Surviving as an E-Commerce Sole Proprietor

Surviving as an E-Commerce Sole ProprietorLarge e-commerce businesses have an advantage over sole proprietors engaged in online business, with departments dedicated to advertising, SEO, IT and accounting.

How does an e-commerce sole proprietor manage all of these important tasks on their own? Whether a business operates solely online, or has expanded from a brick and mortar company by building a web presence, achieving work/life balance is critical in avoiding burnout.

E-commerce opens doors to increased sales and exposure to a much larger market. Use the following tips, not only to cope with the increased pressure inherent to the additional opportunities created by e-commerce, but to thrive in a global marketplace as a one-man show.

Treat E-Commerce Sole Proprietorship Like a J.O.B.

Some emergency or urgent situations must be dealt with after hours. Don’t make this a regular practice. Even if operating the business from home, off time must be spent out of the office, having a personal life. It’s tempting to complete just one more task before calling it a day, but creating a work schedule and sticking to it is critical to achieving work/life balance.

You don’t have to meet your clients face-to-face all the time but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to act and look like a serious entrepreneur. You also need to act like a total pro,  show up for work on time, and leave work accomplishing a string of tasks on your to-do list.

Have a Solid Plan for Growth

Surviving as an E-Commerce Sole Proprietor - Growth StrategyThe rate at which an e-commerce business can expand catches many entrepreneurs off guard. If all goes as planned, marketing and branding efforts should increase product or service sales. This could be a double-edged sword unless a solid business plan is in place to handle growth and expansion.

A good business plan should include the option to outsource digital marketing functions that can be employed quickly if business is booming. Know which aspects of the business can be handed off to others and which tasks should be kept in-house.

Recognize Strengths & Outsource the Rest

Take an online retail store as an example. They may have the best products, but every minute writing blogs and articles or tweaking their website takes away from the time they should be spending sourcing products and perfecting sales campaigns to generate income.

If marketing duties are detracting from an e-commerce business owner’s ability to perform the tasks they must do to provide the actual product or service, they should enlist the help of professionals specializing in startup marketing. When outsourcing marketing tasks, they should simply create a listing outlining the current need and choose a service provider from the proposals submitted.

Simplify Business Processes

Take advantage of the myriad of productivity software available to help track inventory, keep books, manage client communications and more. When falling behind, barely managing or having to work more hours in a week than ideal, investigate ways to simplify. Here is a free online course that covers introductory accounting for small businesses.

Surprisingly, many sole proprietors feel technologically comfortable enough to take their business online, but shy away from learning new software or business processes that would help them manage the increased workload. Carefully weigh the time it would take to learn how to use a program like Quickbooks against the time it will save over the life of the software.

Network – The Old Fashioned Way

Surviving as an E-Commerce Sole Proprietor - NetworkingOne of the more common side effects of working alone online is the tendency to become socially isolated, known in the United States as “cocooning.” Sociologist Karen Christensen notes in her Encyclopedia of Community (Sage, 2003), “Working at home, whether as a telecommuter, freelancer, or consultant, can be considered part of the cocooning trend.”

Get out in the community and meet with other e-commerce or local business owners. Benefit from the experience of others, and share the valuable face time and personal interaction that is simply not possible in e-commerce.

The benefits of operating a successful e-commerce business are best enjoyed alongside a rewarding personal life. Make a healthy work/life balance as much a priority as growing your business to profit both professionally and personally.