A Fairly Ordinary Work Week in the Life of a Full Time Online Seller

February 25th, 2015

Hello Everyone, in today’s post I will be sharing what my work week looked like last week.  I have been meaning to do a post like this for quite some time, but haven’t due to my weekly schedule changing very often.  I will share what my schedule looked like from February 14th through the 20th.  As the title indicates, this was a “fairly ordinary” week for me.

Saturday February 14th

2:00PM – 4:00PM Retail Arbitrage – I made a quick run to buy some products on Saturday afternoon.  There was a product I was able to purchase the prior week from a particular store that I was able to call another store in this chain and confirm had a decent quantity on hand their store.  I made a quick run to this store to pick up this item, dropped it off at the warehouse, and returned home.

Sunday February 15th 

No work.

Monday February 16th 

9:00AM – 10:00AM In this time I caught up with some things related to my amazon account.  I reviewed sales, looked through my payments account, checked feedback to see if there were any issues to resolve, etc.  I do a quick scan through like this most days to make sure everything is running as it should, and then take any actions that are necessary.

10:00AM – 6:30PM In store retail arbitrage.  During this time I was out in stores buying product at a large variety of retail stores.  I went to 8 different stores on this day.

Here’s a picture of a larger than normal haul from Q4 since I didn’t take any haul pictures during the week:

retail arbitrage picture

Tuesday February 17th 

9:30AM – 11:30AM Online arbitrage.  During this time I conducted online research, and purchased items at a variety of online stores to resell on amazon.

11:30AM – 12:00PM Listing products with InventoryLab to prepare to be sent to amazon.  In this step, I set the items I have listed with the item labels on the main processing table in my warehouse and will have my shipping team take care of the rest.

12:00PM – 5:00PM During this time I have one member of my shipping team present and working on processing all of the items that I have listed.  During this time I also continue to list products as needed and keep them moving.  The majority of this time is spent listing products on InventoryLab and keeping the shippers moving.  There is time to get work done even with the shipper present, and during this time I primarily setup the minimum prices to activate my repricer, go through emails, and do some analysis of current sales.   UPS comes around 4PM most days, so around 4PM the boxes that are ready for the day get picked up, and then the prep/shipping continues for the shipping team member until they leave at 5PM.

There was a game of ping pong mixed in on the main processing table around 3PM during this day as well.  Here’s a picture of the main processing table which was taken shortly after moving into the warehouse:  ping pong table

5:00PM – 5:15PM Review sales for the day, and move some stuff around to allow the maintenance guys from the warehouse I rent to come in and do some repairs to the floor.  There were some areas where the tiles near the walls were coming apart, and needed to by fixed, so they needed everything in that part of the warehouse (about a 250 foot section) to be moved.  Luckily, it was mainly just desk, table, and the basketball hoop.

Wednesday February 18th 

9:30AM – 3:30PM In store retail arbitrage. Normally, I wouldn’t have done retail sourcing quite this much during the week, but since there was work going on in the warehouse and they would be kicking up dust, I opted to do retail arbitrage to avoid this.  I purchased inventory at 6 different stores on this day.

3:30PM – 3:45PM Getting the warehouse put back together from the repair work that was done.

3:45PM – 5:30PM Repricing and online arbitrage.

Thursday February 19th 

9:00 AM – 6:00PM I worked on sourcing methods that will expand the business, as my goal is to build this into a “true business” versus just self employment.  On this day I worked primarily on expanding into private label, and sourcing products wholesale.  I will save the specifics of this for another day, but the main objective during this time was to create opportunities that will allow me to continually benefit over time versus just once, which is kind of the way retail/online arbitrage works.

In addition, 2 members of my shipping team were present from 10AM to 4:30PM.  The listing process during this time frame was handled entirely by one of the individuals who sources products for me.  We have an agreement for his payment on items that he sources, and a separate agreement relating to listing and managing the 2 members of the shipping team that were present.  This works quite well, as it allows products to leave the warehouse while I am able to work on other things.  So there was some time spent between 10AM and 5PM keeping things going for these 3 individuals, but for the most part I was able to work on other aspects of the business.   UPS picked up the boxes that were ready around 4PM. Here’s what they picked up: Thursday shipment

Friday February 20th 

The 2 individuals from the shipping team were present from 10AM to 3PM, and the listing piece was handled by the main individual sourcing for me again.

9:00AM to 9:30AM Updating/setting prices in the repricer and reviewing sales.

9:30AM to 1:00PM Business expansion strategies, basically the same as was done from 9AM to 6PM on Thursday.

1:00PM – 3:00PM Everything that was purchased for amazon FBA was all boxed up around 1PM, and at this point we transitioned to working through some items that needed to be listed on eBay.  I have been training the 2 individuals from the shipping team to list products on eBay, and the goal is to continually get them more involved with the business. So during this 2 hour stretch I helped them list products on eBay.  I basically set items out with post its, and then write the price to list them for, as well as any non-obvious details to include in the product listing.

4:15PM A friend stopped by the warehouse and we tried to set records on the basketball game in the warehouse, and nothing productive was accomplished after 4:15PM.  UPS did stop by around 4PM, here’s what they picked up this day: friday shipment

And here’s the basketball hoop that we were battling for the high score on: basketball hoop

 

That is what last week looked like for my business.  In addition to my time last week I have several individuals who source products for me that are operating without my direct involvement.  One of these individuals does this as his full time gig (the one that also was helping to get products listed), so there is a significant amount of product being sourced that I am not directly involved in.  I have been putting together a guide on the complete system that I am using for this outsourcing system, and it will be available for sale early next week.  My goal is to continue to outsource pieces of this business, and having it run as much as possible without my direct involvement.

This is a fairly ordinary week in the life, but the schedule and what I am spending time on is continually changing.  The goal is to continue to work on opportunities that will produce income for the long term (private label, wholesale, etc.) and I will dedicate more and more time to them as the year goes on.

If you have any questions about how I spend my time or any of the specifics listed here, or if there are portions you would like to see me talk about more in future blog posts, please let me know in the comments below! Also, please let me know what a typical workweek looks like for you!

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40 responses to “A Fairly Ordinary Work Week in the Life of a Full Time Online Seller”

  1. Howard Manges says:

    Thanks for this rundown. I’m most interested in your sourcing strategy, i.e. do you buy things for immediate re-sale or buy left-over/clearance seasonal and hold for later. Also when doing this kind of volume do you routinely use a 3:1 ratio or ? Obviously I don’t expect you to give away your trade secrets, perhaps only a guideline.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Howard,

      Generally I am buying things to sell right away. I don’t like to hold most things for more than 3 months, but if the margins are right on a longer term item, I will hold for up to a year.

      I don’t use the 3:1 ratio all of the time, I focus more on return on investment, and will take returns as low as about 30% if I expect the item to sell very quickly.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  2. Chris Nenninger says:

    Awesome read Ryan! One question though, do you have a schedule laid out that you try to follow every day or week, provided nothing unexpected comes up?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Chris,

      Glad you enjoyed it! I have a general outline that I try to follow, but I adjust each couple of weeks, so it’s constantly changing.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  3. Yasar Tekin says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Thank you one more time for your honest and detailed entry. I enjoyed it so much.

    Ryan, first of all, I have come out of Target with 3 carts before, but I am looking at your Target picture from Q4 2014. How did you handle such a huge haul? Did you ask the customer service desk to keep an eye on those carts or did you do something differently?

    Second question is related to recalls. Even though we have insurance and everything, I am still trying to find a way to know what products have recalls and how can I keep track of them? Since we sell many different products, do you think whether it is Amazon’s responsibility to let customers know about any kinds of recalls because Amazon is the sale platform?

    If you can help me with these questions, I will appreciate it. Keep the hard work and we live for our independence. Selling online is the best way for me right now to achieve that goal.

    Thank you Ryan

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Yasar,

      Glad to hear you enjoyed this post! For your first question, yes I had the target service desk keep an eye on the carts for me while I was still shopping.

      As for the recall issue, I honestly don’t have a great system in place for that. I try to make sure things pass the “eye test” and don’t appear to have any safety / liability issues. I also avoid many supplements and higher risk products for that reason. I also am in quite a few facebook groups that have many individuals from the online selling community, and many of these make me aware of any potential recalls or product issues. I think in amazon’s eyes it is our responsibility as sellers to know if there are recalls on products. I wish I had a better answer here, but I don’t have a very extensive process relate to recalls.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  4. barbara says:

    Ryan, thank you so much for sharing your story. I learn something from each of your posts. I have been selling for only a month and dream of a line of Target carts! I really need to expand my sourcing and wonder about your process. Do you go to the stores each week with a shopping list or do you just have stores you go to regularly and you find what you find when you go? I cannot seem to find enough product to sell and would appreciate hearing what you do to end up with that many carts full of items!
    Thanks again for your posts.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Barbara,

      Great to hear you are learning from my posts! The picture I showed above is a bit of an outlier, as that was one of my bigger hauls from one store. I do a combination of going in with a list, and also just seeing what is there. I will consider doing a more in depth posting on some of my sourcing strategies in the future.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • barbara says:

        Thanks Ryan. I’m really interested in anything you can share about being more efficient with my sourcing time. I don’t know what I should be doing before I head out to the stores to make the time more worthwhile. I’d like to find a lot more product than I am currently.

  5. Howard Manges says:

    Barbara, I can’t speak for Ryan but for myself one of the most valuable tools for sourcing is my phone. I have an iPhone but androids will work too. You can download the Amazonseller app free from Amazon.

    With that App, you can scan any product’s UPC and it will tell you the lowest price on Amazon, how much fees will be and your net profit.

    Subtract your purchase cost and an inbound shipping estimate from the net profit and you can see quickly the potential return. Hope this helps…

    • barbara says:

      Howard,
      Thanks for your reply. I use Scoutify and love being able to know whether something I scan is viable. My challenge right now seems to be finding enough profitable items. Yesterday I spent six hours sourcing and visited 8 different stores. I found 9 different things to sell for a total of 17 items. I just keep thinking that I should be finding 100s of itmes, not 17 in this amount of time. I don’t do anything before I go…just go to stores and check clearance and see if anything new has come in that I should check. I’m really interested in any suggestions about anything I can do to make this more efficient. I tend to keep sourcing until my phone runs out of juice.

      • Howard Manges says:

        Hey Barbara, I don’t know where you live but you might start checking out auction sites like Auctionzip.com. I look for business closings and liquidation sales and have found tons of stuff to sell that way. I once bought a case (of 400) brand new pressure gauges for $40 at one. That’s $.05/each. I sold them all over the next 2-3 years on ebay, one or two at a time, for $6-$8 each. I also bought 150 rolls of shipping tape for $75 and still have a bit left. That’s the stuff you pay $2-$3 roll for at Walmart. I bought a box of little transmitters, like used on garage doors and emergency use “help I’ve fallen and can’t get up”. I paid $70 for a case of well over 100. They sold on Amazon for $38-$42 EACH!. It takes a while to learn where and how to look, but if you are persistent, you will find the stuff out there. Don’t let not knowing what it is or how it’s used stop you from looking and researching. Look for a part number, label, brand name, model number and so on. If it has that, research it then make your decision based on facts and history rather than just rolling the dice.

  6. Helen Lew says:

    Please write about your wholesale and private label activities.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for the suggestion, I will definitely consider sharing more about these in a future post.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  7. Tom Rupe says:

    Thanks for the insight into how you structure your day. I am currently looking for warehouse space and I am curious what factors went into the decision to chose your current facility. Thanks

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Tom,

      The main factors for me were price and proximity to my house. I was looking for something in the 500-1000 square foot range and the options were somewhat limited in my area. The one I picked is less than a mile from my house, is reasonable priced, and works for my needs. I toured 3 or 4 before selecting one, and this one was best combination of those factors. In addition, this one had the best “atmosphere” as it has a couple of windows providing natural light. A couple of the ones I toured were in a basement and all cement walls.

      The main factors though were price and location. Hope that helps!

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  8. Brendan Z says:

    Hi Ryan, I just want to introduce myself. My name is Brendan, I quit my job recently when I relocated to Florida. I have been following your blog since Jan 23 this year. Started reading your site and a few others for about a week, and during that time acquired a bunch of inventory from online and local retail stores. I read pretty much every one of your blog posts. Seriously, it helped me tremendously and answered all my questions with a step by step process. Everything you need to know to start selling on Amazon is here on this site, why pay those so called “Amazon Gurus” thousands of dollars when all the information is right here in front of you.

    Here is a little bit about how I am doing so far. My first inventory reached amazon warehouse 10 days ago. $1700 in sales so far in the last 9 days. I think I am doing ok for a beginner. However, I must note here that I do possess some previous experience selling part time on eBay and craigslist. Mostly MacBooks and iPhones which made me a decent average of $1500 to 3000 a month. I am a gadget aficionado you can say. Nonetheless, I plan to shift my efforts to entirely Amazon as I think you can scale much bigger with this and much more automated as well.

    From my experience so far. I feel that for someone starting out new, if you want make a lot of money fast, you need to invest a fair chunk of money. Otherwise it will take months to start earning “real” money. Retail and online arbitrage actually takes quite bit of my time. I have been working more than $8 hours a day and $40 hours a week so far, however, it could also be because I am learning everything from scratch, and trying to absorb as much knowledge as I possibly can.

    Not sure if I am going too fast for my own good? So far I have already acquired $5,000 worth of inventory with a ROI of 70 to 75%. You think I am on the right track, Ryan?

    I am also traveling abroad to China in April and intend to find a manufacturer to source products and build my own brand later this year. I believe that is the only way to ultimately fulfill my dream of work less hours and make more money in return. Coming from a 150K annual salary, there is a fairly big shoe to fill to say the least. If I don’t succeed in a few years, I guess I can always go back to my terribly mundane old job.

    Anyways, the real point of this long speech is that I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Ryan. Your website gave me confidence and helped me to start a new chapter in life – being a full-time entrepreneur and my own boss. Keep up the great work bud! From one entrepreneur to another!

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Brendan,

      Thank you for the kind words, and for sharing your story with me! Congrats on taking the leap and going for what you truly want to do!

      As long as you aren’t putting yourself in financial jeopardy, it sounds to me like you are on the right path. I basically went all in on amazon about 18 months ago, and it sounds like you are doing the same. You definitely have some big shoes to fill leaving behind a $150K salary, but it’s definitely possible to replace that, and the freedom from being self-employed is hard to measure in dollars.

      Hope that helps, and please keep me posted on your status!

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

    • Paul says:

      Hi Brendan,
      I read your post and agree that Ryan has an impressive site. I am also getting into Amazon FBA and sell on EBay from time to time. I am also in Florida near Daytona.
      Would you be interested in possibly doing a meeting of the minds to see how we could grow a business? I did route sales until an injury, building a territory from $386,000 to $1.2 million a year (unfortunately for someone else).
      Thanks, Paul.

  9. Marion says:

    Ryan,

    Thanks for the excellent posts; they are extremely motivating. I’m gearing up to start FBA about mid-March, 2015. I have been doing tons of research, reading, etc. I’m glad you posted this because it definitely gave me some insight into the “day of reseller”. There is a lot of hard and serious work involved.
    I wanted to get your take on a partnership regarding FBA. What I mean is two persons selling under the same FBA account. I read in Arbitrage by Chris Green that certain booksellers would allow him to sell things on “consignment” to boost their sales. He mentioned he would list the items differently on the listing page. He didn’t go into much detail but I was wondering how this would work especially regarding taxes? Any suggestions would be helpful.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Marion,

      Glad to hear you are enjoying the posts. Outside of the normal challenges that exist in any business partnership, I don’t see a problem with having an amazon business as a partnerships. I am not a CPA, but for taxes, each partner would pay taxes on the amount of the income from the business that was their share.

      I really can’t provide too much advice here, since my account is 100% mine, I do have some individuals who help source products for me, but they are contractors and not owners.

      Hope this helps, and if you have further questions I can answer on this, feel free to reply to this comment.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  10. Jenny says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Interesting read as always. It’s always nice to hear a typical workday of another seller. I work way less than that and usually start my day at 10:00 am to eat breakfast then lunch with my friend at 1:00 pm and after that I come home and list for about only an hour. I do mostly dropshipping and hold only a few quick selling items as actual inventory. One question for you is are you too reliant on Amazon? In other words, if they cut ties with you would you still be able to run your business?

    Thanks
    Keep up the posts!
    Jenny

  11. Joe says:

    Great post as usual Ryan,

    One question I have for you is how do you explain yourself to the store employees or managers when you do such a huge shopping trip?

    I’m not anywhere near your level but even when I buy 10 of one item, the store employees or manager are questioning me as to why am I buying so much. I never tell them I’m going to be reselling it but I struggle sometimes as to what to say.

    Thanks again,

    Joe

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Thanks Joe!

      I usually try to dodge that question when possible as well. If they suggest ANY thought process for why I am buying such as gifts, etc, I generally go with that. If they keep asking I say it’s for a business, and that’s about as specific as I get. I sometimes will tell them that I am a personal shopper and I can’t disclose it. It really just depends on the person and what they are asking, but I usually try to be vague.

      Hope that helps!

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Rob says:

        Like you I generally try and avoid the question, or go with whatever they’re saying. The response that I’ve got prepared should I be really pushed is “I have people that want these products but can’t make it to your store”.

  12. Rocky says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I am a part time Ebay seller with a full-time day job, located in MN as well. I haven’t sold anything on Amazon but your articles inspired me to test it out as I am getting tired of the whole start to finish Ebay process (I am the buyer, sorter, picture taker, warehouse person, lister, shipper, post-office runner).

    Do you have any tips controlling the shipping cost to the AMZ warehouse?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Rocky,

      My main tip would be to ship as many items as you can per box. You will pay much less per piece if you are sending in a box with 20 items inside, versus a box with 3 items inside. I generally try to do larger shipments as a result of this, which keeps the cost per unit down.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  13. Kim says:

    Thanks for sharing such great information. 2 questions- did you pay sales tax on your Target purchase and what is your standard answer when people ask what you are doing/ why you are buying so much stuff?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Kim,

      No problem. I did not pay sales tax on the Target purchase, I gave them my state tax id and some other info and then I was able to purchase tax exempt. The standard answer for that question varies. If the person asking suggests anything, such as “getting ready for Christmas?” or “you must really like this flavor of candy?” I will always go with what they propose. If it’s not that, I generally go with something vague and respond with “It’s for a business” or “it’s for an organization” or “I run a personal shopping business” something along these lines.

      Hope that helps!

      Best Regards
      Ryan

      • Dan says:

        I am new to all of this but interested after having read your story. I still have a LOT of reading to do via your blogs but am learning quite a bit.

        I am confused, though, about your not having to pay taxes on the Target items. I thought the only tax-exempt entities were 501c3 non-profits, which I don’t believe you are. If I move in the direction you have, what is required to be able to purchase tax-free, or did I misunderstand something. Thanks!

        • Ryan Grant says:

          Hi Dan,

          Target used to allow tax exempt purchasing for resale, but they changed that policy after this post was written. Hope that makes sense, as I’m definitely not setup as any type of non-profit.

          Best Regards,
          Ryan

  14. Kim says:

    Thanks Ryan!

  15. Tiffany says:

    Do you have an update of something like this for 2017? There must have been a lot of things that have changed since then?!
    🙂

  16. Liz P says:

    I’m with Tiffany and would appreciate more current material. The last 18 months have been volatile, to say the least.

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