Even before the internet, entrepreneurship was an exciting but risky game. Perhaps you remember the new restaurant in town or the corner store that everyone hoped would succeed. Months later, you may have seen a “For Rent” sign in the window and felt a twinge of sadness for the entrepreneur who couldn’t quite make it happen.  

The internet presents fewer barriers to entry than a brick-and-mortar business, which explains why so many people have rushed to hang out a virtual shingle and make their fortune. The internet levels the playing field, making it possible for anyone to make a good living with an online business.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with guarantees. Statistics about online business success rates indicate that between 80 and 90 percent of e-commerce businesses fail. So how do you beat the odds?  Do you need an Ivy League degree or years of experience in Corporate America? The answer is no. Neither formal education nor breadth of corporate experience are consistently predictive of internet selling success. 

There are several things that most successful internet entrepreneurs seem to have in common, though. These include: 

Access to startup funds. Fortunately for the cash-poor, starting an internet business requires less seed money than starting a brick-and-mortar business, but it still requires some money. You don’t have to have thousands of dollars in the bank, but you should have at least $1,000. Notice here that we put “access” to start up funds. Don’t count yourself out if you don’t have the money sitting in your bank account. Try selling some items on eBay or taking on an extra part-time job to get your startup account established.  

Discretion. Internet retail is a fast-paced, exciting line of work with new trends constantly emerging. Some may be the next big thing, others, however, may fizzle out and die in a hurry. The trick is to know the difference. Many people in this line of work run off in pursuit of every shiny new penny, only to lose it all. Establish a well-researched business plan. Run it by a mentor. Once that is in place, don’t go off-script unless you can show that it will improve your business—no matter how alluring the new trend is. 

Persistence. If you only want a quick buck, online entrepreneurship is probably not for you. Success takes time and a whole lot of elbow grease—especially at the beginning. You may have visions of three-day work weeks. Some people reach that point, but usually not for years. You’ll deal with setbacks, out-and-out failures, and tedium. If you’re willing to keep coming back for more, you’ll already be ahead of the competition.  

Desire. In “Hope for the Flowers,” Tina Paulus wrote, “How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.” The key word here is ‘want’. Most successful entrepreneurs’ desire to have their online business excel is so strong that few things can stop them. Desire is key, and it can’t be taught. It can trump other would-be advantages such as experience and education.  

Courage. If you stay stagnant in the fast-changing internet selling world, you’ll get trampled. You have to change to capitalize on new trends, but this takes bravery. You must be willing to take smart risks, fail, get up, then rinse and repeat.  

To meet some of the nation’s top e-commerce experts and learn from their experiences, attend Prosper Show’s annual Amazon sellers event.