I started this side-hustle of selling thrifted items online a couple of years back. And just last year, I have decided to go all-in and I made this as my full-time gig. In the few years of being in this business (both part-time and full-time), I have encountered so many challenges in selling online that made me think that I was ready for anything.
But I was wrong!!!
If you are an online seller, you probably also have felt the huge impact of the lockdown period on your business. Luckily, it’s getting better now as we continue to eases up and as the country slowly resumes to the ‘new normal’.
Here are the challenges that I hope we all get through in the next few months.
Challenges of Selling Online during the Lockdown
Income Suddenly Stopped
When the lockdown for Metro Manila was announced last March 15, 2020, my income suddenly stopped. Most of my customers are from Metro Manila and because of the lockdown, a lot of people stopped buying non-essential things.
From March 15 until the first half of May, no one was ordering anything. Mainly because it’s also very difficult to ship items and delays in shipping are very common. Same-day delivery service providers prioritize accepting essential items like food and PPE during this time. And for sellers like me who are selling non-essential items, it’s very difficult to book delivery service.
Luckily, orders are now coming in. Orders started appearing on my inbox probably in the second half of May. It’s not as much as what it used to be but as they say, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
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Stock Replenishment Also Stopped
I buy and sell thrifted clothes and accessories for a living. And since these items are non-essentials, they were closed during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period. This means that there was no way for me to buy new stocks for my online store.
Before the pandemic, I always post new items weekly. Posting frequently helps make my online shop visible to more Carousell, eBay, and Instagram users.
When the ECQ was lifted, we were put in Modified ECQ and GCQ which means businesses are slowly being allowed to open. Thrift stores, which are my primary source of items to sell, are now opening up, which is great news for online sellers like me. However, public transportation is limited. It’s very limited!
So, in essence, unless I have my own transport. It’s still very difficult to do my usual rounds of multi-city shopping for inventories.
Super Long Waiting Time at the Courier
Online shopping for essential items has become the norm during the quarantine period. And now that the lockdown is slowly easing up, people are slowly starting to buy non-essential items too. Which is also good news. However, due to the surge in the demand versus the number of couriers available in our area, what used to be a 5-minute process is now a 2 or 3-hour process recently.
In the past few days that I have been shipping items, my average wait time is around 2.5 hours. Today, I woke up at 5 AM so I could go early to the courier. The courier shop opens at 8 AM and I was already there at 6 AM. I thought I’ll be the first in line and I was shocked to see hordes of people already waiting there when I arrived.
Most of the items that I see in our local couriers are face masks and other merchandise that are being shipped to various islands in the Philippines.
Anxiety Level is on the Roof
Because of the ongoing situation, my anxiety level is on the roof. I’m thinking about the bills I have to pay, my financial obligations, etc. And the income that my shop is generating is not enough to cover those. My debt is slowly growing because of this situation.
Thankfully, I have this blog which helps me keep my mind away from unnecessary worries and over-thinking. Writing is helping me become calmer. And when your calm, I think it’s easier to think straight.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Sometimes, I get too confident that everything will sort itself out and that I won’t have to prepare that much for anything. However, this situation taught me that aside from growing the business, I should have saved a portion of my income. Since this business is basically new, what I did was, I reinvested almost all of my earnings back to the business.
My intent was to grow the business as quickly as I could that’s why I reinvested almost all income back to itself. If you are also an online seller like me, or if you’re thinking of starting an online shop, learn from my mistake.
It’s possible to save while continuously pushing for the growth of our business.
Diversify Sources of Income
I do have a rental income, and I’m thankful for it. However, it’s not enough yet to cover my expenses. If I have a diverse source of income that will cover my running expense then perhaps I wouldn’t have to go through this.
But maybe, this is the lesson that is being taught to me by my experience. So, moving forward, I’ll be working on additional sources of income that will bring in the amount of money that I need.
I don’t drive and I don’t have a car. I never needed one in the past. There are so many public utility vehicles in my area that it’s basically just a luxury to own a car. However, this situation made me realize that having a car will help me improve my business. As I have mentioned above, my primary source of merchandise which are thrift stores are now open. However, due to the very limited public transportation available, I couldn’t do my usual shopping rounds yet.
If I had a car, it could have been very easy to go to the various thrift stores in different cities that I usually go to.
Be Sensitive to Opportunities
In the business world, once in a blue moon, there are unique products that present itself due to a particular situation. And one of those opportunities that presented itself to me was a face mask. Prior to the lockdown, a friend of mine already told me about selling face masks. But I did not bother myself with it since my gig was doing fine.
Fast forward to a few months from that time of conversation, a lot of people have jumped into that opportunity and probably have earned tons of money from it. I still see people selling sacks and sacks of face masks whenever I go to the courier to ship my items.
It’s a bit late now to join the mask-selling bandwagon and even those who are selling face masks that I’ve chatted with are feeling the slowing down of orders. But it was an amazing two-months for them, financially, because they grabbed the opportunity to create something that was sooooo highly in demand.
Sometimes I wonder if I made the right decision to create my own business. If I was still with my previous employer, I would probably be doing almost nothing during the lockdown period but just attend Zoom meetings and still get paid. However, I know that that kind of life is not for me.
This path is full of thorns and hardships, but for some reason, it feels right! I don’t know if entrepreneurship turned me into a masochist LOL! But my gut feel tells me that I’m on the right path.
I feel happy despite how tired I feel in my day to day operations knowing that I’m building something that is mine. It makes me glad and hopeful that I’m building something that does not have a limit to it.
No one knows what the future holds, but for the first time in my life, I feel very positive despite being surrounded by a not-so-pleasant situation.
How about you? Are you also an online seller or an online entrepreneur? I hope that you and your business are both doing fine during this trying time. I would love to hear how this pandemic affected your business and what you are doing to stay afloat.