When you get down to it, we’re all naturally terrified. It’s for good reason. Cavemen who underestimated the danger of say a Saber Toothed Tiger aren’t part of our family tree. And yes, I fact checked and cavemen and Saber Toothed Tigers did populate the earth at the same time. It is in our nature to want to achieve great things, but it is also in our nature to seek comfort (in mind and body). [Fast forward several thousand years and exit intense pre-historic death scene] [Enter –> 2017 and paid training programs] Pretty stark shift right? Yes and no. The same primal fear of survival our ancestors had that said, “Hey, don’t poke that Saber Toothed Tiger,” is at the root of why we spend money on training programs. We want to achieve success, but we want to remain safe in the process. So what do we do? We arm ourselves with information. We invest in high end trainings, books, and mentors to make sure that we don’t fail. These programs help us feel more in control of our success. They take the edge off of going out of our comfort zones (which is not optional for lasting success in this highly competitive, ever-changing market). Then, we equate cost with quality (which is too often, wrong). I couldn’t guess the “success” rate of training programs across the board, but I can tell you in the entrepreneurship arena, they are underwhelming. While there are some big time success stories, for every one of those there seem to be 10 people who just flake off and float away. We don’t hear about those (or at least, they don’t strike our attention like those “homeless to millionaire” rags to riches stories that make us feel so warm and fuzzy. Food for Thought: Do students of high-end courses succeed because of the course OR is it a result of the fact they are the type of person who is invested enough that they are willing to spend money on themselves? It can be both. The great programs have more than just a few of these “inevitable” success stories. See all programs through this lens.
Don’t Get Me Wrong, I Encourage Investing in Yourself
Not only do I affiliate with many paid training programs, I pay for tons of them myself! I make a habit of investing 3-5% of my earnings each month back into myself. According to Brian Tracy (who, I am not proud to admit, I would likely follow off a cliff like a lemming), that seems to be the magic number. Yes, some of the things I buy into turn out to be absolute flops (scams, snake oil, whatever you want to call them) but the good things I pay to learn well outweigh the wasted money on the duds. So, here is my point… If you want to sell on Amazon, I want to help you. Also, I don’t want money to be a factor in getting started for you. The Truth: I make money when you buy Amazon tools, training, etc from me or my affiliates. I have a lot of business ventures I operate at any given time. As much as I love blogging, interacting on my free Facebook Group(join that by the way!), and working one-on-one with people pro bono, I couldn’t do it at the scale I do if there wasn’t money at the end of the proverbial rainbow. If this is a bombshell to you, I apologize. That means that I haven’t been clear enough in disclosing my intentions. That is also a catch 22 because it means I haven’t come off like a used car salesman (which is my nightmare by the way). Please, I hope you call me out on it if you think I’ve ever stooped that low. The deeper truth: Most of you won’t buy shit from me, and that is totally ok. I consume more content than most people have the luxury to, but I definitely don’t buy something from each of these sources. Check it out… It makes no sense for me to only cater to those of you that can pay me. Not only is it impossible, but it would be no way to run a business. One of my mentors, Jeff Walker, writes in his book Launch:
“There is no way I will ever sell to everyone, so I might as well create as much value as I can as I move through my life.”
Well said, Jeff… Also, those of you who are sitting on your wallets as you read this as if I am literally next to you trying to pick your pocket, you are infinitely more likely to buy from me down the road if I help make you a success now. Correct me if I’m wrong in the comments, please. Still, probably not going to buy from me, but like Walker said, why not create as much value as possible?
There Is No “Free” and “Too Expensive” Is Relative
This post is made to remind you that the real X factor is YOU and the time you put in (much more valuable than money), not a program. Paid training is extremely valuable (I’ve paid for $1,000 programs that proved to be worth exponentially more), but it is a small part of your success, especially at first. A quality paid training will:
Save you time by speeding up the learning process.
Make or save you exponentially more than the cost of the course.
Provide you with some sort of community and accountability (usually the real value).
Encourage you to take extreme action.
But, there is no mandatory paid training in entrepreneurship. It isn’t like college ya’ll…thank God! Many people succeed without any paid training at all. Weird right? I want you to sell on Amazon and I want you to start the old fashioned way. On your own, making mistakes and taking notes. Before you call the Pope and get started on the paperwork to have me canonized as a saint (my mom would be beyond herself with joy if that happened by the way) remember, I will sell to you, but I want to sell the right things to the right people. Newbies are targeted too much and I find that a sign of weak marketing skills on the part of the course creators. There are millions of people who are in a better position to pay “big” money for tools and services (people who will have a much higher chance of using them and getting real value) that it is just lazy to sell these premium courses to people who statistically will end up wasting their money and resenting the person who sold it to them. Cold Truth: We (entrepreneurs) spend big bucks on courses and programs because we want things to be fast and easy. We want success badly and we want it NOW! I get it. Like I said, I do it too. The BEST training programs out there (in any niche) will require you to go out and make mistakes. There are some very legitimate programs out there (I affiliate with some of them), but you don’t need them to succeed. They most likely won’t make your journey that much easier, it will just be more direct. Those are the programs I promote, by the way, the ones that give direction, not empty promises of easy money or any sort of “sure” thing. Amazon is very far from a sure thing. One of the beauties of paying for a program (even if it is garbage) is the fact that you are much more likely to put in the action. I’ll be honest, I pirated a lot of books and courses, but I never seemed to complete them…I didn’t take action because I wasn’t invested in it. Ok, enough theory. Here is how to learn to sell on Amazon for free.
How to Learn How to Sell on Amazon
At its core, the process is painfully simple. Here are the two key components… Spend your money –> Earn money –> Identify what happened –> Learn Spend your money –> Lose money –> Identify what happened –>Learn As a new seller, you really don’t yet understand how products sell on Amazon. The price stability, competition, and turnover are things that even the more seasoned sellers still only make best assumptions, as no one can predict exactly how the market will play out for products we sell. We just get so good at it that more often than not, we do make the right call.
Stop Asking for Hand Holding on a “Per Product” Basis
I love helping people, but the #1 question I seem to get is one that I feel is like catching a fish for someone instead of teaching them to fish… It goes something like this:
“Hey Nate! I found(insert really inexpensive product) at (insert any store) for (insert low price). Do you think I should buy it? How many should I buy?”
Then, repeat at least a dozen times (unless you’re related to me, I will tell you to stop asking after 2 queries). Now, I can help you here in the moment, sure, but there are so many different factors at play that the only way to truly learn is to start buying on your own and losing or earning money.
Losing Money Isn’t “Losing”
Our fear of losing something (loss aversion) typically trumps our desire to gain something. Studies suggest that our desire to avoid losing $5 outweighs our desire to gain $5 by at least 2x. So, when you lose money on a product, you’re going to freaking remember it! Talk about a great learning experience! There are countless reasons why you may lose money on a product when selling on Amazon. This is just the nature of the business and is something we have to put up with. Trust me, it is all worth it. The more you know about how price and demand adjust given all relevant factors, the better. So the one habit revolves around understanding how your purchases actually sell. It comes down to mindfulness (a common theme for this blog).
Why Gross Sales Are Not A Good Measure of Success
Many sellers have no clue how much money they are actually making (or losing)! They don’t know their numbers and base their effectiveness on things like gross sales. Big mistake! This can be explained with a very brief example. What is your house worth (or car or whatever you have of value)? Ok, now imagine you sold that at 50% off. You would have “grossed” a lot of money (relatively speaking). If I sold my house for $100,000, I lost a lot of money on it, but can say, “Yeah I grossed 100k.” That is the opposite of why we are in business. Simple enough right? When you make a purchase, note the following:
Your Buy Price
Sales Rank at Time of Purchase
Estimated Sales Price
Number of Sellers at Time of Purchase
Then, every week check:
The actual selling price.
The sales rank immediately before the sale.
Now, it isn’t efficient for you to do this for each item you purchase. Once you get the hang of the process, you will not need to do this as often. Too many sellers buy products, ship them and never look back. Then, when their sales aren’t where they expected, they start dropping prices. The end up sucking the profit out of their inventory without even knowing it.
Starting out free has many perks.
#1 You can truly understand what you don’t know. This self-awareness will help you identify what type of course or program will help you fill the learning gaps you are struggling with on your own. #2 You can decide if you actually have what it takes to succeed. In regards to Amazon, I am not talking about your learning capabilities, I am referring to your desire to continue and do the work it takes to grow exponentially. Selling on Amazon isn’t easy, but I know some big dummies (sorry everyone) who make dumb amounts of money selling on Amazon because they have stupid hustle, patience, and love of the game. There is no course that can teach those. #3 You can swim against the stream and possibly find uncharted grounds (and untapped profits). Most courses have a regimented process that has been proven to work. That is great, but it can be limiting at times. By teaching yourself, you have “virgin eyes” and may stumble upon methods that others simply overlooked.
How I Look at Paid Programs
The more I learn about a topic, the more “overlap” I begin to see in any courses I take. This is an inevitability. If I take a course that I found to be 95% remedial but 5% new and business changing, that is a 100% success. So, stop looking at a program’s originality as a sign of its value. The value of a course is in its overall impact on your bottom line. Yes, that means sitting through some remedial work (and maybe getting nothing new at all from time to time) but training should be viewed as a whole. Just like originality, the length of a course should mean little to you as well. I admit, I like to see a program containing hours and hours of content, downloads, office hours, etc. but again, we need to be measuring the value added NOT the length. The length of a course is not what matters. The only measure is its impact on your bottom line.
When to Start Paying for Programs
You should start investing in your business when you know you are…
Ready and able to act on the content
Can afford to pay without using debt
If you’re serious, ready and can afford it, go for it!
Recap of Free Ways to Learn
Let me wrap this up by sharing when you should start paying for programs.
Watch YouTube videos from day #1. YouTube tutorials are a fantastic starting place for learning how to sell on Amazon. Basic things like creating shipments, packaging your orders, etc. are taught for free on YouTube.
Join free communities. I am certainly biased and recommend you join my Facebook Group FBA Today, but there are tons of great, free communities to help you get started. Likeminded sellers will help you get a “pulse” on the state of the marketplace.
If you decide you’re never going to pay for anything, you are wrong. There are many people who pin themselves in a corner so to speak by swearing off all programs as snake oil and all “gurus” as snake oil salesmen. Just because you don’t feel the need to buy something now, there will be a time in your life that that will change.
Nate is the founder and main contributor of EntreResource.com. He is a lifestyle entrepreneur who spends his time building businesses and raising his two kids Sawyer and Brooks with his beautiful wife Emily. His main interests include copywriting, economics and piano.