How easy is it to build an online business?

The truth from the perspective of a female online entrepreneur

One of the many ways that I believe we can empower people to make healthy environmental decisions is to encourage people to create small businesses. This said there is a lot of misleading information out there in the form of online gurus. This kind of misinformation is unfair, especially when you consider our current economic situation. Therefore I am going to share what I have learned in creating my own small vintage eBay business.

The internet, medium, and just about every article, blogging or social media platform out there is screaming at you about the ease of becoming an online entrepreneur. Content circulates these platforms with articles such as "The easiest ways to make money online...", "How to make $5000 a month with...". They tell you to "make a blog"; "shove your unwanted clothes on eBay"; "become a freelancer"; "take online surveys"; "drop ship"... They promise something easy, sometimes they promise fast results, often they all look rather similar and many of them seem to guilt trip you over the fact that you right now are not succeeding in the online business world.

The purpose of this article is not to stifle your dreams but more to give you a reality check and an opinion from the perspective of someone who is experienced with an online revenue.

As it stands right now I'm in my second year of trading online. I sell on eBay and I started like I would assume many of those who actually read these articles would have started. My parents also both run online businesses and I've seen a few of their business attempts both start and fail and been free IT support for both of their online businesses.

I assume that if you are reading online make money articles then you like I don't have a huge amount of start-up capital and this means that if you were to open say an online store you probably wouldn't have the money to buy in enough stock to make a living if you were to decide right now "ok I'm self-employed". Similarly with something like a blog you probably do not have hundreds or thousands of online followers to promote your content to right now or much in the way of articles for people to actually read. You probably are going to be starting from the bottom which is far from easy.

It's not unworthwhile it's just not easy and you probably are going to need a form of income on top of whatever business that you create for now and for possibly years into the future unless you have the capital and an idea that you've tested which works and that you know you have an audience you can cater to and are confident that you can replicate that success quickly. That and you are in a position and mindset where it's ok if you fail. Most people do not have these things. We have bills to pay and possibly even dependants that we can't let down.

I would just be wary of who's advice that you take especially when you consider that many people who tell you how to make money online actually make money online (or want to make money online) from their articles. You really need to consider who exactly is giving you this advice, why are they giving it for free (if they are)? Maybe they just wrote an article from snippets of other similar articles and if so do they even know if the person they are quoting actually is giving them good advice?

Anyone can write an article to tell you how to make money and they don't even really have to know how to do it themselves because they can just google it. Maybe some of the "fake it till you make it" people make money from their writing and publish earning reports but how does this actually translate to you? I'm not saying all the information is basically a scam or a "fake it until you make" it just be careful not to get too swept up in the hype because they aren't all genuine and potentially misleading and sensationalist media can be influenced when there is the potential for financial gain.

Some thinking points on what I feel is actually useful when you decide to start an online business...

Time - businesses can take time to build. I'm in my second year and I have yet to replace my income year-round with my business. It may take time away from your leisure to start and maintain an online business and it may take a long time for it to actually work.

Money - how much can you invest, what are your costs going to be, how much can you afford to invest in maintaining the site/ business before it becomes profitable, some of your profits are going to need to be reinvested so you need to make more than you make in your day job to replace your actual wage.

Knowledge - this is important how much do you know about your business, how much time and money can you dedicate to learning? What do you already know? I was lucky as my parents already had a lot of advice on products to give to me if I didn't have that I'd have had to spend more time and money on things that might not have worked out as well.

Reach/ audience - do you already have an audience, what platforms are your audience already using? In the case of listings, how many listings do you need to get enough people to buy your items?

Seasonal variations - most businesses have variations in profits from month to month. For me, I find that Christmas is my best time so if I make a lot of sales during the winter months that doesn't mean I'll be doing the same in summer. How do you compensate for that? Savings? Diversification? Growth? How long before you know the general pattern of sales to be confident of generating an income? What political or global/ local economic changes could affect your earning potential?

Tax - How much can you earn before tax, how much of your profit goes to tax?

When you look at all these factors/ questions that you need to address you can easily see that going the self-employed route isn't always so easy. In fact, if you have a low budget the listening to online gurus and diving into the deep end; might not be the best idea. This said when you are self-employed you have much greater control over how that business actually runs. This can give you more sercurity (providing you actually make a living) and more decision making abilities.