From the beginning, as a designer/maker selling my wares online I felt I had to maintain a constant positive attitude online in order to sell things. I’ve been doing this for around 18 months… but it doesn’t sit right with me. I’m not sure I buy into the “fake it until you make it” attitude and while I know that no one cares about our petty gripes, our daily struggles and ridiculous first world problems (oh we sold out of envelopes. Meanwhile, people starve.) and we should keep these to ourselves – we are still humans. And we still struggle with things, and thats ok. Why don’t we talk about it more?


Everyone is aware of the backlash against a “perfectly curated life” that’s been happening lately, something that really does resonate with me. While I do use Instagram to share parts of my life that make me happy and I am grateful for – I don’t want my online “space” to be in any way fake, or feel like something that I’m not (I just don’t want to share things I don’t want to remember, right?) . I want to get back to blogging like I used to, being honest, sharing more without “complaining” about petty things – just being open and sharing my experiences as I navigate the maze ‘o life. I’ve started to write blog posts like this over and over again throughout 2015 – but have always shut them down for fear of turning people away. But do you know what? I like honest people, who share their challenges so that I might learn from them or help them through it. So.. here we go.


selling things online is hard


Selling Things Online is HARD.


A few weeks ago I had a lengthy conversation with a friend about how frustrating I find the Christmas period. I’m going to be frank with you – it hasn’t been huge for me since I launched. While I see people shifting units like a dog shifts fleas all over the internet, my small following place a couple of orders. In the past two holiday seasons since I launched my store, I’ve made 7 sales over 2 Decembers. Doesn’t that seem weird?


Its hard to get seen. I think I am offering something really good – my site is clean, easy to navigate; my product is well made and I’m a nice person who will often throw freebies in with my orders and establishes a relationship online with my customers, because they always seem like wicked cool people. They send me delightful emails and tweets days and months after they got their order to tell me of a compliment it received, or how much their friend loved her present – its all a delight.


But why aren’t there more of them? I have a pretty solid social media strategy, I share a lot of good stuff and have a good following on twitter and instagram. But followers don’t always equal sales, and it turns out retweets don’t pay the rent. How do I convert them into buying customers? These are the questions that keep me awake at night*


I sold ONE of my Black Friday pouches. A single purse. I was gutted. I put long hours of work into that whole thing, developing the product, planning the marketing, photography, all that gubbins. I sold one. Things like this make me want to tear my hair out and scream what is the POINT! Instead I search for blog posts from other creatives who feel the same, but can never find them. Are we too scared to be honest, and scare away customers? I don’t know. But if I have to write this post to refer back to myself next time I need it, so help me god I will.


Here are 5 things that help me not quit:

| Getting a full time job – I am totally grateful for the 6 months I could afford to take to work on the DT store full-time, but I’m even more grateful to have a full time job that pays my rent while I’m still working this out. Its just good sense to be covered financially. It also helps that I really love my job I guess.
Having a mentor – Someone to give you realistic advice, who isn’t going to sugar coat things and who will tell you how it is when you need them to because your boyfriend can’t be that person.
Loving what I do – Whenever I feel like giving up, I pick up my camera and go for a walk, or I plan a photography adventure to help get out of my head. Instantly I remember I love taking photographs, and I love making them into cool things.
Being 100% confident in my product – This might be contradictory to what other people say – I’ve read a lot of “just get it out there” advice – but I personally find it really hard to offer a good service to customers and feel good about what I’m doing if I don’t have confidence in my product. I use my pouches all the time, I give them as gifts. I really think they are quite good (its not arrogant to like something you work hard on). If they were a bit shit, there really wouldn’t be a point. Important note: it took me ages to get them to this point. I made a lot of hilariously poor versions before I got to one I love.
Doing the maths – I did my taxes for the first time this week. It was a total nightmare because I have number dyslexia but going back through my accounts helped me see some things I can improve, where I can save money and what I can change now I’ve got a bit more experience. Keeping tabs on things and tallying it up every month helps me keep a grip on what I’m doing, even if its not bringing much money in. It gives me something tangible to strive towards.


When it’s rough, you start to question your product, you start to doubt yourself.  Remember that you shouldn’t, because your product is GOOD and you are doing the right things – it just takes time. Despite what you see online, you might not immediately be on a first name basis with your post man, you might not right off the bat have people lining up to buy your wonderful product. BUT you also won’t have everyone watching what you are doing, noticing when you make a tiny mistake. Noticing that you had to hike up your prices 6 months in because you realised you got your pricing wrong. The early days are a grace period and its ok. (This is all advice I am given at least once a week from my friendly mentor. See, I do listen.)


I am so extremely grateful for everyone who visits my store, enjoys my photography via my blog and shares it with their friends online. I want to stress that this isn’t a pity cry for sales – I just want to be honest with the people who are investing in pieces from me, and add my voice to the pile of people talking about trying to run an online business. This isn’t advice, its support. You are doing something valuable, your work is amazing, and don’t let those down times – or let other people’s apparent success on social media – get you down. Your time will come. Put your head down, and power on. Don’t let your dreams be dreams. When in doubt, watch this video:



Connect with me in the comments, or on twitter. Lets do this.

*you’re right, I’m a sloth and nothing keeps me awake, regardless of the hour.

4 replies on “Selling Things Online is HARD.

  1. I was watching a Mariah Coz video the other day and apparently the rule of people buying to numbers of followers/subscribers etc is just 2%. And I’m not surprised really, the ratio of people who comment for my blog, let alone download anything is small – and if you look at people with tens of thousands of instagram followers, perhaps 10% of people actually heart the image… its one thing having numbers, but converting that to likes/sales/anything is so, so hard. Thats why theres such a huge push for people to get more followers everywhere as the ratio of people following to actually buying is so small.

    I do think that you can grow your numbers in a sincere way though, it just takes time like you say. Keep at it, if you keep working, the results will come.

    p.s. loving the honest posts – I’m aiming for more of these this year too – and I’m going to write my first one today just for you!

    1. Yeah I’ve read this too, the ratio thing – and it makes total sense. You’ve just gotta be strong and not let it get you down. The hardest part is not comparing where you are at with where other people are at. I need to remind myself 18 months isn’t a terribly long time to have been selling things online, and my peers have been doing it for a lot longer.

      I think one of my main reasons for posting this is out of concern for other people starting out who look at people doing well online and feel how I feel – I just wanted to be ONE voice saying look, its hard, and thats ok. Because a lot of other people are just like sunshine and light balls all the time, don’t disclose if they are making their money elsewhere, and its easy to get stuck in the “but why isn’t this paying my rent yet?” train of thought.

      One thing I always want to be is totally transparent, and honest. I’m very much a what you see is what you get kind of person IRL (I can’t control my face AT ALL) I really just wanted to put this out there for those people who, like me, are searching for someone who feels the same. Which I think I achieved!

      Thanks so much for reading Rhianne, can’t wait to read your post!

  2. “But followers don’t always equal sales”

    On a similar bent to part of Rhianne’s comment, I can promise this is true of pretty much every online business.
    Across all the analytics figures I’ve ever seen, email is always – always – a much better converting traffic source than social media (if you’re lucky then maybe around 10-11% of visits from your newsletter will buy something, vs <2% of visits from social).
    I don't know how big your mail list is, or how often you send something out to them, so you might have data that disagrees; but the above is the norm.

    I also think that in your context, the benefits of 'one to many' sharing channels are worth less than 'one to one' or 'one to few'.
    Theoretically the potential audience that will see shares of your products on Facebook or Twitter is large, but in reality it's really really hard to get attention from that audience.
    Shares via messaging tools – email, or WhatsApp – will go to a smaller number of people, but should convert much better (mostly because it's more of a personal recommendation from the sender).
    If you can, I would add WhatsApp to your social share options.

    Anyway, I know the point of your post was not "please explain e-commerce to me", so I shall stop doing that. But the on-topic angle would be that it's hard for everyone, and the numbers are not huge for most people, even established brands. So at least you have company.

    1. Hello Dan!
      Yeah I get all of this (apart from Whatsapp, one day you’ll have to explain to me why basically giving people my phone number is a social networking exercise, because to me, ew no) – you’re totally right about email though. Almost all of my sales come from my little newsletter family, any time I send a mailing list. Which I’m going to do more of in 2016! I’m always just worried about spamming people to be honest. I do get a lot of good feedback on the mailing list, which is nice, and it does feel more personal.

      I’m still new and learning, the internet is weird!


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