In Pursuit of FREE TRAVEL: Adding plastic to your wallet

credit card points I have to admit, it seems counter-intuitive to add credit cards to my life.  I spent a good deal of the third     decade of my life concentrating on getting out of debt, paying off student loans and credit cards as quickly as I could.  Consumer debt and the high interest rates always charged on credit cards can wreck havoc on your finances.  Once I paid everything off, I promised myself I would never carry a credit card balance again and I have stayed on track.

So, when I learned that part of Ketih’s traveling genius involves “churning” credit cards—taking them out to get the thousands of bonus points offered, I admit I cringed a bit.  Handling lots of cards and dealing with the various payments made me a bit nervous.  I like simplicity!  But, with the picture of my European dream vacation forming and getting clearer in my mind, I decided the small hassle of additional credit cards is more than compensated for by FREE TRAVEL perks.

I have reached a responsible level with my finances and know that changing where I spend my money will not affect keeping myself in line with responsible spending.  Again, this program is only for folks who have a handle on their finances and are not in any danger of carrying credit balances.

Once I saw all the free points that I could get by opening additional cards—I decided to take the plunge!  BRING IT ON!  –But which card to choose?

Part of the “secret sauce” for Keith’s formula is to open cards slowly and carefully over time.  We don’t want to do anything to damage our credit score.  Make sure to find out your score and keep an eye on it as you start to take out credit.

Next, select your credit card carefully, and, most likely, begin with Chase bank.  Make sure to open a credit card that has an offer that gives you at least 50,000 points.

Chase offers some great cards with exceptional points.  Chase’s points are termed “Ultimate Reward Points” and they can be used in lots of flexible ways for travel.  Chase has partnered with Marriott, Hyatt and United Airlines so it makes using Ultimate Reward points with those companies extremely easy.

Several of the Chase cards have double points in some categories and some of the cards actually pay FIVE TIMES points in some categories.  The reason to start with Chase is that Chase has a rule termed the 5/24 rule.  Chase will only let you take out five credit cards over 24 months—this includes credit cards from any other bank (excluding American Express.)  Most other companies are less strict, so it makes sense (and travel dollars!) to start with Chase when looking to capitalize on credit cards and points.

There are many choices when it comes to credit cards at Chase Bank, right now they have the Chase Freedom Card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card,  The Chase Ink Card for business, the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Most of these cards offer between 60,000 and 100,000 points just for signing up.  The cash value (again, the lowest way to redeem points) on that is $600 to $1000 dollars.  This cash value is if you were to trade these points in for the “cash back,” again, our goal is to get a much higher return with travel benefits.

So, look into your wallet, look at your credit score and then pick the best Chase Card and start earning FREE TRAVEL now.

 

 

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Credit Card Rewards: The First Three Steps

 

Travel concept, airliner, with push pins in european destinations and a map of the world

I believe in setting LARGE GOALS!  That’s why, as soon as I started realizing what credit card points could do for me and my family, I decided to try to take my family of six to Europe entirely on credit card points.  Most of us have never crossed the big pond before and being able to provide a European Vacation for my family is certainly a dream come true.  Online sellers like me spend a lot of money (and can accumulate a lot of credit card points,) so I am fortunate that my “spend” is quite high.  I started out by following the three steps outlined here.  Many thanks to Keith Crowe for inspiring me every step of the way.

HERE WE GO!  Let’s start at the basics and get familiar with what our current credit cards are doing for us.   This program is ONLY for folks who are currently in a position to pay off their credit cards each month—if you are carrying any type of balance, the interest you are paying more than negates the rewards you can get.  So, please, if you carry credit card balances, getting your credit card debt down to zero is your very first priority.  Get it to zero, know you can keep it there, and then come back and pursue your free travel points.

1.)  What is in your wallet?    The first step you need to take is to look at your current credit cards and see which benefits and rewards these cards have.  Ideally, your credit card should have 1% (or better) given back in rewards and no annual fee (there are exceptions to this—only pay an annual fee if it is more than offset by benefits.)

Take out your credit card, go to your bank, go online, and figure out exactly what benefits your current card is offering.  This will give you a starting point.  Also, notice, your card may give you double or better points in certain categories.  Learn what those categories are.  If you have certain cards with certain generous category rewards and other cards with different category rewards, take a Dymo sticker and write down the best categories for that card and attach it right to the card.  This will help you use the right card for the right occasion.

Do not cancel any credit cards, however.  Even if you discover one that has no benefits to you, just leave the balance at zero and leave it open. The reason for this is that your credit score is partially dependent on the length of time you have held credit cards. Closing a long-term credit card can negatively affect your credit score.

2.)  What is your credit score?  Next, take a look at your credit score.   There are lots of places where you can get this information for free—I used Discover.com and learned that my credit score is currently 749.   Our goal is to take out credit slowly over time and not negatively affect our credit score. My mentor has a couple of dozen credit cards and a credit score close to 850, so I know this can be done.  We want to know what our credit score is before we start the program so we can monitor it as we add credit cards to our wallet.  Again, if we approach this correctly our credit score will stay the same (or even rise) as we take out more credit.

3.)  Quit taking “sucker bets” with the points you accumulate on your current credit cards.   The LEAST value you can get from your points is in cash back, gift cards or magazine subscriptions.  For now, let your points accumulate.  We will show you MUCH BETTER options on how to spend your points in future posts (as I learn this along with you.)  For now, let your points rack up and know you will be using them for great travel benefits soon.

When I started this program, I had the Chase Ink for Business and the Chase Freedom card.  I learned that the Ink for business gives me double points when used at Staples, Office Depot or Home Depot.  I learned that the Chase Freedom card gives me 5 times points when used at restaurants (this category changes every quarter.)  I started using the Freedom when I was eating out and the Ink when I was buying supplies for my business.

So spend some quality time reviewing your current credit cards and learning how you are currently getting point, look into your credit score and stop cashing in your points—you are on your way.

 

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How To Travel The World For FREE

travel hackingA First Class overseas vacation plus accommodations in a five star resort each year for an entire family!

I love to travel!  Exploring new places resonates with me.  I love leaving my life (just for a while) and exploring the surrounding cities, states and countries.  Beaches—yes!  Mountains—sign me up!  Cities, towns, campgrounds, I get excited about it all.

I also like to “get a good deal.”  I usually shop for inexpensive flights and explore a variety of accommodations before choosing.  Since I have a large family and many preferences to consider, we don’t always buy on price alone, but we are always conscious of where we are spending our vacation funds.

I tried, at one point, to keep track of miles on certain airlines through their mileage programs.  I learned it is hard to transfer miles from child to parent and even harder to get a decent flight using miles.  I have “earned” a couple of flights this way though and that was nice.

I never considered credit card points as a way to travel.  I always just took the cash back option, figuring I would put it toward travel or whatever I wanted.

So, I was probably an average consumer.  Doing exactly what the credit card companies and airlines expect.

I didn’t give it much thought until I met Keith Crowe.

Keith is an Amazon seller who uses credit card points to secure first class travel and resort stays.  The way he manipulates credit cards, points and first class travel is remarkable.

He takes his family on a complete first class vacation every year, usually overseas, using credit card points alone.  

He actually started his Amazon business planning to “break even” so he could earn points on his credit cards. He has learned how to optimize all the various credit card points and travel deals and put them together into a system that earns his family at least one fully paid vacation a year.  He is an expert on “hacking” through the fine print and deals the credit cards offer and using his points in the most cost effective way to secure free travel.

I heard Mr. Crowe give a talk back in April and was amazed at all the ways credit cards can be used to get free travel. I made a note to myself to figure this out.

When I went to look at all the different reward programs on my own, however, I got a bit overwhelmed.  I had a lot of questions and wasn’t sure if I understood the fine print of the credit card deals.  So, I took the couple of things I could recall from his talk and applied those.

1.)  Save your credit card points for travel—preferably overseas and preferable first class.  This is where you get the largest value.  Don’t cash out or get gift cards—these are “sucker choices.”

2.) Chase Freedom and Chase Ink are both good cards (I already had these, so it was easy.)

3.) Put everything on credit cards.  I always pay off my balance, so interest is not a concern.  I switched my utilities, trash and every recurring payment I possibly could to credit.

I caught up with Keith a couple of weeks ago at an internet conference.  He was surrounded by entrepreneurs asking him about cards and points.  I waited my turn and learned a few new ideas.  I also suggested he write a book so all the advice he doles out could be in one place!  He agreed to teach me how to earn a first class vacation for the Carriers (!!) and he is starting his book.

I am lucky enough to be a case study for his book!  As he teaches me, I will share here.  Make sure to sign up below to get the inside scoop on free travel—I will keep you up to date.

I will share here as I learn.  SIGN UP at the top of this website to get FREE alerts and tips as Keith teaches me which credit cards to use and how to use them.

Please email or comment with any advice or ideas you know about to earn free travel.

This is fun!

 

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New(ish) FBA Seller sells over 1100 books in one month!

Jessica listed all these books one weekend!

Jessica listed all these books one weekend!

 

YEAH!  We had a FANTASTIC month selling used books on Amazon FBA!

We have been building our book inventory on Amazon for a little over a year and learning as it grew.  Books brought in some money from the beginning, but using the model  we are using, we knew we wouldn’t really start to bring in book money until our inventory grew.  We hired a few “book scouts” to go out and bring us books and tried to make it to as many sales and shops as we could in our town.

We had some early success and spent some time mastering our processes, but life happened and books seriously took the back burner while we dealt with many other issues, professional and personal.

Then August came along—our book numbers jumped, our profits soared and all of a sudden books became very interesting!

DATE Ordered $ Sold Avg. Price
July, 2015 18 $424.00 $23.55
Aug, 2015 54 $1,081.00 $20.02
Sep, 2015 117 $1,827.00 $15.62
Oct, 2015 128 $1,974.17 $15.42
Nov, 2015 253 $3,849.00 $15.21
Dec, 2015 284 $4,234.00 $14.91
Jan, 2016 389 $6,215.00 $15.98
Feb, 2016 404 $6,142.00 $15.20
Mar, 2016 378 $5,550.00 $14.68
Apr, 2016 196 $2,809.00 $14.33
May, 2016 287 $4,134.00 $14.41
June, 2016 313 $4,821.00 $15.40
July, 2016 333 $5,703.00 $17.13
Aug, 2016 1106 $16,220.00 $14.67

 

Why though?  Books had been relatively flat in sales and income for seven months.

We guessed at first that part of the reason was the season—books sell best August through January.  That could account for some of the jump.  Then we guessed we sent in a much higher number of books in June and July and our inventory was higher.  So, we went looking for data.

What we found out at first was that yes, August is one of the top months of the year (if not the top) for selling used books.  This didn’t quite explain the huge jump though.  And when we pulled up my inventory numbers from the past year there wasn’t the large jump in book inventory we expected.

DATE Ordered $ Sold Avg. Price   Inventory Turn
July, 2015 18 $424.00 $23.55 46 39.13%
Aug, 2015 54 $1,081.00 $20.02 178 30.34%
Sep, 2015 117 $1,827.00 $15.62 297 39.39%
Oct, 2015 128 $1,974.17 $15.42 666 19.22%
Nov, 2015 253 $3,849.00 $15.21 1345 18.81%
Dec, 2015 284 $4,234.00 $14.91 1708 16.63%
Jan, 2016 389 $6,215.00 $15.98 1665 23.36%
Feb, 2016 404 $6,142.00 $15.20 2726 14.82%
Mar, 2016 378 $5,550.00 $14.68 3849 9.82%
Apr, 2016 196 $2,809.00 $14.33 3844 5.10%
May, 2016 287 $4,134.00 $14.41 3585 8.01%
June, 2016 313 $4,821.00 $15.40 4832 6.48%
July, 2016 333 $5,703.00 $17.13 5560 5.99%
Aug, 2016 1106 $16,220.00 $14.67 6019 18.38%

 

Okay, this was even more of a mystery!  Why was our inventory turn SO MUCH better during the beginning and end of the measured months?  I love a good mystery and knew there had to be a logical reason….then it hit me!

We started out using a repricer and used it for several months.   A repricer is a program you can buy that automatically reprices  your Amazon inventory based on the parameters you set and the prices of other sellers.  Most large sellers on Amazon use repricers.  Repricers are a bit tricky within the used book category due to the number of offers on each particular book  and the amount of data they consider when repricing.  However, if you are selling books in bulk (I would say anything over 1500 books,) it is almost impossible to keep your books priced competitively without a repricer.

We use RepriceIt and I will write about my experience with that software very soon.   We turned it off when we thought it was underpricing some of our books, our Virtual Assistant oversaw a limited version for a couple of months and then we turned it back on full force in August.  Hmmm.

DATE Ordered $ Sold Avg. Price   Inventory Turn Reprice
July, 2015 18 $424.00 $23.55 46 39.13% YES
Aug, 2015 54 $1,081.00 $20.02 178 30.34% YES
Sep, 2015 117 $1,827.00 $15.62 297 39.39% YES
Oct, 2015 128 $1,974.17 $15.42 666 19.22% NO
Nov, 2015 253 $3,849.00 $15.21 1345 18.81% YES
Dec, 2015 284 $4,234.00 $14.91 1708 16.63% YES
Jan, 2016 389 $6,215.00 $15.98 1665 23.36% YES
Feb, 2016 404 $6,142.00 $15.20 2726 14.82% NO
Mar, 2016 378 $5,550.00 $14.68 3849 9.82% NO
Apr, 2016 196 $2,809.00 $14.33 3844 5.10% NO
May, 2016 287 $4,134.00 $14.41 3585 8.01% YES-outsourced
June, 2016 313 $4,821.00 $15.40 4832 6.48% YES-outsourced
July, 2016 333 $5,703.00 $17.13 5560 5.99% YES-outsourced
Aug, 2016 1106 $16,220.00 $14.67 6019 18.38% YES-not outsourced

LOOK AT THE DIFFERENCE WITH A REPRICER!  Look at the difference with just letting the repricer run (without outsourcing the oversight of the repricer.)

We thought, during May, June and July, that we had the best of both worlds.  A repricer that was overseen by a human, my VA.  In hindsight, we spent only about one hour training her and rarely reviewed her work.  I imagine, if I were to go back to her work, I would find her to be extremely conservative with pricing.   This is not her fault, at all, but the fault of an over-extended entrepreneur not watching numbers or the work of her assistants.

Right now, we are running the repricer daily and not worrying about an occasional undersold book.  Inventory turn is very important and we are going to focus on acquiring books that we can sell for a profit and turning the inventory relatively quickly.

I LOVE selling books on Amazon and I love talking about book selling.  Please email me if you have any questions or wish to discuss the crazy world of Amazon.

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Your opportunity is NOW!

do-something-today-that-your-future-self-will-thank-you-for

In case you haven’t noticed, our world is changing at lightening speed. You hold more computing power and more data in the palm of your hand (even if your phone is years old) than the President of the United States had in the Oval Office just 15 years ago.

There is no reason, no excuse in the world, for you not to be earning extra money online!

The fact that you are reading this means you are online right now.  Almost everyone in our country has access to the internet in 2015.  Furthermore, the internet is getting more globally accessible every single day. 250 million additional people will get online this year.   You read that right, 250 MILLION people!  Can you imagine the impact? The additional markets? The additional ideas and potential customers?

With all these newcomers, and with us Americans getting very used to buying online, internet shopping has increased steadily every single year for the last decade.Online Sales Increase

When will you join the thousands of entrepreneurs who make money online?

It isn’t expensive to start. If you are reading this on your own computer, you already own everything you need.

If you are intimidated by the mechanics of how to get online and figure out Amazon or eBay, the information is right on that computer and it is FREE.  Just google “how to sell on eBay” or “how to start an Amazon business,” and you will find a lifetime of information.  It won’t take you a lifetime, though, to learn.  A few hours of reading or watching videos and you are out the door running.

What to sell?  Well, believe it or not, that part is easy.  Sell what people are looking for.  And, guess what, people are looking for, and buying, just about EVERYTHING online.  If you want to hit the ground running AND have decent margins, sell what they are looking for that is a bit harder to find.  I don’t mean crazy hard to find, just think about things you can dig up that are a bit rare or more unusual than typical stuff.  Go hunting for used books, sell your locally made food, sell unique items from regional or local stores.  Anything you can find that you have to search out a bit will work.

If you don’t want to sell physical products, make a digital book about something you know how to do.  It could be knitting, or sewing, or repairing toilets, or writing a resume.  Anything that you have “how to” experience with.  Are you completely lacking in a hobby or skill (and I doubt that you are), then do an interview with your brother-in-law or your neighbor and write a digital “How-To” book on how to do what they do.  These books sell like mad!  People looking to acquire a new skill want to learn from everyday people who have that skill.

This is it folks, the time is RIGHT NOW!  With all the computing power and information that you possess right at your fingertips, there are absolutely NO EXCUSES that you aren’t pulling in some extra dollars online.

If you still have an excuse, I’d love to hear it (and try to diffuse it!) because I cannot imagine an excuse that holds up.

Well, what are you waiting for?  Start today and change your life.  Your future is calling….

 

 

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How To Source 250 Books in One Week

booksale1This is my fourth month into book selling FBA on Amazon and I am starting to get serious about finding inventory!  I am a bit hooked on the email that is familiar to FBA sellers that starts out with “Amazon has shipped an item you sold.” As a matter of fact, I check my email every couple of hours and that is the message I scan it for.  I LOVE making money while I’m sleeping, driving, eating, watching my daughter’s soccer game, etc.  I sold three books during the MSU vs. UofM football game last night!  As happy as I was with my team winning, I was honestly happier that I sold three books while I watched a football game.

In sourcing books (or anything else I imagine) it is easy to fall into a rut or to think you are sourcing all the possible inventory in a town or area.  I think I entered that rut a couple of weeks ago.  I started to write off my local Goodwill as “tapped out” or “cherry picked” because I hadn’t come away with much in the most recent visits.  I couldn’t seem to find great local library sales and made excuses about driving to get to them.

Thank goodness I got inspired when Connor came to town and outsourced me!

Connor M., a very close friend of the family, is a Purdue student with an entrepreneurial spirit.  He follows this blog and already has a product on Amazon.  He asked me if I could demonstrate book sourcing while he was home on fall break.  We went to our local Goodwill and much to my surprise, he pulled about 18 great books from this “tapped out” source.  He scanned items I would usually skip and had an open mind.  He re-inspired me to finding inventory at my Goodwill.  That inspiration began my best yet book sourcing week.booksale3

After picking up 8 items at the Goodwill with Connor I went home, got online and got really serious about library sales.  I used BookSaleFinder and decided I had time to travel.  I ended up traveling to three book sales during the business week.  One book sale started late in the day, but I went to the town early and cleaned out their Goodwill and their Goodwill outlet.   In an effort to end up with a solid 250 books by Saturday night, I attended an estate sale in my town on Saturday morning and grabbed another seven books.  Still a few books short, I stopped at my closest library and scanned their “for sale” shelf, which I hadn’t done in months.  I don’t think anyone else has scanned it in months either because I scored 14 books there!

I am going to attempt to source 250 books each week going forward.  I do not have as many library sales during this upcoming week, so I am already thinking creatively about how I might do this.  I have renewed my ad on Craigs List indicating that I buy books and I am scanning the Craig’s List ads in my town.  I will look hard at the Estate Sales in my town this week and consider traveling to get to them (if you want to be alerted via email when an estate sale is near you, go to EstateSales.net.)  I am ready to take books to the next level!

 

 

 

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Books ROCK! A great way to get started on FBA…

Sell books on FBAOkay, folks, I gotta tell you a secret: books rock!  Reading books is super fun and selling books is even better. They may seem “old school” and they aren’t as sexy as the newest iphone or Star Wars, but you will be hard pressed to find a category with as simple of a learning curve or as high of a return as books.

I have sold used books casually for years, and back in July I decided to ramp it up and see what I could do with this category. Here are my results:

 

July: 18 units $424 and  $23.55 average price
Aug: 54 units $1081 and  $20.02 average price
Sep: 117 units, $1827 and $15.62 average price

Selling Books FBA

 

 

Not bad for my first three months. And, folks, these things are FUN to source. They are simple to find (think everywhere), cheap (sometimes  even free), and easy to decide whether to purchase them or not.

Okay, now down to the nuts and bolts of the business.

What types of books do we look for?  Not the kinds most people read. As  a matter of fact, I never look at fiction and the more popular a book is, the less I look at it.  In general, the hugely popular books have a lot of supply and therefore the demand is lower.

The best categories are reference  (textbooks are my favorite!), craft or how-to books (the more unusual the better), business books, biographies (again, the more obscure the better), history, science, math, and technology.

Where do we find these books?  Craigslist (check ads and run ads), thrift stores, estate sales and library sales. The library sales are my favorite. Check with your local library, most libraries have annual or monthly sales to get rid of all their extra books plus the books that have been donated to them.  There is a free site, booksalefinder, that lists a lot of library sales.  Some of these are huge.  If you live in a large city plan on getting to the sale before it starts as there will most likely be other book scouters in attendance.   There is another site that tells you about smaller, less well known sales, called booksalesfound, that I pay for, $27 a month, but I figure that if I only find one valuable book a month from it, it pays for itself (and I have found hundreds through the sales on this site.)

How do we decide which books to buy?  This is a tricky question, at first especially, but we are getting better at choosing.  Sales rank in books is important, but books are a big seller on Amazon so it is possible to go quite high with your rank.  We have decided, for now, to source ranks up to 5 million and we look to buy books that will sell for at least $10.95 on FBA.  We do not consider MF to be our competition, only FBA.

Currently we source with a Blue Tooth scanner and a scouting application, FBAScan, from ASellerTool.  We like it because it lets us set parameters so our phone only chimes when a book has possibilities (we don’t have to look at each individual book as we scan.)  There is a lot of different scouting applications out there and I can’t speak too much on any of the others.  I like the fact that FBAScan from ASellerTool has a database downloaded right into my phone so I can source even without data service.  Plus, I believe it is quicker.  If our software cannot find a book we use the free service from Amazon called Flow.  It is pretty slick, it basically scans the front of the book and finds it (usually) in the AZ database.

If you are not ready to fork out the money for a Blue Tooth, many people use attachments on their phones that scan pretty quickly.  You can also start out by just scanning with Flow and not invest any money.  It will be slower, but if you have more time than money and want to get started, it is a good option.

There are a couple of good book selling books out there written by two people I have met in person.  Jeff Clark, a super nice fellow just up the road from me, has written a book (we call it the “book book”) that is available for just $17.  He knows all there is to know about sourcing these great sellers.

Again—Books Rock!  They are so easy and so fun to source and take a very small investment to get started with.  Go see what you can find!

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Amazon Sales Rank Explained

Amazon Sales Rank ExplainedLet’s talk for a second about Amazon Sales Rank. If you are learning how to sell on Amazon you will very quickly start paying attention to the Amazon Sales Rank of the products you are considering. I have been dabbling as an FBA seller for quite a while and know about sales ranks and pay attention to them, but when my husband asked me last week to explain what it means, I realized I couldn’t explain it. Which really means, I didn’t understand.

So, I did some asking and some digging and I think I “get it” now. Sales rank is a proprietary algorithm of Amazon’s. They rank every product that sells based on how often it sells in its category.  If something is ranked 1 or 100 or 200, that item is an extremely popular item that sells often. Those low numbers are great numbers. If something is ranked 12 million (or some other extremely high number,) in its category, that product sells much less frequently. An item without a rank has not yet sold.  A recent sale on an item will move its rank upward, so if you happen to look at a product right after a shopper purchases it, you would see a lower (remember, lower means better) rank. If you look at a product that hasn’t sold for a while you would see a higher (higher means worse) rank.  Some people explain sales rank as a measure of how long it has been since a product last sold.  Amazon throws some magic in, and out comes the rank.

So, in determining how popular a product is, and whether it makes sense for you to buy it, you will look at rank. Keep in mind, though, that rank is a very fluid thing and that you could be seeing an artificially high or low rank based on how long it has been since the product last sold.

Lucky for us, companies have sprung up that track rank and sales on Amazon. You can look at how often a particular item has sold and at what price and make a more informed sourcing decision. The two sites I use are CamelCamelCamel and Keepa.

Also keep in mind that different categories on Amazon have different amounts of products.  Books, for example, has right around 57 million listings.  Yes, you could find a book with a sales rank in the 50 millions.  Pet supplies, however, have under 1 million products.  You also want to remember that different product categories have different amounts of volume.  Amazon may sell books way more often that they sell pet supplies (I don’t know this, but certain categories are obviously better sellers.)

I made a quick cheat sheet that you are welcome to copy and paste.  The basic categories are included and I broke out the top 1%, 5%, 10% and 15%.

Amazon Sales Rank Cheat Sheet

You can easily make your own cheat sheet.  To find out the total number of products in any category, simply go to the top search bar in Amazon while you have a category selected.  Then type in a dash (-) plus anything senseless, like -9xxxifo. Amazon will then display the total number of items in that category for you.  Here is a picture–

Finding sales rank in amazon

 

The advice I read on ranks and what counts as a good rank versus a not so good rank definitely varies.  Especially in the category of books.  Some sellers stick to buying books with only ranks under 1 million, some to under 5 million and others look at a variety of factors including price and competition.  I am still figuring it out—currently, I stick to under 5 million plus an estimated selling price of $11.00 or better.  I glance at competition, especially at the higher ranked books.  If a book is a high rank plus there are a lot of offers plus it is near the $11.00 mark, often I pass.  Sometimes I buy based on “gut.”  Used books are cheap, so I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about using my “gut.”  As I move into other categories, though, my “gut” will need to be sharper and I will be paying more attention.  I will keep my learning open and share here often.  Stay tuned.

Tomorrow is a big day for us sellers, let me be the first to say, HAPPY FOURTH QUARTER!

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CES III–Jim Cockrum’s conference in Louisville

imageI feel like the luckiest girl on the planet.  Not only do I get to do, everyday, what I love—and make money at it!—I get to travel to exciting places and meet inspirational people.  THANK YOU to everyone who made the journey to Louisville last weekend to be a part of CES III, Jim Cockrum’s third conference for online entrepreneurs.   (If you are serious about online selling you NEED to follow Jim Cockrum—he is the most trusted internet marketer online and his free newsletter alone is invaluable.)  I am a lifetime member of MST and this is THE place for anyone and everyone who is serious about online selling.  You can check it out for free anytime.

It was just a four hour drive for me which is easy travelling compared to the hundreds who flew in for the event.  The days leading to the conference felt like Christmas time, my excitement could hardly be contained.  Old friends, new friends and celebrities all in the same place at the same time!  It was almost too good to be true.  Plus, we were there to share ideas and learn from the people who are blazing new trails and making lots of money in this online world.

This is my second CES conference (CES stands for creative ecommerce solutions I think) and what sets these events apart from any other is the atmosphere of sharing.   Everyone is there to help each other succeed.  There is only a tiny bit of selling (tools offered by the sponsers) and the rest of the event is people sharing their proven success strategies.  It would be impossible to leave this conference without at least ten new ways to profit online.  The biggest challenge for me is choosing JUST two or three and seeing them through.

After months of isolation (one downside of this business, I’m afraid,) I was in a room with hundreds of people who “got” me and my business!

I had a chance to mingle with great people before and after the conference too.  I had dinners where we discussed scanners, wholesalers and FBA strategies.  I had lunches where we talked about products, inventory turns and margins.  Over cocktails there was talk of creative partnering and white labeling.

Jim Cockrum’s teachings create success stories–bottom line!  Mike Brown and Death Wish coffee are one of the success stories and they were highlighted on the first day. Mike Brown took his struggling coffee company to #2 on Amazon after reading Jim’s book, 101 Marketing Tips.  Mike is now vying for a free commercial on Super Bowl Sunday and you can help him win by voting at www.PickMikeBrown.com.

Onto the nuts and bolts of the conference-I am not going to attempt to go in order or encompass everything, but I will share some highlights. All of the people mentioned here are worth googling if you want to gain further insight into their strategies and ideas.

Dan Miller discussed finding the happy spot between pursuing a passion and earning a living. “Do what you love and follow the money.”  He has a book at www.48days.com/why.

Next, George from Merchant Words (one of the sponsors) discussed how to find search terms. Simple, but probably overlooked, ideas were discussed. He discussed a proper title in Amazon and how not to “stuff” the title with too many keywords (Amazon doesn’t like this.) Overall, though, the goal is to turn buyer search terms into our search terms.

888 Lots was also a sponsor and they explained how they get  inventory.  Apparently, they buy all of the lost, loose and unclaimed items at the Amazon warehouses. I have heard of 888 Lots but have no experience working with them. It is so interesting to me, however, that every part of the Amazon cycle has been molded into a business.

Robyn, an amazing Amazon seller and one of Jim’s coaches spoke for about an hour.   This woman is a bundle of energy and a great presenter. She focused on goal setting and backing into what you need to do NOW to achieve certain milestones numerically.   She likes milestones and goals as a way of documenting progress. She discussed planning your work, creating systems, conquering stale inventory and refining your margin.  She had a cute magnet for us all to track our individual goals. She can be reached at excellence@robynsnest.com.

Dan Hollings was another featured presenter. He discussed how we, as Amazon sellers, have so much to offer other businesses. How about using our skills to grow another business’s product on Amazon? We can partner with the business and our fee is part of their increased profit. This is a great way to grow business without the responsibility of inventory. Also, for all the folks nervous about Amazon limits (and there was a lot of this going on,) you can run the business from someone else’s Amazon account.

Chris Green talked about Online Sourcing. The advantages of souring online are obvious. There is no travel time, free boxes, you can do it anywhere. He discussed major retailers and niche sites and taking advantage of daily deal sites.  He also spoke on using virtual assistants to do some (or all) of the sourcing.  I was impressed with all the applications and software that is now available for online sourcing. And while sourcing, remember to take advantage of cash back sites like eBates, use some store rewards and coupons?  Chris Green is a maverick in online and retail arbitrage and has multiple videos on You Tube and a couple of THE BEST books about FBA and online arbitrage.

Barrington McIntosh also spoke–he is almost a legend in the Jim Cockrum group. He started doing retail arbitrage on Amazon a few years ago from home and has grown his business into a formidable force. The amazing thing is that his home is Jamaica. So many excuses people have about “not being able to find profitable inventory” go out the window when you meet someone from an island with no Target, no Walmart and no major stores who is making a living selling FBA on Amazon.  He offers coaching for other international sellers and you can get more information right here.

The CES III conference was absolutely everything I expected and needed.  I went for a little fuel and I felt like a rocket when I left!   I am so fired up to IMPLEMENT some of the ideas.  I intend to share here as I go forward.

 

 

 

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A New Year!!!

LibertyI love a new year. A fresh start and a chance to really evaluate where I am with all my goals, dreams and desires.

Goal setting is something I do all year round. I am constantly looking toward the future (while enjoying the moment–really this is a fact) and figuring out when, where and how I want my future to look. The more concrete I can make my future picture, the more likely it will become my present reality.

Three years ago I sat down at the traditional time (New Years Eve) and listed out all my business and personal goals. I put them into categories with monthly checkpoints. I had a goal of making a certain amount of money. I realized I needed a big WHY in order to achieve that goal. You see, we were in a pretty comfortable place financially and without a big “why” I wasn’t sure if I would be motivated enough.

I thought about how much I like to travel and how much I enjoy travelling in style (think weeks at Disney, cruise ships, beach front resorts.) I also thought about how precious I consider time with my extended family and how we have never really vacationed together. I decided that if I earned a certain amount of money I would take everyone on a great vacation.

I held that dream as a vision. And I continued to grow my business. In 2014 I turned that dream into reality, I took eleven people on a Caribbean cruise!

And yes, we had an awesome time.

This trip reminded me of the important of a WHY and also about how important it is to follow through with the rewards and promises we make to ourselves.

Going into 2015 I am setting up my visions and goals for the upcoming year. Again, I need an important WHY to inspire me. I am going to spend some time soul-searching and meditating on what is important to me now.

What are your dreams and ambitions? And most importantly, what are your ‘whys?”

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