There is a big difference between those that would describe themselves as self-employed or as freelancers and those that are true entrepreneurs. Being self-employed means you’ve created a job for yourself, which is great, if it weren’t for all the extra hours and your slave driver of a boss. Being an entrepreneur though, is something much different. It is to start a business that isn’t dependent on your labor to generate income. You can take a vacation and you don’t have to shut it down. I’d venture a guess that most online marketplace sellers fall into the self-employed category, but wouldn’t mind jumping to the entrepreneur category if they could feel comfortable enough with the changes. So in this post I’ll talk about some of the things you’ll need to do in order to make that jump.
There are several major departments that you need to maintain in your marketplace selling business, there is sourcing the inventory and purchasing it, there is merchandising if you are adding new product, and if not there is basic inventory management. Then there is fulfillment, and finally customer service. One method would of course be hiring employees to do all this for you, but then you have to pay a salary, train them, and you’re back on the hook as soon as they quit. I suggest an alternate approach for this business. I suggest you outsource it all with the exception of sourcing new inventory. You can spend a week every 6 months sourcing new inventory and spend the rest of your year cashing checks. Here’s how to outsource the rest:
Merchandising: You can use marketplacepartner.com to manage all of your listings, whether they are unique to you or already exist on Amazon. After the initial loading of data you’re set. If you don’t want to mess with the input we can take that off your hands and get it completely prepared for you, product descriptions, photography and all. Even if you don’t use our service at all, you can have your data created and formatted by companies like http://www.3alphadataentry.com/ . You’ll still need to manually upload inventory daily, but you’ll be a step closer to full automation. After the initial setup, there is only minimal maintenance like price changes, which you can have managed by a virtual assistant, which I will address below.
Customer Service: We have such a small amount of customer service that I haven’t even bothered to attempt to outsource it myself. If you deal with a lot of it though, there are services such as http://www.outsource2india.com/callcenter/email-support.asp that you can hire that handle it for you. Amazon customers are not looking for highly trained interior designers to answer them. They just want to know where their stuff is. So hiring someone 5 hours a week to answer emails and update any inventory price changes is cheap and efficient.
Fulfillment: The fulfillment center I use comes with an order management system that will automatically integrate with both Amazon and martketplacepartner.com. This means inventory numbers are sent to martkerplacepartner.com, then marketplacepartner.com sends the feed to Amazon, then the order is downloaded to the fulfillment center and shipped out automatically. When you run below your desired threshold, you can set up the system to place replenishment orders for you without you even knowing, thereby removing you from the equation entirely. You don’t have to be involved in any part of it. The company we work with can be found at http://etailfulfillment.com/. The fulfillment center then updates the shipping information in Amazon, which then deposits the money in your account while you’re out fishing.
Of course all this automation needs to be closely monitored for some time when you implement it, but once you’ve got it all running you can move on to more important things, like figuring out what else to sell, or backpacking across Europe! That’s the point when you own a business as opposed to a job.