I’ve been selling online for a few years now and it all started as a hobby until it became my full-time hustle a couple of years ago. I started with selling all the things that I initially bought for myself and then it branched out to selling almost anything that I think I might get a profit from.
The majority of my merchandise though is related to fashion and art such as clothes, shoes, bags, porcelains, paintings, etc.
If you are thinking of joining the online selling community this 2021, then read on. I will be sharing some tips that could help you succeed in online selling in 2021 and also in the years to come.
Let’s start, shall we?
Start with Your Passion
Most people are passionate about a lot of things. Start listing the things that you’re passionate about and try to identify which one will be the most profitable.
Personally, I stumbled upon the online selling business ‘accidentally’. I never thought that this will be my main hustle. I’m just passionate about thrifting, shopping, fashion, art, etc. And over the years of accumulating so much stuff, I realized that I can’t keep all of those things due to space issues. So, I’ve decided to sell most of them and the rest is history.
If the things that your passionate about may not be that profitable, perhaps you might look at other things that are related to your passion.
For example, if you like to paint but if you think you can’t produce that much artwork to create a liveable income, perhaps you can also consider selling art supplies, selling your knowledge online by doing tutorial blogs or videos, etc, selling your art in websites that sell printables, etc.
The internet and the technology nowadays, enable almost anyone to sell almost anything online.
Take Advantage of the Available Technology
Thanks to the lottery of life and we are living in the internet era! Imagine living decades ago when the only option to sell is to have a brick-and-mortar shop. Only the rich can set up a shop decades ago. We all know how expensive it is to rent a commercial shop.
Now, anyone can open an online store using a smartphone! Yup, a phone. I use my phone to take pictures of my merchandise. I also use my phone to manage my online shops, talk to customers, sell my items, etc. I only use my laptop to post my merchandise just because I cross-post my items to multiple online selling websites. But it’s also possible to use your phone to do that.
Decades ago, marketing your product also means paying tons of money to traditional media such as TV, Radio, Magazines, and Newspapers. Now, you can market your product for free on various social media websites.
Take advantage of the available technology to reach your target customers and you will surely succeed.
Watch Your Overhead Costs
Overhead cost is the silent killer of any startup business. Personally, I try to maintain my overhead cost very low without compromising the quality of my merchandise. As much as I could, I try to use things that I don’t need to pay for. This way, I can continue selling my products at a very low price as well.
Here are some of the things that I use to ensure that I don’t inflate my overhead costs
- I use my spare room as my storage area – I moved out of the city so I can rent a bigger space for way less. I’m now paying just a third of my rent (in the city) and the available space that I have is more than four times bigger than my previous apartment.
- I use free websites to sell – I sell online using eBay, Grailed, Carousell and all of these websites are free to use. Actually, eBay has a fee but since I don’t use the paid option and I don’t exceed the posting limit, I don’t pay for anything. I don’t know if the rule is the same for all countries, so check the website just to be sure.
- I use free websites to market my merchandise – I also post my items on Instagram and Facebook and I redirect prospective customers to my online selling websites.
- I use my phone as my camera – Even before I’ve decided to make online selling my full-time gig, I’m already a sucker for phones with an amazing camera setup, thus, the phone that I’m using is adequate enough to handle my photography needs.
- I’m using my old internet service – I didn’t upgrade my internet service plan, whatever I had even prior to becoming an online seller is also what I’m using right now. So if you think about it, even if I’m not an online seller, I was already paying for this service so why not use it as well to help me run my business.
- I recycle packaging materials – I shop a lot! For personal and for business use. And due to my continuous shopping, I have tons of shipping boxes at home. Instead of throwing these boxes, I store them properly to avoid damaging them and I use them as well to ship my items or to store some of my merchandise.
These are just some of the things that help me keep my overhead costs low. Once you get a hang of your business, you’ll also find ways that could help you save costs.
Invest Gradually on Equipment/ Supplies That You Need
As I have mentioned earlier, even though I try my best to save as much as I could, I don’t compromise the quality of my merchandise to ensure that I can always deliver consistent customer satisfaction to my buyers.
Having said that, I gradually invested in equipment and supplies that could help me protect my merchandise from getting damaged in storage. I didn’t buy them all at once because I know that they will be very expensive to do so.
What I did was, I had a lot of things that I want to buy and every month or two, I buy these things. Some of the things that I have invested in include:
- Storage Cabinets
- Electric Dehumidifiers
- Racks and Shelves
If I bought all of these things at once, I would have busted my budget even before I started my business.
Take Advantage of Available Rewards Program/ Discounts Available To You
If you think that you’re not yet good at managing your finances then I highly suggest that you stay away from using your credit cards.
However, if you are in full control of your finances and if you’re not an impulsive shopper then take advantage of the rewards program of your credit card.
I use my credit cards when I buy big-ticket items so I can take advantage of the Zero Percent Installment program and at the same time, earn miles/points.
So in essence, I’m getting rewards points whenever I buy supplies and equipment and sometimes, even when I buy items to resell.
I also buy my supplies on Shopee to take advantage of their free shipping and discount vouchers.
I only charge to my credit card what I can pay in full when the due date comes. By doing it this way, I don’t get charged the interest rate.
Stand Out from the Crowd
The online selling business is a booming business especially during these times (pandemic) when most of our shopping is being done online to minimize going outside.
And since it’s a growing industry, the competition is just getting tough and bigger as days go by. However, don’t let this discourage you from starting an online selling business because if you observe carefully, there are still way more consumers than sellers.
Some of the ways that I do to ensure that my online selling shop stays relevant in the eyes of my buyers is to stand out from the crowd include (but not limited to):
- Posting the Items the Right Way – I always post clear pictures of the items that I’m selling and I always include actual measurements and an honest description of my merchandise. This is my way of helping my customer browse through my shop effortlessly and to avoid misleading the customers into buying something that might not fit them or something that they might not actually like.
- Price Competitively – I’m aware that price is one of the leading reasons for purchase and I always price my items competitively to ensure that my customers find them affordable and fair. Two of the things that help me price my items lower than my competition is by buying my merchandise for as cheap as possible and by ensuring that I maintain very low overhead costs.
- Refresh my Shop Consistently – In the past few months, I always try to post new items weekly to give customers something to look forward to every week. Starting this month, I will be doing this every other week so I can manage my other projects. However, after the pandemic, I’m planning to post again weekly so people will always find something interesting on a weekly basis.
- Offer Something Unique – I sell mostly fashion items and as much as I could, I try to offer my customers silhouettes that are not that common in our market.
Take Good Care of Your Customers
Taking good care of your customers would never go out of fashion regardless of what year it is. At the end of the day, your customers are the reasons why you’re earning an income. If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will and when that happens, that will surely be the end of your business.
Here are some basic ways on how to take good care of your customers:
- Do Not Discriminate – I treat every customer equally regardless if they just buy one blouse or if they buy multiple items.
- Always Set the Expectations Straight – One of the reasons for customer dissatisfaction is not meeting your customers’ expectations. To avoid this, I always set the expectation straight in all of my online selling accounts. This includes expected response time, payment method, shipping method, and timeline, accurate descriptions of the items (including actual measurements and photos), flaws if there would be any, etc.
- Discuss and Do Not Argue – There’s a thin line between having a discussion and having an argument and I always try my best to be cautious of this. Every time a customer contacts me to complain about something or to request something that is beyond what I think is acceptable for me, I always reply with the thought of arriving at a mutually beneficial and fair solution for both of us.
- Go Beyond their Expectation – I try my best to exceed my customers’ expectations by ensuring that their packages arrive on time or ahead of time. Usually, I ship once a week but if I have some free time, I always ship their items ahead of schedule. I also ensure that their items are clean and well-packed and that there’s always a freebie.
Grow Your Business Steadily
The growth pace of your business depends on how much you want it to grow. It depends on your skills and financial capability to do so and as well as your ultimate goal and reason for the business.
Personally, I’m not intending to grow the business real quick as I’m not planning to make this as a replacement for my past career. I just wanted to have a source of income for now and so far, I’m meeting that target.
What is important to bear in mind is the steady growth of your business. We might have varying definitions of what steady growth means. For me, it means the continuous growth of my inventory, specifically, my vintage designer labels collection, continuous increase of online followers, and of course, continuous flow of sales.
A lot of small-time business owners (including myself when I was just starting) don’t realize right away that the growth of the business depends on the growth of the entrepreneur who owns and manages the business.
If we’re not learning something new then we might fall behind the competition. We might fail to realize opportunities that are already right in front of us.
Some of the things that I do to ensure that I learn and improve continuously are:
- Learn from My Competitors – I follow the social media accounts of all my competitors and I observe closely what they do. I always check their prices, the brands that they’re selling, their styling and photography techniques, etc. I try my best to learn from their best practices.
- Learn from My Customers – I seldom get a complaint and in those times that I did get one I try my best to dissect the complaint and understand what I can learn from it.
- Learn from My Past – Every now and then, I do a personal assessment of my past performance. I try to identify the things that I can improve on and I try to implement those new learnings as I go along.
- Learn from My Future – I have a vision of what I like to happen in my future and I use that vision to guide me in the decisions that I’m making in the present.
Save Money and Diversify Income Streams
If there’s one thing that I learned from this pandemic is that you’ll never know when the cash flow will stop especially if you only have one income stream. When the pandemic hit, the only income stream that I had was just one online shop.
Once my sales started downhill last April 2020, it made me realized that having multiple income streams is very important in my goal to become a financially independent online seller.
That’s why in the past year, I started building additional online shops that will cater to different market segments. I also dabbled into blogging to learn more about making money online and recently, I’m also trying to learn how to trade and invest in crypto.
It might sound a lot but since all of those are things that I’m passionate about, then it’s not really that difficult for me to learn. Sure there are struggles with the implementations and executions of ideas, but there will always be growing pains especially if you’re building and growing new things.
Online selling is truly an enjoyable side-hustler and it can be a lucrative full-time hustle once you learn the ins and outs of this business.
To be honest, I really believe that anyone can actually do it and anyone can succeed in online selling. As long as you have the patience, perseverance, and guts to pursue it, then success will surely be within your reach.How to Succeed in Online Selling in 2021 Click To Tweet