My FBA Adventure, Part 1: Introduction

September 3, 2017    fba howto side projects

(note: I’m going to start by posting about something that’s not strictly programming related. This will be a multi-part series, and by the end you’ll have a solid framework to get started with FBA. Hopefully you’ll do it better than I did; stay tuned for more details on that.)

Discovery

It was circa October of 2015, and I was looking for an interesting side project. Ideally I’d find one that would teach me something new, and hopefully make a little money in the process. In the course of looking around for ideas, I came across the /r/Entrepreneur subreddit which had a post about Fulfillment by Amazon.

For those who are unaware, Fulfillment by Amazon is a program for 3rd-party Amazon sellers where Amazon will warehouse, pack, and ship items for you, taking all of the headache out of storing your items and fulfilling orders. Of course, they take a fee for this service.

I can’t recall the exact post I was reading on that subreddit, but I remember it being a fairly short post that mentioned FBA and a podcast called The Amazing Seller. The podcast was less than a year old at that point. I started listening with episode 1 and was hooked. [1] Within a couple of weeks of commutes back and forth to work, I was completely caught up and ready to launch my FBA empire.

My enterprise was a modest success, doing somewhere north of $70k in revenue over 18 months. This is small potatoes to many FBA sellers, but I was thrilled. Unfortunately, eventually everything came crashing down due to problems that were entirely foreseeable and preventable, which I’ll describe in this series. I’m taking a break from FBA now due to lack of time, but I will definitely pick up the pieces and start again in the future. Marketing FBA products has changed significantly due to Amazon making changes to their rules for sellers, so I imagine there will be lots to learn when I do pick it back up.

What I learned

Here’s a selection of skills I taught myself along the way:

  • Selecting candidates for private label products
  • Alibaba: contacting sellers and placing orders for sample products
  • Receiving samples and selecting a supplier
  • Shipping (sometimes large quantities of) product here from overseas, by air and by sea
  • Dealing with import tariffs & customs
  • Taking product photographs that don’t look awful and meet Amazon’s specifications
  • Becoming proficient enough at Adobe Illustrator to create a passable product label for my custom brand
  • Creating the Amazon listing and working in Amazon’s Seller Central UI
  • Building and optimizing Amazon product advertisements (“sponsored listings”). Yes, Amazon has an ad system just like Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Each of the above could probably have a lengthy blog post written about them, but I’ll try to combine them where it makes sense in this series. I do want to provide enough detail that someone else could get started with FBA using these blog posts as a guide.

Stay tuned to learn more about my FBA adventure!



Notes

1. Note that most of the tips and tricks mentioned in the podcast, especially in the earliest episodes, are now woefully out-of-date. Don’t try them at home. At best, they won’t work and you’ll have wasted a bunch of time. At worst, you’ll get your seller account suspended.