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What You Need to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

by Arianne Foulks

April 8, 2014

what you need to be a successful entrepreneur

This topic has been buzzing around my brain for weeks. I told myself to just make this a “quickie” post and get the idea out there for us to discuss, but then I found myself with a lot to say and a whole bunch of inspirational and educational articles to share with you, so I’m making this a three-parter.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on being a hard worker. The most important things you need to run a successful business aren’t “tricks” or “secrets,” in fact they’re pretty much the opposite – really obvious:

  • To work hard
  • To work smart
  • To be in it for the long haul

Part one uses Etsy shops as an example, but it applies to anyone trying to run a business.

Are there two types of Etsy sellers?

I’ve been discussing selling on Etsy with the folks who have subscribed to my newsletter (just add your email address here to join – we talk about all kinds of great stuff), and it got me scratching my head a bit. See, the puzzling thing is that a handful of people said that Etsy sends them so much traffic that they are afraid to move away from there, for fear of having to build up their customer base again, while another handful of people said the opposite – that they set up a shop on Etsy, and nada! They feel like a tiny fish in a big pond, that no one can find them, and they feel Etsy is useless to them.

Clearly, there must be something different about the way these two groups of Etsy sellers are approaching business (on Etsy, and probably in general).

I have always told people that “if you build it, they will come” is the opposite of how the internet works. If you build it, and don’t constantly promote it, no one will ever step foot in it.

I wonder if because Etsy is set up as a marketplace, with a search engine, people think that all they need to do is build a shop on there, and the customers will start to roll in? I am by no means saying that people whose Etsy shops aren’t popular aren’t working at it – I’ve never had an Etsy shop of my own, and I don’t keep up with what best practices are as far as promoting an Etsy shop.

Maybe you can throw a lot of time and effort into promotion, and end up with a shop that’s a dud on Etsy. But then it would be time to look at your product, look at your target market, look at your pricing, your copywriting, your photography, your branding. There is no need to give up if something doesn’t work out for you the first time!

What makes a successful entrepreneur

I got some emails from frustrated shop owners who were unable to build an audience on Etsy, so they quit using it. That’s absolutely fine, if you have another thriving way to sell your goods, but if nothing at all is working for you, it’s time to evaluate what’s going on, why it’s going on, and what you can do to improve things.

These thoughts were going through my mind, and then I got the most honest and helpful email from one of my readers, which got me really considering this disparity in opinions about setting up shop on Etsy:

Etsy makes it easy to feel like you’re not selling enough. Like you’re not enough. You see featured stories about people selling thousands of items on day ten of their shop going live and haphazardly quitting their day job to keep up with the demand, and you feel like you should be able to do that too. Except, for some reason, you’re not.

Do you ever feel that way, yourself?

There are a few things going on here that create the divide between business success and feeling like your shop can’t be found.

  1. Hard work is vital. Successful entrepreneurs expect going into business to be hard work, and thus they don’t think of what they’re doing to be hard work – just what needs to be done to build a business. So, another person could imagine that the successful seller just got lucky or had connections, not seeing the hard work this biz owner doesn’t feel the need to mention. Sometimes, too, people feel awkward about mentioning how hard they worked, like it’s bragging or saying you don’t work hard, so may be purposefully (or unconsciously) downplaying their dedication.
  2. Smart work is vital. Successful shop owners also “work smart” – instead of doggedly doing the same thing (that’s not working) over and over, they constantly re-evaluate what they do, how they do it, why they do it, stick with what works, and come up with new things to try. You may feel like you’re putting in the hard work, but maybe it’s the wrong work, and another approach may make all the difference to your business.
  3. Curiosity and the desire to learn make all the difference. Successful biz owners put a high priority on learning and improving. Not sure how to get listed higher on Etsy’s search page? Etsy has written articles about this that will teach you – in fact, they have piles of help available on almost every topic. Know your photos need help? Search for some tutorials, learn how to use your camera, or try some new apps. With the power of Google in your hands, there isn’t an excuse to be confused about something you need to do for your business.
  4. You may not notice who’s working hard. Based on the principle of confirmation bias (our tendency to “notice” information that confirms our beliefs), people who are feeling negative and “unlucky” about their own shop may read stories of shop owners on the Etsy blog, and cling on to any mentions of sudden popularity or lucky breaks, not noticing how long the shop has been in business or what hard work was needed to get to the point where a “lucky break” was even possible. Confirmation bias may lead you to notice the truly lucky stories, wishing that for yourself, while ignoring the hard workers, if that doesn’t appeal to you.
  5. Don’t underestimate the power of a supportive community. Etsy has forums, street teams, online labs, and all kinds of resources for connecting with people to get advice and assistance. If you’re not sure how to start on your own, it is almost too easy to join a group or ask for help from someone who is more experienced.

What do you think?

How long have you been working on your business? Do you set specific goals, and create plans to meet the goals? If something doesn’t work, do you dig until you can find the reason why? Do you think “being entrepreneurial” is a personality trait, or something anyone is capable of?

Did I miss something important about selling on Etsy or working on your business in general? I’m really interested to hear experiences of all kinds.

I will share our readers’ thoughts on Etsy shops with you soon! But this “hard work” aspect of it has been on my mind. Stay tuned for part 2, which relates a parenting struggle to a business struggle, and has some links to inspirational articles about how far hard work will get you.

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