A common question I receive is this:
I want to start an online POD business, but what are some entrepreneurial skills that I need to have?
I have given it some thought and identified the top 5 skills every entrepreneur needs to succeed:
- 1The Drive to Learn
- 3Persistence and Determination
- 4Innovation and Creativity
- 5Problem-Solving Skills and Patience
The Drive to Learn
It may sound counter-intuitive, but the majority of entrepreneurs that I’ve known are restless and dissatisfied by nature as people.
Discontent with their 9-5 lot has driven them out of their comfort zone as employees, and into that wide arena of the unknown: entrepreneurship. (To read more about these differences, see Robert Kiyosaki's book Cash Flow Quadrant).
The discontented could thank their lucky stars for suffering disquieting, but often thunderous boredom at their jobs. For, it begged of them the age-old question, “Is that all there is?”.
The Price of Predictability
It’s no secret that the majority of the population is happy (more or less!) to put in a 40-hour work week and lean heavily into predictability. Assurances, in other words-- of hours spent at work, salary progression, and job description. All the pre-defined parameters that we've been taught to trust perhaps since grade school.
In that J-O-B arena, learning (and earning!) comes mostly in the form of ‘constructive feedback’ from bosses, or the odd course proferred that is role-specific, and most probably mandatory.
You may have heard the phrase, ‘Learning is a life-long skill’. Some may groan at that implication, especially if they felt that they endured rather than enjoyed structured education-- while others embrace it wholeheartedly.
Experience is Learning in Disguise
A key skill for entrepreneurship is—you guessed it: a love of learning! Because there will be lots to learn from start to finish – only—there is no finish.
For the curious and driven, that will be a siren call to run towards learning all about the moving pieces of an online business. They will know that they can turn that learning into income streams that will reward them for their hours of input. Here’s a helpful hint, though: it’s more than 40 hours per week.
If, however you believe that learning is for kids—or, that it’s the onerous thief of your precious TV viewing hours, then perhaps entrepreneurship is not in your blood.
Mark my words: if you don't love learning, you will find it a chore to unravel the skills, tools, and information that’s required to forge an online business, let alone even get started. You just need to know that upfront. And if you don't really know it, you’ll learn that very quickly after getting started.
Listen to your gut right now, what's it telling you?
If you're excited and think you’ve got what it takes– read on!
All eyes up front!
If you’ve been lurking in e-commerce forums on social media thus far, you will probably have encountered the phrase ‘shiny object syndrome’.
This term describes the tendency to be drawn in by every new product offering and its promises in the ecommerce realm.
These products' ads have seeped into much of social media and at some time more than likely captured your attention and imagination. Maybe you've already bought (at least one) product from an ad.
You've then probably signed up for a few newsletters, which turned into 4, 5, and beyond-- and you're hearing from them every day now. And sometimes twice or even three times per day! What is going on?, I hear you ask...
'Secrets' For Sale
Hey, these vendors are, just that: sellers. They know what catches attention, and which of our buttons to push.
Full disclosure: I, too was once a SOS sufferer! (That's Shiny Object Syndrome, remember?) I’ve had my buttons pushed many, many times! And, I have the receipts to prove it (unfortunately).
But there came a time—eventually-- when I had to take stock. As in, well: what about those promises? Were they fulfilled? Or that ‘flashy’ new product: wasn't it all in the end just a bit flim-flam-flimsy?
I Took A Wrong Turn and I Just Kept Going!
I won’t even try to give a percentage statement here, but let’s say that MOST of the products that I fell for were duds. And I spent a LOT of money to find that out. Money that would have been better reserved for applying to a solid business, based upon sound, step-by-step practices and – wait for it—no magic solutions!
Those vendors—and there are many of them, are selling a dream. YOUR dream, which has been cobbled together from the false narrative that there is a ‘laptop lifestyle’ out there, just waiting for you – but only “IF you buy this software for just $17.99". Or the like. You’ve probably already seen them many, many times.
Hey, I get it—we’re all human, and we’re busy. The word easy in a sales pitch is like a salve, and has a certain pull. We want it to be so- but the truth is different. Far different! Wanting something definitely doesn't make it so.
Don't Discount Free Information
You should know that there are very many good, free YouTube Channels that you can watch that will educate you on the steps to building a successful online business in print on demand (POD).
Please, therefore do NOT pay hundreds of dollars – nor even especially UNDER twenty dollars—to get that so-called ‘solution’ that you are told will pull your business together as if by magic.
Your business depends on YOU-- showing up with your time, perseverance, and realistic outlook.
Hold onto your money
Persistence and Determination
As I already mentioned, you should be prepared to put the hours in when it comes to starting and building your online business.
If you work 9-5, five days per week, this will mean that you should aim to set aside 1-2 hours every evening, and a minimum of 6 hours every weekend for your business. Make this your intention and commit to it.
Yes, I know that life gets in the way— it always does, but don’t let it derail you. By all means, fulfil your family duties and whatever else won’t wait. Just pick up again where you left off, as soon as possible and with a fresh headspace. Never use distractions as an excuse to quit!
Boots on the Ground
Having a strong work ethic means giving it your all and never stopping until your goals have been met.
A strong work ethic may not seem like that big of a deal-- but it's actually very important because if anyone lacks this skill they will not get out of the starting gate, let alone succeed in business after the initial excitement of the idea has met reality.
The great thing about the ecommerce space is that there are plenty who have gone before you and can reach out via a (virtual) helping hand to help keep you motivated and educated.
As I mentioned earlier, there are some great YouTube channels on Print on Demand skills and ‘how-to’s’.
My all-time favourite You-Tubers in the Print on Demand industry are:
All three channels are chock-full of highly valuable, engaging content, and are more than enough for you to get going. I highly recommend them all and invite you to give them a look. They give so much information away on their YouTube channels, and I love that generosity of spirit!
So, your diligence and work ethic, paired with some of the best instruction in the ecommerce space, freely available -- should be a great start. And, a winning combination to get that spark lit for your fledgling online business!
When inspiration strikes!
Innovation and Creativity
In my previous blog post I alluded to some sources of inspiration that will serve your online POD business.
It is inevitable that as your online POD business grows, so, too will your creative muscles. Your eyes and ears will become opened to new ideas and concepts that are trending and transferable to products for sale.
Never forget too, that your customers can guide you. What do they want? For this reason, part of what your store offers should be customizable designs with customers' bespoke designs placed on a wide variety of merchandise. Wine tumblers, tapestries, baby blankets, mugs and T-Shirts are especially popular in this realm.
Time to Get Creative
There is also a myriad of software design tools that you may access. They all offer a variety of subscription prices– and most offer free trial periods. I recommend that you try out at least one, get the feel for it, and then see if you find value in keeping it as part of your business’s toolkit.
Warning: You are guaranteed to fall in love with what they offer!
Here is a list of the most popular ones:
- Canva– quite possibly the best ‘all-rounder’ in resources and functionality
- Creative Fabrica– Good for basic to intermediate quality images, elements and fonts
- Creative Market– Higher quality images, elements and fonts (but more expensive)
- Vecteezy– A wide variety of Vector images, as well as jpg and png
- Kittl– Great for customizable T-Shirt designs!
- Word Swag– A mobile app (Apple/Android) for text with a wide variety of fonts
In future posts I will go into more detail about each one, and perhaps a few others! Included in that will be an important discussion about commercial rights and usage. You always need to read that part on any design platform.
But for now, I don’t want you to feel overwhelmed and have therefore given just the basic information for you to start investigating.
And, let’s not forget– any artistic personal talent that you may have will make you your own design resource! A friend of mine, an art school graduate, is a cartoonist, and a very gifted one at that. He could easily create his own designs and slogans and sell them on a POD platform widely– on any number of products.
But, he prefers to keep his work close, distributing only to friends and family as gifts and mementos. He may even work as an illustrator for select authors. That is his choice and it’s to be respected.
You may have your own artistic abilities– and be willing to put your work out into the wider domain. I think that has the potential to be very rewarding, on both an artistic and a financial level! It all depends on how confident you are with your work, and in ‘letting it go’ out into the wider world.
Help is At Hand
If you're not artistic, or if time is an issue, you could consider buying designs from artists on Fiverr. It's one of the most popular freelancer sites for online entrepreneurs and creators. If you have the funds to do so, it could really give your business a kick-start.
There are a variety of price tiers on Fiverr, but I recommend taking your time and reviewing the online portfolios of each seller. See who fits your brand’s image, niche and message.
When you find the person for the job, balanced for talent and cost, give it a go! You may even wish to continue in partnership with your favorite seller(s) as your business grows, outsourcing your design work. They should have a clause in their contracts releasing ownership of their work so that you can freely sell it as your own.
Could you be your own designer?
Problem-Solving Skills and Patience
Finally, you should be able to accept – or at least not shrink away from the exercise that is problem-solving.
With an online business, problems come in all shapes and sizes! And you should expect them, almost daily even if on a micro-level.
Some Common Hurdles
Sometimes, platforms and apps are beset by glitches and you have to walk away for awhile, even though you were really in ‘creative mode’ with a great idea in play.
Or maybe you can’t get the dpi right in your design so that it’s accepted for upload and later printing (All print production partners have set minimums for dpi for quality printing outcomes). And you’ve tried "like, 100 times!”
A customer from your online store complains, even though you did everything in your power to make them ecstatic about the buying experience. Worse yet, they leave a bad review. (Etsy territory!)
Understanding taxes, fees, shipping rates….
The list could go on, but you get the idea. Sometimes, things don’t go to plan, and we go off track in frustration. Wishing that we had a magic want to fix things.
Keep Pushing Forward
It’s largely how you bounce back from setbacks that will determine the path of your business. Resilience- yes that over-used corporate-world term, really means something here.
The best thing that will serve you is a “get it done” attitude. As in no stone unturned, work until a solution, never say die! Kind of like the Marines. Except, you’re fighting for the survival of your busines, along with your sanity and will to keep going forward.
But, the good news is: you are not alone. There are help forums relating to POD platforms and apps on Facebook ( I suggest that you join them all and read the daily feeds). They are informative and supportive.
Also, those apps and platforms have dedicated customer service teams, often with Live Chat features that can solve problems on the spot. Instant gratification– a rare thing in the workings of an online business!
Learn to go the distance
Customer Service is Not Dead!
In my experience, the customer service level in the online space these days is top-notch. I have never waited more than a few hours for an agent to reply to a help query, or else point me toward the right person who is capable of providing the solution. This is a byproduct of a keen market competition and it is welcome.
It’s not like that there can be no smooth sailing, ever– I don’t want to sound negative. I just want to impart reality. There are always waves in the water, just that sometimes they're big, and sometimes they're small!
Don’t forget too, that the more problems you solve, the more your knowledge and confidence compounds as you develop your store(s). Problem-solving becomes easier with experience.
If you can exercise these 5 Top Skills For Entrepreneurs that I've outlined,you're going in the right direction.
Compared to the 'day job' that you're convinced is no longer serving you.
To keeping on,
About the Author
Dani Sherman, CEO at EcomGemini
Dani's been immersed in the online space for the past several years, and she knows what it takes to establish a presence on multiple e-commerce platforms. She would like to help you get started with your own dreams of running a successful online business. Her weekly blog focuses on all things Print-On-Demand and eCommerce. So, check back often to see what's new, and to be inspired!