Expansion and autopilot, grow your Amazon FBA business
Trying to teach someone else something when you yourself don’t have a firm grasp on the concept is a lost cause – one that does not fully understand can not teach well. By now, though, you should be far enough along in your retail arbitrage journey to have a very firm grasp on how to do everything.
Now is your chance to convert your knowledge into a full-fledged operation by teaching others to do everything for you and paying them less than you make from them. You can outsource as much or as little as you want to at the start. We’ll start small.
Local assistants for packing and sourcing
How much time do you spend buying boxes, packaging your items, labeling them, and then driving to the post office and back? If you’re doing any sort of volume, these trivial tasks can really add up.
Consider hiring a college kid to do it all for you. Any regular college kid will jump on the chance to make $12/hour doing any type of gig. You can post on Craigslist or even call a college near you and ask how to get the word out. (They will often even find candidates for you!)
Even if you’re paying $60/week (five hours of work), that’s five hours more to invest into sourcing products. At this point, because you’ve learned the ropes, that five hours is far more valuable than $60.
Virtual Assistant for sourcing products
Going down this route requires a bit more work than a local assistant does, but in the long run, a good employee that sources products successfully can be well worth the hourly rate and the time it takes to train him.
The easiest way to pay the least for a sourcing assistant is to get the process down to a methodical, step-by-step list of instructions so that there is absolutely no brainpower needed to find successful products. The more skill you need from your worker, the more you have to pay.
Once you’ve gotten this list down, head over to Upwork (or Elance) and post a job. We’d actually recommend hiring a virtual assistant for something like this – there is no reason for you to meet your worker face-to-face, and you can hire someone experienced who does work like this (following instructions) for a living without committing to a full-time salary.
The bottom-of-the-barrel VAs will run you $2 – $3 per hour. They’ll live in third world countries, and they won’t speak fluent English. This is not the type of VA that you want for important tasks.
You want a VA along the lines of a stay-at-home mom. Someone who understands the US consumer market, has plenty of qualifications, but needs something that she can do on her schedule.
Anyone like this will jump on the opportunity for a long-term gig, and you’ll get to feel good about giving someone a job. Everyone wins.
The actual sourcing
Both Elance and Upwork have ways to track worker activity down to the minute. You can even watch their screens and see what they are doing during the time they work for you.
Use those systems and track how many successful products they source per hour. Then, head over to your spreadsheet and see how much you made from those products. There’s your formula for seeing exactly how much revenue/profit your worker is making you.
Be forewarned that your VA will probably source some duds at the start – keep training him or her to make him or her as efficient as possible.
List of resources for your VA training
- Google Shopping to compare prices (surprisingly effective!)
Paid and Free sites to consider
Now that you have the process down, you’re making money, and you can afford to trade money for time. Here’s a small list of sites that will keep you organized and save you time.
- keepa.com – price history, sales rank, etc. (free)
- camelcamelcamel.com – same as keepa.com, but some prefer one or the other (check them both out) (free)
- https://inventorylab.com/home – site to manage amazon inventory and much more, this is usually the #1 site that people invest in once seeing RA success
- http://www.asellertool.com/ – iOS and Android app for seller central, good for working on the go
Where to go from FBA success
Branch out selling options – eBay
Although eBay’s traffic is on the steady decline, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t hordes of people still using eBay every day. Usually, inventory on eBay won’t sell as quickly as it would on Amazon, but it does open up opportunities for restricted categories.
It’s difficult to get accepted to many categories (such as Apparel) on Amazon unless you have a steady, plentiful amount of inventory being sold for that category every month. eBay has no such restrictions – you can list almost anything, even with a brand new account.
If you source a product but it’s in a restricted category, consider selling it to the eBay crowd. You can see if similar items have sold recently by doing a search, looking on the left sidebar, and looking for “completed listings”. It’s a more archaic way of doing sales research… but hey, this is eBay we’re talking about.
eBay -> FBA
The relationship between eBay and Amazon is pretty interesting. They’re two of the biggest online retailers, and yet for some products, there are massive discrepancies in the pricing.
You can use eBay to potentially build on your sourcing efforts. But the game is different, and not all of eBay is open to you.
Buy only new products
If you go the route of buying used stuff on eBay, you’re asking for trouble. To start, anyone selling used stuff on eBay is probably an individual that’s not part of any company. He’s just trying to make a couple extra bucks. He might over-hype what he has, or ship you incomplete items (such as toys and board games), etc.
Now, eBay does have a pretty solid money-back guarantee – many sellers hate them for this. But it’s good for you. That being said, you don’t want to have to use the guarantee… that means you’re sending money back, wasting time and delaying precious inventory funds.
Instead, go the new route. eBay is often thought of as a place for used goods, but there are plenty of companies selling only new items on there, and on top of that, there are plenty of individual sellers pushing new items that they received as gift or forgot about.
What + how to buy off of eBay for profit
Starting with retail arbitrage and then transitioning to eBay/Amazon arbitrage is the way to do it. After sourcing retail, you know which products sell and which products to avoid. Look back to your spreadsheet (described in the earlier chapter) and see which categories are doing well for you.
Then, go to those categories on Amazon and see which items sell quickly. Compile a spreadsheet of products worth looking for and the amount that you can sell each one for minus 40%.
Take each one of those terms and head over to eBay. Search for the product at the start of every day, then sort by date listed so you can see the ones that have been listed since you last checked. And of course, do new items only. You will see two types of listings – Buy It Now listings, and listings that have auctions enabled.
If you see a BIN offer that when combined with shipping allows you to hit that 40% profit margin, hit the button and make the sale. Simple.
Auctions are a little bit more complicated, because you can’t be checking on every single item that you bid on every single day. That’s not a good use of your time.
Instead, get an eBay sniper – this is a service that will allow you to enter your eBay credentials, enter your listings, and enter your max price. When the auction hits 0:01 left, the service will automatically load the auction and bid that amount. If that’s the highest bid, you’ll win, and if it’s not, you won’t lose a penny.
GIXEN is a good option for an eBay sniper, but other alternatives exist, too.
The best part of eBay: outsourcing buys is cheap
We can agree that the above process is much simpler than sourcing from retail stores, right? As we discussed, the less skill involved, the less you have to pay your VA.
You can pay your eBay VA to the tune of $5/hour, which is substantially less than you should be paying your retail arbitrage one. (Yes, there are fully qualified people in third world countries who will jump at $5/hour and stick with you until the end of time.)
Just be careful hiring non-vetted VA’s to control your eBay account… the last thing you want is to get scammed. Elance and oDesk should have the star ratings next to each one – hire one who couldn’t afford to lose his or her reputable account.
And at the start, have the VA send you each product that he’s considering buying. If he sends you a bad one, teach him what he did wrong. Eventually, he’ll be able to work and make you money without any direction (aside from the lists of products to search for).
As with your retail arbitrage VA, track his time, track the items purchased by him, and track how much they sell for. You will be able to see how much profit you are making per worker. Because Amazon is so big, you can scale this up as high as you want… just find more products that sell on Amazon, and train more VAs to search.
Don’t automate eBay
The sourcing process is easy on eBay, but not so easy that a bot can do it for you. eBay users are notorious for being deceptive, marking products incorrectly, etc. Unless you build your own custom bot, trusting your money to an eBay scraper will cost you more than it makes you.
Being able to source, buy, and sell products yourself through retail arbitrage is a great start. In essence, you’ve created yourself an easy job that makes you a certain amount of money per hour. You can do it whenever you want, and truth be told, RA isn’t too mentally or physically taxing.
If you’d like to take the step from being the worker to the boss, execute the strategies in this chapter. Get better software. Hire workers to source and ship products. Expand your reach into eBay, and even start sourcing products off of eBay.
The end game can be not just a job, but a full-fledged business that makes you far more than any job could. It takes time and effort to get everything down right, but it’s worth it.
Thanks for reading our guide on retail arbitrage. The next step for you is starting. Open an Amazon seller account, source your first product, and go from there. Good luck!