Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What About Dropshipping?

In the last post, before the "Ike Interruption", I wrote about Looking to Yesterday to Find Tomorrow. Well, shortly after experiencing the "feeling good" that resulted from gaining a more clear perspective about who I was, where I had been, and where I wanted to go, I still couldn't help, at the same time, but to begin feeling a bit low and frustrated at my inability to connect with a way to make money on the internet. My husband was aware that I was trying to find my own niche, and one morning we started doing a little brain storming on this subject. Knowing I have a special love and connection to a certain "interest", we started discussing how I might focus on that area in a way I could build a business online. Now, we both agreed that the key that would best fit our lifestyle would be to find a way to not have to deal with physically pre-purchasing inventory, or, if avoidable, even personally being involved in the shipping of tangible products. So, our thoughts drifted towards the idea of dropshipping. In theory it sounded promising. Sell products, send orders to the wholesaler, and then have them to drop the order directly to the consumer. It could work. Hailing back to some of what I had learned in the Auctions For Income program, I headed to the computer to find what companies carried the specific types of products I would want to sell, and more importantly, which ones dropshipped.
To do my research, I began to check out the dropshipping companies I had bookmarked that had been suggested in the Auctions For Income course. A few had some products that fell under the category I was researching, but the quality and style was not at all what I had in mind. Also, the prices did not strike me as being anywhere close to what I thought would be wholesale. The more I looked, the more I began to suspect that many of these "dropshippers" suggested by the Auctions For Income program were probably people who had put together their own "dropshipping" store of products sold by other dropshippers…for not only did the higher prices make me think this, but also because the same products were showing up over and over from one vender to the other. Ok, so with my initial list of dropshipping companies exhausted (and removed from my computer bookmarks) the next step was to start looking at the specific products that I wanted to represent and see if I could deal directly with the manufacturer.

After a day of research and finding who to contact then sending e-mails to see if the companies did dropship, I began thinking about the fact that to do this, I would need to build a website. This website would have to be able to take orders, so I'd need a shopping cart program. The question of sales tax tugged at me…who would collect it and pay it? Where should I host my site? How will I drive traffic to this site? Oh yeah, how would I successfully build this wonderful website dedicated to my very special purpose when I'm not a web designer? Ok, no pressure. (Right!) About this same time my husband and I had been seeing a TV commercial advertising a company selling pre-constructed websites. They were promoted as "ready to go money-making sites". You would get some pre-built, and others you could fill with content of your choosing. Well, highly suspecting this offer would turn out to be nothing but a bunch of malarkey, I decided to finish off any speculations by calling the number. The pre-recorded message was such a hard sell "give us your credit card number now", without any live person to talk to or even a website to go to (yet remember, they are selling websites), I was very motivated to check them out on the internet and see if they had been reported to RipOffReport.com . Not only did I find they had already been reported, but I was able to find a few "scam" reviews of the company as well.
I really wasn't that bothered that the company came out to be as much a scam as we suspected it would be, but, I was a bit disheartened that I felt like I finally had an original idea (my special interest "niche") and really didn't know how I was going to do anything with it! Oh, and after checking my e-mails, I found that most of my ideal manufacturers did not dropship, though a few did. One even mentioned something called their "affiliate program", but since I had no idea what they were talking about I didn't dig into it any further. Before I contacted any more companies, I wanted to figure out how I would be able to build and promote my business. The last thing I wanted to do was create some good business contacts then let them grow cold because I was not prepared, educated or knowledgeable about how to proceed and actually do business.
Since my mind was "warmed up" to be searching online, I started researching for any and all pieces of information relating to building an online business or for work at home opportunities I could find. Oh my stars, what a minefield. Have you ever just sat down and searched online for terms like "work from home", “make money online", "how to make money online"? If you try it, you'd be wise to put yourself and your computer on high ground first, for you will be flooded with a sea of opportunities…mind you, I didn't say good opportunities. With all the results that reeked of hype, get rich quick schemes, and shady looking sites, I decided that a bit more fine tuning of what I wanted to find was in need. Instead of continuing to wade through all this waste water (just to stay in line with my little analogy I have going on!), I decided to go offline, and think. What did I want to achieve? What was it I was really searching for online? In order to keep myself from falling victim to a poor choice or worse yet, a scam, I had to have a well defined idea of what it was I was seeking to obtain at this point of trying to build my online business.

There were two points I was clear on:
1. I had a solid idea on what I wanted to build my business around.
2. I accepted that I had little to no knowledge on how to get started building my online business.

What I was seeking online:
1. I wanted a program that would teach me how to build an online business.
i. The program would have to offer me true knowledge, details, explanations, examples and instructions.
2. I wanted a program that was honest.

With my goals clearly defined, I set out to find my teacher.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How could an Internet Marketing Business help you survive a natural disaster like Hurricane Ike?

For years I have watched news coverage on natural disasters around the world. Images of the destruction and loss impacted me, but, in a removed way. The closest I had ever come to the effect of a hurricane personally was during Hurricane Irene, a Category 1 storm that popped up during a trip to Key West, Fl. That storm was an inconvenience to the Keys, but for the most part, business and tourism was able to resume within a day or so of the storm. My next exposure was from our prior business when we experienced evacuees of Hurricane's Ivan, Katrina, and Rita. Hearing the tales of how a normal 6 hour drive took 24 hours was surreal. Listening to person after person tell of how they packed up all the belongings they could before evacuating, painted a slight picture of what it must have been like for them. Watching a customer pace with worry, wondering if there would be anything left of his two car dealerships, made me realize that everything was at stake for these people. A place to call home, the possessions they held important, even the ability to create a living, hung on the fate of what the storm would do. The storms hit, the evacuees moved on, and thoughts on these things were replaced by new events and circumstances.

Last year when we moved to the Texas Gulf Coast, I started wondering a bit about the likelihood of a tropical storm or hurricane striking our area. There were a couple of times we had to pull in the balcony furniture and make sure we had bottled water, but, nothing more than a strong thunderstorm came through. This year has been different. We've had several times where the paths of the hurricanes were tracking close enough to our area on the coast that our response to the possible storms was more specific and defined. "Be prepared" was the message on TV, in the newspaper and on the radio. It's natural to take steps to prepare for the storm. But how can you be prepared for life after the storm? It doesn't matter where you live, how much money you have, or what type of career you have. Bad things happen. For eventually, a storm will hit, and when it does, lives will be interrupted. (Ok, I will add that the super rich and ultra successful have means and ways to deal with catastrophic loss that I don't have…Actually, that most people I know don't have. So when I write my opinion here, it applies more to the average person.)

The people in my community are dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane. But, anyone could find themselves facing catastrophic loss from causes like fire, flood, tornado or earthquake. I really started thinking about this last week after we had evacuated, post Ike. When the reports on TV started showing the specifics of what businesses had been damaged or completely ruined, I wondered what the owners would do? Would they rebuild, or call it quits? What about their employees? With the damage to the restaurants, stores and offices, it could be months before some are ready to open. That means it could be months before there is any income. That's pretty scary. A night or so later, as I sat in front of my computer, I realized something. If an Internet Business is built successfully, it works for you during the storms. If you have to flee from danger, the business is still safe. With the power out, you can still earn an income. If your home is damaged, you can still generate money. It's like a pipeline that pumps, whether you are present or not. Sure, I'm a long way from having the flow of income that will give my husband and myself financial security to survive even a light breeze, let alone a hurricane force storm. But, this experience has left me feeling more committed to forging ahead and finding the right combination of Internet Marketing products to create a successful business. For I want to be prepared, not only for the next storm of life, but for after the next storm of life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricane IKE Interruption

As you may have read in my first posts, my husband and I tranplanted ourselves to the Texas Gulf Coast. Well, we now have experienced and near Cat 3 hurricane. Literally with the eye going over our apartment. I am making this entry from a hotel where we have had to vacate to. No water, no electricity, no phone, no ice, no refrigeration. No complaints, for God spared us any flooding and damage, save for a leak in the roof that caused the hard wired smoked detectors to start screaching at 2am in the middle of the hurricane, and not stop for 8 hours, only to restart after a rain on Sunday, and not stop. Who knew that DC current was so durable. No electricity, but, still...and the one detector where the leak was right around is on the 20 ft. high ceiling in the stairwell. No maintenece on site, no extension ladders, no abiity to block the screeching wail of the alarm. So, we took a break to clear our heads and see what to do next.

For any who read my blog, and who are going through storms of their own, I want to share a very special part of our experience. Perhaps this will give you inspiration for your own trials. Prior to the hurricane, we made the decision to "shelter in place" based on criteria given and the elevation of the property where we live. During the storm, there were times when the wind was screaming and howling and whipping around the sides of our apartment with such force and power that we wondered if the windows were going to implode or the roof was going to be ripped off. During this time, I would check the radio for updates or watch our battery operated TV for a clue as to where the storm was. But, only for a moment, about every hour or two. Instead of tracking the storm, my husband and I tried to rest. During the storm I prayed without ceasing. I invisioned my husband and I asleep in the bottom of a wooden boat, with God in the bow, and Jesus in the stern. I saw the sea raging around us, but still, we slept. I hear "Be not afraid". And I prayed. And I say this next with truth and sincerity of heart, that when the wind was so strong and the building was popping, the windows were rattling, I would ask Jesus to pray to His Father, as I prayed to my Father, to please, if it was His will, quiet the wind if just for a second. And every time, every single time, my prayer was answered with a pause in the wind. God was present with my husband and myself. He answered my prayer. Prayers were also asked for protection for all of the property. And an example of this prayer being answered was seen across the courtyard. A huge Oak tree had been in need of being taken down for over a year. This tree was just in front of another apartment. During the storm, the tree could have been blown and fallen in any direction. It could have easily crushed the roof over the front bedroom of the apartment. But, it did not. It was destroyed by the storm, but when it fell, it split in two, falling to either side, with not even the most remote damage to the building. Indeed, a prayer answered.

I can't explain the destruction and devastation felt by my comminity, and surrounding city. I can't explain anything. But I can say that I know that God and Jesus were in our boat. I can say that because when I asked, I heard the quiet answer of God, over the roar of Hurricane Ike.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Looking to Yesterday, to find Tomorrow

Have you ever had one of those "Oh, I see it now" moments? Like, when all of the sudden you have this understanding of how some of the seemingly unrelated events and experiences of your life, actually, happened for a reason. Well, it happened to me, and it's sort of a cool feeling. And, it's also a reassuring feeling, because, it further supports my belief that I am on the right track with building an Internet Marketing business.

This "epiphany" occurred when I was reflecting on a couple of "selling" ventures I tried several years ago. The first was when I was in college, and I was "recruited" to sell Mary Kay Cosmetics. I was drawn to the idea of joining Mary Kay and creating a business because of the independence it offered. Since I was in college, I pictured this opportunity being something I could fit in with my academic schedule. Well, that was my "idea". However, the reality was that from the very beginning I was uncomfortable. The idea of asking people to gather their friends and schedule a skin care class so I could try and sell the products to them and possibly sign up some recruits, was just plain torture for me. Needless to say I didn't earn a pink Cadillac. I didn't even earn a pink lipstick! In fact, I didn't sell enough cosmetics or skin care products to put a dent in my inventory. Guess what people received for birthday and Christmas for a few years? About ten or eleven years later, the next venture I tried was with the company Quixtar. I was more drawn to this program because I was really thinking I could build an internet based business without having to do F2F (face to face) sales. In retrospect the business model was similar to Mary Kay's, for though you are selling products, the main emphasis of the program is that you are trying to get recruits to sign up and create an earnings "down line". Again, to do this would require actually talking to people! Ok, the talking to people isn't what bothered me the most, but the selling to did. I don't like the feeling of being "sold to" and I really don't like the feeling of "selling people". You probably have guessed by now that when this business attempt came to an end, I didn't have to do any shopping for gift giving for a while, yet once again.

My point with all this is not that I have anything against the companies of Mary Kay Cosmetics or Quixtar, for I don't, but rather, that by my failing to find any success with building a business with these two ventures, I actually did find success. I learned something very important about myself. It was there all along, but I did not recognize it. Or if I did, I ignored it. I was not being true to myself, but I was letting other people convince me of what I would be good at doing. When I was younger, an organization I belonged to had the motto "To thine own self be true". I understand it now. It really is ok to be ok with who you are. When I look back over the 15 years that my husband and I spent developing and running our own business, I see that the times I was the most successful with our customers were when I was just being myself. When I would apply my own style to how I conducted business, it seemed that no matter what, I felt like I did everything better. In addition, when I look back over all of my adult work experiences, and reflect on what I did well, and, that I enjoyed, I see an outline that if I strive to follow and apply to my Internet business development, should give me great satisfaction and success.

Maybe in the past, the perfect "opportunity" did not exist for me, because at that time, it had not yet been created. Or if it had, perhaps I wasn't in the right place in my life to see it. I now know what I'm looking for, and I know that I'm on the right path. I can feel it. With a little more work, and a little more research, I'll find it. And this time, I'll know it when I see it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

PayPal: Another Triumph

PayPal was another stumbling block for me, before my EBay experience. Several years ago I tried to sign up to use PayPal, and for whatever reason, the attempt was not successful and I was not inclined to try their service again. Well, when I was setting up my EBay sellers account, I had to choose the option on how I was to receive my payments. In theory, PayPal seemed to be the most logical option to me, so, I decided to give it another try. And this time, it was successful!

Setting up the account took a few minutes, and required some detailed information, but nothing too complicated. Once I was set up and began using my account to receive payments to, I realized how convenient and useful PayPal was going to be. For anyone who has not used this service before, imagine a "clearinghouse" where merchants can send payment money to a sellers account. The seller receives the payments into their PayPal account, and then, when they choose, have the money direct-deposited into their personal bank account. One benefit is that instead of having a lot of deposits going into your bank account that you would have to reconcile at the end of the month, you decide how many deposits you want, and how often. (Assuming you have payments in your PayPal account to transfer!). In addition to this, there is the added ability to print out a monthly statement from PayPal for your account activity. I'm finding this a useful way to help organize my sales receipts, and having streamlined organization from the beginning of a project is something I really believe in.

Now, not every merchant uses PayPal for payment processing, but, since so many places do, it's great to have it. I couldn't see running an Internet business without it! If you want to know more, have a look around PayPal here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

EBay: Was it worth the wait?

Hmmm? Yes. But not for the reason I thought it would be. Initially, I really had imagined that every item I posted for auction would sell. For something. Even a tiny amount. (I told you I was a newbie!) However, out of 3 auctions, only the first one was successful, and that was selling a universally "in demand" product of anti-virus software. My 2nd and 3rd auctions were for shoes, and though similar items had shown some market demand, neither item drew any bids. After the last two auction efforts, I definitely took a step back and reflected on how much more time and money (a small fee for inserting the item into the auction) I wanted to "risk". Though I enjoyed the creative writing of the ads for the auctions, to do the research, take the photo, write the ad copy, figure out the shipping costs and post the auction was an investment of my time. If after 7 days that "investment" didn't result in a successful auction, it was time wasted. Of course, I always had the option to relist the item (for an additional fee) and try again. However, instead of trying anything else right away on EBay, I decided to look into their partner site: Half.com.

If you are not aware of Half.com, it is a marketplace that allows you to sell your books, cd's and DVD's. It differs from EBay in that it is not an auction, you do not have to pay a listing fee, and the item you list for sale stays online until it either sells or you decide to take it out of your inventory. When you list the item, you decide on the selling price. As far as the shipping, you do not set the fee, but are reimbursed by Half.com for a specified amount. Once the item sells you pay a very small commission. Having several books and CD's to sell, I thought "why not". Listing on Half.com seems so much easier with the format they provide as compared to listing on EBay. Actually, when I listed my first few items, because there were many of the same items already listed by others, I wondered how long it would be before I would sell anything. Surprisingly, not long! Within the first week of listing some books, I made a sale! After that item had been shipped, I listed a few more CD's and within another week or so, I made 2 more sales. Now, I'm not saying that I'm making sales everyday, but, I'm very satisfied with how Half.com works and will continue to list books, cd's and eventually DVD's to sell. If you are curious, you can see what I'm selling here. It's so easy to set up a "store" online, you might want to give it a try yourself!

With Half.com, I'm not only a seller, but a buyer as well! And at a bargain! While in a "discount" bookstore recently, I spied a title of a book that I was interested in. I jotted down the title and their sticker price, went home, looked it up on Half.com, and found a brand new, in the shrink wrap edition for $1.50 less (including shipping & handling), and ordered it!

So, to answer my title question, EBay was worth the wait. Had it not been for my "good but not great" experience on EBay, I probably would not have gone on to discover, what has turned out for me to be the successful selling opportunities of Half.com.

Some things work good for some. Other things work better for others.
But you never know, until you try, what's going to work best for you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Auctions For Income

Well, on June 9, 2008, my husband presented me with a surprise. Knowing how much I had wanted to try my hand at selling on EBay, but not knowing how to get started, he had purchased a program that promised to teach me just how to achieve these goals. The program was called Auctions For Income, and the kit consisted of several books, a quick start CD and a web address for assistance and coaching. I was really excited, and began looking over the information right away. The topics of the books ranged on how to get familiar with EBay, selling your personal household items, how and where to purchase items for resale, and even how to find drop-ship companies to buy products from. Oh, one book was devoted to finding items through foreclosure and government seizures. All the possibilities outlined in the books sounded interesting, but before getting into all that, the first thing I wanted to do was get going and sell at least one thing that I already owned!

Having this program was really helpful in that I had something I could look at in the book and follow along with while I was simultaneously seeing the same thing live on the EBay site. Sort of like a "tutor". Within a short time I had a better feeling for how to navigate and do research on EBay, look for past performance on auctions for products I was considering selling, strategy for setting prices and even how to research the "hot" items that were in demand. The tips on writing effective ad copy were helpful, as well as knowing that there are better times of day and days of the week to start and end the auction.

Within 6 days I was ready to post my first auction item! Wanting to make my first auction as likely to be a success as I could, the item I chose was of the type that research had shown had a really high likelihood of selling: Brand new Antivirus software. We had gotten the software with the purchase of another product, but did not need it, so, never opened it. It seems people are always on the lookout for this type of item, at a good price. My first auction was set to open June 15th and run for a week. Of course it was enticing to check out the listing and see how many views it had and how many bids, if any. It really did not surprise me that the bids were slow to start, for most people who have participated in auctions have figured out not to drive the price up with early bidding. When I saw that I had 2 people "watching" the product, I was pleased! On the last day of the auction, about 3 hours before the ending time, bidding began, and by the end there were 5 people bidding. The final sales price was a nice surprise, and setting up to receive payment through Pay Pal made receiving my money effortless. All in all, I felt gratified to have finally made the leap from wanting to sell on EBay to selling on EBay.

Nothing like being successful to get the ball rolling, so I decided on a 2nd item to set for auction and began the preparations. As far as the Auctions For Income program, I spent a little more time reading through the various books. The deeper I read, and the more I thought about what it would entail to really build up sources of products to sell in auction, I began questioning if following this program, beyond just selling some of my household items, was really for me. Having made that first bit of money online convinced me that I really wanted to find a way of creating a business using my computer online, but, I wasn't convinced that either Auctions for Income or EBay would be the main way I would do this.