6 Simple Tips To Ensure Your Online Store Makes Forward Progress

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I love teaching my course on how to create a profitable online store because I get to interact with a diverse set of students with varying skill levels and personalities.

Some students pick things up right away and make lightning fast progress. Other students struggle big time and have to inch and claw their way towards forward progress.

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. And after teaching my class for the past several years, I’ve concluded that a student’s chances for success have more to do with their attitude and productivity habits than with their overall skill level.

For example, I’ve had students in the class who have struggled to launch their shops despite being proficient web designers. But on the flip side, I’ve had students with limited computer skills successfully launch their shops within a month or so after signing up.

Here’s the thing. There’s a certain attitude and approach that the successful students take that the others do not and I thought that I’d share some tips for those who might be struggling.

Stay Focused And Do Things In Order


When you start an online store, there are hundreds of tasks that need to be done. You have to come up with a niche. You have to find vendors. You have to design your website. You have to file documents with various government agencies.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and out of control. And what I see happen all the time is that there are so many things that need to get done that a student gets completely frozen and doesn’t make forward progress. I call this the deer in the headlights syndrome.

In other cases, some students try to tackle every single task at the same time and end up starting a little bit of everything and finishing absolutely nothing.

Starting a business is a long term endeavor and requires a focused step by step approach. For me, I always lay everything out in chronological order without skipping ahead. I concentrate on what needs to be done next and then set reasonable targets.

For example if I were to start a brand new online store today, I would first focus my efforts on finding a niche and ignore all other distractions. Bottom line, you shouldn’t be doing anything else until you know what you want to sell.

Only after finding my niche would I then start to look for vendors. Afterwards, I would think about designing the website. Serializing the process makes things much more manageable from a productivity perspective because you only have to deal with one thing at any given time.

Get in the habit of finishing one thing completely before moving onto the next.

Stick To Your Priorities


A lot of struggling entrepreneurs often work on the small, easy tasks first. In their minds, any forward progress is good. But in reality, working on the little tasks are often a complete waste of time if some of the bigger decisions are not settled first.

As an example, I once had a student sign up for a very cheap fully hosted shopping cart provider before even knowing what they wanted to sell and what shopping cart features they needed.

Instead of figuring out their business requirements, they decided to start messing around with their website design first. After all, having a shell of a website up made them feel like they were making forward progress.

But after deciding on their final niche and reviewing my shopping cart evaluation videos, they realized that the service they signed up for was simply not going to cut it for them in the long run so they had to take a loss on their first site.

Another common mistake I see people make all the time is rushing to incorporate or starting an LLC for their business. In reality, dealing with corporate structure is probably one of the last things that you should be thinking about and probably the easiest thing to accomplish.

So quit procrastinating and dancing around the big decisions. Tackle your task list in order of priority and don’t cross things off just for the sake of making yourself feel better.

Don’t Over Analyze Or Second Guess Yourself


I have one student in my class who has completed most of the niche research, selected an appropriate website platform and is more or less ready to start the implementation process.

But the problem is that he keeps second guessing his decisions with more and more analysis. Is the market going to be large enough?

Are my vendors going to be reliable? Are my competitors too strong in this segment? Is Google going to do another algorithm update to make my niche less attractive?

It’s like when you have a crush on a girl and you want to ask her out but you agonize over whether she’ll say “yes” first. There’s no way of knowing until you try. So ask her out already for crying out loud!

None of your questions will be answered until you give things a shot. Sure, you can run the numbers and make educated guesses about your chances for success but there are no guarantees.

Most importantly, worrying about what hasn’t happened yet isn’t going to help anybody and your mental energy is best used elsewhere.

Thanks to services like Shopify, you can launch an online store with a great design and full payment capabilities in a matter of days.

And here’s the kicker. You pay for everything on a monthly basis. So what if something doesn’t work out? You cancel the service. It’s as simple as that. No harm, no foul. You move on to the next idea.

So stop overthinking things and get some real data already:)

Don’t Write Yourself Off And Have Some Self Confidence

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. But just because you are currently weak in something today does not mean that you can’t improve yourself.

As part of running this blog and my course, I’ve encountered plenty of people who are quick to write themselves off.

Steve, I’m not good at marketing so I don’t think I’ll be able to attract customers

Steve, I have no technical skills so I don’t think I can design a good looking website

Steve, I’ve never done this before and I don’t want to mess up.

First of all, if you already recognize your weaknesses, then you can do something about it. Over these past 6 years, I’ve met hundreds of successful online entrepreneurs and never have I ever heard anyone of them complain about their shortcomings…ever!

Great entrepreneurs find a way to overcome the skills that they lack. If you are not good at something, then either spend some time learning or find someone who can help you out.

Never ever write yourself off or sell yourself short just because you can’t do something today. And please don’t whine to me about it either:).

Learn To Take Criticism

A long time ago, I used to do free website critiques for random readers and their online stores. But a couple of bad experiences made me stop doing them altogether.

One time, I had a reader who got so defensive about her critique that she argued with me every step of the way. I ended up devoting a large amount of my time justifying my criticism until I got frustrated and gave up.

On another occasion, I had a shop owner practically chew me out because he was making sales and didn’t feel like any changes were justified.

Anyways, one of the most important things that I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is to keep an open mind. As long as the criticism is constructive and actionable, you should listen intently. After all, your judgement is often clouded because you are too close to your business.

Don’t Be A Debbie Downer

As part of being an entrepreneur, you’ll have some good days and you’ll have some bad ones. But if a bad day ruins your entire outlook on life and causes you to lose enthusiasm, then perhaps you aren’t cut out to own your own business.

One of the questions I often get asked is how quickly can I make money with a business. And whenever I hear this question, it’s generally a bad sign.

If you are looking for “quick” or “instant” gratification, then you are probably going to give up at the first sign of adversity. Successful entrepreneurs have an innate self-confidence that keeps them going even when things aren’t going their way.

So please don’t get discouraged and realize that setbacks are a part of the game.


Your attitude plays an extremely large role in the entrepreneurship process and being successful is more than just knowing what to do.

Do any of these qualities apply to you? Am I missing anything? Please leave your comments below as I would love to hear them.

photo credit: brefoto dimnikolov The U.S. Army FUNKYAH

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In this 6 day mini course, I reveal the steps that my wife and I took to earn 100 thousand dollars in the span of just a year. Best of all, it's absolutely free!

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27 thoughts on “6 Simple Tips To Ensure Your Online Store Makes Forward Progress”

  1. That was a well timed list, for me. I typically over analyze and second guess, so that one really hit home. Thanks for the great post!

    1. Hey Rus,
      I always second guess myself too:) But the initial investment is so small that I don’t really sweat it.

  2. Great Article Steve! Every point is true and on track. Keep up the good work. Even those with one successful store need to be reminded of these things.


  3. Yet another great post, Steve.

    I’m working on doing less dabbling and more focusing on steps to take my business forward. I’m finding that If I don’t allow myself to work on a task until the first one is accomplished, it motivates me to finish it sooner.

    Trying to do everything at once ends up being too overwhelming, and not very much of anything will actually get done. A scattering of half-finished projects take a lot of time, with no benefit to justify them.

    Thank you for sharing your insights!

    1. Hey Megan,

      Some people are really good at multitasking several tasks at once but most are not (myself included). I’ve also found that starting a bunch of different projects at the same time and hoping that one succeeds is not a good strategy either because you end up with a bunch of crappy sites. Thanks for the comment!

  4. Steve, love your blog.

    But can you clarify what you mean about incorporating as one of the last things you need to do?

    In setting up my store, this was one of the first things I had to do. I needed a resellers license to set up accounts with my distributors. But I couldn’t get my resellers license (and my business credit card and bank account) without being incorporated. Maybe it was because I used Legalzoom or because I’m in NY, but it took me a couple months to get my LLC and resellers license in place.

    1. Hey Ben,

      We actually ran as a sole prop for a bit before starting an LLC. You don’t need to be incorporated to get a reseller’s license or a business bank account.

  5. Christine says:

    This list is so great. I did feel slight self doubt when I first signed up for your course, but I always tell myself to just move forward, do the work, and think of myself as a business owner even before I’ve launched. It helps me to keep focus and not let big challenges put me off my path.

    1. Hey Christine,

      Good to have you in the class. I haven’t heard from you too much so I hope that you don’t hesitate ask me questions when you have them:)

  6. Susan says:

    You are right. I am over whelmed right now with all this information I am getting and how to set my computer up. I have no clue how to download all the different downloads and I have no clue what my nich should be in the $ range you discussed with us. I guess I just really need to work on finding a nich.

    1. Hey Susan,

      Send me some of your keywords and I’ll take a look.

  7. Well fortunately I made it through launching my store, but now I find myself a bit overwhelmed with all there is to know about marketing it. I’ve got so many articles saved in my Evernote account regarding SEO, Pinterest and Facebook best practices, google analytics, bloggers to contact, print advertising options, well, you get the picture. I’ve taught myself the basics about all of these, but there is so much more I want to understand and implement that I don’t know which one to focus on. The saving grace is that I am loving that I am learning so many new things.

    1. Hi Carole,
      Congrats on getting past the launch! There are a lot of items on your list but make sure you focus on them one at a time. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

  8. Steve I have been following for awhile now and you are so right about having self confidence, actually more like staying confident. It can be hard though. Just recently launched a store and am really struggling with the marketing part. I know I have a lot to learn about it and that is what am currently working on it, SEO etc. Thank you for the tips, much needed.

    1. Before spending too much on marketing, I would also focus some effort on conversion optimization. After all, there’s no point in getting customers if they don’t convert.

  9. Teepu Cedi Camba says:

    Indeed Steve, I agree with you about attitude takes the most factor percentage of success. I’ve observed it to myself also like an A/B testing. I’ll observe if I’m interested and not. I had compared that even though I’m not really good at it but I’m interested( most likely will be very studious and hard working on it ), most of the time, I get far on what I’m doing. But on the other hand, if I’m not passionate about it( most likely I’ll be very lazy on that project or tasks ), I fail even though I have the overview. I fell short and same as what you’ve said, can’t finish anything.

    Right now, it’s different since my discovery. Focus and don’t jump to the next if net yet finished on the more important tasks and stop procrastinating..

    1. Yep. It’s definitely human nature to behave that way. Unfortunately, not everything about running a business is fun and interesting:) But good luck with your shop!

  10. I’m on the above situation at many times.
    Sometime I have too many ideas and trying to get them all, but finally I get nothing at all. :(
    So I try different approach, I write all my ideas on my book and choose one of them, then trying to make it work.
    And I won’t lost the other ideas, it is still written on my book, right? :)

    1. Sounds like a great idea May. I have a similar list as well that I keep in my Google account.

  11. Matt Ward says:

    Great resource Steve. Very helpful on enforcing things we all should know but often forget

  12. Sean says:

    Hi Steve,
    Been following your blog for awhile but this will be the first time I left a reply. Just recently decided to start an LLC using Legalzoom, but reading too many reviews have scared me from using an online service like them. What do you think? The reason I’m doing an LLC instead of general partnership is because my partner and I didn’t want to run into any legal issue without some protection. But also its for my own mental accountability of knowing that I have to keep on going and keep at it since I already have the company in hand.


  13. Steve,
    I’m revving my engine to start but just nibbling on the frog!
    uug, with summer and kids and work and dealing with clients with my other business, that is thankfully better now, I have been afraid I wouldn’t be able to put the time into it.
    This article really cleared some things up for me. My LLC had been an emotional roadblock. I didn’t think I could go any further until that got done and it kept making it’s way from the front of my desk to the back of the line. I had sent off my LLC to my state and it came back, luckily because I wanted to change the name a bit. But now that I know my niche and I have found vendors for other like items in case I can’t keep up inventory I am ready to actually make a page. ….. here goes. I’m gonna eat that frog!

  14. Steve,

    You mentioned conversion optimization. How do i accomplish this? Do you have any articles, blog posts, resources, etc that i could study more on this?



    1. I have several in the archives. Did you click on “start here” in the menu bar and scroll all the way down to the bottom?

  15. Great blog steve. A lot of your tips are helpful. I hope one day in the future we can link up and do stuff together. For now I am doing what I need to do.

    I started my company a while ago and it took me a while to get to this point, I launch at the end of may. I am also a part time Electrical and Computer Engineering student at Cal Poly Pomona, probably within ~60 units from graduating. Although it is very difficult, I push through both things because I know I cannot wait and now is the time to take the risk. And I also know that in the future with the business I am doing, my ECE degree will significantly multiply the money my business makes. It’s cool how you are an engineer too – that mind training from learning engineering is very useful and gives you a wider outlook on life.

    Anyways, great stuff. I’ll be reading many of your other things soon.

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