Cash Smarter

November 4, 2016  by: Aaron Crowe

How I Side Hustled Across the Country on Fulfilled by Amazon


This guest post about making money on Amazon is by Tyler Philbrook, a personal finance blogger at I Am the Future Me who I met at FinCon16 in San Diego in late September. I also wrote a post on his site, so after you read his story here about how he made money to attend FinCon, go over to his site to read my post about what got me to get going on starting an emergency fund.

A little over a year ago I got the opportunity I had been waiting for. I was GIVEN a ticket to FinCon16, a financial blogger conference that I wouldn’t be able to go to.

When given the ticket I became sick to my stomach. I should have been excited, but I knew I was going to have to turn it down.

I have a lot of credit card debt, and didn’t want to go further into debt to travel across the country.

Instead, I committed myself to getting there no matter the cost, no matter the sacrifices I would have to make I would come up with the money.

One of the MANY side hustles I did was sell on Amazon with FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon).

What Is Amazon FBA?

Everyone buys off of Amazon. What you may not know though is that third party sellers sell some 40% of Amazons sales.

So I am a small part of the pie. I buy products from retail stores, or  online stores, ship the products to Amazon and they ship to the customer.

I don’t have to deal with customer service, shipping, storms, or any of it. I simply find a product, send it in and forget about it (mostly).

Another option is selling on Amazon Merchant Fulfilled (MF). What this means is instead of sending the products to Amazon for them to sell, you wait till an order comes in and send the product to the buyer.

A few reasons I don’t like this. First, I sometimes have 200 or more items at Amazon, some of which are very large. I live in a small apartment and there just isn’t enough room for me to store everything.

Second, I don’t like having to deal with customer service. I have had some customers email me because they didn’t get the product for whatever reason. Because I do FBA instead of MF I can simply forward that complaint over to Amazon and they take care of it.

The third reason I like FBA over MF is it requires no work when an item is sold, leaving me more time to work on other side-hustles such as driving for Uber, or writing.

How Does it Work?

So how is it done? Here are the four basic steps:

Go Shopping

Before you try shopping online I highly recommend that you start by going into retail stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Walgreen’s, CVS, and Best Buy. Walk around till you find the clearance section(s).

When there you will need the Amazon Seller App (click here for the app) which requires a seller’s account to use (which is free).

Use the app to scan the items and see how much the item is selling for on Amazon. If it looks like you can make profit (I aim for at least 50% ROI) the next thing you check is the rank of the item.

There is no all encompassing answer to what ranks to buy. I aim for 150,000 or less in most categories. Some categories I will go higher and some I will go lower, but this is a good starting point.

So after seeing if the item will make profit, is ranked well, the next thing to check is if you can actually sell it. For instance I sell a lot of pre-paid phones. Most of them can be sold no problem. However, I found a few Samsung phones that I couldn’t sell because the brand was restricted.

On top of certain brands being restricted, certain categories are restricted and can sometimes be difficult to be able to sell in them. For instance the “big three” are grocery, beauty, and health and personal care, and require the most work to get ungated in to sell. To get ungated you must have a Pro Seller account.

So when shopping make sure your qualify to sell it, the ROI is good, the rank is low so it will actually sell.

Ship it

After you have got your merchandise you have to send it to Amazon. I go to Home Depot and get boxes for a little over a dollar, or get free boxes from my job.

The steps are pretty straight forward on the Amazon Seller Dashboard to sending it in. Once the inventory is added you submit it and they give you lists of where everything will be going.

I typically have to send out 3 to 5 different boxes to different warehouses. The shipping is very reasonable in my opinion sometimes as little as just $4 depending on where the box has to go, and how much it weighs.

Check Up On It

Once the merchandise arrives, you should check to make sure that the price hasn’t changed. Sometimes it will go up and if you don’t change it you will lose out on some money. Other times it will drop in price and if you don’t change the price than you’ll never sell it and the item will just sit there.

When I first started I would just go in once a day and click the “match low price” button on the dashboard. Since then I have come to realize that just because your item is more expensive doesn’t mean it won’t sell.

A lot of the time the lowest price is by a MF seller, people are often willing to spend more on FBA and thus I will get the “buy box” over a MF seller even if my price is higher than theirs. So when checking the prices in the dashboard before you change the price see if your price has the buy box or not.

Collect Payments

To be a seller is free, you pay the fees for the items and the shipping but to actually have the account is free.  As a free seller though you don’t have access to sell in restricted categories as well as you don’t always get all the money owed to you at one time.

I don’t really know why it’s done that way, but for some reason they only give you a portion of the sales at a time. If you’re patient you will get all of it, but as a Pro Seller if it’s due to you then you get all of it every two weeks.

Forming friendships

After close to a year of hard work, selling all I can on Amazon as well as anything else I could to make money I made it to San Diego for FinCon16.

What a wonderful experience I had at the conference forming friendships that will last a lifetime.

Maybe you want to go on a trip like me, maybe you want to pay down debt, buy a car, or a house. By selling on Amazon you can do it. It’s going to be work, and I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it is worth it and can make huge difference.

Tyler Philbrook is a freelance writer who blogs at He has written for, and He writes about debt, side hustles, financial books, and frugal living, all well realizing that we are all the future version of ourselves. You can contact him on twitter at @Tjphilbrook

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