Wednesday, April 22, 2009

♥ So You Want To Join The Circus And Start Selling Online ? Part I

Running an online business can be tough, seriously tough. I can assure you many sellers would tell you that. I am by no means experienced but I had served over 2500 customers over the past 3 years ( two and half years on eBay and six months on Etsy) and I think perhaps I should recorded some of what I had learn these years. It is purely subjective and don't drink in everything I said, it is just for my own record too. Perhaps I can look back at this post 2 years later and laugh.

What you love, most probably another 1000 people would hate and vs versus.

It is always wonderful to sell what you personally like. I started this way with headbands, I had the widest range of headbands on eBay back then.  I choose to sell what I like, the colors and the designs. 

Then I realized that most people still prefer basic earthly colors ( which I dislike). I was reluctant to add dull colors and prints but hey they are the ones that sold out the fastest. Buyers still likes to buy items that has more mileage in terms of cost and fashion changes. 

This store and her items totally made my day! So cute and original!!!! Why choose black when you can be erm .. birdbrain for a day ?LOL!! 

Slowly I learn, that even if  I do not like the items, many people out there does.  I have to balance my passion with making money. I made enough off the basic colors headbands to indulge in the more unusual prints and colors,  hardly sold any but made me happy to have them in the store. Then sometimes, sooommmeee timeesss ... a buyer would come and buyer 10 of your favorite prints, it is the best feeling most of all, finding a person in this big world who loves what you love.

Tools , Stools And Loos

B) Expect to work your ass off for the first 6 months when you have a new store, cancel all holiday plans, all sick plans, all long weekends, take a long hard look at your loved ones as you may not really "see" them for a long time,  they load your vitamins, eye drops,  coffee coffee coffee and invest in a super thick, duck / goose feather cushion , your back will thank you for all the hours on your chair. Find a good chair with some holes on the cushion, you will need loads of ventilation over that area for the hours you put in . If not, there is always cream for Nappy Rash.

Get a decent camera. The pictures are crucial to selling online. Pray for sun everyday ( especially if you stay in UK or Shanghai) , really items photographed with good sunlight always turns out wonderful!

Honestly.. if I have this chair, I would not be weary of work at all!

Wow, awesome prints and it has duck feather pad!!! Grab it!!!

Load your Ipod with music ( don't even think about putting them in your hard drive , unless you own several, the stock photos would overtake them very soon). A good selection of Jazz, Bossa Nova, French music always helps me relax and makes me feel really positive when I list. I choose Techno or Hip Hop when I am really sleeply, helps to perk me up a little. I never listen to sad ballads because the few times I do so, I describe everything as dull, dark, mustard, mud etc... 

Buy a good weighting machine, best if it can weigh up to 5 kg. A big calculator, set the decimal points to 2 spaces , by the 18th hour of working, you tend to see more zeros than usual.  A measuring tape with inches, foot, yard, cm readings on it. Buy a good one, it will last you forever unless your rabbit chewed into half ( like mine did). 

Fill 2 liters of water everyday when you first start and position yourself near to the toilet if possible. When you are in the excitement of listings and selling, you tend to forget to drink and pee. You end up a power seller but look like a raisins by the end of 6th month.

In the end, if you can still see the A or E on your key pad, if your doctor declare you a strong physically and mentally healthy person, if you still cannot convert inches to cm in seconds, if your right thumb does not start twitching involuntarily sometimes , you are not working hard enough.

Ass sore from listing and promoting? Betcha Love This Cool Bath Soak!

♥ If your family, friends, colleague, mother-in-law like your wares, you might be doomed.

Yes, again, we love to think our wares are the best on earth and everyone would love them like you do.  Think again carefully how many people are like you?  Do not confuse them liking your stuff with them being alike with you.

I got a big lesson, I had always been a fan of those sweet Japanese eco bags. I always carried one with me and got a lot of nice compliments from friends, strangers, colleagues etc. I though WOW, it should sell like hot cakes if I got some! I sourced for them and well, they did not so much fly off the shelves as crawl off like a snail. 

So I thought, perhaps well since my friends and all love them, I should give them as gifts! They should be happy! Well... guess what, they did not want them.. I mean they politely refuse. I realized then yes they like it but it is not their style to carry eco bags. They like it on me but they do not want to use one ( citing awkward handles and troublesome origami style folding which they find it hard with their clumsy big hands ).

Yes, I end up with enough eco bags to change one every day for 3 months and ironically that makes me not eco friendly at all. I learned to take the praises and compliments of my loved ones with 3 scoop of salt and dilute further with a gallon of bleach.

The rule of my twitching thumb is : if my loved ones oohhhh ahhhh woooowwww wwwweeee over my items BUT do not rush in line to buy ANY of Them. I think twice before selling them ( the items not my loved ones). 

 Erm... the title is really given in the listing! Not by me!

♥ The Customer Is Always Right *Bah

Honestly I wish I can kill the cow who coin this phrase. We all know it is not true but since we had been so brainwashed by society to believe it is true, we just accept it without much thought. It is so not true. I do get really awful buyers who are just so demanding, I even include the moon a few times but still they are not happy.  No, customers are not always right.  Forgive them if they insult you, your family, your lineage and your dog. They had been brainwashed too. They think " I think I order black but this is charcoal black, I think I am in the wrong but since they always says "Customer Is Always Right", I am the customer... hmm..Gee! I MUST BE RIGHT!" 

Elegant and soothing scrabble tile necklace.

It is a good thing I do not encountered them much but when I do, I get upset, I felt insulted, wronged, there are no justice on earth, I am the most pitiful girl on earth, where is my silk robe, my feather boa, my long couch and really where is my Ben And Jerry's?  

Then I get mad at myself for feeling this way. I am not in the wrong, really, she ordered charcoal black, not black! Even if I got it wrong, can't she tell me nicely, I would have sent the other piece for free immediately! I used to whined, pined, dined ( eating has always been important to me) , sighed for a few days. I do that, rudeness affects me deeply. Why can't people be civil? There is no need for name callings, dig up my old ancestors sexual history,unusual and disturbing accusations and a 3 paragraphs email over a $3.95 headband ??? 

Now after 3 years, I learnt to take it all in perspective and more time efficiently. When I encountered one,  I would write the buyer's name and hit it with a soft pillow 1o times , in 1 minute I am done and life goes on.

Seriously, you will meet one one day. If you do, you will get upset, maybe cry a little, feel worthless a little but you will be fine. Don't let someone who did not raise you up, put you through school, take you to the prom , hold your hair when you puke ever put you down and out.

♥ I Love My Regulars

You know who you are :). I really do appreciate my regular buyers, without whom I cannot sustain my business.  Every first customer who buys from you has the potential to be a regular. Hence it is very important to be absolutely nice to them ( and sincerely too).  Sometimes, you have only one chance to impress, dazzle them with your packaging, your emails , shipping time and remember them by name when they come back. 

Fabulous Set Of Tags to Make Your Customers Smile!

I do not profess to do all the above but I tried my best whenever I can. I mean, I am honored they actually trusted their hard earned money with me and buy my very lovely things from my very lovely store ( sorry, self promote a bit). I once had a customer who told me she got USD 100 as a birthday gift from her parents and she promptly spend it in my store. That really touches me very deeply. Even now, I just feel so... thankful and grateful for that. ;p

Cheerful and pretty buttons any Etsy lovers would love! A very nice way of sending as small gifts for your customers!
♥ I Am A Lover Not A Fighter

I hate competitors. I am a coward, I always profess not wanting to join any contest, games, TV reality shows, to be Paris Hilton BBF is because I am a lover, not a fighter. *Bah. Truth is, I hate losing. I hate to compete with others. I hardly played well with others, how can I then even compete?

Lover or Fighter? You can be both!

Still, competition is inevitable on online selling. Even if you have a super duper unique product that only you have, you will still find copycats copying your duper product ( since it had been copied, it is no long super nor unique).  I try to steel clear as much as I can but I do can caught up going all paranoid over what others are doing, selling. I became for awhile, angry, bitter and total stress out trying to think of ways to beat the others at this game. Well, seriously it is difficult. I wasted a lot of time being angry and raising my fist to heavens so many times had rendered my right hand numb for 2 minutes once.

I learn to let go. I mean, seriously there will be competitors but why should I expect it to be different from retails malls? I mean, in malls, there are so many stores competing for businesses, it is the norm. On the flip side, I too , am deemed a competitor in some other sellers' eyes, I too, had been their source of right hand numb syndrome. I realize then to be a business woman, I have to always calculated my potential competitors in the equations. 

They can be of help too in my decision making. I am always trying to price my items the best I could, sometimes I overpriced without knowing since I tend to compare it with the prices in the Mall.  When I studied my competitors' prices, I can then make a better decision as I have an idea what the market is.  Sometimes my competitors undercut my prices a lot, I have to be careful not to follow suit. The problem is , once I lower my prices, they might further do so too. Then I would if I am foolish enough to lower my prices to match theirs and in the end, no one gets a decent profit margin. I have to make sure first that I am comfortable with my prices. No point making loads of sales, look good on Etsy sales number and earn only $0.50 in each transaction. Been there, done that, I am done with making $0.89 an hour.

♥ Not Making A Lot Of Money But It Is Because I CHOOSE NOT TO ( really..)

I observed a lot of sellers over the last 3 years.  I guess we all admire those that constantly have fabulous sales and wonder if we will ever be like them.  I use to dream about being like them and fancy hiring an assistant to help me ship and packed. Well, now I do not think I would ever be.  I tried, trust me, at one point, I had 6 stores selling different things. I Squidoo, Twitter, StumbleUpon, MySpace, Facebook, spray my store names on a wall in Paris, Singapore, Seoul, Shanghai and even the parallel Universes , whatever it is , I had tried them. 

I was exhausted.

Yes, it yield results, I do have great sales but the constant updating, listings , sourcing for inventory and trying to have a life burns me out. I was depress even though I have a lot of digital money on Paypal.  I was miserable. I am too afraid to hire anyone to help me as I know I have my slow sales months, I might not be able to pay him/her.  This is kind of stupid honestly because in retrospect, no good business person would ever think like that.  I mean, to be successful, one has to think far, be disciplined and I believe at that point, if I hire an assistant, I would be making more money and two heads are better than one. 

Anyway, I decided to close 3 stores, sold one, left 2 and I am much much happier. I have lesser money but at least I do not get startled when I see Beautiful Geek's face and remembered I have a husband. 

One day, my kid will wear this!

Lesson learnt. I have to admit to myself that I cannot be a 5000 sales a month seller. The most I can handle is 500 sales a month.  I also have to admit I am not that much of a foresight business person and I guess I would always earned just enough to put in my retirement fund ( GOTCHA! See, I am farsighted! I had already thought about retiring in style !LOL!)

Oh my goodness! This post is so long! I must have got carried away again. Oh wait.. this is my blog so I can talk as much as I want! Dang , right thumb twitching again. I will continue the second part next time! Again, the above post is my own experiences and my point of view. Please forgive me if I incidentally offend anyone! You know I love you all!:)