Learning to Hustle
A lesson on how not to spend $20k
$20,000. That was how much I had in the bank before everything happened. I got pregnant, had a baby, went on maternity leave, lost my job within a few months of returning, decided to start my own gig and now I’m down to my final $5,000.
That’s the equivalent of a month and a half of rent, food, electricity, water and everything else in between. The household deficit is real and treasury is running low.
Yet, there is approximately $9,350 lying around the house in the form of wholesale bought goods. I just need to turn it into cold hard cash — and fast.
I can’t quite remember how long it’s been since I’ve been officially jobless. All I know is that one of my junior team member is now a rising star at a government tech company, my other junior is in Korea living her dream and my senior developer is now working for a start up.
I, their former team lead, now sits at home with a baby, mostly surrounded by a multitude of things that were seemingly great ideas in the beginning but now casts a dark cloud of uncertainty.
It all made sense at the time when I bought all that stuff and the bank account wasn’t so low. It all made sense when after hours and hours of lurking around in other people’s online stores, marketing campaigns, social media accounts, Facebook groups and where ever anyone else making a living online hung out.
Some days I wonder if I’ve allowed myself to be suckered into the get rich quick schemes all over again. Or perhaps I’m just so desperate to make rent that I’ll willingly believe anything that the internet tells me.
Over the past few months, I’ve been following an eBay reseller going by the name of Daily Refinement. I like him because he’s practical and he’s real. Best of all – he’s free. He’s not like one of those loud, yelling kids promising a million bucks if you spend money on their ponzi styled get rich course.
I can’t quite remember which one of his YouTube videos it was (might have been his 666 Devil’s Model) but the guy made a point about finding a replenishable item that consistently sells and once its all set up, then it’s just logistics and shipping.
Six weeks later and over 600 items trialed later, I think I’ve found 2. This equates to about $20 consistent profit each week. These two items I just order more in, pack and send once sold. Takes about 10 minutes overall — which isn’t bad for $20. Now all I have to do is figure out 46 more items to make rent. If my math is correct, then in theory it’s only about 3–4 hours per week of work for $480.
Yay. Go me.
In the beginning of my venture, I was shipping out a good dozen packages each day. It’s since died down to maybe 1–2 items per day. There are days where my online store sits so silently that I can hear digital crickets singing.
Physically, I can’t do anything until after 7pm. That’s when the baby sleeps.
A part of me knows that in the beginning, everything will always be the hardest. Learning a language. Learning to ride a bike. Learning to do anything in particular.
In my case, it’s learning to be a digital hustling mother.
There are days where I look for day care options but the bank account is simply saying no. It’s a catch 22 — where I need to time make money but need money to make time. Maybe it’ll get easier in a year or two when my overly attached baby becomes mentally ready to detach from clinging to my leg.
It took about 40 days for my stuff to arrive. I miss calculated and thought everything would be sorted within 14 days and things start to sell by the 18th day mark. The bank account would be alright until then and then its just reinvesting the money and scaling up whilst paying the household bills.
It didn’t help that I decided to put the order through on the first day of China’s national week long holiday. No one told me until I started chasing suppliers up on where all my stuff is. This added to the delayed shipping, along with being in the supplier’s backlog of things to ship out. In short, everything was delayed overall.
The almost 4 weeks difference meant about $3k lost to living costs with nothing to sell. By the time the stuff arrived, I quickly realized that I hadn’t ordered enough to make a substantial dent in my living costs.
With a sell through rate of 5%, I need at least 5,500 items listed concurrently to make it work. Either that or I increase my sell through rate with better turnover products. Or I figure out what 46 items will definitely sell daily at the minimum profit after tax rate of $10 to at least cover the rent.
My mind runs through the different scenarios daily whilst I make nightly decisions to spend more money or not.
“You’ve got to spend money to make money”, my former manager once said to me. He has a point, except I needed to make the money too.
I sold 3 things today with one pending payment. That’s $30 in total — before taxes, cost of goods deductions and all that stuff. $30. That’s cold hard digital cash that will most likely be eaten up once it gets transferred to the landlord.
A better Monday than most. Perhaps more will go later tonight as people starts to get home from work and find ways or reasons to spend their money.
When I started out on this journey, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I knew that things will certainly be rough for a few weeks, if not months, until I manage to figure it all out and play the hustle game like an expert.
Knowing is one thing. Experiencing is another. Every now and then I pick up the Alchemist and flip to a random page. Others may live on Pinterest motivational pins to make it through their days, I live on the narrative of a fictional character that’s in search of treasure.
Learning to hustle is one part of my journey. Right now, everything seems bleak but perhaps in a month, two or three, my tone and entire experience may change.
No one really remembers the bad days when you’re in the good ones. They’re just memories and not the same as being in the moment. Learning to hustle is a journey.
This is mine.