- Neil Lassen went from working at Target to running his own online business.
- He said that learning new skills and fine-tuning his approach as he learned helped him get started.
- He also reinvested the profits back into his business, which he says helped it really grow.
A decade ago, Neil Lassen was trying to figure out how to make enough money online just to quit his job pushing carts at Target. He only needed to make $15 a day to cover his rent, he told Insider, and enough to buy some rice and beans to eat.
So, he started to learn more about creating websites, and affiliate marketing. Within a few months, he was able to quit his job at Target and focus on his online work. Today, his ventures in consulting, affiliate marketing, and ecommerce have become his full-time job.
However, getting from his start point to where he is now, according to Lassen, is “not all sunshine and rainbows.”
“Getting started is definitely a bit of a struggle,” he added.
Lassen shared with Insider three strategies he used in order to grow his side hustle into a lucrative, full-time ecommerce business.
1. Don’t be afraid to learn new skills, even if you think you’re bad at it
Lassen said that if you’re going to set up your own online business, you need to know how to do everything, even if there are certain skills you’re bad at and would rather hire a freelancer to do.
He said that if you don’t learn how to do every part of your business yourself, you may get taken advantage of during the freelance hiring process. “You’re gonna get screwed over multiple times if you don’t actually know the process,” he said.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should never hire out any work that you don’t think you’re good at yourself, just that you should know how to do it. “A lot of people, me included, are very bad at certain aspects of every business. I can’t design anything, but I think I’m a pretty decent marketer,” Lassen said.
He added that if you do decide to hire out for certain parts of your business, make sure the people you’re working with are capable of at least some basic research skills, demonstrate attention to detail, and are very communicative when it comes to deadlines.
2. Be willing to learn from initial failures
“Grab an Amazon or Etsy account, and create your first product,” Lassen said. “Your first product is probably not going to sell, but it doesn’t really matter.”
For people who particularly want to get into selling online merchandise, Lassen recommends getting started with print-on-demand products, which he said requires very little work and no start up costs to begin with. He added that the purpose of just getting started with print-on-demand is learning how to get a product in front of audiences at no monetary cost to yourself to start.
He knows from experience that trying to get get started when you have to do all the customer service and logistics yourself is a nightmare.
“When I first got started over 10 years ago, I actually tried the physical product business on Amazon,” Lassen said. “I ordered a bunch of products from China and shipped them over here. Stuff was getting stuck in customs. It was an absolutely horrible experience.”
Lassen would then find Merch by Amazon, a service where Amazon partners with independent designers, taking the bulk of the profits for listing the product on its site and running the production, shipping, and handling of your goods, then giving you a royalty.
While you don’t get to keep all the profit, Lassen said that it’s worth it to just take the royalty and save yourself all that extra labor. By doing print-on-demand, he didn’t have to take phone calls at 4 or 5 a.m. from distributors in China anymore.
3. Reinvest profits back into the business instead of spending it
After he started earning some money, Lassen added that in order to grow his side hustle even further, he reinvested the profits back into his growing business instead of spending it.
Lassen gave an example of a merchant who is making five sales per month on one shirt through a print-on-demand operation, earning them $10 to $15 extra per month. “I can just take that money, find someone who can create excellent products based on the research I’ve done, and then turn that into 10 sales the next month, or 15, or 20,” he said.
“As long as the business is taken care of,” he continued, “it’s going to take care of me.”