How to succeed when you’re the boss

The Boss

Starting an online business sounds like the perfect ticket to the good life. After all, you get to set the rules and decide when you want to work. Unfortunately, some online sellers struggle as business owners because they aren’t really prepared for the reality of operating their own business and have trouble changing their mindset so that they can succeed.

If you’re the one in charge and you’ve been struggling, here’s some ideas to get your business goals back on track.

Have a plan. A lot of sellers stumble into the online business without really having any solid plans in place. That’s okay if you’re a hobby seller or just selling on eBay or Amazon part-time, but if you want to be a full-time seller you need to have a plan with both reasonable and measurable goals. You also should have a fallback plan (sometimes known as “Plan B”) in case things don’t work out the way you thought they would or (even better) an opportunity arises that you weren’t expecting.

Take some risks. One of the biggest problems that new sellers tend to have is that they are often unwilling to take a risk. This doesn’t mean jumping in with both feet without considering the consequences. What it means is that once you have weighed out the options and believe that the outcome is going to be positive, you’ve got to go ahead and move forward. As an example, if you realize an item is hot, you’ve done your research (very important!), and you have an opportunity to get into the market, you need to be able to “pull the trigger” and buy the items even if there is a little bit of hesitation that wants to hold you back.

Realize there’s a lot you don’t know. A good boss is always learning. No matter how good your online business is doing, there are always ways you can make it better. Attend conferences, join groups and forums, or simply read some new books or material on online selling. The market is always changing and as a seller, you need to be on top of those changes.

Create some structure in your life. When you first start an online business, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. This is especially true if you’re the only one that is around to do it. Finding a time management system that works is essential to not only keeping yourself organized, but to help you stay focused and not get too burnt-out. Take some time each day to go over your to-do list and make sure things are going as planned. If you find yourself getting too far away from what you are suppose to be doing, this will allow you to make adjustments to get yourself back on track.

What steps have you taken to help yourself succeed? Leave a comment below.

3 Ways to Get Your Business Groove Back

Stress

If you run an online business, you probably find yourself handling multiple responsibilities everyday that may include everything from creating listings and finding new merchandise to packaging and shipping out items from the previous day’s sales. Unfortunately, as you work your way through the business year, it’s easy to lose your groove along with all that enthusiasm you started out with back in January when the future still looked all shiny and bright.

If you’re feeling burnt-out, you may feel there’s not much you can do (you have a business to run after all!), but keeping a few things in mind can help give you the emotional energy you need to continue tackling those daily challenges that often come with being an online seller.

Own the feeling

The first step to getting your groove back, is to simply acknowledge that you’ve lost your groove, even if you don’t exactly know what caused it. Maybe sales aren’t what you expected or maybe those long hours that you put in each day are getting to you. Once you admit that you’re in a “slump,” you can figure out what the problem is and start working out of it.

Take some time off

When you’re the “chief cook and bottle washer,” you may feel that you don’t have time for a break. You’re probably thinking “if you don’t do it — who will?” But…if you’re truly burning out, you really can’t afford to not take the time off. Even if you can’t make yourself take a full week off, at least consider taking a couple of days off every quarter or so to give yourself some time away from the business. In many cases, just a short spell away can help you return to work renewed and ready to tackle the business again.

Make some changes

Is there something that’s not working in your business? If so, once you identify it, you can change it. Whether it’s the fact that you’re still trying to move old products that have outlived their shelf-life, or setting a weekly work schedule or buying yourself some silly company pens to use for writing your daily to do lists, just making simple changes can help get you get out of your slump and get your business groove back.

Have you ever lost your groove? What did you do to get it back? Leave a comment below.

How to stay cool when you’re stressing out

Package Deal
Hearing that little “ca-ching” on your smartphone when someone buys something from your eBay store is exciting. It means buyers not only love your items, but are actually buying or making bids on them. Having a successful store also means you have to pack and ship all those items and also worry about getting replacements for those items that are selling from your store.

Unfortunately, as that to-do list gets longer and longer, the success can also cause a lot of stress. Too much stress not only can affect your health, but it can slow down your productivity and even cause you to make mistakes. Instead of letting stress get the best of you, the next time you begin to feel like it’s all too much, take a step back and try one of these techniques to help you stay cool.

Take a break. When you’re behind schedule, it may seem counterproductive to walk away for a moment, but in most cases that’s exactly what you need to do. Stopping for a moment to think things through or to simply think about something else can help keep you from stressing out. Take a 10 minute walk or go sit quietly somewhere until you can collect your thoughts and things feel a little less hectic.

Pack once – check twice. Sending the wrong item to the wrong buyer is one of the most common mistakes that sellers make when they get in a hurry. Work on one package at a time. If you are printing multiple shipping labels, take a moment to ensure that each label goes with the correct package and that the package contains the correct item. Some sellers find that it helps to write a note on the package with the buyers last name or the item that is within, right where they will stick the shipping label. This way they can double-check that the label belongs with the right package before they attach it to the package.

Change your handling time. Yes, eBay doesn’t like it when you don’t offer to ship the next day, but if you can tell you are getting in over your head, temporarily changing the handling time on your unsold items can help to ensure that if someone does buy something from, you won’t get even further behind on your shipping. As soon as you’re caught up, you can then change it back.

Use a to-do list. Writing down your plans for the day while you have your morning coffee can help you stay on track later when things start getting hectic. This not only helps you prioritize what needs to be done during the day, but can help you make sure that you aren’t forgetting something important that you need to do later on.

How do you handle the stress in your online business? Leave a comment below.

How to get off the hamster wheel and take action in your online business

Hamster Fun

If you’re like most people, you probably have that one friend who is an online seller who is always talking about what they are going to do with their online business and all their plans to make it a success. In fact, it’s entirely possible that you might actually even be that one person. Have you ever wondered though what would happen if you actually stopped talking about what you were going to do and actually started doing it instead?

Don’t get me wrong. Talking about your plans especially around people with a common interest is a great way to get it all straight in your mind on what you want to do and how you want to do it. There comes a time, however, that you need to get off the hamster wheel and either put up or shut up. In other words, maybe it’s time to stop talking about what you’re going to do with your business and actually start doing it instead.

So, how does one get out of the “talking mode” and into the “doing mode?” Well, you could set some goals, but let’s look at it another way. Think about your goals as a plan, or rather, your road-map from getting you from where you are now to where you want to be.

First, clarify exactly what it is that you want to do. If you want to go from making $1,000 a month to $3,000 a month, then that is the destination for your road-map. By taking some time to establish what it is you want, you’ll then be able to work on what it will take to achieve it. Once you know what it is that you ultimately want, take some time to actually write it all out. You can then start taking actionable steps to get you to your destination.

What you gain from all of this is that you’ll quit talking and thinking in endless circles and turn those thoughts into actionable steps. You can still use your sellers friends as a sounding board (and really you should), but if you find yourself moving back into those thoughts of indecision where you catch yourself thinking “where do I go…what do I do???” it’s time to take a step back and refocus on your plan or what some refer to as the “end game.”

Do you have a plan for your online business or are you caught in the talk mode? Leave a comment below.

How to cope when your online business has you feeling overwhelmed

Droste Clock

You would think that when we have a lot to do, we would become super productive so we can get it all done. After all, you know those Amazon packages aren’t going to ship themselves.

When we have too much on our plate, however, sometimes the opposite occurs. We freeze. Or maybe we move fast, but we aren’t really making any progress. A little here, a little there, but there’s so much competing for attention, we really don’t have a clue as to where we should begin. In turn, we don’t really begin anywhere.

So, how do you cope when there are things to be done, but you feel overwhelmed? Here’s some ideas that might help:

First, make yourself a list. Write down everything you know that you need to do. Some people like to include both business tasks and non-business tasks in this type of list, but for this exercise – simply concentrate on the business tasks rather than all those other types of tasks that you keep telling yourself you need to do. I say this, because if you set in and make a long list with everything you need to do, it will make the next part a lot harder to accomplish.

Once you have everything written down, you set a timer for 15 minutes and then work to get as many of the small tasks off your list as you can. Unfortunately, if you’ve included your tasks around the home as part of this list, you will find yourself emptying the litterbox or loading the dishwasher, which may need to be done, but won’t really be productive for your online business.

Instead, use the allowed time to make a business phone call, order your shipping supplies, or gather the items you want to list or send in.

Now that you’ve gotten started, you can continue to set a timer for 30 minute or an hour and continue to work on crossing things off the list. When each task is done and the time goes off, give yourself a 10 minute break to relax and then return to the list and start all over again.

While you may question why you need the timer for this, think of it this way. Do you remember when you were in school and you put off writing a book report until the very last day? You may have procrastinated right up to the very last second, but then something amazing happened as the deadline approached. All that fog and dread over working on the project just disappeared. The fog lifted and suddenly that report got written. If you’re lucky, you may have even managed get an A+.

Will this stop you from still feeling overwhelmed? Not entirely. It will help you to move forward, however, and instead of freezing you can get everything done.

Are you ever overwhelmed with your online business? What tricks do you use to make yourself more productive? Leave a comment below.

Improve your business and improve your life

black & white Glasses & Book - exhausting read

If you’re like a lot of online sellers, you sometimes have trouble thinking of yourself as a small business owner. After all, a lot of friends and maybe even your family members don’t even think of what you do as having a real job.

Is it perhaps our fault that others don’t take us seriously? Afterall, it’s often hard to get out of that hobby mindset and into one of being a small business owner, even though that’s exactly what online sellers are. If you’re struggling with this way of thinking, never fear. Here are some steps that will not only improve your business, but also improve your life.

Invest in learning something new each month.

As your online business’s chief employee, you are central to the success of your business. If you procrastinate, you slow down your business’s progress. If you don’t provide excellent customer service, your business receives negative feedback. Most importantly, however, if you don’t continue to improve both personally and professionally, your business will remain average (if you remain in business at all). I don’t know about you, but that’s not what dreams are suppose to be made of.

So how do we overcome being average? By investing time to develop our skills. This could be by reading a book on business or taking a course on online selling. Many established sellers now even have tutorials on YouTube that sellers can watch that will not only help take your business to the next level, but also provide sellers with tips on social media and email marketing.

Track and understand your business’s finances

I confess, I always start with good intentions about tracking my business finances and by mid-March, I’m back to relying on PayPal to tell me how I’m doing each month. (If there is money in the account – must be doing okay…if there is no money in the account…Oh, oh!)

Seriously though, if you don’t have some kind of bookkeeping in place, you’ll never know how your online business is really doing. Invest in a bookkeeping program to help you keep up with everything and then make a point to balance your checkbook each week and reconcile your accounts every month.

Create a work-life balance

I’ve been a small business owner for over 15 years and if there is anything I have learned it’s that all work and no play makes Kate a very grumpy girl. It may not always be possible, but most weeks you should strive to have a consistent schedule and when it’s time to close up shop, shut down that computer and get away from the desk.

I’ve also found that getting away from the computer and taking some “me-time” at lunch helps to re-energize me for the rest of the day. Read a book, go for a walk or escape by watching a television show. Whatever you choose to do, just make it a work-free zone for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

Finding Balance in Your Life as an Online Seller

 

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If you’re like most online sellers, when you first started thinking about selling online, you probably envisioned being able to work when you wanted to and play when you wanted to. As you settled into selling on eBay or Amazon (or both), however, you probably found yourself going in one of two different directions. Either you haven’t been able to find enough time to actually work or you can’t find enough time for the rest of your life.

I bring this up because since the last part of July, I’ve had some weeks recently where my life kept getting in the way of my work. Then there were other times when the work kept getting in the way of my life. When this happens, I usually have to step back and see how to get my life back in balance.

Here’s what I’ve had to remind myself about over the last month or so:

Take a step back
Although you may “think” you can have it all, trust me, you can’t. If you’re starting to feel like you’re being pulled in 20 different directions, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate. This is where you may have to make some hard choices.

Choose what your priorities are for that particular moment of time and let the rest of it go. This may mean that if your business is struggling, you have to forgo some of the things you enjoy doing and concentrate on the work side of things. If your family is having trouble remembering what you look like because you’re listing all the time, you may have to put some restrictions on how many hours you are going to work.

Remember, it’s about finding balance between the two.

Set some boundaries
Sometimes it’s hard to find balance when you work from home because no one around you seems to respect your time or that you’re working. Family members want to talk (and talk…and talk…), friends know you’re home so feel they can rely on you when they need help with something, and the list goes on and on.

At that point, the only way to find some balance between your work life and family life is to have an honest conversation with the people in your life and set boundaries for your work time and your personal space.

You will have to be firm when you do this, however, because even though you may love your family and friends, you will find that they will push these boundaries at first because they always have been able to in the past. Be gentle, but remind them of your conversation.

Once they understand you are working the hours you are now so that you can join them in an activity later, they will usually begin to respect your work time and you can begin to achieve balance between your work time and family time.

Image courtesy of [ponsuwan] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tips for working at home

Recently I was in a conversation with a couple of others writers and one of them wanted to know how we all spent our days. What they were really wanting to know is what kind of schedules do we all keep. Do we research in the morning and write in the afternoon? Do we write in the morning and spend our time marketing in the afternoon?

Although most of us understood that what the writer was actually wanting to know was about time management, the mentor for our group made a point of stating that no two people are the same and just because someone else does something, doesn’t mean it will work the same way for everyone else.

While I agree with her to to a point, I also feel that whether you write from home or list items for Amazon and eBay, you can feel a little bit lost as to what you are suppose to do and how you are suppose to do it. After all, when you have a “day job” you have someone telling you what to do and your time is basically spent doing what they want. When you’re the boss, however, all that goes out the window and you have to figure out what your priorities are.

I will confess that I don’t have the time management stuff figured out all the way yet, but here are a few things I’ve learned that can help with the rest of it.

Get up and get dressed

It might be tempting to stay in your pajamas all day, but getting out of bed and getting dressed first thing in the morning helps you prepare for the actual work day. Although I do know some people that prefer to wear business attire even as they sit in their own home working on the computer, I don’t really feel like it matters what you wear as long as it is non-pajama wear and something that signals to your brain that it is time to get serious and get to work.

Set business hours

One of the biggest problems I use to have with listing on eBay was that I would often find myself getting items ready to ship right at bedtime. Why? Because I was spending the rest of the day doing everything else (work and non-work combined) and my business day would get scattered across the parts of the 24 hours that were available. While this might work for some people, I have found that it is better to choose certain hours that you will work and then attempt to schedule your time into them. As an example, you may like the normal business hours of 9 to 5 or maybe you would rather list at night from 7 to 11. It doesn’t really matter, but the hours need to be the same and stay consistent.

Make daily goals for yourself

When you work for yourself, it can be easy to be kind of unsure about what to do with yourself. There are usually so many things you WANT to do, that you don’t even know where to begin. Creating a list of four or five goals to accomplish each day can help you stay on track. It can also help you to know what days you will handle what. As an example, you may want to source on Monday and Wednesday and then list on Tuesday and Thursday. If you know what you are doing each day, you can then set goals around these tasks to ensure that everything gets done.

In conclusion

Finally, keep in mind that although you are actually working from home, it may take the family a while to get on the same page. All they see is that you are home, so in their mind this should (in theory) give you more time to clean, run errands, or do other things for the family. Set boundaries and keep it clear that you are in “work mode” at certain times and even though you might not leave your house to go to a brick-and-mortar job, you are still technically “at work.”

Taking responsibility for your lack of online business success

It’s been a rough time for some online sellers lately. Although eBay has denied it, sales at the online marketplace giant seem to be down dramatically for many. Meanwhile, Amazon has kicked some sellers in the gut by first placing restrictions on who could sell in what types of categories and then turning around and restricting a lot of Health and Beauty items, calling them “unsalable because they are prescription.”

While some people have carried on with a “business as normal” attitude, others have had a harder time shaking these changes off and over the last couple of weeks I’ve heard of at least two sellers throwing in the towel. And…I have to confess, the thought actually crossed my mind to give it all up this past Monday after I had my second week of no sales. This, coming off of a month where I did have sales, but then had three coins returned to me for refunds.

The funny thing I realized though is that I, and the two other sellers, both experienced the exact same thing. We were all three under what you might call “victim mentality.” In other words, although at least part of the situation was of our own making, we blamed everyone but ourselves. As an example, one of the sellers complained that she wasn’t selling anything at all. When she was pressed for more information, however, she mentioned that her lack of sells had her depressed so she really hadn’t listed anything new in over a month.

Then there’s me and my three coins. The first time it happened, I called the coin Proof and it was merely Uncirculated (my fault). The second time it happened, the buyer changed his mind (his fault). I was really feeling the victim at that point, so when I listed and shipped the wrong coin and had my third return…well, I was all over that victim mentality without addressing my part in it at all.

Where I am going with this is that if things aren’t going right in your online business, you first need to take a step back and take a good look at what’s going on. Are you to blame? Are you taking steps to correct a slowdown in sales in your business (doing more listings, finding other venues to sell on) or are you stuck with the attitude that there are outside forces at work and there is nothing you can do?

If the latter is the case, it might just be time for you to take responsibility for your online business and quit playing the victim. Sales down? List more or look for new venues. Getting lots of returns? Check your descriptions and make sure you’re not the one making errors when you list them. Trust me, once you take responsibility and acknowledge where your victim mentality is coming from, that’s when the real success in your online business can start.

What is Success?

On Monday we had a fantastic discussion of Success. What IS Success? How do YOU define success? Some of the big ideas that came out of the discussion between myself and Lisa Suttora were these:

  1. Find You WHY?
  2. Define Your Life
  3. Design Your Day

What are YOUR thoughts on Success? What does Success mean to you?

 

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For ME, Success Is . . .