Need to get out of your job as quickly as possible? Need to build something else before you can do that? Here's how to replace your job by selling stuff online.
I've been self-employed for most of the last 20 years, and I've helped others get out of their soul-sucking jobs and into a business they can sink their teeth into.
That fear paralyzes people just like you every day. But you're reading this, and now you're aware of it. Keeping that awareness is 80% of the battle.
How to Replace Your Job Selling Stuff Online
Selling Stuff Online With No Experience
1. Get Over the Fear
Fear of Starting From Zero is Worse than Starting From Zero
Not knowing what to do isn't the problem - you can solve that.
But, fear of the unknown stops more people in their tracks than anything. Fear comes to us in droves when we start working to improve our lives.
Our brains lead us to seek survival in all things. Survival does not mean success. It means staying alive, where we are now.
We subconsciously try to stick with what is familiar. Regardless how much pain we're in, we resist change. Our lizard brain thinks it's keeping us safe. Try to turn things around, and the brain fights it.
That's why we sometimes feel trapped by fear. It's meant to control us, to protect our existence. As if starting a business was like leaning over the edge of the grand canyon.
Overcome Your Fear With WHY
Knowing why you're doing something gives you strong armor against fear.
When your brain fights progress, it can come in many forms.
- Procrastination - probably the worst.
- Indecision - a close cousin to procrastination, and second worst.
- "Maybe I should just quit"
- "Maybe I'm not cut out for this"
- "I'll never make this work"
And a dozen other ways.
Nip procrastination and indecision in the bud immediately. Remind yourself what purpose you're pursuing. Remind yourself why you started in the first place, and why you must keep going.
If something happens and you feel like quitting, recite your purpose again. Write it down 50 times if you have to, and 10 times before you sit down to work.
Doing anything with zero experience can be as daunting as talking to your first grade school crush.
Of course, it's a challenge, you can't just start throwing things at a wall to see if they stick. There are hundreds of thousands of people who could tell you that didn't work for them.
But you don't yet have a framework, a plan, or a process, and that adds to the fear. You're about to fix that.
2. Choose Who You Want to Help
Pick one persona. You need only one. This removes a lot of guesswork.
Of course, you need to pick a person/persona who has others like them. People who share a few things in common, like:
- Sense of Humor
- Feelings on a topic
These people are then likely to share things like:
A few examples would be:
- Suzie, a 34yo stay-at-home-mom who does arts and crafts for herself and with her kids. They don't eat out and she doesn't consider herself a good cook, but does her best anyway.
- Tom, a 41-year-old professional who is crazy about cycling on the weekends, and also cycles to work, for his health and the environment.
- Julie, age 55, working part time, travels often to see her grandkids but hates flying, loves to walk/hike and is active in her church.
How/where to find them?
- Facebook (your friends list)
- Facebook groups based on an interest or shared lifestyle (i.e. cycling or stay at home moms)
- Meetup.com (actually attend and talk to people and listen)
- YouTube video creators (avoid sponsored videos for now)
- Hang out where they hang out, in public, and observe and listen
Once you've found the person you want to help, focus on that one alone. When you focus on one, you make your marketing efforts far easier, because you remove the clutter that complicates things.
You're going to go a lot deeper into this persona in the next step.
2. Get to Know Them So You Can Serve Them
Time to do a deep dive on the person you just found.
In order to help that person, you have to know all about them. What are their deepest, darkest fears? What do they desire with burning passion? What do they hate, and what do they wish was different.
You're looking for complaints, worries, fears, pains, and everyday annoyances. Also wishes, hopes, dreams, goals, and things they love. These feelings can be related to a product, or not.
Here's an example of wishes and complaints, for our cyclist:
I really wish I could find a set of regular pants that I could ride my bike in...or...I keep having to buy new work pants because they get caught in the cuff. (Hint, these are how you end up with a product like this:
You'll find this information in the same places you found the person. Just go much deeper now.
To find additional product-specific information, you may have to do more searching. Start with these:
- Product reviews on Amazon, etsy
- Product reviews on sites that person shops at (for example, REI Cycling)
- Reviews of books on Amazon, related to whatever need you're addressing - even if you aren't selling a book, you can find solid information about your customer here.
- Read the magazines they read
- Go to the blogs/web sites they frequent.
Focus is key
People get caught up easily in wanting to sell all the things to all the people. Resist the urge!
If you try selling to everyone, you sell to no-one.
3. Find Your First Product
If you can etch one thing into your brain, make it this.
Keep it Simple by Choosing one Need or Desire to Fulfill
The people who stick to this are far more successful on average than those who don't.
Too many people feel the need to sell a bunch of different products to different people early on. They waste their money and time, and they fail.
When you start out, trying to sell dozens of things will kill you, because it creates WAY too many variables in your marketing.
You can learn how to sell 20 products after you've learned how to sell ONE.
So you need to pick one customer need or desire, so that you can sell to it in the next step.
Here's an example, for our cyclist: Needs to get to work without having to constantly stop and roll his pants up again.
This product needs to have the features and benefits that meet that need or desire you picked in step 3.
This way, you can create one offer to satisfy that need with a purchase.
You find the product, and then you show them how this product is going to improve their lives.
There are many places you can find these products. For now, focus on the ones that allow you to buy a product in small quantities.
- Local craftspeople (handmade goods)
What you want in a product:
- Lots of good reviews
- Has good sales (usually, real reviews is a good indicator)
- Over $40, or could be sold for over $40
- Doesn't have a bunch of copycats selling knockoffs already
"But there are so many..."
You'll probably find several products that meet the need. Narrow it down to one or two.
4. Get Ready to Sell it
This gets more exciting.
Buy it, Try it, Snap it.
You have to buy the product and try it out before you can sell it.
Keep in mind, this is your training product. You're just getting started, and you're keeping risks low. This gets you selling and shipping product quickly to build momentum.
Later, after you've made sales, you can dive deeper into bulk sourcing and/or new product creation.
With any product you sell, you still need to verify the quality, and prepare your sales page assets. Buy one.
- Use it, make sure it works
- Beat it up a little, make sure it doesn't fall apart or break easily
- Make sure it matches all the details you saw when you bought it.
- If it needs instructions, make sure it has them.
- Does it come with everything needed, or is there a required accessory sold separately?
- Did you receive it on time? If not, try another seller.
Note the details, and take pictures. You can use a smartphone, even. Above all, make sure you have a clean background and use great lighting!
- Product shots
- "Editorial" or "Lifestyle shots"
Ordering and receiving the first product you're going to sell is a milestone. Pat yourself on the back and get started on step 6.
*If you plan to buy and resell from Amazon, get a free business account. Amazon's TOS prohibit reselling items from Prime
5. Prepare to Bring Buyers In With Content That Speaks To Them
Remember when you learned about your customer and created a persona? Guess what - you're gonna use that again. Noticing a pattern, yet?
To create content that sells a product, you combine three pieces:
- What you know about your customer
- What you know about your product
- The thought process of your customer
Number three is the new piece to your puzzle. Having the other pieces in place already is essential.
To place this final piece, you need to use these three stages of the buying decision:
- Problem aware: The person knows they have a problem, wants to solve it.
- Solution aware: They shift to exploring solutions. What is available, how and why it works.
- Comparing solutions: Now the potential customer knows they're going to buy, they just need to decide which product.
There's another buyer stage you need to know and ignore:
Problem Unaware. These people don't know they have a problem. Do not waste your money and time trying to show them they have a problem.
Outline each of these with your buyer in mind. Focus on their need, the pain they feel. Help them realize they can solve it, and then help them make a decision.
You can create these as blog articles, videos, or infographics. Do them in the way that comes naturally to you.
Then, leverage that content to recreate it in at least one other format. i.e. Make videos, and then transcribe your video into a blog post. Or write the blog post first, and use it as a loose script for a video.
Later, you'll show these pieces of content to your potential customers and link them together. That way, you walk them down the path towards a purchase.
You've now done most of the heavy lifting.
So many people fail because they skipped all this. That puts you lightyears ahead of 99% of people trying to build a business.
6. Launch Your Product
You probably noticed I haven't mentioned "web site" yet. That's because the site is just a tool.
It's the work you've done so far that makes the tool work.
But you still need to make it easy for people to buy your product.
At this point, you'll create the site and your product or sales page. I recommend using your own site, rather than a marketplace like Amazon or Etsy. If you use one of those, you'll still have to create your own marketing site anyway.
The content you've created is going to help you make the sale. Your product page needs to show the product well and answer all the questions a buyer has.
You need good pictures and plenty of them, showing all angles of the product. You want the customer to easily visualize having it.
As for driving traffic, pick one social channel, 2 max. The best choice depends on your customer type. I recommend choosing between Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Hint: Pinterest is actually more of a search engine.
7. Grow Your Sales Pipeline by Going Deeper With Content
Not everyone buys the first time, and it's not your fault.
People take time to decide. They get distracted. They were on their phone or didn't have their wallet. With a new store, they wait to see if you're still around in 3, 6, 9, 12 months.
On average, 1-3% of people will buy on the first visit, if you've done everything right. Most people will buy after their 6th visit or "touch".
You must continue to deepen your sales content, and continue to show them more.
Creating complimentary content does two things: 1) gets you in front of them again and 2) gives them another reason to buy each time.
Key Point: Go Deep, Not Wide.
A lot of people go wide, and start adding other products, hoping those will take off faster.
Or, they'll start adding every available social media channel.
This spreads them too thin, and they speed towards failure.
Remember how you focused on ONE need with your content? Now you get to focus on another, similar need that the same person has, which is also solved by your product.
For our cyclist, you can now focus on another need: Needs to stop having to buy new pants every month from premature wear.
8. When You Make a Profit, Plan For the Next Phase
Unfortunately most people can't quit their job once their store starts making sales, or even a modest profit.
But once you get there, you're a lot closer to your target. The trick is just to keep going!
Make a plan for growing based on what is working.
- Set some metrics for yourself, and plan out everything you need to do to reach them.
- Get to work taking those actions.
- Don't judge your progress by sales at this point, monitor it by actions taken.
- Avoid shiny object syndrome with your marketing. It causes too many people to spread their efforts too thin and leads to failure.
- Keep stepping up those actions, keep focused, and keep going.
Time will pass, it usually takes 2-3 years or more for a business to reach the point of sustainability, when you can consider using it as your only income source.
Give yourself the time you need, and then some. Too many people give up right before they're about to break out. It always takes longer than you think.
You've now learned how to sell stuff online successfully. You know how to get your audience, choose a product, and start selling it.
Some of these lessons took me years to get into my thick skull. You've covered that ground in less than 15 minutes.
Now, what will you do with this knowledge?
Surely you didn't read it all, just to stay where you're at.
Don't let it go dormant. Keep on going, to your first sale and beyond.
Why Sell Stuff Online?
You can get your first sale with eCommerce faster than almost anything else.
Getting a sale doesn't require you to do anything more than offer a product people want, to the right set of people.
- You don't have to be an expert. i.e. Unlike selling a service and then having to provide it like an expert.
- You don't need a ton of traffic, like you would with blogging for ad revenue.
- You can get your site up in a day, once you've followed this guide.
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