Your eCommerce Business will Never Succeed if You Don’t do These 3 Things

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Working from home selling products online sounds idyllic to some: There is no boss breathing down your neck, there are no face-to-face clients to please and you can choose your working hours.

There are plenty more benefits to owning your own eCommerce store or making a living by selling on eBay, but unless you take your work seriously, success won't come easy. 

If you are just getting your business off the ground, or if you are an old hand, make sure you implement the three points below in order to help your business succeed. 

1. Believe in your products 

I have around $5,000 worth of stock stored away at my house. It’s been there for almost two years and I’ve never sold any of it. Granted, I haven’t tried and I’m sure I could sell it if I actually listed the products online. But I haven’t, because I don’t believe in the products.

It’s the quality of the products that bothers me. I want to fill my store with beautiful, quality products. The $5k worth that’s collecting dust in my garage just doesn’t meet the brief. 

I’ll sell these eventually but I won’t be doing my usual 100% mark-up that I add to most products I sell. And I probably won’t enjoy selling them as much I as I enjoy selling products that I love. Instead, I might feel nervous about my customers being disappointed in the products. 

Learn from my mistakes

So how do you avoid this? Well number one, you should always order samples of products before you buy them. Granted, I did this, but I was over enthusiastic and even though my gut told me the products weren’t exactly what I wanted, I was blindsided and rushed into ordering.

Learn from my mistakes and order samples, and give yourself a good week or longer to think about them. Post pictures on Facebook and ask your friends for their opinions on the products (or even better ask your existing customers if you have a Facebook page for your business).

If you’re not in love with the products, or you wouldn’t feel proud selling them to your family or friends, think twice.

2. Treat your at-home work space like a real office

When you work from home, it’s too easy to start sleeping in, working in your pajamas and attempting to ‘work’ while you watch TV.

Get real: Working from home isn’t retirement and it’s likely that when you work for yourself, you’ll work the hardest you have ever worked before... but you will reap all the benefits!

When you work from home, the potential distractions are endless, especially if you have children at home also. The trick is to set up boundaries and let your family and yourself know that between x hours, you are at work. During those hours, you can’t be disrupted unless it’s an emergency or you are taking a scheduled break. 

If you can, set up an area where you can work solely such as a spare room or a dedicated office space. Keep this room for work and only for work. When you are taking breaks or not on work time, try to avoid this area so that when you are there, you are in work mode!

3. Get motivated and treat it like a real job

This kind of ties in with what I’ve already talked about above. Too many people think about working from home as being a relaxed lifestyle with sleep-ins, a passive income and a light work load. Sadly, this isn’t often the case. Here are the best tips I’ve read to get motivated and treat your work at home like a real job.

  • Get dressed every morning. Wear a shirt and tie if that makes you feel like you are at work. At the very least, put shoes on. There’s something psychological about wearing shoes and I know a few great people who run great businesses from home who swear by this.
  • Set your work hours and schedule your breaks. Just like in most regular paid employment, you should have set work hours and you should have allowed rest breaks. Stick to these as much as possible while working from home. The hours don't have to be the same every week: I schedule my week on a Sunday and figure out what hours I can work when. If something changes and I need to deviate from my plan, I make sure that I make up the hours later so that I don't slack off. 
  • Make sure you get a decent lunch break and get away from your computer. 
  • Schedule time spent away from the house and with other people. This is especially important if you live alone. It could get mighty lonely spending the working week with just your computer. Reward your hard work with a mid week lunch date with a friend or pack up your laptop and head to a cafe or library to get some work done in the company of others.
  • Limit your browsing time. When you are in paid employment, it’s a lot easier to avoid websites like Facebook, Pinterest and other idle browsing. At home when you work for yourself with no boss breathing down your neck, it’s not so easy. Instead of trying to kill yourself with self-discipline, use free website blocking software such as Self Control (for Mac) or Stay Focused (a Google Chrome extension). These let you choose which sites you want to block and for what hours. For example, you can set it so that during 9am-5pm, Facebook and Twitter are blocked, but outside these hours, you can access them as usual. You can also set them up so that you can have 15 minutes per day, or however long you allow yourself, for browsing and the rest of the time, you won’t be able to access them. 


About the author
Simon Slade
CEO of SaleHoo Group Limited

Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, a platform for eCommerce entrepreneurs that offers 8,000+ dropship and wholesale suppliers, 1.6 million high-quality, branded products at low prices, an industry-leading market research tool and 24-hour support.

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  • Deedee Gunderson 18th of April
    I have failed to make my family and friends understand that I'm actually working when I'm making items for sale or using the computer to make listings. Everyone seems to feel free to drop in, call on the phone for a chat, or ask me to go and do something else with/for them. This has been an ongoing problem, and I now see that I have to make it clear to everyone that I consider this my job even though it is fun for me. Thanks for the pertinent post!
  • BenTenTen 18th of April
    The blocking website idea sounds useless, because you also have the control to unblock them, at will. If a person, serious about business can't control their facebook and surfing habits, they simply shouldn't be doing business at home.
  • Ralph Martinez 18th of April
    I am still having difficulty finding my niche. Why? I am interested in selling Mexican products. When I check such items on ebay, Amazon, Etc. I find that these are being offered for sale cheaper than what I can pay for them at wholesale prices. So what am I doing wrong? It has to be me that is the culprit. -Thanks
  • Joyce Knake 18th of April
    My biggest problem is FEAR. What if I do the wrong thing,make the wrong expensive choice. I'm always faced with indecision. What helps me most is to have a plan for the next day When I leave my computer I make a note of where I need start the next time I sit down to work. It gets me going and makes me forget about the fear.
  • Barbara Galloway 18th of April
    What you wrote makes a lot of sense. I started my eBay store after I lost my job in hopes of finding the right thing to sell that will make money. So far that hasn't happened. But, as I work around the house and on my business, I act like I am at work and take breaks. My friends think I am crazy when I call during the day and tell them that I am on break. But it is true, if I let myself do things when I want then things don't get done. So, I have a start and end time and take breaks and lunch just like I was on a timecard. I want to sell things that are made in the USA and I want to work with distributors that are in the US and I am having a difficult time finding the right person, the right product with the right profit. If anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them.
  • Patricia Beattie 18th of April
    Hi, I sell on eBay and have a featured shop. I am always mystified by marketing. People often comment on 'word searches'. 'google hits' and so on and I just don't understand enough about E marketing to take advantage of what's out there. Is there a good guide that I could buy that might help me out? Thanks Patricia, Beattie.
  • Elizabeth 18th of April
    This is so brilliantly explained. Being in the home we tend to be slack with our appearance. We have to treat our home business the same way you are working in your office. Dress up like you said and make sure you look decent enough as if you are always faced with a customer or a client. The same way you put emphasis on how you look when you go to work shoud be the same attitude you have to apply in your home. Furthermore, the home office environment should be organized, cleaned, neat and tidied so that it encourages and motivates you to be in the room. You would not want to be in a dirty and unkempt office, do you? You would not feel comfortable with it and of course it says a lot about you as it reflects who you really are the way you handle yourself and your business whether at home or in an office.
  • Carrol Soro 18th of April
    Enough money for stock. And Staying enthused. Easy to get disheartened. Start of really eager and then lose enthusiasm but a lot of that stems from frustration from not having enough money to lay into stock to keep going.
  • Louise 18th of April
    They are all good points... Thanks for taking the time
  • Patricia 18th of April
    Good Advice. Will review it often.
  • Andrew Richardson 19th of April
    The current struggle is finding and getting setup with dropshippers. Any suggestions would be great!
  • Rick Jantz 19th of April
    Hi. I agree that one has to believe in their product or you're just selling because you think it will make you a dollar. Buy it, use it, and write a good or bad review...but believe in it if you plan to sell. Thanks
  • Irene Vallejo 19th of April
    @Ralph - eBay has become an extremely competitive marketplace and it is not uncommon to find products selling at prices the same as or lower than wholesaler. How can this be? Because lots of wholesalers sell on eBay directly to the public! Unfair yes, but its the reality. What can you do about it? * Order in bulk quantities to drive the wholesale price down * Sell on another auction site other than eBay – there are heaps to choose from and profit margins are usually better. Craigslist is also a good place to sell if you live in the USA. (Let us know if you need more suggestions for places to sell online) * Buy liquidation – this lets you get product for pennies on the dollar. (I’ll let you in on a secret, this is how lots of powersellers make money on eBay these days) * Find a niche market with few competitors – collectibles and one-off items have amazing profit margins, even on eBay. @Patricia These Education Resource materials may help - and :)
    • Charlene Wooldridge 8th of January
      Yes. I would like to know of more places to sell online. As of now, I am a top rated seller on eBay and also sell on FB. I am wondering if there are places that do not charge a percentage of your sales, etc. Thanks. Charlene
  • 21st of April
    I live in Australia and eBay is really the only site that gets alot of traffic if you can tell me some other auction site that get good traffic in Aus that would be great
  • Alice Delore 21st of April
    Deedee Gunderson,

    I can totally relate to this! I don't have children, but I have a lot of friends who sometimes just don't get it when I need to get work done. Luckily, most friends and family members know that I take my business very seriously and they don't mess with me!

    Good on you for making it clear to them that you have responsibilities! :)


    I agree: If you can't control yourself, you'll never do well in business. However, I think those apps are sometimes just a little reminder that you have work to do and now is not the time to be checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. Works for me anyway :)
  • Alice Delore 21st of April
    Joyce Knake

    I feel you. I'm not a huge risk taker either and I tend to sit on decisions for a little and think things through rather thoroughly before I take action. I'm married to a risk taker so perhaps it's my way of reining him in hehe. I like your habit of writing things down when you stop work. I can imagine it would lessen the time of getting back into a work session as you can just pick up from where you left off.
  • Alice Delore 21st of April
    Barbara Galloway

    Have you tried attending local trade shows? It could be a good way of finding US suppliers.

  • Alice Delore 21st of April

    Sounds like you have some fantastic work habits! Good for you :) I really struggle to work/focus in a cluttered environment so I often start my work day a few minutes early and get things tidied up. Clear desk = clear state of mind!
  • Alice Delore 21st of April

    Hm, I'm not sure how much traffic it gets, but is popular.

    They have free listing options so you could list a few items and see if it works for you and the products you sell?

    A friend and I were talking just at the weekend about a new site that launched here in New Zealand. It's similar to Quick Sales. It's had some bad press because the launch of the website was far from smooth. My friend pondered that generally, eBay alternatives like Quick Sales (and Wheedle) attract real bargain hunters: People who have more time than money. Perhaps unemployed people or stay at home mothers who are looking for a bargain.

    This is by no means the absolute truth, but I think it makes a lot of sense. If you are selling items that might appeal to bargain hunters, it might work out better for you... if my friend is right.

    If eBay isn't giving you the results you want, consider opening your own store. Here's a link to SaleHoo Stores if you want to check out what we offer:
  • paul Cost 22nd of April
    Great post Alice, I fully agree with all that, since losing my day job, had time to clean up my Ebay business and get it back on track, had let it slip in the ratings department due to lack of time while working full time. Have had listings myself for around 2 years on Quicksales. and only had around 6 sales in that time, compared to Ebay sales around 6 a day. great site costs nothing to list there, but for me has not generated much at all, though some do OK on that site, could depend on what products you try to sell there. Would be great if it had the same traffic as Ebay, i believe they make most of their money from their other site So from my point of view should be called Slowsales, or even
  • Seyi Babatunde 25th of April
    The write up made for a fluid reading and laddened with hard facts Well Done! I have no problem relating to your prescriptions. Been into activities for well over 20years and although I have just relocated to the UK, I constantly read up on your briefs. Getting started in a new place could be a hard nut to crack especially with having to race funds to get started. What's your take on this scenario?
  • Debra Winter 29th of April
    I honestly don't have the extra income to buy products and see if I like them before I list them. I have paid for so much money paying for help to list successfully on eBay like Saleshoo, Traffic Travis, Focus and still have not got the hang of it. I try to use the Google trend and several other trending tools to try and see what is trending. I still don't have the ever illusive niche and have the same issue as others mentioned trying to compete with wholesalers directly. I feel very stuck and very frustrated. I admit I could be better disciplined maybe with the hours I put in but it's so frustrating day in and day out not seeing anything sell. Just when I think I have found a product to sell, it's gone or I can't possible match the price. I would love to be a customer that posted a testimonial but I can't seem to get off the ground at all let alone successful and running. Thanks.
  • 17th of April
    I am new to the eCommerce business. My business will launch May 1sr. How many hours a day should I put into my business and should I put my business hours on my site? I'm not a 24/7 person, only a Monday-Friday girl
    • Melissa Johnson SaleHoo Admin 17th of April
      Hi, Jan --

      The great thing is that for the most part, e-commerce stores will run themselves after you set them up; you just have to handle order fulfillment and keep paying the costs of web hosting, etc.

      I would definitely include on your site information about how frequently you ship items (a friend of mine runs her own store and ships Monday/Wednesday/Friday; an Etsy seller I know dispatches every day, Monday-Friday) and what methods you use.

      If you have phone or chat support set up, you might also want to indicate what hours those are available, but otherwise you don't need to post general store hours. Just be aware that you should respond to emails and customer queries within 24 hours.

      Good luck!