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Welcome to the 2nd edition of my “Ask Matt” series! In case you didn’t see the 1st edition, check it out if you want to read details about why I started this series. Basically, I got tired of wasting time answering questions privately via email and figured I might as well answer questions publicly on the blog. I figure, if one person has a question they need answered, surely others have the same (or similar) questions. So why not publish my answers so that everyone can benefit?
The previously undisclosed intent was going to be to publish these Q & A posts monthly. And I certainly had enough questions to create a separate post for July… but I slacked off and didn’t make the time to get the post written and published. So… August is almost over and I’m about to hit publish on this post which includes questions for July and August. Feel free to read the entire thing. Or just scan the subheadings to see which questions might apply to, or interest you. Hope you enjoy and I hope this helps (at least in some small way).
Okay. Here are the questions and answers…
Weebly, GoDaddy, WordPress… Where Do I Start?
This question came in from Alicia via email. She literally JUST decided to start blogging and had no idea where and how to start – so she just started Googling things and ended up on my blog. Leaving out some of her personal information, here are parts of what she wrote to me…
…I registered my domain on godaddy cuz that’s the only one I really knew about and tried the WordPress thing but did not love it in the least bit! I built a site I love on weebly but I have to wait 50 some odd days now to transfer it over to weebly…
…so I wanted to first of all, connect with someone who seems to have walked the same path me and [husband] are on, and 2nd ask for any pointers for beginner beginners?
Alicia – it appears that you may have experienced one of the common misconceptions that a lot of beginners experience. Buying a domain and buying hosting are two totally separate things! Due to the millions and millions of dollars that GoDaddy has spent on advertising over the last several years, lots of people think you can go to GoDaddy and buy a domain and that’s all you need to do to have your own website.
In reality, buying a domain is like buying an address. If that’s all you buy, that’s all you own. If you have an address, you likely want to put something on that address. Just like buying a house has several costs and intricacies associated with it – so does building a website to put on your domain. You typically have to pay for hosting (although there are some free options). I explain much of this in great detail on my Start Here page. And on that page, there are several pointers for beginners. Definitely study my Start Here page if you are a total beginner.
Learning How to Sell on Amazon
This question actually came in as part of a comment on my Side Hustling with My Lady post. The question is another from Alicia (who asked the first question above) – although I didn’t know it at the time because she used a somewhat anonymous name. I’ve since figured it out though! Turns out, Alicia and her husband are trying to figure out how to make money online and they are in the research phase. Here is the question…
Curious if you took any of the “learn to sell on Amazon” courses out there or completely self-taught through searches, podcasts and trial and error? Husband and I are literally beginner beginner stages. Watched a few of TAS videos and watched a webinar last week. It’s so hard to not buy in to the hype.
I did NOT take any of the paid courses to learn how to sell on Amazon. I’m a bit stubborn when it comes to that and chose to learn by consuming as much free information as possible and then implementing my own trial and error. Maybe not the best or most efficient way to learn – but in the end, I learned all that I needed to.
I have nothing against any of the paid courses and I’m sure they are the way to go for many people. I just didn’t take any of those courses myself. I’m a pretty quick learner and can pick up on most things on my own. So I went my own way. I do recommend a few courses and tools for Amazon beginners on my Resources page.
State Sales Taxes on Amazon
This question came in from Kelly via email. To be honest, I had similar questions and concerns regarding this topic when I first started selling on Amazon…
Hey Matt! I just started exploring this whole selling on Amazon thing and have been doing a lot of research. My biggest confusion is the sales tax thing! Do you do it yourself or have Amazon do it for you? When I looked into having Amazon doing it for me you need a state registration number for each state I guess? I’m confused. Do you have any suggestions for me on how you did this?
Hi Kelly. This answer comes with a disclaimer. What I did (and continue to do) may not be the technically legal and right way to handle state sales tax on Amazon. But I’ll answer anyway.
Here is what I do. Nothing! I don’t worry about it at all from that standpoint of being a seller on Amazon. I’ve sold retail arbitrage products and private label products and I simply can’t be bothered to worry about separate sales tax crap for all 50 states. If I did have to worry about it or do something extra – then I just wouldn’t sell on Amazon. Not worth it to me. I figure that can (and should) all be handled on Amazon’s end. I pay my income taxes (federal and state) based on what I earn on Amazon – and I let Amazon worry about everything else.
Again – I could be way wrong and it’s possible that this could come back to bite me at some point. But I doubt it. How could Amazon possibly expect ALL sellers (millions of us) to separately handle state sales taxes via their platform and even come close to enforcing that everybody is doing it properly?
Passive Income Help
This question came in from Lena via email and it’s a good and valid question! Many people have this exact same question when first getting started with trying to create passive income online…
I just read through your article about how to start your passive income streams website. It’s easy enough and I have enough experience with webdesign for this to be fun. But my question is this, what is website?
I mean, what is the purpose of the website? The topic? Your website, here is about how to get passive income. How do I decide what to focus on? Do you have articles on that subject?
Many people start a website or blog around a passion, interest or hobby of theirs. If you are interested in the topic, you are much more likely to stick with it. That is what my ‘passive income blog’ is for me. It is my interest and I love blogging about this stuff!
But all of my niche websites are built on topics that I have no interest in whatsoever. I built all of those sites based on keyword research and other random ideas I had for websites. Lots of people build sites these days with the sole purpose of promoting Amazon products and making money that way. Here is an article I published awhile back that shows exactly how I find Amazon niches to build a site around – http://dumbpassiveincome.
Hope this helps get you pointed in the right direction. Thanks again for the question!
More Questions from Alicia…
After a somewhat long e-mail thread with Alicia, I ended up reading one of her blog posts on a brand new blog she started. I really liked her writing style – so I hired her to write some articles for one of my sites! Throughout the process of teaching her to write for the internet – I sort of agreed to answer a bunch of her questions as she tries to find her way as far as making money online. Here are a few questions she sent me one day…
Biggest Purchase that Made a Difference
When you got started on this whole side hustle thing did you start out buying all the stuff you use now? What was your first big purchase that made a difference for you?
Alicia – I did NOT start out buying all of the stuff I use now. Not even close!! I completely boot-strapped my entire operation online. Meaning I never paid for any tools, hosting, programs, domains or anything else out of my own personal money. I only paid for stuff for the business with money that was already made in the business. Definitely not the easiest or fastest way to start out. It took a really long time to get to where I’m at today. But I slowly learned everything along the way and paid as I went as my strategy to grow this internet side hustle thing.
First big purchase? This answer is two-fold…
I struggled to make hardly any money at all when I was using the free blogging platform by Blogger. When I finally decided to pay for hosting and move to WordPress – things started to click for me. So, buying hosting wasn’t really a ‘big purchase’ – per se… I started out on Hostgator and I was paying $9.99/month. But it was a big step for me. Something about having ‘skin in the game’ (paying for hosting in this case) changes your mindset and makes everything seem more serious and real.
My first big purchase that made a REAL difference – I can say, without a doubt, that Long Tail Pro has easily made the biggest difference for me. Getting targeted traffic from search engines can be very lucrative – but SEO is essential to do that. Keyword research is the first (and most important) step in doing proper SEO. Long Tail Pro makes keyword research super fast and easy. I’ve used it for years now to effectively find low competition keywords.
Amazon FBA – Private Label, Retail Arbitrage, LLC
Speaking of, have you launched your private label yet? How is it going? How was the process for you? How long did you do retail arb before you decided to go the PL route? Are you still doing RA at all? Did you and Susie get a good handle on that process? At what point did you set up your llc? Did you automatically start with the pro seller account or did you do the free account?
Yes. I launched a private label product on Amazon. It’s not going awesome. Planning to write an entirely separate blog post all about it – hopefully soon. The process to learn how to launch was really interesting and eye-opening. I actually had fun learning everything – but in the end, I’ve figured out that I’d rather stick with SEO, blogging, niche sites and making money online without having to deal with physical products and inventory.
My wife and I only did retail arb for a few months. We killed it during the holiday buying season of 2014, then stopped buying new inventory around January or Februar of 2015 and let our inventory dwindle down over the next several months. December of 2015 is when I got hooked by an Amazing Seller webinar and decided to try the private label thing.
No – we are not still doing retail arb at all. But yes – Susie and I did feel like we had a pretty good handle on the process. It was plenty of trial and error and making lots of mistakes – but in the end, we profited several thousand dollars over a few months and had fun doing it too! We made date nights out of FBA sourcing trips. And yes, you can write off your meals during these trips at tax time!
I set up my LLC in January of 2016 – at the same time I was setting up my private label business stuff. I had been meaning to get an LLC anyway for all of my blogging and other internet side hustle stuff. Setting up an ‘official’ business when I started my Amazon private label stuff just seemed like it needed to be done. It wasn’t absolutely necessary (I previously ran everything as a sole proprietorship using my real name and Social Security number) but I wanted the LLC anyway.
I started with the ‘free’ Amazon seller account. As soon as we had some retail arb inventory in Amazon warehouses – I switched to the Pro account.
Got a Question for Me?
I don’t have an official form to fill out or anything like that. But when questions come in via email or within comments on posts, I set aside the good ones that I think will fit nicely in the next “Ask Matt” post. Feel free to find my contact form and email me if you have a question. Or, simply leave a comment below and I’ll either answer it there or maybe even include yours in next months post!
Image: Me standing on a rock at Warner’s Cove on Drummond Island, MI