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.
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!
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.
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.