4 Signs You Shouldn’t Start an Online Store

I recently received the following email from a reader who wanted to learn how to start an online store:

Hi Andrew – I have just spent $5,500 with [X training program] online, and feel like I got ripped off. I have not found my NICHE. I have information overload with their tutorials and weekly discussions.

I am 60 years old. Love fashion and beauty. Am a grandmother. Am single and living alone. Financially needy. Capable, but not particularly internet savvy. Have read your advice through Google on drop shipping and my question is: HOW DO I FIND A NICHE? Please help!  – Alice (name changed)

I get a surprising number of emails like this, and they are heartbreaking to read. Why? Because someone in a tight place financially (a 60-year-old single woman, no less) is out a large sum of money that almost certainly wasn’t a good investment. Because apart from the financial loss, this woman is now frustrated and upset. And because it underlies the pervasive mentality that with the right “system,” anyone can strike it rich online.

This isn’t a hit piece against online training programs or information products. When purchased by the right people – and when they contain quality information – educational products can be a great investment.

Starting out, I spent $800 per month (yep, not a typo!) for a short period to be part of an online SEO and marketing training community. And the roughly $4,000 I spent overall was a good investment, as it helped me generate tens of thousands of dollars in free traffic. The key difference between my situation and Alice’s was that I was in a position to fully apply my training, both from a timeframe and skills perspective.

What I do want to address head-on is when it’s not a wise decision for you to open an online store.  Below are four telltale signs that you probably shouldn’t start an online store. I don’t write these to discourage you, but rather to provide a realistic perspective that you won’t find on the sales pages of over-hyped training programs.   This is especially true today in 2018 as the eCommerce landscape has become more competitive while courses offering “easy Amazon riches” have become popular.

The only thing worse than postponing your business plans is wasting months – or even years – of time and money because no one was honest with you about what was really required to succeed.

You Need to Make Money Fast

If you need to make money quickly, starting an eCommerce business is a really bad idea. Opening an online store is an involved process that takes months to research and launch, and usually years to build into a significant and sustainable income. If you need extra cash to pay this month’s rent or just don’t have enough to make ends meet, your best bet is to increase your income through a traditional job for the short term.

This doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to being employed for the rest of your life, but it’s what you’ll realistically need to do to meet pending obligations. Anyone who tells you that you can start quickly making significant money with little work online – especially with a pre-built “system” – is selling you a pipe dream. Like all legitimate businesses, eCommerce stores take time to grow.

Additionally, you’ll need to make decisions in the best long-term interest of your business, which are usually opposed to short-term financial needs. If you’re using every cent of profits to pay bills, you can’t afford to re-invest in your business.

You Need a Guarantee

I repeatedly hear in emails:

“How can I be sure that this will work? I can’t afford to waste time on an idea/niche that isn’t successful.”

In the world of entrepreneurship, there are no guarantees despite what that slick-looking training program would have you believe. The only place to get a guaranteed return for your time is – you guessed it! – with a traditional job.

Being an entrepreneur means taking action without that guarantee of success. You do it strategically and with a well-thought-out and researched plan, but at the end of the day you move forward despite your doubts. With every business I’ve ever started, I’ve had doubts and reservations as to whether it would be successful or not. And while some ended up doing nicely, others didn’t fare as well. But I’d never know if I didn’t overcome my fears and take the plunge.

Educate yourself, research, agonize, and then make a decision despite your reservations. It’s the only option you have. And if you can’t afford for something not to work (i.e., if you’re “betting the farm” on a venture’s success), then you definitely shouldn’t be starting it.

You’re Not Willing/Able to Take a Step Back

Starting an online business requires a sacrifice of some kind, usually in the form of time or cash. You need to have one of these two currencies! If you’re not able to invest either, you won’t be able to build a viable business.

Every business success story has a tandem tale of investment, sacrifice or temporary setback. For me, it was working like crazy and saving for two years like a miser so I could afford to quit my job and ramp up my business. For previous guest-poster Kamal, it involved giving up his weekends to get his store online. Even Bill Gates had to drop out of Harvard to take a shot at starting Microsoft – something that, at the time, must have looked like a major step back.

Moving forward always requires taking a temporary and sometimes painful step back – it’s the only way to make real progress.

You’re Not Web Savvy

It has become significantly easier to start a business online today, even compared to just a few years ago. Services like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce have made it possible to get a store online without programming experience and with little tech knowledge (check out our Shopify vs Magento guide here). But if you’d describe yourself as “not web savvy” (like Alice), you’re likely going to struggle.

Being “web savvy” is simply the price of admission for trying to get a viable business online. If you have a hard time setting up an email account, doing online banking or using Facebook, you’re going to become incredibly frustrated trying to get a store online, even with all the easy-to-use tools available. As simple as these tools have become, they do require a basic level of online competency, as will most other resources you’ll need to build/market/operate your store.

Don’t Get Discouraged

Here’s the good news: Even if you’re not currently in a strong position to start you business, it’s always possible to get there. That might require prioritizing your finances to become more financially secure by leveraging an existing job or getting up to speed with basic web technologies. The circumstances above are not set in stone or hard-wired character attributes. All of them can be changed with time and effort.

And if you’re a bit older like Alice and outside the traditional 20-something stereotype for online entrepreneurs, please don’t get discouraged or interpret this post to mean that you can’t be successful!

I spoke with an eCommerce friend and coach last week who told me of a 70-something couple he works with who had recently launched a beautiful store. And I’ve personally received numerous emails from folks 60+ who are pursuing eCommerce from a position of strength and competency.

The bottom line? Make sure you’re starting an online business in the right position – and with the right expectations – and you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

An Alternative – Getting Paid to Learn?

If you’re just starting out, one less risky alternative is to get an internship or entry-level job to build your eCommerce skills.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely a less risky way to get some experience learn from people and companies that are making it work in the real world.

If that sounds interesting, you might want to check out the current internships and entry-level eCommerce positions posted on our job board.

The One Training I Can Recommend

Like I mentioned at the beginning, there are a lot of over-priced courses and eCommerce conferences out there that over promise and under deliver. But if you’re serious about learning how to start an online store (and don’t fall into any of the traps mentioned above) there’s one training series I can fully endorse.

My good friend Steve Chou has been successfully running his own eCommerce business for years and runs the best course I know of on how to do the same.  This is someone I know personally, consider a friend and have been impressed by the quality of his work and content.

His training is stuffed with hundreds of quality videos and step-by-step tutorials.  But my favorite part?  He makes himself personally available to his students to answer questions during regular “virtual” office hours.

You can learn more about how his training can help you build your own successful store right here. 

Disclosure:  The links above are affiliate links, which means I’ll get a commission if you buy Steve’s course. I use to offer my own training but Steve’s was so much better than mine I decided to just partner up with him!  

Photos by Swanksalot, Velo_City & Frederik De Buck

Andrew is the founder of eCommerceFuel and has been building eCommerce businesses ever since gleefully leaving the corporate world in 2008.  Join him and 1,000 vetted 6 and 7-figure store owners inside the eCommerceFuel Community.

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  • First! 🙂

    I must say I totally agree on this! I mean I can pay my bills, sometimes my finances are very cramped but I have the space to invest small amounts of money cause I have a job and I’m willing to dedicate alot of my spare time to eCommerce. Another factor I think you should have is having fun in doing businesses and not being afraid to fail from time to time. Playing the Ecommerce game shouldn’t give you stress. You should have pleasure doing it!

    • Fear of failure is an amazingly strong thing, and it keeps a lot of people from trying. And agreed – enjoying the process of building an eCommerce business is tremendously helpful, even if you’re not “in love” with what you’re selling!

      Thanks Thomas!

  • Thank you for the wonderful post! 🙂

    I would even add that when you think things are going great there will be times that you get a set back.
    I guess that is life of an entrepreneur. If it was easy then everyone would be doing it.

    Keep up the great work and thank you! 🙂

  • Yep! The entrepreneurial road is very bumpy, that’s for sure. Even when things are going well, there are usually a lot of small issues you’re always dealing with to solve / overcome. Thanks for reading Deyson, and for sharing.

  • Hi I read your ebook and found it very informative. As of now am still trying to find a niche. Ive done a ton of keyword research and my problem is that when you find keywords that say low competition when i type them into google they come up with 100,000,000,000 results. Maybe im not doing something right or you could give some tips.

  • I was about to make one addition to your list, Andrew, but Deyson has beaten me to the punch. Spot on. You will get thrown for a loss from time to time, and you have to be able to get back up the next morning and start over. Relentless optimism is a requirement for success (in any endeavour, for that matter!).

  • I think this is an important topic. Good work bringing it to light. Nobody wants to squash someone’s dream, but some people aren’t in tune with the reality of entrepreneurship. I heard echoes of Vaynerchuk’s “lack of talent” claim from your interview with him a few weeks back.

    Good post Andrew.


    • Thanks Kev! Telling people in a specific situation that a business probably isn’t right for them at a given time is tough, but I think it’s much better than simply cheering them on with the knowledge they’re not starting on solid footings. Tried to balance the two in this piece, and Vaynerchuk’s “not everyone can do it” definitely was in mind as I wrote.

      Also, not sure if you noticed my message on Twitter by you’re the winner of this month’s 1-on-1 consulting giveaway! Let me know if / when works to schedule. Best way to contact me is via the address here:

  • Great post, Andrew.

    I often forget that there are people that aren’t at all “web-savvy” until I spend 30 minutes on the phone with my Mother trying to help her log into Skype. 🙂

    Any specific resources you know of that I can send people to that will (mostly) get them up to speed on the web?

    • Thanks Justin! For those of us who spend 8+ hours a day online, it seems like a no brainer. But it is definitely something I think some folks struggle with and hear about frequently via email. No good resources come to mind for basic training (apart from maybe, which seems like it might be a good opportunity in the marketplace.

      Hope things are well with you and your business!

  • Thanks for the good post, Andrew.

    Too many training products and webinars play the artificial scarcity card so much that they mentally bully someone into buying their products when this person just isn’t ready.

    I’ve sadly seen friends invest gobs of money into services when they were in no position to do so. So thank you for providing a dose of honesty to the online business world, which has too many people selling magic beans.

    • There’s definitely a fine-line between salesmanship (in which scarcity or a limited timeframe can be used with integrity) and over-hyping a product and making false promises. I don’t have as much of a problem with the sales process, but rather with the promises made by a program – and with the position that some buyers think they can execute well from when in reality they can’t.

      Thanks for sharing, Scott!

  • Hi,
    First of all, I want to thank you for all the useful information that you provide. I only wish I had read about you a few months ago when I was thinking about an online store. Unfortunately, I went through scams and rip offs so now I find myself in a very difficult financial situation which bothers and worries me tremendously. I am not used to this situation so it makes me feel very uncomfortable and discouraged, but since I invested a lot of money, I am NOT going to give up. I want to remain focused and gather all the knowledge and help I can from HONEST people like you!
    Reading the posts, helps me not to feel so lonely in this situation.
    Once again, thank you!

    • I’m sorry to hear about the difficult situation – that sounds hard. Hopefully the eBook and blog are useful as you’re continuing your learning process. Best of luke, Jean!

    • Jean,

      Keep going! Being scammed is part of the process for many people. If you read “The Richest Man in Babylon,” there are many business/life lessons in there.


  • Hey Andrew, great post as I am sure many people run into these technology and entrepreneurial roadblocks. But what can you tell dreamers out here about where to go to find out how to start off? what is the first step? learn how to use facebook? then a web site? then Shopify? and what about learning how to deal with inventory management and shipping? An online course you can recommend for beginners? what I guess I am asking, on behalf of the folks who have little experience with online technologies, platforms, marketing et all, where do they begin? Can you recommend one or several useful books to read? a sequence for acquiring skills needed? There are so many courses our here, so many books, so many tutorials.. How do you know you are not wasting your money and valuable time in your learning process? thanks, ANNE

    • Anne – Great question. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a easy cut-and-paste path to follow for being technologically savvy. I think the best way is to start learning how to do things one step at a time. If you’re not familiar with basic web technologies (Email, Facebook, etc) then you need to learn how to do those first. This could be through trial and error, or by taking a basic computing class at a local college or vocational school. Then, as you become proficient with the basics you can start to better educate yourself in terms of what you need to know to get where you want to be.

      For anyone to succeed online, they need to be able to teach themselves skills by reading, researching and acting. Otherwise, it will be extremely difficult.

      Thanks for reading and for your very applicable question.

      • Andrew, while your advise was good on becoming more savy in the world of technology, all the other parts of her important question were left unanswered. U definitely would love to hear your responses! Looking forward to learn from you.

  • Andrew,

    Great post – again! You point out some good points in this post. For me, my favorite one was, “You need a gurantee.” I’ve learned that in life there are never any guarantees and there will always be risk. In business you risk your resources – money and time – w/o any guarantees of success. Therefore, “fail faster and get smarter.”


    • It’s true! Almost all entrepreneurs have had their fair share of failures, and it’s a great way to learn – assuming you’re making progress, learning from your mistakes, and not being reckless. 🙂

  • Hi Andrew,
    As always, a great post! I have messaged you quite a few times on Facebook, and each time, you have been kind enough to reply with thoughtful answers. Thank you very much.

    I have to admit, the first time i came across your blog, i really loved the posts, but i kept going through the pages trying to find out what it is you were “selling.” After all, who would be giving away such great content for absolutely FREE? But i never found anything. I think this post answers my then-concern.

    You are genuinely trying to help people. And not only that, but your posts have quality. I think what most budding entrepreneurs in any field look for are other successful people – it gives us encouragement that we can do it too. I look forward to all of your future posts. Thank you very much, and good luck to you in all and any of your endeavours.

    • Thanks Shabbir! Appreciate your kind words, and glad I’ve been able to help. 🙂

      One thing I should make clear: I don’t think selling things online is bad at all. And while I haven’t launched anything major yet, I do have plans to release some premium paid training in the future. But what I DO think is crucial is to 1) Make sure I add real value for buyers 2) Be realistic with the claims of what a product will help people achieve and 3) Provide a LOT of value up-front before asking for anything (ie – selling something!) in return. That’s why I’ve been slow to sell anything – I want to make sure people know I’m genuine, and interested in offering a lot of value for free first.

      So hopefully that doesn’t burst your bubble of me, or make you think I’m a terrible opportunist. I’d like to make a little money from the blog eventually as it takes a tremendous amount of time to do well. But I just want to make sure I do so in a way that has integrity and is VERY worthwhile to my readers / customers.

      Thanks for reading!

  • This is very valuable information and it should be posted somewhere out there for the gullible like me to read. Had I read it before my mistake, I might not have made it. Every senior considering a business venture should read it. Like Alice, I invested as well. But in my case, I invested my entire retirement fund. To all seniors, don’t do it. My web-site never appeared. And now I have to live on the social security they want to take away.

    • Martha – I’m very sorry to hear, that’s terrible. Your story is great reaffirmation that I’m glad to have posted this. Thanks for sharing, and I hope things turn up for you.

  • Thanks for the tips and a great post,Andrew. It took me 4 years and lots of learning to start making money online and I still have not achieved my Internet business goals. But, I’m on the way. Sure but steady. I probably spent about $10,000 so far in various software, membership sites etc. But, I’m loving it. This year, I’m off to Hawaii, a 15 day trip on the Ghan(railway in Australia) and a 30 day travel in India.
    I just want to encourage people like Alice and Martha, that one can achieve a good income from the Internet. There are several different business models on the internet and you need to analyse and decide what you want to do along with finding that niche. Then comes sifting through with keyword research. I have a list of niches. Just make the list up from hobbies, clickbank, amazon, dummy books etc. Once you have the list then sift it by keyword research. Good luck.
    I also like your reply to Shabbir. You are a honest man and you give great value.

    • Despite not having achieved your full-term goals, sounds like you’re doing well, have learned a lot and are having a ton of fun – well done! Thanks for sharing, and for your encouraging comment – and best of luck as you’re working toward your goal. And have fun on your upcoming trips!

  • Thanks for the great post Andrew! Your advice seems applicable to not only the online store but any type of business, too, these days.

    Being an entrepreneur is a tough, risky and long journey but I can see it being very rewarding. I have yet to see if I can make a living off of my business but never in my life was I so happy making $1 a day haha. Reminds me of this quote “A dollar earned is better than five found.” – Abraham Lincoln.


  • Hello,Andrew!
    Thank you for your help. Your blog updates are the ones of a few that I havn’ t deleted from my mail list. I have few questions to you. I’ve noted that if I choose one of the niches that are good to develop but you have no interest in it, there is very difficult to promote it on the net for link bulding. You have to write blog post on that topic, participate in forums,etc. But it’s very difficult to do it for you because you’re not familiar with it. What your advice? I heard that it’s best to build your business, based on your strength, not on your weaknesses. Is that right? Also I want to know what I may do to avoid mistake of buying another “great formula to success” that will fail but you’ve already invested much time and money? And what your advice for encouraging of yourself to keep doing things with so many failures? I tried many things online and keep trying, with very little success. But I like all this staff related to inet, and I keep trying. From the Rich Dad book I remember the sentance, when Rich Dad was always giving tasks for his sons to make money without investing money. This was his main task.

    • Thanks for not unsubscribing! 🙂 To your questions:

      1) It can be difficult to promote something you’re not passionate about, so I think you need to be passionate about either 1) the topic 2) the aspect of building the business or 3) getting out of your current situation. When I started my radio business, I really had no initial interest in radios, but I learnt about them because that’s what was required to be make the site successful. And as it grew, I did become more successful about them. So in that aspect, the passion was tied to the business growth and I really enjoyed that, and it allowed me to work through the harder, less glamorous parts that weren’t as interesting.

      2) I think two things in terms of buying “another secret formula. First, is the problem the training course or lack of action? If the content is quality material, you need to make sure you’re following through and taking action on what it teaches. Secondly, I’d recommend only buying products that are very well reviewed and/or from people who you trust and have demonstrated they offer a lot of value in the past. This way, you’re much more likely to get a high quality product worth the price. You’ll likely never find a product that lays out a magic “system” for making money – there’s just too many variables. But you can find great products that help educate you so you can make the right decisions with the right knowledge to best grow your business.

      Hope this helps.

      • I totally agree!! Be careful who you talk to because there are many scams..Many people/companies that just want to take your money. As I mentioned before, I wish I would’ve found Andrew earlier, I would’ve saved a lot of money…hahahaha. He has great advise and is trustworthy!
        Talking about advise, I got an email from offering their service and comparing themselves with Google AdWords. Any good info about this?
        I used Google Webmaster tools. How long do they take to reply?
        What is Google Merchant Center? Is all this worthwhile or just too much right now?
        Sorry for all these questions and thank you for any replies.

  • Andrew, can you talk more about branding? Are the methods that you outline in your ebook and in your video course still applicable for people who are shooting for authority niche stores, not just small automated ones? I know there is a range of ways you can make money and personally, I like devoting 150% on “a baby” or something I really care about and trying to get it right the first few times around in order to cultivate it into a mega store, even if it means it takes a few years. Other people like to have a store here and there and manage 10 mini stores. While I’m not opposed to the latter, I’m often turned off by the hideous designs. Really, I’m such a visual person and I find it so hard to believe that with such an ugly site that it actually produces $X as some people claim that their website does. Then I go on to read about how I should buy their ebook. It seems like many people peddle these as excuses to sell the ebook or course which is where they really make the money.
    Don’t misunderstand me though, I’m not saying you’re doing that. I think your content speaks for itself and your site is full of content. I’m curious if it’ll be better to focus on becoming a huge brand and working towards building up one store or if my chances for success are greatly reduced if I go that route? Should I just stick to minimal web design and focus on content? I KNOW I shouldn’t think like that but when I see a really cleanly modern designed website versus something that looks like its from the 1999 geocities era, I subconsciously correlate looks with money or revenue. It’s not true of course, its just something that bothers me in the back of my mind.

    Here’s an example. I dont know if you know the brand Leerburg but they carry all kinds of stuff dog related. Any dog owner or dog trainer would be hard pressed not to recognize that name Leerburg. They have branded their own collars and dog supplies, they carry other manufacturer’s stuff, but the biggest BIGGEST thing they have going for them is production and content. Ed Frawley is a genius when it comes to this and he has some of the top dog trainers working UNDER him as he produces their content, I.E. Michael Ellis. It benefits both of them. But I have found that even myself, I will pay a premium for his stuff despite that there are lots of the similar products on Amazon because he has over 2000 videos on demand describing various pros and cons, and has authority in the world of dog training. He never stops producing content and I am subscribed to a lot of his media stuff, i.e. youtube for the latest stuff.
    I’m not saying I’ll go into the dog supply business (Very competitive) but looking at this example, he has been at it for 10 or 20 years building Leerburg and it has finally paid off. You can tell right off the bat that his revenue must be in the millions especially with the new video on demand stuff. Each DVD on demand is right around $65 and it sells too! (I know i hang out at dog forums). So .. would it be best to put in all your skills and try to grow one business (eggs in one basket) assuming that the business has shown some profitability in the beginning, or is it more time efficient and passive to start up a bunch of small automated niche stores? I cant help but worry that there is just too much to manage with 10 different niche stores, so many suppliers, back up suppliers, different products, different everything. Basically, spread out too thin. Whereas if you focus on one thing and you grow and grow and become an authority in that field, you become a big player. Leerburg out sells and out plays Amazon and Petco and big box stores because of this which is very impressive.

    What’s your take on this whole branding, expansion, 1 store mentality vs. “half assing” multiple small ones? I’ve looked into importing and even selling just 1 profit at a good margin through ebay and amazon channels, which is possible if you find one good product and scale it. But I cant help but feel like my days are numbered, it’s not sustainable for years to come, certainly cant retire off of it, maybe a venture that is meant to last a few years at most. Then start a new one. Not necessarily bad, just different.


    • David,

      I have been doing ecommerce for 15 years now. I have had multiple ecommerce sites with one becoming rather large (12 employees). If I had to give advice to someone starting out it would be to create one really good site and give 100% to growing that site. The days of throwing up a quick website and making money are almost gone. Here are my reasons:

      * Every time I launched a new website it took focus off my primary site and in turn hurt it. I found myself having to abandon the new site to go back to the primary site. Eventually I closed many of these new sites as after years they were going nowhere.
      * With all the changes in SEO, it has become almost a full time job doing SEO for one site much less multiples. The days of good results from getting 1,000 links for $100 from India are over. Quality is now required and quality takes your time or your money.
      * Most popular niches are becoming saturated. Most people starting out with no employees will not have the time or energy to get multiple sites to succeed. I meet people often that have 5, 10, 20, etc. websites and none of them are making any money. When each site only gets a couple hours a week of time it just isn’t going to be a huge success.
      * While Google may or may not admit it, there is a brand bias with search engines. Building a solid brand will only help you. But once again, that is very time consuming for one site much less multiples.
      * Lastly is “Burn Out”. About 5 years ago this hit me hard in trying to run multiple sites and juggling all the needs. Focusing on one single site simplifies everything and makes your life easier. Multiple sites mean multiple everything. SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Content Creation, website updates, vendor updates, etc, etc.

      My advice is to pick a niche you have at least some interest in and give it everything you have. While your competition is spreading themselves thin running multiple sites you can beat them with your 100% focus:) Hope this helps.

      • SAGE advice, Brian! Thanks for sharing it!

        I 100% agree with you on focusing on one site with just a few caveats: if you have a solid team in place to help take over operations once the site is up-and-running, I think it’s possible to run more than one well. But for the early stages of getting the store up-and-running I think focusing on one at a time is crucial. Even afterward, it’s hard to do numerous sites well.

        I also agree with you on branding, and think it’s getting more and more crucial. Building a brand is really the only way to create a valuable long-term business.

        Thanks for your advice, Brian! Any new eCommerce entrepreneur would do well to listen to it.

        • Absolutely great post, and I’m also totally on board with Brian’s input. I’ve been working on&off in eCommerce for about 7 years, and decided to go at it myself this year. The biggest mistakes I’ve seen company owners make are:

          1. Assuming that starting an online store is easy.
          2. Starting an online business without any web knowledge.
          3. Expecting immediate results.
          4. Putting all their eggs in the “SEO basket”.
          5. Putting all their eggs in their “Social Media” basket.
          6. Not willing to invest in either.

          The sad part is that these mistakes usually come in the same package, because not understanding the work involved makes for a very messy plan, bad organization, overspending, and misdirection of freelancers. I also wholeheartedly agree with Andrew on the importance of branding. Although many marketing experts now predict that branding is losing importance, when it comes to eCommerce I think we’re working with a whole other set of game rules. I actually found a really good slide on this yesterday, you can find it here
          (I promise it’s a good honest share, not a plug!).

          Great post, thanks for this!

          • Thanks, Michelle! Agreed with all the mistakes you listed – well said. I’ll definitely check out the presentation.

            Congratulations on striking out on your own this year, and best of luck with the upcoming launch of The Therapy Boutique!

  • hey dude,
    I absolutely love your stuff! I am starting an online store and your content is golden for beginners especially your eBook but you really need to post more content. There aren’t many people in the eCommerce space that have content like you offer so you could really become an authority in the space.

    Keep if up

    • Thanks James! Appreciate the kinds words. Hoping to post more frequently this Spring when a few projects finish up, so stay tuned. Best of luck!

  • Great article. These online training videos and books promising easy and instant riches make me sick. No different than the buying and selling property will make you rich training courses that were out in 2005-2008.

    • I definitely remember those! Make millions flipping properties with other people’s money without investing a $1 of your own capital. They always were on late-night TV, too.

      Thanks for the comment, Mike!

  • Andrew, right to my heart! I am 60 years old but computer savvy, and with 5 years to develop an online business. I think you have a niche here: Baby Boomers entrepeneurs!

    • Baby boomer entrepreneurs – nice! I’ll have to write a post titled “Using a Social Security Check to Bootstrap your eCommerce Business.” 🙂

  • Hi, nicely post.
    Would you like to give me some online marketing advices for international market with my Vietnamese lantern lamp products?


  • Thank God i found your blog Andrew 🙂 Your post is great, well written, you are a helpful man.
    I will remember sign number one: You Need to Make Money Fast.
    Ah ya, greetings from Indonesia, i just download and reading your ebook right now. Thank You for the good source you shared. Keep the good work Andrew.

  • Hi Andrew –

    I have read many reviews of WWBs. Here are some quotes – “They also flat out lie about the number of drop shippers they have literally they have about 200 drop shippers and the rest of the suppliers are liquidators”; ” you ever wondering why there are so many glowing reviews of World Wide Brands his affiliates, he pays them 25% of the $250-300.00 he charges. He gets 250.00 they get 75.00 per sale”; and here is one member’s story when he tried to call in one drop ship company. He was asked “can you please explain to me what drop shipping is because we have had a lot of phone calls about it lately?”

    What do you think of thses comments? Did you use WWBs for brainstorming only or you actually found your nich idea and drop ship suppliers through WWBs?

    Thank you Andrew.


    • No site is perfect, but I’ve used WWBs for a long time to brainstorm ideas and find suppliers. I think they are best for brainstorming ideas, but also can be helpful to track down suppliers quickly. That being said, their list of suppliers is by no means comprehensive as I’ve also found suppliers I use that weren’t listed in there.

      Bottom line? I think it’s a great service for brainstorming and finding suppliers but it’s not the end-all-be-all of supplier directories. Hope this helps.

  • This is part of my research and education to get started. I lost my job in 2011 and then had a motorcycle accident in 2012 leaving me paralyzed from the chest down. I am going to college for a business degree in human resources using my GI bill. I really just need a little spending money so I am looking to start a business online and am using Blogs and online tutorials to teach myself how to do it. Thanks for your honest feedback concerning this topic. I am wrestling with spending the monthly fee for DOBA membership as I have been trying to not spend any funds on development. You have made me see that even though I have these strong reservations concerning spending this money it will be temporary and will probably teach me a few pointers as well. Thanks very much.


    • Steve – Best of luck as you’re pursuing your options! One piece of advice: I would advise against spending the money on DOBA. They tend to be expensive, and there are much better directories for the price. You can also find suppliers for free with Google. If you haven’t yet, see this video:

      Best of luck!

    • I normally don’t leave comments, but DOBA is horrible — be extremely careful! It’s hard to make money with them. Most of the time, you can just buy it cheaper retail.

      • Thanks for the comment, Sammy. I haven’t personally used them, but I’ve heard enough mixed reviews from folks to make me wonder the same thing.

  • Andrew, this was really informative. Thank you! I am researching the pros and cons of starting an online store. I’m a rookie, but I want to gather as much good advice as I can.

  • Hi Andrew
    I am a newbie to the world of E commerce. Considering purchasing business-in-a-box concept from pure-ecommerce. All the research so far has positive feedback, however I am still skeptical as the financial lay-out is considerable. Do you have any experience or knowledge of their support and products. The websites and products they load all look amazing and their website designs and layouts are very attractive. Any advise would be much appreciated.

  • Hi Andrew, I think this was a great comment. I’m 57 and instead of discouraging me, I feel you are encouraging me to set up my online business. You are telling us the real thing about business in general. So, thank you very very much.


  • Thanks for the points you’ve mentioned here. I’m just getting my feet wet on an online store business, together with my husband and I know I gotta do a lot of hard work on this, since I am the one working part-time and he’s got a full time job. Hopefully, everything will turned out well through time.

  • Great and realistic advice from Andrew. What Alice faced is also true for many aspiring entrepreneurs- being bombarded on a daily basis with loads of information. I think the most important decision is to find the niche product that you are going to deliver to solve your customers’ problems. But again, there is no guarantee that it will be successful. Do the 80% research and decide base whether to move based on that. Indecision is the worse decsion that an entrepreneur can ever make.

    • Absolutely. It’s better to do something, fail and learn than to do nothing at all.

  • Hi, Andrew,
    Thanks. Your inputs would be very helpful as I start to get into an online business. Most often, those person that discourage you are those persons who are afraid to fail. I believe that you would not know the meaning of success if you did not experience failures. That’s it.

  • I’ve recently decided to get involve in ecommerce. I have a target niche in mind and my career as a nurse auditor allows me sufficient time to dedicate in my business. However, as a beginner, I am unsure of where to start. Please advise!

    • Dear Nicky,

      You may need to start with registration of your business as per your country rule.
      Though there are countries that allow home based business without any registration.
      Once you are done with this. All you need to do is:
      1) Decide where you want to sell. Marketplace like eBay or want to start your own website.
      2) Open a bank account
      3) Get the photographs clicked by professional photographer.
      4) Decide on packaging.
      5) Talk to shipping service provider.

      Hatim Laxmidhar
      The Way It Works

  • Interesting and smart. I myself, at 59 am a retail ops manager for a large company. Being a previous small business owner for many years, I am interested in the proposition of an e-commerce based business. My big question: the inventory – with suppliers needing substantial minimum orders and such, where do you keep it?

    Eclectic home decor and gifts are my niche.

  • Yup, makes sense to learn this in your spare time, then when you’re making enough income to replace your full time job income, then you are ready to jump ship into the drop shipping world.

    Then the world is your oyster when you armed with your laptop.

  • This article permeates the fog of thoughts that encumber a hesitant starter. It is truly insightful. Thanks.

  • Thank you for such a great article, it took me a long time to build up courage to even attempt giving e-commerce a try!

    Right now I’ve settled with using OpenCart, luckily the support staff have been very helpful and guided me along the way. Shopify and BigCommerce gave a very compelling pitch with their features but with the monthly fees and transaction fee’s I didn’t think it was viable for someone like me.

    Keep up the good writing!

  • You should check out DTS-NET.COM and they offer so many online store options with the web hosting service that will not break the bank

  • well not as old as alice but well out of my 20s and 30s, so i’m up there. disabled since 1995 (almost 20 years) with rheumatoid arthritis and now lupus and all that comes with it, married, and don’t have enough work credits in certain years to qualify for disability. so other than age and financially needy, alice and I are slightly different. I am computer savvy and spend all day on the computer. in the process of starting an online store and found your insight and advice very helpful and wanted to let you know that. in addition to my circumstances, I feel an online store would be less expensive than brick and mortar, and would eventually lead me to financial independence. I am in the process of looking for a regular job I can physically do but at my age and my health, it’s been a cut throat world out there for me. nonetheless, I haven’t given up. thanks again and many blessings to you.

  • You know Andrew this can seem discouraging knowing which route to go even if you’re a person that has some affiliation with websites, internet and such. My precious wife picked up a nice little business opportunity while I was down on my luck and unable to provide for the family. The niche is definitely there and I believe even though there is robust competition we have a better product in a lot of ways.

    I have been researching tediously to configure a plan to make this take off. It is evident the last owners concentrated mostly on the corporate customers we have and SEO was not their forte. It’s our saving grace that there are some great clients established, but the web presence is lacking if not dead.

    I’ve looked into some of the storefronts and have come to the conclusion to use the two you promoted in your article. My train of thought is to move the existing site we have to HostGator from GoDaddy for security and other obvious reasons and then start an SEO campaign on that website.

    My next thought is to start two storefronts, to get a different feel out there and incorporate a better search rank name into the mix, something that complements the original site but has a better optimization foot print. My choices for the store fronts are the ones you’ve mentioned.

    My question is, where am I at after the creation of the stores, am I sitting in the same position I already have where know I need to spend extra cost to optimize and set them up for some real traffic? Or if I pick the right package with the store provider do they provide a certain level of optimization and other tools applied that drive traffic to your site and move you up in the page rankings? It’s hard to read between the lines on most sites.

    My concern is to not end up with what I already have. At this time you cannot even find our website except for exact phrase. Which I believe is sad because it is a great name.

    Back to the storefronts, I am hoping that they provide the SEO, some analytics and the normal support one applies to bringing a site to a noticeable realm. I ask you this even though, I know all the lingo and can read on this stuff all day long but have never had to apply the situation.

    I also have been introduced to and reviewed the companies that do the whole package for you like for the $5,600.00. Which sounds great, but do they drop you or I mean there’s a set up and running good package, but then it’s ongoing $$ support to keep the SEO and stuff going? I know Copy is King so I am prepared to make new content for the sites and that commitment on my part. But it sounds as though you’re really looking at a full time service?

    My other adventure is I will be starting a deal with a third party affiliate the first of the year that will buy our product and then resale it on their sites which is EBay, Amazon along with a couple of other sites. This is why I am looking at starting two of our own stores not affiliated with those sites to spread out at the same time in the market.

    They say I should sale on the same sites also? I believe with the store fronts mentioned they set you up for EBay and Amazon? I don’t see it that way. What do you think Andrew about competing with the same product in the same store fronts?

    My other research is to also set up a fulfillment house and go that direction?

    It is also my thought that since I have a WordPress site already built I could easily use the same material for building quality storefronts with quickness. Is that true? Migrating a copy over to another front?

    Another thought is for the 5,600.00 I can build these storefronts and setup all that I have mentioned and accomplish this with some monthly payments leftover. Sound feasible Andrew?

    The only other thought is a quality program to manage every transaction to the shopping cart I already use. I have done no research in this area yet. Any suggestions would help.

    I guess some of my main concerns are, if I start a store front with Shopify and BigCommerce are they optimized? What is expected of me down the road to be successful? I can see it paying the monthly bill for the site but really am opting for more. I hope there are no hidden surprises?

    I will also start a blog site for the safety industry to drive traffic our way and maybe get some click counts coming in.

    I am willing to get this going and apply the profit to make it better. My concern is will this kickoff right with this plan that I have mentioned. Seems it would be good idea to get a part time web developer to give me a hand?

    Thanks Andrew

    I appreciate your time and the Post.
    Sincerely Don

  • I have to say that this article for very helpful. I am 26 years old and although my time may not be running out quickly, I feel sometimes that it is. I currently reside in St. Louis and I have been really contemplating on opening a shoe store. I have received some great feedback from others who have run similar stores. I was advised to try to start online before opening a store-front to build clientele and increase my revenue. I have been researching info on starting an online business and Missouri tax laws, etc. I was really thinking about giving up because of information overload. That was until I ran into this article. I have to say it is sooo refreshing to hear someone tell you what you’re getting yourself into. I still don’t really know where to start but reading this article I believe I need to build funds to proceed with any of the two. I really want to say THANK YOU for this. I will take this information and use it wisely.

  • Great article and great comments as well. Tons of valuable information!!
    As an entrepreneur I know how bumpy the road can be and the sacrifices it takes. I completely agree Andrew about the finances. It’s important to not only be able invest back into your business but not be in a position of severe struggle. If you are in a position to pay your bills and invest, its easier to love what you do. You can invest your time and energy into it without that extra stress. It can affect your mindset and the way you come across to others as well. It’s important to come from a position of strength not desperation. Love that part Andrew a lot of people fail to mention it.

  • I would like to say that I would love to start my own online store, and I have a name for it and everything. I am a stay at home mom kind of. I have been through collage. I am very good with a computer. I just need some help setting up a website. I have all kinds of things to sell I would like have like an online yard sale or a like a resale shop. Not only do I have things from my 3 kids I have a ton of stuff from my brothers kids and friends kids, I also make handmade jewelry. So is there anyone that could help me?

  • Hi! I´ve a serious question. I´m from Spain and I´m getting started a online store. The niche that I´ve thought there is much more demand in EEUU, UK, France or Australia than in Spain. After of measuring the competition, for example in EEUU and UK there are fairly online retailers .so I am not make sure to sell in those countries because I don´t think that American customers will be confident to buy in my online store which is located in Spain. I really want to work with American dropshippers to sell there. My question follow below:

    Should I only focus my online shop on the European market?

    Thanks in advance. I am hopeful that you can help me.

  • When I saw the title of your piece I thought, ‘oh crap, do I really want to see this? What if it all applies to me?’ And it did, but the ‘yeses’ and ‘noes’ were in the right place! I started the process for an on-line brownie bakery 4 years ago and got interrupted by work. Website, domain & most infrastructure is done. I’ve had a B&B w/restaurant for 16 years & was/am the pastry chef, accountant, maintenance, social media contact/maintainer (?) and pretty much everything else. Fortunately, the project is ready to be dusted off, the details finished, and I’m ready to get this baby up and going, hopefully by the fall. I don’t have a ton of $, but I do have a ton of energy and determination. And lots of contacts. I’m 62. Keep your eyes open for Bo’s Bodacious Brownie Bakery. 🙂

  • i want to start online and brick and mortar store in niche of accessories. How do i go for researching about the niche.

  • I totally agree with this article
    I think i wanna tell my story as a on line store owner (Sorry for my english)

    I’m italian and successful on line store owner,I sell close to 300 euros merchandise a day but these months (july to september) not the greatest months for online business.

    Anyway i’m now 27 and i never used a computer until i’m 21 y old ,not learned from anywhere or not even paid for a e-books….. I just started it with no knowledge and i searched google for all the small tasks, believe me there are lot of videos & articles that teach you pretty much every thing.

    It took me 2 months to setup and go on line, and for next 3 months i did not sold a single merchandise and even after that i did not saw lot of visiters or sales, but i never gave up and just uploaded lot of products every week (honestly some time i had a feeling this is really stupid and time wasting thing)

    1 year and 2 months later my website started having alot of traffic and lot of sales. 80% products i’m shiping with cash on delivery, so customers don’t have to worry about any thing.

    I did all this while doing my day job ,i still doing it ….

  • I always get into debate with colleague which are not tech savvy about how to market and all they need to create to have a “successful” ecommerce website. Startup often have good idea or product, but no marketing and no underlying knowledge of how computer and internet works.

  • Although you make good points – being tech savvy isn’t required anymore. With ecommerce software like “Speeda” or “Big Commerce”, it’s really easy to get going now. Furthermore, you can get traffic through social media too, “friends of friends” are easy to convert.

    I would argue now is the best time.

  • Loved this, what a great perspective. In the process of researching for my new business, and the only thing I am struggling with is giving my time up- I worked for 2 years with no weekends, and right now I am trying to enjoy some family time before I dive head first into my venture. I am getting so excited/nervous. Ultimately though I believe if you are doing something you love and are willing to put the necessary work into something (research, time, etc) you can make it successful.

  • There are several reasons why, and here are a few:.
    No one but Bill Gates has tat much available money.
    Thiss is aan easy way to get started-take one marketing strategy,
    learn and hone it.

  • I only made this decision yesterday to start an on line business. So I’m definitely ‘green’. But hungry and I believe ready. Any and all ideas/ advice are welcome. Thank-you for your post. Now…where to start?

  • Thank you for this information. It was a reality check for me. Although I’m not quite ready to operate my business ready this encouraged me!

  • Thanks! I came upon this actually researching how to compete with online stores as in the process of opening a brick and mortar, I just found out someone is about to start a similar project as mine, in my neighborhood but online. I’m in the self doubt, scared of failing stage right now and even though this article does not directly relate to my endeavor, it did give me back the motivation I’ve had when the idea first popped in my head! Thanks!!!

  • I have been dying to try my hand at jewlry design & making & thought it would be easy to have an online biz with only that, but now, I’m thinking to try farmers markets as a testing grounds, save money, getting better/quicker/more experience at making jewelry, & then use other supplemental things related to a jewelry theme to fortify my business.

  • Then send the postcard to all of the addresses in your area, and try to draw customers in. With
    good habit and savings, you can be assured of having enough to start your own business.

    A customer is injured while using a product you
    sold and files a claim for indemnity.

  • The site is in preparation at the moment and will be launched over the next few months, I’m not expecting to make money right away but I am willing to give it time, I find your advice very interesting and understand keeping my existing job very important as one will fund the other for a while.

  • Wow Andrew, thank you for that wonderful information. When I accessed “how do I start an online business”, out of all the responses I got, I chose yours because I needed to know what not to do, etc. When you know what not to do and expect, it gives you a reality view of the “what to dos”. Very insightful information. Thank you Kindly.

  • Hi Andrew,
    I don’t agree with your point that making a money faster online is not a good idea.There are a lot of websites that offers to sell your products online by using their platform.People even use social media to do online business and they running their business very well and with in a short period of time.

  • I’m 72 and just started a store selling my custom hand made back scratchers with a lifetime warranty. Your advice is well said. It’s so much different than 15 years ago. For several hundred dollars you can be up and running with your prototype. The biggest issue is getting page rank, which takes time and back links and social media. My daughter helped with the social side. Right now it’s a fun hobby that keeps me busy. I’m already taking advance orders for holiday delivery.

  • I believe the only point which could go negative with your plan for an Ecommerce store may be your less market research. In the current scenario, It won’t be good not to get into the Ecommerce domain. Ecommerce segment is the one we can call an exact an amazing alternative to the physical market places. All you need to do is to do it precisely and perfectly. One particular step to ensure your Ebusiness to flourish and to fetch you success is to choose such an Ecommerce store Builder which would create a full fledged online store for you.
    There are many amazing Online Store Builder who can help you out in this context but you should not limit your search to a few. You would need to be very peculiar which choosing your Ecommerce solutions partner.
    Ratoon(, not a very old Ecommerce Store Builder is one of the most amazing and client centric Ecommerce Website Builder I have come across recently. If you have any plans to get into the Ecommerce segment in India especially, I would readily suggest to check out Ratoon.
    You can also follow Ratoon for updates at:

  • I try to pull any kind of info about ecommerce businesses, I’d like to start. Thank you, for this short involve. If you would have time to guide me in more, Im going to appreciate your help! Good luck your business!

  • This is spot on! I run a successful online store and manufacturing company. As far as sacrifice, by business ramped up quickly, but I kept my full time job as a web developer for a year and a half before the business had reliable legs. It seems that I worked round the clock and earned each gray hair!

    Having web development skills helps a great deal and saves much money. I know more than I need to, but I would advise grabbing a book on html and css so you can make some simple tweaks to the site here and there as needed.

    Another skill that is great is to have some basic design sense and know how to use gimp/photoshop. If you don’t have these skills, you’d be surprised how many HS kids, college students, and crafty neighbors, do! You can stretch your start-up funds by offering a ‘portfolio opportunity’ to a young designer to provide some guidance and logos.

    The rewards are great, but take heed of this article’s points. It’s real!

  • Thank you for your hard work and honesty. It is very refreshing compared to everybody trying to sell these ‘get rich quick schemes’. You gave me the encouragement I needed, cause time is a resource I have plenty of. Being disabled & not able to physically work outside the home, you helped me to see, not all is lost. That my creativity can still be used, that I myself am still worth something.

    Thank you for your insight & encouragement, Holly

  • Thank you for a concise picture of what to consider before getting into the already overloaded rodeo of e-commerce. I’m another Alice – over 60 with a passion for a particular craft that I’d like to morph from a hobby into a business. I believe I have the skill at my craft and the confidence to make the transition, but know I’ve got a lot of research ahead of me. Thanks for a starting point!

  • Too many training products and webinars play the artificial scarcity card so much that they mentally bully someone into buying their products when this person just isn’t ready.

  • It’s terrible how people are ripped off. But it’s always wise to start small make mistakes, learn from them and then move to something bigger. Like the first car I bought was an old clunky car. I perfected my driving and then bought a better car. Similarly recently when I decided to start dropshipping business I bought a turnkey shopify store from I think I made the right choice.

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