Side Business

Whoa! Is it August Already?

This won’t be a long post but I just realized we’re about one third through the month and I haven’t posted once!

Perhaps part of the reason for that is that nothing has really happened financially, so I haven’t had anything interesting to say since my last post. I’ve had an oddly packed schedule and have sort of been watching all my portfolios do terribly. Before diving into investing in general, I figured I might be nervous wreck seeing my portfolio take $100+ dives each day, but I think I’ve read enough sort of assuage my fears. Now I view these downtimes as opportunities. Whether or not I can take advantage of the opportunities is another matter.

Hmm, wow. That reminds me. I haven’t done a net worth update this month! Nor have I done an update on my goal progress. Based on my average posts per day this month, I’m guessing I will be falling short of glory. But that’s okay. I’ll post something along those lines soon.

This just shows how easy it is to fall out of the swing of things if you aren’t involved on a daily basis. Admittedly, I’ve been spending more time on the side business than watching my stocks. On that front, I’ve finally chosen a name, so hooray for decisiveness!

Another thing I’ve been doing is allowing myself to get lost in fiction. It happens a few times a year, but getting absorbed in stories, particularly horror stories is something I love. Plus, I’ve been on quite the bender lately with horror movies on Netflix. I think I’ve all but used up their queue. Right now, I’m half way through The Exorcist. I hadn’t seen it in a few years, so I felt like now is a good time.

All that is just to say — I’m still here, just temporarily sidetracked. As soon as I make some additional purchases, stock or otherwise, I’ll be sure to let you know.

And, as I mentioned, stay tuned for my net worth update!


FI Monkey

What I’ve Been Up To

Hello, hello!

I’m not dead, but I did have some catching up to do with work and such before I could give you guys a decent update here.

First things first, let’s talk about stocks and portfolios. I haven’t made any additional purchases since my last post which was … 9 days ago. Holy wow. Sorry about that huge break in posts. That also reminds me that I didn’t update my portfolio page to reflect my updated portfolio values after my last buys. I’ll do that after this post.

For now, I just want to say — what’s up with the stock market lately? All my stuff is either down or stale. Get it together, stock market. COME ON.

The only thing that has been doing reasonably well is Realty Income Corp (O), but I guess that’s why we diversify, right? Can’t blame the market if I only have seven stocks. Instead of building upward (buying more stocks for my existing portfolio), I think I will build horizontally a bit (buy other companies) for my next set of purchases.

Moving on to business endeavors, I have actually made some progress there! Having narrowed down the product selection to five last week, I ended up making some more business purchases to assist me in my quest and have narrowed the list down to three products. This part of the process has been difficult to say the least. Luckily, I have a buddy I’m partnered with to keep me motivated and keep the wheel rolling forward, however slowly.

That being said, I still have to narrow the list down to that one product to start with and then make a big purchase. Of course, this might seem unrelated to this blog at first glance until you consider the business itself an investment and part of my overall strategy to make up the difference that my new situation has led me into.

While I’m not being frivolous with my spending, I’m certainly trying to be less timid in pushing forward with my FBA business and buying the right tools (after much personal vetting) to get my to my destination. I’m already about $1,000 in and I’m keeping track of every penny.

This is not my first business, but it’s definitely the business I have taken most seriously. There was a time when I started my first business on my own and actually took time off from working in general, but because I didn’t take it seriously enough, I ended up focusing on too many things and the original business idea went cold, then died. Not the end of the world, but it’s good to know myself.

Business-wise, self-management is paramount for success.

Armed with that knowledge, I know it’s best to focus on my main gig while keeping a side focus on my business. On top of that, it’s important to have a partner with similar goals who will keep me focused.

Interestingly, that brief period of joblessness I mentioned reveals something about one way I might retire if I didn’t keep working. For a while, I just played games instead of doing any actual work. That’s not how I want things to go, so a big part of self-management means keeping myself busy with meaningful work. I do want some time to just mess around because I believe that’s just good for the soul, but not like it was.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress on my FBA Business, of course. Meanwhile, I’m looking at my next portfolio purchases. If I can’t find something suitable, I’ll just move more money into my SEP IRA while I can.

As always, let me know if you have any suggestions in that department.


Picking Products, Watching Stocks and Generally Hoping for the Best

I’m taking a break from cleaning my house to post an update on my recent activities, partially as a reward but also to help me get some of my thoughts down.

How do I ... business?

How business makes me feel.

This past week, I’ve been trying to choose a product to start my side business with. As I mentioned recently in my post on making money on the side, I am in the process of getting things rolling with Amazon FBA and, subsequently, an e-commerce business. Featured prominently in that post was Kermit as I was trying to make it clear that I am very green to the process from the business side, although I have spent years working with various e-commerce shops from the engineering side.

So the first step in any commerce-based business, as far as I can tell from what I’ve been studying, is to choose a product. Well, for some that may be easy, but for me picking products has been nearly impossible. There are so many things to choose from and I definitely don’t want to recreate the wheel here. I have a list of products I plan to start with and later I will narrow that down by setting up a score for each — essentially going with the product that I think will sell best while maintaining a decent profit margin, all while being something that I can pivot off of for similar products.

All the things on my list are of high quality, which is extremely important to me. As I mentioned previously, I wouldn’t want to sell anything to other people that I wouldn’t sell (okay, give) to my mother. That qualifier has sort of narrowed my list of possibilities way down, which is nice, but there are still hundreds to choose from. It could take forever.

This is exactly why I’ve given myself a deadline. I have to have chosen five products by this Monday. And that’s after choosing many and narrowing down the list based on a series of factors both of my own and sort of plucked from various posts and videos I’ve been watching. I don’t want to take forever on this. The next goal is to find a supplier for said products, foreign or domestic. Either way, it has to be done and soon!

Another interesting thing has been watching my individual stocks and comparing them to my index funds. Obviously there hasn’t been enough time to compare them in a meaningful way, but still — the index fund has been killing the individual stock selection. Luckily, I’m a buy and hold kind of fellow and won’t be selling my stocks any time soon.

Despite the downward trend my stock selections have already entered, I have transferred another $1,000 to Scottrade for some buys on Monday. That money is to take advantage of my free trades which, inconveniently, have an expiration date. For me, I see that as free money.

At this point, I don’t think I will invest more into the companies I already have. Once I have a decent selection, perhaps 10 or 15, I think I will do that but while I have 5, my plan is to diversify my selection a bit more. I don’t have a hard and fast rule here, it just feels like what I should do. Maybe some of you fine people can weigh in on this with your valued opinions.

For now, I should get back to work. This place needs to be clean before I go (I hate returning to a dirty house). For this next week, I will be out of town on a much-needed vacation so I’m not sure how often I’ll be posting, but rest assured I will be back to keep you posted on where I take my portfolio and my side business.

Learning the Ropes – Starting up my Brokerage Account

Hey guys. So I’m still focusing on building my side business this week, but I also don’t want to let my primary goals go either.

Today, I’ve been getting things set up for taxable investing. Last week, I set up a brokerage account with Vanguard for this very purpose and went through the trouble of transferring some money over only to learn that, for an account the size of mine, they only allow $7 trades for the first 25; after that, they become $20 each. So I decided to use Scottrade in the mean time while my Vanguard + Brokerage add up to more than $50,000. After that point, the trades become $7 each with no limit.

Once that happens, my plan is to consolidate everything over to Vanguard so that both my taxable and non-taxable accounts are there. Whether that will actually happen is up to future me and how much it will cost me. Ideally, it would be nothing since I’d want to hold on to the same stocks and such. Worst case, I can keep trading with Scottrade.

On the other hand, the reason I’d like to keep things with Vanguard is that once you have $500,000 with them, all trades become $2! I’m sure there’s something even more amazing out there, but for someone who’s as green as I am to stock trading, that seems like a pretty great deal.

And as some of you are probably paying close attention, you’ll note that I already have a brokerage account through Chase, but my plan is to also consolidate that. I hate having so many accounts all over the place. I’d rather have everything set up simply so there’s less for my simple mind to worry about.

All that being said, my account with Scottrade should be ready for funding this week and I should be ready to get things started with some dividend growth stocks. From what I’ve read recently, Coca Cola isn’t a bad one to start with, so I’ll probably go with that and a few other familiars just to get things rolling. I’m only starting with $2500, so I’ll probably invest in a handful of stocks in addition to KO (most likely borrowed from the amazing Dividend Growth blogs I follow). I’m still trying to come up with my own vetting process which, admittedly, is also largely borrowed from the blogs I read.

For those of you who I’ll be stealing from, please accept it as flattery more than outright theft! I just want to be more like you fine people.

I’ll probably update once things are actually set up and I’m ready to start buying, but while we’re on the subject…

Any recommendations for my first five or so stocks?

Any links to a checklist I should go over to vet each one before buying?

Any general advice?

Making Money on the Side

Yeah, I could used to this view.
Yeah, I could get used to this view.

You know what’s not easy? Making money on the side.

At least for me it isn’t. For the past few days I’ve been looking into a whole bunch of different business ideas, and I think I’ve stumbled on something that works.

Of course, I’ve tried things in the past and they worked okay I guess. Mostly, I dabbled in Internet Marketing a few years back and that … didn’t end well. Yes, I made money. That was the upside. But the downside was stress. Lots of stress. I was spending thousands of dollars just to churn out a couple hundred dollars or profit margin on the other side. In fact, that margin was always a moving target and knowing when to stop, say, a pay per click campaign became an art. It’s what I imagine day trading to be like, except on fast forward. On top of that, there was a nagging feeling that I was doing something wrong and so I stopped. Some of the things I was selling seemed to promise the moon without much substance.

I don’t ever want to be in a business that could possibly screw people over.

No, relax Kermit.
No! Relax, Kermit. Like I said, I’m not a monster.

So I’ve been focused on legitimate businesses, which are rightly more difficult to build and more prone to failure. That risk of failure is what scares me. Ideally, I’d like to build my own brand of something I wouldn’t mind selling to my mother. Er, well, I’d give it to my mother, but sell it to other people.

I’m not a monster.

For a long while, I’ve had a good name for a potential e-commerce business with not much more than a name to show for it. Mainly, that’s been because I wanted to either build products myself or find a supplier that made products I wouldn’t mind putting my name on. Well, building products myself has a steep learning curve, especially if I want to scale my business. It’s not out of the question, but I just don’t have the time.

After all, I haven’t become financially independent yet.

So, now it comes down to finding a supplier. Or two. You know, just to get things rolling. And that’s been the hardest part overall, because I just don’t know where to look. And from what I’ve read, wholesalers generally don’t want to get involved with those of us who are a little green behind the ears (only established businesses need apply). Jerks.

What I’ve been looking into this week is just the material I’ve been looking for to jump start that part of the business, so as you might imagine, I’ve been soaking it up like a sponge.

The next part is buying actual products that I can put either on an e-commerce site or even use Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) for, or … both!

Decisions, decisions.

I’ve read about people who do okay with Amazon FBA using arbitrage, but I don’t have time at this point for such low numbers. I’m really after higher numbers, which means I’m going to need to put more money into purchasing and branding up front. I’m convinced that building your own brand of quality products (that people already use) is the way to go. That way there’s no competition for the same product, which means higher profit margins. Then I could laser-beam focus on marketing while Amazon takes care of all the other things.

That's rude, Kermit.
Be cool, Kermit. You’re supposed to be my analogy for being new to something.

So, for now, I’m still trying to find products but at least I have a better idea of how to vet them. I feel closer now to the prize at the end of the rope because I’m not just going blindly about it anymore.

It’s sort of like having a mentor. Mentors, as it turns out, are super important. Having someone who knows the ropes and has gone through doing what you want to do will decrease the distance from start to success because they remove many of the unknowns, including the unknown unknowns! As much as I may know about programming, web application development, Internet marketing and the like, these are only pieces to a larger puzzle.

Generally, programmers aren’t exposed to the business side of the things they build. I know I’m not. So by the time I get to work on something involving, say, e-commerce, the real hard part has already been done so there is this illusion that it’s easy to get things going, when clearly … it is not.

I mean, programming isn’t super easy for everyone. I’m definitely not saying that. Actually, let’s throw an analogy at this thing. Those always work, right?

I’m not saying building cars is easy for everyone. I’m just saying that as well as an engineer or mechanic can put a car together, selling the car — especially in large quantities — is a different beast altogether. That’s why there are car commercials and pushy salesmen to deal with. You could have a lot of a million cars, but without someone selling the brand and the experience that is your car, they’re just going to sit there.

So branding and marketing are the missing pieces.

And brand-building is what I know virtually next to nothing about. That’s something I wasn’t aware of previously! First, that I needed to brand at all. I thought branding was optional — something you did once you were tired of eking out profit from selling other peoples’ already-popular product lines. Second, that  branding was important. I was also of the mind that you could just sell things sort of haphazardly and just build your name up (which is sort of branding), and people would trust you, the salesman, no matter what you sold.

Hey, I never said I was bright. And this stuff hasn’t really been my serious focus until now, so forgive me being green. It certainly isn’t easy.

Green Will Hunting. I'd watch it.
Green Will Hunting. I’d watch it.