Starting Your Own Business- Work From Home – my story about selling online, direct to customers and dropshipping

I want to start by saying I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’m going to mention some of my online businesses but I’m just wanting to share my business journey.

I’m sure you’ve seen these stories and feeds popping up all over the internet and particularly in social media. I may get targeted for these types of feeds more as I am a new mother so they may be encouraging entrepreneurs as the thought of going back to work is quite horrible when you’ve been on maternity leave.
I must say, YES! I’d love to work from home, spend lots of time with my family and have an income supporting my family so I can provide for their financial needs.

I already have a successful career. I am a secondary school Science teacher. I enjoy working with young people and inspiring them to be the best they can be. Young people are themselves inspiring… even the naughty ones (every child is special). Unfortunately, there is too much interference from the government for what is required in teaching now and it is making doing the job much much more difficult than it should be. Despite loving the teaching aspect (which includes marking and feedback), the other unseen aspects are becoming a destructive force in my life and I’m struggling to see how I can continue in the profession and remain whole as a person. I need to be mildly happy at work so that I can come home and be the best mother and wife that I can be.

I have achieved quite a lot in my chosen career and as such I have a healthy level of self belief. Whatever I do, I work hard and do it well. It’s this self belief that leads me to believe that if I focus my energy into my own business, I could actually do quite well.

One thing I firmly believe though, even though I want to leave teaching, I shouldn’t start a business as an escape plan, I should start a business because I want to work in that industry. Otherwise I would not have the passion to make it a success. I need to be driven by positive energy rather than negative thoughts.

Convincing my parents (who have stuck to the same job their entire lives) and others that this is a good thing for me I’ve found to be challenging. Why should I work so hard to have a successful career only to walk away from it. I must be mad or just unable to cope with working (so just give up and be a housewife). I can tell you this instant… I know myself well enough to know that I’m not suited to being a housewife. I have friends who do that job and I admire them for how amazing they are at making a home but I just know that I need to do something else for me to be fullfilled. I am also passionate that I want to generate an income. There is a secret competitive part of me that wants to make more money than my husband who is also had a successful career. I don’t think he minds this idea (he’d rather that be my passion than buying expensive handbags for instance).

So what should I do? Well I’ve actually got a few things that I am trialling.

1. Artwork – I’m an artist that produces simple drawings. They tend to be based on childhood memories or my favourite films. I have a website where I can sell my artwork but to be honest, after I set this up I realised that I enjoy art as a hobby and making a business out of it would drain me creatively. So I’m happy to keep making artwork and selling it online, but I’m not bothered about becoming the next Damon Hurst.

2. Doughnuts! – I am a registered food producer and I make gormet doughnuts for sale at local farmers markets. I’ve called the brand Punk Doughnut. I don’t have a website as I’m promoting on Facebook, instagram and twitter. I set this up during my pregnancy and I’ve really enjoyed it. Designing a product, making it and selling it to a customer who enjoys it has been extremely fulfilling. The only problem is there has been a bit of investment at the start and I’m quite heavily pregnant at the moment so I’ve had to put a pin in the business as I’m not physically able to transport and sell the doughnuts as I’ve had some complications. I also realise that I am not going to be able to do any business whilst I am a new mummy again as I’ll be focusing on my newborn.

3. My latest interest has been dropshipping. There are many industries which offer drop shipping and the idea is quite simple. I sell a product through my own website or through an online market place such as Amazon or EBay, when an order is placed I send the order to my dropshipper who sends the order out to my customer. I can set the price I want to sell the product for and I pay the wholesale price from my dropshipper. The difference is my profit. Sounds like a no brainier.

I looked into various different industries to focus on and as I’m rather interested in home decor I favoured home decor and furnishings, including gifts. I set up an Amazon seller account (which is very simple) and uploaded some listings to get selling.

I’m still developing this idea as I’m learning a lot the more I do. Here are a few lessons that I’m happy to share if you are thinking about dropshipping on Amazon:

a. The Amazon fees will take up the majority of your profit margin making it difficult to find products that you can sell competivitly.

b. Many dropshipping companies charge you for an account. I think this is because a lot of people are trying dropshipping and there will be many people that dabble in the industry and just give up. I completely understand this. I’m not at a stage where I’m confident with my market to commit to one of these companies.

c. Amazon require EAN numbers (basically official barcodes). Every product needs one and not all dropship companies provide them. You can buy EAN numbers from Amazon or other online shops from about £1 per number. If you want to sell lots of products on Amazon this cost will add up and also eat into that already narrow profit margin, reducing your viable products even further.

d. You will get a lot of traffic to your products as Amazon is a go to place for many people these days. This means you are more likely to be seen if you sell through Amazon. However, there are many other sellers selling the same product and unless you are selling at the lowest price you are unlikely to get a sale. This means prices are competitive and you are going to reduce that profit margin even more… this means even fewer viable products.

e. Remember you don’t hold any stock. It’s good because you don’t have to invest anything upfront. This means you have to keep informed about stock levels from all your drop shippers so if a customer orders something through this your Amazon shop then you should be able to fulfil the order. If you have issues with fulfilling orders then you can have your account suspended. Some dropshipping companies provide to many sellers like you as well as wholesale customers, so popular items are likely to go out of stock quickly and unless you are able to manage stock levels from multiple suppliers you can get into a sticky situation with your shop… fast. It is for this reason that dropshipping sellers have a bit of a bad name on some forums as people setup their Amazon/EBAy shops without much thought about stock management and upset potential return customers for those products. I have started small so that I can learn how best to manage my stock. I am trying to be responsibile but this means I have fewer products on sale than I would like to.

f. The companies who offer dropshipping and have the most desirable products tend not to trade with Amazon/EBay only sellers. These “more desirable” companies tend to offer products with a more attractive profit margin and/or higher end goods. If you sell only on Amazon you’ll need to sell from other companies who already supply to Amazon resellers and are competing with you on price… goodbye more profits.

g. When you google dropshipping you will get lots of people saying how easy it is to get set up and there are pros and cons for selling on Amazon/EBay. Most people will say, make it on your own. I have come to to conclusion that this is the best course of action for newbies too.

Even though it will be more difficult to drive traffic to my site and get that sale, I haven’t enjoyed the faceless, brandless selling on Amazon. I mentioned earlier that when I do something I want to do it well. If I’m going to sell something I want to develop a brand and market identity. This is so important for any business. Im going to expand my art website to include orher home decor products and develop and drive my own brand. It will take more time and it will be harder work as I will need to make improvements to my website to allow me to sell these products but I’m not interested in doing things the easy way. I want to do things the right way. Success doesn’t come easily which is what I think a lot of these “work from home and earn an income” make it sound like.
This is just my personal reflection. I’m at the start of my business journey at the moment. I’ll hopefully be posting more about my successes in the future. I am enjoying the learning process so even if I have some setbacks, I’m happy that I’m learning as I will be a success in the end.

If you’re thinking of setting up your own business I hope you’ve found my comments useful. There are many avenues for business out there and I wish you the best of luck.

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