When you put yourself out there by writing blog posts about your successful online business, interviewing popular guests on your podcast and throwing ecommerce conferences, there’s a tendency for people to put you on a pedestal.
“Steve, you must work your ass off. Do you ever sleep?”
“Steve, you are the most motivated person I know”
“Steve, you are my favorite ecommerce guru”
Well I hate to burst your bubble, but I’m actually none of these things.
First off, I don’t consider myself a “self-motivated” person. If I didn’t have a loving wife and a family to support, I’m not 100% sure that I would have taken the same path that I did many years ago.
In fact, my close friends know that I’m a pretty lazy guy. The other day I was craving a crepe from my favorite crepe place, The Crepevine, but it was raining outside so I decided to bail.
If I can’t find the remote for the television, I’ll just continue to watch the same channel:) Yes… I’m that bad.
Contrary to popular belief, I actually don’t work that many hours per week. Instead, I’m good at prioritizing what’s essential and drop EVERYTHING else on the floor.
And finally, I’m definitely not a guru or an expert. Instead, I consider myself a scientist. I’m learning alongside the rest of you and using my online store as my own personal laboratory.
Here’s the thing.
Most of the successful people I know aren’t superheroes. They are just regular people who have made the simple choice to get up off their butts and start something without regard to failure.
They aren’t smarter than you.
They aren’t better than you
They aren’t necessarily harder workers either.
If you find yourself struggling to get going, here’s a quick guide that I put together to help you get started from the perspective of a lazy Chinese person.
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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
First off, I wanted to start this post with a personal story of how MyWifeQuitHerJob.com began. Most people don’t know this, but I struggled to launch my blog in the beginning and it almost never happened.
At the time, not only did I hate writing (and still do), but I was also very reluctant to learn WordPress. Even though I knew that I could do it easily, I just couldn’t get myself to start.
Here was my rationale.
I didn’t want to launch my blog until I had done extensive research and I didn’t want to waste any money during the learning phase. (I’m pretty frugal)
So months passed with zero progress but I continued to run my mouth about the grand goals that I was planning to accomplish.
Finally, my wife got fed up with my endless pontifications and said “just launch the damn thing already!”
Now as a husband who hangs on my wife’s every word (no sarcasm intended), I listened. So I plunked down $200, signed up for 3 years of web hosting upfront and started writing.
Here’s the thing.
Because I put down actual money, it gave me the push I needed to follow through.
You might be shaking your heads that $200 isn’t a lot of money but that’s not the point. Spending money can do profound things to your psyche and often times this is how I get myself off my butt.
If I feel too lazy to do something, I just pay for it upfront and that FORCES me to take action.
Don’t Worry About The Equipment
Before I launched my podcast and started doing webinars, one thing that stopped me in my tracks was the perception of not having the right equipment.
When I started my ecommerce store, I was worried about not having a good enough camera to take pictures of my products.
Now production value does matter to a certain extent but it matters MUCH LESS than you think. You can literally launch most businesses with what you already own.
For example, I ran a webinar 2 weeks ago that made $54,000 with the poor mans setup shown below.
My webcam is ancient. I’m using free software and there’s nothing fancy about my equipment at all. It literally costs me 0 dollars to run.
Many of you have seen my videos as part of my free 6 day mini course and the production quality is nothing to brag about.
There are no special effects. It’s just me in front of a camera talking directly to you.
But guess what? Those videos convert a lot of sales.
Here’s a fun fact. I’m still using Microsoft Office 2003! Greg Mercer rags on me endlessly for this.
Equipment doesn’t matter. You and your content matter. You don’t need anything else.
Don’t Bother Setting Goals
Another little known fact about me is that I almost never set goals. I say “almost never” because last year was the first time I set a goal of making one million dollars with my blog.
And even though I hit it, it totally stressed me out.
Last year, I planned on taking December completely off but when Thanksgiving rolled around, my wife told me that I was projected to be short by 30K.
Having an artificial goal forced me to scramble and make up that amount in December. And as a result, I hated running my business that month.
Here’s the thing about goals.
If you end up hitting them, then that’s great. But guess what? You’ll likely end up setting even higher goals the following year and stressing yourself out.
And if you don’t hit them? You’ll probably be disappointed and disheartened.
I don’t need that kind of stress in my life. Instead, I just do whatever is in my power to improve and let the chips fall where they may.
Every year, I tell myself that I’m going to try 1-2 brand new strategies and let it ride.
This makes running my businesses much more enjoyable and provides me with the mental strength I need to maintain consistency.
Think about it this way.
If I were to constantly miss my goals, then I would probably feel inadequate and start to resent my business.
If I were to constantly hit my goals, then I would probably get more aggressive and stress myself out.
Most people will strongly disagree with this mindset. But from the perspective of a lazy person, this mentality keeps me going day in and day out.
Don’t Worry About Problems Until They Arise
Way back in 2011 when I decided to launch my Create A Profitable Online Store Course, my main concern was my ability to support my students.
So I called up Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich and here’s what he said to me…
“Dude, you are such an engineer. Why are you worrying about something before it’s even happened? Focus on getting customers first and then adjust appropriately if you are overwhelmed.”
I’ve sold my course to thousands of students over the years and I still have plenty of bandwidth for support. It was never an issue and I’m glad that it didn’t prevent me from taking action.
A lot of people email me on a daily basis anticipating all of the POTENTIAL problems with their ecommerce business.
Steve, what if I get TOO many sales to fulfill myself?
Steve, what if I get TOO many phone calls?
Steve, what if competitors copy my products?
Steve, what if Amazon is too saturated?
Steve, what if the world ends tomorrow?
But in the grand scheme of things, 99.9% of these problems are not a big deal.
If you are on the sidelines worrying about unrealistic dooms day scenarios, then stop!
What’s the worse thing that can happen? You might make less that you think? You might lose a little bit of money but gain a ton of knowledge in the process?
Sounds like a pretty good trade off to me. Don’t play the “what if” game.
Don’t Worry About Automating Everything
Automation is cool but there’s a subset of people out there who obsess over it.
“I don’t want to launch anything unless everything is taken care of. I want a computer to do all of the heavylifting while I sit back and drink fruity girly drinks by the pool”
If you have this mentality, then you’ll never get started.
In all of my years of being a hardware engineer, the most important concept that I’ve learned is the “KISS principle” (Keep It Simple Stupid).
Here’s a little secret about me.
I love automation. But I never devote time to automating anything until it gets so painful that I must take action.
Here’s a dumb example.
To this day, I still process delinquent payment plan customers by hand. Now I could write a piece of code to automate this process but I simply don’t get enough of these cases to warrant any action.
I’ve got other more important priorities…like going to girl scout brownie troop meetings.
Moral of the story. Keep things simple and just get the damn thing out the door.
Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Dumb Questions
Those of you who listen to my podcast know that I ask lots of dumb questions to my guests.
Sometimes I know the answers to these questions before I ask them but I ask them anyway even if I come across as an idiot. Why?
It’s because sometimes, I get unexpected answers which completely change my way of thinking.
Here’s an example.
During my interview with Kyle Taylor, I asked a bunch of basic questions about how he runs his email marketing campaigns.
And in the back of my mind, I thought I knew all the tricks of the trade since 90% of my revenues are from email.
But because I asked a few silly questions to dig deeper into his flow, I discovered one little tidbit that has fundamentally changed how I send emails forever:)
Note: I’m going to make you listen to his interview for the answer:) I’m evil aren’t I? Click here to listen to it
Being Lazy Is OK. But Don’t Do This…
Especially if you’re a lazy person at heart like I am, I hope these tips will help you get off your butt and take action.
But I also want to leave you with one last piece of advice that has greatly helped me during my entrepreneurship journey.
Try as hard as you can to force yourself to stop complaining and don’t make excuses.
No one likes a complainer and people will be less likely to help you if you do.
When the chips are down, try not to feel bad about yourself.
Don’t throw yourself a pity party when things don’t go your way.
Instead, take a deep breath and think about how you’re going to get yourself out of your hole and the rest will take care of itself.
Prefer To Watch Instead Of Read?
I put together this quick video that explains the proper mindset to start a successful online business.
photo credit: Hush Money Old School Mushroom Cloud Tesla Autobots CIMG3244
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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.
27 thoughts on “The Lazy Mans Guide To Starting A Successful Online Business”
I love what you said about the goals – I’ve never been good at setting them exactly for those reasons and I am also extremely lazy like you.
There are certain things I use all the time, like bobby pins, hair ties and scissors. I’m so lazy that I buy huge packs of them and then leave them all over the place, just so that I won’t have to go looking for them when I need them.
Love your post.
I just prefer to keep my stress levels within a controllable amount. Kids are stressful enough as is:)
Isn’t that the truth? We get in our own way so often. Especially the “what if” part. Mark Twain said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
So, I finally just realized that when or if the “what if” scenario does happen, I’ll figure it out.
Amen to that Lisa
Hey Steve! Thanks for this post! Like you I am an extremely lazy person so I can definitely relate. I’ve been complaining to my significant other for months and she finally called me out on my BS. As an engineer, I also like to account for all the possibilities of what could go wrong and I’m still learning to just take action instead of worrying or complaining. Thanks for the advice again!
It’s the engineer’s curse. Fortunately, we have women in our lives to give us a kick in the butt
How did you make $54K off of a webinar?…..
Probably the best and most relevant blog post (for me) that I’ve read in a while – thanks Steve! I’m glad for the inspiration that ‘people just like me’ can do it – so maybe I can do it too! 🙂
Thanks Steve. Nice name btw
What you said at the end really hit home for me.
No more complaining!
Thanks again for the welcome advice.
When the chips are down, try not to feel bad about yourself. I liked this line a lot. Because this thing has happened with me too. I was in a low phase and at that point of time there was noone to help except my own self. Stand for yourself this is what I want to convey.
Everyone goes through it at some point
I am definitely a lazy person at heart. But I also feel the need to know everything going on, so I couldn’t rely on automation for everything. Thanks for the insight!
Thank you David
a simple article which motivates a lot persons like me who are afraid of starting off
Need me to yell at you:)?
Here’s to being a super practical (and unconventional) business owner!
Thanks Steve for all the solid information
Thank you for this post! It’s so easy to get caught up in automaton and tech and blah blah blah. Sometimes I forget that taking action is what really counts. And putting some money down. I have a tool that I’ve been wanting for my blog but have been unwilling to spend the $120 because frankly, I’m cheap.
I guess the real question is whether that $120 tool will make you more money in the end.
As a business analyst, I definitely suffer from “analysis paralysis”. Although
I know the “KISS” concept, I do not practice it often enough. Thank you for the post and most of all, for your blog. I have picked up many ideas!
I always love your down to earth practical tips for an average guy like me Steve. Thanks so much for this post.
I have developed some web presence around my website and now I’m spending more time in identifying the roadblocks. I’m sure, it’s equally important for us to identify our immediate goals alongside our goals in the long-run. A business often owes it’s success to a dedicated team, but it needs to determine the roles of each member early on.
Before starting an online business, we need to learn about the possibilities and instructions for the smooth running of the business. Nowadays online business is the best way to reach customers and here this article describes some important facts about how to start a business online. This is the best way to grow our business and I really appreciate the ingredients present here in this article.
This post really did hit home…I do consider myself to be lazy, a leisure kind of lazy, i’ll cut grass, wash dishes and other things, but sometimes, I just want to watch TV or sleep longer, or even just lay on the couch. I, also, don’t want to work a full-time job anymore, so i’m taking this plunge to eliminate the 9 to 5. I’ll work at this so I can free up some time to take life a little easier. I’m late to the game, i’m 59 yrs young…but, i’m ready to do things differently, so I can do some different things. Thanks for letting me know that I can do it too!
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