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About 2-3 years ago, at the same time I was building up my Apple/Android mobile app portfolio, a new channel was emerging for online sellers.

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Powered by Amazon, FBA offered the opportunity for anyone in the world to source popular physical consumer products (think silicone baking trays, garlic presses, supplements and beauty products) to sell them in the USA, Europe and beyond, WITHOUT having to handle the goods and do all of the packing & shipping themselves.

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) offered what many were looking for – a scale-able, profitable way to run a business from any location. Since then it’s grown.

I started with FBA last Christmas, and have been selling for nearly a year now.

I’m selling between 10-20 private label products with FBA, I’m live in 6 countries (USA & Europe) and just had my first 6 figure revenue (not profit) month, after just 10 months of sales.

Here are some of the most common questions I get:

Is Amazon FBA difficult to do? It’s all doable (as is everything in life) but yes there is a significant learning curve at the start. I spent about 2 months at the beginning working 18 hour days trying to figure it all out and deal with product research, finding suppliers, getting in samples, doing product packaging and figuring out how to ship everything from China to the USA.

But it has got a lot easier now. There are a lot of REALLY good podcasts all about FBA. You can learn nearly everything you need now there. Here are my favourite FBA podcasts.

The Amazing Seller Podcast
Am/PM Podcast
Travel like a boss Podcast
Sellercast Podcast
Freedom Fast Lane Podcast
Private Label Podcast

Is there too much competition? Yes and no. Gone are the days you can look at the top 100 bestselling products, ship in 5000 units of your own versions and make a fortune. Instead its best to find products that aren’t as popular or competitive, and see how you can improve them. But be prepared it’s unlikely to be a home run first time round.

I’ve been helping some of my friends get started with FBA. One of my main pieces of advice is for any new products is to order in 250 units maximum for your first order. Minimise your risk by proving they will sell, before you put in for a big order.

How much money do you need to start? This business isn’t cheap. You can read the facebook stories of how someone got started with $500, sold everything and made a profit, then reinvested the now $900 and bought more stock – and eventually ended up retiring with 2 million dollars (I joke!). This is a capital intensive game. You can expect to spend up to $2000 on your first delivery, between products, shipping and import duty etc and also leave aside some money from PPC as well.

When do you start to make money? I’ve scaled up quickly, and any profits have been invested in reordering inventory and also in launching new products. I’m now in double digit figures for product skus and selling in 6 countries between USA & Europe. You can grow more slowly, and take out some of the money for wages, but for maximum growth, reinvestment, and a focus on launching new products as often as possible seems to be the way to go.

Do you need to giveaway a ton of products? Some people say yes. I say no. I tried some giveaways on 2-3 products early on. I got reviews but the products never took off. Then I got fed up and instead for my next products, I focused on getting 2 or 3 reviews early on, and then turning on PPC ads and that was it. My most successful products didn’t use any giveaways.

Do you use virtual assistants? Yes. I wanted to scale my Amazon business as fast as possible, and I didn’t want to have to work 25 hours a day. I had a VA from day 1 who I trained up on my Amazon business. He is amazing and does everything from customer service in 5 languages (ask me how :)), checking for hijackers, following up on reviews, researching new products and vendors, editing product photos, doing keyword research and writing titles and descriptions for new products and lots of other really useful stuff.

I have a really good (simple) process to find & hire great VAs (which I figured out during my app days) and having someone to help me with this business has been the only way I could grow it this fast.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

It’s been a busy year to get this far. One part of my business which I knew I wasn’t focusing my attention on, was checking to see if Amazon owed me money for any inventory problems – was I due any refunds for destroyed inventory, units that got damaged at their warehouses, units they lost or customer refunds? Where could I check if Amazon were actually charging me the correct FBA fees?

Anyway, I decided to devote some time to this. After wading through about 1527 horrendously complicated reports in sellercentral, I am now pleased to say that I have been refunded $2800.80 back in overpaid FBA fees and charges, which I probably wouldn’t have got otherwise!

This is a combination of $1806.06 back from Amazon USA with more refunds arriving each day, and £698.53 back from Amazon.co.uk and more due in too. As this is my businesses money, there is no point in Amazon keeping it!

Below is one of my refund emails from Amazon. I got back $974.37 and I was credited with 56 units of stock.

lost and fee correction 974.37

Crazy good huh? :)

UPDATED: 2 Feb 2016

I had some more refunds get processed by Amazon since I wrote this post. My total refunds now stand at $3848.85!

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UPDATED: 5 Feb 2016

My final refund came through from Amazon.com for $1299.73. Total refunds now stand at $5148.10

I honestly never expected to get this much money back. If you would like the EXACT steps I followed (including email templates) to get back $3848.85 in various FBA fees and refunds, I’ve put together some step by step guides and videos.

You can check out the full process here.

If you have started an Amazon business, I’d love to hear how you are getting on. Leave me a message in the comments.

If you would be interested in getting help with your FBA business, please click here.

If you’d like to hear more about my Amazon journey, you can stay in touch here.

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Ideas to start an online business

Every now and again I get asked for help from people who really want to change their jobs / work situation and are curious about the whole ‘online thing’ I do.

I got an email this morning from a friend of mine in the UK who is not happy with her current job and is curious about what she could do to extra income in other ways.

Based on my successes, issues and what I’ve learned along the way building 4 successful businesses, this is what I think could be useful to people just starting out – Heidi I hope its useful :)

Online businesses:

If you can figure your way around the computer, set up a wordpress website (you can teach yourself how in about 10 mins, I use www.bluehost.com so don’t worry on this front!) and get around facebook then you are in an incredibly strong position.

In terms of what online business to start, the ones you can probably grow to a large size in the shortest amount of time, are the ones where you take advantage of an existing channel where a lot of people already are.

Examples:

GOOGLE ADWORDS:

Years ago, ad prices were cheap, and at least half the world used the google search engine. So anyone could set up a niche website on some random topic (say dog grooming), buy cheap ads, get traffic to go to your website, sell other peoples dog grooming brushes on it (you didn’t need to buy any though, just refer people to them) and make a lot of money every month doing this. Thousands of £$€ worth of income.

APP STORE:

4-5 years ago, a lot of people were visiting the app store. But there were much fewer apps on it. So if you made apps at this time, you were pretty much guaranteed to get a ton of downloads and make a serious amount of money. Ive heard of people making 1/5 million $ on one fairly simple game.

PUBLISHING EBOOKS WRITTEN IN INDIA ON KINDLE!

Yes, this was also a ‘thing’ a while ago, and friends of mine were doing 10k a month with near 100 ebooks they got other people to write.

And there’s more – Clickbank, Amazon, Facebook ads….

All of these huge platforms offer opportunities for people like you & me to create products to sell, get em in front of thousands of eyeballs, and then make money off it.

There are two major downsides of these platforms:

1) You have to play by their rules, and their conditions to be a member / seller on them. And the usually own the customers email addresses, not you (email addresses are like gold).

2) These platforms are really good for sellers for a few years, but they change over time and get more difficult. Then they increase their rules, the amount of sellers goes crazy as everyone jumps in, and then it becomes very difficult to sell there and people move to the next ‘big platform’.

So the question to ask is what is the next big platform that is in its early stages, that you can jump on and literally make a ton of money. The answer is I don’t know yet. But I can tell you how you can find out.

1) Get a smartphone of some sort, or download iTunes to your computer.
2) Get into the USA store (don’t even think of looking in the Irish or UK stores, they are rubbish for this type of research). You can do this by scrolling to the end of the iTunes screen on your computer and selecting the USA
flag.
3) Go to the podcast section
4) Go to the business podcast section
5) Go for the top business podcasts in the USA
6) Look through them all and start downloading the ones that appeal to you.

The first step to all of this is education. Happily it can be combined with exercise! I walk about 2 hours every day while listening to business podcasts.

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The way that is most LIKELY to succeed, for a new business is:

1) Following a proven model – do something that someone has done successfully before
2) Using a existing channel to get your traffic, instead of having to do things like buying ads etc which is a very slow / expensive way to start.

To get you thinking, here are 88 real passive income ideas.

CAN MY HOBBY BE MY BUSINESS?

(The short answer is probably not in most cases).

I listened to a good podcast that said a great way to find out what the best business for you, has these 3 characteristics:

What are you good at?
What can you be paid for?
What do you love to do?

So I plugged in what I’ve done to date to this formula.

MOBILE APPS: I’m good at it, I can be paid for it, I like it but I don’t love it.
HORSES: I’m good at it, I love it, but its next to impossible to make money from it.

It’s really hard to find something that you can tick all three things for. But for the purpose of getting started, if you can tick these TWO things:

What are you good at?
What can you be paid for?

That’s a great place to start. And it does work because that’d what I did. So can you make a list now of everything you’re good at? What are your skills? This can be anything from physiotherapy, to book keeping, to cooking, to office admin to writing.

How many of the 3 points in the formula do they match up to? 2 points (if they include what you are good at and what you can make money from) is enough to get started!

HOW MUCH DO I HAVE TO WORK:

You will have to work an insane amount. But its worth it.

Focus on using your time, and using as little money as possible.

I’ve done everything from mobile apps, selling physical goods, starting websites, making CD-ROMs, writing books I published on Amazon, selling online video courses, speaking at events, publishing a music album, building email lists, running a blog and probably lots of other stuff I can’t even remember :)

HOW TO I GET STARTED?

The simple and final answer is google. I got started because one Christmas a few years ago, I decided to sit down on Christmas eve and I googled ‘How to make an app’. I am not a programmer and I have no idea how to do this. But my hope was that something was available for dummies like me, to help me do this.

Always assume you will be able to figure EVERYTHING out :) Most things are actually on Google if you dig deep enough.

I hit my head off a brick wall for about a week, stayed up until midnight most nights and on New Years eve I had my first horse app published on Google Play.

That should not have been possible with my existing skills. But I got really stubborn and determined and decided I’d make it happen no matter what. So it happened.

if you only half want to start a business or a side job, it probably won’t work, as you’ll get discouraged when it all gets tough.

If you really really really want it to happen (for me I was so fed up of my office job I decided anything was better!) then God nor man won’t be able to stop you.

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MISTAKES TO AVOID:

1) Don’t start using a platform that was big a few years ago, but is now very difficult to get success on. If in doubt, ask me as I’ve a fair idea of the overall landscape :)

2) Don’t spend a ton of money. Don’t get any loans and do not put anything on your credit card.

3) Don’t quit your job. Instead start working 15 hours a week between evenings and weekends, listening to podcasts at the start and then working on your new idea. Do a full day at weekend, and at least 3 evenings a week.

4) Disconnect your TV, stop buying newspapers and turn off your radio. You will not need them for the next 6 months and they are wasting your time you could be learning new skills.

WHAT DO I DO RIGHT NOW:

Go onto Amazon and buy and read these books (these I’ve found most useful in my whole life!) and in order of usefulness:

The four hour work week – Tim Ferris
Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert K
The Slight Edge
Screw work lets play – John Williams
The $100 startup – Chris G
Get rich with dividends – Marc L
Launch – Jeff Walker
The law of attraction (optional)

Go onto iTunes and listen to these podcasts:

The Starters Club
The Side Hustle Show
The Rich Dad Show
Smart Passive Income
E O Fire (John Lee Dumas)
Extra Paycheck Podcast
Flipped Lifestyle Podcast

When you are done, report back in the comments here & let me know if this info has been useful.

All of this stuff you can you, I promise you, because none of this is rocket science. Think about that.

You are just as smart & capable of figuring this stuff out as anyone else. We’ve all got the same amount of time & the same brain setup. What makes the difference is what we choose to do with our time.

What brings in revenue you do more of. What doesn’t work you’ve learned useful stuff from and you move onto the next thing.

Good luck my friends. The best stage in life is actually when you are fed up and annoyed with your current situation.

Because that feeling is what fuels your determination to make a significant change.

I’m launching a new business next year. If you’d like to keep in touch you can sign up here.

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