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Zero to Hero: Build a Brand Series – Business Incorporation 101 – Part 1

Zero To Hero: Building a Brand

Business Incorporation 101 – Part 1

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Over the past few weeks we went over the basics of building a brand. One thing all major(and minor) brands have in common, is that they are protected from a legal perspective. Having a good business structure will give a lot of benefits moving forward. Although the initial set up process can seem overwhelming and expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Nowadays, there are many countries where you can incorporate remotely that provide a lot features, benefits and most importantly in a financially secure jurisdiction. 

In the next part of the series we will guide you through everything regarding business incorporation and banking – including some helpful tips on where to incorporate your business.

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P.S. This guide is only meant as a resource. While a lot of research has gone into proving helpful and accurate information – We are not lawyers. Before incorporating your business, especially in countries outside of yours, always consult with a qualified professional specialized in international laws & taxation.

Why Incorporate? 

Many new business owners and online sellers alike often ask if they should incorporate their business before selling online or do it once they are established and have capital. This all depends on what type of business you run, in our case, what products you’re importing. If you’re importing products of high-risk liability such as:

  • Electronics or Electrical Appliances
  • Toys & Baby products – and any products used by children ages 3-10
  • Supplements
  • Cosmetics & Beauty Products
  • Food & Drinks

These are all products that need certifications and in some cases lab testing done. If you’re importing as a Private Label(and not an established brand), a corporate structure will offer you an extra layer of protection. 

Furthermore, having your business incorporated has numerous advantages which are helpful especially later on when your business grows larger. Some of the benefits include:

Personal Asset Protection

It is very important early on to separate personal assets and business assets. Aside from the initial stage where you have to fund your business, you should immediately get a business account for your transaction. This is crucial not only because some banks won’t allow you to use your personal account for business, but more importantly, having your personal assets separate, will protect you in the unfortunate event your business is liable for damages.

A business corporate structure, such as a Limited Company, will protect your personal assets. This is the main reason what makes incorporation attractive.

Transferable Ownership

In the event of an exit, company shares or members can be transferred. Making it very easy and attractive if you want to sell your company in the future. This is true if you have a Corporation structure, where you own 51% or more of the company, shares can be easily sold or transferred to the new owner.

Tax Benefits

Depending on the structure and country of incorporation, you might find out that you owe less taxes than self-employed/sole proprietorship. This is due to numerous tax cuts and deductibles offered to business owners. If you qualify, your tax bill can be reduced greatly, as always, consult with a law firm specialized in business incorporation or your CPA on what tax cuts are available in your country or state.

Important: This shouldn’t be confused with tax evasion and it’s by no means condoned. Tax avoidance is allowed only in accordance with the tax laws of the country of incorporation. For this reason, if incorporating in a country different than the one you’re resident in, consult with the tax authorities before proceeding with incorporation. 

Separate Credit Rating

Your company will have it’s own credit rating and it won’t be affected if your personal credit score is not good. Keeping a good credit score for you business will give you a lot of benefits, these include:

  • Increased overdraft facilities
  • Higher Credit Card Limits
  • Bank Account Upgrades
  • Dedicated Financial Advisor(depends on the bank and account history)
  • Reduced or No Account Fees

Having a good history will make your company investor-friendly as investors or potential buyers want a company with few debts or liabilities. 

Retirement Plans and Payroll

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Having your own company will allow you to create private retirement plans for you and your employees. Depending on the bank, business accounts have payroll management in their system. This will be very helpful if you plan on having employees or contractors.

Disadvantages of Incorporation

Unfortunately, while there are a lot of benefits to business incorporation, this comes with it cons. This is true to small business owners and people with limited capital. Some of the disadvantages are:

A Lot of Paperwork

Registering and maintaining a business comes with a ton of paperwork and filing. This can be very confusing if you’re new or if this is your first company. Each country has it’s own laws and if you’re selling globally, you have to comply with each country.

This can be quite overwhelming, but unfortunately it must be done. To make things easier, have your CPA or lawyer take care of your company filing – that way you have no risk of incurring fines.

Fees! Fees! Fees!

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With tons of paperwork, comes tons of fees. Between registration fees, yearly licences, taxes and CPA fees; your outgoing expenses might increase. Maintaining a corporation can become expensive and shouldn’t be done without capital.

Limited companies are popular because the fees are lower and have less filing requirements than corporations. This is the structure that works best for new sellers and those in e-commerce in particular.

Liability Is Not Guaranteed

While incorporating your business may protect your personal assets, you may still be liable in some cases. Only a Corporation fully protects the personal assets of the shareholders. If you import products with high-liability, it’s best to consult with a lawyer on which structure is suitable.

USA Incorporation

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There is a common misconception amongst people outside the USA that incorporating your business in the US is expensive and complicated. Furthermore, in some cases, if you’re importing in the US, you need to have a US company or subsidiary. Some dropshippers in the US will also refuse to work with you unless you have:

  • Reseller Licence
  • Employer Identification Number 

US LLC State Registration

It is recommended to start off with an LLC if you choose to incorporate. For US non-residents the 3 best states to incorporate are:

Delaware

Delaware State is the most popular place for foreigners who wish to incorporate in the US. However, Delaware is better suited for those wishing to form either an S-Corp or C-Corp.

  • State Filing Fee: $200
  • Certificate of Formation: $90
  • Annual Fees: $300 Alternative Entity Tax by June 1 + State Filing Fees $200 = $500

Nevada

Home to the popular Las Vegas, Nevada is one of the best states to file an LLC, with it’s very attractive tax rates and ease of filing. Besides the yearly fees, there are no other requirements to follow.

 

  • State Filing Fee: $75
  • Annual Fees: Business Licence $200 + Annual List $150 = $350

Wyoming

Wyoming is the cheapest state of the 3 for LLC costs. It offers all the benefits of states like Nevada and formation shouldn’t take longer than a few business days. Foreigners wishing to incorporate in Wyoming, must have a registered agent notifying the state in writing.

  • State Filing Fee: $100
  • Annual Fees: $100

In all three states you require a Registered Agent. A registered agent is a person or service that acts on your behalf in the state of incorporation. They would receive any letters/paperwork and notify you when paperwork and annual fees are due. Services normally start at around 49$/year and it’s required by law to have a representative in the state of incorporation.

Employer Identification Number

The EIN, is the tax identification for your business. This will be the number used to conduct business inside the US and for importing/exporting goods.

 If you’re a US resident or you’re a non-resident, wishing to get an EIN, the process is quite simple, and you can either get the EIN by applying online, phone or by mail. If you’re a US non-resident with a US LLC/Corporation, you will need a responsible party to get the EIN.

To get the EIN you need to fill out Form SS4 and send it to the IRS. Getting an EIN is very simple and fast – the whole process shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes and is free of charge.

Getting a Bank Account

If you’re not a US resident, this is the biggest issue you will face. It is extremely difficult and rare to get a US bank account(business or personal) without being physically present. In some cases, there are companies that offer the service of opening a bank account remotely, however, they are expensive. You can also consult with your CPA or lawyer and see if they can open an account for you.

To open a business account in the US, you need:

  • Passport
  • EIN & Company Registration Documents
  • Business Licence
  • Articles of Organization – This is a list of all the members in the company, you should get the documents when you register the company.
  • Operation Agreement

Keep in mind that every bank is different and requires different documentation. If you’re a non-resident, inquire beforehand on what documents are needed.

Virtual Address

You need an official business address, this is needed to receive company mail and to register for services & marketplaces. A virtual address will notify, forward and even scan your mail – There are numerous companies offering these services for as little as $90/year.

Phone Number

If you’re registering a US LLC as a United States Non-Resident, you need a US phone number. This is will be required by all businesses(including banks) and marketplaces you will deal with.

The easiest and best option is to simply get a Skype number, it is fairly cheap with low call rates. If you’re based in the US, it is recommended to get a business phone number. 

Conclusion

This has been a brief introduction on business incorporation. In the upcoming weeks we will explore Offshore Company Registration – including the best countries where you can incorporate, and business banking. Hopefully, after reading this guide, the incorporation process has become easier to understand.

If you want us to include a particular topic regarding business incorporation or if you have any questions on the subject, please leave a comment below.

All the best & Happy Selling,

Duncan

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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Zero to Hero: Build a Brand Series – Branding Done Right – Part 2

Zero to Hero: Build a Brand Series

Branding Done Right – Part 2

In last week’s blog post we officially started the Zero to Hero: Build a Brand Series. In our first topic, we uncovered the essentials of what makes a great brand. Today we will continue the series by expanding further into branding. 

Brand Story

With lots of brands coming up everyday, it’s essential to differentiate your brand from others – especially if you want to expand further than Amazon. Having a story or a purpose for your brand will help you connect with customers and gives a human touch to the company. 

Before coming up with a story, ask some key questions:

  • Who is my target market? (Age, Income Levels, Gender)
  • Why am I selling this/these products?
  • What problem/need I want to solve?
  • Why did I start this brand/company?

These will all help you come up with a good story that you can use both in your products and marketing materials. One of the most viewed pages on a company’s website is the About Us page – customers/viewers want to know who they’re purchasing from. They are more willing to purchase from a company they can connect with. This will be the foundation of building a customer base off your site and be different.

Here are some examples of how some brands applied their stories into their whole company profile:

Yellow Leaf Hammocks

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Whipping Post

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Au Lit Fine Linens

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Great brands focus on their story to sell their products. 

Creating a Slogan

Slogans are a key part to branding because they either:

  • Tell viewers what your brand is about
  • Deliver the brand/company message

This will be even more important if you choose to go the unique brand name route. While having a unique brand name has a lot of benefits, potential customers will have no clue what your brand is about, unless your Logo is related to the category/niche you’re selling. A good slogan has to be very short, memorable and unique.

A good place to start is Shopify’s Slogan Generator.

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Let’s say your brand sells natural teas and promotes a healthy lifestyle. We will use the main keyword “Tea” and see if the slogan maker generates something that fits our brand.

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As you can see the program generated over 1,076. It’s important to choose a slogan that fits your brand and the products you will sell. Generators are good for brainstorming ideas and inspiration – using the slogans the generator give you is not recommended. However, you can pick a slogan that fits you and modify it as your own. 

Hiring a Designer 

The final step is to put all these great ideas to mind and find a designer to put your brand to life.

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Ideally, choose a designer which has the following attributes:

  • A great portfolio
  • Experience working with medium/large companies
  • Experience in E-commerce design
  • His/her experience is not limited to logos only. This is because you will need to apply the same branding throughout packaging, website design, inserts etc.
  • Ideally has worked with clients in your same niche/category 

Here is an email/proposal template I use on freelance websites. I always try to give as much detail as possible. This helps me filter candidates who are truly interested/passionate.

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Subject: Seeking Brand Designer For E-Commerce Brand

We are an up and coming E-Commerce brand specializing in the [Niche/Category]. The candidate we’re looking for should have:

– Experience working with E-Commerce brands, preferably in the [Your Niche/Category].

– Extensive branding experience. Preference will be given to candidates with experience in the following categories:

1.      Logo Design

2.      Marketing Materials & Inserts

3.      Advertising Design

4.      Product Design & Packaging

If you’re interested in forming part of our team, you should provide us with:

– Portfolio of your designs – E-commerce/brand related preferred.

– Rate Sheet with your pricing.

– Proof of Experience/Work with medium to large brands.

Our budget is of ***$/***€, however, this is flexible for the right candidate/s. We have additionally attached:

– A brief overview of our brand.

– Description of our product/s.

– Some Logo and Designs we like. These can be used as inspiration for the project.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

[Name]

Managing Director

[Company/Brand]

The Importance of Building a Brand

With the effects of globalization becoming stronger, more people are looking into creating new income streams, one of them is E-commerce. This is especially true in emerging economies where people are exploring different ways of making money. Competition is at an all time high as more new sellers from different nations and income levels are diving into E-commerce & online selling.

Having a good product will come first, however, repeat customers and word of mouth is priceless for long term success & growth. This is happening more often on large E-commerce sites like Amazon, where private label sellers have similar products targeting the same audience. The only way for a customer to issue a purchase is:

– Price

-Reviews

-Listing

-Photography 

This becomes complicated when most of the products have the same design. In fact, at the slightest change from Amazon, they lose sales since there is no control. The only way moving forward is to build a brand both on and off Amazon, expand globally & build a trusting customer base

Conclusion

In the next blog post of the series we will move on to Business Incorporation and how to legally protect your E-commerce business. Specifically, we will cover:

  • Why incorporating your business is essential for growth and expansion.
  • Corporate Structures – LLC/LTD vs S-Corp.
  • US LLC Overview and how to register an LLC as a US non-resident.
  • A comparison between the best countries to incorporate.
  • Business Banking – A look into business credit cards, online banks and currency accounts.

 

We hope you’re finding this series valuable, if you have any questions or if you would like something added into the series, kindly leave a comment below.

All the Best & Happy Selling,

Duncan

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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From Zero To Hero Post 1 – Branding done right

Branding Done Right

Last week we introduced you to our overview of the Zero to Hero blog series. In today’s blog post, we will cover the areas you need to focus in building your brand from the start. The phrase “Build a Brand” gets thrown around often and most people know that having a brand is essential, by implementing these features, you are guaranteed to have a good foundation to build a global brand.

Before I get into this first blog post I wanted to give you an overview of whats coming and what the main milestones are in this series. Some of those topics are super exciting so make sure to share this blog post and stay with us until the end of the project

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Building a Brand    

❏ The importance of building an Ecommerce brand

❏ Choosing a brand name & why it’s crucial for long term success

❏ Creating a Logo

❏ Choosing a slogan that fits the brand

❏ Creating a story behind your brand

❏ Brand Design 101: Brand colours, fonts & mood/voice. Consistency is key.

Business Incorporation   

❏ Why incorporating is essential for your business )

❏ Where to incorporate. Pros and cons of each + which one is better for e-commerce.

❏ Currency accounts / Comparison of each & why it’s essential to not lose money in exchange rates.

Choosing a Product  

❏ Product Research Guide

❏ Industry Research & Demographics 

❏ Competition Analysis

❏ Identifying flaws in competitor’s products & making your product better.

❏ Private Label vs Own Design and why being unique is better.

Manufacturing  

❏ Complete Guide on Manufacturing Overseas

❏ Certification

❏ Materials & components to avoid when starting

❏ Contracts – Protecting your brand 

❏ Choosing a supplier

❏ Ordering samples & how to test each sample effectively

❏ Product Design Guide

❏ Mould Process Guide

E-Commerce    

❏ Why having your own website from day 1 is essential for your brand

❏ A look at Ecommerce platforms & what do they offer. Which one we recommend for beginners.

❏ Building you store

❏ Email Marketing & Building a List      

❏ E-commerce SEO and how to drive traffic 

❏ PPC Overview

❏ E-commerce blogging

❏ Why good product descriptions is key to success

Social Media Marketing   

❏ Setting up Social Media

❏ Gaining Exposure

❏ Social Media Marketing

❏ Connecting with Authority in your niche

Inventory Storage   

❏ Fulfillment Centres – What they are and why they are essential for your growth

❏ List of fulfillment centres

❏ Fulfillment centres vs FBA 

Branding your Product      

❏ Product Photography

❏ Custom Packaging – standing out from your competition

❏ Shipping Boxes

❏ Insert Cards & Marketing Materials

❏ Customer Service & Experience

AMAZON 

▪ A guide on using sellers central platform effectively.

▪ Amazon Sponsored Products – A guide to PPC and how to optimize your listing based on Amazon ppc Results

▪ Customer Service – How to handle different customer issues and respond effectively.

▪ Amazon Deal Guide – Lightning Deals – Prime Day – Black Friday Deals. How to apply and maximising profits during deals. We will also explore how to run deals outside of Amazon to your listing.

▪ Amazon Vine and Giveaway Program – An explanation and overview if it’s effective for your business.

Retail & Wholesaling  

❏ Finding retailers & distributors in your niche

❏ Create a catalogue

❏ Contacting retailers

Going Forward 

❏ Expanding to other countries

❏ Maximising other sales channels

❏ Creating a product line

❏ Exhibitions & Tradeshows 

❏ Outsourcing

Now let’s go into today’s post.

 

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The Key Areas To Building a Brand

Choosing a Brand Name

This will be the main feature besides the logo of your brand, so it must be chosen carefully. Brand Names can be mainly classified into 3 main categories:

1. Niche Specific – Example: Joe’s Tea Company 

This choice is fine if you’re planning to exclusively sell within one specific niche or main category. However, as your company grows, it is essential to expand into different areas of one category. 

2. Category Specific – Example: Joe’s Beverage

This option is ideal if your main focus right from the start is to grow your brand to dominate your niche. By not limiting the choice of products in the brand name you can diversify according to the market at that time. Targeting multiple sub-categories within a niche is essential(as we will learn later on in the series) because you can target multiple keywords within that niche.

3. Unique Brand Name – Example: Empower Drinks

This gives you the most freedom for your brand, as you can expand and release products without being limited by the brand itself. However, a lot of effort must be made to get the name out there and customers won’t start associating your brand with a specific category in the short term. The best benefit of a unique brand name is that you have complete control, this is especially true if trademarks, domain names and other intellectual property is available for you to register.

Ultimately, a brand name goes down to preference. All three choices require effort, a line of successful products and excellent customer service to succeed.

Logo Design 

The logo, in most cases, IS what makes the brand. It is the key feature with which your customers will identify your brand. Before hiring a designer for your logo, here are some key aspects your logo should include:

Simple but Detailed

A logo shouldn’t be too complicated as it can be distracting, especially when it comes to products. Think of the products you will release, or plan to release on the market, it is likely your products will be made of different materials(wood, stainless steel, fabric, etc.) and a variety of methods of application(embroidery, engraving, stamping, etc.). A great logo will make your products stand out more and its a great way to start building a brand.

Colour Scheme

Ideally your brand shouldn’t have more than 2 or 3 colours in all of it’s branding. This applies to all aspects of the brand. In the pictures below, you can see how all the major brands pick one main colour and focus all their branding on it.

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Image Source: The Logo Company

Here is how certain colours effect Men and Woman. Depending on your niche, this may prove helpful in the design process

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Image Source: Entrepreneur.com

Demographics

 

Make your brand appealing to the audience you’re targeting. Audience segmentation will be helpful in targeting the right demographics that may be interested in your brand through advertising and social media. The main demographics you should be interested in are:

1. Gender: Male or Female

2. Age Range

3. Location – Country and State/Province

How ImportDojo Applies Branding

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As you can see from the image above, Import Dojo implements all key elements when it comes to branding. The brand name in itself has great relevance to its audience. The logo is fairly simple and recognizable, with few, but bright colours. 

However, what makes the brand in this case, is the story of how Import Dojo was started and why Manuel had the idea to start the blog. You can read more about it here.

Products, even if essential, are only one aspect of the brand. When you combine the same concepts throughout your website, social media and packaging; that’s when a brand truly starts to distinguish itself from the competition.

The Hard Truth: Branding Takes a Long Time To Be Effective

Unfortunately, the not so sexy part about branding is that it takes an unbelievable amount of work, consistency and time to see the rewards. Nonetheless, people are more likely to buy from a company that offers a unique experience to its customers. The whole point of the series is expand your brand to multiple sales channels and expand globally.

While Amazon will still be the main sales channel, having control over your brand, customers and products is going to be the only way to succeed in the future.

 

Conclusion

This was only a brief overview and guideline on the process of kick starting your brand. We hope this blog post was helpful in guiding you in the right direction. the upcoming weeks blog posts, we will dive deeper into:

– Choosing a great slogan and how to make a slogan that fits your brand.

– Brand Story – How stories can help your sales and connect with customers.

– Finding a Designer – The questions to ask before hiring a designer and what to look for.

 If you have any questions or you would like to know in more detail, please leave a comment below.

All the best,

Duncan

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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From Zero to Hero – Building a Brand – Introduction

My name is Duncan and I have been an Import Dojo Master Class member for the past 8 months. As mentioned in the previous blog post, I will be making a blog series on how to build a better brand and provide an in-depth guide on tools & strategies to help sellers expand beyond Amazon.

The Idea Behind The Series and Course

Over the last month, many established and new Amazon sellers have experienced several changes on the platform – both positive and negative. The biggest change was the update in Amazon’s review policy which made launching a new product much harder.

That’s when the idea of the Zero To Hero blog series came up. Both I and Manuel realized that to succeed on Amazon, you need to have: 

●      A good product

●      A strong brand

●      Multiple sales channels

Over the past few months, we have explored different strategies which will help you not only become a successful Amazon seller, but also gain exposure globally.

Aim For Long Term Success: Building a Strong Brand with Multiple & Global Sales Channels

The main aim of the blog series is to go from idea to a strong, recognizable brand in your niche. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs are focusing solely on the Amazon platform. While it may be the easiest and the lowest barrier to entry; there are many disadvantages:

●      No control over your brand since the customer belongs to Amazon       

●      Amazon has made several changes which affected sellers badly   

●      Building a business on one income stream is never good   

●      Higher competition & lower pricing   

●      Some markets are saturated

In Zero to Hero, we will go over other E-commerce platforms, both in the US and in other countries. The series will provide an in-depth guide on which channels work best, including marketing strategies for each, including:

1.     Which E-Commerce platform to use to build your own online store

2.     Expanding in the US beyond Amazon, this will include stores such as Walmart and also small retailers(How to find them & approach them)

3.     Selling in Japan & EU

4.     Product branding – How to custom packaging, handling customer service & inserts

5.     Social Media Marketing – A deep look into Adwords & Facebook advertising for e-commerce

6.     Outsourcing & Building a Team – Where to find Virtual Assistants and which tasks make sense to outsource.

This is only a fraction of what will be included in the full blog series. Below is a representation of what Zero to Hero will offer. In the next blog series, we will have an introduction on what makes a successful brand and how to apply it to your brand or product.

An Overview of Our Blog Series

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Please feel free to share and comment if you have any questions or if you want something included in the series.

All the best and happy selling :)

Duncan

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

From Zero to Hero – How to build a brand (ImportDojo Brand Evolution)

Exciting news! Ever wondered what happens after Amazon TOS review changes, how to build a brand and generate turnover outside Amazon? Then this is for you. 

Today I am starting a new blog series called from Zero to Hero. Together with one of my ImportDojo Masterclass students we will have a blog series every week about creating a brand and every step you should take in between to grow.

Be it setting up Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, the importance of social media or how to approach retailers and wholesalers. 

We want to show you the importance of building a brand and not just selling on Amazon. 

How we do that will be revealed in this blog series titled “From Zero to Hero” over the next few months. 

Check out what Duncan and I have in store here:

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News and trends from the October 2016 exhibitions in China

I have made it a habit to give you an update on trends after every exhibition season in April & October within Hong Kong and China so I won’t break that habit this time :)

It has been a hectic 8 weeks for me. When I returned from Europe in September I flew straight to Hong Kong and had an extensive amount of work waiting for me. 

While the first few weeks were all about catching up with work after my holiday I was excited to go to the exhibitions in Hong Kong and China. Here are some of the exhibitions that I went to in October/November over the course of 4 weeks: 

Global Sources Electronics (phase 1)

HKTDC Electronics Fair

Global Sources Smart China Sourcing Summit – for Amazon and online sellers

Global Sources Electronics (phase 2, Mobile Electronics)

Global Sources Gifts & Home

Mega Show (Part 1)

Canton Fair Phase 2

HKTDC International Building and Hardware Fair

Mega Show (Part 2)

Canton Fair Phase 3

Without further ado here are some impressions from the last 8 weeks. 

Hong Kong is constantly at the Top 3 most expensive places to live in the world. Wonder how my apartment looks like in Hong Kong? 

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Yep, thats 8 square meter of pure space :) 

 

 

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At least there’s a rooftop with a view :) 


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And not so bad to work with this view  :) 

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There’s also a co-working space downstairs. 

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Back at the office with one of my newest products.  Check it out if you are in need of a portable photo studio. 

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End of September I head to an Amazon seller and eCommerce meet up in Shenzhen, China, organized by my friends over at EnterChina

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Rico Ngoma serial Entrepreneur and partner of EnterChina drops knowledge

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working on new projects for ImportDojo on the rooftop

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back at the office with the team :) 

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another hike at the end of September. Remember to work out whenever you can :) 

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The exhibitions start! I head to the Global Sources Electronics show Phase 1. Make sure to get your free train ticket ticket with your buyers badge. 

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Global Sources hosts two electronic phases with different categories from 11-14th and 18th-21st. 

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Walking the aisles at the shows. Predominantly Smart Phone accessories on nearly every booth. 

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Sport & Action camera’s are evolving and it’s amazing what you get these days. 

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Video & WiFi glasses/camera’s seem to be the newest thing. Maybe not the newest but a lot of suppliers exhibit those. 

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Smartphone cases. 

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I found this product to be quite interesting :) 

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An actual AI (Artificial Intelligence) 

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This automatic car cover peeked my interest. 


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Gaming & video backpacks seem to be popular as well. 

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Virtual Reality getting bigger and more interesting in terms of developments. 

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Drone’s are definitely still popular but less than half the amount of booth’s than in April this year. 

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Global Sources held the first Drone Racing Championship this year at the event. I wasn’t there to witness but it looked pretty cool.


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I head to the HKTDC Electronics show. Make sure to pre-register (its free)

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Quite a lot of buyers on the first day. 

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You’ve got big brands from overseas

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and big local brands from China. 

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The HKTDC doesn’t focus on Smart Phone Accessories only but has regular household electronics as well. 

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Smart Home Automation has made big leaps and improvements in terms of apps and technology

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Not sure what these guys do. 

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It’s a beautiful day in Hong Kong and I am stuck at the expo :(


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It’s my birthday and I hike to the beach with a couple of people

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I am invited to speak at the Global Sources Amazon sellers summit again. I got to present my case study there as well in April. This time I talk about how to select the right supplier.

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I meet a few fellow ImportDojo members and familiar faces from online :) This is Taye from Hong Kong.


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Chris McCabe delivers amazing value in regards to Amazon account suspension and prevention. 

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Chris Davey & Danny McMillan arrange a meet up that evening in central Hong Kong. Over 40 Amazon and eCommerce sellers come. 

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Discussing with Mike Michellini from Globalfromasia some strategies for our business. 

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I talk about supplier selection and how to verify suppliers in China when at exhibitions but also online.  img_6586

In case you are wondering what some of the testing companies charge. 

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I walk the halls of the Global Sources home and gifts. 

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Lots of packaging suppliers there as well. 



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The first suppliers with Lightning earphones for the iPhone 7. I test them and they are horrible in quality :) 

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Interesting design for a power bank. 



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Flexport talks about the recent Hanjin collapse and the forecast of the freight forwarding industry at the Sellers Summit

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In between all of this I become the Number 1 bestseller on Amazon with my French Press case study. Even if only for a few days I am happy because I sell between 100-200 pieces per day :)


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Danny McMillan and Currencies Direct organise a meet up in Central with Will Tjernlund at a “fireside” chat. Will talks about Wholesale strategies and amazes the crowd as usual :)

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The next day a Typhoon with a signal T8 (the second strongest) hits Hong Kong and everything closes. I plan on heading to the Megashow part 1 but have to delay that until the next day as public transport closes all together. 

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I eventually make it to the Megashow for a few hours before heading to Guangzhou for Canton Fair Phase 2

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Remember to book train tickets in advance as they are sold out days in advance. 
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I walk around Canton Fair for the day and take catalogues and snapshots of interesting items

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On the next day I head to Shenzhen to visit one of my suppliers. Some of them go the extra mile :) 


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I check the production and facilities. 

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Testing equipment within the factory. 

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My wife gets me a birthday gift :) 

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back in Hong Kong I check out the “OBEY” exhibition thats running for a month. Very cool art!


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My friend organises a “junk boat trip”. You basically rent a boat that caters food and drinks all day and you drive out to some island 

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Ignore the couple that is making out :)

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I head to Canton Fair Phase 3 and check in at the Aloft. The value you get for 60US$ is amazing. 

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I walk around Phase 3 for a couple of hours and meet existing suppliers and try to find interesting products for my outdoor brand. 

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Office and stationery is also very present. 


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Chris Davey from FBA4U organises his 4th Amazon Seller meet up in Guangzhou. The crowd is huge. Make sure to join his Facebook group if you are looking to meet up during your trip. 

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I meet familiar faces and friends from all over the world :)

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On 7th November I head to Bangkok for a couple of weeks. I hear a lot about UBER Hong Kong has Tesla drivers. I give it a try and I actually find a Tesla for my airport ride. I had to try it :) 

Pheew! Lots of photos and stories to share. All in all I’d say I’ve met a lot of great people, made new friends, found new products and definitely had a good time the last weeks :) If you are planning on coming to China I highly recommend you do.

In the coming weeks I’ve got a lot of news and amazing content coming for you. I am starting a new blog-series here on ImportDojo focusing on building a brand and how to drive traffic to your Amazon listing. Furthermore we are going to show you how you can build a business outside Amazon, so stay tuned :)

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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Product Liability Insurance

Do you need Product Liability Insurance (PLI)?

Yes, I do recommend you have it but I’d say you don’t need to have it before you list and launch your first or second product.

You are unlikely to get any insurance anyway if your business is very new, have no track record, never filed an annual return or have no experience working with factories in China.

How does Product Liability Insurance work?

Basically you can cover any product in a group of products or by product only under an insurance. Meaning if there is any issue with your end consumers the insurance will cover the damage. That is if you have done everything by the book. Meaning you have certifications, had an inspection, a letter of guarantee from your supplier of conform goods and everything went well during production. Thankfully I’ve never had to make use of my insurance so far and I pray I will never have to but just in case its good to have it. Especially if you sell in the US.

Who needs it?

I’d say anyone importing to the US needs it at some point. Be it low risk items or high risk items, it just is better to have as you never know what your customers may do with your product or if there’s any fault in manufacturing that you didn’t find out during inspection.

Who can apply for a Product Liability Insurance?

Basically anyone can apply for an insurance. After all the insurance companies want your money. BUT not everyone gets it. It really depends a lot on how long you have been in business, who are your suppliers (are they a 20 man factory or do they produce for Walmart), do they have certifications, do you yourself have experience buying from China etc. There are many factors that go into the insurers consideration to issue you a policy or not. Please note you need a company to apply for Product Liability Insurance. You cannot apply as a private individual.

Where can I get a Product Liability Insurance?

Here are some sites that broker insurances from the big Insurers (AXA, MSIG, BUPA,Generali, Globality etc.)
Send them an email with your introduction about your business and they’ll get back to you if they can help you. Mind you these companies are based in Hong Kong so you need to have a HK Ltd. company to apply.
To find insurers in your country you’ll need to check with your local insuring companies.

http://www.lfsinsurance.com/business-insurance/
http://www.hkpli.com/
http://www.business.hsbc.com.hk/en-gb/protection-and-investment/general-insurance?DCSext.nav=foot-mat

(Note: HSBC does not cover US businesses)

Miscellaneous:

You need to understand while almost every insurance company will receive you with arms wide open for a life or health insurance it is actually NOT easy at all to get a product liability insurance.
You will be audited by either the insurance company or the broker and there will be extensive background research on you, your company, your products before you can actually get the insurance.

Like I say in nearly all of my posts, always work with reliable and experienced factories – always have certification available to meet country specific requirements (CE, ROHS, FDA etc).

When you apply for a PLI It is a minimum requirement that you have avilable certification.
I mean it’s only obvious that a insurer will only insure you if you have a quality product and not a product that falls apart or lights up in flames the moment you use it.

So you need to provide a lot of documents. Here are just some of the main documents needed:

  1. High Quality Product Photo of at least one item on each category
  2. Test report on at least one item on each category
  3. User Manual on at least one item on each category
  4. Warning Labels on at least one item on each category
  5. Completed and signed PLI application.
  6. Quality website with detailed information on your products
  7. Ideally you have a background in sourcing. If not, provide an action plan on how you source sustainable and quality items in China

 

I hope this helps as a general guideline. Please feel free to share or comment if you have any questions :)

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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Exhibition season starts & Amazon policy changes

It has been a hectic week for me, exhibition season started and I went to the GlobalSources Electronics show this morning to check out some of the newest products.

I’ll give you a recap of the trends at the end of the month as usual but here are some first impressions.

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Arriving at the halls

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Are these camera’s still selling?

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An actual AI at the show

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Virtual Reality (VR) becoming more popular

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GlobalSources will hold a drone racing championship here. Curious to see.

For previous recaps have a look here:
http://importdojo.com/news-and-trends-from-the-exhibition-april-2016/
http://importdojo.com/the-cantonfair-all-you-need-to-know-about-the-biggest-expo-in-asia/

For what you can expect or what you can prepare have a look here:
http://importdojo.com/news-and-trends-from-the-exhibitions-in-asia/

Here is a list of the most important exhibitions coming up:

http://www.globalsources.com/NEWS/TRADE_SHOW_CALENDAR_OCTOBER2016_A.pdf

You probably heard about the two big changes on recent Amazon policy updates (today & last week) so I wanted to give you my two cents and what you can do:

Amazon review policy update

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https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/abpto3jt7fhb5oc

Last week (3rd of October) Amazon made an important announcement on its policy change in terms of reviews.

In short you are not allowed to ask for reviews in exchange for a discount or free product (anymore). This has been coming for a while.
First Amazon requested that reviewers spent a total of 5$ before they can leave a review, then in September this year this threshold was risen to 50$ and now only regular purchased products may be reviewed (or trough Amazon’s Vine Program).

I personally think this is super positive for sellers who try to build a brand and pay attention to quality and customer service. Will it be harder to get reviews and boost rankings? Yes for sure but it will also mean that those that are trying to make a quick buck will fail which means more room and profits for us hard working peeps :)

This will hopefully remove a lot of pushy Chinese factories and get rid of poor quality items. The many months you spent on perfecting a product sitting in front of your computer trying to come up with an additional value for your customer or how you can deliver better quality products are finally appreciated.

I’ve always said that building a brand together with social media and outside traffic is important right from the beginning.

My two cents:

  • PRO:
    less giveaways – more profits for me
    better quality products
    less Chinese sellers pushing the price down
    reviews that you get now are a reflection of your dedication to your products
    Having built an audience (social media) pays off
  • CONS:
    it will take longer to gain traction & sales launching a product
    And thats really the only con I see here….

Do it “right” from the beginning, build a brand and and audience on social media following and quality products
The point I am trying to make is not to worry too much about getting your product on the map if you have either:

  1. A superior product and listing
  2. A product that is highly in demand (just follow trendy websites and you will find those niches)
  3. Social media to drive traffic to your listings.

Reviews will eventually come. And those reviews will be a reflection of the hard work you’ve put into your product.

The best thing about this change is I don’t have to set away a ridiculous amount of units for reviews – saving me a lot of money.
The downside? Yes, it simply takes longer to gain traction but who said this is a get-rich-quick scheme?
Every business takes time and unlike a lot of people out there tell you, be patient, put in the work and you’ll get rewarded eventually.

Now, if you haven’t yet its time to set up services like Salesbacker (Salesbacker). The only way you can ask for reviews is with programs and autoresponders like SALESBACKER because this is integrated in your Amazon account and the people who are asked to leave reviews have bought at a full price (or discounted price that you list public). Salesbacker works very well for my products. Usually every 2nd-3rd buyer leaves a review.

So if you are worried about your intial launch I recommend that you launch your product at a discounted price for a few hours/maybe a day and see how sales come in and you MUST have Salesbacker installed before that and wait until reviews come in. Then you jack up the price again to normal. It’s perfectly within TOS and has worked well for me on a few products.

It has become very important now to build outside traffic trough social media or advertising. Even more important is to have the right supplier and add value to your product. Check out my case study on how I did it:
http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

The second big change came in this morning:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-11/amazon-said-to-limit-warehouse-access-to-new-merchants
Amazon now restricts new sellers that you cannot ship anything to their warehouses if you have not yet shipped any products to Amazon by 10th of October. You can still sign up for FBA but your first shipment will have to wait until 19th of December.

I believe that their warehouses are bursting and they are trying to avoid overcrowding and “clogging” of products that are new and have no sales record/history. Same thing happened last year during Q4 but only affected a few categories like toys. Now it affects all categories. This will certainly upset a few people who’s first shipment may be on the way or is being produced right now. Not only will those sellers miss out Q4 sales but also might be stuck with their inventory at some warehouse at additional costs. If you can wait it out good, if not I recommend to do the following:

Switch your incoming inventory to FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) and ship your product to a fullfilment warehouse in the US. Here is a list of warehouses from reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/FulfillmentByAmazon/comments/3eq4m0/updated_list_of_fba_prep_and_ship_companies/

It is perfectly OK to sell in Q4 BUT ship from your own (or third party) warehouse. There’s no offiicial statement from Amazon yet but I think below screenshot says it all

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I hope the recent changes didn’t put you off or de-motivate you. I’ve seen some of my products or friends product hit page 1/2 after a few days without doing much.I believe if you put in the work and add value to your product you can succeed.

All the best & happy sourcing,
Manuel

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/

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How to scale your (Amazon) business

A lot of people ask me how to scale their business. They get to a point where they have 2, 3 maybe 5 products online and are either facing cash flow problems or don’t know what to do to grow to the next magical number.  

When I have calls with them to find out what can be done it is often one thing that they overdo – optimizing. Be it their listings, backend keywords or PPC marketing. 

Don’t get me wrong this is important and you need to optimize to grow from 2 pieces a day to 10 pieces or more. But it doesn’t mean thats what you should be doing all day. 

Second reason I find is that they are obsessed with numbers, hijackers, copy cats or their competition. Again, you do need to look at these things but honestly I have better things to do than obsess about my numbers or competitors. 

When I put my French Press case study out there in public I didn’t worry about copy cats. Because if I would have decided not to do it I would have missed out on a product thats making me good money for over 6 months. First of all I wanted to document on a generic product how the process is done and second if I make good money for 6 months with that product and then the competition comes so be it. In those 6 months I will already have developed my next products or built further passive income. Yes it is frustrating when someone copies you but that happens in every business. Move on. 

I understand that if you have 1-2 products online its very exciting to look at your growing numbers by the day. But you can only grow that much if you try to optimise all the time and not look into developing new products, your brand, your company or your idea. 

I am sure most of you heard of guys like Will Tjernlund (24 year old Multi Million $ seller or was it 25 ? :) ) or Ryan Moran (Freedomfastlane). Yes they do perfect their listing, photos, keywords and such but they don’t obsess over it. They rather take action, develop the next product or make a call to a wholesaler or factory and land another exclusivity deal that will make them thousands of $ while we review our keywords for the 50th time. 

If you recall in my last blog post I was in Hamburg at a conference and Will was also there. After the conference sitting together on the last day before everyone went home while most of us were discussing strategies on optimising, Will found another product online, picked up the phone, called the sales rep of the company in the US then and there, offered them to purchase and list for them on Amazon exclusively and landed another deal that will make him (hopefully) thousands of $. I wasn’t there in person but I was told by my friend who organised the event. Reminds me of a famous saying from Scott Voelkers (The Amazing Seller) podcast “Take action”. I know easier said than done but it really is just that – pick up the phone, make the call, negotiate and place the order. Don’t over procrastinate and optimise – go for your next product. Obviously research and product validation has to be done but hopefully you don’t fall into paralysis/analysis. 

All of these guys also outsource many parts of their business. That could be virtual assistants for your customer feedback, letting professionals handle your sourcing and manufacturing in China or copywriting for your listings and products.

Why is optimizing your listings less important than developing new ideas and products? 

I’ve touched on this in the last blog post also:

Constantly re-inventing yourself and focusing on the direction of your company – because there is no one there to tell you what to do. You are responsible for the success of your business. 

If you only focus on optimising who is going to develop new products and strategies? 

Scaling up with more products means you need more cash.  

Which brings me to the second issue why people stagnate – cash flow. Yes Amazon makes a nice income after a while but what most people forget is that a lot of your cash will be tied up in inventory and re-orders, especially in the beginning. 

Therefore diversify your income and don’t put all eggs in one basket.. At least at a point where you are making 2-3000$ profit a month on Amazon to support your lifestyle, pay your bills or put even more money into the business. As I explained in my last blog post I made the mistake myself taking out money of the company in the beginning. Today I put nearly every $ made back into my business. That’s how you scale up. Because what is the money good to you in your savings account when you can re-invest it into your business and double it at a much much faster rate than the banks interest rates. Yes of course I put money aside for the rainy days and save up a bit of cash but its less than 10% of my monthly income. If you want to scale up you need to invest in yourself and trust your abilities. 

Therefore to generate more cash flow and pay your bills diversify your income stream as soon as possible. Or maybe you are doing this on the side and still have a full time job? Also good but there are still ways to generate extra income. 

1) Your own eCommerce store

Ok not the ideal way because you will need more cashflow but you can start by adding a small quantity to your next Amazon order placed in China and send it to your warehouse/garage/fullfilment center selling trough your own eCommerce site (Shopify for example). This can be a trial and test and if it works out you can decide whether to continue the eCommerce lane or not. 

2) Teaching your knowledge

Have you heard of  UDEMY? It’s the largest website where instructors/teachers can offer their knowledge in the form of an online course and over 5,000,000 students can view your (paid) content. The downside is that UDEMY takes 50% of the cut (unless you send the traffic there). But you could also set up your own site and offer your course trough that way, all the money goes into your pocket. If you aren’t familiar with setting up websites and online courses you can try teachable.com which offers people templates and ready made landing pages for your course for a 3% commission. 

3) Starting a blog  

I never was much of a writer or blogger. I started my first blog in 2006 with a few entries now and then. I had no idea what I actually wanted to blog about or how this whole blogging thing works. So the blog kind of died down until I started my first actual blog (ImportDojo) in 2015. There are so many ways you can make money trough a blog and while I don’t recommend you start the next cooking or travelling blog (very competitive) there are still so many niches people like to read about or make money in. That could be a small niche like home brewing, diving harpoons or whatever. Just making things up her as I go :) 

Check out this excellent resource on how and what you should do when starting a blog: onestep4ward.com 

Ideally the blog is somewhere in the nature of your physical products that you are selling. Say I sell a French Press I should naturally start a blog about coffee, coffee machines and such. Good thing is the sooner you start a blog or social media presence and the more followers you get the more traffic you can bring to Amazon or your eCommerce store. On top of that you create authority among your readers. People trust you and are willing to purchase your product. Key to blogging is (I find at least) is to give a lot of value. You can also integrate a eCommerce shop (or direct people to your Amazon store) at some point in your blog to create extra income trough physical products on your blog. 

4) Consulting 

You can put up your skills for sale. Be it trough a course or trough a personal one on one phone call. You can either integrate coaching calls trough your own site/blog or even list your skills on sites like Clarity, UpWork, Fiver etc. 

5) Writing eBooks 

As I said already I was never much of a writer but I just put my knowledge on paper. Plain, not very entertaining and fact/experience driven. People need that especially if you are in a niche where you have experience and people can rely on your knowledge. Information and knowledge equals money. Start writing a 15, 30 60 pages eBook and put it on Amazon or your own site. Even if it “only” makes you 30$ a month.  

6) Approach retailers 

I started the other way around. I went to retailers first and then onto Amazon. But that’s because I have 17 years of experience and contacts in retail. If you have a well selling or unique product on Amazon, retailers, brick & mortar stores will approach you. Believe me, it happens eventually. And even if not – walk down to your local retailer and speak to the Manager if they are interested in buying stock for their store. You can also do this online and approach retailers that you think may fit with your product. Do your research, prepare yourself properly put on a suit and try to get a meeting with the purchase department. 

Every dollar counts, ESPECIALLY passive income. I don’t care if I work 2 weeks non stop on a new project and it “only” brings 50$ a month extra. Thats 50$ I didn’t have before and ideally I don’t need to do anything for it anymore and I still make that every month. Imagine if you have 10 projects or side/passive income that make you 50$ each. Thats 500$ a month for a few weeks work. The key word to diversifying and building passive income is hustling and grinding. Passive money takes a long time to build up but believe me the sweat and tears are worth it. 

Key points today to scale your (Amazon) business:

  1. Don’t over optimize your listings – spend the time on developing new products 
  2. Build more income streams, especially passive money. 
  3. Use your passive income to pay the bills. The profits from Amazon go back into Amazon (or other businesses) creating more products up to a point where you either sell it all, retire on a beach, keep working or just spend time with your kids at home. 

Pheew another motivational post, didn’t plan on that. I hope there’s something in it for you nonetheless :)

All the best and happy sourcing,

Manuel 

http://importdojo.com/importdojo-masterclass/