Do You Have Time to Run a $100,000 Internet Business?

This post was written by Christine Olson – Founder of Soconik Books

How many hours a week does it take for me to produce over $120K in sales running a retail internet business from home? In a minute, I’ll let you know.

I run a retail internet book business from home. I have a two and a five year old. When people hear what I do they say “Aw, that’s great you can work from home and be there for your kids.” Sometimes I smile and sheepishly say “Yeah”, other times I feel the need to set them straight by screaming “YOU THINK I CAN GET ANY WORK DONE WITH A TWO YEAR OLD AROUND??”

My book business will do over $120,000 this year and I was interested to know how much time I spent working on it. I found my time extremely difficult to track. I put notepads by my computers and tried to write down every block of work time over 15 minutes. The first thing I found out is that I have many blocks of time that I work for less than 15 minutes. Like sorting e-mail while I’m waiting for Eggos to pop-up. I kept track for 2 weeks. My first week was 21 hours. I was amazed. The next week came to 28 hours. Not bad! Both these weeks were mid-summer and like I said, I didn’t keep track of anything less than 15 minutes. The retail Christmas season starts in August for me so the work hours are getting longer. But, with Kindergarten starting for the older one I am hoping to up my work load and push my sales even higher.

I get most of my work done during my youngest son’s 2-hour nap time. Stay at Home Moms usually use that time for cleaning, relaxing, or planning dinner. I don’t do those things. I hired a maid. Everyone told me how much time this would save me. It didn’t save me any time because I didn’t mop, vacuum or dust before, now I just have a clean house. The rest of my work day is between 9:00 – 11:00 pm after the kiddies are in bed. This is difficult because the mere task of putting small children to bed is exhausting.

Some things are essential for running a successful internet retail business in a few hours a day:

Sell Repeatables – these are items you have multiple quantities of. Although I only have 1200 book titles, I have several copies of each. The time it takes to list 1 product is time consuming. When you sell repeatables you cut down your listing time immensely.

Sell high margin items for $10.00 or more each – I’m working on raising my margins and average sales price. My average sale price is exactly $10.00. If it were less, the time it takes to package a product is not worth it. Selling items bundled together is a great way to move the price up. Not only is it worth more, chances are your competitor isn’t doing the same type of bundling.

Boxes & Shipping Area – If you are going to sell a lot of stuff, you need a lot of boxes. I have over 15 different sizes along with Bubble Mailers, Packing Peanuts, Boxing Tape and a multitude of other items in my shipping space. Everything for shipping except bubblewrap comes from http://www.uline.com Anybody can buy from them but most boxes come in a minimum of 25 per bundle. They are in a nearby suburb so I can drive there to pick up my orders rather than pay for delivery. My bubblewrap comes from www.esupplystore.com

Storage Space – This is one of the most difficult parts. Fortunately Steve and I live in a good-sized house in the Midwest which means we have a basement. I have over 400 square feet dedicated to our business. But… sometimes there’s just not enough room. The area in the picture below is a large portion of our newly finished playroom for the kids. Well, as soon as I sell all this stuff maybe they’ll get the playroom back.

If you are serious about starting an internet retail business I would suggest the following books and websites:

Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers

Not just for eBay sellers but for anyone starting a home based business. All the “loopholes” are legal and do not skirt the tax laws. They are encouraged by the IRS for small businesses. It talks about the pluses of setting up a corporation, what you can and cannot write off and many other excellent pointers. The tax tips in this book led to this post on making your children tax free millionaires.

Titanium eBay

This is an excellent resource for anyone wanted to sell big time on eBay. Although I find Skip McGrath on the “spammy” side he is considered the King of eBay Selling Information. I read this 560 page book cover to cover. One thing I would not follow is his advice to join World Wide Brands. He must get a pretty good kick-back for pushing that one.

Skip’s Blog:

http://blog.skipmcgrath.com/

I check this every few days to see if it has anything that pertains to me.

Auction Bytes

http://www.auctionbytes.com/

I subscribe to Ina’s E-mail News Letter and Updates. It has tons of great info for online sellers.

If you want to see more blog posts about my business leave your ideas in the comments. 🙂
Coming Next – “Where do I find stuff to sell?”

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19 thoughts on “Do You Have Time to Run a $100,000 Internet Business?”

  1. Thanks, Christine! Interesting stuff! You know I keep toying with doing an online biz so this is good insight for me. My real question is what to sell so I’ll be looking forward to that post. My background is mostly office work and being a full time student and husband’s retail experience is not in online-friendly merchandise, so I keep getting stumped there. We are trying to open his own shop in town so my trade might have to wait, anyway! But all info is good info! Thanks for sharing.

    :::KBS

  2. Thanks, Christine! I really enjoyed your post and I’m looking forward to the next one on where you get your stuff to sell.

    I love books and would love to have a business working with them. And I have several free days a week to get something started but I don’t really know where to start …

  3. It’s interesting to read about these things. I look forward to more posts from you, Christine!

    Currently I am living in Los Angeles. Rent here can get pretty crazy so definitely not good in terms of storage spaces. Well, I don’t have a plan to start a business selling things at the moment anyway, but I read these to have some ideas in mind in case I want to start one oneday. 🙂

  4. Very interesting. I often feel like I don’t have time to work on one blog let alone do all you do with the kids plus maintaining your business.

    I’m curious as to where the books come from? I’ve often wondered this about different online business I hear about. Where they actually get the merchandise.

  5. Congrats for your efforts! It will be good lead for many others who have a passion to start their own business. Planning and organizing is the important part of a successful business. You have maintained it both. Your article will give confidence to many other. Best wishes!

  6. This post is interesting. It seems to cover the operational side of the business once it’s past the startup phase. Here is my question for Christine:

    How many hours did you spend getting it off the ground? Did you start the business before having children? What did you fail at selling before finding these books?

  7. @ Deron
    There are several places people can find books to resell. I won’t give up my suppliers because it has taken me several years to find these contacts. Some great places to start are garage sales, church rummage sales, estate sales, library book sales, and thrift stores.

    @ Richard
    I have always ran my business part-time. In fact, I started it on $500 and during start-up I only needed to spend 1 – 2 hours a day running it because I just wasn’t that busy. I began the business 1 year after my first child was born. Books were the first product I ever tried back in 1998 when I worked at my dad’s bookstore. I was amazed at how well they sold. Times are different now and competition is heavy so I have to use a lot of different tactics to be noticed. I didn’t start selling books for myself until 2003 and have slowly built my business to what it is today. I have tried to carry a few different product lines that didn’t go over so well. Now I try to stick with books and book related items.

  8. @ Christine

    Thanks for the reply. Sorry if I came off rude in sounded like I was asking who your suppliers are. That wasn’t my intent and I was asking more of a general question as I didn’t know how e-commerce businesses such as yours are usually ran. I’ve heard of people selling goods online through a site, but once the sale is complete they do nothing but collect a profit and another company actually sends out the merchandise. Although, obviously from the pictures, you keep all of the merchandise on hand.

    For example, if I made the decision that I wanted to sell golf supplies. What should be my course of action to start? Buy up a bunch of golf supplies hopefully getting them at discounted bulk price and then sell them for a markup price straight from my home? Or would the normal course of action be to partner with some golf business and sell the merchandise but let them send everything out and deal with the overhead while I take a cut of what I sold it for?

    Hope that makes sense. I’m a total noob with e-commerce stuff.

  9. Deron,
    I don’t know much about golf equipment but the best thing you can do for yourself is start small and do your research to see what is selling and for how much. I know one guy who sells sports equipment, first he started selling his old ski boots, then he talked to local sports shops to buy their clearance merchandise and now he contracts with major retailers to buy up all their returns. Best Wishes on your venture!

  10. Hello Christine,

    I have to congratulate you on being able to run and grow your online business, especially while doing all that is necessary to keep a family going.

    Personally I spend far too much time in front of the computer working on my business, and sometimes for no money back at all.

    There are a lot of people online who say running an online business is easy mony, and in some ways that can be true, but just like any business, be it online or offline, you really have to work at it. Yes I did say that 4 letter word “work”.

    If anyone thinks it’s simply a matter of sticking up a few web pages or creating a blog then you better do some more research and read the stories of successful people online. No one achieved their success without a lot of hard work in the beginning.

    There is no magic formula or golden key. It is simply a matter of finding what you are good at or your passion and then getting in and doing somthing about it.

    Never give up if it is ‘really’ what you want to do.

    Ian

  11. This is a great post Christine. It’s a reality check to some people who have preconceived notions of running an online business. A business is a business, whether you have it online or in the real world. What’s even more interesting is how it affects your personal life and how you’ve made some trade offs and practical adjustments. More success!

  12. Hi Christine,

    Great post! Question: Why do you suggest that we don’t follow Skip McGrath’s advice to join World Wide Brands? Have you heard something negative about it? I’m only asking because I was considering joining WWB until I read your post. All the best!

  13. David,

    I said “I” wouldn’t do it and I won’t recommend it, but I understand it works well for some people. At the time I wrote this post, most of it was drop-ship stuff and you just can’t make the margins on most drop ship stuff. I think World Wide Brands has improved with time, but I prefer to go it on my own. I recommend Skip’s blog, but I can’t recommend World Wide Brands, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. If you decide to try it, let us know how it goes.

  14. i am so interested in starting an Internet Business because there is a growing number of internet consumers today. I am still trying to learn a lot about managing and starting an Internet Business.

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