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Career Tool

Online selling as a career

A reader writes: I’m a new graduate, and instead of looking for work, I am thinking of opening an online store and selling products there. I have a lot of contacts selling fashion accessories and bags online, and one of them told me she created a store on Instagram and has been doing well. Last week, she sold a bag worth P50,000. Although the bag could sell double that amount in the mainstream market, my friend was able to make P20,000 off it. With easy money like that, I am thinking of just doing that instead of looking for a job. But I would also be starting from scratch here. Any advice?
     I have two issues with you just by reading your question.
     First: you mentioned you are a new graduate and you are already considering not looking for a job anymore as selling stuff online seems lucrative due to the high margins. I have issues about that, because as early as just having graduated, you are already looking for shortcuts in life. You work so hard to graduate from your course and the last thing you want is to go for a quick fix. I need you to change your attitude in life, and while I have nothing against Internet selling or entrepreneurship, I want you to put everything in the right frame of mind. Shortcuts rarely work. You are young— do not be afraid of taking the long but more disciplined road of work.
     This leads me to my second issue, which is Internet selling. I have my own share of friends who did very well selling online in sites like Sulit and Ayosdito (previously Multiply), and now, Instagram. There is nothing wrong there and I would even encourage you to do such. In fact, I would ask you to experiment and try putting stuff online to sell. However, I think you should do this and still look for a job. Given that you are new to the game, I do not think this will provide you a decent income in the coming months. At the same time, nothing beats the experience, discipline, and perspective you get when you are employed. By being employed, you will experience having a boss, being ordered around, and following rules and regulations. These are experiences that will provide you a better perspective of how things are done, just in case you would want to seriously venture out on your own.
     Fact is, e-commerce is not yet that big in the Philippines. While the outlier top-10 individual sellers can average P1 million a month, most would be selling around R100,000 to R200,000 a month, but netting just around R25,000 to R40,000 a month.
     Do consider competitors—those who are ahead of you, who have built social trust and reputation already, and are getting their products at a massive discount. You should also consider details like providing bank details, logistics and delivery, and returns. The fashion category may be a bit crowded, but I think there are niches you can still develop, like gadgets or specialty products like diving- or camera-related equipment. It may be a good business to go into, and I encourage you to do it. However, like any business, please study first before jumping in. As a business person, your income may vary
month per month.
     I would still advise to follow the traditional route. Get employed in a good company and learn the ropes. Then on your spare time, follow your passion. If you want to set up an online store, go for it as a hobby. You will reach a point where you will eventually make a decision which way to go. And by that time, you will not have to ask me the question again anymore. Good luck.