questions.  A friend and I have long been fans of Halloween, and recently we have decided to channel our love of decorating for Halloween into a little side business.  We want to sell holiday decorations on the internet.  To do this, we will need to develop an e-commerce site. 
I want to be able to manipulate or create the site myself, so I am going to be taking courses (three in particular through spring, summer, and fall) so I will have the information/skill to control my own site.  I have started an initial business plan. I run a traditional small business now, so I understand how day-to-day operations work. We realize that we are going to start small and that it may take time to build our little side business.  Our big concern is how to generate traffic to the site once we have it up and running. 

This is an admirable goal! I was just talking with a friend yesterday about how interesting it is to see a new breed of entrepreneurs emerge on the web. My friend told me that she reads knitting sites, and that the people who run these sites have begun to sell patterns, etc. Lately I’ve been researching how people distribute e-books via the web.

However, I have absolutely zero experience with e-commerce sites. Have any of you taken your hobby (or actual business) online? What advice would you give to somebody just starting out? Are web skills necessary? Can a person just set up a Yahoo! store, or purchase a pre-existing web store application? Is this something a computer savvy person can handle without a lot of technical background? How do you generate traffic, find new customers?

What’s the best way to get started with an online business?

Note: this is about as far afield as I want to range into entrepreneurship. It skirts the edge of personal finance.

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