Category: beginners read this

The Start-Up Success Guide, #7

Ready for our next topic?

Here’s #7…

Writing Descriptions That Sell…

Want to hear a story?

Our daughter Libby started making
doll clothes and selling them on
Etsy this year.

She wanted to do it all by herself,
part of her, ‘I’m a big-girl now’
phase or something.

So she didn’t want Cinnamon to help
her with the sewing activities, or
photography, nor did she want me
to help her with the selling

We were excited by all of this and
thought it was amazing that she was
taking the initiative, she’s only 9.
Good for her!

Her first listing was on Etsy in no

Trouble was – it didn’t sell. She had
taken an okay picture, made an okay
outfit, listed it for an okay price,
and written an okay description.
Actually it was all fairly good,
better than some of the other stuff
we regularly see on Etsy.

Finally, a little discouraged, Libby
told me that she was frustrated, and
asked for my help.

I made one simple change and her
outfit sold within a day.

Can you guess what I did?

I went into her listing description
and wrote the following sentences,
(actually, this is a paragraph
because I didn’t save it, and don’t
remember the exact wording, but it
was very similar to this),

“I’m Liberty Jane Miles, from Liberty
Jane Clothing, you know, the doll
clothes company? They named it after
me, and this is my very first outfit
I’ve ever made. I’m going to be a big
designer someday, so if you want to
be able to say you bought my very
first outfit, then you should buy
this outfit”

Bam, it sold within a day.

So what did I actually do in those
3 sentences? Well, I’ll tell you in
a minute. First let me properly
introduce this important topic.

Here’s the proper introduction…

If you can take a good picture, and
learn to write clear, interesting
product descriptions, then you are
going to do really well in your
online selling efforts.

These two activities – photography
and writing – are like a one-two
punch of selling power. Or, to put
it in more fun terms, (and since I’m
hungry at the moment), they are like
that Peanut Butter and Chocolate
combination that most people find

Many people think that effective
sales copy has to be smarmy,
long-winded, manipulative.

But the truth is – good sales copy
isn’t any of those things. It’s just
clear, concise, conversational
writing, that describes the important
information customers need to know.
That’s it.

Okay, back to Libby’s listing and how
I made a little change that had a big

You know what I did – right? I used
the power of a story. And with my
story I gave people a fun and
interesting reason to buy her outfit.
That story closed the deal. It wasn’t
manipulative, or contrived, it was
just a difference point of view, that
got the reader interested in the item
for a ‘bigger’ reason than just
getting some new doll clothes.

The buyer was now going to be part
of a journey with Libby – invested
in her future career as a designer.
The story gave the buyer something
to talk about with friends and
family. It made the buyer consider
the long-term impact of her
seemingly simple buying decision.

Wow – all that from 3 sentences?

Yep! That is the power of a story.
The power of effective writing that

So, how can you write effectively to
sell your outfits? Here are a few

First, write clearly! Simple words.
Simple sentences. Don’t stress over
punctuation elementary school rules
about writing.

Second, be complete. Take your time
and consider all the good reasons
that your customer should buy from
you, and buy that particular outfit.

Third, use stories, and your
imagination to enhance the meaning
and importance of your item.

Ever heard of Malibu Barbie?

Think about what they did. There is
absolutely nothing that connects that
doll to Malibu except the creative
imagination that the marketer used
when creating it. Then the clothes
and accessories.

Obviously Pleasant Roland was a
master at using the power of
stories, and built the American
Girl Doll brand on that simple

Starting last year we launched our
International Collection so we could
do the same thing. It’s been a fun
and meaningful part of our work.

Now we have Outback Libby, and Euro
Libby, and even “gasp” Malibu Libby.
Guess what? No one seemed to mind
that we were taking a play straight
from American Girl. It was different
enough to be our own, but familiar
enough to poeple that they enjoyed it.

Can you come up with your own story

Fourth, and finally, when you write,
make sure that you take each idea,
topic, or piece of information and
give it a unique paragraph. Break
things apart using lists, bullet
points, line breaks, or images to
break your information up so it is
easy to see and read.

There is no need to cram everything
into one gigantic paragraph. People
won’t read it.

Bottomline – writing descriptions
that sell is a tradeskill that you
need to continually study and
improve on.

Now go write an amazing description!

Jason & Cinnamon

The Started-Up Success Guide, #6

Ready for our next topic?

Here’s #6…

Traffic is the most important thing
you need…

See, if you’re doing everything else
right, and you are having a hard time
getting sales, then there is one of two
problems happening.

You either aren’t getting enough
people to see your item…

Or you are kidding yourself about one
of the other ingredients, either the
quality of your design work, or your
pricing, or your photography.

If you make a good outfit…

And if you price it right…

And if you take good pictures of

And if you get a good number of
visitors to look at it…

Then you will sell it. We can almost
guarantee it.

We see lots of people fail. And
usually when someone fails it is very
obvious why they failed.

Sadly, sometimes they email us and
express frustration, or say, “I just
don’t understand what I’m doing wrong”.

Sometimes they ask us, and we can
tell them, “work on your photography,
it’s not up to par”. But other times
people never ask us – and we certainly
don’t want to go around telling people
all the mistakes they are making. But
it’s not rocket science. Just follow
these steps we’ve outlined and you’ll
do really well.

Now on to the traffic issue…

Of course, we list our items on EBay,
or Etsy in large part due to the
traffic they can bring to the party.
EBay is still the biggest and best when
it comes to traffic. But Etsy is
certainly large enough to provide a
serious number of viwers too.

But how much traffic do they provide,
and is it the best traffic you can

Well, it helps to understand how much
a viewer is worth. And luckily, it is
easy to figure out.

If you go to Google Adwords, and sign
up to start advertising, and choose
the keyword, “American Girl Doll
Clothes”, you’ll be told that each
click you receive will cost you about
25 cents. So to get 100 clicks to your
website you’d need to spend about $25.

If you list an item on EBay, and let
it run it’s course through a standard
seven day auction, then you’ll
probably get around 75-150 views.

So, for the listing fee, and final
value fee, and every other crazy
fee that EBay dings you for, they
are – respect it or not – providing
you with about $25 worth of traffic.

You can find cheaper traffic by
advertising on Youtube, or Facebook,
but not too much cheaper. And of
course that would mean you need to
have your own website to sell on.

Anyway, a logical question is…

Are there any better ways to get a
massive number of good quality
visitors to see your listings? I’m
glad you asked. Here are our best

First, consider making a Facebook
fanpage. This is your first step in
cultivating a group of fans and
potential customers off of the Etsy
or EBay platform, which is something
we highly recommend. The down-side
of course is that you have to keep it
up, and figure out how to get fans to
‘like’ your page.

Second, you can begin doing email
marketing. In our premium partner
content we have a screencast
explaining how to do email marketing.
It’s a great option, but again, it
takes some work to set up and
maintain, and of course, it means
you have to start writing a
weekly newsletter.

Third, (and clearly the best option
in our opinion), you can become a
premium partner and begin having
your outfits included in our
weekly newsletter.

Does it work?…

Our newsletter is growing by about
700 names per month, about 20 per
day. It has increased by over 6,000
in the last year, and that number is

How many clicks can you expect from
our newsletter? Well, in a recent
issue, we analyzed the results and
found the following:

The average number of clicks for a
partner’s outfit was 26. With a high
of 65, and a low of 8.

So, using the 25 cents per click
number that we know from our Google
Adwords work, the person who got 65
clicks received $16.25 in value
from the newsletter, (65 X.25).

The person who got just 8 clicks
received $2 in value from the

And the average premium partner
received $6.50 in value, (26 clicks
X .25).

And that was just for 1 newsletter.
We do 4 or 5 per month, one every
weekend. So, the average premium
partner is receiving about $25 in
advertising value from their
involvement with our newsletter.

Not a bad deal for a $9.99 per month
membership price, right? Of course as
a premium partner you also get one
free pattern each month, and all of
the great information on our partner
site). And you get the ability to
post your listings on our Facebook
Fanpage too – which has huge number
of fans.

I know this is probably starting to
sound like a sales job for becoming
a Premium Partner, and we do want
you to become one, but not because
it’s good for us, but because it’s
good for both you and us together.
And it’s good for our potential
customers too. We all win as we build
a solid partnership.

Of course, if you’re not going to
actually make items to sell, and/or
not going to take good pictures,
then becoming a Premium Partner will
have limited value.

But for those who are ready to take
advantage of the opportunity, we
really can guarantee a nice amount
of traffic. And traffic is the most
important thing you need to sell
your items for a good price.

Bottomline – Getting good quality
traffic to view your listings is a
key to your success.

Now go become a premium partner! It’s
easy, just visit
and hit the paypal subscribe button.

Jason & Cinnamon

The Start-Up Success Guide, #5

Ready for our next topic? Here’s #5…

A Picture Is Worth 1,000 opinionated words…

You know that old phrase, a picture is worth a
thousand words, right?

Well, in online selling, it’s a bit more
complicated than that.

See, it’s definitely true that a very good
picture conveys a whole bunch of important
things about you, and your item. Including,

1. That you are a professional at what you
are doing.

2. That the item is fantastic, because a
fantastic picture helps show off the good
qualities of the item.

3. That you have a commitment to high
quality, in both your photography, and
your sewing.

Are these traits important to convey? Of
course, right?

But it’s even more important than that to
use good pictures.

Have you ever heard of the Halo Principle?
It is an error in judgement that we all make.
We generalize. And if we see some element of
a ‘thing’ that is really amazing, we tend to
think the whole thing will be amazing. We
place a halo on that item, and despite
information to the contrary – in our eyes,
it’s amazing. Your customers do this each and
every day – and they do it when looking at
your products, and your business.

Of course, they won’t tell you this, it’s all
unspoken. It’s just part of your overall
‘good work’. So it’s easy to lump every part
of your selling together and say, “I’m good at
this”. And not realize the critical part
photography plays.

But there is another side of the coin. The dark

What are the results of using bad photography in
your listing? Well, here are a few:

1. Customers think you’re an amatuer.

2. Customers think you have low standards of

3. Customers think you have a dirty house, and
that you probably smoke, or have 72 cats
wandering around in your sewing room. And they’re
allergic of course, so if they buy your item
they’ll probably have to go to the emergency room.
While there they could get a super germ infection
and die – all because they decided to take a
chance and buy your outfit.

Are they interested in any of that?

NO WAY! Too risky.

See where I’m going with this?

The generalizations go the other way too. People
tend to demonize, or disrespect a seller unfairly,
based on just a few small issues or elements,
photography is definitely one of them.

So what should you do if you fear your pictures
aren’t up to the level of quality that your
customers will respect?

It’s pretty simple. You need to invest in a good

I know, I know, you’re trying to make money, not
spend it, right? But in this case, you really
cannot afford to operate without a good camera.
Trust us.

We outline our specific recommendation for which
camera to purchase on the partners site. Look
under the ‘photography’ section on both the
partner content tab, and premium partner content

The short answer is – you need a Digital SLR,
with a specific type of lens, called a portrait
lens. Not a point and shoot camera. If you’re
struggling with the quality of your pictures,
and you’re using a point and shoot camera. You
probably think you just don’t know how to use it.
The truth is – the lens used in a point and shoot
camera will not do the kind of pictures that you
need to sell online.

Bottomline – A picture really is worth a thousand
opinionated words. Make sure they are great.

Now go take a good picture,

Jason & Cinnamon

The Start-Up Success Guide, #4

Ready for our next topic? Here’s #4…

Give And Ye Shall Receive…

In a well known psychological experiment,
researchers traveled to a local restaurant.

Here are the different scenarios they tried…

First, they had the mints sitting in a basket
by the cash register – not given to the
customers with the bill.

Second, they had 1 mint per person given at
the end of the meal, with the bill.

Third, they had 2 mints per person given at
the end of the meal, with the bill.

Fourth, they had the waitress give 1 mint
per person with the bill, then walk away,
then turn around and smile and place another
set of mints on the table – as if she though
of it as an impromptu act of kindness.

Can you guess what happened with the customer
tipping? It’s not too hard to figure out,

They used the first scenario as the baseline.
Then measured the last 3 experiments compared
to it.

In the 2nd experiment – when one 1 mint per
person was given the tip amount increased
by 3.3%. Not bad.

In the 3rd experiment – when 2 mints were given,
the tip amount rose to 14%. Wow.

In the final experiment – when the waitress
returned and gave the second mint as an
impromptu gesture of kindness, the tipping
increased 23%.

So how does this apply to your new business?

In short, give, give, give. If and when you
can give an extra gift, or item, or token,
do it.

One of the simplest ways to give a special
thoughtful gesture is to include a personal
‘thank you’ card with the customer’s order.
When they open the package, they receive a
heartfelt – hand-written note card. Wow, that
speaks volumes, right?

Another way you can give a thoughtful gesture
is to include little items in the customer
package – like hair clips, or stickers.

Finally, a personal email, sent several days
or weeks after the purchase – thanking them
again for choosing you – can be a terrific
act of kindness.

At Liberty Jane we’ve had customers purchase
our items regularly since 2008. They just
keep coming back for more. Have you ever
wondered how we get our auctions so high? It’s
not from bidders who are unfamiliar with our
work. Generally we see the same names over
and over. They are loyal to us because they
know we care, and of course they like our work.
These faithful patrons bid against each
other, and the result is a high final bid price.

So how will you treat your customers special?

Brainstorm 3 or 4 things that you can do to make
things special for your customers. They’ll reward
you for it in more ways than you can imagine.

Bottomline – Giving more than people expect is a
really good business strategy.

Now go give something away,

Jason & Cinnamon

The Start-Up Success Guide, #3

Ready for your next sewing & selling

#3 – How to Sell Everything You Make

We always sell everything we make,
(except for practice and trial pieces,
which we give to Libby). We sell it
all – and you can too.

See, As a small production seamstress
you have a huge advantage over
American Girl.

Your advantage lies in a simple
concept – you can avoid holding

One of the biggest liabilities a large
manufacturer has is keeping inventory
that doesn’t sell. It’s a huge headache.

They have to try to predict what will
sell, then when it doesn’t sell well,
they have to either discount it heavily
to sell it, which weakens their brand,
or have some other type of outlet to
dispose of it. (That’s what AG does).

Those mistakes represent thousands,
even millions, of dollars of waste
in their system of selling.

They accept that waste because of
course they generate huge revenue on
the successful part of their operation,
selling items for full-price.

So how do you sell everything you make?
Here is our five step plan:

1. Don’t make things that people
don’t want. Okay, that sounds dumb,
but think about it. You can easily
see what types of outfits are selling
for premium prices, and do solid
research before you make anything.
Then make things that are similar to
the things that you’ve seen sell.
Your research can be done by viewing
the Liberty Jane Partners list, or
watching EBay and Etsy sellers that
you admire.

Don’t copy their work, that’s flat
wrong, but get a grasp on what does
and does not sell well by watching
their efforts. Again, don’t copy
them – learn from them.

2. Don’t make items in batches
unless you’ve proven that you can
sell them easily. It’s easiest to
make 5 or 10 shirts at once, and
that’s fine, as long as you’re
selling something that you know is
a proven winner. If not, just make
one and test it out. Even for our
Spring and Fall line outfits that
sell for over $100, we don’t make
them all at once, we do it one at
a time, as they sell.

3. Anything will sell on EBay if you
start it at 99 cents. I know, I
know, you like Etsy, but just hear
us out on this…The real question is
not whether you can sell what you
make – the real question is if you
can get a price you think you

Obviously there is a range of
acceptable prices in the market.
The price you get is determined
by your reputation, the number of
followers you have, and the way
in which you sell the outfit. If
you sell items easily at the $25
price point on Etsy, then you’ve got
to wonder, could these be selling
in a Ebay auction for $75? That
difference means you could either
sew and sell 1/3rd less items and
make the same amount. Or make 3
times more money.

Our recommendation is to experiment
with EBay auctions as a way to
validate your work and pricing.
We’ve found that the market will be
a fair judge.

You might not like the final price
you get, or you might be pleasantly
surprised. But if you start it at
99 cents – you will sell it. And if
it sells for $1.49 you will be
highly motivated to examine what
you’re doing wrong. Then you’ll
improve, then you’ll get higher

As a side note – social psychologists
have proven that the low starting
bid price is better than a high
starting bid price. We’ll skip the
details, but trust us, start it at
99 cents. It works best.

4. People want what they can’t have.
So as a seller, the best strategy
you can employ is scarcity. If you
keep your store stocked all the time,
you won’t do as well as if you
create a method of scarcity.

Our method is simple – we do a Spring
and Fall line. Then offer a limited
number of separates in our store,
which are sold out more often than
they are available, so people
physically cannot buy our products
very easily. The result is
predictable – a mad dash (and poof)
everything sells.

5. When you get good at using our
patterns, and tweaking them, then
you’re ready to take custom orders.
It’s a bit scary at first, but
generally it’s not very hard to do.
And if you’re good at it – and
develop a reputation, then you can
simply do custom projects for people,
and the selling issues become much
easier. This can be very profitable.
We did this for the first two years
of our business, and had to stop
because it just took too much of our

Bottomline – Make it a goal to sell
everything you make. And, if the
items you’re making aren’t selling,
then ask yourself the hard questions
necessary to figure out why.

You can do this!

Jason & Cinnamon

The Start-Up Success Guide, #2

Ready for your next sewing & selling

Here’s #2…

Do not despise the day of small

Have you ever heard of the Corridor

The Corridor Principle is a concept
in entprenuership that simply
states that…

Open doors become obvious to you as
you move forward with a venture,
that would not have otherwise been
noticable if you hadn’t started
down the path.

Here is the thing – You’re not just
sewing and selling doll clothes.
You’re starting a business. And the
business you’re starting today might
look completely different 10 years
from now. It might be an empire.

You can’t build next year’s business,
you have to start right where you are,
with your current idea and business
concept – and march forward. New doors
will open when the time is right.

So how do you take advantage of the
corridor principle?

First, you start now, don’t wait for
everything to be perfect. Just do
what you can, with what you have,
and commit to learn as much as possible.
Achieve some success with an initial
effort. Do it for a while and see
how it goes.

Next you want to ask yourself 3 key

1. “What should I change”
2. “What should I change it to”
3. “How should I make the change”

These questions were first outlined
in a book entitled ‘The Goal’ by
Elehu Goldraith, and it’s considered
a business classic.

These questions prompt you to evaluate
what’s working well, what’s not, and
what you should do about it.

Knowing the next move to make in a
business is one of the most difficult
challenges entreprenuers face.

See, here’s the thing – it’s easy to
spot brilliant ideas after they are
out-there and successful.

But incredibly hard to see them in
your minds eye,
before anyone else does. But the more
you try, the better you get at using
your business intuition.

It’s said that Steve Jobs walked
around for years (like decades) with
a little 8X7 black paper note book,
and he would say, “some day I want
to have a computer that is this small”.

But there were technical reasons,
(related to battery life), that
stopped him from getting Apple to
create that type of tablet computer.

Then his team started working on the
initial MP3 player, which became the
ipod. And they jumped into it
aggressively, creating Itunes, and
inventing a whole new industry.

Then the Iphone came along, and it
changed the cell phone industry.
(Over 15 billion apps have
been downloaded now in fact).

Then finally, because the battery
technology improved radically, he
could finally create the small tablet
computer – which of course is the
Ipad. And again, it revolutionized

But it didn’t happen all at once, or
overnight. It was iterative, moving
from one concept to the next logical
concept. One small step at a time.

Bottomline – do not despise the day
of small beginnings. Start down the
corridor, keep your eyes open for new
ideas, and never, never, never give
up! Empires don’t happen if you give

You can do this!

Jason & Cinnamon

The Start-Up Success Guide, #1

Like with everything else in life
your new business can either be
below average, average, or above
average. The difference will boil
down to a few small variables.
This guide is intended to help you
identify those issues and master

We hope you enjoy it.
And, just an fyi, it’s formatted
for email, and to be read via phone.

So the columns are extra narrow, Anyway…

Here is our first Topic…

How To Stand-Out From The Crowd…

To get your business off to a good
start, you’ve got to stand out from
the crowd. You should figure out
how to unique-ify yourself in the
marketplace. Unique-ify? Ok, it’s not
a word, but hopefully it makes sense.
You’ve got to find your unique angle
or idea – and it needs to be a popular
one. If you offer a unique product,
that is in line with the desires of
the marketplace, then you’ve got a
great shot at building a good business.

See, selling is a balancing act
between being unique and offering
what is popular in the marketplace.

Sometimes it’s impossible to know
what people are going to find
attractive. But it’s your job to
experiment until you get it right.
Sometimes you have an idea, and it
flops, sometimes you have an idea,
and it works like magic.

On the one-hand, if you just copy
what other people are doing, even if
it’s selling well for them, then
you haven’t differentiated yourself
enough to get people’s attention. You
might do okay, but probably not great.

On the other-hand, if you deviate
from what’s popular too much, then
you run the risk of making things
that look goofy. Goofy usually
doesn’t sell well.

The best approach is to be unique
enough to stand out, but stick to
things that are known winners.

So what should you try first?

In general, we’ve discovered 1 big
lesson that influences everything.

Ready for it? …

Either go very contemporary, or go
very historical. We’ve seen people
find good success in either direction.
But usually you become known for 1
or the other, not both.

The worst thing you can do is to try
to sell neither historically accurate
clothing, nor contemporary clothing.
I’m not sure why seamstresses try this
approach, tacking on the rick rack,
deliberately making outfits that look
like – well – doll clothes. That’s a
clear mistake. So choose either
historical or contemporary clothing,
then be true to that genre.

Here are a few more proven ideas from
Paul Hawken, founder of Smith & Hawken:

1. Enhance the commonplace. Are the
AG swim suite options boring? Can you
make them exciting? Take something
that is unexciting, and spice it up.
It is a great way to make a strong

2. Reveal a business within a
business. Take 1 small area of the
AG universe – and dominate it by doing
it in a very big way. For example: is
there anyone that focuses exclusively
on making AG backpacks? Maybe you
could start offering 25 different
options. You could dominate the AG
Backpack scene. You could build a
whole brand and business around that
1 idea.

Have you ever heard of Charles Williams?
He was a hardware store owner. And in
1956 he decided to get rid of all the
hardware and just focus on the kitchen
utensils. How crazy is that? But you
probably love William Sonoma – his
now famous store. He got there by
becoming the best at 1 small thing.

We have been telling our partners for
over a year that if someone would
just focus on AG Jeans exclusively,
and make a cool brand, (like a mini
7 For All Mankind), that they’d own
a cool category. We’ve even got the
patterns already available. So far,
no one has done it.

3. Find a whole in the market and
fill it. Is there something that no
one else is doing? Maybe something
that AG abandoned? You might recognize
that this is exactly what we did with
the pattern business. AG offered 6
old patterns, and had clearly
abandoned that line of business.
For more than 20 years no one keep
advantage of this whole in the
marketplace. Like a vast territory
that had been abandoned. So, we
decided we’d enter that space
and offer the largest selection
we could possibly create.

We weren’t competing with American
Girl, we were adding something of
value to their ecosystem.

Bottomline on all of this – starting
your sewing and selling business by
saying, “I’m going to make doll clothes”
is probably too broad an idea. Think
narrow and deep. You have to start by
asking – how can I be unique compared
to everyone else?

Just take your time – you can do it.

Now go stand out from the crowd,

Jason & Cinnamon

Ps. If you want to read all of the
Start-Up Success Guide topics
immediately you can go to and look
under the “partner resources” section.

2 Powerful selling tools

If you’ve got a product that you think is attractive to customers, and you’re operating in a niche that you think has potential, and you have a brand that you think is exciting to people, then there are 2 critical tools that you need to focus on developing.

#1 Copy writing

Copy writing is the art of describing your product in the most compelling way possible. It is the single most important skill you can develop to effectively sell online.

Here is an example… Our daughter Libby has started to sew, and wanted to sell her outfits on Etsy. But she didn’t want any help – she wanted to do it all on her own. We thought that was admirable. So, she made a cute skirt, and took pictures herself, and put them on the computer, and after a bit of help with getting an Etsy account set-up, she listed the item herself. She wrote the description very acurately. It was a good and straight-forward description of what she was selling. But her listing didn’t sell. Days went by, and there was no action. So, finally, depressed, she asked me for help. We changed her listing description slightly to include the following openning sentences, (this is a paraphrase, we can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like this),

“Hi, I’m Libby, from Liberty Jane Clothing – my mom named the company after me. This is my very first outfit I made to sell, and someday I’m going to be a big time designer. So, if you want to be able to say you bought my very first outfit, then you should buy this”.

The outfit sold the same day we made this change. What did we do? We created a story – that the buyer could be a part of. It’s a classic copy writing technique. An engaging story gives the potential buyer a reason to finish the transaction. Another example of storytelling is when we started our “International Collection” for our Fall and Spring lines. It was a ‘framework’ for the stories that allowed us to create ongoing small stories as we launched new outfits. Now instead of listing a “tan dress” we could list it as the “Outback Libby – Faraway Downs Dress”.

The best copy writers that we’ve found are 1) Bob Bly and 2) Craig Garber. They are true masters. If you want their tips just sign-up for their emails and you’ll get a TON of free advice every few days, (they publish their emails almost daily). And of course, every once in a while, you’ll also get a terrificly written ‘pitch’ for one of their books. And you should buy them if you need help with copy writing. And make sure you read all our articles about wrting.

#2 Product Photography

If you can take a very good picture of your product, then online selling will become almost effortless. I know, that’s a bold statement, but we’ve found it to be true ourselves, and seen it to be true for many other sellers. If there is 1 skill that most online sellers fail to fully perfect, it’s photography. But all things being equal, it’s a huge game-changer. When it comes to photography there are two basic issues:

  1. Equipment. We’ve outlined what we use on this post. And we’d encourage you to seriously consider getting a DSLR and Portrait Lens. It will change your life.
  2. Technique. Once you have the right gear, you can learn the basic functions of your camera and lens pretty quickly. There are tons of free as well as paid online resources. Here is a post.

These two powerful selling tools will be a huge benefit to you if you learn to do them well. Go ahead, get obsessed with them. Spend a little money, and become a pro. You won’t regret it.

Doubters, Read This

[This is an excerpt from Price It Like Picasso – our Auction Blueprint. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should…]

“A thing long expected, takes the form of the

unexpected, when at last it comes”

Mark Twain

There are three key reasons an online business is an amazing opportunity. Let me outline them:

#1 Infancy

The Internet is in its infancy. It’s a baby. It’s an enormous, amazing, talented youngster. It basically started in 1995, with a user-group that was relatively small, but grew quickly and continues to grow at an astonishing pace. If you think the online universe is fully populated, or all the apples have been picked, then you’re really wrong. This thing is just getting started, and there is plenty of room on the bus for you, and your new business. Here are three metaphors that might help you understand the magnitude of this opportunity.

A Whole New World: Imagine it is 15 years after Columbus discovered the new world. Manhattan is filled with forest, not skyscrapers. Boston has a few Indian tee-pees erected, and looks more like a KOA campground, than a thriving city. Treasure Island in the Caribbean has never had anyone step foot on it, and it is waiting for someone to come and lay on its beaches. But now imagine you can travel to the new world for free, without leaving your home in England, without it costing you anything. You don’t have to quit your job. You can go to the new world on evenings and weekends. You can find your piece of it, and build your new kingdom, then, magically, with the click of a mouse you can be back in time for dinner, or to tuck your kids into bed. It’s the new world, minus the risk of crossing the ocean.

Head West Young Man: Imagine the Internet is like “The Wild West”, and this is fifteen years after the Lewis & Clark expedition. The Napa Valley doesn’t have any vineyards yet; want to plant some? Anaheim doesn’t have any orange groves, let alone Disneyland, interested? Las Vegas is not even on the map. San Francisco? What’s that? And instead of jumping on a wagon train, buying a horse, kissing your family good-bye and leaving everything behind, you get to click into it during evenings and weekends. You can travel west, stake your claim, and work the land. Then with the click of a mouse, be back in time for church, or to leave for work on time at 7:15.

There Is Gold In Them There hills: Imagine it is fifteen years after the Gold Rush started. Those nice folks at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma saw shiny gold in the bottom of the creek, and the world changed. But you don’t have to move to California or buy a physical shovel or pick. You can jump into the creek, work all day picking up your gold nuggets, and return home in the blink of an eye. Get your feet wet every evening for two hours without sacrificing anything. Bust your pick on the weekends, and never worry about getting bonked on the head by thieves or claim jumpers.

Is it really that big of an opportunity? Like the new world? Like the wild west? Like the gold rush? It’s bigger – financially – way bigger. Get the picture? This thing is big, and it’s just starting out.

#2 Accessibility

The Internet has changed how business is done. Why? Because anything online, (aka digital), like digital products, and processes, and tools have something called “near zero marginal cost.” That means if IBM builds an amazing tool for selling something, it costs them almost nothing to add another user. They know that and that user can be you. And there are millions of companies that are building systems and processes, and tools. So guess what happens? There is a classic ‘race to the bottom’. Where one company makes something and charges $99, then another company makes it and figures out how to charge $9.99, then a third company figures out how to make it and give it away for free to enhance another part of their business. What does that mean for you? It means people start offering you tools, and processes, and products for free, or nearly free, and although that might not make any sense to you, it makes sense to them, and their accountants. Score.

Remember when you used to pay for America Online? Or Prodigy? What happened? Netscape came along and offered the same service for free, and figured out how to make money doing it. They ‘demonetized’ that product. Remember when door-to-door salesmen used to sell Encyclopedias? Then Microsoft introduced Encarta on CDROM? Then Wikipedia started? That was an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year – and it got vaporized by someone using the principles of ‘near zero marginal cost’. That same situation is occurring over and over throughout every corner of the current Internet. You are getting amazing tools offered to you, all for free. The only thing you have to do is learn to use them.

I recently heard Mark Suster, a very successful entrepreneur, share at a Stanford lecture. It was a great lecture. He explained that this first business cost him about 2 million to build, in terms of the tools and systems necessary to run it. His next business cost him just a few hundred thousand to basically build the same thing. Today, he could build the same business for just a few thousand dollars. Why? Because the tools and systems that used to cost a lot of money are now offered for free, or nearly free because of this magical near zero marginal cost.

Hey guess what, I don’t go to Stanford, and I don’t live in California. I watched the lecture for free on their website. So let me recap the situation for you: I attended a Stanford lecture for free, listening to a guru guy talk about near zero marginal cost. I didn’t pay anything for the lecture. I didn’t get on a plane and travel to Palo Alto. Stanford is happy, the guru is happy, I’m happy, and now you’re happy. Was that possible fifteen years ago? No way!
The online marketplace is offering you more free products than ever before, and making more money off of you than ever before. How is this possible?

I realize this will sound like I’m contradicting myself, given the fact that I just shared all about how things are getting ‘free’. Yet there is an amazing flip side to the free coin. While things are getting free people are spending more money online than ever before. But it’s not just people spending money online, its companies, and churches, and the government. It’s commerce at the broadest level. Google is not going broke, yet it offers almost all its services for free.

#3 Scalability

All of us have experienced going from a small town to a big one and back again. It’s fun to be ‘awed’ by the differences. Some of us grew up in a big city and are most comfortable there; some grew up in a small town and are most comfortable there. When you’re a small town kid, the big city is a weird and wonderful place.

We were small town kids in Northern California, so San Francisco was the big city for us. One year (before the Internet) we were newly married, and we got into photography. So for our anniversary we went to San Francisco to visit the camera stores and try to find a lens that we were interested in. Wow, we spent a whole day visiting all the camera stores, and pawnshops. Our little town back home didn’t even have 1 camera shop. San Francisco had more than we could visit in one day. There were so many options, so many cool shops, and so many things to see. It was like a wild goose chase in a giant maze. We had a blast. I’ll never forget driving to one pawnshop and as we got closer, we realized it was in a really rough part of town. Suddenly we realized maybe this was dangerous, we got nervous, but it made it all the more fun. We even debated whether or not we should stop and go in, but we did, and it turned out fine. I’ll never forget that shopping experience. It was with my amazing spouse, we had so much fun, and we had never indulged in a hobby that much before. Guess where I’m going with this story. Fast-forward a few years. Camera enthusiasts have endless options online now. The whole industry has migrated to an e-commerce existence. The options we found in San Francisco are like a drop in the ocean compared to the options we could find online.

Something weird happens to topics and hobbies when you have a billion people online. Topics that used to be so marginal and ‘out-there’ now have huge forums and communities that you can participate in. Imagine an ant that is the size of a dinosaur. Imagine a dinosaur the size of Texas.

So the online marketplace is growing to an unfathomable size and scope, and with it, information, products, and opportunities associated with very small topics, or niches, are growing at this rate as well. Your ‘thing’ just got put on steroids. Your hobbyist group of 4 local friends just got expanded to the size of a packed out Wrigley Field. Do you know how many people want to buy a coke at Wrigley Field? A lot. Sell coke. Small things have become big, and big things have become utterly unrecognizable. If you’re interested in selling, this is the arena for you.

But you probably already figured this out if you’ve been online for any length of time. You searched for your hobby, and had your mind blown away. It changed you forever. Great.


Now the question is simple. Can you turn that little hobby, that craft love affair, that passion, into a profitable business? These three factors, infancy, accessibility, and scalability, all add up to one truth: You can do this! You can do it from your home, and you can do it cheaply. The barriers have fallen, and the opportunities really do exist. It’s a whole new world.

Our auction system is designed to help you learn one part of the online selling puzzle. It’s not the total solution, but it is one key part. If you can consistently run a successful and profitable online auction, then you can do something that most other online sellers cannot. Having that tool in your toolbox will help you for years to come, and serve as a great onramp to bigger and better selling strategies. And the cool part, the really awesome part, is that the process you have to go through to create a successful auction business will require you to lay the groundwork properly for long-term success. In other words, it’s a great place to stake your claim.

Why a few pennies matter

You probably like Subway, (the sandwich shop), right? The founder has some advice for you.

His name is Fred Deluca, and his advice might surprise you. He’s a true entreprenuer, and started out very humbly at just 17. He opened the sandwich shop as a way to earn money for college. So he knows something about being where you’re at. Being at the kitchen table, hoping and dreaming about growing a business. His advice…

“Earn A Few Pennies First”

Pennies? Earn pennies? I know, right?! His advice seems sort of funny, but here is his point. He says to start with the goal of just making a few pennies. And as you set that simple goal, and raise the ante, you develop a goal oriented approach to your business growth. Incrementally improving over time to bigger and bigger goals, but never stressing yourself out with a crazy goal. Just take the next simple step. Then build from there.

As Joe Vitale says,

It’s easier to make dollars if you’ve made pennies first.

It’s easier to make hundreds after you’ve made a few dollars.

It’s easier to make thousands if you’ve made hundreds.

Get the idea? Don’t stress. Just build on your successes and strive to make the next logical step. Napoleon Hill once wrote,

“A goal is a dream with a deadline”


Note: Fred Deluca is the cofounder of Subway, and author of, ‘Start Small, Finish Big’.