Note from the Bros: Edmund is one of the most knowledgeable importers out there. He spoke with our advanced importing group and blew them away with his importing hacks, wealth of information, and epic stories from building his businesses. We begged him to share this information with our readers. The following post is the result of that begging: a collection of hard-won information that only comes with experience.
Thank you, Edmund. We’re lucky to have you!
-Kyle & Will
Starting an importing business can be incredibly overwhelming. There’s tons of obstacles to overcome: finding the right product, customs confiscations, scam suppliers – and that’s just the beginning…
Sending your money overseas can feel like you are sending it into the abyss never to be seen again. Trust me, I know. I have lost a TON of money learning lessons the hard way – and I’m going to show you how to AVOID MY MISTAKES.
It’s actually extremely easy to do and a fun way to make a great living. I know you have heard a million gurus pitch you this nonsense before… why should you listen to me?
Simply put, I’ve already made a ton of money with the knowledge I’ve shared.
I own a multi-million dollar importing company and a multi-million dollar fashion production and design house, both based in China. But most importantly… I am slightly shy of completely retarded, which means 99.9% of the people reading this post are smarter than me and can easily do exactly what I have done. It just takes a little elbow grease.
Without further adieu, let’s get to it:
In this post you’ll learn
- How to Find a profitable product
- How to Use Amazon and Ebay to research products
- How to find suppliers in China
- How to contact a supplier in China
- How to get samples (sometimes free)
- How to place your first order
- How to transfer money safely
- How to insure you get what you ordered.
How to find a product?
This is my go to product finding and money making formula
First off check out Amazon Best Sellers or Top Sellers and Check eBay completed listings, pick a category or product that interest you ( I suggest going for something where you do not need to be a name brand to sell for example: Home Improvement, Kitchen Utensils / Appliances, Clothing, Phone Accessories)
Then look through the top sellers and put the products into 1 of 3 categories.
- Product I can improve
- Product I can piggyback on
- Product I can private label
Lets look at these One by One
Go look at what products are selling and check out the comments, what are people complaining about. Quality, Design, Color, Etc, there are a million things people complain about with a product.
I click on the 1 star, 2 star, and 3 star reviews like below:
So after reading the comments I found a lot of comments saying…
‘Blah Blah Blah, it stopped working’… I saw this comment at least 75 times
Improving the quality of this would not be difficult. Later I will show you how to do this and where we can find this bad boy.
Another option is piggybacking on an already existing product, so creating a product that assist you in using an already existing product or helps to make it better
Some great examples from Tim Ferriss’ blog.
How can you do this? Easy…. Go to Amazon / Ebay / Google a million places you can do this and then follow this formula.
- Search a product that you like (We will stick with the magic bullet blender)
- Click on the reviews (same as before, but this time any reviews are good)
- Hit Comand F
- Search the following phrases ( Wish, Want, Hope, Too Bad, Don’t) phrases such as this.
- See what people are asking for
This is what I found with the magic bullet:
First I started looking for the term ‘wish’ and then I noticed a lot of people were making smoothies, so then I searched ‘smoothie’ and BAM!! A ton of people are making smoothies with this product…. So why not make a smoothie recipe book specifically for Magic bullets.
Not saying this is the most genius idea ever, but the point of this is to show you that researching ideas can be easy and pretty fun as well. I am not sure I would personally be into making a smoothie recipe book, but I think there is a huge market for it from what I have seen and you can find people on Alibaba or any of the other sites listed above that would gladly print them up for you cheaply.
Private Label/White Label
The last thing I look at is Private label or white label options. Amazon and eBay have a lot of competition, so products like the magic bullet might have hundreds of sellers.
How can you stand out? Easy… Just change the name, it will be listed in the same product category, but instead of being listed in a group of 20 + sellers you will be listed in your own little category. 🙂
This immediately sets you apart from the competition and as I will show you in a minute, making a private label, white label, oem (whatever the kids are calling it these days) is REALLY easy.
Let’s find some products:
Below are the sites that I always use and trust:
Taobao.com (in Mandarin so can be difficult to navigate)
I suggest taking your time and exploring all of these sites, so that you can understand the pluses and minuses of each.
Let’s go back to our magic bullet idea and see what we can come up with.
I found a bunch of these guys on Alibaba in about 2 seconds (See Below)
Click the contact supplier link on the right side, if it is your first time you will have to register, but it is super easy. After that it will take you to a screen like this.
Use this template for your emails, it is to the point and easy to understand:
Hope you are having a great day. I have a few questions:
1. What is the MOQ for the Mini Blender
2. What is the cost per piece at this MOQ
3. Can you do OEM?
4. What is the OEM MOQ, only change woudl be a simple logo.
5. What is the OEM cost to add a logo to blend and box.
Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to working with you.
Send this out to at least 10 or 15 suppliers and then sit and wait….
Just KIDDING! Go find more products! I usually try to keep these organized in excel.
[Also check out our step-by-step guide to product selection.]
Once you have communicated with the supplier and discussed things like MOQ, whatever changes you may want to make to the product, pricing and shipping, then it is time to get a sample.
Things to know about samples:
1. Samples usually come from a batch ordered by a previous client. So if you get a sample that you love and you tell the factory that you want to order ‘the same thing’, you could receive a product the varies to a small or LARGE degree from the sample in your hand. Why?
Well, because the factory may or may not know exactly, which sample that you have in your hand and this sample was based off of another clients specs.
Takeaway: Make sure you always have clear specs and a sales agreement before ordering any product.
2. OEM products can be hard to make! Do not just assume a factory can make what you are looking for sometimes it takes several samples and revisions for me to get exactly what I want from the same factory. This often depends on the factories skill level and the extent of my customizations to the product. OEM samples can range from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars, but the upfront cost will outweigh any issues you may have down the line, by not getting a sample made.
Takeaway: If you are doing OEM, ALWAYS get a sample
3. You almost always have to pay for samples. You definitely have to pay for OEM samples and depending on the price tag on the item you may have to pay for standard samples as well. However, if you sweet talk them a bit and the product is in the $10- $75 range you may be able to get a free one, but you will definitely have to pay for shipping.
Takeaway: You always pay shipping fees on samples
4. Get samples from several suppliers. This is important, because you need to qualify your suppliers and you do not want to get stuck in the all to common game of ‘I have spent months working with this supplier trying to get it right and it is too late to turn back now’. That is a terrible situation and puts the supplier in the drivers seat to lower quality and jacking up the price because he knows he has you by the neck. Get samples from many suppliers and do not stop until you find one that you love! This also give you several options incase you ever need to find another supplier and also has your suppliers competing against one another for your business.
Takeaway: Get samples from multiple suppliers and let them compete.
5. Record your samples. Take a picture, label and date your sample. Always keep a record of where and when you got a sample from a supplier. This will become a library of useful information that you can use in the future. Maybe this is not the right supplier now, but he could be later. Also, if there is a non compliance issue in the future you can use this sample as evidence of the quality you had ordered.
Takeaway: Keep your samples and log them.
It may sound boring and ‘too serious’, but get one. Believe it or not the legal system in China is quite strong and most of the problems that do arise are from newbies, lazy people, or stupid people, who do not get a proper sales agreement and confirmed sample. I
if something does go wrong, these two things will be your defense against anything the factory might say to the contrary and I assure you that 99% of factories do not want to go to court over a signed sales agreement because they will lose! Here is an awesome FREE sales agreement that you can use to get started.
Transferring money can be done in a number of ways. Some really safe, some pretty safe, and then some just outright stupid ways.
Paypal: With paypal you have the ability to dispute charges, especially when they do not deliver goods or do not deliver what you agreed upon. Furthermore, it is much cheaper than buying a plane ticket to China so that you can go through the legal system.
Credit Card: Same as above
Alipay: The paypal of Asia, extremely safe way to transfer money, but you need a Chinese bank account to open it, the easiest way to do this is open up an HSBC account.
Bank Transfers: When you start making larger orders you will most definitely have to do a TT or Wire Transfer. This is the standard way of transferring money and typically factories are not looking to rip people off, but it does happen. I only say ‘pretty safe’ because if something does go wrong, your bank cannot actually get your money back, but it can be used as a good tool should you have to go to court.
Pro Tip: Make sure you put your PI (purchase invoice) and basic terms in the little box that says ‘What is this transfer for’ when you transfer your money.
Western Union: Anyone can pick up this money as long as they have an ID and the transfer # that you provide them. Fake ID’s can be bought on every corner in China not to mention that it is extremely corrupt, so bribing someone without an ID would not be very hard to do either.
How to get what you ordered
1. Use a sourcing company: Sourcing companies take care of everything from finding the product, inspecting the product, transferring money, and shipping.
2. Use an inspection company: Inspection companies are independent companies that will inspect your order and send you a VERY detailed report about your goods before they leave the factory. I always use this company
And that’s pretty much it kids! Only thing left to do is ship and you can easily do that with Fedex or DHL, they can help you fill out all of the paper work and the DHL website has a TON of free resources that can help answer most of your questions.
Hope you all enjoyed and KICK ASS with your importing career, if you make lots of money then you can buy me a drink sometime, somewhere 🙂
[If you feel you need more info to get started, check out Will’s famous step-by-step guide.]
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The Ultimate Guide to Importing from Alibaba and Learning How to Sell on Amazon