Selling online is a fairly solitary occupation, this is something I’ve spoken about before. Last time I spoke about making friends but this time I’m talking about being a sole owner enterprise. It’s challenging to maintain the focus on the business, I’ve got no-one around to remind me of where I started, what I’ve achieved and where I planned to go. It’s a real challenge to stay focussed and sometimes I’ve managed it.
Just as a reminder, I started selling on a large auction site in a very small way. I then wanted more and opened up a store there, when they changed their rules I started my own website. The idea at that time was to market myself as selling cheap books. I undercut the market as I had a lot of books I’d bought at an incredibly cheap price and I was focussed on that. By the end of two years with this method I had not had a lot of sales and I’d managed to receive some business coaching at a fairly cheap price. Half way through the business coaching someone asked me how I could sell a book for $2, my answer would have been ‘well, it depends on the price I paid for it, I have a lot of books I bought for an average of 2c each’. Great answer, but I was interrupted and that gave me time to stop and think about it. It was at this point I realised I’d lost my original focus. I realised I’d started to get rid of books that were going to bring low prices and was pricing books a little higher than before. Those $2 were ones I didn’t want to carry any more as they were too cheap. I cannot tell you at what point I changed the focus as there was no conscious change, it was gradual.
Fast forward to my new website in September/October last year and I changed my goals, this time it was deliberate. My old website was on .asp and my new one is on .php, the whole website is different, the shopping cart is different, the format of the information is different and it meant I had to relist each book from scratch (well, almost from scratch, I was able to copy and paste some information). I took this opportunity to cull some books which will never sell so I’ve been going through my whole stock, listing books one at a time and making decisions about each one. Some of them have gone straight to the op shop, I take some there most weeks when I go in for my duty, some have gone to friends who sell that particular genre (romance – I do not like romance and have decided I will not sell them again, some children’s books have gone to friends) and the rest have been listed, but generally not at their original price. I have re-evaluated the prices on each one and have either raised or lowered them accordingly, some of them I’ve been quite horrified and can’t understand how come I put such a high price on them.
How is it possible to maintain the focus on your original goals? Is it appropriate to keep to your original goals? Both of these are very good and valid questions. If you’re wanting to maintain the focus and keep your original goals then you’re going to need to write them down. No doubt you have a business plan; this is something that should be revised every six months. If you’re like me and never bothered with one then it’s a good time to start, it doesn’t have to be terribly big, just something that has your goals for getting stock and how much you plan to pay for it, your goals for making sales and where you’d like to be in the future. I have always done my business on the fly and I know if I’d gone down the road of investing the time into writing a business plan I would never have gone ahead with the business, but I’ve seen one for a totally different business and it’s a super-fabulous thing to have. A business plan is something someone should discuss in detail on this blog, but it won’t be me in this article. All I’ll say about it is to make sure you review it at regular intervals to ensure you’re still on track or to change it should you feel it necessary.
So, what have I done? Yes, I’ve changed the focus and I think that’s a good thing as it means I’m making more money with each sale and I’ve become a little fussier about the condition of my books. As you’ve noticed I’ve also started to write, something that was never in my thinking anywhere in the next 100 years and I’m considering starting another blog as I’m really enjoying the writing and I need another outlet for some of the other topics I have in mind. That’s another change in focus, the difference is this one is planned and I’m doing the research and am even planning on writing a little business plan to get some idea of if there is an opening for this type of blog and whether it might actually bring in some money.