Today’s post is taken from my Amazon Sharks course as I really wanted to share this information with as many people as possible.
These are 15 rules/lessons/mistakes EVERY newbie Amazon seller should be aware of! It’s not only about Amazon of course but rather eCommerce business in general and can be applied to eBay too for example.
I truly believe that IF you stick with these 15 rules, you WILL save time & money while achieving results much faster! So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Mistake #1 – Running before learning how to WALK!
If you’re totally new to the whole business model of selling physical products online, be REALISTIC about what you can and can’t do! Don’t try to create a massive empire in your head when you haven’t even sold one product on Amazon.
Dreaming BIG is all good, but you have to be realistic and start small, especially if your budget is very limited.
I regularly receive emails from people who actually want to compete with and BEAT Amazon or eBay by starting a competing website. They throw around the idea of no fees to sellers and what not.
These are REGULAR emails that I get, which means that a lot of people actually believe that they can beat these huge companies with their own website. While I won’t defend eBay and Amazon here, C’MON!!! You really think you can build a competing website when you haven’t done anything online and have a £1000 budget? Are you for real?
Another example that is specific to selling actual products online is people who spend months and even years planning out their massive empire of businesses they will have. They have purchased all kinds of domain names, like their brand name + sports at the end, brand name + home at the end, and so on.
Basically, they have created that VIRGIN type of empire in their minds, and then ask me how to get it done when they have £1000 to invest in stock.
It’s totally insane! You have to know what you’re capable of, how far your knowledge and buying power goes, and simply start taking those small baby steps first. Sell your first products online before you start paying down that deposit for a brand-new Tesla.
Mistake #2 – Picking the wrong product for your buying power!
This is similar to the first one but goes into more detail in the actual market research and product sourcing stage of your new business.
Here’s what happens: you pick a product that you think is great. It sells for £100 on Amazon and you have £1000 to invest in the stock purchase.
Let me tell you straight away, that product is NOT suitable for your buying power!!! Depending on the product, you’ll be able to buy 15, maybe 20 units, which is simply not enough to buy directly from manufacturers at profitable prices. For a product like this, I reckon you would need a budget of around £10,000 or so. Then you could buy 150 or 200 units, which would be a solid order.
Picking a suitable product for your buying power is a CRUCIAL piece of the puzzle and is vital to your overall success!
Mistake #3 – Trying to compete with the lowest price!
DON’T DO IT!
Do not build your business model around the lowest price game on Amazon! It won’t work because your buying power AND sales volume won’t be enough to support that business model.
If you take a look on Amazon, for almost any product, you’ll see a wide range of prices, even for products that look basically the same to you. There are even sellers who sell at a price that is below the shipping cost to you!
They do this by purchasing the product in massive, container volume quantities. Since their sales volume is so high, their shipping costs are MUCH lower than yours.
For example, if you send 10 parcels a week, shipping cost for you will be £2.85. In contrast, for a business that sends 1000 parcels a week, their price will be £1.50 per parcel. This is for not using FBA but seller fulfilment as it’s a way to cut costs and be more competitive on pricing.
That’s a difference of £1.35, which is often the entire profit margin on a cheap product! So, there’s no way you can compete on lowest price with multi-million-pound companies who can afford to source products in massive quantities AND get 50% or more off their shipping costs.
Such high-volume, low-margin businesses are very capital intensive. You need to have your own warehouse and have all the systems automated because your profit per order is very small. It’s simply not something a person starting out can compete with.
Mistake #4 – Building a business around BRANDED products!
More and more people are educated now, but just a few years ago, this was the most common question I received from my blog readers.
They asked me where to source products like:
- Nike Trainers
- Braun Shavers
- Gucci Handbags
- and so on!
I can tell you straight away that all the household brand-name items carry NO MARGIN whatsoever for a small trader online—so it’s a complete waste of your time and energy!
Because you won’t be able to make a profit with those items online. The prices for branded goods online are so competitive that you simply stand no chance of competing unless you’re Amazon itself with more buying power than the yearly budget of a small country.
If you go the traditional wholesaler route, you’ll find that the prices they offer are even higher than what you can buy the same item for on Amazon or anywhere else online. There is basically no potential margin!
Don’t even think that you can buy these products directly from factories in China, it won’t happen.
Don’t try to find that one secret online wholesaler that will sell you these products at 50% discount price, it won’t happen. There’s no such thing.
Yes, you can make money with branded goods if you deal with liquidation stock or clearance stock, but even then, it’s a lot of work and a lot of risk for a relatively low return. Plus, it’s just not a model that can support a long-term, sustainable business for you.
So, the lesson here is very clear: stay away from BRANDED goods altogether! They don’t carry enough margins to make your eCommerce business profitable.
As explained throughout the Amazon Sharks course, your very own private label products business model is the only way to make this work, and it is the only way for people with small budgets to start a decent business and make decent profits.
Mistake #5 – Dealing with FAKES!
As a follow-up to the previous mistake, some people actually do manage to make nice money selling branded goods online. At least until Amazon or the police shuts them down. Yes, they sell counterfeit items—cheap copies of popular goods, often called FAKES!
With the help of the internet, wholesale scams are becoming more and more popular. Many people know that most products nowadays are manufactured in China. However, they wrongly assume that they can simply get these products directly from those same factories in China at a lower cost!
Don’t be stupid!!! Even though it’s a true that most goods are being made in China, don’t think that these factories can sell those products to whoever they want. Don’t think that the factory worker at iPhone plant can take three phones home when finishing their shift and sell them to you online!
Brands very closely monitor these factories. They have VERY STRONG contracts and security in place to ensure that goods don’t get distributed through any unofficial channels.
The most popular fake products that are being sold online:
- And so on!
But let me kindly remind you that selling such fake products is ILLEGAL!
Yes, it absolutely is a criminal offence and can get you in serious trouble. You will face massive fines and even jail time. Especially if your counterfeit product causes harm to someone. Is it worth all that risk just to make a few extra pounds?
So, don’t even think going down this route—sooner or later, it will end. And it won’t be a happy ending, trust me.
Mistake #6 – Not willing to invest money!
I don’t know why, but many people wrongly hold the belief that starting and building an online business takes no money and all they need is internet connection.
While in some cases it may be true—like if you’re just a programmer or freelance writer—it is just not the case for physical products businesses on Amazon. For this type of business, you have to understand that you’ll have to INVEST money into it if you want to build something real.
There will be fixed costs, like the Amazon pro seller account subscription or accounting fees, and there will also be variable costs, like product photography, graphics, advertising and so on.
The key principles to take from this are understanding that:
- You’ll have to invest money before you see any results/profit;
- Nothing is for free—it either costs your time or money;
- You’ll need to reinvest profits back into the business for as long as possible, before you even think about taking out any profit for yourself.
Of course, you can do whatever you want. I’m just telling you how it is and what you should expect. You will need to invest money into your business. If you’re not ready to do it, don’t even start, seriously! Stick with your day job or whatever you’re up to and leave business out of your life.
Mistake #7 – Taking shortcuts!
Oh boy, this one is my favourite!
As I get to work with so many people and receive hundreds of emails each month, I can say for sure that most people are nothing but LAZY and are trying to cheat the system, find a quick trick, or whatever they need to do to avoid doing some actual work!!!
Let me clear the air for you—building an online business requires hard work and lots of it! If you’re not ready to work late nights after your day job is done and all weekend while your friends are having fun, don’t even start. Don’t waste your resources, I mean it!
If you think that you can write a quality, 300-word product description in 10 minutes, don’t do it! If you think that you’ll become a pro photographer by watching two YouTube videos, don’t do it!
You can’t achieve great results by doing things half-cooked, rushed, and without putting maximum effort into them! Every day, there are millions of people around the world who make a plan to start an online business. The winners will be the ones who actually take this whole thing seriously and are eager enough to make it happen!
The thing is, if you want to build something great here, a business you can be proud of, a business that can support a dream lifestyle, you have to be ready to put work into it! And I don’t care if you have a full-time day job or two! I also had a job when I started out! I often worked 12-14 hour shifts in that warehouse and it was physically hard work. I still managed to do online work in the evenings, at night and on the weekends when rest of my friends were watching football at the local pub.
So, don’t look for excuses! You better start planning your time, so you can manage to work at least 2-3 hours a day on your online business and more on weekends.
Be ready to put a lot of hard work into this—be ready to HUSTLE!!!
Remember, the majority of people are lazy, so you only have to do better than them. Do more than they do and you already have a higher chance of success than they do!
Mistake #8 – Not willing to learn and adapt!
If you’re just starting out or have very little experience in selling products online, be prepared to spend a lot of time on learning. You will have to learn a LOT!
First of all, you’ll need to learn how selling platforms like Amazon work, as there are lots of rules and things to keep in mind. It’s not 2005 anymore. Back then, you could just list random products and make a profit all day long. Nowadays, you really have to understand how selling platforms, ranking and advertising systems work to make your business a success.
Competition levels are higher than ever before because anyone can start a business now. The barrier to entry is so low that everyone sells something online! If you want to stand out from that crowd and be successful, you’ll have to learn and do more!
Secondly, speaking of adaptation, things online change very fast! Every year, there are new features coming out and new rules you need to adhere to. If you still think that Facebook and Instagram are a fad, I’m afraid you’re in a very bad position. No matter what your age is, you have to learn and understand how eCommerce works in a world where one negative review can ruin your business. You have to learn and adapt, all the time. This will never end!
Mistake #9 – Quitting your job before a penny is made!
This is a classic mistake that I have witnessed so many times that it makes me sick! People are quitting their day jobs thinking that they will replace their full-time income just like that, by starting to sell something online.
I’m sorry, but this just won’t happen. I’m generalising here, of course. I’m sure there is the odd person here and there who can make it happen that fast, but generally speaking, for most people, quitting their job BEFORE they have a business income in place is a massive mistake. And here’s why:
1) Building a business takes time (more on that later), so don’t expect that you’ll make thousands per month when you’re barely starting out;
2) Leaving your job and having no regular income will put a lot of stress on you! Especially if you have a family to take care of. Don’t do it!
By having a job and income, you can always save up some extra money to invest in your business. This will help you to speed up your growth, expand your inventory and invest in advertising. If you quit your job, you lose that potential of further investment.
Stay in your job for as long as possible! I wouldn’t ever recommend quitting BEFORE you can cover your basic living expenses from the profit your business makes. At that point, yes, it would be a wise idea to quit or say move to a part-time position, so you can spend more time on your business and grow it to the next level.
Mistake #10 – Doing it all on your own!
I know that we all wish we were rockstars in everything we do in our life, but, unfortunately, it’s usually far from truth. Most people are actually very good at some specific skills and terrible at everything else—including me. You can’t be good in everything and you don’t have to be!
You wouldn’t try to fix a broken engine if you’re not a mechanic, right? Or try to fix a broken leg? Right! You would seek the help of a professional. And same goes for business. Don’t try to do everything on your own, you simply can’t do as good a job as people who do that task for a living.
- Graphic design
- Product photography
- And more!
So, you don’t have to do it all on your own, especially if you’re ready to invest money in your business, as mentioned before.
And this is especially important for people who have those full-time jobs or family and kids to look after. I get it! You have a very limited amount of free time on your hands, so even more reason to make the most out of it!
Don’t try to become a photographer when you can simply pay a reasonable amount of money and let a professional do it for you! Trust me, the results will be MUCH better than you could ever achieve, even after months of learning it!
The same goes for writing. If you can’t write product descriptions—don’t! Hire a professional copywriter who will do a much better job!
Learn to outsource tasks and you’ll grow your business much faster. This is a VITAL skill you need to learn if you’re starting out on a small budget and can’t put together a full-time team that will do these tasks for you.
Mistake #11 – Expecting results overnight and quitting too quick!
I will have to repeat myself here. Building a real business online takes time! Don’t expect results and profit overnight. Not even after a month. That is, unless you have tens of thousands of pounds you can invest in a very aggressive advertising campaign.
For most people, it will be slow and steady growth that they should concentrate on. And that’s perfectly fine! All you need is patience and trust in what you do. It’s all in your head, you know that! As long as you can keep yourself motivated, have that higher goal in place, you can just make progress every day and move closer to your goals.
Unfortunately, too many people lack patience and want everything right now! They are not ready to put say two or three years of hard work every day. They are not willing to hustle day and night to build something great for themselves and their families. They just want to become wealthy now! And what happens is that they QUIT just a few weeks or months after starting their business. Massive, massive mistake!
Not everything goes according to plan, not even for me, but you can’t QUIT!! Quitting is easy. It’s the easiest thing in life! But it’s not the way to go if you want to be successful, and you know that.
I’m very good at what I do because I have been very persistent in what I do for more than 15 years now. You won’t have to wait that long, but on average, you should expect to put in two to three years of solid work, every day, until you have built something really good.
Mistake #12 – Trying to find that SECRET recipe to success!
Many people get trapped by the idea that there is one hidden secret out there that will show them how to magically make their business a huge success. Again, there’s no such thing. C’mon, use common sense for once! There are no magical systems or fixes that will make you rich overnight or get your Amazon listing ranked in the number one spot.
A business consists of thousands of small pieces, tasks, actions that you need to put together to build it all up.
There’s nothing wrong with looking for help and information on how to do specific tasks. Actually, I encourage you to do it! This is actually one thing that many people have to learn— how to fix small problems and how to find help with small issues. Believe it or not, many people still don’t know how to properly use Google, YouTube and other online resources.
For example, say you’re working in Photoshop on product images for your Amazon listing and don’t know how to crop it to the required size. What to do? Hmmm, maybe search on Google or YouTube for “how to crop an image in Photoshop”? There will be plenty of articles, videos and forum discussions on how to do simple tasks like these!
It sounds so obvious, right? But I get emails with these very questions EVERY day!!! It means that people simply don’t know how to search for free help and tutorials online.
To sum it up, while learning specific topics, tasks are what you actually want to do. STOP looking for magic secrets or recipes for success— there’s no such thing. All it takes is hard work, persistence and patience.
Mistake #13 – Trying to come up with that next big thing!
This is my favourite Dragons’ Den mistake! To some, I will probably sound really negative here, but it still has to be said. Please, DO NOT try to become an INVENTOR of that NEXT big thing! Well, you can if you want, but then you should probably stop reading this post as the information covered here probably won’t be applicable to your situation.
And please don’t get me wrong, I’m not against inventions or the bright people who create the products that make our lives easier. It’s just that I’m not the right person to give advice for that type of business model. Unless you are a professional inventor with a strong track record of creating and selling popular inventions, I truly believe that, for the majority of people reading this blog, going down the inventor route and trying to invent that next big thing is NOT a viable endeavour.
You have all seen Dragons’ Den or Shark Tank, right? Then you know how much money and time it takes to even get to the stage where you can pitch your idea to an investor. Tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds in concepts, prototypes, custom moulds, patents and everything else! And even then, there are no guarantees that your product will be a success.
In fact, probably only one out of a thousand such ideas make it to the market and make serious money. Are you really ready to take those odds? I’d rather buy a few lottery tickets, at least the effort is minimal and potential win is massive!
What I have been doing and what I teach is something much more predictable, safe and suitable for almost everyone—selling products that are PROVEN to sell!
If you follow my advice closely, the risks are almost non-existent as you’ll be sourcing and selling products that are proven to sell! And this is the difference between inventing a new product business model and what I teach in the Amazon Sharks course.
Mistake #14 – Ignoring problems!
Every week I receive emails from people asking for advice on Amazon listings. They ask me to check them out and give advice, help them with ideas on what’s wrong and so on. And I always check them out and give at least a few short actionable tips on what they can do to improve their listings and product pages.
What I often like to do is check those listings two to three weeks later to see if my advice has been implemented. I’m sure you’re already guessing it; in many cases, they don’t bother to act on my advice or improve anything! OR if they do, they do it just for the sake of doing it—ticking the boxes, so to speak, and rushing the task just to get it done. Why? I can instantly see when a person has put hours into a product listing and when it has been rushed off in 10 or 20 minutes.
They will basically do a quick fix and hide it under the rug. Please don’t do this. The only person you are fooling is yourself. If your product images suck, find a professional photographer and get it done. If your listing titles lack keywords, use Merchant Words and find the best, most popular keywords to use in your title. Just fix the god damn problem so you can move onto the next thing.
If you don’t do this, you’ll find yourself in a very bad position as time goes on. You’ll have so many unfinished, broken things that it will overwhelm you. You’ll inevitably get stuck and you won’t make any further progress. This is a typical situation in the popular TV show “The Profit” where Marcus Lemonis goes into struggling small business to fix them up, but that’s another conversation for another time.
Lesson to be learned: if there’s something broken in your business, FIX IT NOW. Don’t wait until you have a pile of unfinished stuff that will overwhelm and paralyse you.
Mistake #15 – NOT taking action!
And finally, probably the biggest mistake that people make— procrastination!
Oh boy, we’re so lazy that it makes me sick!!!
Everyone wants to quit their job, have an online business, and sit back sunbathing on a cruise ship while the profits roll in. Yeah, good luck with that!
You have to take action EVERY SINGLE DAY! When I say “take action” I do not mean daily maintenance of the business, like answering customer emails. You obviously have to do that no questions asked. I’m talking about actions that move you forward. Actions that make PROGRESS. Actions that build your business, help you reach more customers and so on!
If you just do the minimum amount of work each day to keep the business ticking over, like process orders and go to bed happy, something is wrong. At least, if you’re a true entrepreneur who is willing to build a business that makes £100k, £500k, or a million or more in profit a year.
Ok, this is it, here you go, the 15 most common mistakes people make when trying to start an Amazon or eCommerce business in general.
I believe that these are the 15 most important mistakes to avoid. Even if you do everything else wrong, as long as you DO NOT make these mistakes, you’ll be better off by a mile than the majority of other people out there who are trying to do the same thing.
I could make the list to 30 or 40+ but I wanted to keep this list relatively short, which as you can see, I have already failed at because this post is way too long!
I know that some of these things are more about your mental health, motivation levels, and your eagerness to be successful, but you should know that these things matter as much as your ability to write a good product description.
Don’t think you’re smarter than everyone else. Seriously, if you were, you probably wouldn’t even need to read this post. The thing is, many people think that they know best and do stupid things, like ignoring or breaking these 15 mistakes covered today. Everyone thinks that they are the exception to the rule.
Like with selling fakes. Some people think that they are actually so special and clever that they can find that magical Gucci supplier selling genuine sunglasses for £10 a piece. Well, good luck with that! I’ve seen it a thousand times and I know how it ends.
These are all principles I have accumulated from my 15 years of selling experience, consulting experience, and answering thousands of emails. This is tried and tested information. It NEVER fails! So just stick with the basics and don’t try to be smarter than everyone else.
Ok, enough of the negativity! I really hope my message got across to you and you won’t be repeating any of these 15 mistakes.
If you have anything to add or share with others, please leave your thoughts below the post in comments box.
Until next week! 🙂