Friday, October 30, 2015

Made in America and Sold by Americans

Something to think about when you are deciding whether or not you want to sell on line is explained in this post:

As an on-line seller, our biggest competitor is China, even if they don't sell what we sell, their postage discounts, that we as Americans, don't get affect all on line sellers I sell fairly frequently to the UK, Australia and Canada. My postage to send patterns to them is helping subsidize Chinese 'FREE SHIPPING' to the USA for a 99 cent gadget! Currently (October 2015) it runs me between $9-12+ to ship a small package internationally, while the Chinese may have to pay around $1.50! Something is wrong with this picture.

So understand that even if you don't sell to China or sell Chinese products, your sales will be affected by them and their postage discounts lovingly given to them by our Post Office. If you are selling Chinese made goods then you are getting a double whammy. Well you be able to charge enough to cover your costs of getting the goods and the shipping you will have to pay and still make your prices look good next to the Chinese listings of the very same thing? This is one of the reason that it is very important to research what you want to sell before you pay money to get it. If you purchase inventory and for say $5 a widget plus you will need $3 for shipping. Are there Chinese vendors selling the very same thing for $1.25 with FREE shipping? If so and you really want to sell this thing, what do you plan to do to make your products stand out? You will need exemplary titles, listings and photos. You will need A1 customer service which would include shipping within less than 24 hours (most Chinese goods take a week or two to get here). You will also need to promote like crazy.

If you still think that selling on line is an easy way to make money, just try listing a Chinese made good that they are also selling, slap up the listing without running spell check, take a fuzzy photo and sit back and wait for the money to NOT roll in. This is a case of you need to put more and extra effort into your selling.

One of the things I am trying to do is be sure my customers are buying American, and that is nothing against our allies like Canada, the UK, Australia and the EU. Many people want to buy American and you have to tell them that they are.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Cunningly Clever Entrepreneur

I always enjoy reading business books and especially finding that the author is on my wave length as I found in this book: Cunningly Clever Entrepreneur by Andrew Wood. I haven't gone to business school, I have only worked for businesses and have run my own business, Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts, I have learned by experience and also by the many books that I have read on starting and running your own business long before I ever had a business. My goal for years was to have a business that I could run from my own home. My goal with this blog is to help you learn how to avoid some selling on line errors and how to do the right thing so that your business will grow to where you want it to be.

On one of my early posts here, Begin How You Plan to End I talked about starting your business in the same way that you want it to be running when you sell it, die, or for whatever reason you no longer want to be in business. Having the end goal in mind keeps you focused so that you don't run into someone else's' goal and score the point for them. In Cunningly Clever Entrepreneur the author also states this same philosophy. To look ahead, make goals, measure those goals, market your product (and you will be surprised to learn what your product is!) and many other essential things that an entrepreneur needs to learn. I'm not quite half way through the book and I have already found some ideas that I could use. Instead of waiting until I had read the whole book, I instituted them today with my store Moonwishes Sewing and Crafts . I look forward to finding many more ideas that I can use as well.

Besides his actual points of advice, Wood also pushes the necessity of continuous learning. Reading or listening to audio tapes or watching videos all on different topics that will help you to achieve your goals for your business. I have never, in all the books on business that I have read, met up with any author that pushed the necessity of keep studying like he does, ..... and he is right. You should be able to find an entire steak dinner including desert  to 'chew' on while reading this book. If you can't find even one scrap, then you aren't looking hard enough or perhaps you don't have enough imagination and creativity to run a business. I love having my own business where I don't have to send all suggestions up to my boss where she takes it to her boss and then the idea I had that everyone else in the office loves gets tossed out for some idea that is completely different. My business, no committee. If I skin my nose it is my fault, but if I earn $$$$ from the idea I can take full credit as well. So many times when I suggest that people read and research before starting and jumping in with both feet into a business venture, they give the excuse of not having enough time or they don't read fast, or deep down they really just don't like to read. Those are all excuses for being lazy. Just because you want to sell on line doesn't mean that you shouldn't be prepared and continue learning so you will always get the best results. The internet is very fluid and you have to be able to respond to change in the middle of the day sometimes. Your knowledge base will help you do that efficiently.

Get this book and read it. You can borrow it for FREE using Kindle Unlimited if you are signed up for it, or you can buy it outright. Either way it is a must read! Please note that there are two authors at least with the name Andrew Wood, so be sure you have the right one! The links here will lead you to one of his books and just follow links at the book to his other offerings.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Working from home

While you may think before you start a home based business that it will be easy since you can work it around family activities, that isn't quite how it works. You will either find yourself buried in work or putting things off since the kids want to got out for lunch or to the park, etc. One of the main secrets of having a successful on line business, especially one conducted from home is organization.

Here is an interesting article that I received the other day and since the author says it better than I can, I will refer you to it instead of trying to paraphrase it. The name of the article is The Challenge of Working from Home 4 Steps to Focus . Just click on the article name to be taken to it. You might also want to sign up for their newsletter while there. Every website that has important information and you can see the potential for more, you should sign up for.

While I have always been an organized person, I have much more trouble keeping to a schedule of any kind these days as my health causes me to have many bad days out of the blue. But I try to focus on what is the most important thing for me to be doing. For me that is the on line stores I run, as well as . Then my crafting blog. After that comes my reading and review blog as well as this one. I don't purposely put off this blog, but as I don't earn anything from it and I do earn from my stores, that has to be where my concentration is. Eventually I want to be able to spend more time on my blogs and writing in general for pay since my health is only going downhill and eventually I won't be able to deal with packaging orders, etc. That will be a sad day.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Photos - What Not To Do.

One of the most important things to selling well on line is having decent photos of your inventory. Let this photo be your guide of the many things not to do. Too far away to see details, fussy so yet again you can't see details and for the life of me I don't know why anyone would use a barbeque grill as a staging area for taking photos of things, especially like this pattern that can be ruined (for re-sell purposes) with leftover grease from last night's hamburgers.

This photos was found on Amazon and does not fit the Amazon guidelines for photos either.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Bookkeeping and You

Much of my time in the past month or so has been taking up with sorting through piles of paper and doing taxes. Something I'm sure we all love to do. I got behind this year due to my poor health, but I decided that I'm not going in the direction any more. Losing and not tracking receipts can cost you money by making your income from being self-employed higher than it really was. Every year I try to find better ways of dealing with the paperwork involved with running 2 businesses that my husband has. It is tough. There is a lot to keep track of of the rules are ever changing.

When it comes to selling on line, or having your own business of any kind there are many things that you need to be aware of from the point of your own business being an idea in your head so that you can track expenses and then as you start selling, your income. While you may want an accountant or tax preparer to do your taxes, YOU need to be aware of the government rules  so that you save the proper paperwork to give to your tax person. They can't take a deduction for you is they don't have any paperwork showing that you paid for something.

Over the years on many forums I have seen many people that don't want to be bothered with tracking income and expenses because they don't think they are in a business, this is just a 'hobby' to them. However, what happens when that 'hobby' begins to take up 40 hours a week? It has gone past the point of a hobby and into the realm of being a job or your own business. Treating your hobby as a business from the beginning can help you keep more of your income because there are more deductions available to a business than to hobby income. The best thing to get is a current copy of IRS Publication 334 Read it. Don't understand it? Read it again. I have done my family's taxes for my entire adult life and I still have to read up on the rules and any changes. And yes, it is confusing but it doesn't mean you get a 'get out of jail free card' just because you don't understand the rules. The IRS doesn't care if you don't understand something, they expect you to follow the rules anyhow.

I'm not suggesting that you become an IRS expert, but that you understand the basics, such as what is considered an expense, what is income, and those sorts of things. Read through the Publication 334 paying special attention to chapters 6-8. Copy those pages out and go through them with a highlighter. Many rules are there for multi-million dollar companies and most of us who are making some money on line aren't probably going to get there, but we don't want to miss those deductions that we can take.

Now I'm taking my own advice and going back to my tax forms with 334 to be sure I did everything correctly.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Where Should I Sell On-Line?

Where you decide to sell on line can make a huge difference whether you make money or not. Some selling venues are much bigger than others and get more profit. If those sites charge you so much in fees, especially listing fees, you might end up working a long time before you receive any profit. I doubt anyone wants to learn the ins and outs of selling on-line only to pay out any funds received and walk away with nothing. Thus, it is VERY important that you research what type of venue might be the best for what you want to sell.

I strongly suggest that before signing up with any venue that you take the time to really study each one thoroughly. Read ALL the rules as you don't want to be suspended right out of the gate for trying to sell something that you shouldn't be. Just because one site allows a product, doesn't mean all sites permit it. Prior to signing up for eCRATER, I spent two weeks, reading their rules, reading their FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), and reading the forums that they have. On the forums, are pretty much all the other sellers grumpy and complaining or do they have a positive mindset? This can tell you a lot about a site. Are you seeing a lot of complaints about slow sales? See what the others are saying is the cause and try to figure out if those with the reasons for slow sales are correct. For those that are reporting good sales, they are the sellers that you want to go to their sites to see what they are doing differently than the other sellers. How come they are selling when nobody else apparently is?

Why is it so important to spend so much time in research? So you know what you are doing when you sign up and start your initial listing. Don't be the newbie I saw once that after signing up on eCRATER asked, "Who provided the product to sell and who did the shipping?" I may repeat this example frequently in this blog as that is the most extreme example of someone without a clue. Many others I have seen over the years come on board to sites and then ask questions that they should have known about before signing up such as fees. A selling venues fees can make or break a seller if they don't account for them in their pricing and if there are listing fees (fees charged on a monthly basis just to have items listed for sale on the site whether they sell or not) on top of FVF (Final Value Fees - usually based on a percentage of the selling price). When you add those to the fees from the payment processors like PayPal  and fees charged by e/postage sites such as Endicia or PayPal, you may be paying out much more than you bargained for. So be sure in your research that you know the fees. You also want to know what you get for those fees.

When you start sorting through the different on-line venues, note what each one emphasizes as important to a seller, such as how many photos are allowed. When I was looking for a new venue, I was impressed with eCRATER allowing 10 free photos compared to where I had been where only one photo was free and if you wanted more you had to pay more which is yet another way to nickel and dime you to death. One very big help in deciding where you might want to start researching first is on ecommercebytes, an on-line newsletter that reports daily what is going on in the world of on-line selling. One of the things that they do each year is a survey of sellers for the best venues. You can see the results of 2014's survey here. This is not an exclusive list of selling venues, but the top venues that are being used. If a site that you have found seems interesting and just right for you, don't despair that it isn't a good site; it just might not have gotten a head of steam yet to blow the other sites off the tracks. What is important is that you choose a site that you are comfortable with and seems to have what you need for the product that you have chosen to sell.

For some reason this year included Pinterest and Facebook as selling sites. I know that somehow Facebook can have a merchant component which I could never figure out, but I know for sure as a heavy Pinterest user, that you can't technically buy or sell there. You can only present your goods there and hope that buyers will click through to your store. I have had sales directly attributed to Pinterest so I urge sellers to use it. Facebook is another story for me as I find it gets clunky to use so except for keeping track of friends and family I don't do much with it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't. I live with a chronic health problem that saps my energy and I can only do so much. But if you have the time and energy, go for promoting your goods on all social media that you can find.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

What to Sell On-Line

What to Sell????

What to sell is hopefully a question you have asked and thought about before jumping into the ocean of on-line selling. I have seen newbies signing up for stores and then coming to the forum to ask what will they sell, who will get them the products to sell and who will ship them. Obviously, they aren’t ready to sell themselves. Selling on-line involves YOU sourcing products to selling, YOU listing them, and if they sell, YOU packaging them and sending them on their way. I have heard of some sellers only having 1-2 items for sale but a vast supply of them and that is how they earn their living, but those are rare cases. You also have to be aware that if you have a goal of selling 60 items a month, you need more than 40 items in your inventory even if you have some multiple quantities of goods. I would estimate that even with the best goods at decent prices, to have 60 orders per month you will need between 600-6000 items inventory if not more. It depends highly on where you are selling and the kind of promoting of your goods that you are doing.

Some sellers open their stores with 2-10 items to ‘see’ how they do before ‘wasting’ time listing more. On the eCRATER forum when use the analogy of the internet being a large ocean and your store and the amount goods in them as a drop of water if not less than a drop of water. If you want to sell on line, you have to be found and with only a couple items for the search engines to find, you are going to be practically invisible. When I first started selling on eCRATER, as I worked towards listing my first thousand items I got a sale every couple of weeks and as I passed 2000, 3000, 4000 items in inventory, etc. my sales got more and more consistent as I was being found by way of searches and other promoting I was doing. I also was selling a product that people wanted. That is what you want and need to do. You may want to sell worn out kids t-shirts for rags, but you will need some kind of hook to get interest and you shouldn’t expect too much in sales.

So think hard about what you want to sell. This should be something that you know you about and can find good quantities of, something that people will want or that they need, and something with a decent price that will make you a profit. You shouldn’t really be going to all this work just to make a $1. Minimal profits shouldn’t be your goal at least not in my opinion because it is possible to make much bigger amounts than that.

In an effort to promote eCRATER and bring in more sales, I have been pinning items for sale on eCRATER ( from sellers other than myself on an eCRATER board. As I do this I have become amazed at the many different things that people will attempt to sell on-line. Those items that I have pinned all have sellers behind them that have sold items on eCRATER. Checking out this board will hopefully give you an idea of the vast amount of items that can be sold.
I’m no expert on where people get their inventory, but I know some get it from yard/garage sales, thrift stores, want ads, store markdowns, wholesalers and many other places. I would caution you that it is considered bad form to ask others where they get their products. That is like asking someone to give away their trade secrets so someone else can make the money instead of them. The important thing is, until you are actively selling and seeing how well you are doing, you don’t want to dump a bundle of money on stuff that won’t sell. I started out small with my own items being sold and as I made money I increased my inventory of goods to sell so that currently I have close to 75-100 boxes of inventory. I can coast for years without buying another bit of inventory since I have such a backlog of product. There are some consequences of having so much inventory, which is why many stores having inventory reduction sales near tax time. But for me, I’m disabled and it is hard for me to get out and source goods, so knowing I have a backlog is money in the bank for me.

So what are your interests and what do you want to sell? Is anyone else selling it? Do they seem to be doing well? How are the prices? Do you think you could sell the same thing only better? Think about and research where you can find sources and what it will cost you. Hopefully you can find something to sell that interests you and you already know about. I sell sewing patterns and I see many others selling sewing patterns but at least half of them don’t have a clue what they are doing.  Till next time, put that thinking cap on and do some research.