Shopify Ecosystem

From One-Hit Wonder To Steady Sales: The Ecommerce Entrepreneur’s Guide To Building A Sustainable Side Hustle In 2023

from-one-hit-wonder-to-steady-sales:-the-ecommerce-entrepreneur’s-guide-to-building-a-sustainable-side-hustle-in-2023

Welcome back to the third article in our six-part series on the journey from First Sale to Full Freedom. 

(We covered this model extensively back in the first installment of this series, so if you need a refresher, click here.) 

In our last article, we: 

  1. Talked about the Phase 1 of the journey in detail
  2. Examined exactly what you need to know to identify if you’re currently in this phase 
  3. Showed you how you can successfully navigate to the next level (while avoiding the common pitfalls + obstacles that could prevent you from doing so)

As a reminder, here’s a graphic to show you what the journey looks like from start to finish: 

In this article, we’re going to go deep on Phase 2 – Building a Sustainable Side Hustle

We’ll start off by examining the typical business profile of a brand in this phase of their evolution. 

We’ll then move on to talk about: 

  1. What your Core Focus should be at this point
  2. The Key Levers you should dial in on and the critical Mindset Principles you can focus on to achieve success as quickly as possible 
  3. The Biggest Pitfalls you need to avoid and Powerful Success Strategies you can use to navigate around the obstacles you’ll encounter during this part of your journey

By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how your brand can move from the start of this phase (making your first sale) to the end (turning your business into a steady side hustle). 

Let’s get started!

Is This You?  

If you’re in this phase of your journey, you probably: 

  • Have made multiple sales
  • Struggle with inconsistent demand and low revenues (typically under $1,000/month)
  • Have a small customer list (and even smaller number of repeat buyers) 
  • Generate some traffic to your website from your social media accounts, but are finding it difficult to gain traction
  • Run this business “on the side”

This stage is characterized by struggle – but you don’t need to stay here for long. 

Aspect #1 – Core Focus 

At this stage of your journey, there’s only one thing you need to worry about: 

Taking your business from a one-hit wonder to something that generates steady sales on autopilot.

Making your first sale is fantastic. Making several is even better! But until you push things further, your business is nothing more than a hobby. 

Figure out how to build on that first win and turn it into 10, 100, and 1,000 more. 

If you can do this, you’ll succeed in transforming your business into an asset that generates a steady stream of sales (and at least some profit)… 

And someday soon, you could be collected delighted reviews for your brand – just like the ones Loox customer Rinfit get:

63bbca3f8e4ca037caf5992b I5ntCMbxQKCnp GrM7axGPSHXMbBKIPyBPA8BeT8A0IKbnUT kShu9qnlwlOim4hT2YFxzKnmZ1QuqANFHjYPWXqnXjzn3iIeHEfSOF7hjowfuQArxatjBUFjZ68bkrCqQr2c665ssB3Goh7mRBGzWqO KdkL8bb8voPWGOCUY8aII0jOCIvyylMFjlOLA

Aspect #2 – Key Levers & Critical Mindset Principles

To ensure that you stay on track, you need actionable tools and reliable metrics you can use to keep making progress. 

With that in mind, there are three Key Levers you should use to ensure you make progress – and three Critical Mindset Principles to help you get the most out of each. 

63bbca3f7c2523983f2a9ad3 dU8mpOQNMimUhgM6PPt3xw2q21GpsU1bPCZY5ju3kTBu05H27JRx3 WFAQRfEMKtfqQFdDiWVUdMYVPEngqh11sDV0mj7xqkbJI79vMQP32iC5BzACtqtMvwHEZRqa2Tyh5M14i9k2wefIIF9Rt8U355TSLPgS8RgXm7ziahfo5hWojA4A6Mf0VPdLz tA

Now, let’s focus on each in more detail. 

Lever #1 – Customer List 

Reach is important… 

But don’t forget: unless a solid percentage of the people you’re reaching convert into customers, you’re going to struggle. 

Repeat purchases from existing customers are great (high customer lifetime value (CLTV) is never a bad thing). At this stage, you want to focus on getting your products into the hands of as many different people as possible. 

Critical Mindset Principle: Build Your Base

You need a strong foundation before you can build a tall tower. 

Your customer list is your foundation. Monitor this asset on a weekly basis. Snowball your momentum and keep your growth trending upwards.

Treasure the people who buy from you. Each and every one of them represents a potential champion for your brand. Take good care of them and you have a real chance of building a serious business. 

If you can consistently create new customers, you’ll be well on your way to turning your fledgling brand into a sustainable side hustle.  

Lever #2 – Social Media Followers

Your website is where sales happen, but it’s not where customers first interact with your brand. 

Before you have strong referral and word of mouth systems in place, prospects will usually become aware of your business through social media. 

At this stage in your journey, it’s useful to use social media for building your brand.

While there’s no need to abandon performance marketing entirely, brand-focused marketing will allow you to build trust and awareness with your audience. 

This is as true for ecommerce brands as it is for billion-dollar businesses

“Our brand marketing results are delivering excellent results overall with a strong rate of return, and it’s been so successful that we’re actually expanding to more countries.”

63bbde6f01b868287073df5f Dave Stephenson Headshots45221 full

Dave Stephenson

CFO, Airbnb

“Our brand marketing results are delivering excellent results overall with a strong rate of return, and it’s been so successful that we’re actually expanding to more countries.”

Dave Stephenson, CFO @ Airbnb

The more often they’re exposed to you, the more they’ll grow to see you as credible. And that’s a crucial part of completing this phase successfully.  

Critical Mindset Principle: Credibility is Key 

Having a respectable following on whatever platforms you use is an important indicator of trustworthiness. 

Focus on engaging with your followers one-to-one, but remember that numbers matter. 

Having a large number of people you can reach is an asset you’ll rely on time and again throughout your journey, so it’s worth focusing on it – even at this early stage. 

Lever #3 – Connections Made

One of the most valuable marketing strategies you can use at this point in your development is to partner up with micro-influencers

Rather than needing to build your following from scratch, you can tap into someone else’s audience and get insight into whether your offerings are valuable. 

Getting access to good audiences isn’t always straightforward. Without the credibility of an established brand behind you, you need to prove that you’re trustworthy before most influencers will take a chance on you. 

Critical Mindset Principle: Personal Connections Matter

There’s no substitute for making genuine personal connections when you’re getting started. 
Reach out and engage with people you want to work with. Show what your business is about, what you stand for, and that you’re here for the long haul. 

It’s not as exciting as driving 1000’s of visitors to your site via PPC every day. But when you’re getting started, doing things that don’t scale is the secret to your success.  

The more genuine connections you make, the better the chance you’ll successfully complete this phase of your journey. 

Aspect #3 – Biggest Pitfalls & Powerful Success Strategies

No two entrepreneurial journeys are exactly the same. 

But as different as your story may be, there are a few pitfalls that you – just like most other ecommerce brands – will encounter along the way. 

To help you navigate these obstacles, we’ll now:

  1. Profile them in detail (so you know what to watch out for), and
  2. Give you some high-value strategies you follow to stay on track for success 

Here’s what’s up next: 

63bbca3f45077162165c9385 SxWMHEYMg146EEtbc18pIfLYnZjMTRRWjBQbNYfMzbJoHSJSJzN3AyhUeaqBrR2VK40S5hvpN bi lKmqmg8WFyvjDWcyA quz7PjgHYGM PcYtQZ8v9d O1lj6edFNVbkhMmiYDMhSmNeHfE7HntNEk3dN Xc147TKuth0OL6O vOCgrIk9BFau64TYPg

☠️ Pitfall #1 – Too Many Platforms 

Many ecommerce entrepreneurs end up devoting significant time to posting on different platforms, creating content, reaching out to potential partners, running ads, engaging with communities, and more just to cover their bases.

This is fine for a big brand with the resources to support omnipresence… 

But for a solo operator, it’s a recipe for disaster.

All of these strategies can work. But none of them will unless you can give them sufficient attention to succeed.  

🚀 Success Strategy: Pick Your Major

The ability to focus is a superpower. This is as true for people as it is for brands.

Pick one platform and go all-in on it. Keep focused on it until you start getting traction. 

Commit to learning how that platform works. Once you’re established, feel free to branch out and syndicate your content across multiple channels for more reach. But don’t spread yourself too thin. 

Pick your path and see it through: you won’t regret it. 

☠️ Pitfall #2 – No Core Product 

Selling multiple products can be useful for increasing Average Order Value (AOV) and CLTV. But if you don’t identify a core product to build your business around, you’ll struggle to cut through the noise. 

Unless you’ve found an untapped niche to serve with no competition, high margins and tons of customers lining up for what you have to offer… 

Differentiating your offer from what your competitors sell is key.

🚀 Success Strategy – Zoom In 

As a startup brand, you don’t have the resources to compete against Amazon or your multi-SKU industry rivals on all fronts. 

Diffusing your attention too early in the process will hold your brand back. 

Specialize. Figure out what problem your brand can solve better than anyone else in the market, then dial in on finding a core product that achieves this. 

☠️ Pitfall #3  – Not Enough Time

Do you think you don’t have enough bandwidth to get the results you want? 

Do you feel you could move much faster if you could just work on your business full-time?  

Here’s the secret: 

As long as you can pick the right things to focus on, you can make meaningful progress – no matter how much time you have to devote to your brand.

🚀 Success Strategy – 80/20 Your Time 

Our days are filled with action and activity… 

But when we look back, only a few choices have a lasting impact.

63bbca3f03855c6453e495dc WpR7hl09sVcnF5FWZRyqGxpH8DEzD8i39Iv aGj78YcByP DMzg63spjuSVzrlQw7XhYN1POcSomedKBnnv47rNP6FOPjdzvst3MD1qyqd vpo1coJqcbSZoWBweDtahAe7vsUOovKV1m5N2IJpBilGcoyfpHFY52tl8hBT14g6ZWa IKyUvr4d6AlYhYQ

Bear this in mind, then take a closer look at how you’re spending your side hustle time right now. 

Focus on finding the 20% of actions that drive 80% of the results. 

Eliminate trivial time wasters. Identify the small number of items that will make a meaningful difference on your path. Complete them, repeat them, and keep optimizing. 

63445061cbb07fae429acb1a WhatsApp%20Image%202022 10 10%20at%207.01.08%20PM

John Clancy

John is passionate about helping brands build better relationships with the people they serve. He’s also a content marketer with Loox.

Special thanks to our friends at Loox for their insights on this topic.
I'm also on

Subscribe to Podcast

Top 1% most popular show out of 2,729,419 podcasts globally!

eCommerce Fastlane | Shopify Podcast For DTC Brands | Growth Marketing Strategy For Entrepreneurs | Listen Notes