Category: Productivity & Business
In this informative webinar, I am interviewed by Luke Filer and we discuss everything Amazon FBA. We particularly look at how to outsource your Amazon FBA business, and also share some great product sourcing tips, and essential methods you need to implement to run your Amazon business successfully.
Virtual Assistant Training Program
As discussed in the webinar, you can sign up for our product sourcing VA program here
Product Sourcing List Service
To get profitable products sent to your inbox every day / week, sign up here
The Difference Between Success & Failure When Selling On Amazon
Selling on Amazon FBA is an amazing opportunity, a chance to make money online and potentially change your life.
It changed mine and my family's - we're now full time online living our dream life in Mallorca.
However, I'm sure you already know that there are no guarantees of success, that to make a long term success of it requires overcoming some challenges.
There are three potential barriers to success that all Amazon sellers face:
- Knowledge & ability
- Cash flow
Knowledge and ability can be developed over time, although I would say that you do need to have an in built drive and determination to make it work,
There's not a lot I can do about your cash flow today, although if you maximise points 1 and 3, your cash flow will improve.
Today we're going to focus or barrier 3 - Time. At the end of this blog post I'll provide some links to outsourcing solutions that you can utilise.
The Time Problem:
Do you have another full time or part time job?
Are you a student who has other work to do?
Do you have childcare as a priority?
For many of us when we first start selling on Amazon, we are trying to balance the development and growth of our FBA business with other priorities. That means we often can't devote as much time as we'd like to Amazon.
It took me about 1 year to go from full time job + Amazon to 100% Amazon. It was tough, but I could have accelerated that progress if I had been more effective in one particular area. Given the subject matter of this blog post, I'm sure you've already guessed what it was.
There is a quote towards the top of this page: "Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money but you cannot get more time"
But the thing is - you can get more time. Or at least you can create more time for yourself by stopping doing things that do not add value. Of course, these things still need doing, so the obvious solution is to get other people to do them for you.
Utilise someone else's expertise or cheaper labour costs and you can focus on actually moving forward with your Amazon FBA business.
Step by Step:
Make a list of your Amazon FBA processes - online arbitrage, retail arbitrage, creating Amazon shipments, accounting, Amazon admin, reconciling stock, repricing etc.
Document these processes, either in a flowchart style (use a free online resource like LucidChart) or just write down the steps involved - example below.
Make your processes as efficient as possible (i.e. elminate wasteful steps).
Then estimate the time taken to complete each step. I've created an example below which shows a basic online arbitrage process, from receiving ordered goods to shipping to Amazon.
Based on the estimated timings each time you receive an order it's going to take you 1 hour 50 minutes to get it ready to be sent to Amazon. If you do this a few times each week you can see how quickly that time adds up.
The final step is to identify which of your processes take the most time, and out of those, which ones you can outsource.
What Parts Of Your Amazon Business To Outsource First
Removing store labels from boxes is not the best use of your time. Neither are any of the other steps involved in receiving and preparing your online arbitrage orders. A prep centre does one thing, and therefore in theory they should be more efficient at it than you.
They will check that the stock you've ordered from an online store is correct, that it isn't damaged, and will do all the prep required for a shipment - labelling, boxing up, arranging the UPS collection etc.
Many prep centres will also handle returns as well as multi channel fulfilment (e.g. eBay).
I'll provide links to some prep centres at the end of this post
Costs: Typically a prep centre will charge a per item fee and a shipment fee (plus cost of boxes to ship to Amazon). Some prep centres also charge a monthly subscription fee.
Does this sound familiar? Pretend your accounts don't exist for 11 months of the year then frantically try and pull everything together before a deadline?
Even for those of you who are diligent, spending hours every month recording all of your incoming and outgoing transactions, or preparing you accounts for a tax submission can be both stressful and time consuming.
It's not something I enjoy, it's not something I'm particularly good at, and I'm more than happy to outsource this to an expert who can do it quickly and more important correctly.
Costs: Approx. £130 / $150 per month & upwards
Product Sourcing #1 - Sourcing Lists
Here we get on to the more interesting aspects of outsourcing - where we can actually make money (depending on who we outsource to of course)
I sell primarily in the UK and EU marketplaces, but when I used to sell in the US 80% of my inventory came from product sourcing lists. I used to buy one off lists rather than a subscription service, and shopped around until I found list providers who were consistent.
Points regarding sourcing lists:
- Don't expect to buy everything off each list. Some days you may purchase nothing, the next day you may go for 50% of them. Play the long game and choose your products carefully
- Don't go for a list that has too many subscribers. I've seen services that "limit" their lists to 50 sellers. In my opinion that's way too many. Listings will get swamped with races to the bottom
- Work out how much you need to sell to break even with the cost of the list services - then everything after that is pure profit
- Use the lists as a starting point - if there is a product that is profitable because it's on sale, are there other products at the source store that you can find
I'll provide links to some sourcing lists at the end of this post
Costs: From £97/$127 - £200 / $250 per month for subscription services
From £9.99 / $15 for one off lists
Product Sourcing #2 - Virtual Assistants
We were able to grow our Amazon business significantly when we outsourced our product sourcing to VA's. OK, let me clarify that - the first few VA's we hired were a disaster - not necessarily their fault, I didn't really know what I was doing either. But once we got the system cracked regarding recruitment, training and managing them things really took off.
I'll provide links to a Virtual Assistant Training Program at the end of this post
Costs: Start at $2.50 per hour for their trial period (1 week) then $3.00 per hour (if hiring from the Philippines)
US - It's a while since I've sourced in the US so I can't directly recommend a prep centre, but I am aware of both Prime Zero Prep and IndyPrep who have both been around a while. Also, FBA Inspection has been recommended to me by a member of my Facebook group
Product Sourcing List Service
Product Sourcing Virtual Assistant
Virutal Online Arbitrage is a full training program that includes training for you on how to recruit and manage your Virtual Assistant as well full training for your newly recruited VA on using sourcing software (Tactical Arbitrage & FBA Wizard) and / or manual sourcing.
Before You Find Out How To Sell On Amazon, Let Us Tell You Why You Should
Watch the video, read the post below or do both!
You want to make money selling on Amazon, we know. But first, let me quickly show you why it has become such a popular option for many people.
You already know what Amazon does, but did you know that there are already over 500 million Amazon customers worldwide?
Or that Amazon would like to share their $80 billion per year sales revenue with third-party sellers (people like you)?
And did you know that Amazon will do a lot of the work for you, allowing you to spend time growing your business?
How Selling On Amazon Works
Before we go through the 3 ways to sell on Amazon, it's helpful to understand how it actually works.
You can choose one of these options of HOW you're going to sell your product (we'll take a look at what products to sell in a minute):
A. Keep products at your home or business premises. When a customer makes an order, Amazon lets you know, you package it, ship it, handle any returns and all customer service. This is Fulfilled by Merchant. These products are not eligible to be purchased through Amazon Prime membership.
B. Send your products to an Amazon warehouse. When a customer orders your product, Amazon packs it, ships it, handles any returns and almost all of the customer service on your behalf. This is Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). These products are eligible to be purchased through Amazon Prime membership. Products eligible for Prime sell a lot more than those that are not.
We strongly recommend that you follow option 2, and send your products into Amazon. There is a small fee involved each time you make a sale but this is more than worth it for the additional sales you make and time you save.
How To Sell On Amazon Overview
- Arbitrage - buying products from other stores and selling them on Amazon
- Wholesale - buying products from wholesalers and distributors and selling them on Amazon
- Private Label - having products manufactured for you and selling on Amazon for a profit
The idea obviously is to sell at a certain level of profit and return on investment (ROI).
It sounds fairly straight forward doesn't it? But no How To Sell On Amazon guide would be complete without telling you about things that you need to consider if you are serious about selling on Amazon.
Enter your text here...
If you're still on the fence about selling on Amazon we have another blog post Make Money Selling On Amazon – Find Out If It Is Right For You which should help you out.
If you'd like more in depth information on How To Sell On Amazon you can download our 3 Ways To Make Money Selling On Amazon Guide here:
And if you'd like to get ahead of the competition you can sign up for the World's Greatest Amazon Seller Training Program (trademark pending!) by clicking here.
Have you been sold the dream of making money online?
Before I discovered how to make money selling on Amazon, let's take a quick look at some of the ways I tried to escape my day job and give me and my family financial freedom.
(Spoiler alert - none of them succeeded!)
- Affiliate marketing
- MLM (multi-level marketing)
- Article writing & blog posts
- Selling websites
I'm not knocking these potential ways that you can work from home or live the laptop lifestyle, but they didn't work for me.
The main reason why? None of them were "real businesses". They weren't actual companies that could connect with people. Once I realised this, I understood that to succeed, I needed to create a real business. I needed to run it like a real business. Only then would I make money like a real business.
(Second spoiler alert: I succeeded! My wife and I gave up our day jobs and moved from Liverpool, England to Mallorca in Spain with our young family, and haven't looked back).
This is the view from our home office in our first Mallorcan home:
Why Start Your Own Amazon Selling Business?You don't need me to tell you about how successful Amazon is. But did you know that it's possible to piggyback on the amazing reach that Amazon has and sell products to their customers?
Over half of the products sold on Amazon are not from Amazon itself. They're from people like me and you - third-party sellers.
Any do you know where we find profitable products to sell on Amazon? From other retail and online stores. Stores that you can go into or order online from.
And Amazon want you to use their platform to sell your products.
Make Money Selling On Amazon - How It Works
Here is a basic breakdown of running your own Amazon business:
Is It Really That Easy To Make Money Selling On Amazon?
The honest answer is no.
- Finding products is not difficult, but to find profitable products that sell frequently needs training and knowledge
- The process is fairly easy, but you need to understand how to create shipments to send to Amazon
- The day to day running of your Amazon account is relatively easy, but how do you know what to do when problems happen (a customer complains, Amazon accidentally damage your inventory etc)?
And this is where most people fail - they don't take the time to learn how selling on Amazon works, they don't take the time to research what they are doing.
Remember what I said at the beginning - the only way to succeed at making money selling on Amazon is to treat it like a real business. Take it seriously and invest your time in learning how to do it properly.
How To Make Money Selling On Amazon Successfully
If you're still reading then you've seen some of the difficulties involved in selling on Amazon, so hopefully you've got some ideas on how to overcome those.
Understanding what you are doing, why you are doing it and the best ways to do it are key.
When we started our Amazon business we made a lot of mistakes, but we used those to put together a process for making it work.
After just over a year of selling on Amazon, myself and my wife gave up our jobs, sold our house in the UK and moved with our family to Mallorca.
It's still hard work. We don't sunbathe a lot! But we have a much better quality of life and we are our own bosses.
That feeling of freedom is one of the best feelings I have had. And I feel that every day.
A great way to get going is to download our free, Amazon Selling quick start guide. This will walk you through the key steps you need in order to have the best possible chance of Amazon success. You can click on How To Make Money Selling On Amazon to access that now.
You've heard about the challenges
Is Selling On Amazon Right For You
Are you prepared to invest time?
Are you prepared to invest money (you can start small and build up)?
Are you prepared to reinvest your profits back into your business for as long as possible?
Are you prepared to invest in yourself, in learning the best way to succeed in selling on Amazon?
If you've answered yes to each of those questions then you could well have found what you are looking for.
Join our FREE 5 step Amazon seller training Academy
We walk you through exactly what you need to do to get selling on Amazon successfully
Quick Navigation1. Least Likely To Succeed2. How I Got Started….Sort Of3. How To Create The Change You Need To Become What You Want To Be4. Back To My Story5. First Year Living & Working The Dream6. A Typical Day7. How We Earn Our Money8. How We Became Successful Online Business Owners9. Summary
I often get people telling me that I’m “living the dream”, and to some extent I am. At least, I’m living my dream.
What I do and where I live and how I live is my dream but for you it may not be. But HOW I got to where I am could still be a path that you could follow to achieve your dream.Continue reading
A short blog post here with a simple Amazon hack that someone in my Facebook group (you can join here) took action on and got over £13,000 back from Amazon by following it!!
I can pretty much guarantee that Amazon owe you money for lost or damaged inventory - don't assume that they automatically recompense you for all of these - they don't.
It's relatively easy to do, just follow the steps below:
1. Go to Reports > Fulfillment by Amazon
2. In the left hand column under Inventory, select Inventory Adjustments
3. Click on Download, and add in a From Date as far back as you started selling, and a To Date of today
4. Click on Request Download, then Download when it is ready:
5. Once it has downloaded, open the text file, Edit, Select All, then copy and paste it into Excel or Google Sheets
6. Delete everything that isn't a "E" or an "M" in the reason column. These are items that are Amazon damaged or misplaced.
7. Open a case - Help > Contact Us > Selling on Amazon > Fulfillment by Amazon > FBA Issue > Something Else - and tell them that you would like to be reimbursed for the attached damaged items. Make sure you attach your Excel file, and do it in batches of 5 ASINs. This will mean you may need to open multiple cases, but you will get a better response from Amazon by limiting it in this way.
I posted this in my Facebook group a couple of months ago, and here is a comment from one of my members: "I still have 4000 out of 5100 lines of data to go through. I've opened 13 days of cases and received over £13,000 back from reimbursements. I don't open cases on weekends. I have started to send about 30 cases a day the last 3 days and had no problems from Amazon." That is obviously from a big seller, but it just proves what can be done. Let me know how you get on. I would recommend you diary to do this every month of so.
The emphasis in the headline is intentional and important.
Out of the millions (ahem) of people reading this blog post, I’m talking to you specifically.
Yes you. I’m going to tell you why I don’t think that YOU should hire a virtual assistant to do your Amazon FBA product sourcing.
If at the end of this blog post you still want to hire a VA, then we can talk.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to be talking about potential VA’s being from the Philippines, and that what we want them to do specifically is online arbitrage for products to sell on Amazon. The points below will still be relevant no matter where they are from, however.
(For US based readers, I have spelt labour in the correct, original English)
There is the perception created by advocates of hiring a VA that you can pay very little money and get a sourcing superstar.
That may have been true 5 or 6 years ago, when the average Filipino salary was around $160 per month. Even as recently as 2015 the average monthly wage was as low as $289.
But now I wouldn’t consider paying less than $433 per month, and that would be for someone with no experience of sourcing.
Now that’s still ridiculously cheap at only $2.50 an hour. Within a few months I will have raised that to $3.00 if the VA is performing as hoped.
I see people saying you can pay a VA $1.50 per hour. I mean come on. These are people, many have families to support. You’re not running a charity but you should be paying a fair wage. After all, they are helping you make money. There a hundreds of potential candidates for every VA vacancy, so that can force the successful applicant to agree to such a low wage. But have some respect for them – you want to them to be motivated,
Why should they work for far less than the average wage, just because some greedy Westerner wants something for nearly nothing?
So if you were thinking of hiring a VA and paying peanuts – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.
You Want Someone Who Knows Better Than You How To Source
It’s the magic bullet isn’t it? The golden goose, the er, deep fried thingy… anyway, you know what I’m getting at. You’re struggling to source products to sell on Amazon at a profit, why not hire someone else to do it for you?
What does everyone who recommends that you should get a Virtual Assistant to do your online arbitrage for you say? “Wake up in the morning with an inbox full of perfectly profitable products that you just need to buy and ship into Amazon”.
Sidenote: I hadn’t planned on the alliteration of ‘perfectly profitable products’ there, it just happened. Sometimes I think my fingers have a mind of their own. That’s certainly what my wife says anyway.
Something I see a lot in Amazon FBA related Facebook groups are inexperienced sellers asking questions about hiring a VA because they think that by doing so they can shortcut their way to selling success. Unfortunately that just doesn’t work. Understanding product sourcing yourself, at least to a reasonable standard, puts you in a much stronger position to be able to work with a VA.
It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert, but at the end of the day you will still be making the buying decisions.
About 8 years ago I hired a Virtual Assistant from an Indian company called Brickwork (it was recommended in The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris).
I asked them to find companies in the UK who would dropship Sci-Fi products.
It was a waste of time for them and me.
They didn’t know what dropshipping was (why would they?)
They didn’t really know what type of Sci-Fi products I wanted
Do you know why? Because I didn’t really know either. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and just thought that by hiring an untrained Virtual Assistant without knowing what to do myself and without being able to provide instruction I would get some results.
So if you think that just by hiring a Virtual Assistant to do your online arbitrage for you you’ll get great results – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.
Before I forget – this is the first in a series of VA related blog posts – sign up here so that you don’t miss the rest of the series:
You Want Someone Who Knows How To Source To The Same Standard As You
Ok, you’re an expert at online arbitrage. You can find 20 great products just by blinking at each page of the Toysrus clearance sale.
Does that mean your VA is going to be able to do that?
Answer is no. Everytime.
One of the mistakes I made when I first started hiring VAs, and I see people making, is they expect their Assistant to source like they do.
Think about how you learnt product sourcing – chances are you did a course, or you were self taught, maybe reading the odd blog post and watching Youtube videos. And along the way you bought things, maybe even sold some of them. Made mistakes, had successes and built up your experience.
But if you think about it, your VA isn’t following your path. They might be following some training you put together. Perhaps even following a course you’ve shared with them. But there is a factor in them building their experience that you didn’t have – you.
Your VA is having to deliver results to you pretty much from the get go. A certain quantity and quality. Could you have done that in your first few weeks of sourcing? After following a half arsed set of instructions in a different language?
Even an experienced product sourcing VA won’t source like you do. They will source in the way they have been taught, or developed their own way. And it’s going to be different to you.
So if you expectations are that you can hire a Virtual Assistant who can do online arbitrage to rocket your Amazon FBA sales upwards, YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.
You don’t know how to train them (or you think you do, but really, you don’t)
As I mentioned in the
rant section above, how your VA works and performs is based on how they are trained and coached.
My mistake when I started out was to hire Virtual Assistants who had product sourcing experience, gave them a list of online stores to search, and a spreadsheet to fill in. Along with instructions not to go above a certain sales rank or below a specific ROI percentage.
I got results. Crap ones. I’d get about 10 products a day, and would be lucky if more than one was worth buying. What did I expect?
When I had an actual real, 9-5 job for an established company, I had a weeks induction, with training that spanned several weeks. Plus regular ongoing training. That’s when it was fair for my boss to have high expectations regarding my performance. If on my second day at work he had complained that I wasn’t doing a great job, how do you think that would have made me feel?
When you get trained at a job, you are shown how to follow a structured, established process (if the company you are working for are doing it right).
This is the approach that you should be taking with your new product sourcing VA. I’m going to have an upcoming post on “How To Train Your VA to Product Source”, and I’ll show you a method that works really well. But that has taken me a long time and a lot of mistakes before I got it right.
If you’re not prepared to put the planning into the training for your Virtual Assistant – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.
You are not prepared to manage and work with your VA
I 100% recommend outsourcing as much as possible. I like to focus on the things that add real value to my businesses. Having elements that run “hands off” is fantastic. This works particularly well with a prep and shipping company (although I would still recommend regularly touching base).
But having a product sourcing Virtual Assistant shouldn’t be hands off. Cultivating a relationship, being there to help them if they need it, coaching them to improve in certain areas – all of these things will result in a more motivated and therefore productive employee.
I don’t know if you are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. If not, the picture below is fairly self explanatory. The first things we need, that motivate us to do anything, are the basics to survive. Basically – I need to earn money to eat, to have somewhere to live, to support my family.
Once we have that in place, the requirements to make us happy are not necessarily financial. Yes, a lot of you are saying “Hell no, I want to be rich” (I’m assuming you’re American, if you’re British it will be more like “Er, actually I wouldn’t mind quite a lot of money if it’s all the same with you old chap”).
But what does that money facilitate? We go higher up the hierarchy of needs and it means that we can have a nicer house, we can have time to develop social connections etc.
For most people, money facilitates all of the other things we need to make us happy, until we get to the point of self-actualisation.
Now why would your Virtual Assistant be any different? They are initially motivated by earning enough money to survive, then maybe to buy something they have had their eye on for a while, or a gift for their partner or child. But once they have achieved that level consistently, what is that motivates them?
Sense of connection.
Sense of achievement.
You can help them achieve those things by managing and coaching them with care and attention, and understanding what is in it for them as much as what is in it for you.
So, if you’re not prepared to manage and work with your Amazon FBA online arbitrage Virtual Assistant – YOU shouldn’t hire a VA.
So I hope that you have realised that this blog post hasn’t really being about you not hiring a product sourcing Virtual Assistant. I actually think that you should (well maybe not YOU, but the rest of you definitely should).
What I wanted to highlight were what I see as the important factors you need to think about, plan and work on in order for it to work for you.
Because when it does, it really can transform your business.
Luckily, I have a series of blog posts coming up over the next couple of weeks that will show you how to do the whole process properly and effectively, and will cover:
How To Hire a VA
How To Manage a VAHow To Train a VA
And as always, I’d love to hear your feedback on this, so please leave comments below.
I’m sure that the overriding thought you had after seeing my last blog video was “well at least he’s hit rock bottom as far as boring titles are concerned”.
Well, look what I’ve managed to do. I’ve gone and surprised you by beating myself at my own game.
This video is about how and why I define my processes, and then taking it onto the next stage of making them more efficient.
Is that the sexiest title for a blog post you’ve ever seen? No, no it’s not. It’s like the opposite of click bait. It’s like I’ve thought to myself, “what title could I come up with that will mean that no one watches my video?”.
Or, have I cleverly come up with a boring title to make you think that the video couldn’t possible be that dull, so you watch it. Or that there are amazing secrets in the video that I don’t want everyone to see, so I’ve tried to put people off. Could I really be that clever and cunning? Again, the answer is no.