Overcoming Self Doubt And What It Takes To Make 6 Figures In Ecommerce

Looking back, one of the biggest challenges of starting our ecommerce store was the lack of support. For example in 2007…

We had no one to talk to.

We had no one to share our experiences with.

We had no one to compare strategies with.

And to make things worse, most people doubted that we would ever be able to replace my wife’s 6 figure income selling handkerchiefs online.

Here’s the funny thing about friendship and support.

If most of your friends work full time day jobs, then most of them will be skeptical of your chances for success. And there will always be a small part of their mind that secretly hopes you’ll fail.

Now your friends are not bad people for thinking this way. It’s just that human nature causes people to doubt any path that they have not chosen for themselves.

Even though I run multiple 6 7 figure businesses, I still consistently get 3-5 emails per week from people who simply do not believe that money can be made in ecommerce let alone 6 figures in profit in a single year!

For example, here’s an email that I received just the other day.

Your figures do not add up. There is no way your wife made $100,000 profit on her first year doing most packing by herself. – Marisa

First of all, making 6 figures within a year is not uncommon. In fact, it’s not even that impressive anymore and I have a hundred podcast guests that have well exceeded this number.

For example, Ryan Moran made 7 figures in revenue with a profit margin of about 30% in his first year. Nemo Chu did something similar.

One of the students in my class, Toni Anderson, made 190K in her first 7 months selling jewelry online.

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Breaking Down 6 Figures In Profit

Making 6 figures per year with an ecommerce store may sound insurmountable at first. But let’s break down this number and take a look at it from a different perspective.

A typical online store that sells other peoples’ products makes roughly a 50% margin. So in order to make $100K, you have to generate $200K in revenue.

A typical Amazon seller makes a 33% margin after all of the Amazon fees and product costs. So in order to make $100K profit on Amazon, you need to generate $300K in revenue.

For our online store back in 2007, we imported all of our stuff from Asia and our margins were anywhere from 75-95%. For us to make 100K in profit, we needed to generate between $105,000-$133,000.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume $125K in revenue was required for us to make $100K in profit.

Note: Back in the day, we ran everything from our garage and had pretty much zero overhead. We charged really high shipping rates as well so we actually made money on shipping.

$125K divided by 365 days/year = $342 per day

Our average order size was around $50 so that meant we only needed 7 orders per day to make $125K for the year.

Just 7 orders per day!!!

It doesn’t sound like a whole lot when you think about it that way does it?

Fulfilling 6 Figures Worth Of Orders

packing orders

According to the reader’s email above, it is physically impossible to pack 7 orders per day while working a day job.

What do you think?

Now is it grueling work to have to pack orders for several hours after you’re tired from a long day of work? Absolutely.

Is it impossible? Hardly.

First off, my wife was not alone. We packed orders together and we were a team. I got off work at 6pm, ate dinner and then helped her pack until late at night.

Here’s another little known fact…

I was in charge of doing all of the sewing and embroidery for the first year. Why was this my job? It’s because even though sewing was one of my wife’s favorite hobbies, she hated sewing for money.

So rather than give up a potential cash cow that generated 95% margins, I took the helm and operated the machines.

I would come home from my 50-55 hour per week day job designing microprocessors and then I would sew for several hours until all of our personalized orders were fulfilled.

But realistically speaking, packing and shipping 7 orders per day was not a big deal. If you are determined, you can do it.

Running An Ecommerce Store Has Never Been Easier


Back when my wife and I first started, there was no Amazon. There were very few if any 3PLs.

Note: 3PL stands for 3rd party logistics which is basically a fulfillment house for your goods. For more information, check out my post on Why You Need A Fulfillment Center And My Top 3PL Picks

As a result, my wife and I were forced to pack and ship all of our orders by ourselves. We had to carry inventory which meant that we needed to dedicate space in our house to store our goods.

Today, that is not the case.

Thanks to Amazon’s FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) program, you can ship all of your goods directly to Amazon’s warehouse and have them do the shipping and handling for you.

They will also handle all of your customer service.

You don’t need to pick up the phone.
You don’t need a physical address for your company.
You don’t need to handle returns.

Thanks to the rising popularity of ecommerce, there are also many 3PL companies that will handle all of your shipping and handling needs if you decide not to go the Amazon route.

Launching A Website Has Never Been Simpler

shopping cart

Back in 2007, I only had a few choices for my website. I could either download an open source shopping cart and run my own server or I could develop my own home grown solution.

There weren’t any good fully hosted shopping cart platforms at the time and you had to invest a significant sum of money to get your website designed if you didn’t have any skills.

Today, you can sign up for a service like Shopify or Big Commerce and have a website up within a day.

If you want a little more control, there are a plethora of open source options like Open Cart, Prestashop or Magento.

Putting up your own website has never been easier and it’s very affordable too.

Click Here To Learn How To Start Your Own Online Store Step By Step

Getting Traffic And Making Sales


Once you have a product to sell, the next logical step is to drive traffic to your listings and complete the sale.

However, most people struggle with this step.

It’s true. Driving traffic to your own branded website is difficult and requires some amount of skill. This is why that I recommend all beginners dip their toes in the water by selling on Amazon.

Amazon has such an ENORMOUS built in marketplace that any well researched product you throw up will probably sell, especially during the holidays.

When I launched my first few products on Amazon, I made $3000 in the first month doing absolutely nothing.

My products had 0 reviews.
I didn’t do any giveaways.
The products just sold organically by themselves.

And our sales have continued to increase month after month to the point now where Amazon is generating meaningful revenue.

Anyway, here’s my recommended flow if you want to get started in ecommerce.

  • Start off by selling on Amazon and take advantage of Amazon’s vast marketplace to test the demand and viability of your products.
  • Put up your own branded website after you are generating consistent sales.
  • Continue to sell your products on as many marketplaces as possible while focusing your efforts on your own web property

Remember, if 6 figures is your goal, then it helps to break down your problem into smaller pieces. For my wife and I, we knew that we only needed 6-7 orders per day to reach our goal.

But if we thought about it in terms of making $100,000 in profit, we might have gotten discouraged early on when business was slow.

Bottom line, when it comes to selling online you don’t have to swing for the fences and start the next Google, Target or Walmart online.

If all you want to do is to replace your day job income, your goal is well within reach.

Dealing With The Skeptics

Hopefully, I’ve shown you that replacing your day job income is not a huge undertaking when you break things down. And the key to success is not paying attention to the skeptics and the doubters.

Bottom line…

  • People who can’t relate with what you are doing will not necessarily support you.
  • People who don’t understand what you are trying to do are not good sources for advice.

The best way to get real advice and support is from other like minded entrepreneurs. So instead of relying on your friends and family, join an entrepreneurship community or attend a conference and start meeting new people!

Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?

If you are really considering starting your own online business, then you have to check out my free mini course on How To Create A Niche Online Store In 5 Easy Steps.

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 free and you'll receive weekly ecommerce tips and strategies!

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About Steve Chou

Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com

His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times,  Entrepreneur and MSNBC.  

He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.

In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts

To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.  

Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses. 

13 thoughts on “Overcoming Self Doubt And What It Takes To Make 6 Figures In Ecommerce”

  1. Kevin says:

    Great post and motivating way to put things into perspective.

  2. zack says:

    I don’t think my problem is any of the above. I think it’s the sourcing and figuring out what to sell.
    There is nothing unique left. There isn’t much left that isn’t already being sold on Amazon, which means if you want to beat the competition you pretty much have to beat them on price alone, which is a race to the bottom.

    For example I researched a potential niche and tried to find a source that was as good price-wise as possible. But when I looked into Amazon Fulfillment, the double and triple shipping charges erased all profits. In other words after paying to ship stuff to me, then paying to ship it to Amazon, it cut into the small profit margin too much. A lot of work to cut one or two bucks profit.

    I know there are drop shipping “catalogs” you can subscribe to which claim to give you lists and lists of drop shipping supplies, but those always feel dubious at best and not worth signing up for. So finding suppliers with good margins and not killing profits on shipping charges is a big challenge for me.

    Finding a niche is the second challenge but there is always competition, and not usually one or two stores, but hundreds. Even if I find a good supplier and can even drop ship, a thousand others have done the same thing. It’s not as though I’m going to find a supplier where I’m the only person selling the items!

    I believe you, Amazon is cool, drop shipping is easy, websites are easy, marketing “can” be fairly easy as far as buying ads and stuff. Processing funds is easy, and shipping can be easy with Amazon Fulfillment. But I’m always left stuck at the niche and supplier part. I would love love love more than anything to just start a store, but try as I might in a two years I still haven’t been able to settle on any kind of niche. It’s debilitating!

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey Zack,

      I hear you. But have you actually gotten to the point of trying to sell anything yet? Sometimes, analysis on paper can be completely wrong and a lot of it comes down to execution.

  3. Nate says:

    I’m going to guess the person that doubted you has revenue numbers in the shape of a doughnut. Thanks for this helpful article and breaking down the simplicity of what it takes to be successful.

    1. Steve C says:

      Good question. I forward this article on but haven’t heard back.

  4. M. K. Zeppa says:

    I found your blog researching shopping cart hosts. You write great posts about ecommerce and being in business. I’m a fan.
    But it seems you are talking gross profit in this article…still impressive numbers but not the bottom line. (you can correct me if I’m wrong or misunderstood something) Working out of your garage and investing your own sweat equity saved you $ in physical overhead as it does for all start ups. So what did you do or spend on marketing that year to generate 7 orders per day from ground zero? There are plenty of folks who will be happy to sew or pack or whatever they have to do into the night if they have orders to fill…actually that’s the easy peasy part. Getting the orders…today, not so much. Thoughts?

    1. Steve C says:

      Hey MK,

      Yes, you are correct and I tried to explain everything as simply as possible. For our store, we used adwords to get our initial sales where it was not uncommon for us to get a 10X return on ad spend. But most of our sales came from SEO and cold calling wedding and event planners to get consistent bulk sales. So yes, the projected revenues to reach 100K for our store were a little more but still in the same ballpark of 7 orders per day.

      For Amazon, the 300K does account for amazon fees and cost of goods assuming you can source at a 66% margin for your landed cost of goods.

  5. KBA says:

    Thanks so much for this article. I’m going through this right now. I’ve seen a couple well meaning business mentors that volunteer with SCORE and a library innovation center. Neither believe that money can be made online. I quoted some numbers my competition touted and the mentors both said they didn’t believe it. My jaw dropped!

    I didn’t realize it, but those negative voices have replayed in the back of my mind and given me self doubt – even though I hear story after story of success. If I could do it over again I would guard my mind from any negative talk because early on it can be detrimental.

    I was moving at the speed of lightning setting up my business and have stalled the last few weeks because of self-doubt. Reading articles like yours is thawing me out of my frozen stage. Thanks so much for posting.

  6. Windy B says:

    So many successful stories we have heard. I think those might be true, but don’t forgot one element, which is time , competition and market have changed comparing with a couple of years ago. Business is currently pretty hard to do and competition now is just like fighting in a war. We have experienced so many awful competition in various terrible ways that we’ve never had before. Those will be extremely difficult for new seller to exist in the current rough market. Even if just mention about the cost of key word in Google and the continued droping price and margin in Amazon, it has been proved what I indicated. So, for those who are new startup on online business, it is not as easier as you described at your earlier years.

  7. Xyz from Financial Path. says:

    This is a nice breakdown. Very inspirational for a beginner like me.

  8. Nancy says:

    I think it would be helpful if you would use terms such as “gross sales,” “gross profit” and “net profit” to make it clearer for everyone and possibly even define your terms – this is all new to some.

    You do a great job and provide a great service to those who want to be self-employed!

  9. srikanth says:

    Thanks Steve, it is a good actionable motivating post for e-commerce business.

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