In Moonlighting on the Internet, internet entrepreneur Shelby Larson presents the most reliable and proven ways you can create an extra pay checque for the short term and establish a continual revenue stream for the long term with your own website. In this edited excerpt, Larson takes a closer look at three ways you can earn money with an online business.
There are several types of ecommerce business models you can easily get up and running quickly: Drop-shipping, wholesaling and warehousing, and white labelling and manufacturing.
It’s not by accident they’re listed in that order. In my opinion, those options are listed in order of complexity. Each is a legitimate, solid choice. However, if people getting started in ecommerce for the first time are looking to start with the easiest model and progress from there, they’d start with drop-shipping. But just because I’m telling you drop-shipping is the easiest way to get up and running quickly doesn’t mean you have to start there.
Here’s a look at all three methods:
Drop-shipping is when you sell items on your website that are manufactured, fulfilled, and shipped to your customers by someone else. Generally, these relationships are established between you and a manufacturer or a wholesaler who has a warehouse full of the items you’d like to sell.
Once the proper agreements are in place, the manufacturer or wholesaler will send you images of the products you wish to sell along with pricing. You’ll then place those items for sale in your ecommerce store. Your job is to sell the items, and the manufacturer or wholesaler will fulfill the orders and ship them to your customers.
Here’s a quick drop-shipping example. My family and I run a nonprofit reptile rescue out of our home. Because I have a passion for bearded dragons, I happen to know that people who own beardies are so crazy about them that they put women who carry little dogs around in their purses to shame. Bearded dragon owners go nuts for items for their health care and habitats and even frequently buy costumes and clothing for their animals. So for the sake of this example, let’s pretend I opened an ecommerce store that sells items for bearded dragon lovers using the drop-shipping model.
If my supplier can sell me a 40-litre breeder tank (a common enclosure for bearded dragons) for R500, I would list it on my website for R1 000. Then I would market my product through my awesome online store. Once a customer placed an order for one of these tanks, I’d turn around and pay my supplier R500 of the R1 000 I collected and supply them with the order and shipping information.
They would then ship that tank to my customer as if it came straight from my ecommerce business. Some of the benefits people love most about the drop-shipping model is that there’s very little upfront investment to be made. You don’t buy any of the products until one is ordered and paid for.
Once your foundation is set up with the platform you’re selling from, and your relationship with your drop-shipping partner is in place, your primary focus is driving targeted buyers to your store and providing an amazing customer experience.
Once the sale is made, that is when you pull money out of your pocket to pay for the item sold. This is a low-risk, high-reward model. You don’t have to stock any inventory or deal with the headache of order fulfillment.
Some of the drawbacks are that you have no control over the shipping and fulfillment, and sometimes your suppliers let you down. If a supplier is running behind or forgets to provide you with a tracking number, that increases your customer service responsibilities. Also, since you’re not keeping any of the inventory, you don’t always know if an item is running low. You could end up unknowingly selling something that’s out of stock. Then you have to deal with the customer service and reputation ramifications.
The good news is, if you don’t feel the supplier you’ve chosen is living up to your standards, it’s pretty easy to get out of a drop-shipping contract.
Your assets are entirely digital. It’s much easier to transition an ecommerce business that uses drop-shipping as its fulfillment model than it is if you have a warehouse full of items that have already been manufactured for you.
2. Wholesaling and Warehousing
This model is when you buy products in bulk and store them in a warehouse somewhere. Usually people who prefer this model are selling product in volume. People most commonly use this in a B2B market as opposed to a B2C model.
Using my previous example of an ecommerce store selling bearded dragon supplies, in this case, I’d be the wholesaler who sold the tank to a B2C business owner for R500, and they’d sell it individually on their website for R1 000. Whether or not I would also fulfill the order would depend on the type of business I’m in.
With this model, you get better pricing because you’re buying in bulk instead of making one-off purchases, as in a drop-shipping business. If you’re buying in bulk and selling the items individually on your website to consumers, you also have better margins than you do with drop-shipping.
However, if you’re like most people using this model, you’re selling in bulk to businesses who are selling to consumers, which has lower margins. In most wholesale businesses, you need to create enough sales volume to make up for the smaller margins. This model also requires high upfront investments for purchasing and housing the product.
3. White Labeling and Manufacturing
Manufacturing is when you’re actually paying to have the items created for you. In white labeling, you aren’t manufacturing the product, but your licensing contract allows you to put your name or brand on it as if you are the manufacturer. So with this scenario, you are either manufacturing products overseas or importing them from overseas and putting your brand on them. You’re the top of the product chain at this point.
When you’re importing or manufacturing overseas, your margins are much higher. You get to create the product for a very low price and then sell it online for a much higher price. You also control all the shipping and fulfillment yourself; while it’s more work, it has a lot of benefits, too.
You get to control the entire cycle and always know what’s going on with the product. Also, at this point, you can take advantage of wholesalers and drop-shippers to retail your products for you.
This model isn’t for the commitment-phobic. There’s no easy way to end a manufacturing contract. You had the products made, you’ve imported them into your country, and you have them sitting in a warehouse somewhere. You also have to develop a process to monitor and maintain quality control. This is definitely an advanced model. There’s almost always a large cash investment required upfront, so you need to have a financial plan.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Internet-Based Businesses You Can Start In 2018
Online experiences connect people worldwide to your brand and the solutions you offer – without requiring a big budget to launch your digital storefront.
No doubt many people resolved to boost their income during the new year. (Of course, it’s never too late to start a business).
The internet provides endless ways to make money. The best part? Most internet-based businesses can be launched immediately, without a giant budget. Here are three awesome gigs you can start in the comfort of your own home.
1. Become a seller on Amazon
Amazon is a monster. According to eMarketer, Amazon accounted for more than 43 percent of e-commerce sales in the United States during 2017 – and about half of those transactions came from third-party sellers. There are many advantages to joining Amazon’s ranks:
- Given the site’s popularity, you can tap into a gigantic amount of traffic. Many consumers are ready to buy when they visit Amazon.
- You operate under the umbrella of the biggest and most trusted name in online retail. If you opted to launch your own e-commerce website from scratch, you’d learn that establishing trust is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming part of the job. Selling through Amazon omits this entirely.
- You easily can manage your entire online business through Amazon’s Seller Central dashboard.
So, how do you get started? First, you need to choose your Amazon category, or niche. These include labels such as clothing, healthcare, jewellery, electronics, beauty and more. Then, identify which products are in high demand.
Related: 10 Business Ideas Ready To Launch!
The easiest route is to become a Fulfillment By Amazon seller. This means Amazon will take care of shipping, delivery, returns, exchanges and other logistics. You’ll need to stay in tune with supply chains and demand estimates. Tools such as forecastly make this task simpler. And Sourcify can help you find a manufacturing facility, if your idea includes creating a new product.
It’s easy to become an Amazon seller, but being a successful one requires a good deal of work on your end. In addition to choosing the right niche, you must demonstrate some savvy marketing skills. While Amazon functions as your sales outlet, you still need to market yourself as you would a typical business. This involves blogging, social media, email marketing, forums and other activities designed to direct traffic to your Amazon Seller page. Netrush is just one company that can help you establish your brand on the Amazon marketplace after you start making sales.
If you pay close attention to trends and market your products correctly, you can make serious money. Entrepreneur, investor and yogi Nate Ginsburg sold his his Fulfillment By Amazon business for $1 million after three years.
2. Become a Facebook advertising consultant
Facebook has taken over the online advertising market. In 2016, Facebook accounted for 77 percent of the digital ad industry’s overall growth. It’s safe to say Facebook is giving Google a serious run for its money in the world of online marketing. Facebook has enabled all types of small businesses to advertise online with a smaller budget – something that wasn’t possible in the past.
To illustrate the effect, Google’s cost-per-click for digital ads is $10. Spend that same ten-spot on Facebook, and you get 10 clicks. It’s just one reason I predicted last year that Facebook will beat all other digital marketing channels.
Helping online businesses use paid campaigns to establish a Facebook presence is a fantastic way to make money online. However, even though the technical side of advertising on Facebook is made easy, it’s not exactly a cakewalk. You need skills to write copy that converts sales, conduct in-depth research on audience profiles, find the best times to promote, keep a close eye on result metrics and glean the proper insights. Of course, you also must have exceptional client communication.
In reality, Facebook advertising puts money into a system over which you have a limited amount of control. Be sure you do your research on the profession beforehand. Others’ experience shows you can make a lot of money this way if you understand the market. In 2014, former pastor Nicholas Kusmich and his wife capitalised on the emerging market for Facebook advertising. The couple opened a boutique Facebook marketing agency that brought in around $2 million in 2017.
3. Become a part of cryptocurrency ecosystem
If you’ve tuned into the news over the past few months, you’ve certainly heard something about the drastic surge of bitcoin and rise of blockchain. Based on the huge spike in demand, bitcoin is shaping up to potentially become the universal digital currency. The result? Everyone worldwide could make international transactions without worrying about exchange rates or fees to third-party banks.
In terms of business opportunities, there are several possibilities to consider.
One of the most popular is becoming a cryptocurrency miner. If you want to get in on this gig, now is the time. Bitcoin mining is a nonstop online accounting process by which transactions are verified and compiled into the public ledger. While you can make good money doing this, it’s important you understand what you’re getting into. The idea may seem simple, but the actual practice of bitcoin mining takes a good deal of effort.
Start-up costs generally run pretty high, and you need to choose the right hardware, software and bitcoin wallet. You also must make regular upgrades to your equipment – all while keeping a close eye on the bitcoin market. As long as you stay on top of your research and updates, this can be an incredible way to boost your income.
Another stellar opportunity within the cryptocurrency ecosystem involves solving niche or industry-specific problems using blockchain. Blockchain companies are on the rise, and industries around the globe are changing. The concept is very new, so becoming a consultant can be a great way to make money while you play a role in disrupting the status quo altogether.
For example, many freelancers use popular sites such as Freelance.com and Upwork to connect with companies. These platforms take a cut of the earnings from each project. A blockchain system essentially cuts out the middle person, connecting freelancers with companies directly and avoiding work-based fees.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
A Top Lesson From Vinewave: Success Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Launching a side business that makes money even while you’re sleeping has never been easier. Lawrence Cawood of Vinewave explains how it’s possible to build a multi-million rand business completely on your own, in your spare time, with nothing more than a computer.
Vinewave doesn’t produce sexy consumer software, which is why you’ve probably never heard of the company. Its most popular piece of software, for example, is a staff directory. But it is special for a number of reasons. First, Vinewave is a South African company, despite the fact that you’d never guess it from perusing the website — all prices are in US dollars. Another surprising aspect of the business is its client list.
Users include Sony, Samsung, Harvard Business School, the United Nations and SpaceX. Most astonishingly, however is the fact that, for a very long time, it had only a single employee: Founder Lawrence Cawood. Since 2010, Lawrence has owned and operated Vinewave completely on his own, from a single computer at his home.
Although he is now looking to scale the business aggressively, his initial aim was to create a business that could provide for him and his family, without demanding 80-hour work weeks.
“I wanted to be able to spend time with my family, so my aim was to create a lifestyle business that didn’t demand crazy hours, and that would allow me to work when and where I wanted,” says Lawrence.
Vinewave ended up being exactly what he was looking for. Working on his own, Lawrence created a business that quickly boasted around R1,6 million in annual revenue, and a valuation of R10 million.
Being an online business that targeted companies all over the world, time and space was irrelevant. “I would often wake up to discover that I had made R60 000 in sales while I was sleeping,” he says.
DOING THE WORK
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can become a multi-millionaire while watching TV in your pyjamas. Lawrence is quick to add that launching Vinewave wasn’t easy. Sales were slow to come in and refining his software demanded hard work.
“It took me six months to make my first sale,” says Lawrence. “Also, as the only person in the business, I had to work hard. I was responsible for absolutely everything: The website, advertising, SEO, product development, and so on. However, the nature of the business allowed me to do things on my own terms. Where and when I did the work was irrelevant, meaning I could spend time with my family when I wanted. Even though I had to invest a lot of time and energy into the business, it provided a certain sense of freedom. Normal business limitations didn’t apply.”
As mentioned earlier, Lawrence is now working harder on the business than he did in the early days, since he is looking to scale, but Entrepreneur spoke to him about the ins and outs of creating a lifestyle business or side project that doesn’t demand absolutely all of your time.
Here’s his advice for creating a business that can make money while you sleep.
1. Product, not service
The more successful a service business is, the more time you’re likely to have to invest in the business, since you are essentially trading your time for money. For example, if you have a photography business, every new client will cost money, require more time and add complexity to the business. Selling items online, in contrast, is easier to scale as a business, since the difference between selling ten and 12 items isn’t all that much. Easiest of all is a business that sells a digital product. The added cost and complexity that comes with every added customer of a piece of software is very small, since there is nothing to package or ship. For this reason, a company like Facebook, Dropbox and, indeed, Vinewave is hyper-scalable.
“I think it’s important to be passionate about what you do and to pursue something that you’re knowledgeable about, but you also need to be realistic about the demands of the business you have in mind. Some ideas and products demand more time and resources than others. If you want a business that you can run on the side, you need a product that is relatively easy to ship and sell. Software is easiest, of course, but a physical product isn’t out of the question. Just make sure that systems and processes can be put in place to streamline the process and free up time.”
2. Build a better version
Unless you’ve got a lot of time and money on your hands, reinventing the wheel isn’t a good idea. A company like Google, Apple or Amazon can gamble big on revolutionary ideas, but if you’re looking for a manageable side business, you want to instead focus on creating a better version of an existing product.
“You want to look at what is already selling, and build something similar, but better,” says Lawrence. “As always, you want to identify a burning problem, and provide an elegant solution that people are willing to pay for. The last thing you want to do when you don’t have a lot of time and money to invest is to try and create a new market on your own.”
3. Listen to customers
The best way to launch a business that scales quickly and easily is to create a product that customers are eager to buy.
“It took me half a year to make my first sale. I wanted to sell a suite of products, while customers wanted to be able to choose the products they needed. It’s important to listen to customers and give them what they want,” says Lawrence. “Also, remember that customers are sophisticated these days. They have high expectations. Even though I am selling a B2B product, I’m cognisant of the fact that my users are also users of things like Facebook and Instagram. Ultimately, people use things that are elegant and simple and easy to use. They pick the best product.”
Unfortunately, this means that there are no shortcuts to success. A bad product won’t find traction. Lawrence suggests launching an MVP (minimum viable product) and refining it. “Listen to customers and create something they truly want,” he says.
4. Think big
Lifestyle businesses used to be small and location-specific. Thanks to the Internet, that’s no longer the case. Geography has become irrelevant.
“Just because you have a lifestyle business doesn’t mean that you have to sell to your immediate community,” says Lawrence. “You can now sell to the whole world, which means that you can make money anywhere, at any time. You can sell around the clock. This is particularly true if you’re selling a piece of software that’s delivered instantly, but it’s also true of physical products. Shipping around the country and internationally is less difficult than it once was. Don’t think small. Expand your potential market as much as you can.”
5. Look and act professional
The traditional shopfront is increasingly being replaced by the website. Vinewave’s customers, for instance, had no idea that it was a small South African company with a solitary staff member. Lawrence spent time and money to create a professional website that looked great and attracted large clients, and that was all that mattered.
“The size and location of your operation doesn’t really matter, provided you appear professional at all times, and offer great service,” says Lawrence.
“As I said earlier, customers have high expectations these days, but as long as you meet those demands, everything else is irrelevant. You can sit at home and answer customer emails in your underwear, as long as your customers are satisfied with the product and service that they get from your company. Around 98% of my customers are from overseas, so I knew it wouldn’t work if I tried to sell in rands. Instead, I created a website that sold in US dollars. You have to respond to the demands and expectations of your customer.”
6. Marketing made easy
A lot of people are intimidated by the thought of marketing and selling a product. For many, the idea of creating a product is enticing, but they are intimidated by the thought of having to market and sell. According to Lawrence, however, marketing and selling is easier than ever, thanks to the Internet.
“I’ve almost never spoken to a customer and I rarely interact with them via email. If people are happy with your product and it does what they want it to do, you rarely hear from them. So you needn’t be put off by thoughts of difficult customer service,” says Lawrence.
“The same is true of sales and marketing. Through things like SEO and online ads, you can make customers come to you. You don’t need to cold call, just create a product people are actively searching for. Spend time and money on your website, and invest in SEO and online ads. When done properly, these things can drive your entire business.”
6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days
Jared Goetz spent only 30 minutes a day and built a colossal Shopify sales machine.
Jared Goetz, serial entrepreneur and member of The Oracles, always had a knack for reaching an audience. At 26 years old, he’s co-founded four multimillion-dollar companies.
Whether he’s throwing the world’s largest foam party with fire breathers and circus acts (“Electric Flurry”) or selling inflatables to college students via viral campaigns (“Dumbo Lounge Sacks”), this serial entrepreneur knows how to turn an audience into a profit machine.
His latest venture, The Gadget Snob, is no different. An ecommerce store that supplies everything from jet-flamed pencils to laser keyboards, Goetz took his business from zero to $2 million in 60 days by plugging into the right audience. That’s no small feat in a competitive industry forecast to surpass $4 trillion in sales by 2020.
Goetz’s secret sauce to reaching the masses? Experimentation. As he explains, “You don’t know what people will respond to until you try a lot of things. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.”
Goetz shares six key components to building his million-dollar ecommerce store and turning profits in less than a business quarter.
1. Don’t reinvent the merchandise wheel
“Many owners think they have to reinvent the wheel with the merchandise they sell,” Goetz explained. Instead, he suggests focusing on products with a proven track record of success. “An easy way to spot a market trend is gauging how a product performs on social media. If an item is getting 10,000 Facebook Likes in less than a few hours, that’s a tell.”
When choosing merchandise, it’s also crucial to differentiate between commoditised and unique products. Commoditised products are widely available. Unique products are less accessible handmade or niche products that aren’t mass produced.
“If you go niche, gauge demand first. Observe what people are looking for. You might be surprised to see what’s selling.”
2. Create a formula, then rewrite it
Ecommerce comes down to a formula, Goetz says, and the outcome is affected by different variables: Product, advertisement, landing page optimisation, and customer lifetime value.
“Once you figure out what produces the best margin, copy that. Most who fail in ecommerce are 90 percent there but haven’t worked out all the variables in their formula,” Goetz shares.
For Goetz, a pivotal variable was drop shipping. “I spent a lot of time bootstrapping my earlier companies. Drop shipping was a game-changer because it allowed me to advertise before securing the inventory, yielding greater outcomes.”
3. Build a legit Shopify store
A successful Shopify store must win confidence. “In the sometimes-fraudulent digital ecosystem, you have to earn a consumer’s trust,” Goetz says. “A money-back guarantee and free shipping guarantee are great places to start.”
Goetz also suggests choosing a theme that’s congruent with your industry. “With branding, you want to look professional, not spammy or creepy.” Gadgets are fun and technical, so his site has bright colours and precise language. “If I were running a men’s fashion store or toy store, I’d change my theme to match the merchandise and brand. Branding is key to converting customer views into sales.”
4. Find winning ads with huge ROI and scale
For Goetz, marketing comes down to one word: testing. “The only way to find out what works is to test it many times,” he says. “Test 10 audiences on each product, so you know where to invest your energy.” For The Gadget Snob, Goetz hired an ad manager to optimise Facebook campaigns. “When you strike gold with a successful ad, replicate it, but scale incrementally to ensure you’re staying targeted.” He suggests increasing ad spend 20 percent per day, not 500 percent.
When building campaigns, it’s also vital to use language that’s shareable and creative. Sales psychology is your friend. From his perspective, classic scarcity techniques have been around for centuries for a reason. “Try incorporating a quantity incentive: if you buy one, it’s full price; if you buy two, it’s 50 percent off and so forth.”
“Creating an email list is also vital. Email campaigns have a higher conversion rate than cold Facebook campaigns, and you can incentivise email campaigns with rewards. You can make money by merely pushing ‘send.’”
5. Hire a VA, then specialists
For Goetz, hiring a virtual assistant was essential to scaling. “At first, my VA helped with everything,” he says. Once his site got off the ground, Goetz hired people with specialised jobs for specific tasks.
He also stresses the importance of universal procedures. “Having clear onboarding processes and procedures is key to growth. Make your systems as easy as possible because while you might have 100 orders today, tomorrow you’ll have quadruple that.”
6. Get your customer support airtight
For a store to operate at full throttle, Goetz stresses the importance of customer support to maximise your profits. “You need your customer support to be airtight and available 24/7,” he says. “Online shopping goes all night and people place orders at all hours.”
To support questions and concerns, Goetz says that live chat and around-the-clock customer service is a must. “In our era of Amazon Prime, customer service expectations have never been higher, he says. “The last thing you want is a minute hiccup or technical goof obstructing a sale.”
Ultimately, ecommerce allows entrepreneurs to reach untapped markets and reap the rewards. As Goetz puts it: “My ecommerce site affords me ultimate freedom.” By following a few basic steps, you, too, can build a Shopify store to run from anywhere in the world, and perhaps even create your own million-dollar sales machine.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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