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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Sister's First Prom Dance

Time is passing, there's nothing I can do to stop it. The time has come for our oldest daughter to attend her first school prom dance. So naturally, as a good father, I prepared. I left work a little early and put a sign on my office door to let everyone know where I'd be.





As soon as I got home, I changed into proper attire and started to check the important things:


Sis came down the stairs looking as beautiful as ever. My how she has grown.


When the young man came a courtin', I let them take some pictures together...


She was brought home on time and had a wonderful time at the dance.  He didn't seem to mind at all when I took his fingerprints and placed a tracking device on his car.  It didn't really matter though, Sister's phone had a tracking device already installed ;-)

~OJD 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Home Based Business Model: ShopOfWatches.com

I've been posting about selling products on Amazon and eBay lately in an effort to share what I've learned over the years with my loyal readers (all eight of you!) LoL.

In this post, I'm taking a tiny break from the Amazon & eBay venue to talk about one of my other "irons in the fire" for producing income from home.  It still pertains to selling on the internet but this method avoids paying HUGE fees (up to 25% for Amazon) on every product sold.

I'm talking about setting up your own website and selling products DIRECTLY to the consumer. Yes, it is easier to sell to customers through a well-known platform like Amazon or eBay. They have already established a presence on the internet and people browse them daily. But they also charge you dearly to sell items to their customer base. People who buy from you through Amazon are not truly YOUR customer (they're Amazon's) and they'll gladly remind you of that every sale.

Why open your own website or web-store?

  1. You keep all the profits. As mentioned before, Amazon charged as much as 25% of your sale price (fees are not based on your profit, they're based on your total price!) and always come out of your account BEFORE you get access to any money. Many times, I would make $20 on a sale but Amazon would make $50+.
  2. You are only competing with yourself on your own website. On Amazon, any jack wagon can come along and offer the same item for one penny less than you do and steal 99% of your business. Most people know so little about buying online that the penny-cheaper guy could have the WORST feedback history on the page, but people will still buy from him because they save a penny.
  3. You control EVERYTHING: the look of the website, the checkout methods, how you advertise and hours of operation. Amazon even has rules about the images you post to sell an item. It has to be 500 x 500 pixels and the background has to be pure white (and they'll check.) It took me six tries to get "permission" to sell watches on Amazon because my pictures (which were straight from the manufacturer's website) didn't meet Amazon's standards. Wanna take PayPal payments only? You can do that on YOUR website. Wanna answer emails during normal hours and not on weekends? You can set those rules on your own website. Amazon grades you on how fast you respond to ANY customer inquiry, even if it left at 2am on a Sunday.
 Setting up your own website is fairly complicated to a newcomer but not unmanageable. I'm experimenting with BigCommerce and Shopify at the moment. These two companies are in direct competition with each for out-of-the-box website business startups. With little experience, I'd guess that within in hour or two, you could have a website completely up and running and ready for business (including accepting payment from PayPal or a credit card accepting company.)

To bring my thoughts around full circle, this post is about making income from home and using an internet webstore to do it. Find an item or items that you want to sell and put them out on the internet for everyone to see. There are numerous things to consider when doing this:

  1. Is the item you are selling popular?
  2. How many other sellers are out there selling the same product?
  3. Is the item you are selling found in every corner store or is it unique?
  4. Do you have a passion for the item you are selling? Is it meaningless to you?
One item I have chosen is wrist watches. The way I see it, everyone needs a watch. Yes, I do know some people (Wifey) who don't wear one and are constantly asking "What time is it?" And YES, that is VERY annoying. But for the most part, just about everyone wears a watch. This is an item that has been around for 100+ years and comes in many styles.

Eventually, I plan to offer many different styles from multiple manufacturers. But to be profitable, you have to be able to buy them at a good price. This is where wholesale prices and/or dropshipping comes into play. Through Doba, mentioned in my post here, I can offer hundreds of watches in many styles and (theoretically) buy them at wholesale prices. I say "theoretically" because I have noticed a trend whereby sellers claiming wholesale prices on Doba are merely resellers themselves trying to act like wholesalers. For example, I see a seller offering a certain watch to me at a wholesale price of $400. A quick price check against Amazon or eBay tells me that other people are selling that exact same watch for $350. How is that possible if the Doba seller is a "wholesaler?" Simple...he isn't. He's portraying to be a wholesaler to members of Doba in hopes that nobody will know they can buy cheaper on Amazon.

Anyway, one of my favorite brands of watches is the Invicta brand. I have always found them to be very stylish and they have few lines that offer huge watches. As a big guy, I like a big watch. So I chose a domain name: ShopOfWatches.com and purchased it for $7 at Dotster. You can buy domain names at any of 100 places. I've used Dotster for years.

I signed up for a free trial at Shopify (7 day free trial) and pointed my domain name at the Shopify store that I created to sell my watches. Now when people type in ShopOfWatches.com they will be taken directly to my Shopify webstore. Using the free trial, I set up the store the way I wanted it to look including banners and a theme. I went with a free templet theme and just typed in my information where I was prompted.

I loaded up watches for sale and chose to accept payment through PayPal because I already had a PayPal account established. Within a few days, the store was ready for customers. That leads to the next step: how to get customers to your store.

Internet marketing is a vast arena and there are almost a limitless amount of ways to drum up traffic for your store. Some gold standards are: paid advertisements either on the internet or in print, cross-linking in various places on the internet, email campaigns and others. I have yet to do any of that. For now, I've just got it up and running and ready to accept orders.

Total cost so far...$7.  Once my trial is over with Shopify (and BigCommerce is just about the same), I'll have to pick a monthly package (which comes with a monthly payment plan) depending on what features I wish to have available. I'll probably settle for something around $25/mo with hopes that I sell more than that. As with any business venture, there's always a gamble. I'm gambling $25 a month that I'll be able to sell more than $25 and make a little profit.

I'll post more about how this home based business is coming along in the near future.I'm just getting started and wanted to share it with you readers. Remember, if we can get enough multiple income streams coming into our household that we can pay a majority of our bills, we are that much closer to complete independence. Add in growing as much food as you can in your garden, caring for some livestock, using alternative energy sources and capturing rainwater...you just might become 100% self sufficient and live by your own rules, your own schedule!

Stay tuned for more...

~OJD

PS Don't forget to comment about what interests you and what doesn't. I can expand on things that matter most to you.
PPS I finally turned on captcha blocking. The spamming was reaching rediculous proportions. After it dies back down in a week/month, I'll turn the captcha back off. I've never had it on before but things were just out of control from these spamming jack wagons.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A Good Source to Buy Stuff for Selling on Amazon / eBay

Just a quick note to you loyal readers who are interested in my Working From Home series. Many of you are looking for a good place to buy products from to resell on either Amazon or eBay.

Here's my latest tip:

Visit iCoffeeNew.com (no affiliate link for me, I'm just sharing what I know) and check out their products. I was concerned about how legit they were at first so I tested the waters with five purchases. They delivered on all of them and are now starting to get rave reviews on referral sites like PriceGrabber from buyers.

An example of what I bought and resold:

Keurig K75 Single-Cup Home-Brewing System with Water Filter Kit, Platinum/Black

Buy it on iCoffeeNew for $105 with free shipping

Current going rate on the Amazon "buy box" which is what they call the main item page on Amazon (as opposed to clicking the link on the right side of the page to see who else might be selling it cheaper) is $175.  That's a $70 profit margin which is a nice range to be in. Don't forget Amazon will take a good chunk.

Listing on Amazon is free (eBay is not) so test the waters. Post the item for sale and price your coffee maker one penny below the lowest seller (the person offering the lowest price of a NEW item) by researching the prices on the right side of the Amazon screen:




This will show you all the sellers and lists them from the cheapest price first. Price your item one penny below the cheapest seller.

The lowest seller here is JAPreval. His price is $144 + shipping. When you list your item, price is at 143.99 ( as long as your shipping fee is the same). Whatever the case on shipping, just add the item price and the shipping together. If your item is one penny cheaper than JAPreval, then your advertisement will out rank his and you'll be at the top of the list. This is great advertisement for your store/item. This is exactly how I sell my stuff.





Post a couple for sale and wait. Sales are always better Friday, Saturday and Sunday when most people are home or just got paid. When you get a sale, collect the buyer's information from Amazon and go to iCoffeeNew.com and buy the coffee maker. Use your information for the BILLING information as you will be paying for it with your money. But use the BUYERS address as the SHIPPING address and have iCoffeeNew ship it straight to the BUYER from Amazon. (Note: on Amazon, they won't releases the sale to you until the buyer has paid the bill. The opposite is true on eBay. The buyer may make the purchase but YOU have to verified the buyer has paid the bill before you ship the item.)

Do NOT click the "shipping confirmation" button on the Amazon sale at this point. Amazon gives you a small grace period (usually 2-3 days) to ship out the item. After that grace period, your item sold will appear "late" on shipping. Amazon grades sellers based on several aspects and shipping your items out on time is one factor.  If you click the "shipping confirmation" button on the day you buy the item, it may be 3-5 day before you get a shipping tracking number from iCoffeeNew. Wait until you get a tracking number and then click the shipping confirmation button on Amazon. During that confirmation process, you will be prompted for a tracking number. 

Tracking numbers are also part of the Amazon grading scale. If you ship on time (by clicking the shipping confirmation button) but don't add a tracking number, it will affect your Seller Score with Amazon.

During the checkout process at iCoffeeNew, chose Free Shipping and during the last step, in the "Order Instructions" box type "Gift receipt only please. No prices."

You pay $105, Customer pays $143.99, Amazon keeps $27-ish and you pocket $12. That's not the greatest profit but it is an example of one item to sell. This brings up the idea we mentioned before about profit threshhold. Is $12 worth the effort? I think it is a little thin but there will be times when you won't find much to sell. A thin margin of profit may be all that is available sometimes. Keep an eye on the market too. You may find, as I often do, the seller who is selling at the thinnest margin (lowest profit point) sells out and drops off the list. When this happens, you need to reassess the selling prices because you can usually raise your price and increase your profit.

With a little practice and research, you can figure out which items have the biggest profit margin and use those to your advantage. Household goods have done particularly well for me: vacuum cleaners, coffee makers, juicers, and blenders. When I find a new source for buying from, I buy one or two and have them shipped to my house (marked as gifts). This lets me see what the customer will see when they receive an item marked "gift" from that company. The I spend a few extra bucks and just ship those items out from my location. Buying shipping through your Amazon account saves you a little on the shipping costs versus buying from Stamps.com or the local post office.

Either way, this is an example of one way to find products to sell. I'll be taking a break for a week or so from selling. While selling online certainly isn't akin to digging ditches, it is tough to keep track of 116 items being shipped while working a full time job. I find that it is a nice break to stop selling and let all the financial dust settle. Then I cash out from Amazon, pay off all the cards I've used (Kohl's, Best Buy, etc) and start fresh for the next cycle.

~OJD