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Should you sell your products in a large online marketplace?

You've created your own line of scented candles or perhaps homemade jewelry, wall art or t-shirts. You're ready to start selling them online. Do you use a proven e-commerce giant like Amazon, Etsy or eBay or do you do it through your own website?

There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to putting your products in an online marketplace -- and also to relying on your own site. That's why many entrepreneurs use both.

When you sell your products via an established online retailer, the key advantage is a worldwide customer base that's yours without having to spend any marketing dollars. These sites automatically recommend your products to customers who are searching for or have purchased similar items.

It's also easy to put your products on these sites. Some even have inventory tracking tools. Amazon has an infrastructure that takes care of credit card processing, tax collection and more.

Of course, when you sell your products in one of these giant online marketplaces, they get a fee or a percentage of every sale. For example, sellers can pay as much as a quarter of the sale price of each item to Amazon. If Amazon handles the fulfillment of their orders, they charge for that as well. Etsy's typical rate is 10%.

Another downside of selling your products on a large e-commerce site is the inability to personalize your space on the site. Further, you may not be able to collect customer information so that you can market to people who have purchased your product. Amazon doesn't provide that information to their sellers.

By having your own e-commerce site, you're able to build up a customer base whom you can notify whenever you have something new to sell or reward loyal customers with discounts and free gifts. You can also make the space your own and more clearly differentiate yourself from the competition. However, by placing your products on a site like Amazon, at least as you're getting started, you're reaching more people than you could ever hope to reach on your own.

Online selling makes being a creative entrepreneur easier and more profitable than ever. However, whenever you sell a product, it's essential to protect yourself from litigation, whether it involves intellectual property, government regulations, product defects or contracts. An experienced attorney can help you avoid costly, time-consuming legal issues that you might not even be able to anticipate.

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