From the time we're young, we're all told pretty similar stories about what it takes to become successful. First, our parents drive us to do well in school so that we might have the grades and the test scores necessary to get admitted to a prestigious university. Once we get accepted to said university, we keep working hard for the purpose of impressing prospective employers after we graduate. After we've finally finished school and land that dream job, we keep hustling to impress our bosses with the hopes that we'll score a big promotion.
Maybe you've never stopped to think about it before, but there's a common theme in this very common story. From the time we're young, we're told that we need to work our hardest not for our own sense of achievement and fulfillment, but for the purpose of impressing others. Whether it's college admissions officers or job recruiters, our whole lives are supposed to be dedicated to impressing other people.
It's no wonder that so few people become entrepreneurs. We've all essentially been brainwashed into thinking that the best course of action is the one that guarantees us "security." We want to be good students so that we feel secure when it's time to enter the job market and we want to be good employees so that we don't have to worry about the security of our monthly paychecks.
The truth of the matter is that there's nothing less secure than a life spent working to obtain the approval of others. There's nothing that stops a bad professor from failing a student because he disagreed with the student's opinion in a paper. There's nothing that stops a toxic manager from trying to oust a promising new employee because he thinks that the rising star might make him look bad by comparison. Living a life dedicated to impressing other people is the most insecure life there is, frankly.
Once you break free from the confining beliefs of your upbringing and start to recognize the flaws in the system, it's hard to look back. The only true feeling of accomplishment comes from working hard not for the approval of others, but for the betterment of yourself. Not only is this way of life more psychologically fulfilling, but it has the potential to be far more financially fulfilling as well. The fact of the matter is that no one ever becomes extremely wealthy from a salary; rather, it's investments and entrepreneurial enterprises that can make a person truly financially free.
E-commerce is one of the best ways to break free from the monotony of the salaried lifestyle and finally achieve your personal and professional goals. While this isn't a scheme that will make you filthy rich overnight, it has the potential to change your life and give you the freedom and true security that you've always wanted. Here's what you need to know about leaving the 9-5 life behind in favor of the world of e-commerce.
Debunking Some Popular Myths About E-Commerce
There's a chance you're still reading this but highly skeptical that e-commerce is going to be a feasible choice for you. After all, you don't have the money you need to invest in inventory, a warehouse, or a complex shipping system.
You'll be happy to hear that you don't need any of those things to jump into the world of e-commerce. Some people start with barely any money in their bank account. Truthfully, some people start with no money at all. If more people understood how simple it was to launch their own online venture, there'd be far fewer people suffering each day at 9-5 jobs they despise.
That's not to say that you can't invest in and hold your own inventory should you choose to do so. If you have the capital and know of a product that you could purchase at cost and then flip for a profit, then by all means do so. But it's important for people to understand that starting capital is no longer an important aspect of becoming an e-commerce entrepreneur.
Another myth about e-commerce that ought to be debunked is that the online market is too saturated for anyone new to be successful. If you were opening a new location of a popular fast-food franchise, you wouldn't dismiss the local mall as a potential location just because they already sell other food items in the food court. Instead, you'd recognize what makes your chosen brand's offerings particularly unique and be ready and willing to compete with neighboring businesses. The same goes for the world of digital marketing and e-commerce. If you have a good product or service to sell, you can still stand out, even in a crowded market.
Finding the right niche certainly takes some brainstorming and you might have a few misses before you finally find your hit. However, if the alternative is being stuck in a job you hate with your earning potential capped at a certain amount, it's well worth the effort on your part.
Finding Your Niche
There are a handful of retailers in this world that sell everything and anything, such as Amazon or Target. However, smaller enterprises need to have a targeted niche. In fact, there are sometimes niches within niches. For example, apparel is a niche, but within the "apparel" sphere are myriad different categories. Old Navy and Gucci are both apparel companies, but they obviously cater to very different consumer demands and operate on very different models.
One of the biggest mistakes that e-commerce newbies can make is to let potential profit be their only deciding factor when they're choosing a niche. You should absolutely analyze how much money you stand to make from a specific niche, but you'll burn out at a lightning-quick speed if your days are devoted to trying to get customers excited about a product for which you yourself have little to no interest. The greatest CEOs of all time were and are the people who demonstrate a genuine passion for what they're selling. No one ever doubted that Steve Jobs truly believed in his product and his vision, it was plainly apparent to anyone who heard him speak.
One great brainstorming technique when you're trying to find the right niche is to think about what you would buy tomorrow if you received your first huge earnings check. Don't think about the credit card bill you'd pay off or your student loan debt. Think about that luxury item or experience you'd pay for in a heartbeat if money wasn't an issue.
If you'd buy a sports car, maybe your niche is in the automotive world. If you'd go on a five-star vacation, then maybe your niche lies in the travel industry. If you'd buy an expensive computer or television, then perhaps technology is the right e-commerce arena for you.
You should absolutely take profitability into account when deciding which niche on which you'd like to focus your first e-commerce venture. However, that doesn't mean that passion isn't a massive part of the equation. The place where profitability and passion meet is the place where true entrepreneurial magic happens.
Welcome To The World of Retail Without Inventory
When it was mentioned that you could launch a successful e-commerce enterprise without holding inventory, you might have been left scratching your head as to how that's possible. Well, welcome to the new landscape of digital retail. Today's e-commerce millionaires are able to run their hugely successful enterprises from anywhere in the world, with no warehouse or shipping facility keeping them glued to a single location.
Think about a cheap product you purchase at a big box store. Perhaps you read an article about how freshly squeezed lemon is healthy to add to your water in the morning, so you decide to drop $5.00 on one of those cheap little plastic devices used for juicing citrus.
Chances are that you're not going to thoroughly read what it says on the back of the package. However, if you did decide to read it, you might notice that two locations are given under the company information. One address will be for the office where the brand runs its day-to-day operations and ensures that their little juicing devices end up in the right stores for customers like you. The other address will likely be somewhere overseas. This second address is where the product was manufactured and often found in China.
Many people erroneously believe that the brand has designed the product themselves and then simply sent the specifications to an overseas manufacturing company. This is true for some specialty products, yes, but it's generally not the case. Brands often just look through wholesale catalogs to find products that are already ready to be sold and then simply put the items in their own packaging.
Thanks to the internet, you now have the opportunity to do the exact same thing. You find a product that you're excited to sell and that you think will be profitable. Then, you set up your e-commerce store and market it accordingly to attract customers. However, your commerce experience will be even easier than the traditional model, because instead of having the products shipped to you in bulk for you to send to individual customers, you're simply going to route the product from the manufacturer to the consumer on an on-demand basis.
This model is called dropshipping. Similar to affiliate marketing, it requires little to no risk on the part of the seller. If the worst-case scenario pans out and not a soul is interested in your special digital lemon juicer, you can just shrug, close up shop and move on to the next idea. You won't be stuck with a garage full of inventory that you have to struggle to unload for a fraction of what you paid for it.
There are other techniques similar to dropshipping that also enable entrepreneurs to jump into the e-commerce world with very little risk and no initial investment. For example, if you have a skill for graphic design and have always wanted to own an apparel company, you can enter the world of print-on-demand clothing and accessories. In a print-on-demand model, your store shows images of your graphic on a clothing item or accessory. When a customer makes a purchase, a third party printer manufactures the garment or item and sends it directly to the consumer.
The nice thing about both of these e-commerce strategies is that they allow for plenty of room to experiment. There's a very little risk but a big potential for reward. Few dropshippers and print-on-demand entrepreneurs get it right on the very first try. However, by the third or fourth try, they've figured out what works and what doesn't. This is when the potential for real magic happens. Best of all, they haven't lost any money on their first few attempts.
Not All Brands, Items, and Manufacturers Are Created Equally
While launching a successful e-commerce business through dropshipping or a print-on-demand structure might be easier than traditional retail models, that doesn't mean that there aren't still some tricky decisions that entrepreneurs have to make. For example, even when you've chosen your niche and your product, you still have to find the right manufacturer or printer with which to work.
The thing you need to be focusing on when you're choosing a manufacturer is how much potential profit you can make based on their prices and the prices that you plan on setting, in addition to any marketing expenses that you might accrue. For example, if you're going to be dropshipping a novelty tech item through a social media ad campaign, you'll need to factor in the money you're going to be spending on ads in addition to how much each item will cost you. Furthermore, don't forget to factor in shipping costs.
When you first get started with dropshipping, you'll notice that a single product might have dozens of manufacturers, as these overseas factories often steal ideas from each other and try to jump into hot markets. When you're deciding on a manufacturer, don't necessarily be swayed by a very low cost, as it could be a sign that they've had issues getting products to customers on time or that something might be faulty. Read reviews from other entrepreneurs and watch out for red flags.
You'll be happy to know that you have the potential to enjoy some very generous profit margins. In traditional retail where a business owner holds physical stock, profit margins are often around 15-30% due to all of the costs associated with holding inventory. However, in the world of dropshipping, profits typically begin at 30% and can get as ridiculously high as 80%. It's not unheard of for an e-commerce success story to earn back three times what they spent to send an item to a customer.
Don't jump into business with the first manufacturer you find. Take the time to really do your research to choose a company that will get orders to customers in a timely fashion and that has a reputation for providing accurate, quality items. Furthermore, many companies will offer their dropshipping clients photos, videos, and other marketing materials to use in their sales and ad campaigns, which will make your job even easier.
Understanding Marketing and Attracting Customers
Digital marketing is one of those things that sounds intensely complicated but is in reality fairly straightforward and simple once you know the basics. In fact, understanding digital marketing is much easier for today's entrepreneurs than it was for the digital entrepreneurs of a few decades ago. If you know how to use social media and have a Facebook account, you know enough to pick up the skills you need to be successful very quickly.
Creating a successful marketing post on Facebook or Twitter isn't all that different than creating a post on your personal page designed to garner you a bit of attention and admiration. The same rules generally apply, which is to say you want intriguing text and captivating imagery. You don't want to write a long rambling novel about why the product is so great. Similar to how people ignore the manifestos of their friends on Facebook, people's eyes tend to glaze over when companies take too long to get their point across in ads.
Think of a great social media post the same way you'd think of a great elevator pitch. You're not trying to tell readers the whole story of what your product is and why they need it. Rather, you're trying to intrigue them enough to click on the link. The goal isn't even necessarily to ensure that these potential customers are already sure they want to make the purchase when they click that link; instead, you just need them interested enough to take that next step.
If you want to put your enterprise on auto-pilot, you can hire low-cost services and writers who will do the work of creating these posts and running your campaign for you. This is a popular choice for successful e-commerce entrepreneurs who'd rather be out enjoying their financial freedom than tethered to a computer constantly updating Facebook. However, if you want to save money when you're first getting started, you are absolutely capable of doing it yourself.
Facebook isn't the only place where you can market to customers. Any social media platform allows you to further your brand and to reach new customers. Plenty of e-commerce entrepreneurs have found success on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Some have even been able to leverage TikTok into a successful avenue by which to increase their sales. It's all about being clever and understanding who your target audience is and where is the best place to find them.
The Time For True Freedom is Now
You probably might still feel some apprehension about taking the leap into the world of e-commerce. Remember, you don't have to dive in headfirst right away. It's entirely possible to dip your toe in the water. Find one product that you think you can successfully dropship and set up your store and your digital marketing campaign in your spare time. Even if you don't make a ton of money with this initial venture, you'll be able to familiarize yourself with the process while still working your 9-5 job.
However, once you get a little taste for the type of lifestyle that e-commerce can provide, odds are that you'll be extremely excited to take the leap and make this your full-time gig. There's nothing in the world that quite compares to being your own boss. There's a certain emptiness that comes from working for someone else and watching the fruits of your labor make someone else rich. It's time to say goodbye to that empty feeling and start ensuring that no one but you and your loved one's profits from your creativity, intelligence, and hard work.
Don't spend the rest of your life following the same script that was chosen for you when you were a kid. No matter how long you've been stuck in the grind of the salary world, there's always an opportunity to get out and to change the story of your life. Think about how good it would feel to decide that you want to take a vacation and then to simply book the flight and the hotel, without having to beg a surly boss or a patronizing HR rep to grant you the time off that you need to make it happen. Imagine if you could take as many vacations as you want, taking an hour so each day to check that your business is still running smoothly on auto-pilot before getting back to enjoying yourself with the people you love.
The right time to start your e-commerce venture is now. While you're not going to become a millionaire overnight, you might be surprised at just how quickly your venture can become successful once you've found the right niche and product. Once you've enjoyed your first successful campaign, you'll wonder why you didn't get into the world of e-commerce even sooner.