I firmly believe that deep down inside, most people have the desire to own their own businesses. Maybe it's something about human nature--we like freedom, we like control, we like success. If you ask any random person on the street if they'd rather work for someone else or own their own business, I'd bet almost anything that most people would choose the latter.
You know what that feels like--that's why you're reading this sentence right now. You have that desire, and I completely understand, as I have the same gnawing urge. So how can you do this successfully? Is it really possible to build a business to where you can quit your job, be your own boss, and even make a lot of money?
The short answer is yes, and I believe the best way for most people to venture into the world of online business is through ecommerce--that is, selling products online.
Don't get me wrong--there are plenty of business models out there, and plenty of people make a living online doing something other than ecommerce, and it's entirely possible that you could do so. However, the tools available today and the current technological environment allow anyone with a basic level of tech savvy and a strong work ethic to succeed with an ecommerce business.
Let me go ahead and say that ecommerce is not easy money. There is no get-rich-quick scheme here. You won't throw up a website and be raking in millions (or probably even thousands) next month. BUT if you are willing to put in a lot of hard work, and stick with it for the long haul, you just might have what it takes.
I'm going to share what I personally think are the top 4 reasons to start an ecommerce store (versus some other kind of business), although you may have different motivations. These are the things that get me pumped up about running my own business, and I think they will speak to you on some level:
1. Freedom from the 9-5 cubicle lifestyle
One of my favorite things about running my own business from home is that I get to make my own schedule. I work when I want and where I want. This doesn't mean that I can slack off, working 2 hours a day and sleeping until 11 every morning--I still have to work hard, putting in just as many (if not more) hours than I would at a full-time job. But if I want to stay out late one night and sleep in the next day, then make up the time later this week, I can.
Last week my wife Ryan and I worked hard throughout the week to get our work done by Thursday, and then we took a 3-day weekend. We spent all day Friday hiking and relaxing together. I took my phone with me, and responded to a few emails throughout the day, but being free to work when I wanted to was great. This past year, as I've been running my own business, I've also loved the ability to just pack up and drive across the country to visit family whenever we want. I just take my laptop and run my business from wherever our destination happens to be. You might be wondering how this can work with an ecommerce business--don't you have to take orders, package products, get them shipped, answer the office phone, etc.? Not necessarily--I'll discuss that in another post in the next few days.
2. Low startup costs
If you want to buy a McDonald's franchise, start a construction company, or open a hair salon, you are going to be looking at thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of dollars of startup costs, plus monthly rent/mortgage expenses, payroll, insurance, and so on. Starting a brick-and-mortar business takes quite a bit of capital.
Getting started with an ecommerce business, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive. Setting up a basic ecommerce website using a shopping cart like Shopify will cost you around $30-$50 per month, plus the initial fees of registering a domain name (about $10) and possibly buying a premium Shopify theme ($140-$180), although many free themes are available. Compare this to buying/renting a building to set up shop, and your expenses look relatively minimal. Other expenses include buying your inventory (the cost of which obviously depends on what kind of products you are selling), starting a marketing campaign, and then small variable expenses like credit card processing fees (the fees you pay to process your customers' credit cards when they place orders). If you start a drop-shipping business, you don't even have to worry about buying inventory.
3. Diversity of income
Working a normal 9-5 job, you have one source of income. If you get laid off or fired, you then have zero money entering your bank account. Talk about having all your eggs in one basket! On the other hand, if you start an ecommerce store that eventually is taking 5, 10, 20, or 30 orders per day, you have hundreds of different sources of income every month. If one customer gets mad and never buys from you again, you still have 99 others who love you and will keep putting money in your pocket (if you figure out how to get repeat customers--something I'll be writing about next week), and they'll hopefully tell their friends about you. Even better still, what if you had 2 or 3 different ecommerce stores in different niches--that would truly be a diversity of income sources.
The goal in diversifying your income is to reduce risk. Just as it's risky to spend your life savings on a single company's stock, I think it's risky to only have one paycheck coming in.
4. No more trading your time for money
This is the difference between having a job and owning a company. If you have to work a certain number of hours per week to keep the cash flowing, you don't really have a company--you have a job. You trade hours of your life for money. This kind of arrangement puts a limit on the amount of money you can make, because you will never have more than 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. You might eventually earn more per hour, but realistically there's a limit on that, too. Even if you start a consulting business, or a web design business, or work as a freelance programmer, and are free to work at home or anywhere in the world, you are still tied to trading your labor for money.
How can we escape this barter economy, trading away our lives for cash? The answer is to start a business that is capable of scaling without requiring more labor. What does this mean? We need to figure out how to grow a business that can operate whether or not we are dedicating 8-10 hours per day to it. Figure out how to run a business that can sell to 100 people per day just as easily as it can to 5 people per day.
If you start an ecommerce store, and you package each order yourself by hand and then drive to the post office with each package, this system will work when you have 1-2 orders per day, but not when you have 50-100. It's fine to start the business this way, but the goal is to eventually automate it to the point that the business basically runs itself. Then you will no longer be trading your time for money--you will have built a machine that continues to pump out profits, with only minor supervision and fine-tuning.