20 years ago a shop meant a physical store in the real world, likely selling some widget type thing for cash or an EFTPOS payment. It entailed all sorts of compromises from paying third parties 1-3% per transaction for their payment gateways, to physical security or theft of store goods, to paying huge shop rental fees, hiring and paying retail workers and more. All this, and you still only get access to your little, tiny local area. It cost a lot to get started, continue operations, had very limited customer foot traffic and likely was only open 9-5, Monday to Friday. Today though I’m going to go through a rough guide on how you can, literally in 1 day, setup from scratch an entire online shop that sells anything, from blog posts, to videos to t-shirts.
This shop allows your products to be bought from anyone, anywhere in the world at anytime. The payments made are available in your account instantly and have zero fees from any payment gateways. In fact, you are the payment gateway. You host everything, have full control over everything end to end and do everything from making the content/product, to displaying the online store, to generating the shopping cart invoice, to processing and storing the actual payment. All of it. This isn’t putting your widget on Etsy or using other 3rd parties, this is YOUR store, running on your hardware, your software, your payment rails.
This universal shop is finally a possibility thanks to many different platforms finally all coming together into what I believe will begin to be seen as the new default in 5-10 years time, so consider this another look into the future, it’s just that you can have it all right now!
This store will use 5 main pieces of software:
- Bitcoin Core
- Lightning Network
- BTCPay Server
- WordPress Lightning Paywall for BTCPay Server
The store itself with all its design, descriptions and products on display will be done by WordPress. In order to store the Bitcoin you’re paid by customers you’ll need to run Bitcoin Core, a Lightning node and BTCPay Server. These three pieces of software are all easily combined into a new web based OS called Umbrel. Finally the WordPress Lightning Paywall plugin will be added onto your WordPress setup to link back to your own BTCPay Server.
All of these things combined will enable your store to not only accept Bitcoin, but have your customers send it to you instantly and without any third party fees. If you want to learn a bit more about how bitcoins get sent Athena Alpha has a bunch of good info here.
WordPress isn’t exactly a new thing, so I won’t go into too much detail on how to set it up. Needless to say there’s about a million ways you can run your own WordPress instance. You can build a PC at home, install Ubuntu, then WordPress and fully host it yourself. You can also just pay a web hosting company to host one for you, which is what I’d absolutely recommend doing!
You can click here to sign up to DreamHost (affiliate link FYI) and choose their WordPress Hosting plan. It’s $93.24 USD for 3 years worth of hosting or $2.59/month. You’ll also get your own domain name and a bunch of other good shit included in that price. Configure it with whatever you’d like. You can run a regular blog where you tell the world about your amazeballs life, create and post all your watercolour art works, make and sell your very own custom meme mugs or even run a full on legit business selling software that costs thousands of dollars per license. Go nuts!
Next up we’ll need the other core part of this setup which is all super well put together by a new start up company called Umbrel. Previously to be a full Bitcoin Citezen you’d have to download Bitcoin Core, run and properly configure your own full node, then also download, link up and configure your own Lightning Node, then also download, link up and configure your own BTCPay Server all while ensuring you’re not exposing your home network to hackers etc and so on. Needless to say it was rather technical – but still not impossible for technical people.
Umbrel has burst onto the scene though with their all in one, super simple solution. While you can technically download the free software and install it on any old laptop/computer that runs Linux, their recommended way is to run it on a Raspberry Pi 4. In the picture above you can see a list of their recommended hardware that you’ll need to build it out. The two most expensive components are the Raspberry Pi 4 itself and the 1TB SSD drive that you need to sync and store the entire Bitcoin Blockchain on. That being said, it’s still pretty cheap with all their recommended items list coming to a whopping $231.54 USD if you buy off Amazon.
Buy it all, plug the SSD into the Raspberry Pi, plug the power cable in, plug the Pi into your router and follow their 5 minute “How To Install” instructions and you’re done. The entire process is just downloading the image file and copying it onto the microSD card, so not exactly rocket science!
Once the little Pi is plugged in, booted up and synced with the Blockchain you should get something like the above image. Congratulations, you’re now a fully fledged Bitcoin Citizen running your own Bitcoin and Lightning Node all routed through the ultra secure and private Tor network. Next up, you’ll need to do the following inside your Umbrel node:
- Transfer some Bitcoin into the Bitcoin Wallet
- Open at least one Lightning Channel so you can send/receive Lightning payments
- Click on the “App Store” link in the left side menu -> Click on BTCPay Server -> Install
- Once installed, click on “Apps” in the left side menu and setup your BTCPay Server
WordPress Lightning Paywall
So after the above two main steps you now will have your own personal store that can be accessed by anyone, anywhere, anytime. You’ll also have a full Bitcoin Node (basically your own bank), a Lightning Node (basically your own Visa or Master Card payments rail) and a BTCPay Server (what generates the invoices for your customer to pay).
Now for the final piece of the puzzle! Enter WordPress Lightning Paywall for BTCPay Server by Coincharge (yeah I know… not the most catchy name but whatever). This super sweet plugin does exactly what’s on the label: it links your own, personally hosted BTCPay Server that runs on your Umbrel node to your own WordPress store! Once installed you can use it to charge your customers for anything your store sells. They have a demo page here showing how it looks to charge someone for a standard blog post.
Inside your WordPress admin panel go to Plugins -> Add New and then search for “WordPress Lightning Paywall for BTCPay Server”. Install the plugin that comes up and then “Activate” it. Once it’s all installed a new “Lightning Paywall” menu should appear on the WordPress Admin menu. Click on it and fill out the configuration so that it’s linked to your own BTCPay Server.
Another potential way you can link your BTCPay Server to your WordPress store is through the fantastic BTCPay WooCommerce plugin. There is a great how to video and details about it here, however you obviously must have a WooCommerce store setup in your WordPress account first.
A Whole New World
Congratulations! For a grand total of $93.24 (3 years WordPress hosting) + $231.54 (Umbrel node hardware) = $324.78 USD you now are the proud owner of a universal, Bitcoin enabled shop.
You can sell any product you desire, to any person around the world, in any currency or location with zero fees, trusted 3rd parties (besides maybe DreamHost) and it’s all in your control. When customers pay for your products they don’t have to provide their personal information. You don’t get charged any payment processing or currency conversion fees nor do you have to setup accounts or subscriptions to payment gateways or middlemen. 3rd parties don’t sell your or your customers data to unknown data brokers and your payments are settled instantly so there’s no waiting weeks for payouts. You can charge $100,000 or $0.01 for your products or posts, Lightning payments don’t care and the payment processing fees for each payment are so small they’re practically zero!
Most importantly though all of the above is possible for an exceedingly small amount of money (relatively speaking) and isn’t super technical to setup. $325 USD isn’t nothing, but given it’s a one time, upfront cost that will allow your new business/store to grow for up to 3 years without ever incurring any other fees or bills is astounding. Setup, while still requiring a bit of modern computer know how, isn’t exactly compiling the Linux kernal from scratch level hard. Most of it is just clicking “Next” in wizards or “Install”. The hardest part is probably figuring out what to call your store or what domain name to chose!
One other truly amazing benefit is that you get paid in Bitcoin. Now while some unfamiliar with Bitcoin might deride it for using too much energy, being a Ponzi scheme or just generally “a useless fad” don’t. As someone who has literally built an entire life around identifying, following, assessing and predicting the latest, most awesome technologies in the world I can 100% guarantee Bitcoin is legit. It’s not just “something new”, it’s an incredible, fundamental invention of our time up there with discovering penicillin or the Internet. It is the next evolution of the Internet as we know it and as the Internet is basically the entire world economy now, it’s the next evolution of that too.
If you still think Bitcoin is stupid or useless, please read this wonderful piece called Check Your Financial Privilege. You are likely living in a first world country and have an amazing amount of financial privilege that you’re just not aware of and take for granted. Having access to things like a bank account, a savings account, loans or just being able to earn a wage in a currency that doesn’t inflate at 20%+ a year is a huge privilege. 4+ billion people don’t have access to these things and they will be forever changed and uplifted by Bitcoin’s invention.
By earning Bitcoin through your store though you do get access to one other great feature which is Bitcoin’s historic 200% p.a. growth rate. While Bitcoins price will obviously not go up forever, it’s still exceedingly early days for this type of network and technology. As an example, this survey showed that only around 1 in 4 US adults even know what “Blockchain” is! While its difficult to put an exact number on users, I’d say we’re just entering the “Early Majority” or 12.5%+ phase of the adoption curve.
As you can see, the Early Majority and Late Majority stages are typically where the vast bulk of society comes on board with any new technology. At the rate crypto is moving though, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re at 75%+ adoption within 5 years time. So while you’re store is selling products for, say, $100 = 0.002486 BTC at the time of writing, if you then hold onto those funds for a few years it could very likely be worth much, much more!
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