≡ Menu

In December 2014 I stumbled across Amazon FBA & private labeling, and was immediately intrigued. Amazon FBA offered me the possibility to grow a global ecommerce business in the USA and Europe, working from my home in Ireland.

10 months later after I started, I have 15 products for sale in 5 countries, and my first 6 figure revenue (not profit) month. My focus was to build this business as large and as fast as possible. But I soon realised that to achieve this goal I needed to get help – I needed a virtual assistant. There was a ton of work to be done.

I had to choose a category, do product research with JungleScout and choose a product. I had to search it wasn’t patented and then look at what Amazons customer liked and disliked about the current products for sale. With that information gathered, then it was off to Alibaba.com to research suppliers, find out who had what I needed get pricing and order in samples.

images

Once I had a sample approved, then it was onto creating a list and doing keyword research, writing a great description, bullets and title and taking and editing photos on a white background.

As the launch date approached and my new products were heading by ship or plane to Amazon’s warehouses, then it was focusing on my launch strategy, how to get the first reviews and starting PPC soon after.

And when the product was live, the work didn’t stop! I had to check for hijackers daily, look at my conversion rate, check my PPC to optimise my best performing ads and then think about launching my second product.

There was enough work here to ensure that I never slept!

And because I wanted to scale my business up quickly, I knew the only way it would be possible is if I hired someone to help me. Doing everything myself was going to stop my business scaling quickly.

I wanted to focus on what would be really important – business strategy, growth and expansion, going to Amazon conferences, joining Amazon masterminds, expanding to other countries, starting new brands, creating stronger supplier relationships and selling on other platforms.

There is an outsourcing model I’ve applied to other successful online businesses I have built and sold, so I decided to see if I could apply my virtual assistant model to my new Amazon FBA business.

Here is the list of 15 tasks I needed a VA to help with.

PRODUCT SOURCING:

• Jungle Scout product research
• Patent search
• What people like / dislike about competing products on Amazon
• Find good Alibaba suppliers

PRODUCT LISTING

• Keyword research with keyword inspector
• Write title, description and bullets and keywords for new product listings
• Put white background into product photos

PRODUCT MANAGEMENT WHEN LIVE

• Weekly product listing screenshots
• Weekly monitor voting of bad reviews on Amazon
• Daily hijacker checking
• Weekly inventory tracking
• Ask for European reviews
• Reply to negative product feedback on live product pages
• Customer service emails in USA
• Customer service emails in Europe (English, German, French, Spanish and Italian)

If I could find someone to do all of these tasks for me it would free up my time to do much more important work like.

I’ve hired over 520 people in the last 3 years for various projects on upwork.com so I posted up a job there, and included 5 important questions to use as filters for potential VAs. These included filtering for only those who lived in the Philippines and also included a test for great written English. There is no point hiring a VA with poor written English as you will be spending all day correcting their typos.

In under 24 hours I had 8 excellent job applicants. A few applicants even had experience with some of the Amazon tools that I use like keywordinspector. The next day my VA began work and has literally been a lifesaver ever since. His most important role is answering all customer emails twice a day in 5 different languages. This alone has freed up so much of my time and headspace.

He also does everything I needed from the list above – from finding new products with jungle scout to writing wonderful descriptions using high converting Amazon keywords which he also identified.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

How do I find a VA I can trust? The largest group of VAs are on upwork.com so I would start there. Initially for your first VA, I would recommend to start them with the more simple tasks that do not require an Amazon login. These could include product research with Jungle scout, checking for hijackers daily and looking for new suppliers on Alibaba.com

Should I train someone from the ground up or find someone with Amazon experience? Both have worked really well for me. With the right process it’s actually quite easy to train up a new VA. If they already have experience, that’s a bonus.

How much should I pay? In general you should be able to find a great VA for $3-$4 an hour.

Do I have to start with a fulltime VA? No. A great way to start is with a VA for 10-15 hours per week. As your business grows you can increase their hours.

What are the best Amazon jobs to outsource to free up my time? For me it’s been customer service, product research, inventory management and writing new product listings.

If you are interested in learning more I will be putting together some online training covering everything you need to know to find, hire, and manage an incredible Amazon VA.

It will also include videos that your new VA can watch to learn how to do all of the tasks listed above. Learn more here.

Are you using a VA in your FBA business? What’s your experience been like? Let me know in the comments.

{ 2 comments }

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

images

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the most common questions I get:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

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

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

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

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

lost and fee correction 974.37

Crazy good huh? :)

UPDATED: 2 Feb 2016

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

smallcopy

UPDATED: 5 Feb 2016

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

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

You can check out the full process here.

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

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

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

{ 25 comments }