Setting Yourself Up For Success

Setting Yourself Up For Success

This is something I have wanted to get off my chest for a while. So please forgive me if this sounds like a rant –I don’t mean it to be.

Have you ever seen a forum post that went something like this: “eBay and PayPal are just out to screw us. They are the only ones who are making money from this,” or “Amazon FBA fees are so high it’s a rip off and no one makes any money except Amazon.”

If you spend any time in forums or message boards you will come across comments like this fairly often. Don’t get me wrong –there have been instances where eBay, PayPal or Amazon, or a buyer from one of these, has screwed over a seller. It does happen –but it is usually the exception –not the rule. That is not to say that both eBay and Amazon have policies that sellers don’t like –they do. But what can you do about it? They own and control the platform. If you want to sell you have to do it by their rules.

If you want to be successful at any aspect of online commerce be it eBay, Amazon, Blogging, affiliate marketing, or whatever, the first thing you have to do is take ownership and responsibility for it. And then you have to treat it like a business.

It doesn’t matter if you are full-time or part-time, if you approach what you are doing with anything less than 100% commitment and 100% focus, then you are treating your business like a hobby.

If you are going to sell online, the first rule you have to learn is that eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and the other selling platforms, make the rules. They are all profit-making businesses and run their business from that perspective –not yours or mine. You may not agree with many of their policies and strategies (I know I surely don’t), but spending time grousing about it is a complete waste of time. (In fact, eBay’s new rules and policies became so frustrating –I just gave up and quit selling on eBay altogether).

The idea that only eBay or Amazon is making money is just silly. There are over 400,000 sellers who make a full time living on one or both of those platforms and many thousands more who make a part-time income. And that also goes for Etsy, Rakuten and the other sites. In the case of eBay, if sellers aren’t making any money they leave (and, like me, many have). Unlike Amazon, eBay sells nothing themselves, so fees from successful sellers are their only source of income.

So, having got that off my chest, here are some of the thoughts, actions and traits I think all sellers have to employ if you are going to be successful.

Attitude – A positive, can-do attitude is essential to succeed in any business. If you think the deck is stacked against you, or you blame others for any lack of success on your part, then you are wasting time and energy on unproductive thoughts. And that is a sure way to lose money because it leads to bad decisions. When you sell on a platform like eBay, Etsy or Amazon you have to follow their rules –it’s as simple as that. So rather than trying to find clever ways around them, embrace them and make them work in your favor –or just find a new platform.

Here is a real example. I have two cousins who recently retired. They are both about the same age, had the same parents and had similar educations. One of them is the type who thinks everything in the world is rigged against the little guy and the other one had pretty much a positive attitude and just worked as hard as he could. One of them retired with an excellent retirement income and over a million dollars in savings. The other one is trying to live on about $1800 a month social security. I think you can guess which one is just surviving on social security.

Focus – Do one thing at a time until you do it well enough that you can move on to something else. You will inevitably make mistakes –I have been doing this for 14 years and I still make them. As long as you learn from them that’s OK, just keep focusing on your goals and your business (or your niche) until it is successful.

Don’t try and do several businesses at once. If you are well on your way to learning how to sell on eBay, Etsy or Amazon, stick with that until you are consistently profitable month after month. Just because I come out with a new book about blogging or affiliate marketing, doesn’t mean you have to try and do that also. Wait until you master what you are doing now, then come back and buy my book later.

Risk – This brings me to the concept of managing risk. Nearly every decision you make involves some level or risk. If you try and avoid risk altogether, there is just no path to success. The key is learning to take a lot of small and manageable risks. Some will pay off while others will not. But you learn from both. When a scientific experiment doesn’t get the result the scientist hoped for, he or she considers that a successful experiment because they learned what doesn’t work. Taking risks works the same way.

Risk management is about making small mistakes that don’t knock you out of the game. For instance, we had a coaching student a couple of years ago who was actually doing well. She was growing slowly, but she was growing and making money. And then she took a big risk and bought over $5000 worth of a liquidation product that turned out to be all junk. That was just too big a loss for her to sustain and she had to go back to work to recover from it. Had she made a $1000 mistake she might have survived it –but $5,000 was just too much to overcome.

Avoid negative influences – One thing I see all the time are sellers who allow themselves to be discouraged by other people. If you want to be successful, you must learn to completely ignore what  Nixon’s VP, Spiro Agnew  called the “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

You can’t always avoid them –sometimes they are even in your family. And you don’t want to argue with them. The best thing you can do is listening politely and let the words run into one ear and out the other. Instead of giving these negative folks the time of day, seek out other people who are positive and successful. Surround yourselves with those folks and listen to what they have to say.

Money management – More businesses fail because they did not understand their costs and how to control their cash flow. This is a subject that really deserves your time and attention. You should know where every dollar is coming from and where (and when) it’s going. Evaluate every expense with an eye to cutting it, but don’t cut the things that are important like research or services that save you time.

Be judicious in your cost cutting. Let me give you an example. I have never been a fan of Skype. For some reason, I prefer to have a phone in my hand and I like to walk around when I am on the phone. Skype ties me to my computer. But I started looking at my phone bills and they were getting out of hand, so now I am using Skype more often and I am looking at those Skype phones so I can still walk around while I talk.

When you look at an expense it should do one of two things; Save you time that you could use to do something more profitable, or it should have an ROI –return on investment. Look at each expense and ask yourself “What would be the effect on my business if I lowered or dropped this expense?” Then evaluate your answer and make a decision.



  1. Really love the advice about positive attitude.

    I like WhatsApp much better than Skype. Give it a try!


  2. Thanks for these words of wisdom

  3. I’m glad you addressed this. I get so weary of reading the posts complaining about ebay and Amazon fees. I can only conclude that those folks have never owned any other business before. I used to own a bricks-and-mortar business and there are so many more expenses with that type of business. When you first go into business for yourself it is disheartening to see the amount of money that goes to cover operating expenses. However, I am so grateful that ebay came along in my lifetime. I can make better money than working anywhere else part-time and I can do it from my home with minimal expense. I don’t mind paying my ebay and Amazon fees because of the huge marketplace(s) they make available to me. If I had to design my own website and market myself it would take more time and money–years to grow the business that I was able to have on ebay/Amazon for a fraction of the time and money I would have spent otherwise.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your comment. It’s very incite-full

  4. These are wonderful reminders!

  5. This Article has hit the nail on the head with alot of my situation. My wife and I do FBA and talk to others about trying it as well and people say.. Oh thats to hard for me.. or Wow you guys are lucky.. Lucky?? we spend thousands of dollars a day and treat it like a full time job.. How is that lucky?.
    My neighbor also sells on Amazon and ebay and is always Saying.. Amazon Screwed me over. This ebay buyer used this then returned it. This amazon buyer is out to get me. Always something to complain about with either the buyer or the platform. We have tried to talk to him about going FBA as well due to he is still Merch, but his answer is always the same “I don’t have the time to learn that.. Why should I give amazon any more of my money?”.. Well he is sitting there making 200$ a month off of amazon barely making bills between the 2 platforms, we recently hit 2500$ a month and are still learning. There is alot of learning curve with FBA, Affiliate or branding your own product. But accepting the learning curve and learning from bad buys instead of getting mad at them really does help.. We have made some bad buys that we have had to dig ourselves out of but we are still trying, and it pays off

    1. Author

      Thanks for your kind words and good luck with your business.

  6. This is exactly my perspective. We make a full time income selling using Amazon FBA. Friends tell us they have items they want to sell or that they want to start a business, but they don’t want to use a platform because the fees are too high. As a result, they do not have a business, and their items are still sitting in storage.

    Every day in business, we have to avoid those attitudes like the plague and learn to figure out ways to make money from the returned items, whether the customers were dishonest or not.

    The illustration of your cousins is quite pointed at our mindset about money and life, reaching and stretching for goals, or settling for something less.

    Thank you for your encouragement!

  7. Well said Skip! Keep up the great advice from one of the best!

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