This week’s success story is a guest article from Tracy Smith aka Entrepreneur Girl. Tracy was looking to earn a full-time income from working online and was able to do just that, she was even able to double her initial income by applying herself to working full time on her Amazon FBA business.
Tracy has a lot of great advice to share in this article, so make sure you take some notes!
Take it away Tracy!
Several years ago, my life came to a complete halt. A life-altering, screeching stop that left me a little confused and whole lot scared. Maybe you’ve had a big change in your life and you can relate? Or maybe, you’ve had several in a row like me, and knew that changing (really changing) was the only way out. As much as I hated walking through a thyroid cancer diagnosis, a near fatal pulmonary embolism, and a historic flash flood… those events forced me to honestly analyze who I was, what I wanted out of my life, and what changes needed to take place in order to get me there. Learning while living through those difficult five years, is what allows me to speak to you now as someone that has discovered my purpose, rejected the 9-5 work model, and committed to having time to play, travel, and secure my financial security.
I took some time to travel and to get to know myself again. I knew where I was currently, was not where I had planned on being. I knew that somewhere along the way, I had given up on my dreams of traveling the world, working from my computer, and having an impact somehow on this Earth.
Working from my computer seemed like the logical first step towards my new life, since I would need money to finance my grand travel plans. Knowing that I wouldn’t have the money to build an orphanage (or anything remotely like it) anytime soon, I decided to try hard to impact those in my daily personal and business circles.
So I gathered my meager $200 of business start-up funds and my college degree in business from the University of Florida, and created EntrepreneurGirl, LLC. Not knowing which online pursuit would ultimately pay my monthly bills, I started with one I learned about in college… stock trading. I still love trading stocks, and this will always be part of my financial portfolio, but my risk tolerance only accommodated a longer trading cycle… which translated into “I need to add something else to my online job”.
Around that same time, I had decided to sell homeschool textbooks that I had lying all over the house. I decided to try my hand at ebay to see if I could make a few hundred dollars from my unneeded books. I was quite surprised when I made thousands. I was even more surprised when I duplicated my efforts the next summer. I expanded ebay until I had three store fronts. I was loving everything e-commerce! Everything that is, except that ebay didn’t really fit my model of ‘travel while working’. As soon as I heard about Amazon (with their FBA prowess and handling of my customers and products), I knew that it was a perfect match for me.
Sure enough, I have been selling on Amazon for years and am happy to report that it has afforded me to see 46 out of the 50 states. Amazon is the number one e-commerce platform available today, with sales of over 107 billion in 2015, and steady growth.
The great thing about FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) is that they store my products until they sell on the Amazon international platform, they deal with all my customer service issues, and then ship the items out to the end user. How wonderful is that?!?
The whole idea is fairly simple: Buy low. Sell high.
When I first started, I didn’t have much capital to buy a lot of product, so I went to garage sales and thrift stores. This allowed me to buy an item for $1 and sell it on Amazon in used condition for $10 or more. I was able to grow my business with minimal risks, because the overall cost of the product was so low.
I then grew into utilizing retail stores like Walmart, Kohl’s, and CVS by shopping clearances and selling for full price online. An example of this would be shopping the 90% Off After-Christmas-Sale at Target in January, holding the merchandise for a few months, and then reselling the same merchandise in October for full price. The margins for seasonal and holiday goods can be quite high if sourced correctly.
Yet, Retail Arbitrage is the main methods of obtaining products for sellers to sell on Amazon. This is where you buy an item at retail and then resell it for an even higher price. One time I walked into Walmart and into a sales rack that held several Lego kits. One kit that I purchased for $12.99, sold for $45.00 on Amazon. That is retail arbitrage in action.
I know how lucky I am to have had a second chance at defining my life. Every day I wake up and love my work, which humbles me. Every day I get to shop and to search for “the deal”. There’s a lot of joy for me to go to obscure locations and score big finds.
So, I am constantly on the lookout for new places that I haven’t sourced inventory at yet, or thought of trying before. It’s now a game to hit every retail place in my area and every place of an area I visit. I’ve learned how valuable library sales, mom and pop stores, or small hole in the wall flea markets can be.
Since I know the question on your mind is, “how much can a person make with FBA?”, let’s talk about it… obviously, it all depends on so many different factors. Will they work full-time or part-time? Are they a hard-worker or a tad lazy? Are they only wanting to sell books or are they willing to explore many other products?
Yet, we all want the security of knowing someone’s true experience and starting place. The first month I started selling on Ebay, I made $400, then $600 the next month, then $800. I worked it up to $1200, working part-time, after several months. When I added Amazon, I instantly doubled my income. Then when I went full-time, I doubled my income again.
Some people make big dollars right off the bat, but my experience has been more gradual. That is how it works for most of us, I believe. Every month I would strive to beat the previous month. Whether that meant adding another e-commerce site, another type of product, trying online arbitrage or drop-shipping, or whatever it took… I was determined to make it grow.
Even after all these years, I am forever on the lookout for ways to improve and add to my business. Even though I am now financially secure, I’ve recently added private labeling as a method to grow my current income levels. I (hopefully) will never stop growing, adding, and improving.
Amazon FBA can be a great option to work from home! I’ve met stay-at-home moms that need to supplement their income, people suffering health issues that force them out of their current employment, retired people wanting something to do and extra money. What I, a homeschool mother of eight children, love about this business model is that it fits the lifestyle of a diverse group of people.
My best piece of advice to someone that wants to start into this business, would be:
1) Arm yourself with knowledge- there is no shortage of training out there: Youtube, coaching, books, and Google. Learn everything that you can.
2) Once you’ve got a base knowledge, don’t over analyze! The heavy subjects of taxes, LLC, resell certificates, etc. don’t have to be done instantly. By getting overwhelmed with these topics, some people quit before they really get going.
3) Don’t let fear make a single decision in your life. Commit to spending one year and $500 to being bold and brave in your new pursuit. Just start! Take action!
4) Tools are the cornerstone of finding good products, maintaining your inventory, and keeping your bookkeeping and tax information in order. I wouldn’t dare shop without my scanning app!
My four personal favorites are:
Profit Bandit for scanning items to see if they are profitable.
Godaddy Bookkeeping to keep your books and taxes in order.
Inventory Lab for inventory management.
Jungle Scout for finding new product ideas.
Tax Jar to help with tax needs.
5) Be serious. When I was a new seller, I didn’t know anyone else that did what I was doing. Advice wasn’t something that was easy to acquire. So let me tell you what I wish someone had told me: start this venture like a business… right from the beginning. I began ecommerce as a hobby, first with my little toe, then my whole foot, and gradually I had an entire leg in the business. If I could do it all over, I would commit to my business as the “real deal”. I would have started with Amazon, not Ebay. I would have started with a Pro account, not a merchant account. I would have invested in the tools, the office space, the schedule planning… all right from the beginning!
I would have been bold in planning for my success, rather than playing safe like I was planning for my failure.
6) Manage your time wisely. As an entrepreneur, homeschool mom to eight children, and wife, life can be crazy! Working from home also brings with it the need to be organized and self-motivated. So how do I do it?
“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” – Ben Franklin
Funny, but true. The more I have to do, the more I do. The more you will do, too.
As the number of my responsibilities increased, I was forced to become more organized, to hone my time management, and to learn delegation.
I’m big at list making. By doing this, I am able to prioritize the events of the day, get everything out of my head and onto paper, and evaluate if I am staying on task.
Being an online entrepreneur was the best decision I have made professionally.
If you would like to hear more about my journey or learn tips about Amazon/ ebay, please visit me at:
Looking to sell products on Amazon? We have a whole section dedicated here.