Welcome back to my 3-part series on how to start and build an online business that you love.
If you missed Part 1, you can find that here. It helps you find your Passion (your big WHY – your VISION) as well as discusses the Practical side (the WHAT).
Once you have a pretty good idea of what to sell (which can honestly be the hardest part but don’t worry, you’ll get it!), it’s time to start getting down to the nitty gritty, listing those products for sale and making sure your idea is viable.
Things to keep in mind at this stage. Have a clear VISION of where your business is headed (You get to make this up! There are no rules.), take DAILY action toward that vision, letting nothing stand in the way of your DREAMS, and ADJUSTING as needed…do more of what’s working and less of what isn’t.
I like to call this the Testing Phase.
So if you’re selling a physical product (I’ll focus on that during the series since that is what I know, but the principles apply to digital products as well), you’ve got to do several things:
- Acquire your supplies
- List them for sale online
- See how it goes and adjust
Really, a HUGE HUGE piece of advice in business I have to share with you is this:
You won’t know until you try.
So you’ve got to test out that new idea. It might be the greatest idea the world has ever known, but you won’t know if it will sell until you actually list it for sale and see those customers showing up or… not. Thinking about it endlessly won’t give the answers.
-Clarity comes through action, not analysis.
Once you’ve put your item out there and tested it, here is what could happen:
Option 1: Nobody buys it or you get very few sales. Adjust one thing (so you know what is making the difference. If you change a bunch of things at once, you won’t know what made the difference) and see what happens. Try changing the price. See if there is any change in sales. Then try changing the photo. Or the color you’re offering. Or the way it’s bundled with other items. Try a coupon. Try free shipping. Try something else. Tweak, tweak, tweak and see if you can start to see sales. If you’ve tried everything and your item isn’t selling, chuck it and try something else.
I was once convinced that I was going to sell hand-made fake tanner. I ordered in all my supplies. Whipped up a batch (did you know you can essentially make it by ordering in DHA, the active ingredient and mixing it into either your favorite lotion or aloe vera gel? Yep.) And I sold enough on eBay to pay for all my supplies. But I kept having to lower my price and I wasn’t actually making a profit in the end. It wasn’t working. I wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t excited about it. I stopped.
Option 2: It starts selling fairly quickly and you’re getting good feedback from customers. Good. Keep going.
This initial start-up phase is really scary for many folks so I’ll answer some of the questions I’ve been asked recently:
Should I set up my own website or start with eBay or Etsy?
I recommend testing on eBay or Etsy first. There is no need to go to the time and expense of setting up a site before you know if the item will even sell. Once you see that, yes, this is viable and working, then I recommend setting up a website eventually, so that you have more options. And you’re in control. We currently use BigCommerce for our shopping site, but there are others available.
If setting up your own site sounds terrifying and you have no technical skills whatsoever, or you have very little time, then you can definitely do just fine on eBay and Etsy. Many have made millions in their businesses on these platforms. Totally doable. Find what works for you. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, only trying things out, seeing how they work for you and adjusting from there.
How did you get started in your yarn business?
I’ll try to keep it short:
I was newly divorced and living with my brother and his family in Alaska. I was on my own financially at that point and needed to do something soon to start earning money and making my way in the world.
I had a few moments of absolute sheer terror of the future, imagining myself freezing and starving to death in a ditch. Irrational, but true.
I was sitting one day on my brother’s couch, reading Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth by T Harv Eker and he asked: What would you do if money were no object? Immediately I knew I wanted a hand-dyed yarn business. I envisioned it in detail and imagined what the workspace would be like. The sun would be streaming in the giant windows and all the sinks would be stainless steel. We’d have nap time for our team members, and a fun chillaxin’ room.
So I ordered in supplies ($100-$200 worth, which I could spare at the time) (took action) and began dyeing my own yarn. It was a lot of work. I didn’t see how I could make a living at it. I remember kneeling in the grass outside, hunched over a tray of yarn, squirting dye through a syringe and dabbing it on with foam brushes. The grass was crushing into my knees, the sun was hot, I was sticky. It wasn’t fun and I had the sensation that I couldn’t make my living this way. It was uncomfortable and not scalable. But I kept going.
I listed my products on eBay and Etsy and made a few sales here and there. I set up my own website and started blogging (did you know my original company name was Cottage Fairy?). I had one sale on my actual site that first calendar year.
This all started in June and by October I had still only made a few sales. So I got a job as a receptionist for the next 7 months.
It was a lovely place to work with happy and fun people. But I knew I couldn’t stay there for long. My soul was dying. There was no creativity. Very little room for growth and expansion.
So the next March, I made more in my yarn business than at my job. So I quit my job.
And jumped in full force.
That August I moved out of my brother’s house into a barely-used church building basement and started dyeing yarn like my life depended on it.
I had a lot of alone time over the next several months and insights would come to me in the dark, cold nights. I’d jump out of bed, put my coat and boots on (heat was expensive in North Pole, AK) and get busy.
One example was Facebook advertising. That was working so I started turning it on overdrive. I gained 5000 Facebook followers in a month. (I was adjusting as needed… doing more of what was working and less of what wasn’t.)
Christmas Day, the church’s pipes burst and my studio flooded. All the yarn was soaked. We moved it all upstairs and began drying it out.
I moved into a new space soon and kept going on the business, building and growing it bit by bit.
1 year later I got married to my dreamboat, Tim.
1.5 years later, he quit his job to work full time with me in the business and we moved to the sunny, beautiful south (North Carolina.)
We’ve been here 2.5 years now and are about to expand again. More details when I have them.
Do I need a business license?
Depends on your specific business and your state requirements. Call your local small business center to find out.
What paperwork do I file with the state/fed?
Same answer as above. Call your small business center. All of that can be found out with a quick chat.
Also head to your state’s website, as they will have links for businesses, along with the forms you need to fill out to get started. It’s usually yourstate.gov
Keep in mind you might not enjoy all these aspects of running a business and you may not know how to get started or where to turn or how to do any of it…
Guess what? We all feel that way when first starting. Just like babies learn to walk by walking, you’ll learn to run a business by getting started and taking daily action toward your goals.
Keep your WHY and your end goals in mind every single day and all these little frustrating tidbits will be less worrisome. You’ll get through it all.
Setting it all up is one of the hardest parts.
If I could impress anything upon you today it would be these points:
-Have a clear vision of where you want your business to go
-Be willing to do whatever it takes to get you there, letting nothing stand in the way of your dreams
-Take daily action toward your goals
-See what’s working and what isn’t and continue to adjust daily
I am sure you are already doing this, but just in case not, get your hands on as many business books as possible. Head to your local library and start devouring book after book.
Look online for articles. GOOGLE anything you don’t know. Most questions can be answered with a bit of searching online.
You can do this.
I believe in you.
It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.
Any questions? What is running through your mind? What do you want to know about business? What keeps you up at night?
Are you overwhelmed with the idea of it? Think that it might not be for you, but you’re interested in it? Not sure you have any time?
PLEASE comment below and ask away. I will go through and try to answer all the questions in the next post. Many other people most likely have the same questions so you’ll be helping them out too.
P.S. Want to learn how to make $1000 or more a month selling your handmade items online? Order my ebook here for instant download and we’ll donate 100% of the proceeds earned through February 2017 to our Pencils of Promise campaign. You learn how to start a viable online business and children around the world get an education. Priceless. Code: pop30 will give you 30% off through February 2017.
Don’t need the book but want to contribute to our fundraiser? Just head here and click the Donate button.
Have a great day!