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Real-Time Stats Could Turn Freelancers into Entrepreneurs

Image: OrderPipe

When you’re supplementing your freelance income with direct sales, watching the numbers can become addictive. Whether you’re looking to track orders of your self-published Kindle books on Amazon or using Magento to process purchases of your own design fashion items, it’s hard not to keep clicking back to see whether someone just gave you a pile of money while you were busy doing something else. One company now wants to make that constant stat-watching even easier.

OrderPipe is a mobile sales dashboard that tracks sales across a range of e-commerce platforms including Amazon, Magento and Shopify. The service collates information allowing sellers to see immediately how their sales are developing, their total sales across all channels and which items are currently most popular with customers. There’s nothing to install and nothing to download; registration is made using a Google ID after which it’s just a matter of plugging the platform into your sales channels. You’ll then be able to browse graphs and figures that are easy to read and simple to follow.

You’ll be told today’s revenues and the total number of sales and orders. You’ll be given a list of the day’s top-sellers and highest-earners, shown a map of sales locations and offered graphs of daily revenues, daily sales and each day’s average order value. According to the service’s beta users, the killer feature is the “sales worm,” a graph that overlays sales so far on top an average of each day’s hourly takings so that users can compare actual progress with expected results. The service works best with sellers that take in at least 20 orders a day.

When Your Sales Spike, You Can Act

At least some of that might sound familiar. Each sales platform provides some sales statistics, including product orders, but none combines figures across different channels, and the data isn’t released as soon it comes in.

“Take Amazon Seller Central, for example. It gives you an order list showing your latest orders. But it doesn’t show dollar amounts, it doesn’t show total sales for the day or tell you which products are selling most today,” explains Paul Grey, OrderPipe’s founder. “Amazon does provide a portfolio of reports which include sales statistics by day and product, but those are always a few days out of date, not even close to real time.”

That lack of real time information, Gray argues, removes vital information. Being able to see that sales have taken a jump in the middle of the day lets sellers track the source of that spike. You can see if someone recommended a product on your site on Twitter, check whether a clearance sale price just kicked in (or was accidently priced too low) or realize that you’ve just been highlighted on Amazon’s Buy Box.

“You’re finding out as it happens, in time to do something about it,” says Paul Grey.

You’re also finding out wherever you are. OrderPipe has been formatted specifically for mobile devices so that users can check their stats in any place as well as all the time. For freelancers heading to a café or stuck on the metro on their way to a meeting with a client, that can be particularly helpful. You might not be able to create a new design or write another ebook while you’re sitting in traffic, but you can pull up your latest sales figures and start wondering why tote-bags or self-help books are suddenly racing off your virtual shelves.

Freelancer or Entrepreneur?

In general, constant stat-watching can be more of a problem than a solution. Selling products is a good idea for freelancers because it adds a passive revenue stream to the active money-generator involved in servicing clients. Take a few days off freelancing — a free choice that freelancing is supposed to deliver —  and your revenues stop. You’re not running up billable hours so you’re not making any money. Create an online store or sell through Amazon however, and that passive revenue has enough momentum to keep the cash coming in even when you’re exercising your free choice not to work.

But if you’re constantly checking your stats, at what point do you stop being a freelancer and start being an entrepreneur — even just a wannabe entrepreneur? Self-definition isn’t just a matter of the percentage of your income that comes from freelancing or even the amount of time you spend doing it. It also has a lot to do with the extent to which you spend your thinking time trying to dream up new ways to increase your earnings and push up those daily revenues.

Even if OrderPipe, which is opening up its beta now after a year of testing, won’t lift your revenues themselves, there’s a good chance that the ever-present access to real time sales figures will increase the amount of time you spend planning new ways to develop the retail side of your freelance business.

The presence of OrderPipe, which is currently free, is yet another reason to think about creating a passive revenue stream.

The good news is that’s easier than it sounds. You can start by embedding affiliate links to your blog posts; as a freelance professional, you’re an expert, so reviews and recommendations of the tools you use carry some weight. Designers can put their illustrations and designs on t-shirts, hats and bags and sell them automatically on a platform that’s more unique than an Etsy store or a Zazzle shop. And freelance writers always have a book in their head that could be sold straight to Kindle if they’re willing to put in the effort to build up an audience.

OrderPipe isn’t going to make those products any more commercial or popular. But if it motivates us to create revenue streams that are more stable than those of our freelance clients, that can only be a good thing.

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