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This post is a follow-up to How You Can Make Big Money Importing From China – The Rise and Fall of My Empire

In my last post, I showed you all how you can create your own importing business on the side. I got an overwhelming amount of positive feedback and great questions from that article, and I can’t explain how much I appreciate it – thank you all!

But ultimately, my last article did not go far enough in showing you how to get started…

Where I Failed

Too many products

Though my last article did help a lot of people, I got a TON of questions from readers asking how to find a good product to sell. Out of all of the questions I got, 90% of them must have been asking for help with some part of the product selection and buying process.

What this means is that I failed to explain this part of the process well enough in my last post; which is terrible, because that is the most important part!

Though I answered everybody’s questions as well as I could, there were undoubtedly many confused people who did not have the time to email me or comment.

I decided to put all the responses I sent to fellow entrepreneurs together and craft them into a (hopefully) beautiful Step-by-Step guide, which you should all know by now I love.

Featured Video:
Click here to watch video

So without further ado, here is the Step-by-Step Guide on How To Find a Profitable Product To Sell…

Step 1: Prepare – What’s a Good Product?

If you haven’t read my previous post on importing, I would highly suggest doing that before going any further, as it really ties the whole concept together.

After you’ve done that, you can move on…

Done? Alright.

Now what we have to do is understand what I actually mean when I say “product”

I talked to one person who asked me if I thought he would make money if he sold towels…

That is not what I meant when I said product! So let me explain…

What’s a product?

When I first started my importing business, that “big niche” kind of thinking caused me to lose money hand over fist.

Every “niche” I tried I lost money in. Samples were causing me a fortune and it seemed that the only way out was to quit.

In a desperation move, I started only buying products I was selling consistently and making money on. What I discovered was that there was no profitable “niche” per se, but many profitable products!

You see, you need to be looking for a single profitable product to sell, not a profitable product niche to operate in. If you are looking for a profitable product niche, you are never going to be looking for the right thing. You are going to be completely overwhelmed from the beginning looking at mountains of data that are not at all relevant to what you’re trying to do.

The one exception to this is if you want to create a brand and branch out. But even then, you probably still want to start with one product, the one that will be your most profitable.

If you are trying to make some nice easy side income for yourself, then you don’t need to worry about branding or branching out into new products yet. All you need to worry about is finding a single profitable product to sell, and selling it.

What makes a good product?

Now that you know you are only looking for one single product to sell, you need to know a few things about what qualifies a product to be “good”.

There is a specific sweet spot that you should be looking for.

I would suggest you read over the following list a couple of times before moving forward, and really grasp all these points and why I put them there.

Good products are…

selecting good products to sell

 

  • Small and light enough to be easily picked up – The bigger and heavier it is, the more it costs to ship both in and out (not to mention any returns and storage). I’ve never tried dealing with any product I can’t easily pick up, so I can’t suggest you do…
  • Specific, niche products (usually) – Again, you aren’t going to be selling things like “Necklaces” or even “Clock Necklaces”. You want to find one specific product, like “Silver Owl Pendant Clock Necklace”.
  • Selling to consumers for $15-200 – I am sure there is plenty of money to be made in products over this range, but it is going to take a lot of capital to get started. You can certainly try, just know it’s just going to be riskier. Most items under $15 are even tougher, as most markets don’t have enough volume to create any sizable revenue. Furthermore, any markets that do have volume under $15 are typically going to be run by big importers who can work on low margins.
  • Consistent stream of buyers – You want something that is going to sell consistently all year long and for the foreseeable future. So don’t get into iPhone 2 cases just because you got a great price – that product will have an ever decreasing base of buyers. You also don’t want to get into super seasonal stuff, like Halloween Costumes or Christmas Ornaments
  • Selling for twice as much as your buy price – I would not even look at a product with less than a 100% markup, which is a 50% margin. That means if I cant double the price, I am not looking at it. I suggest you use your worst estimates here, which I’ll explain further below.

Bad products are…

Bad Products

 

  • Mechanical and demand high quality standards and great warranties – Hoping this one is self-explanatory, but you definitely don’t want to be dealing with things like table saws, hydraulic lifts, and manufacturing machinery. That is just a headache waiting to happen (probably much worse than a headache though…)
  • Sold at Wal-Mart or Best Buy – If you are thinking about a product that is being imported by GIANT retailers, you are missing the point. We are trying to find a single deep-niche item with consistent buyers that we can undercut the current selling prices on. This is the best way to reduce risk.
  • Fragile and require perfect shipping practices – Not a headache, but a nightmare waiting to happen.
  • Have multiple “Powersellers” already selling large volume – If you are thinking about doing something like headphones, you don’t want to pick the headphones that have 10 powersellers who sell thousands of units a month already. These are businesses built to run on eBay, and you won’t be able to compete with them. You need to find products that don’t have a ton of sellers, but the ones there are selling consistently. Don’t let a little competition discourage you, but also don’t try to start selling socks and be able to compete with the 20 companies on eBay already selling 20,000 socks a month factory direct. You gotta get more out of the box.
  • Trademarked and will get you sued – Don’t buy anything with any trademark on it. This means counterfeit purses and wallets, as well as Snoopy and Twilight toys. Anything with big US trademarks on it won’t get you too far.

Note that these are just my recommendations based on how I wanted my importing business to run. I am sure there is money to be made in products that break every rule set above, but I can only help readers with what I know works from my experiences.

Even when I was making a fortune importing airsoft guns, there were only a couple of products I made good money on. I could only make money on metal gearbox electric rifles and bolt action sniper rifles. I tried multiple times to get into accessories, pistols, tactical gear – pretty much everything I could think of. I could only compete on eBay and Amazon with a few specific products, and I made a KILLING with just those.

Notice that even the products I didn’t have success with fit perfectly into all of my requirements I listed above. The list above is just a framework to guide your thinking, a set of filters to run your ideas through before researching to save time.

You will still have to get your hands dirty with some data to know what products might actually make you money, so let me attempt to show you how I do it…

Step 2: Research – How To Find Good Products

Top 3 Product research tactics working right now

Now that you know what makes a good product and have something to guide your thinking, let’s start our search.

Tools you’ll need

  • Alibaba – Your new best friend. This is where you will find product listings from overseas suppliers. At this point you are using it to check prices. You’ll be using it more after you find some good products, but for now we’re just checking price.
  • eBay – The best place I have found to get an idea of what products are selling for. Right now you’ll be using eBay to get an idea of the volume and price point we could sell the product you’re researching.
  • Amazon – Another great place to see what products are selling for and if you can compete with them. I put eBay above this because eBay gives me a better idea of what percentage of the product listings are selling and at what price. Amazon is also awesome for browsing around and coming up with ideas to research and expand on.
  • Etsy – I actually never sold on Etsy, but I have had at least 20 people email me with products they found selling on Etsy for $20+ more than they could get them on Alibaba. I think Etsy is still relatively untapped by importers and thus a good place to look into if you’re using this method.
  • This spreadsheet I made for you – This is a simple spreadsheet I use to keep track of different products I find while on my search, and I suggest you do the same. I usually try to find 5-10 good products before pulling the trigger on samples. You’ll see 5 niches I found for this post on there for examples.

Open up all of these links, because you’ll be jumping around all of them in your search.

Things to keep in mind while searching

  • Alibaba search filters – When searching for products or suppliers on Alibaba, always make sure you have the “Gold Supplier” button checked. This will save you from most of the low quality suppliers and scammers. Gold Suppliers Only!
  • eBay search filters – When searching for products on eBay, always make sure you have the “Completed Listings” button checked. This will allow you to see what prices things are selling at and how frequently they are selling.eBay Completed Listings
  • What you’re looking for – You’re looking for good products that you can mark up at least 100% in your worst estimates. Don’t forget what makes a good product and what makes a bad product with the list in Step 1. If you find a product that fits all the characteristics of a good product, and you’re able to mark it up 100% in your worst estimates, then add it to the list. By “worst estimate”, I mean using the worst case scenario buying and selling prices in your calculations.

Start searching…

Unfortunately, it is tough for me to describe exactly how I find products, because it is such a loose process (and it should be for you too).

Just so you can see how loose this process is for me, here is my search history while I was searching for the products I listed in the spreadsheet you should have opened above. I also marked the products that ended up being possible winners…

Belt buckle, Bottle opener belt buckle, Las Vegas belt buckle, Texas belt buckle, Military riot helmets, Children’s toothbrush holder, Picture cube, Photography light box, Photography mini studio kits, Survival Cards, Folding credit card survival knife, Knife, Steak knife, Stainless steel serrated steak knife, Vintage, Cat magnets, Super magnets, Magnet putty, Glow in the dark magnetic super space putty, Hair scissors, Baby bath, Bath sets, Mineral bath salts, Lighter, Blowtorch lighter, Windproof lighter, Kids instruments, Jewelry scale, Gold testing kit, Party lights, Incense holder, Novelty toy, Shock toy, Hiking boots, Wedding decor, Decorative pillows, Guitar picks, Vintage lighting, Pet bedding, Pet toys, Umbrella storage, Umbrella cover, Hair apron umbrella

As you can see, there is not a whole lot of sense to be made out of that. I found good niches, but the path to them is always pretty hard to understand.

Here are some of the ways I came up with ideas for things to search during my process…

  • Looking at random objects around me and trying to think of some spin (belt buckle, kids instruments, guitar picks)
  • Thinking of things that have been trending up in recent years (photography light box, survival cards, vintage)
  • Thinking of little impulse buys people consistently buy (cat magnets, incense holder, novelty toy, shock toy, pet toys)
  • Randomly clicking around eBay/Amazon/Etsy (picture cube, lighter, party lights, decorative pillows, wedding decor)
  • Thinking of something randomly while looking at search results (pretty much everything else)

If you are still having trouble coming up with random product ideas, you can also look at any of these for inspiration – Amazon Best Sellers, Amazon Movers & Shakers, mySimon Top Searches, Shopzilla Top Searches, Kaboodle Hot Picks

It took me about 90 minutes to go through the above process and find 5 possible products, averaging just under 20 minutes per product. You should expect it to take a little over that if you don’t have much experience with this.

Once you have a few products on your spreadsheet, take a second to really think about each product and compare them against the things I’ve said above.

Will you product have a high refund rate? Will it be expensive to ship? Will it only be bought 1 month of the year? Will people expect it to work flawless for years on end? Will people expect great customer support and education?

These are all things we want to avoid with this particular method, and now is the time to double check and be sure you don’t have any bad products on your list.

Once you have decided on 2-5 products to try out, you get to find suppliers and buy samples (the fun part!)

Step 3: Buy – How To Find and Test Suppliers

Download the proven step by step supplier negotiation
Now we are going to search for and contact 3-10 good suppliers for each of our products.

A lot of the people that messaged me with questions were intimidated by contacting sales representatives – don’t be!

They are there for no other reason than to answer your questions, so please feel free to ask the suppliers you contact anything! I assure you they have heard it all.

Before you start

I would suggest making an alternate email address before contacting any suppliers, and making sure that you run all Alibaba communications through that inbox. If you don’t, then expect to be spammed with random product offering for the next 2-5 years from everybody you contact.

Finding & Contacting Suppliers

Here is what I would do, using “Stainless steel serrated steak knife” as an example.

  1. Search for your product on Alibaba with the correct filters – At this point we will want to switch our search settings and look for “Suppliers” rather than “Products” and search for our product. Start by filtering by “Gold Suppliers” (which you already should have checked), and keep clicking “Onsite Checked”, “Assessed Supplier”, and “Escrow” until you are down to 10-20 suppliers. If there is still a lot after that, that’s fine. Just try to find a way to narrow it down the the very best with 10-20 you can contact.Alibaba Product Filters
  2. Write a generic message asking for the information you need – Now just write a generic message that you’ll be sending to each supplier in Notepad or something. Here is the one I will be sending for this example – I suggest stealing this one and adding anything you might need or want to know. This means anything specific about your product, or anything you are confused about and want to know more about.

    Hello,I am starting a company and may be needing a large supply of Stainless Steel Serrated Steak Knives. Could you send me your price list for these Stainless Steel Serrated Steak Knives, along with any shipping and payment information you can give me. Also, could we work something out regarding a sample being sent to me? Products will be going to Florida, USA. And what would the MOQ be after the samples?

    Thanks,
    Will

  3. Send generic messages to suppliers – Now just go down the list of suppliers and click “Contact Suppliers”. Copy & paste your message into the box, send it, and wait for the responses. You should start seeing replies within a couple of hours.Contact Suppliers
  4. Decide on which suppliers to buy samples from – Within 24 hours you should have replies from most of the suppliers you emailed. You probably only want to deal with the ones that email back quickly. At this point, you will want to “dry-run” each supplier and get a feel for how it is to do business with their company. Most of your communication from here will be through email or Alibaba messaging. Your first response from them will likely contain a few price sheets, product specs, as well as responses to your questions. As you are trying to message at least 5-10 suppliers, you should get a good idea of the high/low prices for your product. This information combined with your gut feeling on the supplier through talking with them should get you down to 2-3 suppliers you like well enough to buy samples from and test to see if you can actually make money.
  5. Buy samples – Like I said above, through your conversations with the suppliers you contact you should whittle it down to 2-3 suppliers you are comfortable doing business with and want to buy samples from. This usually happens through email as well – You’ll tell them what products you want sent to what address, they’ll tell you how much it will cost and where to send the money, you send the money and tell them that it’s sent. Expect the shipping alone on your sample to cost $25-45. I would only do business with companies that take orders through PayPal or Escrow. Any other way than that and you are risking being scammed and have absolutely no financial protection in your order.
  6. Sit and wait for your samples to arrive – It will usually take 7-20 days for your order to arrive. This part sucks.

Additional questions I got on this step…

Are the details on the product listings such as Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) concrete?

The minimum order suppliers list on Alibaba is generally not concrete, and most of the time represents their average or desired order size. There is no way to know for sure without messaging the suppliers directly, which is why I message 10-20 initially.

In my experience, overseas factories will go through many hoops to work with you on order sizes, unless they are a MASSIVE factory that only ships via sea. If they use normal air shipping at all, they shouldn’t mind sending out even a single item via air (which is what they do with samples anyways).

Again, some items will be different than others. For instance I looked into selling LED lighting that attaches to the sides of buildings, and the margins looked great, but the MOQ ended up being somewhere around $5,000 of lights due to the purpose of the item (to run down entire high rise buildings). I skipped over that one.

Another option is AliExpress.com, Alibaba’s site for smaller orders. You will get much better prices on Alibaba if you are willing to put in the effort to communicate with suppliers, but AliExpress is always an option.

 When using these express carriers, are their quotes typically adding in the customs tariffs? Or will there be another unexpected charge when they arrive in country?

Just make sure they are sending via EMS, TNT, DHL, UPS, FedEx, etc to your house and you shouldn’t have any issues. The samples will likely be sent the same way your future orders will be sent, so getting the sample is good to try that out as well.

I haven’t really run into any additional fees when shipping via air, the supplier has almost always taken care of shipping flawlessly for me. I am sure there may be some exceptions, so I would ask your supplier before they ship. But really, I think you’ll be safe unless you’re importing something really strange, like food or plants or iron ore or something

 When comparing items on selling sites and Alibaba, is it important to find the same brands? Does it need to be the same manufacturer? Can I just find a comparable product and try to sell it?

It really depends on the product, but it would be prime if you could find the same exact products that are selling already, because then you can list your items directly on the sellers page for a product that is already selling itself. However, you could easily take a different brand of the same product and sell them on eBay or any other channel, because you know people are buying a similar item. Then it just comes down to positioning your product well.

In the light bulb example, I found the exact bulbs that were selling for a very healthy markup. That is ideal, but even if it were a different brand, light bulbs are pretty generic and people likely buy all sorts of different kinds all over the place. It would be safe to say I could even make a new listing with new bulbs and spend a small amount on advertising the listings and come away with a very healthy profit.

Is there a trick to finding products that sell without being branded? Maybe certain niches where brand name means less (or nothing at all)?

The reason airsoft guns worked were because nobody cares about the brand. People go on to buy a cool airsoft gun for themselves or their kids, not look for a brand name airsoft gun. Brand name airsoft guns are a completely separate niche, and I couldnt have dreamed of competing there. You have to find an area where the brand doesnt matter.

Is there a way to know the exact current volume of sales before choosing a product to sell?

I just count how many are sold in a given week on eBay, that will usually let you know a ballpark amount. Take note of the ratio of sold vs unsold listings for your product. Short of that you can watch Amazon pages to see if listings pop up and drop off, but eBay is going to be best for volume predictions as you can see that data. Amazon usually has a “#1,202 in X Category” indicator too, so you can at least compare items with Amazon too.

How much to buy at first

How should I negotiate with my supplier? How did you?

It really depends on your relationship with your supplier. You will usually find yourself talking with one person 95% of the time, so you will slowly become friends with them. It is a weird relationship, you both know that business is cut throat, but you are partners in it and will help each other as far as you can. Asian business is really different than in the US.

Whenever I negotiated prices with a supplier, it was very informal and very laid back. I would usually just email them along with my normal email saying something along the lines of “I have another factory offering me this product at $0.50 per unit lower than you, I may have to move to them for this specific product”, or “If you can give me $0.50 off per unit, I can sell X number of units more for you per month”, or “I am starting to do a lot more volume with you, do you think we could talk about lowering the product or shipping prices in order to account for these recent bulk orders”.

Sort of contrary to popular belief, they are extremely friendly, and will genuinely try to help you as long as they are making something on the other end. They really believe in Karma over there, that helping you may help you help them in the future, so why wouldn’t they?

I also haggled a lot on specific orders, so I would sometimes email or skyped him saying hey, I have an order lined up for 5 of this item, but they want it at this price. If you can give me this price on these, I can sell them right away. This worked really well for me to feel out what the actual cost of sale was for the factory and something to work towards.

How does escrow work?

The Alibaba Escrow service (or whatever service you want to use) consists of you sending the payment for your order to a third party (Alibaba in this case) who will hold the money until you tell them that you have received the order and it is to your satisfaction. At that point, they release the funds to the seller. If you arent satisfied with the order, you can basically dispute the transaction and get a refund. It may a little bit safer than PayPal, but normally I still try to use PayPal anyways.

How long does it take to find a good supplier?

Now, I could probably find a good supplier in a day or two, just because I know what to look out for now (most of which is included in the post). To find a perfect supplier like my airsoft supplier is a little more difficult, and requires some time and luck. You usually have to work with a few good suppliers to find a perfect one. Really, I don’t know how much of it is “finding” one as opposed to just developing a great relationship with a great factory. I often forget that many people over there are just as entrepreneurial and ambitious as I am, if not more. Find a great factory, and work with them to build your business. Once you have constant cash coming in, they will really start to help you out, because helping you increase your sales also increases theirs.

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Step 4: Sell – How To Sell Your Product

Once you finally have your hands on your samples, deeply examine them and see how they are.

Is the quality what you expected? Do any areas look cheap? Are there any things that are missing? Does anything look like it will fall apart after some heavy use? Is the packaging quality up to par? Is there anything at all that would cause a customer to not be happy with this if he ordered it from you?

These are all things you need to ask yourself. If you decide that your samples are at least high enough quality to sell (most products don’t need to be perfect), then I still recommend doing one more thing before you start buying in bulk…

The importance of testing the waters

I once thought I had an awesome niche in a certain type of bed cover. I bought my samples and got up to this point in the guide, impressed with the quality of the sample bed covers.

But instead of testing the waters and listing/selling my samples online, I immediately put in a bulk order…

A few weeks later I got my huge box full of 100 sets of bed covers. I jumped on my computer excited as ever and then started listing my bed covers…

I immediately sold 5 on the first night and shipped them out the following day. I thought I hit a gold mine.

After a week of solid sales, I started getting feedback from customers. It was HORRIBLE! Every single piece of feedback was basically hate mail.

Turns out the colors on my bed covers were running in the wash and not only ruining the designs, but in some cases more of the customers clothes.

I immediately stopped selling the covers, but not before the damage was done. I took a huge hit on my eBay feedback that would have gotten most accounts banned; as well as a hit on my bank account and pride when I had to throw away over 75 bed covers and refund all customers.

That is how I learned to always sell your samples first before putting in a bulk order, and I strongly suggest that you limit your risk and do the same.

How to sell your samples

This part should be pretty easy for you, but here is a quick overview to help.

  • List your product on eBay, Amazon, and/or Etsy – You’re going to want to set up a sellers account if you don’t have one, and then list you samples. The way I do this on is just looking at the “Completed Listings” for my product that have sold the most in the past couple months, and then rewriting their copy. On Amazon it is even simpler than that, you just list a price and quantity. You usually won’t make a profit on your samples, you are only selling them to test everything out. Don’t get hung up on this part too much, just get your products up and selling and wait to see if you make sales. If you aren’t making sales, start comparing your item to ones that are and figure out why they aren’t.
  • Ship out orders – Obviously if you start getting orders you are going to want to send out your samples. All you have to do is take it to the post office or whatever with the product and address.
  • Wait and evaluate – You should soon enough start getting some feedback on your products. If you get good feedback, awesome! If you get back feedback or refund requests, not good. If you had to drop your price below what you thought you could sell at, maybe not good. If you didn’t sell anything and still have your samples, definitely not good. You guys will know if you want to move forward or not.

Additional questions I got on this step…

How do you handle returns and warranty?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to eat the costs on any returns at this point. Ideally you want to find a product that doesn’t have a huge return rate or high demands on quality in general. If you did that correctly, you should never run into any issues with returns outside of a 1-2% refund rate. But yes, you do have to eat the cost on all refunds and returns, and I suggest you do so happily to keep your eBay/Amazon/Etsy feedback scores high.

If one starts with a fresh email account on eBay/Amazon, does it take long before someone actually buys one of your items?

It was surprisingly easy to get started with very few feedback, that was one of my concerns though. If you are really worried, you can either a) sell some small things b) buy some stuff or c) buy an account with feedback. I’d recommend them in that order if you find it a problem.

Can you tell me would a typical Ebay/Amazon listing for one of your airsoft guns looked like, as an example? What would the description say about the gun? The maker? The supplier?

My listings would look like this

Does reselling in this manner require time to gain sales volume or is that mainly a factor of the quality of product/supplier you find? Is there a point where you would outgrow Ebay or Amazon or is this not a valid concern?

It takes time, but the first limiting factor is the supplier, and it can be tough the first time. It is really up to you if you want to outgrow those channels, you can build a business completely outside of those using other channels, and also leverage those channels to bring in recurring revenue. It is just if you decide to grow these ways, or just want a good side business.

Step 5: Grow – How To Move Forward & Other Questions

So at this point you should know a huge amount about whether or not you’d like to move forward with this. You should have all of the data you need to know exactly how much money you can make, exactly how many units of your product you should buy on your first bulk order, and which supplier you’d like to work with moving forward.

Growing from here is really up to you. There is no limit on how large or how small an importing business can be.

I have a friend who started out selling car audio sub woofers just like I describe here. He started selling 2-3 units per week on eBay.

Within a couple months he had expanded out to Amazon and started putting his own brand name on the sub woofers he was ordering.

Within a year he had a website for his brand and began bringing in more and more products to sell. He also began thinking of ways to turn Amazon and eBay customers into recurring revenue by signing them up for his email list and social media profiles.

Now, not even 2 years since he started, he is set to clear $700,000 of revenue for 2012 at just 20 years old.

He started out with this simple concept and decided that he wanted to build it out into his own brand. That is definitely one way you could go!

Of course this also takes MUCH more time and energy to build. If you want to build this up and still keep it as a side business, there are ways to do that as well.

Here are just a few of the ways you can grow your importing business from here –

  • Listing yourself on other existing sales channels – Make sure you have all of your products listed on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and any other places you can get sales from.
  • Build your own sales channel – It is becoming easier and easier for anybody to create an eCommerce store and start building their own sales channel. Even if you don’t want to build your own brand, there are many benefits, such as listing your products through Google and Bing Shopping Ads.
  • Advertising on existing sales channels – I had a lot of success advertising my product listings on Amazon and eBay, and I am sure you can do the same.
  • Take on new products – As you sell more of your product you will have more feedback and money to play with. You’ll be able to test new products and start bringing in new things to sell.
  • Brand yourself – Branding takes a lot, and obviously goes far beyond the scope of this post, but you can certainly build out your importing company into a brand like I described above. You can see how I pick brand names here.
  • Recurring revenue – The best way to make money in any business is recurring revenue. You can start thinking about putting promotional materials in boxes, starting an email newsletter, monthly subscription packs, and things like that. The more people you can siphon from eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Google, or whatever into your contact databases (email, mail, etc), the better.
  • Getting better prices from your supplier – As your volume starts to pick up with your supplier your bargaining power will grow with it. Don’t be afraid to ask for small discounts here or there once you have some volume going.
  • Outsourcing parts of the process – Once you are making 10 or 20 orders a day, you will probably start getting sick of shipping things out constantly. Outsourcing this to a friend or employee of some sort is an obvious way to free up time to grow your business. Hiring a VA to keep track of your inventory and respond to customers immediately may be a good investment as well.

Here are things that probably won’t work –

  • PPC Advertising – I have not had much success with Adwords/FB PPC with this method. If you know what you’re doing go ahead and try, but I know what I’m doing and don’t find it worth my time.
  • Social Media – Just isn’t going to work for importing unless you are trying to build a brand or something. Social is good for brands, not for eBay/Amazon sellers. Again, different if you are building a brand.
  • Pretty much anything I didn’t mention above – If I didn’t mention it in the “working” section, then it didn’t work for me.

Other questions I received…

There were a few questions that I received that didn’t really fit into any of the above steps, but I did want to include them anyways. Here they are –

What was your experience with getting the merchandise through customs? Were your orders always by air or did you dabble with larger container shipments?

I never had much trouble with customs. The supplier usually dealt with the customs when sending them out, and I only sold domestically after I got it. Any good factory/distributor is going to be going through customs enough to know how to get through smoothly. Even when I was doing the counterfeit goods, I never had an issue with customs (and then there was a real risk of big losses!). I think most Asian suppliers will be able to handle this with no issues for you.

Back in the day I always ordered by air, and never wanted to deal with FOB sea shipments. Really though, it is not too difficult to import a container, you just hire a trucking company at the port to bring it to your warehouse or whatever. There are also a few extra fees involved, but again your supplier will know them, so just ask them.

Nowadays I import via air and sea depending on the size of the order, and work with clients that ship full containers in regularly. Unloading and storing the product efficiently is usually the bigger problem at this point.

What are the hilarious boxes of useless stuff you still own?

I have a box of a bunch of purses and wallets taking up space in my closet. I have a pair of these ridiculous transparent gangster shoes (BAPES or soemthing) that I got sent instead of a sample I ordered. I have tons of airsoft stuff still laying around, more T-Shirts than I will ever be able to use, and probably more…

When to start advertising?

What do you think about the viability of this in a smaller international market like Australia?

I think this will work in smaller markets, but even more interestingly I think those markets may have more opportunities. Everybody is in the US markets, there have got to be some under utilized sites for different countries.

There might also be products that don’t sell very well in the US and do in Australia, which would probably increase your margins greatly. There have got to be some products that are Australia specific that might be awesome niches.

Shipping and imports might eat you, but in Australia I think you will actually get everything a lot cheaper than we do in the US (not sure though). I know Australia and China have been playing nice, and are obviously very close to each other, so it might be significantly cheaper.

Obviously, treat it with caution as my experience is in the US market and could be wrong because of that, but I think you should definitely look into it.

I live in Europe and anything outside of the free market is typically charged VAT as it comes in – how did you deal with this?

I definitely didn’t need to deal with VAT tax here in the US, and I would hate it if I did. Honestly, it probably won’t kill the method entirely, but it is going to limit your niches a bit more. You’re gunna have to find a really, really good niche, and probably on a small item with few parts to avoid a high VAT fee.

Why should we avoid WWB/Doba?

I think in some cases WWB/Doba can give you some good contacts, and it may have changed since I was a member. In my specific experience with them, I couldn’t find any items that I could make a significant margin on. I remember going through tons and tons and tons of data to find the most profitable items I could sell via eBay and Amazon and couldn’t find a single item to make money on. Coupled in with the cost of membership I couldn’t see myself ever making it worth the money, but again I was 14-16 years old at the time and may have been missing some vital points – but that is my experience with it.

Why didn’t you move to other products when you were younger?

I guess I don’t really remember why I didn’t start exploring other niches at that time. My best guess is that I was 16 and scatterbrained and wanted to try something new and exciting. I also got picked up on a professional paintball team right around that time also, so that took up most of my time for a few years…

Do you still find suppliers on Alibaba and sell items?

I still use Alibaba to find suppliers for me and my clients for whatever we need. Some of my recent imports have been yearbook-style books, branded promo materials (pins, bags, shirts, posters, etc.), and industry specific tools (think hair cutting shears, bartender items, things like that).

How do you find dropshippers?

Dropshippers are a little bit tougher to find than bulk distributors, because they need to trust you as well as you trusting them. I think it is really best to build a relationship through small bulk orders before moving into dropshipping. A great site for finding dropshippers is WholesaleCentral.com – but the best dropshippers are found through your existing suppliers.

When you find a product do you specify what you want on the product box/package in terms of language/design/brand/logo/etc? Or do you simply pass on what they have already created?

If you want to customize any aspects of the product, you are going to have to pay extra. Most factories will work with you to build anything you want really, even a completely new product if they can do it, and they will help you with many aspects of it. But, it will cost more, the MOQ will be higher, it will be more complicated, and increasingly so with each customization. If you are going down that route, you are likely building a brand.

How do you do taxes on this? Say you’re self employed and keep good records?

Yea, I never had many tax issues with it. Given I was 15/16, I was using my parents accountant to do it, and just gave them my records basically.

On shipping, do you buy a bulk order of boxes and print off labels or whatever?

Yep, that is exactly what I did. Add in a tape gun and packing peanut dispenser and you’re golden.

Additional Questions?

I tried to go as far as I could without getting boring in this blog post, and I may have even failed at that.

However, if you are still having any issues with any part of this process, feel free to contact me and I will do what I can to help you.

As many of our readers already know, I typically answer all questions with a couple of hours, and try to do as much as I can to help you succeed.

You can contact me by commenting below or emailing me at Will at StartupBros dot Com

Top 3 Product research tactics working right now

Author

Will Mitchell

Will Mitchell is a serial entrepreneur and Founder of StartupBros. You can learn more about him at the StartupBros About Page. If you have any questions or comments for him, just send an email or leave a comment!

  • Lau Ris says:

    Hello everybody!
    I am a trade business owner from Riga, Latvia (Europe), currently I am looking for some new trade partners from all over the world to provide our consumers with new and interesting products.
    If you are selling (or willing to sell) anything what qualifies for European union standards, I would be happy to review your products. So as if you are willing to sell in your region European origin products . I can advice and get you very competitive wholesale prices for almost everything (Now concentrating on food & beverage items) to start your import business whenever you are located.
    I’ll be happy to discuss what is demanded by consumers in our regions and what we can Import or Export to make some profit. I have many ideas and I look forward to establish new connections from different countries. I look forward to build long lasting cooperation with people who run their businesses or just thinking about becoming entrepreneurs.
    Don’t hesitate to write me – [email protected]

  • Mckenna says:

    What a great article. I’m from Australia and this has been most helpful.
    Thanks

  • G.Cee says:

    Excellent information! This is a dynamic I was looking to develop recently having difficulty keeping and finding work in my industry. I’ve had enough. I’ve been considering engaging in an entrepreneurial activity such this since I have a bit of capital, and I’m grateful that you’ve opened up to share your experience with others (and I didn’t even have to ‘buy the book’.). I understand I have much to learn , but you’ve nicely answered most of the immediate questions I had.

    Thanks again!

  • Lisa says:

    Dear will,

    I have just recently read your two pieces on buying and selling from the internet. (Thank you very much by the way so helpful.)
    I am trying to get in touch with suppliers like you said for samples but the shipping is very expensive from ali baba to Ireland. Around 30€ even for one piece of a sample. Is that right? &: that what I do? Do I pay for one sample and the shipping ?? Or is there another way?

    Kind regards,
    Lisa

    • Lori says:

      Hi, I don’t know if you have gotten your reply already. You have repeated this question without a reply so I will do my best to answer your question, I hope this helps. first I think you should determine how high the equality of products from that company is by looking for reviews. If you think the products are pretty high quality, you may want to order more than one if it will reduce the shipping cost. You also need to find out what the shipping cost will be if you are buying in bulk that way you know that if you decide to go with this supplier their shipping cost is okay with you. If that’s fine, you may just have to place that order at that expensive price.

  • Lisa says:

    Please reply I’m really stuck on finding an item and whether to pay that much for shipping on only one sample …. ?

  • Chris says:

    Hi,

    I’m a random person who thought of re-selling stuffs from Alibaba as a side income and just found this website from Google and I would like to ask some questions.

    1. Is there a way to get lesser shipping fees from Alibaba? Because a shipping fee of 20 USD and over is really too much in my opinion.

    2. Are there ways to create listings on Amazon and eBay for free?

    • lev says:

      Hey Chris,

      1. Ask your suppliers what MOQ(minimum ordered quantity) would you need for free shipping.

      2. It’s really different, because on eBay you will always pay final value fees when free insertion fees can be increase by your subscription. On amazon you can buy also a store and avoid paying $1 per sold item and 10-20% commission, it would be less I guess.

  • Maheeka says:

    I m a beginner to this .. I am intending to start up a buying-selling business. So what should be my very first step. Please help me out.

    • lev says:

      Find e-commerce web-site where you want to start, either it would be retail sales on eBay or bulk sales in Amazom etc.. register an account, find items to sell, posting them, receive money and ship items. =)

  • Excellent post. Keep posting such kind of information on your blog.
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  • Alexandria says:

    Wow, awesome weblog layout! How long have you been running
    a blog for? you made blogging glance easy. The overall
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  • Amit says:

    Hi friend I want to know​ more about shipping even more my friend want to know more about shipping f.x if I buy 100 psc watch from a seller than which is best and cheap way of shipping air or sea.if I buy 100 from this supplier and 100 from any other suppliers than which is the best way of shipping.and one more question is this you say sell sample first if they sold than order bulk than how can you set the cost that I have to sell sample in this price. Because you not know the clear shipping price between samples we got from air and bulk we get from sea. So please clear my confusion.

    • Joel Oquendo says:

      Hey Amit, air is always going to be more expensive but not much. Please don’t overthink it. Pick products with a high margin and ship them via air freight. The reason for this is because you want to receive your products quickly. The shipping price varies but keep it simple 🙂
      If you’re not sure where to start I have something that will be a HUGE help: https://startupbros.com/import-replay

  • Although I have been interested in setting up a internet business for some time, I had been frustrated and mislead so many times that I was on the brink of giving up. Your articles and information has given me a kick-start and a new approach after attending many webinar’s and, experiencing quite a few guru scams. I now feel a new serge of energy to carry on. Your approach to internet selling is clear, concise and practical. I look forward to more from you. Paul

  • Theresa says:

    Do I need to set up an LLC or Corp to do this? Or is that really for down the road when I start to brand my own products?

  • Donna Sullivan says:

    I want to make an indestructible dog toy. My dogs ruin toys in minutes of receiving them. I need a design, tough materials and then someone to manufacture. How do I begin?

  • Andy says:

    Very helpful thank you!!

  • Kate says:

    Hi Will,

    This post has been extremely helpful – thank you! Question: if I want to sell an item with my branding on it, should I expect my samples from the suppliers to have my branding on it or am I looking at the item before branding is placed on it? What’s the process for evaluating quality of branding (placement, font, font sizing, etc.) – does this happen only AFTER I’ve made a bulk order?

  • Rebecca Ciastko says:

    Hi Will!
    Thanks for the really great info. I have been doing my research for a few days – going nuts and almost talking myself out of this business opportunity. I am an entrepreneur and have a few other businesses I am working on growing. I don’t have the time to dedicate to doing this full time and you have saved me, I’m sure, a gazillion hours of research!! So thanks for that! I have a couple of questions:
    1. I have been looking into doing a Pro Seller FBA account with Amazon… Mostly because I am not in a position to store a bunch of stock, nor the time to label and ship each item. I am doing my best to automate this process. Have you had experience with the Supplier shipping directly to Amazon?

    2. What are your thoughts on selling Via Amazon FBA versus eBay or even Shopify (Which I think is drop ship only) ?

    Any thoughts and insight very much appreciated!

  • Asad says:

    Does this business idea also apply for Pakistan…Because paypal is not introduced here…And is it profitable to export goods to other countries like in Middle East, Europe etc.

  • UU says:

    Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the challenges.
    It was really informative. Your website is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  • aliexpres says:

    One from the best way is to use google trend analitic tool and chack what people from some country are looking the most

  • Gonetoblazes.net says:

    I was curious if you ever thought of changing the structure of your
    site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so
    people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot
    of text for only having one or two pictures. Maybe you could space
    it out better?

  • maledivy says:

    I’m not certain the place you are getting your information, however good topic.
    I needs to send some time finding out more or understanding more.
    Thanks for great info I used to be onn the lookout for this
    info for my mission.

  • […] e venho aprendendo de mestres do eCommerce – Andrew Youderian , Richard Lazazzera e Will Mitchell , Neil Patel , Corey Ferreira , Shabbir , Tim Ferris , Noah Kagan entre outros […]

  • encyclopedia says:

    Sweet site, super layout, really cleean and utilise genial.

  • scc says:

    FYI regarding selling on Etsy — it started out being for hand made products only. It has since expanded to allow for vintage (20+ years old) items and craft supplies. But it’s not supposed to be for reselling ready-made items such as those purchased on AliExpress / Alibaba, even though there are lots of sellers doing just that. However, if someone reports you, Etsy could shut down your shop.

  • Comprehensive article, great stuff!

  • Thank you for any other great article. Where else may anybody
    get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing?

    I have a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such information.

  • gabriel says:

    very informative and straight to the point article. thank you for impacting lives.

  • Alicia says:

    Just opened my own amazon seller store and starting the process of finding a product. This was very helpful. It was suggested to me to have amazon ship the product for me. Do you have any opinion on this?

  • […] achieve. You need to know what makes for a good product and what makes for a bad one. Here are some general tips that hold true for most FBA sellers looking to private label an exported […]

  • Samuel says:

    Best article I ever read on this topic. I intend selling on amazon alone simply because I want them to handle shipping for me. Do you think this is a good idea?

  • […] there any quick hacks you can use to rank a new Amazon product […]

  • […] Note – I have since written a follow up to this post called “Step-by-Step Guide on How To Find A Profitable Product To Sell” […]

  • Big Rob says:

    I want to know more about having my goods inspected as they come into the U.S. so that I don’t have to hold the inventory at home. I would like to have them shipped directly to an Amazon Fulfillment Center. How can I find companies that will inspect my goods?

  • You’ve got astonishing information right here.

  • Ty Walter says:

    A little confused and worried about patents. Let’s say I found a really cool product on Alibaba. Let’s go with headphones. Also I so far can’t find these specific headphones being sold on Amazon. #1 – how do I make certain that these specific headphones are not already being sold on Amazon? Do I have to look through the 3000+ headphones to make sure?
    #2 – after I customize the headphones with my design and my logo how can I be assured that there isn’t some type of patent on these headphones that’ll prevent me from selling?

    I keep seeing videos of people just adding their logo on an item but aren’t checking these 2 things. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something .

    Thanks

  • Blaine says:

    41 year old Occupational Health and Safety Adviser Zerbe from
    Owen Sound, spends time with interests for example pets, Blaine and
    bowling. Has travelled since childhood and has traveled to numerous destinations,
    for example My Son Sanctuary.

  • Sarah Jamali says:

    Can amazon or ebay…send the products to the customers?
    Can i just buy the products and sell it and amazon handle the rest?

  • Riri says:

    That is one selfless article right there. Thank you so much for sharing! A good read indeed! 👍

  • sam says:

    I have completed all your steps, and the supplier says they want to see my website. I don’t have one yet. What can I do?

  • Sem says:

    I don’t have much capital. They want to charge US $140 for the sample and shipping. Is this too much?

  • Lucy Randise says:

    Hi Wil!

    This article was very interesting and thank you for the break down of everything. I haven’t found my “niche” yet still testing the waters. I am a little scared but excited to just leap in and yo!ur detailed article was great

  • winky streegan says:

    you are amazing for sharing your experiences as a seller. thanks! good karma to you! may your tribe increase❤️👍✌🏻

  • […] covered finding profitable products to sell in the past but we have never put it together in a comprehensive post like […]

  • Mat says:

    How do I find out if the product I’m interested in selling has a patent on it? If it does, what do I have to do in order to legally sell the product and avoid lawsuits?

    • Joel Oquendo says:

      Mat, you’re allowed to sell products with patents on them. What you can’t do is sell products as your own with trademarked brands. You can’t sell “Apple iPhones straight from the manufacturer” because that doesn’t exist. You can’t use established brands to sell your products. If you buy a potato peeler from a supplier in china you don’t need to know if it has a patent or not. You just can’t sell it as a “Martha Stewart Potato Peeler” You have to sell it either unbranded or under your own brand like “Mat’s Peeler”. You don’t have to worry about patents, you have to worry about trademarked brands.

  • Jesus says:

    Hi, I have a question. What do you recommend for taking high-quality pictures of your product for an Amazon listing? Do you send a sample to a photo studio/company? Do you take them yourself and use a photo editing software? What are you thoughts

  • insaf j says:

    hello, thanks for all your advice . I am from tunisia and I have no idea how to start contacting amazon that they know I want to sell.I am dong my best understanding all what you have said. I got it all step by step , still the first step : contacting amazon and making my name familiar remains always the first obstacle fror me.could you please help me? I will really appreciate it

  • […] you pick a profitable product you want to sell, the next thing is to make sure your listing is fully optimized.  The largest sticking point in a […]

  • Glad says:

    Excellent

  • John says:

    Thank you very much for this post.

    I have been wondering about starting an online retail business and this answered a lot of questions. However, I am a college student lacking funds. I was wondering how much money should be saved before starting up. I currently have 1000 dollars in savings. Would that be enough?

    Thank you