Having run (and still running) several e-commerce businesses, with a main focus on dropshipping, there are a lot of things that “Today Me” wishes I could go back and tell “Younger Me” about what it takes to run a successful business and all the things I wish I knew when I was getting started.
So, since I can’t go back in time (yet), let me share with YOU What I Wish I Would Have Known Before Starting e-commerce, so that you’ll hopefully have a much shorter learning curve than me.
Let’s get started…
ALL. THE. MUNDANE. TASKS.
When I first got started, I was so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and full of so much energy and hope.
There was a serious rush of endorphins when I bought my domain name, and started searching for products to sell that I could make good money on. It was all so exciting.
I can still remember ordering those first product samples.
They were so bad.
Then ordering some from another supplier. Cheaply made.
Then ordering some more.
And then more.
Anyway, it took some time to find some quality stuff, but then when I finally found some great products, I was off to the races!
I just had to build out my store. And design it. And add all the product information, and upload the photos.
And take more photos because the ones from the supplier sucked. And re-write the descriptions because they were terrible.
And then figure out how to get the shopping cart to work. And to figure out how to get the shipping charges to be correct. After all, there’s nothing like selling your first 20 products, then realizing you underestimated the shipping costs by a lot… and lost a lot of money you couldn’t afford to lose.
Then you have to figure out the right boxes to use for mailing your products.
Oh that’s right, did I mention that the inventory I needed to store took over half of my bedroom and most of my garage. Yeah, my wife loved that.
So back to the boxes… make sure you get the right sizes or you’ll be staring at a large stack of unfolded boxes you can’t use, taking up space you don’t have in your garage.
Seriously, there are so many boring tasks you have to take care of and manage on a daily basis.
How Much Time I Would Have To Spend Fulfilling Orders
In the beginning, I’d get such a rush watching orders come in. I’d print the orders and shipping labels, then make the shipping boxes, put the products in, then tape them shut. Then take all the boxes to the post office.
It was a lot of fun.
Then, as I began to sell more, I’d have to order larger shipments of products, and more shipping boxes, and more paper, and more ink, and more tape…
…and more trips to the post office.
Then I’d run out of inventory quicker than expected and had to wait a few weeks to get new shipments in.
While this sounds like a good problem to have, it led to cash flow issues, as I had to try and place new inventory orders far enough in advance that they’d get here just before I ran out of stock. If they came too late, I’d have to turn off my ads so I wouldn’t get too far behind and make my customers wait too long and make them angry.
But the timing was never perfect and I’d either have a ton of products taking over my house because they got there too soon, or I’d have to wait a few weeks for the next shipments to arrive and I’d lose money from taking my ads down.
That’s a costly way to do business.
It’s also time-consuming to store, pick, pack and ship all of your own products, because time spent doing that is time lost not growing the business.
Dealing With Actual Product
I’m not sure if I can mention this enough – having to deal with inventory and where to store it is a big deal. It was slowly taking over my whole house. I looked into storage facilities, but they weren’t practical because I still had to put all the orders together somewhere, and I couldn’t do that in a storage facility.
I also looked into special warehouses that would store, pick, pack and ship everything, but those fees added up quickly and ate up the profits.
The Costs Of Fulfillment And Shipping
So, I had the choice of either storing at my house and fulfilling and shipping everything myself, which was the cheapest out of pocket, or have a specialized warehouse store, pick, pack and ship for me, but spend a ton of money having it done for me.
Not only that, but the shipping fees added up fast too, both getting my products shipped here from China, but then shipping out to my customers.
When shipping to customers, I had to calculate based on box size, weight and shipping zones. When I got shipping wrong, it ate up any potential profits I had hoped to make faster than you’d imagine.
Dealing With Shipping Times/ Delays
Then there are all the shipping times to factor in.
You try to place an order for shipment and time it to arrive just before your inventory runs out, but that timing never seemed to work out. Ever.
And that’s when things run smooth.
It doesn’t factor in things like:
- delays in shipping ports
- being held up at the borders
- products ending up in the wrong location
- weather delaying cargo ships
- unscrupulous vendors demanding more money to release your goods
- …and much more.
There is a reason they call it “the slow boat to China” (or in this case, the slow boat FROM China).
It’s almost a full time job just keeping up with everything.
Handling Customer Service
Then there are the customer service issues.
Many times it was the delays in getting the products they ordered due to running out of inventory and the next shipment not getting in on time.
Other times it was a defective product that needed to be returned and refunded.
However, it was all the small things that added up the most and were the most time-consuming – things like email receipts and tracking numbers not being received, so I’d have to track it all down and answer a million emails with the info they needed.
All those tasks added up to valuable chunks of time being lost each day.
Having To Work More Around The Holidays Because Of Seasonal Purchase Behavior.
From an e-commerce business standpoint – I LOVE the holidays!
And I also really HATE them too.
Okay, so maybe hate is too harsh, but the holidays were tough.
The sales volume around the holidays was awesome! I’d fly through the inventory fast and I’d have new shipments ordered faster than usual as well.
That was awesome!
But then the amount of orders that had to be picked, packed and shipped was huge too, and the hours would add up. I’d spend all day and night boxing orders.
I’d skip dinner with family, as well as holiday activities.
That’s not including the compounded amount of customer service issues – missing orders, missing receipts, missing tracking numbers, and on and on.
I started dreading the holidays because I stopped being able to enjoy them after a while. The money wasn’t worth it.
Don't Try And Do Everything Yourself
But I did anyway. I didn’t have the money to hire people. At least that’s what I told myself. I’d get help from family and friends from time to time, but that only lasts so long before you run them off, especially when you turn into someone that’s stressed out and not fun to be around.
How Much Time I Would Actually Be Spending Doing Repetitive Tasks
This. All of this.
A million emails about tracking links… and problems with orders… and product returns… and frustrated customers… and getting on the phone to locate my own shipments… and arguing with suppliers about the same things all the time… and making shipping boxes… and printing labels… and taping the boxes… and running to the post office…
I Would Have To Worry About Sales Tax And Stuff Like That
Taxes. They are so fun!
Save every receipt, take great notes on what you’re buying and why. Document your mileage in great detail, as well as any business lunches and travel.
Talk to a CPA that understands your business. Pay your taxes according to the schedule due in your state / locale so you avoid penalties.
Then save them all for several years.
This is the biggie and the main thing I’d get across to anyone thinking about getting into e-commerce.
Get into dropshipping…
…and get Dropified to automate practically everything.[Puts on my best grandpa voice] “You kids these days have it so easy when it comes to running an eCom business”.
And it’s true, you do.
Once I moved to dropshipping, my life changed.
No more boxes of inventory taking over my house, my garage, my bedrooms (and a much happier wife!)…
No more assembling shipping boxes…
No more printing, taping box stuffing…
No more multiple post office runs daily…
No more shipping delays clogging up my sales pipeline…
No more going out of pocket having to buy inventory first…
No more having to send receipts, or tracking numbers…
No more having to solve a million captchas when placing orders…
No more having to be miserable at the holidays because I was stuck fulfilling orders…
Not once I went the drop shipping route…
Now I can spend my days researching hot new products, marketing the current ones and growing my business.
I can finally work ON my business, not IN it.
I now have an actual business, and not just another job.
My Ultimate Advice
My advice to YOU if you want to be successful in e-commerce and you want to avoid all the headaches, heartaches, lost time and lost money that I went through.
Go with drop shipping.
Then automate it with Dropified.