What Starting An eCommerce Business Taught Me About Blogging

I have a confession to make.

Over the last 6 months, I have started another company. I’ve been working on it, building it up, and expanding it. And in that 6 months, it’s truly taken off and is quickly becoming something amazing.

And I’ve got to be honest, it has grown a lot quicker than I had ever expected it to.

Starting out with just a few thousand dollars, our main branch is projected to do around a million dollars in sales this year.

This does not even include our new venture – an entirely new brand we’re launching that is going to one day dominate the industry we’re working in.

Unfortunately I can’t talk too much about that right now due to agreements I have in place, however, I have been named CEO and I assure you that one day you’ll hear all about it.

Anyway, running this new business and launching this new brand has shifted my perspective about blogging, and has truly taught me a lot about this profession we all know and love. I’d like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned, which I believe can make us all better bloggers, marketers, and entrepreneurs.

1. A Lot Of It’s The Same

There seems to be a lot of misconception that running an online / digital business is somehow different than running a business that sells physical products.

That’s simply not true.

Most of the same basic business principles that have been in place for hundreds of years still apply to any sort of online business, regardless of whether you sell physical or digital products, services, or even other people’s products or services as an affiliate.

You still need to…

  • Identify market demands, and base your company around a niche that fills that demand.
  • Put something out there into the marketplace.
  • Network, drive traffic (attention) to what you have to offer.
  • Know your numbers.
  • Make investments, put in tons of hours of work, and make the most out of all of your resources.

No, as you’ll learn in my blogging course, blogging isn’t just about writing content and hoping people will show up and read it. You need a system in place to create something of value, drive attention to it, and then get those people to take a given action (such as buying the product, hiring you for a service, or signing up for your email list.)

2. …Without All The Extra Bells And Whistles

I am so thankful I got my business experience started with blogging.

Logistics wise, there is so much complexity in this new business that I know I wouldn’t have been able to start it earlier on in my life. I have always been fairly disorganized, and there are a million and 1 things going on at once.

Flipping Side Hustle

The early days, back in month 1.

Money is already reinvested somewhere before it comes in. We have overhead costs, employees to pay, new areas that are being invested into, and I’m the one in charge of managing it all.

For the new brand, I’m working with Chinese manufacturers, dealing with laboratory testing facilities, and trying to understand the 10,000 regulations regarding importing the specific type of product we’re producing.

The bulk of the main company right now is basic arbitrage – buy products in bulk from wholesalers, and sell them for more online. Sounds simple, right?

Not so.

I am all about efficiency, and I’ve developed proprietary, unique systems for storage, shipping, and reordering. Without it, there’s no way we could be shipping 500+ different items in one day.

I’ve also developed a ‘just-in-time’ system that tells us exactly how many of each product to order so we never run out of stock, but also do not have money tied up in excess inventory.

These systems are vital for scaling and are our main competitive edge over other sellers. However, with so much going on, it’s easy for little mistakes to happen.

Products get lost. They don’t get shipped. Our repricing software ends up selling products at a loss. We miss budgeting an important expense. Things get broken.

Businesses built around blogging can get pretty complex, but most of that complexity can be managed with tools or automation. I am so much more thankful for the systems I have set up here for Help Start My Site, which have allowed me to focus on other areas of this business that need it.

3. Scaling Is Important

I would have never started this new product brand if I did not know with absolute certainty that it could grow into a $100 million company of its own.

Scaling is so, so, important.

Believe me. I started a blog in a market that didn’t have scaling opportunity. I hit the ceiling, the max I could ever earn with it, and had to abandon it because I knew there was greater potential elsewhere.

This is actually why I started Help Start My Site – despite knowing how competitive and difficult it is to take off in this market, I knew it could be scaled practically infinitely.

When choosing the market for our new brand, I deliberately chose one that could start small, but branch out into many other different areas, offering more for sale than just physical products.

After all, putting in so much work and hitting a ceiling is something you do not ever want to experience. It’s incredibly disappointing.

4. Keep Track Of Your Freaking Expenses

Do you know how much it’s costing you to run your blog on a daily, monthly, and annual basis?

When you combine the costs for your web hosting, domain renewal, email marketing service, tools, subscriptions, marketing budget, so on and so forth, what’s that exact number coming out to every month?

That’s the number you need to surpass in order to make a profit. And you have to know this number by heart.

If you don’t have accounting software to take care of this, at least keep a spreadsheet that tracks each individual expense.

Then, it’s important to regularly go through and eliminate non-essential expenses that aren’t yielding you a profit. Put this extra money into other areas of your business that will make more of it.

Accounting is the one skill many small business owners desperately need, yet often fail to have. It’s not flashy, it’s not fun, it’s not exciting, but it’s vital to any well-run business.

5. Reinvest As Much As You Possibly Can

To date I have not pulled out a single cent out of the company. No distributions, no salary, nothing.

This is the only reason we’re growing so quickly.

Every cent is reinvested into developing systems to improve efficiency, more inventory, and other measures to scale (including this new brand.)

I’ve noticed that many bloggers have a deathly fear of spending money to grow their business.

What many people fail to realize is that nothing you do in blogging is free. It either takes your money, or it takes your time.

Calculate the value of your time. If you can get something done cheaper by paying for it rather than doing it yourself, than obviously the logical thing to do is to spend the money instead.

Here’s the thing. You can scale your money, but you can’t scale your time. You will never have more than 24 hours in a day. If you really want to scale your company, scale your income, and beat your competition, you need to reinvest back into your business.

There are lots of ways to do this. Paid advertising. Tools. Services. Investing in your education by picking up one of my training courses.

If you really want to grow, hold off on the distributions for a while, and spend that money on your business instead.

6. Debt Is Not All Bad

In my financial independence course, I talk a lot about debt.

The truth is, there is such a thing as good debt, and such a thing as bad debt.

Most people believe all debt to be bad, but this simply isn’t true.

Debt can be a good thing when it’s paid for by others, or when it brings you more money than what it costs you.

This business has been running on debt since the beginning. We spend the money before it’s in and make all of our purchases on credit. This allows us to stay a month ahead in terms of growth, while also reaping the 2% cash back rewards our credit cards offer.

However, we do not carry a balance and pay our credit cards off in full out of the money that comes in.

Where does this apply in blogging?

If you have a system in place that is making you a profitable return after expenses, then the logical thing to do is to put as much money as you can into it. This includes taking on debt, if you’re sure that the debt can be paid back without making your system unprofitable.

Higher risks do tend to come with higher rewards, after all!

7. Internet Marketing Is A Great Business For Anybody

I think building an internet marketing business a great choice for everybody.

Not only is the potential there to build an incredibly large company, but it’s a lot more straightforward and far less risky than many of the other types of businesses one could start today.

After all, it can be started for next to nothing, and youglobal don’t have to deal with the troubles of this type of business (like having tons of money tied up, or dealing with cutthroat competitors who are actively trying to shut you down.)

Internet marketing / blogging also teaches a lot of important lessons that can apply to other types of businesses that you may wish to start in the future.

When I first started blogging, I was shown firsthand the brutal reality of business – it’s tough, and you have to adhere to market demands to succeed.

No amount of ‘wanting it’ or ‘passion’ would make people come to my website and spend money.

When I began treating blogging as a business, I started seeing results. And all of the same basic principles apply with this new company too.

I am so thankful for the experiences I’ve had blogging and without them, I wouldn’t have near the business knowledge I have today. One of the best ways to learn something is by actually getting out there and doing it, and blogging is a great way to build a real web business.

Because of the potential that’s there and the fact that it’s fairly straightforward, it’s a great business option for beginners and professionals alike.

Conclusion

I am so excited for what lies ahead in the future, and I have no doubt that each company I run is teaching valuable lessons that all help each other.

Rest assured I’m going nowhere with Help Start My Site – I will continue being just as active as I ever had been. However, the growth of my other company is unignorable, and I will be spending a lot of time there as well.

Whatever happens on that side of things, I hope I can bring it over here to you and bring us all up as well!

– James McAllister

LEARN HOW TO TRIPLE YOUR WEBSITE TRAFFIC IN 7 DAYS!

About James McAllister

James is the owner of Help Start My Site. He started his first blog at the age of 11, and has since gone on to start several successful businesses. Here on HelpStartMySite.com, he shares his knowledge that brought him to where he is today. If you want to connect with James, like him on Facebook .

Comments

  1. Hi James,

    What wonderful news you have shared. It is so sad that people don’t know how to run a business. When it comes to a blog, they don’t realize it is part of a whole of business. It branches out in many directions. It is so great that you are doing your e-com business. I am almost there with something similar. But I don’t have to tell you how it is going back and forth with manufacturers in China. There is a lot to it, but nothing to deter me from my long range plans.

    I have my blog, a e-com affiliate site, a membership site and on and on I go. But the secret is for every dollar I make I do re-invest it. One cannot make a bunch of money and go out to spend it all. Believe me…I’ve seen some do it.

    You, my friend are very wise and if people will only follow your advice, they can have a profitable business or businesses.

    -Donna

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    • Hi Donna!

      You’re so right.

      And oh my goodness the Chinese manufacturers can be so hit and miss. It took me a while to get a good one for product #1 – contacting factories, some took forever to respond, others didn’t have very good English, and others had ridiculous terms. I feel fortunate to have found the one I’m working with right now – the sales rep is nice and easy to work with. Now the big issue is making sure everything is legal. I’m looking to build a real brand that will one day become a household name so I want to make sure I’m doing everything right rather than chasing the easy $$$.

      Looking forward to hearing more about your eCommerce experience!

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…The 7 Rules Of Selling All Bloggers Must FollowMy Profile

  2. Hello James,

    Let me first of all congratulate you on you being named the CEO of the company. Talking of blogging and how one could go about it, I guess you really raised an interesting point when it came to reinvesting as much as one can.

    Almost 90% of what I make from my blog goes back int the blog. Blogging without advertising is like standing in the dark and winking at a lady, you know what you’re doing but the lady doesn’t see it. I advertise my blog on social media.

    Thanks for this piece.

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    • Hi Emmanuel! Good to see you again.

      You’ve got it right, very smart. Most people aren’t willing to reinvest like you and I are, and it doesn’t make sense to me because you need to reinvest to grow quickly. Smart reinvestment shows you actually know how to grow a business rather than simply running one.

      I really like your quote about the lady. Perfect analogy, mad me chuckle. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by Emmanuel, hope to talk with you again soon!

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      James McAllister recently posted…7 Ways To Stand Out And Become A Memorable BloggerMy Profile

  3. Really awesome article James!

    I was looking into eCommerce awhile back and found a few products that have potential but never got around to expanding on it because I couldn’t figure out how to handle the shipping details. It’s really cool that you mentioned your picky about the shipping process and figured out how to quickly handle so many orders. I think that’s where most people give up because it’s a challenge!

    Awesome success, and the lessons you mentioned were awesome as well. I signed up to your list and I’m looking forward to reading more articles (and hearing more about your eCommerce business).

    Regards,
    Tim.

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    • Thanks Timothy!

      It’s certainly a lot more complicated in terms of logistics but I really do think having good systems in place makes it far more managable. If there’s anything I can help you with on that end, let me know.

      Not too far into the future we’re going to be outsourcing any prep work or hiring additional employees based on whatever’s more cost effective so that should make it even easier and give me time to focus elsewhere.

      Anyway things are going really well and I’m very excited for what lies ahead! And thank you for hopping on my email list!

      Hope to talk with you again soon!

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…7 Areas To Reinvest Blogging Profits IntoMy Profile

  4. Hi James,

    Excited to hear about your new venture and NO – it doesn’t sound simple at all LOL (Your point 2) It sounds incredibly complicated – but knowing what I know about you, you will pull it off – already have, by the sound of it. Can’t wait to read more about it.

    Having less energy (and skills!) than you, I’ve gone for a different approach in my business, as you know, but funnily enough there is a parallel (in reverse, so to speak). Our products have just been approved for entry into China, opening up a huge market-place for us. Happily I wasn’t involved in the complexity of it – which I guess is sort of like having an “automated system” in place to do that stuff for me.

    How right you are to encourage people to treat their blogging like a business, which so few people seem willing to do. Anyone who thinks you can make money fast online is living in cloud-cuckoo land, as most sane Internet Marketers have already learned.

    Here in the UK it’s just been end of financial year and I’m very hot on keeping financial records to monitor my business. It’s a way of reminding myself that all those little $7 expenses for new plugins etc etc mount up, insignificant as they seem, at the time. By being aware of these expenses we are more likely to keep on top of them.

    I’ve been self-employed now for longer than you’ve been alive (that’s depressing LOL) and have always monitored the finances in the way you suggest. I am pleased to hear you encourage others to do the same, it can be their saving grace AND a springboard to success.

    Looking forward to finding out more about this venture, and I congratulate you wholeheartedly on your business achievements to date.

    Joy – Blogging After Dark

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    Joy Healey recently posted…Best Home Business Compensation Plan Got BetterMy Profile

    • Hi Joy!

      It is kind of the same, isn’t it? Things certainly do get quite different when you start working with physical products rather than digital ones, regardless of where you are at in that process. I don’t think one is particularly better than the other, but you do have to handle them quite differently.

      Regardless of what you sell you are absolutely right in that expenses can really get away from us and cause problems. They do add up, and we need to take note of them and make the most out of all of the capital that passes through us. It’s easy when you start making money to spend a bit more easily and while that can help you, you have to make sure what you’re spending your money on is yielding some sort of return. I feel thankful for growing up so poor because it’s really made me conscious of where my money is going as I never had a lot of it growing up. This skill has been hardwired into me pretty deep and I think it’s made me a better entrepreneur as a result.

      I’m glad to hear we have a lot of the same ideas and you’ll definitely hear more about this business as time goes on!

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…7 Stages Every Blogger Goes Through On Their Way To SuccessMy Profile

  5. Hey James, wow, you have been busy and it’s exciting to hear about the new business venture you’re building up.

    I started off in eCommerce many years ago as you may know, selling original art and paintings around the world, and business was very good at the time. That’s how I discovered blogging, and slowly began diversifying myself in business.

    I finally put my paint brushes to rest in 2012 as I was able to earn more money from blogging and providing services than creating works of art.

    Anyway, you’re spot on about bloggers living in fear of spending any money to promote their business etc. I’m one of those bloggers, but I’m slowly getting better at it. I’m quite happy to spend tons of money on a bunch of tools, many of which I’m yet to start using, but many of them have made my job easier to do as a web designer.

    One area I’m starting to invest more in is content creation for sure. With clients coming in left, right and centre, I’m struggling to find the time to create new content, and foremost updating my blog.

    Anyway, so looking forward in discovering more about your new business venture, I wish you all the luck in the world with it James, you deserve it.

    Fabrizio

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    Fabrizio Van Marciano recently posted…How Reading The One Thing By Gary Keller, Changed My Focus On Blogging ProductivityMy Profile

    • Hey Fabrizio!

      Wow, that’s awesome! So interesting to hear all the different areas we have come from. I’ve known for a while that you are great at design but I didn’t know you had an interest in painting. Very cool.

      It really is a hard fear to get over but risk and reward tend to go hand in hand. Taking risks is something I still need to continue to improve upon, and when you start doing better and better it can be even more scary to take bigger risks because you grow comfortable and don’t want to lose that sense of comfort. However, success compounds so you’ve got to get those resources working for you.

      This eCommerce business is a case where the risk paid off. I’m done putting more of my own money to it and it’s sustaining itself, but I could only imagine if I had kept waiting. With the rate it’s growing, any while longer would have a huge effect down the line.

      Content creation is a good way to reinvest and certainly frees up your time to focus on other areas of your business that need it. I look forward to hearing more about how that works for you!

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      James McAllister recently posted…Turn Every Email Subscriber Into A Buyer With One ChangeMy Profile

  6. Hi James,

    Congrats on your new venture – Cheers! Glad to hear you’ll still be here too (I’ve only just found you & wouldn’t want to be saying “Good-by” yet 🙂 ).

    Your lessons 1 and 5 stand out for me. Repetitive and recurring actions are what makes up most of a business, especially in the beginning. They’re usually small actions but add up and can’t be ignored. They’re not glamorous either.

    And, you’re so right about Reinvesting – it’s so important. A business isn’t a cash cow (cash flow is so important – because even if your business is liable, if cash is low, or not steady, banks can pull the plug).

    It all hinges on knowing what you want out of having a business, online or off.

    What outcome do you want to happen?

    How will know if you’re on track?

    These 2 questions are key to converting traffic.

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    • Hey Tom! Thank you, and nope, I’m not going anywhere. I may be a bit more selective on how I spend my time here vs. what I outsource but I could never quit blogging completely regardless of how busy I get.

      You are so right, and I like it this way. Clear path to scale, clear decision making, and hard work – even if it’s repetitive. Grinding. Hustling. Getting it done. It’s not as flashy as a tech startup, but it’s going to make a lot of money.

      I don’t plan on pulling any money out of either business for a while. With more capital comes more power and the ability to crush competition before it arises. eCommerce is pretty cut-throat where there’s a lot of support with blogging, one thing I love very much.

      I know I will continue to learn lessons that will help in the online marketing world and I’m very excited for that.

        (Quote)
      James McAllister recently posted…Pay-Per-Click Advertising For Bloggers: How, Why, And WhenMy Profile

  7. Hi James

    Congrats on your new venture

    You’re a born entrepreneur for sure.

    Although I couldn’t do what you do – juggling so many balls.

    Your new venture represents a big departure from the businesses you’ve been involved with up till now. Importing goods, managing inventory, and then selling it is a whole new ball game. Not to mention hiring, training and managing employees. And then there’s cost control and juggling the cash flow. Yeech!

    Lots of challenges, but as you say lots of upside too.

    Keep us posted on your progress, James.

    Power to you

    Kim

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    Kim Willis recently posted…Susan Jeffers Says ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ (Is She Right?)My Profile

    • Hey Kim!

      You’re right, it is so different but a lot of the ideas and concepts are the same. I’m very thankful for the systems I’ve developed that make it manageable. At this point most of the real challenge is regarding decision making and where money can be best spent, when to cut losses and liquidate certain SKUs etc. Logistics wise it’s not as bad as it used to be and it’s getting better, despite the fact we’re shipping more and more every month.

      I’m very happy with how things have been turning out with it. Other than all the hard work and hustle required it’s been fairly smooth sailing.

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      James McAllister recently posted…7 Areas To Reinvest Blogging Profits IntoMy Profile

  8. Hi James,

    You’ve got to be the youngest CEO I know and maybe the youngest out there at the moment.

    You are such an entrepreneur and I love that. But what’s more is that you take action. I know many people with entrepreneur spirits, but their huge problem is that they don’t take action. Well, I’ve been like that myself for the longest time.

    Yes, I agree, there is such thing as a good and bad debts. buying useless stuff that you know you don’t have the money to pay for, and investing in a business are completely different things, nothing to do with one another. As you’re saying good debts are paid by other people.

    Yes, the internet opened the door to many new entrepreneurs that may have never done anything without it. I don’t know where I would be without the internet myself. And you’re right about blogging unless you treat your blog as a business front, your blog is not going to go anywhere.

    Great lessons learned.

    I wish you lots of success in your new endeavors.

    ~Sylviane

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    • Hi Sylviane!

      I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can take lots of action because the risk is minimized. I don’t know honestly if I’d be this way if the risks were greater, but at this point I can afford to invest a lot of time or money into something and if it fails, not much harm done. Of course, I’m very happy that this investment happened to pay off.

      You’re right on about debt, and it’s a huge misconception so many people have. Most people that do have debt carry bad debt and don’t see the problem with it. Others buy into the Dave Ramsey mindset that all debt is bad. I see it as a form of leverage – and certainly a quicker way to scale. It just needs to be managed and you need to run the numbers because overwhelming interest can be a personal finance killer.

      Anyway Sylviane I appreciate your kind words, always nice to talk with you!

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      James McAllister recently posted…Define What You Truly Want From BloggingMy Profile

  9. Hey there James!

    I am a little late to the party here but Congrats on your newest business endeavors my friend! I am wishing you all of the very best in your journey. Can’t wait to heat more about what you have going on in your world 🙂

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  10. Really awesome article James!

    I was looking into eCommerce awhile back and found a few products that have potential but never got around to expanding on it because I couldn’t figure out how to handle the shipping details. It’s really cool that you mentioned your picky about the shipping process and figured out how to quickly handle so many orders. I think that’s where most people give up because it’s a challenge!

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