I’m commonly ask how a beginner can start to sell on Amazon. I have many guides on how you can start selling on Amazon, but none as comprehensive as this guide.
Note: Currently this guide is only 4,200+ words according to WordPress and I’ll build on it with rolling updates within the next few months.
This really is a step by step guide and allow you to know exactly what is required to begin selling on Amazon and making money. If you’re looking for a career change, with a view to build a business on Amazon FBA, then this is for you.
My intention with this post is to outline the entire process of how to sell on Amazon. I hope, through reading this post, that you’ll have enough information to decide if selling on Amazon or online in general is something worth doing.
The Amazon opportunity
My journey through Amazon FBA started in 2015 and I have been selling for several years now. In April 2018 I was able to quit my career in order to pursue Amazon full time. Since then I’ve been running my own Amazon business ever since.
In that time I’ve learned many things that have helped my businesses succeed. Yes – I have 2 Amazon businesses selling different products. I’ve also helped thousands of people, through this blog, to start selling their first product too.
This takes a lot of work. Hard work at times. I don’t pitch the Amazon business building journey as easy. I’ve had challenges and have overcome them. What’s most important is that you stay committed.
I’ll start this post off with the basics of selling on Amazon FBA, and will expand towards revealing everything you need in order to get your first sales. I’ll even show you guys some great ways to discover the first product(s) to sell on Amazon.
Lastly, and I can’t emphasize this enough. Don’t simply read this for entertainment value. The best way to learn is to apply. Avoid sitting on the fence thinking about it, and take action through what I share here.
Beginner’s guide to selling on Amazon
In writing this, I’ll assume you’re a beginner towards selling (and making money) through Amazon. I’ll fill you in on how this all works.
Amazon has recently become the world’s #1 company. They’re also the largest retailer in the world. People from most countries are permitted to sell on Amazon, and no matter which country you’re from, I would immediately recommend the US marketplace. It’s the only place where I sell currently.
You can list products to sell on Amazon. If the product sells then you’ll have to pay some fees, but your customers are available to be purchased by hundreds of millions of customers. Pretty neat operation.
Different selling models examined
I’ll soon get into what types of products to start selling on Amazon. Firstly I wanted to examine what an Amazon listing looks like, and how you as a 3rd party seller fits into the scheme.
In this case, let’s start with retail arbitrage or wholesale. This is where you merely sell a product that’s already being sold on Amazon. You’re piggy-backing on a listing.
Now, some things to note here:
- The ‘Sold by’ is the seller of the product, very likely a solo person
- Amazon will pick & pack this item through their own Fulfillment
- There are other sellers of this product, but this one wins the sale
- It appears on this listing, Amazon has run out of stock themselves
When starting your journey, and if you decide upon the retail arbitrage or wholesale methods, then this is what your listing will look like.
My preferred and most recommended strategy to sell on Amazon is private label. This requires a higher capital starting base, but also, gives you the more security for brand protection. No one else can sell your products without your permission, providing you apply for the trademarks and use Amazon’s Brand Registry program.
In this case, we can see some obvious distinctions:
- The owner of this product is the sole seller for full control
- Amazon isn’t selling this product, and unlikely ever will
- Their photos, listing & FAQs have been built by the owner
- Reviews for this product is quite strong (A true brand asset)
Finding products to sell on Amazon
I’ve previous covered finding products to sell on Amazon which is a more comprehensive post. Yet, I’ll run at this at another angle.
The truth is: Without products that produce a profit, your Amazon business is a sinking ship.
Finding a product to sell is the key step that beginners desire to start with. At the same time, it is also the most overlooked and rushed segment of the journey.
I often received messages from around the world stating “Please tell me which products to sell on Amazon” which is why I created the guide 101 Products to Sell on Amazon. This is a good starting point.
The truth is, you simply cannot just pick a random product. The perfect product can be found where your interests and a profitable margin align.
To take things a step further, the best products in the world solve problems. They come well packaged, are paired with world class customer support and have a strong perceived value.
Most beginners claim Amazon is too competitive. I’d argue that most sellers are too lazy. There’s a strong opportunity for those that can innovate.
Steps to product discovery
Now that we have an idea (in concept) of finding a product, let’s unpack this into a step by step process.
Narrowing down on products
When looking for that first product, you’ll want to pick well. This is why I’m not an advocate of rushing in. It could take a few months of solid research to find this winning horse.
That product needs to be generating sales as soon as possible, allowing you to scale towards a range of products. This also cements the belief that this works.
Picking a niche is hard. What’s easier is finding an existing product or brand on Amazon which is doing well, and at the bare minimum, model their results. In later stages I’ll discuss how to expand on their product range. This concept alone took me 3 years to figure out.
I don’t recommend seeking out profitable niches, but instead looking towards profitable products. The truth is: Most products on Amazon are profitable, even with the increase on Tariffs from China.
I’m often asked what my guidelines are towards finding a profitable product. These are:
- Selling between $25 and $200. Most of my products are in the $50 to $70 range
- Should be small, light and easy to ship. This is most important for the first product
- A profit margin of at least 30% and you should be able to sell at 3x costs
- Being small, can be air-freighted from China to USA within one week
- Each competitor on page 1 has under 150 reviews allowing space to compete
A great tactic I’ve recently discovered is looking at products which are using Amazon’s PPC system, which is their paid ads program. As a buyer, if you’ve ever seen ‘Sponsored Ads’ then these sellers are paying to be in front of your eyes.
Now – if they’re spending money, then there’s a good chance that they’re selling well.
Caveat: There are some products to avoid, especially for the first launch. This includes oversize, high factory costs and products that Amazon is restrictive towards new sellers.
As a beginner, it’s wise not to spend time getting ungated, as that’s less time you have to look at the vast amount of unrestricted products. Reserve the restricted categories when your capital and time is greater.
Selecting the right tools
A builder is only as good as the tools that he works with. With Amazon, we have at our disposal tools that can use to evaluate sales volume of competitors. From this, we’re able to make a more accurate decision when it comes to deciding upon a product to sell on Amazon.
Note: These tools aren’t to be used as merely automatic product finders. That is – they won’t find you the magical solution. This is simply data allowing you to (likely) make the best possible decision.
Essentially, these tools allow you to set criteria and filters based on what I mentioned prior in the ideal product guidelines. Therefore, we can filter out the bad apples.
For Amazon Product Research, I recommend these 3 tools:
- Zonguru which I’ve been personally using for 2+ years. This is excellent software that, at a glance, gives you instant feedback towards products, brands and niches.
- JungleScout which achieves almost the exact same outcome, but at a more reasonable price.
- Unicorn Smasher which isn’t a full suite unlike the two options mentioned prior. This is merely a Google Chrome extension allowing you to access sales data within particular categories on Amazon.
Certainly none of this data is absolute. Amazon is a constantly changing marketplace daily. That said, these tools will give you a fairly accurate idea of sales volume, allowing you to make a competitive evaluation.
After a few days of research, you should have a few products that can potentially be launched to start selling on Amazon within weeks. Most of you are aware, but for those who aren’t – there is no perfect product to sell on Amazon. Completion is better than perfection, especially for your first product launch.
Going beyond your competitors is where the real opportunities lay. I’ll be teaching you further later in this article.
Finding Suppliers for your Amazon business
Every single Amazon teacher and mentor is recommending Alibaba, and I would agree! I’ve found some excellent suppliers from this platform. That said, it’s not the only sourcing platform, but as a beginner, it’s the best starting point.
Joining Alibaba is simple:
- Jump on board Alibaba and select ‘Join Free’
- Next, create a new* email address and join Alibaba
- Fill out your basic information, and you can use a generic company name
- Confirm your personal information and you’ll be up and running
*If you use a personal email address, then it will be spammed like crazy from Chinese suppliers. Especially if they discover that you sell on Amazon. Hence the recommendation. This always comes as a surprise to beginners. There is no unsubscribe button….I learned the hard way. 🙂
There’s both an art and science towards finding the right supplier. You’ll need to make sure they follow this criteria at a minimum:
- Accepts safe payment gateways such as PayPal and Trade Assurance
- Are a Gold Supplier and have been operating for several years
- Has been certified with an onsite check by Alibaba’s own team
I like to keep you on track. Let’s recap so far:
- You’ve found a few products which meet the guidelines I’ve provided
- Product validation and expected Amazon revenue has been validated
- You have gone ahead and opened an Alibaba account right now
Now it’s time to find 3 suppliers. I always recommend at least 3 and up to 5. Some will be more ideally suited than others, and if one is too busy in the future, then you’ve at least got at least one more on backup.
Dealing with Chinese suppliers for FBA
Ok – now the fun part! This is where it all starts to become real, especially with product samples. We’re going to be negotiating with suppliers, not necessarily for lower pricing, but to actually validate that they’re prepared to deliver what is promised.
For the purposes of this article, I’m relaying experiences in dealing online with suppliers. I would highly recommend that you instead deal with suppliers face to face, and the Canton Fair is one fine example. That said, I understand the costs involved in this.
When it comes to sourcing, you don’t immediately order with Alibaba. You’ll start negotiation with Chinese suppliers, and this is one fundamental step.
Now – I’m using China for an example. You’re open to sourcing from any country that fits within my recommended guidelines. You’ll find that greater than 80% of FBA sellers continue to source from China.
Step 1: Contact a key supplier and begin conversing
You’ll do this via Alibaba initially, but feel free to transfer conversations to WhatsApp as I have done countless times. Chinese suppliers are more readily available via instant messaging apps as opposed to email.
I understand that this can be a little nerve-racking at first. Suppliers are genuinely (in almost all cases) wanting to know how they can help you. Most are paid on commissions above their salary, so there’s a strong and vested reason for them to assist.
Step 2: Outline your product expectations
You’ll want to make sure that reasonable expectations are outlaid, so they are willing to and able to meet your standards. What you’re really doing at this stage is validating that you can continue to work with this supplier for the long term.
Many sellers attempt to negotiate lower prices. I high advise against this. Generally, as price lowers, so does the product quality. Chinese suppliers will ‘make up’ for this lost revenue. Discounts on pricing can come in time, and it’s most important to work on your relationship first and foremost.
Step 3: Place your sample order
Ask your supplier to produce a sample, and then take a video + several photos. If you’re happy with the results, then have it mailed to you. Air express via their courier account is ideal, and will avoid customs issues. Expect delivery within 2 weeks.
Upon receiving your sample, there’s some checks to perform:
- Are there any defects?
- How does it compare to the product photos?
- Is there anyway you can improve to have a competitive edge?
I’ve written a more comprehensive guide on sourcing samples for Amazon if you desire to go deeper in this chapter.
Creating your Amazon listing
If you’re happy with your sample (remembering that you need at least 3, from 3 different suppliers) then it’s time to step forward. This is where things become even more real.
Before creating an inventory order, it’s best to start with creating the Amazon listing. Allow me to outline these specific steps:
- Head over to Seller Central and create an account
- From there you’ll want to create a new product listing
- Choose the category* of the products you intend to sell
- Fill in the required information, but also keep it simple
*Some products fit within more than one category. If you’re confused, look at competitors and their category for best selection.
There are some spaces that you’ll need to fill out:
- Title: This is where you’ll enter your product name with keywords
- Manufacturer: Enter in your company name (or intended one)
- Brand: This can be the same as your company name or different
- Price: Any price for now is fine. You can modify it once you’re live
Entering this information is simply so that Amazon has the information to have your product live, but most importantly, so you can create a shipping plan. That effectively means some barcodes for your product and cartons to be sent to Amazon.
Note: I absolutely recommend buying UPC codes. I’ve used GS1 with a lot of success, as have many of my students. Their pricing is quite affordable if you’re a small seller.
Please don’t waste time with redundant advice that recommends using barcode reselling services. Amazon’s rules have changed in recent months. A good reason why you shouldn’t rely on cheap courses or YouTube videos.
Creating an Amazon FBA Shipping Plan
This is a more complex step of the selling on Amazon journey. I understand if you become confused here. It will be worthwhile reading this part of the article several times over. Trust me – this part of the Amazon journey gets easier with practice!
The first thing you’ll want to do is go into your Seller Central Dashboard, find the ‘Edit Inventory’ tab and change your product that you recently listed to ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’. By default, Amazon always uses the Fulfilled by Merchant (i.e. you send products from home) option. What we want to do is use their own fulfillment network known as FBA.
You’ll also want to print your item labels from this page. These labels will be sent to your Chinese supplier who will sticker each unit, likely directly on the packaging.
Next you’ll want to create your inbound shipment. To do this, simply click on Send/replenish inventory and select case-packed products. Essentially what this will equal is all of your products going into a single box, or a range of boxes.
You’ll note that there’s a Shop From field. I always set this as my Chinese supplier, but others have set it as their freight forwader’s address or inspection company.
Sometimes Amazon will ask you to fill out a Hazmat Review form. Don’t be too concerned here, as 99% likely that your product is totally safe.
Amazon will want to know the dimensions of your individual products, and how many units are within each case. Then they’ll also want to know how many cases there are. For reference, Chinese suppliers often refer to cases as cartons.
They will want to know if you want prep. This is a likely no, since your manufacturer in most cases completes this stage through packaging up your products for shipment.
The last stage is that Amazon will select which warehouse they want you to send to. They do this automatically, and unfortunately as sellers, we don’t get a choice. The address they provide is what you’ll relay to your freight forwarder.
Lastly, click on Work on Shipment.
Preparation and shipment to Amazon FBA
You’ll be selecting at this stage how your products are to be sent to Amazon. By far the easiest is small parcel delivery, essentially meaning one or a small amount (<15) cartons. The next step is pallets, and the largest sellers send in full containers, often of just one single product.
You’ll need to make sure all your shipping information is correct. You can ask your supplier how much each carton weighs and its dimensions. If you’re shipping pallets, you’ll also need the pallet weight and dimensions.
Finally – the last step is to Print box labels. When I say ‘Print’ I do mean printing to PDF. That is – you’ll send an electronic PDF copy to your supplier who will print off these labels and attach to boxes (plus pallets too if applicable).
Note: Remember that whilst you will have 10 labels, they’re not all the same. These are 1 individual labels, so ensure that your supplier doesn’t just print off 10 copies of page 1.
On the next page you’ll be able to enter in tracking numbers once provided by your freight forwarder. Personally, I’ve not worried about this step as I track my delivery through my emails already.
World class product photography
Phew! I’m sure that shipment stage is over. Clearly there’s much more involved than just find a product in China and get it on Amazon.
You’ll need to have your photos created before sending products in. But you can upload such photos whilst your products are in transit. As long as your products are ready and live while Amazon’s unpacking your products, then you’re good to go!
Now, there’s two approaches:
- The expensive method of paying for photographers and models
- The cheap DIY method which I recommend for all new starters
Guess what? The cheap method works just as good in most cases, and you can get pretty close to a professional standard.
There are companies pitching expensive Amazon product photography services and claim to be professionals. But if you’re launching dozens of products, or you’re on a limited budget, then these costs can be substantial.
I would recommend firstly that you take your smart phone and start practicing some photography of your product sample in different areas. There’s only 1 photo that needs to be perfect (on a white background) and that’s your main listing photo. All others are up to your creativity!
Product listing improvements on Amazon
One of the most neglected parts is the Amazon listing, especially for new sellers. It’s literally everything – your 24/7 sales agent. Nothing is going to help your sales improve more than a fully optimized product listing page.
Pro-tip: Never think that your product listing is 100% perfect – there’s always elements where it can improve.
Having a fully optimized listing paired with strong keywords and photos creates a strong relationship with your customer. I like to think as Amazon photos especially as equivalent of dating apps – customers will pass in one second if they’re not up to standards.
I’ll examine here the 5 core factors of a strong Amazon product listing:
- Your product title including keywords, features, benefits, size and brand name
- The product images that both meet Amazon’s requirements, and speak to the customer
- Fundamental product features which examine the product benefits
- Listing description where the brand story and mission can be featured
- Product reviews which will gain in volume over the next few months
As mentioned, optimization of an Amazon product listing is an ongoing process which leads to greater customer conversion and minimal buyer friction. Despite selling for almost 3 years, I continue to learn and optimize my listings on Amazon weekly.
Unique branding and scaling on Amazon
Generally speaking, logo designed should be placed higher in this article. But if you’re simply to get a product on Amazon and selling within weeks, then skipping logo design will greatly assist that start-up speed.
At the same time, logo design goes hand-in-hand with excellent product packaging and brand building. If you’re looking to build a long term business selling on Amazon and a recognized brand, then consider working on these elements very early on.
I’d highly recommend contractors and outsourcing. I’ve used 99Designs, Upwork and Fiverr for work previously, and my results have been excellent. These feelancers can assist with logo design, packaging and product inserts.
Branded products in most cases will yield higher prices than those which are generic. So consider the costs of such services to pay off in the long run.
Automation and systems
There are benefits of using systems and automation. You may wish to outsource elements of your business. Personally, a freight forwarder and inspection service has helped me in many ways.
- Fully scheduling of shipments from China to the United States
- Inspection of your products each time prior to leaving China
- Rejection of defective inventory prior to being loaded for shipping
- Full preparation of your products as per Amazon’s guidelines
- Complete handling into Amazon’s warehouses regardless of location
This is the missing link that often beginners attempt to perform on their own, or simply take the risk without inspecting their products.
I understand that such costs are going to eat into profit margins. At the same time, yet is an almost mandatory step towards supply chain automation. After all, many people start selling on Amazon for time-freedom.
Currently I am looking to hire my 1st full time employee, which is going to both allow scaling of my business, but also give me more freedom. Before you all reach out, I am seeking an existing Amazon seller for this role. 🙂
What I’ve covered is perhaps the most comprehensive guide on the internet for those who wish to start selling on Amazon, using their FBA program.
- I’ve shown you how to hone in on what to sell on Amazon
- Some software I use was recommended to examine sales data
- Product validation was covered (and it’s at your sole discretion)
- I have explained how to best communicate with Chinese suppliers
- Product samples was explained, with a link to more in-depth training
- I’ve elaborated why it’s best to optimize monthly your product pages
- FBA Shipping plan was explained (and experience is the best teacher)
- Using product and factory inspection services was highly advisable
- I have talked about why branding with logos & branding is paramount
- Finally – for the freedom component, I’ve talked about outsourcing
And from this, you’re very likely to make your first sale. What I’ve outlined here is exactly what all Amazon FBA courses are teaching.
The next steps
Everything I’ve outlined in this article is designed to motivate you. Clearly I have an immense amount of knowledge and experience. In fact, I’ve been dealing with Amazon (and making money in various ways) for 7 years now.
I guarantee you, that if you take everything in this article and apply it, then you can learn how to sell on Amazon. It’s likely this will lead to your first sale(s) and the creation of a new brand on the platform. The best day in your career as an Amazon seller is that first sale.
You will run into some challenges. In fact, the challenges actually just get greater. But I’m personally obsessed with doing the work that others won’t, so I can get the results that others can’t.
The first step really is to get started and take action. Don’t simply sleep on this information presented here.