I often get asked by my friends whether I truly enjoy running my online store and whether selling wedding linens really floats my boat. In fact, most of my friends still find it hard to believe that I’m in the linens business in the first place.
Most of my friends don’t understand how I can possibly get excited running such a mundane business selling handkerchiefs and napkins.
After all, everyone knows that I love technology and selling pieces of fabric is about as far away from hi-tech as you can get.
In reality, what they really want to know is where my passion lies and why I still love running my business after all of these years.
Do you and your wife have a burning passion for wedding linen? Do you go on forums for brides and talk all about thread count and such?
What would you recommend is the cut-off line between “according to my metrics, this should sell well and generate good profit” , and ” I freaking LOVE this product”.
Do you really need to follow your passion in order to run a successful online store?
The Many Facets Of Passion
First off, I fully admit that I’m not terribly passionate about wedding linens. Decorative pieces of fabric don’t really make me excited and to be honest, I’m not in love with what we sell.
But don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in our products and the value we provide to the end customer but none of that stuff sends tingles up my spine. When my wife and I first started our business, it was all about the numbers and whether the business could make enough money so my wife could quit her job.
At the time, it didn’t really matter what we sold as long as we fulfilled our end goal. In fact, selling wedding linens online wasn’t even our first choice. We explored many other options including opening a Kumons franchise, selling pearl milk tea as well as wheeling and dealing surplus electronics online.
So for me at least, the answer was no. You don’t need to have a burning passion for the products you want to sell. But you do have to have direction and a clear goal in mind.
Finding A Goal
In most cases, making money for the sake of making money is not a really good reason to start a business. You have to have an end game in mind. After all if making lots of money is your primary focus, then it’s very easy to get carried away and have your business consume your entire life.
In fact, you pretty much have to decide from the start what you want out of your business venture. For my wife and I, it was about financial freedom and allowing us to spend more time with our children.
We figured that $100,000 a year would be good enough so we channeled all of our energies towards starting a business that would allow us to work as little as possible and make only as much as we needed (though it ended up being a lot more lucrative).
Starting out, I was willing to do whatever it took for my wife to quit even if it meant selling something that I didn’t really care for.
Do You Have To Follow Your Passion?
But a funny thing started happening once my wife and I got the first few sales under our belts. I found myself getting really excited whenever a customer entered our store. I would stalk their every move. I would obsess over and analyze all of their clicks.
I found myself spending countless hours staring at the online tracking numbers for our business. Why did a customer leave our store on this page? Why did the customer abandon their shopping cart? Why isn’t this product selling at all?
In short, I became fascinated by the business analytics and the metrics involved in evaluating our sales performance as opposed to our products. Everyday, I was amazed by how many people from all across the country were able to find our tiny little website among millions of other shops.
And so I started studying customer behavior and why certain products were more appealing than others. As a byproduct of improving our sales, I learned a great deal about the wedding and textile industry.
Not only did I become an expert with our own products but I also analyzed our competitors and kept up to date with various trends in the wedding world. I even developed a persona and became a regular on the wedding and sewing forums.
The funny thing is that it didn’t really matter what we sold, I became interested in our products simply because it brought us closer to our end goal. It also helped that the money started rolling in and I could see the results of our labor.
Google Analytics became a fixture on my desktop 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
Customer Psychology Is Fascinating
But what truly excites me about our business is the customer psychology behind selling online. By making very subtle tweaks in the pricing of your products, you can have a profound effect on sales.
Related: Pricing: Psychological Mind Games That Stores Play
By changing small graphical elements on your website, you can control and funnel customers to different parts of your website. By simply altering the colors and layout of your site, you can provide a drastically different mindset for your customers.
For example did you know that by pricing a product a certain way compared to other similar products that you can drastically alter the human perception of cost?
Did you know that customers are more likely to add additional items to their shopping cart once they are ready to checkout?
It’s these little psychological mind games that really make me wake up every morning excited to run my online store. In fact, running a business is just like having your own scientific laboratory with your customers as guinea pigs.
You can make a different set of tweaks to your website and observe how your customers react. Making changes that positively impacts sales is extremely satisfying and I must say that I’ve learned a tremendous amount about human behavior just from manipulating some HTML.
Creating A Website Is Gratifying
The other thing that I love to do is design websites. As an engineer that develops hardware for a living, I often have to wait months or years to witness the fruits of my labor. But when it comes to creating a website, I get instant gratification.
I must say that I’ve had a blast managing the website design for my online store. And designing the mobile optimized version of my website made me giddy for weeks.
So whenever someone asks me how I can possibly be passionate about wedding linens, I always reply that it’s not about the product, it’s about the business. If you can find some aspect of your business that really excites you, then that is good enough.
Just make sure that whatever you decide to pursue is inline with your end game. I’ll sell anything (well almost) as long as I get to spend more time with family.
Ready To Get Serious About Starting An Online Business?
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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.
20 thoughts on “Why You Don’t Have To Follow Your Passion When Starting An Online Store”
Great article Steve! I’ve been struggling with what to sell in my store. I really love this one product but I’m not sure that it has mass appeal. You just helped make my decision easier!
I would definitely go with what you think will be more successful. Once the money starts rolling in, you’ll find that passion will start erupting from random places.
Steve, thank you so much for writing this! I “like” my product, but don’t “love” it. The decision was based on many things (one being that it was durable and easy to ship!). Like you, I mulled over several other products to sell initially. I don’t know that I would’ve been as successful if I had picked what I “loved.”
For me, I don’t think that I could ever fall in love with any product unless it was one that I developed from scratch. That being said, I feel much more passionate about my blog and my online store course than any products sold at my online store.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to actually earn a income in an online business. I’ve been blogging for a bit but dreaming about building a business of my own forever. I never have been able to work on something that I’m not all that interested in, but my interests (technology, fitness, photography, astronomy) are all huge niches with a ton of competition. I don’t know that I could sell anything unique enough or give people a unique enough selling experience to matter…also I don’t have a lot of cash for escrows, down payments and such. I have the tech tools (sites and such) just not the inventory or account fees required from the vendors.
What I wanted to say is thanks for sharing your experience, it really helps a lot. I think I’m doing it for the right reason, a better life for me and my family and to spend more time with them. I just need to figure out the how.
Sorry if this got a bit off topic.
You’re welcome. I think that you can make anything work even in a crowded niche if you are willing to put the work in and differentiate yourself. I’m sure that there are many people out there that are interested in hearing your point of view on a lot of the subjects you’ve mentioned. Take this blog for example. There are hundreds of business and ecommerce blogs out there but I’ve managed to carve out a small niche. It just takes some time and perseverance.
Just would like to add that the outcome might be different on whether you actually love the product or not.
Sometimes, you start loving it but due to the “process” end up hating the whole thing!
I would argue that being really passionate about your product can have a negative effect as well. If your passion just isn’t selling, then you may not know when to throw in the towel and see past the negatives.
But I hear you. My wife used to love embroidery until we started offering it in our store. Now she can’t stand it.
I try to make money from the Internet, but this than expected to difficult. I don’t know what you say is true, but perhaps I can try.
you dont have to love the product. to me its all the same.
plus there are tons of people who will tell you once you make a hobby you enjoy into your business, you will quickly grow to hate your once beloved hobby.
cool, now i know where to get linens.
Funny story. My wife was into embroidery as a hobby before our business. Now she can’t stand it as the business took all of the fun away.
I suppose that could be a problem for some, but in my case, vinyl record collecting turned into a business, I spend about 4 hour a max on that business, and I really love it, because it supplements my hobby as well.
I do get a tad bored with wrapping packages at times, but it beats going to some office clean toilets you know?
I love this post and your life sounds great. You have made an interesting, lucrative and enjoyable business from a product which would sound mundane to a lot of people. It’s lovely to hear. Thanks for sharing on Bizsugar.com
This is an interesting topic, I enjoy reading your blog by the way. For me I would have a hard time selling things I wasn’t passionate about, But I do carry physical inventory, I sell vintage vinyl records, and yes they take up a lot of space, but as a collector my self, One of the perks and real thrills for me is, while searching for inventory to sell, running across something rare for my own collection.
I also do some blogging about jazz and progressive rock, as well as writing for Squidoo and Hub Pages, for me the toughest thing has been getting to a point where I could right about something that is not a care of mine particularly, but would be profitable me and desirable to large groups of people, I see people cranking out hundreds of Squidoo lenses that are nothing more than 2 or 3 product reviews on one page and they are very successful, I have started doing that for things a do use and enjoy.
Wow, I just got struck with an idea. Thanks so much!
Steve, I am the author of a number of books including The Starbucks Experience and The Zappos Experience. I would love to use parts of this blog on my latest book about Starbucks. I would love to talk to you about the possibility, get a release from you, and find out how you want to be referenced. Thanks for a great blog about product passion.
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