How to Sell on Amazon for Beginners: A work from home or side hustle that’s easier than you think, selling products online with these tools!
How to Sell on Amazon for Beginners
I am BEYOND honored to have a friend here today, sharing her knowledge and tips with us about how her family got started selling on Amazon and still to this day, sells products on Amazon!
Let me build the scene for you (You know my inner Sophia from Golden Girls has to come out every now and then… “Picture it, 1922… Sicily…” )
Listening to Pat Flynn’s podcast a couple of months ago, I happened across an episode that had a couple being interviewed, chatting about their success with selling on Amazon, and the dreams they’ve achieved while doing so.
I was so impressed with them and fell in love with their story.
So much so, that I got up the courage to reach out to them and ask if I could help share their story/products here on Fantabulosity with those of you who have dreamed of selling on Amazon too!
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The Selling Family – Selling on Amazon
Would you believe that Jessica from The Selling Family, emailed me back within no time?
I couldn’t believe it… someone that I had decided that was pretty much a celebrity, answered my email and responded to it in a flash!
I knew in that instant, that she and her husband were something special.
After chatting through email a few times, Jessica said that she would love to share with Fantabulosity readers, some of her story and tips for those of you who are considering selling products on Amazon!
So without further ado, I am honored to have Jessica here, answering some of the questions I thought you all might like the answers too when it comes to selling on Amazon.
Hi Jessica! Thank you SO much for joining us. Here are some of the top questions that I have for you, that I think Fantabulosity readers will want to get the scoop on…
“Why did you start selling on Amazon?”
I started selling on Amazon shortly after losing my full-time job in 2008. I was working for a company in the housing industry and there was major downsizing because of the recession. It was actually my husband, who was a manager at the same company, who had to let me go!
We were not in a place to live on one income so I knew I needed to find work right away. Luckily, I had been selling on eBay on the side so I had some experience there.
I took my last corporate paycheck and spent all of it at yard sales.
I sold all of the yard sale finds on eBay and that’s how I ended up in the business of online reselling.
Replacing A Corporate Income
It only took me a few months on eBay to replace my old corporate income! By using my profits to buy more inventory, I was able to quickly grow the business. But it was also starting to take a lot of my time.
That’s the thing about eBay. Each time you want to sell an item, you have to take a photo of it, create a listing, pack it up when it sells, drive it to the post office, and wait to see if there are any customer complaints or returns.
You’re really limited by the number of hours you have each day. Especially since you also need time to go out and look for more inventory to sell.
In the summer of 2010, I started chatting with a group of eBay sellers who were trying their hand at selling on Amazon.
Now this might sound crazy to you now, but back then Amazon really was just a place for books. So sellers were going to thrift stores and library sales, picking out used books, and reselling them on Amazon. They’d make maybe $1 per book so they’d do this all day long.
I wasn’t all that interested in selling books. I tried it, but it just wasn’t for me. But what did interest me about Amazon was their fulfillment program for third-party sellers called Fulfilled By Amazon (FBA). I had a feeling that with FBA, I’d be able to grow and scale my business that much faster.
I was right about my hunch. By 2011, I was making enough money that I was able to help my husband Cliff retire from his corporate job. We’ve been running an Amazon business together as a family ever since.
“How does it work? Do you buy things at the store and ship them to Amazon or to each customer?”
Here’s the big difference between Amazon FBA and basically everything else out there for reselling.
With FBA, you don’t ship directly to the customer. Instead, you buy your inventory and you ship it in bulk to an Amazon Fulfillment Center. They have these all over the country.
Once Amazon has your inventory at one of their warehouses, they handle most of the work.
- They store your inventory in their warehouses
- They pack the items and ship them to customers (usually with free 1-day Prime shipping!)
- And they even handle returns and customer service issues.
This is great because it means you can run a reselling business without looking like a hoarder! With eBay, I always had inventory and packages scattered all over the house.
But the real benefit is how much time it saves. Instead of packing up individual shipments and driving to the post office, I just create one or two big boxes at a time and send them to Amazon. It means that I get to spend more time buying inventory and less time doing busy work.
Now there are a lot of ways to buy inventory for reselling on Amazon FBA. But the primary ways that I find inventory are through Retail Arbitrage and Online Arbitrage.
Retail Arbitrage and Online Arbitrage
With Retail Arbitrage, I am driving to local retail stores, looking at inventory, and then buying items that I can resell for a profit on Amazon. Technology has made this process so much easier because there are smartphone apps that tell you which products are winners and which ones aren’t worth selling.
And unlike shopping at yard sales, when I’m doing Retail Arbitrage, I have the ability to get 5-10 of an item at any given store. If it’s a hot seller, I drive across town hitting different locations to buy more. Given the choice, I’d rather sell 25 of the same item than 25 different items.
When I do Online Arbitrage, it’s really similar, but I’m shopping at retail websites instead of retail stores. So maybe I spend an afternoon browsing barnesandnoble.com looking for profitable inventory.
I keep shopping for inventory until I have enough to create a shipment to send off to an Amazon warehouse.
Free 7-Day Email Course
If you want to learn more about how this all works, I have a free 7-day email course that covers the basics. This will introduce you to Retail Arbitrage and show you how to find profitable inventory. If you’re having a hard time believing that someone would pay more for an item on Amazon than they would at Walmart, this is the course for you!
“Do you have to be super tech-advanced to be successful or start an Amazon business?”
Amazon requires less technical skill than blogging (this is based on my experience with both). You don’t have to create a website because you get to use Amazon.com to sell your inventory.
So you don’t need the design, SEO, and hosting tech skills that are standard in the blogging world.
But, of course, you need some tech basics. You’ll need to sign in to Amazon’s Seller Central dashboard daily to check your sales and your pricing. You may have to occasionally download a report into a spreadsheet to check on something. You should definitely be very comfortable with a laptop or desktop computer, your smartphone, and a printer.
And, as I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of apps and extensions that make Amazon selling a lot easier. If you’re comfortable downloading and using apps on your phone and Chrome extensions on your computer, then you’re off to a good start.
“Can you do it part-time? Or does it take a full-time workload to make it work?”
This is my favorite thing about doing Retail Arbitrage with Amazon FBA: you can do it 8 hours a week or 80. It’s like you get to choose how much money you want to make and act accordingly.
It’s the kind of business model where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. So if you want to make an extra $500 a month to put towards savings, you could do this super part-time.
But I know plenty of people who support their families doing Retail Arbitrage full-time. When Cliff and I were fully focused on our Amazon business, we were profiting over $100,000 per year. And that was with about 20-hour workweeks.
There are a lot of ways to scale this business for growth if that’s your big vision. But I have plenty of students who are thrilled to make a part-time income “just” by shopping at Target on the weekends 🙂
“Could you get in to creating your own product and then drop-ship? Or is that more advanced?”
On Amazon, creating your own product is called Private Label. This is a popular business model, but it’s not one that I recommend to new sellers. And, personally, it’s not a business model that I’m interested in exploring.
One great thing about Retail Arbitrage, besides the flexibility, is that you can get started for less than $1,000. But if you need to find a supplier in China to Private Label a product for you, it’s going to take a bigger investment up front.
Private Label vs. Retail Arbitrage
When I’m buying inventory at Big Lots or Walmart, I can buy just one or two of an item to test how it sells on Amazon. But with a Private Label supplier, you’re going to need to buy a large quantity upfront. Plus, you’ll have to pay for shipping overseas.
The other big unknown with Private Label is you don’t know if your item will sell. You need to plan on paying for PPC Advertising to get Amazon customers to find your products. That’s not something I have to worry about because I know that Amazon shoppers are already looking for items like Clorox toilet wands and Betty Crocker brownie mix.
All that being said, a lot of people do start with Retail Arbitrage and then add Private Label selling once they are more comfortable with the Amazon platform.
As for dropshipping, you never have to worry about that if you use FBA. Dropshipping can be pretty risky (and is usually against the rules on Amazon). So with FBA, just ship your items to Amazon and they’ll handle shipping to the customer. If you’re really someone who never wants to touch inventory, there are ways to do this with Online Arbitrage that don’t involve dropshipping.
“What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started?”
It’s funny, because people get jealous when they find out I’ve been selling on Amazon for 10 years. They say, “it must have been so easy!” because there were fewer sellers online.
It’s true that there were fewer sellers, but there were also fewer buyers. And it was basically the technological dark ages! Now there are so many amazing tools and apps that make Amazon selling easier and more profitable.
So it’s hard for me to even compare Amazon then and now. But there is one thing I wish I could have done differently. I wish I could have reinvested more of my profits back into the business.
I had to take money out of every Amazon payment to pay myself. That was just the reality of getting our personal bills paid each month. But now I encourage my students to try to reinvest all of their profits back into the business for the first three months. That’s how you can really grow your business quickly.
I really felt like I was just winging it back then because there weren’t any systems to follow. Amazon was still the untested new thing, especially outside of books, so I just had to figure it out as I went.
Which is exactly why I started blogging about Amazon FBA. I just wanted people to know about this amazing business opportunity (especially since most of my IRL friends thought it sounded crazy!).
A lot of people probably think that online reselling is just a hobby, but I want to make sure that people know that this is a real, legitimate business.
Work at Home Mom Dream…
Amazon is such a wonderful business model for moms because of the flexibility and freedom that it allows. Cliff and I get to work together, homeschool our son, and travel as a family all because of Amazon FBA. If you’re looking for a more flexible way to make money while working from home, FBA could be a great fit.
Ready to Start Selling on Amazon?
If you’re ready to get started, I have an online course that walks you step-by-step through the process of starting and growing your business. Amazon FBA is a whole lot easier if you have a tested system to follow, and that’s what I teach in my Amazon Boot Camp.
It amazes me how many people could benefit from an Amazon FBA business and they just don’t know that it exists. So thanks for giving me the opportunity to share more about it 🙂
Thank you Jessica!
Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us Jessica. I had NO idea about so much of this, but have been super curious. I’m not going to lie… I’m REALLY considering selling on Amazon myself because I would love to be able to have “shopping” as a staple part of my business!
Have more questions for Jessica? Drop them in the comments below! I’d love to hear them too!
If you loved this post on how to sell on Amazon, you may also love my other posts on blogging and online business!