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EXECUTION My First Foray Into Ecommerce

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Metz

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Apr 12, 2019
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ENTRY 0.

So since we're at the eve of starting a new month, I figured now's a nice clean slate to begin keeping track of my progress into a new venture: ecommerce.

A bit of backstory: I'm a freelance writer with an emphasis on organic SEO. I've helped friends and clients either set up websites from scratch and helped write their content or just formulate SEO strategies for clients who already had a site that wasn't performing the way they would hope. The past two-ish years I've struggled finding continuous work, mostly because either a client becomes possessive and wants me to solely write for them without paying me enough to earn a living or just struggling to compete in a saturated marketplace where plenty of writers gladly write for fractions of a penny per word. Other issues were spotty communication (the client likes my work but takes a month or so to get back to me with clarifying information, no matter how much I try to call or email) or outright theft (some clients wouldn't pay me upfront but then on delivery, they'd like my work, publish it, but then wouldn't pay because "Well, anyone can write so why should we pay you?" despite the contract; the contracts were so small that trying to take it to court, I'd end up losing money and piss away time I didn't have). Couple that all with COVID and virtually all of my writing gigs have dried up.

Could I have maneuvered some other way, finding higher-quality clients and more work in the writing arena? I know I could've; I've done it before. But I've just become so jaded both dealing with lackluster clients and helping everyone else build their brand while my own would falter (again, word of mouth wasn't much of a thing because they wanted me to write *just* for them).. I needed something new. I needed more CONTROL in my life because I was tired on relying on flaky clients to make sure food was on the table.. and I needed something that required a bit less time so I could effectively SCALE as a one-man team.

I spent enough time helping people with marketing campaigns through Facebook and building brands through their websites and the content hosted on them. I wanted to try it myself for a change. Instead of selling services as I have the past 6-7 years, I want to try selling products, building a system that, once set up, is mostly automated while I continue working on it. I invested money in some online graphic design courses through Udemy and really enjoyed one on geometric grid design. I've always wanted to be more visually creative but my analytical mind and coming up with beautiful images people would wanna buy don't go hand-in-hand -- until now. I started playing around with different shapes, linework, layering them onto one another. I shared a few designs and a couple of my friends were like, "Whoa, I'd totally wear that if that was on a shirt," which got me into thinking about print-on-demand stuff.

I know PoD and dropshipping doesn't follow CENTS as well as one would like. The low barrier to entry, relying on third-parties to fulfill your products, being stuck with what options are available on the platform you're using, and a myriad of other factors make it a less-than-ideal model for long-term growth. However, for me, this is just an exercise to prove a concept as well as a stepping stone as I bootstrap my way to make enough money to reinvest in other options that are more CENTS-friendly (that is, instead of relying on a third-party printer for fulfillment that I have no clue about and very limited control over design placement and the like, have enough money stashed away to work with a local printer, buy in bulk, handle fulfillment myself but offer an even better product with better control over it). I'm virtually broke (COVID, the stress of the upcoming election, mixed with crippling depression and anxiety lead to less-than-stellar decisions and non-existent motivation) but I've been in worse places before. I know that if I think creatively and keep working on things and maintain my focus, I'll get to where I wanna go. Which brings us to this entry.

I've already made just over $200 in profit since launching my site about two weeks ago, all just through word of mouth. Granted, $200 is nothing for living up in the Pacific Northwest but still, it's $200 more than I expected so soon and everyone who's purchased from me has said how much they love the shirts -- both the designs on them and how soft the material is. I even have two return customers already and people asking me if they can refer their friends to my site. I also have three friends with a combined total of about 26k followers on Instagram that want to influence for me once I set up referral codes which is a nice pay-as-I-go way to advertise, giving them a portion of the profit of each sale instead of having to pay x amount upfront for an ad campaign like through Google AdWords or Facebook.

As far as the brand goes, there's a lot of emphasis on sacred geometry and Stoicism. With everything going on in the U.S., I wanted to do something to alleviate some of the stress while being apolitical. I know that might not be the strategy (my dad suggested having one site to cater to the right, the other, the left, with different shirts they'd buy; my conscious wouldn't let me sleep well if I did that though as I feel like I'd just be a part of the division), but Stoic philosophy has helped me a ton and I know I can apply its principles to motivational and calming kinds of products. For instance, I also want to sell self-help and philosophy books, coffee, tea, and mugs, notebooks and journals, posters, and other things that fit the brand. But for now, shirts is the name of the game.

My milestone/to-do list at this point is as follows:
  • Get to my first $3,500 profit month. At the very least, this will cover my living expenses with some extra leftover to save, pay down outstanding debt, and reinvest into the site.
  • Set up the website for referrals and bring the influencers on board. While my site's Facebook page only has about 140 likes through word-of-mouth, increasing a social media audience to 26k would be a tremendous help in the short-term. Even getting 1% to make a purchase or convert to a like/follow on my platforms would get me to 400.
  • Find a mentor. Rather self-explanatory. I could take the time and learn things myself (something I've already been doing) but I'd much rather find someone willing to take me under their wing and help catalyze the process -- so if there are any takers, I'd love the help and insight.
  • Broaden my list of available products. I have about 30 products so far, mostly t-shirts and tank tops. I'm making designs for long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and hoodies for the fall months and need to find suppliers for the above products I listed. I also have my own book I've published through Amazon and so I wanna sell that on my site as well as it still fits the brand. But I also understand quality > quantity so I don't want to saturate the store with nonsense.
  • Find other ways to scale beyond just Instagram influencers. While the current group is a good short-term strategy, I want to find ways to scale on my own. I have my own community of almost 2k people through gaming (a lot of them like my philosophic vibes in the community and gamers seem to like geometric/abstract prints) which has been where I got most of my initial sales. I also want to learn better on how to scale for Facebook and Google Adwords using paid advertisement.. which I have some ideas but again.. having a mentor would be helpful in this endeavor.
While this covers business-side things, I also have a few personal goals that I feel will help me out with my business. Like I said, I struggle with depression and anxiety and when I get stressed, I eat maybe one meal a day so even if it's a good meal, I know I'm screwing up my nutrition which affects a whole bunch of other stuff. Those goals are:
  • Learn meal-prep and eat three meals a day. Also, smoothies if only because drinking calories is easier and it's a decent way to get a bunch of fruit and veggie servings along with protein supplements.
  • Workout more because endorphins. I'm also trying to go for more walks just to get out of the house, get some Vitamin D, and have picture opportunities for the different adventures I go on (I love landscape photography and might be able to use some of the shots in later designs).
  • Find some small writing projects, preferably within the video game, cannabis, or logistics industries. I'm passionate about all three subjects and have some contacts in each. I don't want it to distract too much from the work on the site but I just need money to keep afloat for now so while I'm waiting for sales and my advertising/content publishing is automated, I can fill my day with some quick work with newer, better clients. I don't want to be guilty of "business polygamy" but I'm not in a position to turn down opportunities to work.
I'll try to update monthly at the end of each month (barring any replies and conversations with people in between if'n anyone decides to talk to ol' Metz). For now, I'll just have this simple metric to track my growth:

Monthly Sales Profit for August '20: $207.38

Monthly Milestones
- $100
- $250 (Current Goal)
- $500
- $1,000
- $2,000
- $3,000
- $4,000
- $5,000
- $7,500
- $10,000
- $12,500
- $15,000
- $17,500
- $20,000
 
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Metz

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Apr 12, 2019
88
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NW Washington
ENTRY 1.

Hey everyone, I'm back with some updates! September was mostly uneventful as far as business growth goes. I only made $132.60 in profit which is a dip from August but that's alright. What I lacked in money I gained in experience while crossing off a few points on my to-do list from earlier. Chiefly:
  • Find a mentor. I found a mentor out-of-state where we'll have a Zoom call every month. He owns a logistics software company and knows quite a bit about ecommerce and building something from the ground up so even though it's not exactly the specific niche I wanted (like selling shirts and what not online), his insight's been very helpful and I'm happy someone with much more knowledge is interested in even talking with me. So it's only been a month and one talk so far but he checks in from time to time and the conversations are always motivating and that's the main thing I need right now so... pretty stoked about that.
  • Broaden my list of available products. I just added four new t-shirts and the first hoodie to the site this morning. I'm looking into desk mats, mousepads, more notebook designs, as well as long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, mugs and thermoses, and posters. I've also been trying to learn some cool techniques with text and typography so that'll help me come up with other neat designs to slap onto things. At the suggestion of my mentor, I've been a bit more assertive with combining my three brands that all essentially live under one umbrella anyway, going after the same general kind of person but different niches within that archetype. To avoid "business polygamy," this new focus let's me push all three brands ahead together in a way that makes sense while helping the customer and letting them explore, a move I've been told by a handful of them has been interesting and useful.
  • Set up the website for referrals and bring influencers on board. Referrals have been set up and I had ten friends sign up to be affiliates who get paid a percentage of each sale they attract. One of those friends has an Instagram page of about 12k followers and just started sharing. I'm learning more about how I can set the affiliates up for success and streamline the whole process but just getting the system in order has been a good milestone in and of itself.
The only old milestones that remain are getting to my first $3,500 profit month and finding other ways to scale outside of Instagram. But nothing's really changed on that front.

A few things I learned over the past month:
  • I was charging too little for shirts. Before, I was selling shirts at $18 which I thought was a pretty good margin given it costs about $9.25 to print each shirt. However, given that the tank tops were much more expensive to print, I had to charge more for the tank tops which seemed weird to customers (less fabric should mean less expensive in their minds). There are others who even use the same PoD service I do who charge $26-$28 a shirt so I moved my price up to $24, giving me more room to hold decent sales while remaining competitive. It also thickens up the margin as my printer charges more for 2XL+ shirts so instead of carrying that cost over to the customer, everyone now pays the same price, regardless of size.
  • I needed to tune up the brand messaging. Between my store and my two other related sites (the store sells products, one of the websites publishes a bunch of creative content, and the other site advertises services), they're all geared towards creativity, entrepreneurialism, growth, and collaboration. Like I said, they have a broad appeal but then divide that appeal up into different niches. The content site, for instance, focuses a ton on gaming and gamification (applying game theory to problem-solving); a lot of the people who follow that site have been my early customers for this new store. But the store itself focused too much on Stoicism and philosophy. I brought it back to focus on problem-solving issues people are feeling: how to make money and survive economically during the pandemic, how to motivate oneself and stay positive, how to be creative and monetize hobbies.. things like that. Since doing so last week, I've already seen an uptick (albeit a small one) in site activity. But yeah, at the suggestion of my mentor, I'm unifying everything I have going on so I can push it all together up the hill, rather than doing so separately -- if that makes sense.
  • Just play around with ideas. Not everything has to be perfect from the moment an idea pops into your head. Being anxious, I already feel as if I fall short of [pick a thing]. I know that everything else out there of quality is the product of hours upon hours of designing, drafting, revising, etc. before it's even made public. I have a bad habit of not giving myself that same patience and grace, allowing myself to just work with things and let them blossom rather than feeling like every idea has to be a home run right out of the gate. For a while as I tried to design new shirts, I just sat staring blankly at Illustrator for hours, feeling stupid for not being able to like anything I made. Now, I printed off a bunch of grids and doodle different design ideas. Some are really cool, others not so much, but it's helped give me a foundation to start off with when I start designing them digitally. Half of them are then saved in a different folder, not turning out how I wanted but were still good exercises; the other half went on to become this current batch of shirts I just added to my store. If anything, this is a lesson to give myself some grace; as long as I keep working on things, *something* will happen. Kinda like the different colored balls in the entrepreneurial gumball machine MJ wrote about.
But yeah. My new to-do list is as follows (italicized ones are still in-progress and listed out in the previous post):
  • Get to my first $3,500 profit month.
  • Find other ways to scale beyond just Instagram influencers.
  • Unify my three brands into one umbrella. The pieces are already there and fit so nicely together. Now it's just a matter of assembling everything together and getting people excited about it while better describing how I can help solve their problems whether it's finding a cool shirt to wear or helping them with whatever they need to find work or expand their own projects (that's the services side I provide anyway on one of my sites).
  • Find a new printer that offers a better print area for hoodies. While I do have one hoodie available from my usual printer, since it's just a small logo on the left pec, it works. But trying to expand some of my other designs to fit across the upper torso has been a struggle. I have found a quality printer who's got a larger print area on the same blank hoodie so once those samples arrive, I might have found my alternative.
  • Learn how to better support and attract affiliates. Marketing I pay for after a sale rather than before it makes sense once that system is up and running. So I gotta figure out how to make being an affiliate of mine lucrative and supporting them as best as I can -- at least giving them the tools and alleviate any active handholding with well-written copy they can use either to learn or to copy/paste into their own campaigns.
  • Hold my first sale. I'm still learning how to effectively set up and market sales through Woocommerce. My intention is to have a mid-week sale and weekend sale every week so that something is always available at a discount, rotating depending on what makes sense. I'll also use sales to clear out old designs that, once removed from the site, I'll try selling on other platforms like Redbubble or Design By Humans; it might not be useful to my audience, but it could still live on being interesting in other marketplaces.
But yeah, that's it for updates for now. Hope y'all are doing well and staying warm and healthy this Fall. :)

Monthly Sales Profit for September '20: $132.60

Monthly Milestones
- $100
- $250 (Current Goal)
- $500
- $1,000
- $2,000
- $3,000
- $4,000
- $5,000
- $7,500
- $10,000
- $12,500
- $15,000
- $17,500
- $20,000
 

Metz

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Apr 12, 2019
88
140
129
29
NW Washington
ENTRY 2.

Another month, another update. October overall was pretty good. Sales and profit were up compared to September AND it was a new record, passing August as well by $16. I also managed to get my first affiliate sale (a friend successfully suggested buying a shirt to one of their friends) and have three influencers signed up to help share especially around the holiday season.

I've also managed to tackle these goals:
  • Unify my three brands into one umbrella. Part of the boost in sales was from connecting my video game/game theory related site to my ecommerce site. The game theory site isn't optimized for ecommerce so I've created a "brands" section and linked that site's community to my ecommerce site. This has also been a bit of a test since I'd like to retail for streamers and YouTubers in my community, making sure it doesn't affect accessibility or navigability negatively (it doesn't). I've also honed my freelance writing site to be focused just on content creation and entrepreneurialism and making it a landing for the other two sites. I still contract with other sites as a whitelabel writer and no longer feel guilty in doing so (I used to worry that I spent way too much time building other people's brands and not my own, but this is no longer the case). Either way, I feel a lot more optimistic and creative. If I'm to roll three rocks uphill, might as well find a cart to put them all in. Business polygamy no more; I've just turned three brands into three funnels serving one overall brand culture.
  • Find a new printer that offers a better print area for hoodies. The PoD service I used updated its printer listings (it's a third-party that pairs retailers like myself with printers/product suppliers) and I found how to make use out of the print area for hoodies. T-shirts seem to have a much longer print area where hoodies are longer so I've been making things a bit more square (still rectangular one way or the other but enough to maximize both print areas). Since listing the hoodies, I've been getting a handful more sales and the feedback I've received was all positive: super soft, warm, and the designs look great.
I didn't add any new goals this time around since the four still left on my plate are substantial enough. They are:
  • Get to my first $3,500 profit month.
  • Find other ways to scale beyond just Instagram influencers.
  • Learn how to better support and attract affiliates.
  • Hold my first sale.
Detailed explanations of each can be found in the previous entries in case you'd like a refresher.

This month, I'll be taking the following steps to chip away at those above goals:
  • Research paid marketing campaigns with Google Adwords and Facebook. As mentioned, I specialize in organic SEO but I'm curious if I can augment my campaigns with some paid placement. I love learning algorithmic kinda stuff like this so not only is it a handy skill to learn, it'll get help me scale by reinvesting some of the profit into more marketing, spurring growth (ideally).
  • Start streaming again, promoting two of my brands at once. I have a community of about 2k people who follow my gaming-related content. Streaming can be its own form of income if done correctly, but it'll provide another direct platform I can share my products on while networking with other streamers who'd potentially like to do the same (I already have about three or four bites, both selling my own branded merch as well as enlisting my help to design and sell theirs).
  • Set up coupons and initiate a holiday sale. I was going to set up a new tier on Patreon that supports my gaming community that includes a free shirt (the tier is slightly lower than the cost of a shirt so I'm still making a profit while letting people choose a shirt every month). To do that, I need to learn and test Woocommerce's coupon functions. In that same vein, I can learn how sales work on the Woocommerce platform and start sales. Why include a monthly "free" shirt to Patreon supporters of my gaming community? It encourages them to buy, helps update their wardrobe, and the more people wearing my stuff, the more brand awareness it generates.. and those hesitant to initially buy one to try it out might be sold on more (I've had multiple return sales already where the first purchase was one shirt, then the next purchase was 3-4 more). Once the pandemic begins to subside and people start going out a lot more, this awareness will only increase because there are more potential eyes on a shirt, hoodie, or tank top.
Now I know I'm taking a lot of different shots in the dark, trying all these different things. HOWEVER, as someone who loves analytics, I'm taking notes on what works and what doesn't, from designs to sales platforms to how I spend my time. I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle but since ecommerce is still a relatively new income stream for me, I want to cast a big net of activities and projects related to it and get a feel for everything and start whittling away. This is the start of the third full month doing this anyway; I don't expect to be all that good until next August -- ideally. But who knows what the future holds.

With that, I'll stop here. I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the entries. I certainly am, if only because journaling has helped keep me on task. :D

Monthly Sales Profit for October '20: $223.46 (new record!)

Monthly Milestones
- $100
- $250 (Current Goal)
- $500
- $1,000
- $2,000
- $3,000
- $4,000
- $5,000
- $7,500
- $10,000
- $12,500
- $15,000
- $17,500
- $20,000
 

chrissroger9

New Contributor
Nov 3, 2020
4
1
11
ENTRY 2.

Another month, another update. October overall was pretty good. Sales and profit were up compared to September AND it was a new record, passing August as well by $16. I also managed to get my first affiliate sale (a friend successfully suggested buying a shirt to one of their friends) and have three influencers signed up to help share especially around the holiday season.

I've also managed to tackle these goals:
  • Unify my three brands into one umbrella. Part of the boost in sales was from connecting my video game/game theory related site to my ecommerce site. The game theory site isn't optimized for ecommerce so I've created a "brands" section and linked that site's community to my ecommerce site. This has also been a bit of a test since I'd like to retail for streamers and YouTubers in my community, making sure it doesn't affect accessibility or navigability negatively (it doesn't). I've also honed my freelance writing site to be focused just on content creation and entrepreneurialism and making it a landing for the other two sites. I still contract with other sites as a whitelabel writer and no longer feel guilty in doing so (I used to worry that I spent way too much time building other people's brands and not my own, but this is no longer the case). Either way, I feel a lot more optimistic and creative. If I'm to roll three rocks uphill, might as well find a cart to put them all in. Business polygamy no more; I've just turned three brands into three funnels serving one overall brand culture.
  • Find a new printer that offers a better print area for hoodies. The PoD service I used updated its printer listings (it's a third-party that pairs retailers like myself with printers/product suppliers) and I found how to make use out of the print area for hoodies. T-shirts seem to have a much longer print area where hoodies are longer so I've been making things a bit more square (still rectangular one way or the other but enough to maximize both print areas). Since listing the hoodies, I've been getting a handful more sales and the feedback I've received was all positive: super soft, warm, and the designs look great.
I didn't add any new goals this time around since the four still left on my plate are substantial enough. They are:
  • Get to my first $3,500 profit month.
  • Find other ways to scale beyond just Instagram influencers.
  • Learn how to better support and attract affiliates.
  • Hold my first sale.
Detailed explanations of each can be found in the previous entries in case you'd like a refresher.

This month, I'll be taking the following steps to chip away at those above goals:
  • Research paid marketing campaigns with Google Adwords and Facebook. As mentioned, I specialize in organic SEO but I'm curious if I can augment my campaigns with some paid placement. I love learning algorithmic kinda stuff like this so not only is it a handy skill to learn, it'll get help me scale by reinvesting some of the profit into more marketing, spurring growth (ideally).
  • Start streaming again, promoting two of my brands at once. I have a community of about 2k people who follow my gaming-related content. Streaming can be its own form of income if done correctly, but it'll provide another direct platform I can share my products on while networking with other streamers who'd potentially like to do the same (I already have about three or four bites, both selling my own branded merch as well as enlisting my help to design and sell theirs).
  • Set up coupons and initiate a holiday sale. I was going to set up a new tier on Patreon that supports my gaming community that includes a free shirt (the tier is slightly lower than the cost of a shirt so I'm still making a profit while letting people choose a shirt every month). To do that, I need to learn and test Woocommerce's coupon functions for fortnite merchandise. In that same vein, I can learn how sales work on the Woocommerce platform and start sales. Why include a monthly "free" shirt to Patreon supporters of my gaming community? It encourages them to buy, helps update their wardrobe, and the more people wearing my stuff, the more brand awareness it generates.. and those hesitant to initially buy one to try it out might be sold on more (I've had multiple return sales already where the first purchase was one shirt, then the next purchase was 3-4 more). Once the pandemic begins to subside and people start going out a lot more, this awareness will only increase because there are more potential eyes on a shirt, hoodie, or tank top.
Now I know I'm taking a lot of different shots in the dark, trying all these different things. HOWEVER, as someone who loves analytics, I'm taking notes on what works and what doesn't, from designs to sales platforms to how I spend my time. I'm a big fan of the 80/20 principle but since ecommerce is still a relatively new income stream for me, I want to cast a big net of activities and projects related to it and get a feel for everything and start whittling away. This is the start of the third full month doing this anyway; I don't expect to be all that good until next August -- ideally. But who knows what the future holds.

With that, I'll stop here. I hope you all are doing well and enjoying the entries. I certainly am, if only because journaling has helped keep me on task. :D

Monthly Sales Profit for October '20: $223.46 (new record!)

Monthly Milestones
- $100
- $250 (Current Goal)
- $500
- $1,000
- $2,000
- $3,000
- $4,000
- $5,000
- $7,500
- $10,000
- $12,500
- $15,000
- $17,500
- $20,000
how do you manage all this. i wanna know about this.
 

Metz

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Apr 12, 2019
88
140
129
29
NW Washington
how do you manage all this. i wanna know about this.
Not to answer your question with another question but.. was there something more specific you were curious about? I'm happy to explain, just wanna make sure I do so in a way that's most helpful for you. :D
 

Metz

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Apr 12, 2019
88
140
129
29
NW Washington
ENTRY 3.

Holy crap, November was rough. Between the days getting longer and just being stressed out, this wasn't too strong of a month. Profit was only about $100 or so and I was distracted trying to find more work as my contracting stuff had a wrench thrown into it. I'll apologize in advance... this post is gonna be a bit shorter than usual as I have a bit of a headache and have been feeling under the weather the past few days. Yaaaaaaay.

Still, I managed to clear one goal at least:
  • Set up coupons and initiate a holiday sale. I figured out how to get coupons to work on Woocommerce and I have a plan for a holiday sale and scheduling it for later this month. In the meantime, I'm finishing up another batch of designs and reinvesting money into ads for my Facebook page to have a greater audience to announce the sale to once it hits.
I don't have any new professional goals but here's a refresher of my current list:
  • Get to my first $3,500 profit month.
  • Find other ways to scale beyond just Instagram influencers.
  • Learn how to better support and attract affiliates.
  • Hold my first sale.
  • Research paid marketing campaigns with Google Adwords and Facebook.
  • Start streaming again, promoting two of my brands at once. I decided against this goal as I'm spread thin enough as it is.
In other somewhat-related news, I've taken up a sales/content development position for a friend's software development company. I needed the work and I figured developing my sales skills would be important no matter how I apply them (for my ecommerce site, for affiliate marketing, or for this new gig). I've also invested in some B2B/B2C online sales courses to get my feet wet. I'm nervous but the guy who hired me is a fraternity brother who has a lot of confidence in my skills already, saying that watching me over the years, he knew this position was perfect for me so.. I'm kinda jumping in on a leap of faith. I already have four potential leads that I'm pursuing so I'll be happy if I can close on at least one of them.

Still, this new gig has also made me reconsider a few things with my trifecta of sites, turning one of them into an affiliate sales funnel while revamping my own personal brand. I was reading up on how to monetize your online presence as a writer and the presenter mentioned positioning yourself as an expert in your field. The field I chose? Gamified entrepreneurialism. To that end, I've been coming up with some plans to further solidify my three brands in ways that make sense for this push. I might explain more in another thread if anyone's interested; as excited as I am, I don't wanna detract from the focus here on ecommerce.

At any rate, I hope y'all are doing well. <3 I just hope this feeling bleh subsides. I hope it's not COVID but I'm not sick enough to be able to get a test so.. whatever it is, I hope it passes soon.

Oh.. I also wanna move to Arizona when my lease is up here. As much as I enjoy the landscape of the PNW.. it feels almost impossible to get ahead with the rapid rise in cost-of-living. No matter how much I work, I keep feeling like I'm falling behind and.. between that and being consistently vitamin D deficient and not a fan of the Seattle Freeze (even living further north than there and being here for almost six years).. if it's one thing this year's taught me, it's that I need a fresh start in some place new.

Here's hopin'.

Monthly Sales Profit for November '20: $100~

Monthly Milestones
- $100
- $250 (Current Goal)
- $500
- $1,000
- $2,000
- $3,000
- $4,000
- $5,000
- $7,500
- $10,000
- $12,500
- $15,000
- $17,500
- $20,000
 

Metz

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane!
Read Unscripted!
Speedway Pass
Apr 12, 2019
88
140
129
29
NW Washington
ENTRY 4.

Hey everyone, it's been a while. As you can see, I'm still alive and working on my e-commerce endeavors. Especially as the pandemic is winding down and the sun is shining, I'm in a much better spot mentally to be working on my projects. Oof, do I have a bit to share -- but I'll keep it brief.
  • I completely restarted my e-commerce project: new domain and sales platform, new brand name, new print-on-demand partner.
    • The old brand name (Adamastos -- means "unbroken" in Greek since there were 110 brands that already used "unbroken" in English) was too obscure, people would mispronounce it, and I constantly had to explain what it was -- which despite how cool I thought it was, that doesn't make for a good brand name. This new one (Vibe & Let Vibe) rolls off the tongue, people respond to it, and I got a ton of compliments on a shirt with the logo on it back in April when it was warm enough to just wear t-shirts so.. seemed like a natural fit.
    • Switched from Woocommerce to Shopify; Shopify just seems a lot better for e-commerce, makes managing sales tax, transaction options, logistics, and reporting so much easier, not to mention all their resources to learn and scale.
    • Switched from Printify to Printful as a PoD partner; Printful's logistics have gotten much better as COVID's winding down and their print quality has been exceptional by comparison to the printers I found through Printify. They're a little bit more expensive but they've been well worth the extra cost.
  • I'm mentor-less again, but building my confidence to network more and put myself out there.
    • As I've mentioned here and in other posts, the struggle against self-doubt and anxiety/depression is too real sometimes but one thing I'm grateful for with 2020 is how I just want to run with things now, not being afraid of naysayers -- including the little voice in my head trying to talk me out of my dreams.
  • I've also been automating my main copywriting/content strategy business, hiring a handful of contractor writers to draft client pieces for me and then I just edit them, present them to clients, and find more opportunities. This has cut down my time spent on projects by 3/4s which has allowed me to do other high-impact things like finding more clients and scaling my e-commerce site.
  • A side bit: for one of the other websites my business owns, the community surrounding it has really rallied behind me, wanting to help out with content (those contractors were actually sourced from that community), marketing my shirts on social media, and helping me network with influencers on places like Instagram (which is where my products would probably thrive the most).
And finally, I had record sales last month and crushing my second milestone!

For current goals, they're simple:
  • Find a mentor who knows e-commerce and/or social media influencing. Ya boy needs to learn how to effectively scale so.. if you know someone (or are someone) who's interested, I'd love to at least have someone to talk to.
  • Keep learning how to make better designs (I'm learning how to apply textures to them for a cool retro/worn effect).
  • Work towards the next profit milestone.
  • Keep building up my confidence and belief in myself instead of constantly feeling guilty for existing (because my brain just.. can't fathom a world where I'm actually wanted, of value, or anything of the sort, apparently.. but I'm trying, dammit. >:| ).
Hope you all have been doing well. Until next time.

Monthly Sales Profit for May '21: $322.44 (new record!)

Monthly Milestones
- $100 - August 2020
- $250 - May 2021
- $500 (Current Goal)
- $1,000
- $2,000
- $3,000
- $4,000
- $5,000
- $7,500
- $10,000
- $12,500
- $15,000
- $17,500
- $20,000
 

Metz

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A very minor update but I wanted to mark the occasion: I had my first sale from a complete stranger. So far, all of my business has been people who know me (whether they bought from me on their own or a mutual friend helped convince them to buy one of my shirts) and I know them but when I woke up this morning, I had a sale from someone whose name I didn't recognize and that my more outspoken friends who've been supporting me and sharing my store-related posts on their social media didn't recognize either.

While I'm grateful for the friends of mine who wanted to support me, getting a stranger to buy something has been a long-sought-after goal for me because they're not biased by their opinion of me. There's nothing wrong with wanting to support a friend, but a stranger's decision is more than likely based on the value proposition behind the product in question; "ooo, this is pretty cool, I'm willing to pay money for it to have it just to have it" sorta stuff.

To me this is also now proof of concept that if I can sell something to one random stranger, I can do it again and again.. that my designs and clothing has value by their own virtue, even if it still was a word-of-mouth kinda referral.

But yeah.. what a way to wake up this morning to that notification. I'm super hyped now.
 

woken

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Hello,

You mentioned you need $3500 profit/ month to cover living, save and reinvest into the website?

If you used the money only to grow your business, wouldn’t you get there quicker? :)
 

Metz

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Hello,

You mentioned you need $3500 profit/ month to cover living, save and reinvest into the website?

If you used the money only to grow your business, wouldn’t you get there quicker? :)

I don't factor my living expenses into the revenue vs. expenses equation of the store (that's just revenue - (material costs + shipping + transaction fees + taxes) and then any other things like marketing, site fees, etc.). So because I like being able to pay rent and utilities, that's why I don't use *all* the extra money just on growing the business hahaha. I'm pretty much bootstrapping this so I'm working with what I got. But even what little extra money I have left over, I'm putting it to good use to scale it through marketing.

I've found some influencers on Instagram with 500k - 1M followers in my niche I wanna target willing to do some shoutouts and whose stories on average get at least 85k - 100k views so I want to try out one or two of them to see that effect.

But yeah, right now I make my money primarily through content writing for clients to cover my living expenses, reinvesting pretty much everything I make from the site right now back into itself, but ideally I want to build the site up to the point where it replaces my client-based income from content writing; I'll still do that work but it would become supplemental rather than necessary income. I was gonna write another thread both about that endeavor as well as my balance between these two things (I know the general rule of thumb is to pick one projects to focus on but I'm experimenting between two systems of automation, one through technology and the other through hiring contractors and delegating tasks that way).

Hopefully that answers your question hahaha. Trust me, if I had more money to throw at the store right now, I would. But like I said, I'm working with limited resources as best as I can.
 
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Metz

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Update:

Over the past two weeks I've been experimenting with paid advertisement, something I don't really know much about. While I've set like $500ish on fire with different strategies that ultimately didn't net a single sale (still getting a few return customers though), I've learned a ton and it's prompted a few changes. First, what have I learned?
  • Niche marketing > general marketing. I already knew that, but to practice it by honing in on very specific niches (50k - 150k people in a specific geographic area vs. millions in a large area like a whole country) really put things into perspective. My general ads would only average about 0.36% engagement (viewers => clicks) but three separate rounds of niche-marketed ads on Facebook had anywhere between 1.2 - 1.7% engagement.. still super low but much larger compared to how they were doing before. But no matter the engagement, I still couldn't secure a sale. That brings me to my next point...
  • I failed to generate excitement. In my dogged pursuit to get a sale, I've committed the sin of focusing on "I want sell you my shit" instead of "You want to buy my shit." Two of the ad rounds I ran had a funny meme that people even shared (weird to see people posting an ad on their wall on FB but still, they must've found it funny) but likes and shares don't pay the bills UNLESS it translates into a customer conversion. @Black_Dragon43 made the observation that, while niche marketing is good, finding something with emotional attachment in specific areas or cities could be useful, whether it's geared towards a current trend or feeling or events. While I don't want my brand to be political, I already have a few ways to tap into the same general feelings without using overt political messaging and perhaps addressing needs for certain designs or messages that aren't being fulfilled even in my town.
  • Don't split your funnel. The Instagram influencer attempt had about the same conversion as a general FB ad. Part of it was because there were two calls-to-action in the post: either check out the brand's Instagram page or check out the site (and the site link pointed to the site, not the specific shirt I was advertising). Still, since running the campaign, there's been a slow uptick of growth on the Instagram page so that might come in handy later.
  • People like stories. I made a post on my brand's Instagram and FB page explaining the inspiration and meaning behind one of my more popular designs and that got a bunch of engagement with a previously-returning customer buying one shortly after making that post and commenting saying how they didn't notice all the little images and references I hid in the design and was like "whoa, that's cool." If I work on making more content like this, I can turn them into funnels and potential ads too.
A shortlist of other things I've done in reaction to what I've learned:
  • Cleaned up the site homepage so it's easier to navigate and separates products by geometric or text-based designs (something previous customers have asked me about when I surveyed for feedback).
  • Slowly been reworking product description copy to drive an emotional response, mostly through humor.
  • Adding prints and stickers (customers have been asking about those).
  • Dropping my prices a little bit so that I can still discount them with sales or BOGO deals without losing money and find a sweeter spot to help compel sales.
Since I've gotten super stressed from all this ad testing, I'm taking today off to recollect and if I do anything productive, it'll be from inspiration. Still, I have some ideas for designs I can use for targeted niche advertising that I want to work on, polish up, and add to the store before trying again.

But yeah. I'm gonna grab some breakfast, chill out on my porch, read, doodle some designs, and just relax and cool down. I'm a pretty passionate person when it comes to problem-solving but if you hit a wall, it's smart to stop ramming it and consider other options. The wall might win this time, but I remain undetered.
 

thechosen1

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There’s a ton of info to unpack here but just wanted to bring up something.
You said people love stories and wow is that so true! People really do.

As a writer, one of the most clever and effective things you can do is write a story and weave in an advertisement or at least influence the reader to make a purchase of some sort without them ever even noticing it.

It’s seriously an art. This isn’t my thing but I have noticed it before (I am extremely skeptical of everything so I’m hyper aware of this) and it can work wonders as far as ads and copy writing go

example: I was reading a Reddit post not long ago on r/entrepreneur (horrid place - avoid) and the person wrote a very long and detailed story about making their first sale or some win they had etc.

BUT woven perfectly into the story, somewhere around 80% to the end, he mentioned that he used a special tool for something and he provided a link to it.

The post had Over 1000 upvotes and tons of comments and guess what?

That website and thing he linked to was his main business!!
 

Metz

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Could you send me a link to that Reddit post if you still have it, friend @thechosen1 ? I want to R E S E A R CH.

But yeah, tomorrow I'll be brainstorming a few new design ideas before even beginning on the designs.. concepts that I can write stories around and see if -- when the time comes to advertise them again -- those are more effective.
 

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example: I was reading a Reddit post not long ago on r/entrepreneur (horrid place - avoid) and the person wrote a very long and detailed story about making their first sale or some win they had etc.

BUT woven perfectly into the story, somewhere around 80% to the end, he mentioned that he used a special tool for something and he provided a link to it.

The post had Over 1000 upvotes and tons of comments and guess what?

That website and thing he linked to was his main business!!
That's a serious baller. I've tried a lot of tactics on Reddit. The most "balls to the wall" was when I busted into /r/entrepreneur with an army behind me, and upvoted my post which literarily said "Click here for LEAD MAGNET" to the top of the sub and kept it there for 2 hours, until a moderator woke up and banned it. It got like 1000+ likes and was BOMBED with "get this shit outta here" type of comments. And I did it with my main business account too... some people were like "uhh why would he use his main account if this isn't legit?" -> they were right! We were getting 3-4 leads PER MINUTE when it reached the top. It was absolutely hilarious, my phone kept going "ding ding ding" with the emails... People are stupid. They will buy or get anything that others get, without even looking what it is.

But yeah, reddit is shit. Those people hate any sort of promo, even if it's actually a valuable promo. Not to mention too much of a liberal bias.
 

thechosen1

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That's a serious baller. I've tried a lot of tactics on Reddit. The most "balls to the wall" was when I busted into /r/entrepreneur with an army behind me, and upvoted my post which literarily said "Click here for LEAD MAGNET" to the top of the sub and kept it there for 2 hours, until a moderator woke up and banned it. It got like 1000+ likes and was BOMBED with "get this shit outta here" type of comments. And I did it with my main business account too... some people were like "uhh why would he use his main account if this isn't legit?" -> they were right! We were getting 3-4 leads PER MINUTE when it reached the top. It was absolutely hilarious, my phone kept going "ding ding ding" with the emails... People are stupid. They will buy or get anything that others get, without even looking what it is.

But yeah, reddit is shit. Those people hate any sort of promo, even if it's actually a valuable promo. Not to mention too much of a liberal bias.
The trick is to hide your offer in plain sight, carefully woven into some kind of inspiring story that gets tons of upvotes, attention and questions.

comments like
“how did you do it?”
“How much money did you make?”

and your offer is somewhere in the story like “oh yeah BTW I learned how to do this by taking a course over at (your own course URL)”

also would want to use a dummy account
 

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