Selling online? Is it really that easy? One man’s story.
Over the years I have promoted online commerce or e-commerce as it’s known for both my clients in my own projects. The purpose of this post is to show people on old example of how I was able to make money selling a book that I wrote online and also demonstrate some basic affiliate marketing I did with Amazon.
I don’t embellish or lie or promise anything in this article. What I really want to do is just show people that it can be done and that there are more tools available and significantly larger markets to sell to, today.
About 20 years ago, a friend of mine and I were watching an infomercial and we joked about how easy it would be to sell a product online at the time. My good friend Greg mentioned to me that I could write about things I enjoyed was good at and so I chose to self publish a book on how to make $90,000 a year in desktop publishing. So for the next two weeks, I spent two hours a night from 8 o’clock until 10 o’clock writing a chapter in our on how I was making money producing newsletters, flyers, business cards, and annual reports or presentations for small business.
Within two weeks I had my book written. It wasn’t heavily edited, had many spelling mistakes, but it had lots of good advice from someone (myselfl) who at that time had made over $90,000. Now my challenge was how to promote it but more importantly what form to sell it in.
I chose to photocopy the book of the local business [Tiger Printing and Stationery] and then have it bound and covered in a nice clear plastic cover. Their price is very reasonable and so I would come in and print off 25 to 30 books at a time. My expectation was that I would probably sell a whole bunch in town and maybe a few in the peace country area and I would be it. Boy I was wrong.
After one year, I had sold approximately $30,000 worth of books with 95% of the sales going to the United States and Europe. Not only did I sell my books for $14.95 + $2.00 shipping and handling, the majority of clients a bought from me paid in US dollars. This provided me with a very reasonable profit just on the exchange alone.
My marketing was really quite simple…. I ran an online ad in a couple forums and a classified ad in the back of a magazine called Home Office Computing. And that was pretty much it. Now you can imagine today with social media, online books and magazines, Google ad words and other places to do promotions, one can do very well. I mention this because it’s critical that you understand you can get into selling products without a great deal of investment other than a little bit of time and shameless self-promotion.
The other really cool success story that continues to generate money is the affiliate program that Amazon.com has had for years. I believe they have over 3 million affiliates (people who sell their products through online links and get a commission). My affiliate ID was around 5000 and so I was in the program early. So after reading about how you can sell through an affiliate store, I didn’t want to get caught being a scammer so I promoted computer game solution guides for my two favorite games which were Myst and Riven.
Now when I first started, Amazon only paid you a commission on what was sold in your store. But within a few years, if somebody visited your store and bought a book (or not) and then while online purchase the television or new paradise skates, you got a commission as well. Within six months I was making wave more commission then I was on the books themselves. I received a check every quarter and they continued coming in regularly up until a couple years ago which is likely due to the fact that I had turned my store off as I was not maintaining.
I was selling these books about 25 years ago, and for the last 23 years I was earning income and all I did was put up about 15 books from different publishers for two games. I did absolutely nothing since day one. Now many people ask what sort of money I made and in the early first two or three years I was making $600-$700 every three months. And it eventually dwindled down to less and $50 every three months. But if you add up all the money I was paid, it would’ve easily sent me on a trip eight or nine times to some very nice warm climates. I always claimed the money on my taxes but the taxes were very little versus the profit I made.
What’s especially exciting is the fact that Amazon sells many more products online and imagine selling products that sell for $200 versus an eight dollar book. Best of all they handle all the shipping and order taking and I get a little piece of the pie. Say what people will about Amazon, they have provided my family was some extra income and so I support them.
Today, we are faced with lots of email promotions on how to get rich, how to grow or links in certain parts of our body, and many MLM business opportunities and much more. Yes some of it is hokey, BS and is something you really don’t want to get involved in. But don’t think for a minute that everything is scanning because there are many companies selling products online from their homes, small offices and making reasonable amounts of money. Will you become rich overnight? Not really. But if someone came along and offer you an opportunity to earn even $500 a month, that amount would easily make a vehicle payment and certainly be within the realm of what you can capably earn.
As many are aware, I have worked in e-commerce field for a number of years and worked with companies selling all sorts of products and services. I have seen a company sell jeans online to teenage girls all over the US and make millions of dollars. I’ve witnessed companies selling biscotti online, company selling wine, company selling health products and even spiritual guides. I have many friends in the art world that sell artwork and prints online and make a really good living.
Over the years I have sold T-shirts, watercolor paintings and prints, acrylic paintings and even used books. The funny part is I couldn’t sell them locally for whatever reason but amongst the many millions in the US alone and the millions in Europe, I found markets where they would buy my product. As an example, I sold some of my original acrylic paintings from a single page website to a number of women working in the medical profession in the city of Philadelphia. My book on desktop publishing was sold in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Hawaii, Philippines, Australia, India, Israel, Germany, Switzerland, and dozens of other countries.
When I explain the success of my book that I was selling during courses on home-based business, I would get met sometimes with looks of disbelief and a few people chuckling thinking I was filling them full of crap. I would then bring out a box with all the envelopes of all the orders that were mailed to me from all the different countries around the globe. I accept the checks and money orders (I had no Visa or MasterCard at the time). I never once had a bad check or a complaint the my book was overpriced.
To this day I joke with people about the fact that a “schmuck” like me can make money the way I did. Now imagine working for companies making millions online and seeing how they do it. It would scare you in some ways how unprepared they were or how easy it was. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of work involved but when you start making money while you sleep and you get 10 or 15 orders a day in the mailbox you start to get just a little bit excited. And sadly when the Canadian dollar drops and the US dollar rises, pretty much everybody who sends you a check or pays for a product gives you an extra 15 to 20% in some cases.
One last thought, the two dollars shipping and handling that I charge for my book on desktop publishing, came out to about $3 Canadian because of the exchange and my cost to mail was under a dollar. I ensured the weight and the envelope that I used at the time through Canada post gave me a reasonably good profit. My cost for my $14.95 book was around $3 or $4 and so I was making at least $10 profit per book. Not sure if George Richmond, owner of Tiger Printing will remember me coming in and picking up 15 or 20 books of time, but they did all the work and so I was supporting local business and myself – a win-win situation.
In some upcoming blog posts, I’m going to share some things I’ve learned myself selling online as well as what I have learned from my clients (without breaching confidentiality) and examples I have seen. I won’t promise the moon but if somebody asked me how easy it would be to make $200-$500 a month in extra income, I have lots of experience that I can share and some surprising stories.
Now that all said, there are people out there who’ve tried to sell online and not always have success but it really comes down to what market you are selling into, and how easy it is to ship and fulfill orders. You may find that you can’t sell much at all in our local area or even in Western Canada but you’d be surprised at how many people there are in other countries that are now only getting Internet access and who are hungry for products and services from Western based countries. We all hear stories that you can lose money and get ripped off online. This is totally true. But if you use the right software, and the right techniques and safeguard how you do business (which you can learn in a very short period of time) you can make the extra money that can help you take a vacation, buy new car, by that wedding ring or diamond bracelet for your spouse. Or 4 x 4 bumper for that man that needs everything!
More to come, all the best