Still working at midnight? 1am? 3am?

Do you work in the middle of the night? Then chances are, you’re running your own business. Photo: iStockLike all businesses trying to understand its clients better, Bigcommerce, an e-commerce platform for retail start-ups, was recently analysing the time-of-day work patterns of about 1,800 of its Australian customers.
Nanjing Night Net

Some things were not surprising, for example that peak activity was around midday when more than 80 per cent of online retailers were working on their stores.

But one thing stuck out a mile – almost half of the retailers were working at midnight. At 1am more than a third of the retailers were stuck in and at 3am nearly 20 per cent were still at it.

To understand what’s behind those statistics you need to speak with people like James Hopkins and Rebecca Guest. They don’t know each other but they have one important thing in common – they are both living the dream of running their own booming e-commerce businesses. But they are doing it the hard way by piggybacking on day jobs.

Hopkins is founder of iCoverLover, which sells fashion-forward accessories for smart phones. He’s also a middle manager for a broadcast media company, a full-on job that leaves him only evenings and weekends to work on the retail business.

His site, icoverlover南京夜网.au, first launched in December 2010. Hopkins’ business exceeded expectations so much that his partner and co-director, Lana, quit her own day job as a marketing executive in September 2012 to work on iCoverLover full-time.

It was a huge step for Lana to take the plunge and go full-time but so far the decision has been vindicated. The business has been thriving not just because of demand for the product but also because of perks they offer, like same-day delivery in the Sydney metro area.

“A lot of our customers want instant gratification,” says James. “We have the orders couriered to them at the home or office.” This kind of service is not available from most retailers.

James himself usually works on the site from about eight in the evening until midnight but he admits that sometimes he can’t drag himself away until the wee hours of the morning. He estimates that both he and Lana put in 80-hour work-weeks – she exclusively on the e-commerce business and he on the business and his full-time job.

Rebecca Guest is another Sydney resident who burns the candle at both ends. She went on maternity leave in 2012 and then traded in her full-time marketing job for a part-time one that keeps her busy for three days a week. Between job and infant she’s flat chat and you wouldn’t think there’d be much time left to run an e-commerce business. Yet that’s exactly what she does.

Unable to work at it for more than an hour here and an hour there at odd times of day, it took her about eight months of business development to get to the point where she was able to launch her site, Mint Green, which offers a curated selection of home products.

“If I had been able to work on it full-time I could have had the site up and running lightning-fast,” Guest says.

It’s early days yet for Mint Green. Volumes are growing but overheads are significant. Guest has to maintain a full inventory in a storage facility since most wholesalers will not drop-ship. That’s a significant financial commitment for a retail business that is being exclusively self-financed.

Guest’s other challenge is that she knows the home furnishings business is a crowded space, particularly with international brands like Williams-Sonoma now muscling in on the Australian market. She needs to differentiate Mint Green from the rest of the pack. Her answer is to be a curator, or editor, of merchandise that represents her own personal point of view rather than a plain vanilla homewares store. She is also hoping that as a savvy user of social media she will be able to build bridges to her customers that the bigger players cannot.

Money is not the sole motivation for night owls like Rebecca Guest and James Hopkins. They will both be quick to tell you that working on their own e-commerce businesses on top of day jobs and domestic responsibilities is also about doing something you love and taking some control of your own professional destiny.

These toilers of the night are not to be pitied – they’re really loving every minute of it.

Michael Baker is principal of Baker Consulting and can be reached at [email protected]南京夜网 and www.mbaker-retail南京夜网.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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