Why Doing What Is Cheap And Easy Can Cost Your Business Time And Money

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I receive many questions about how to open an online store every single day. But lately, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend. It seems that several of you are looking for the easiest and cheapest solution possible and making detrimental business decisions along the way.

You are searching for a single magic bullet that will solve all of your problems, a bullet that doesn’t exist. Now I can understand being risk averse and not wanting to invest a large sum of money into a business before you know it will make money, but at some point you need to realize that it takes some amount of monetary risk to succeed.

Photo By Eric Gjerde

For example, the other day I received an email from a young man who just graduated from college wanting to learn how to find products to sell online. And he prefaced his question with the following statement.

Steve, I need advice on how to find products to sell. I know that you highly recommend Worldwide Brands, but I don’t want to spend that kind of money right now. Can you recommend an alternate way of finding vendors?

Now I completely understand not wanting to invest the $300 that signing up for Worldwide Brands entails, but when I suggested some alternative methods such as attending wholesale tradeshows, contacting distributors directly etc…, he still seemed hesitant. And after a few back and forth emails, I discovered that he

  • Did not want to pay for Worldwide Brands or for any service that could save him time.
  • Did not want to travel anywhere to attend wholesale trade shows because it would be too expensive
  • Did not want to contact individual vendors from B2B sourcing websites like globalsources.net because it was too time consuming

Well geez….once you exclude all of those methods, there aren’t a whole lot of options left. In the end, I found out that he wanted to know if there was an Amazon.com like superstore of wholesale goods, a place where all he had to do was buy a few products, turn around to sell them online and make a quick buck.

He had no interest in establishing relationships with vendors and wanted to know an easy and free way to find products to sell. Finally, I wished him good luck and gave him a quick warning about product sourcing scams on the internet.

Is Frugality Affecting Your Business Viability?

Shortly after that email, I received another message from a nice young lady who recently got the courage to start her own online store.

While I was extremely happy for her, she then went on to ask why I bothered to sign up for my own domain and pay for a webhost when there were free hosted shopping cart solutions available.

Specifically, she asked why I recommended hosted shopping cart solutions like Big Commerce and Shopify when there were other hosted solutions available with absolutely no monthly or transaction fees whatsoever.

At first I was shocked! I have never seen a free hosted shopping cart solution before so I went to check out one of these free sites. Turns out that there’s a catch (isn’t there always?).

If you open a store with one of these free hosted shopping cart sites, you are forced to use their domain name. In other words, if I wanted to start my own store, it would have to be named steve.freeshoppingcart.com or something along those lines.

Sure the service might be free for now (for up to several hundred products), but you would never ever own your domain. And I’m 100% positive that it would be a major pain in the butt to migrate your store to another platform if the need were to ever arise.

Invest Some Money And Do It Right

The hardest part about becoming an entrepreneur is understanding when to be frugal and when to spend your hard earned cash.

In the case of this young lady, she’s going to be in a world of hurt if her store ever takes off and she wants to switch to a real shopping cart platform.

Because she doesn’t own her store’s domain, she doesn’t really own her store. Essentially, she’s just building page rank and backlinks for her webhost and not for her business.

Running an online store on one of these free platforms is like running an Ebay store. You don’t have any control, you have to follow their rules and they can jack up their rates at any time because they essentially own you.

On the other hand, opening a hosting account at a place like Blue Host costs only $6.95 a month.

Is it worth saving $6.95 a month in exchange for the future viability of your business? If you don’t want to deal with hosting your own site, is it worth $25 to sign up for Big Commerce or Shopify and establish a solid foundation for your online store?

Your Time Is Valuable

The other difficult lesson to learn about entrepreneurship is realizing that your time is valuable even though you might not be directly generating cash at the moment.

In the case of the young college grad I spoke with, signing up for a service like Worldwide Brands would have saved him a ton of time during his search for vendors.

$300 sounds like a lot of money in the beginning, but when you factor in the potential wasted hours sifting through middlemen and fake vendors, it no longer seems like a significant sum in the end.

While I have not followed up with this college grad, I suspect that he’s having a hard time finding legitimate vendors online. The main reason?

Legit distributors and vendors don’t really advertise themselves on the web. Real distributors don’t want to deal with having to filter out the riff raff, which include those who are inexperienced or not serious about opening a store.

What you will find online however, are lots and lots of middlemen, scammers that are trying to rip you off by selling you goods at much higher prices.

If you’re not careful, you can easily waste hours of your time filtering out, contacting and buying from these fake vendors without even realizing that you are getting taken for a ride.

Taking The Opposite Approach

Instead of looking for shortcuts or finding ways to cut corners with your business, you should focus on going the extra mile. I’ve run this blog long enough to realize that most people aren’t willing to travel overseas to source their product.

Most people aren’t willing to produce compelling content for their online business in order to attract visitors to their website. Most people aren’t willing to go beyond what is easy or cheap to implement.

But guess what? If it’s easy for you, then it’s easy for everyone else. In order for your business to stand out among the crowd, you have to be willing to do what other people are reluctant to do.

If most people find it hard to import goods in from other countries, then you can get a leg up on the competition by sourcing goods from overseas.

If most people don’t have the know how to create a great website, then you should learn or hire someone who can. If most people are too lazy to put out great compelling content, then start writing!

Every little thing that you do that is difficult or a pain to implement will help differentiate your business from the crowd and provide a barrier to entry.

So the next time you decide to cut some corners or save money, consider whether that corner could potentially help make your business shine.

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 absolutely free!

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19 thoughts on “Why Doing What Is Cheap And Easy Can Cost Your Business Time And Money”

  1. Steve – very well written article! I’m in the process of opening a store and keep hearing feedback about how difficult it is to import, how am I going to deal with foreign currencies, where will I find a web designer, etc. Like you say, if it was easy everyone would be doing it!

    Things that seem too good to be true usually are – not only will that woman have trouble migrating her site, but she is losing out on building her brand which is invaluable!!!

    1. @Elizabeth
      That’s absolutely true. Since most people aren’t willing to put in the effort, you are already ahead of the game if willing to go the extra mile. It’s okay to go cheap sometimes as long as it doesn’t affect the long term viability of your business

  2. I noticed yesterday that world wide brands is now offering subscription with monthly installments $99 1st payment and 2 $110 automatic payments thereafter. With it if you need some time to scrape up some cash to join.

  3. Well said! When my store first opened, I used the cookie cutter design of the shopping cart. Guess what? Not one single sale for over a month! So I paid a web designer who completely revamped my site. It looks wonderful now and the sales are coming in!

    1. @nawallace
      I’ve evaluated many of my readers’ sites and a lot of them first use cookie cutter designs to start. It’s amazing how much better a site can look once a professional takes the reins

  4. suresh says:

    sir, i do not know full english so please help me

  5. Nathan says:

    Well said. In fact, it’s comforting to me to know that most can’t/won’t do what is necessary to build a real business. It gives me hope that by doing the “hard work” myself, I’ve elimitated most of the “competition”.

    Sure, the true competition is the other players in the market, but still, on a psychological level, I’ve found this fact (most won’t put in the work) to be empowering to me in my work.

    1. @Nathan
      That is where persistence comes in as well. Most people give up after a short while when the going gets tough. Most people let their business go stagnant. But if you work hard and constantly tweak your store, success is inevitable.

  6. Well there’s Amazon associates.

    I do think that if you don’t have much money (like me) then you need to invest time. Maybe there are (lots of) people smarter than me, but so far as I can tell (so far) starting out means investing time and/or money.

    1. @Evan
      There comes a point in which your learning curve and time required makes it worth it to hire a service or outside help. There are so many things to take care of in a business that if you spend too much time in any one thing, you may never launch or you may make critical mistakes that will be hard to undo later on

  7. Ricky says:

    Yeah its very important to host your shopping cart at your own domain and preferred hosting provider since your website is your business address so its good to apply your time/money and energy to build your own Brand.

    1. @Ricky
      Definitely. Having and building page rank for your own domain and brand is crucial and worth the money

  8. You can only cut costs so much before quality suffers. The value in paying for quality services like web hosts, shopping carts and designers is that they let you focus on your core business.

    Nice post Steve – I am glad I found your site and am going to take a look around :-)


    1. @Mike
      I’m glad you stopped by. Outsourcing tasks to the experts has been one of my hardest hurdles to overcome as an entrepreneur and I haven’t found a good way to convince my readers of that just yet.

  9. Thanks for the article Steve. I felt the same way.

    You either spend lots of time into the setting up and refining the online store or you spend the right amount of money to let other system run some of the tasks for you (ie. vendor searching, web design, bookkeeping system, inventory, etc)

    Initially when you are low in capital, you just have to spend a lot more time into starting and expanding. Later on, once you have some revenue, you may invest that money into your business/online store to make it more efficient.

  10. Will says:

    The only area where I’m seriously considering going cheap is sole proprietorship vs LLC. It just seems to be way too much of an expense/hassle if it’ll only be me involved in the foreseeable future.

  11. Your advice is absolutely right. Your examples are shocking. Being an entrepreneur is hard work, takes time, investment, risk, and basic research (which seemed to be lacking in the young woman with the domain-name problem). That people don’t realize this is the first shock.

    The second shock is that people don’t realize that you get what you pay for, and your customers will know this. If you cut corners, source cheaply rather than well, and are lazy, you won’t attract or retain customers. Maybe not even friends!

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