What do I need to get started with FBA?

March 14th, 2014

Recently I have been getting a few questions from readers who are just getting started to see what I think you need to get started selling on amazon’s FBA program.  Most recently there were comments on my February financial results post from Sabine and Sharon requesting this, and there have been a couple emails as well, so the readers have spoken and that’s what today’s post will be about.

For a frame of reference, I will be looking at this as to what I think is needed if you want to sell via FBA on at least a part time basis, and never having sold an item via FBA before but have an amazon seller account in place.  So let’s get started with what I think is needed based on my experiences thus far.

First, and most importantly, you need to have the right mindset about FBA and be willing to be constantly learning throughout the process.  FBA requires a good amount of learning and work to get everything up and running, and as you get started at times it will be frustrating.  If you stay persistent in learning the rules, searching for inventory, consistently sending what you find into amazon, and stay diligent with this process, you will begin to see results relatively quickly.  The more you put in, the more you will get out.  It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it as it helps you to reach your financial and lifestyle goals.

There really are not that many tools that you need to get started with FBA.  Here are a few supplies/tools that I think are worth getting right away:

The first item that I think is essential is a smartphone with a scanning app.  The scanning app will provide pertinent information about the items you are scanning right on your phone and will help you to decide which items are good to purchase for resale.  If you are an iPhone user, I would recommend first trying out either the brand new Amazon Seller app that amazon created, or the Scanpower Gateway App which is a new release from Scanpower that is completely free.  Search for “Scanpower Gateway” in the app store and you will find it, there is not a website exclusively for the app.  If you are an android user, as I am, currently your options are Profit Bandit or the Amazon Mobile app.  The amazon mobile app is free but is designed for purchasing from rather than providing the information you need to make a sourcing decision, so I think it is worth spending the $15 and getting Profit Bandit.  HERE is a link to a post I did awhile back  about Profit Bandit, and it will show you some screenshots as well to help you make a decision.  The amazon seller app and Scanpower Gateway both have Android versions in the works, so they are worth a look when they come out.   No matter which one of these you pick, use one of them, a scanning app is the #1 tool for this business in my mind.

You could definitely make the case that a scanning app, a computer with internet, and a printer, are all you need to get started selling on amazon via FBA.  When I sent my first FBA shipment in I did not even have a scanning app.  However, the scanning app I would recommend having day one, and the following additional tools and supplies will make your life quite a bit easier and I would buy them day one if resources allow (listed in order of which I would purchase them):

The first is a USB Barcode Scanner.  This will make listing items dramatically easier than typing in every UPC into amazon.  HERE is a link to the exact model that I have and use, but I would tend to think spending a few extra dollars and get one that includes a stand such as THIS ONE would be worth it.  All of these do basically the same thing, so shop and around and see what you think is the best deal for you, but buying one of these will save you a ton of time.

The next item that I would buy right off the bat is a shipping scale.  You could get by with a bathroom scale initially, but you will tend to estimate on the high end to be safe, and getting an accurate shipping scale should pay for itself over time.  HERE is a link to the one I use, and so far I have no complaints.   

A quick note about the printer that you would need for selling via FBA.  An inkjet printer is fine for printing off packing slips and shipping labels, but per amazon’s rules an inkjet printer is not acceptable for individual item labels.   If you only have an inkjet printer, I would recommend utilizing amazon’s label service, (more info HERE) initially and paying the $0.20 per item.  Once you know you are going to stay with selling via FBA and are regularly sending in items, I would then look into a thermal printer.

The next item that I would buy right off the bat would be poly bags for creating multi-packs, and for bagging items that are required to be bagged by amazon (certain liquid items and toys that are not completely sealed are 2 examples). Having these on hand makes creating multi-packs very easy, and it’s also easy to bag items where it is required.  I purchased THESE to provide me with a good variety of bag sizes.  They are also available on amazon from this seller, but I like to purchase them on eBay to get the 2% back in eBay Bucks.  Having them on hand makes life easy, and I have found that selling multi-packs (particularly in grocery) is a profitable strategy.

Next I will discuss how I would keep track of finances, receipts, etc.  For receipts, I would recommend setting up a system to store these electronically.  I would recommend scanning all receipts and then saving to Evernote, Dropbox, or your computer, and then maintain the paper receipts in a folder.  I keep a folder of receipts for each month should I need to go back to review old paper receipts.

In regards to tracking inventory and sales, I would recommending creating an excel spreadsheet for tracking.  For keeping track of inventory, I would recommend documenting: item ASIN (amazon stock information number), where purchased, date purchased, purchase price, and price listed for.  For keeping track of sales, I would document the following for each item as they sell: ASIN, net payout amount, purchase price, days it took to sell, and calculate your profit on each item.  You could cross reference the inventory and sale files to calculate profits and determine how long items to take to sell.  Going through item by item helps you to get a very good idea about how long items take to sell, as well as learning what items sell better than others.  If you are constantly entering the same item into your sales spreadsheet, there is a good chance you should buy more of that item, or look for items similar to the item that is selling.   You will have to find the actual system that works for you, but tracking as much as possible will give you the best idea of what is going on with your business, and help you pinpoint areas where you are making the most profits (to find more similar opportunities) and those where you are losing money or making lower profits (to minimize these occurrences).  Microsoft Excel would be my go to for keeping track of inventory and sales.

Lastly, I will cover some books/resources that you might want to consider depending on your experience level, and what categories you are interested in selling in.  I don’t think that any of these are essential for success, but I have all of them and found them to be well worth the investment.  Also, as far as courses for selling on FBA, I have not been a part of any dedicated courses on the subject, so I really can’t comment on if they are good value or not.  My route to learning has been through trial and error, and by reading books/guides.

The first book is Arbitrage by Chris Green.  I found this book to be a very good introduction to the process of FBA, and it definitely gave me some ideas of how to utilize the FBA program.  This book is available for purchase from amazon HERE, and is also often free via the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library if you are an Amazon Prime member.

All of the other books/guides that I have purchased related to FBA have been from Jessica Larrew.  The first was Liquidation Gold which contains some great information about purchasing from liquidation stores, and tips to help make sure trips to these stores are profitable (I would make sure you have liquidation/discount stores in your area before picking up this one).  The next was her HBA webinar which is an introduction to selling Health and Beauty products on amazon.  Before watching this webinar I had sold very few if any HBA products.  Since watching the video, I have expanded these categories to a fairly significant portion of my business.  I am not sure how much this webinar directly contributed to the level of my current HBA sales, but it definitely got me started in the category and I am glad I did get started.  The last of her books Grocery Goldmine, I did a full review of HERE.  This one is a more substantial investment, but if you are interested in selling groceries it will definitely get you off on the right foot.   If you are looking to get into sourcing from Liquidation Stores, HBA items, or get into the grocery category, all of these guides are worth a look.

All of the above are things I would look into if I was just starting FBA today.  I have purchased all of the above products and guides, and all have been well worth the price I paid.  With that being said, purchasing any of these tools or guides will not make you successful on their own.  You have to put in the time finding products to sell, getting them into amazon, and then managing them from that point forward.

As you start to do more volume via FBA, there are some additional tools that are worth looking into.  I will put together another post in the near future that covers some of the additional tools that I am using, and explain why I find them beneficial.

UPDATE 1/15/2015: I now have a page showing all of the products and services I am currently using, you can find it here: ose.wpengine.com/resources

If there are any other aspects of getting started on amazon that you would like my take on, or have any tips to share about getting started, please let me know in the comments below.  Or feel free to email me at grant.ryanj@gmail.com.

Also, I just created a facebook page for the blog, check it out HERE!

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52 responses to “What do I need to get started with FBA?”

  1. Jeff says:

    Ryan,

    Great post! Your site has become my go-to for FBA tips. I look forward to the next one.

    -Jeff

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Jeff,

      Thank you, that is awesome to hear! If you ever have tips or topics you would like to see discussed in future posts, let me know.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  2. Ron says:

    Hey Ryan,

    A lot of good information. I am new to a lot of this.
    Starting to understand how to piece things together
    since reading your material.

    Thank You, Ron

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Ron,

      Glad to hear you are finding it helpful! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions I can help with.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  3. chad says:

    Hey Ryan,
    I tried searching scan power gateway and
    It says nothing found , so I searched scan power
    And downloaded the app which said it was
    Free but after download when setting up your
    Scan account it makes you enter a credit card
    I didn’t do it so I’m not sure if it charges you at this point
    Or not.

    I also downloaded another app the apple recommended
    Called fba scan and it gives you a free 7 day trial no
    Credit card necessary but of course i go to start scanning
    And it just gives error messages.

    So since I was already out scouting today i
    Used a free app called FLOW that is basically
    Just an amazon shopping app that gives you
    Some info but not everything that and FBA app would give.

    Also while I’m writing this Long message I’ll ask a
    Question about liquidation products. I found a liquidation
    Store locally and it has a good bit if toys available but
    I wa wondering how package quality plays into if you buy it
    Or not . I found a toy for $20 that sells for $70 plus on amazon
    But of course none of the packages are 100% in a liquidation store.. How do you think that affects what this product is really worth..

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Chad,

      Make sure you are searching “Scanpower Gateway” with no space between scan and power, it should be out there because I can find it through google. The actual Scanpower app is not free, but you can sign up for a free trial of it. Flow is a good app to have on your phone, but I would recommend trying one of the ones designed specifically for selling.

      As for your question on liquidation products, package quality definitely plays into the decision. If the packaging is beat up then I will sell it in used condition. I will either look at what the current used price offers are and make my decision based on that, or I will go 20-30% lower than what the current new price is for an estimation of what I could sell it for used. So in your example if new items are selling for $70, I would assume I could sell used for somewhere between $49-$56.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  4. Marie says:

    Thanks Jeff. Great info. I have saved all your info for reference. Marie

    • Ryan Grant says:

      I think you got me mixed up with another individual who commented on this post, my name is Ryan, haha. Glad to hear you found it helpful!

  5. Jonty says:

    Hi Ryan
    I currently have a basic Crackberry company phone so useless to use for scanning. I would prefer to buy my own just for FBA. What brand with what App would you recommend?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Jonty,

      Personally the only smartphone I have owned is a Samsung Galaxy S3 and I have no complaints. I would recommend getting either an iPhone or a newer Android smartphone. If you go the iPhone route I would start with SellerMobile from amazon, or Scanpower Gateway (both iPhone only at this point). If you go the Android route, I would start with Profit Bandit. Hope that helps.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  6. Zoli says:

    Hey Ryan,

    When you’re scouting for products, how long are you spending in a particular store?

    Thanks for the great post again! Really great info!

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Zoli,

      Thank you! I don’t set a deadline for how long I will stay in any one store. Basically, I leave when I have hit all of the sections I want to. Sometimes I will take my time and slowly go through stores as when you are rushing in and out, you oftentimes miss some deals you could have found. The quickest I am ever in and out of store is probably 15 minutes, and I have spent as long as 4 hours in a single store.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  7. Craig says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for all the valuable information. Can you comment on the type of account needed at Amazon. I have sold some old textbooks before, but then I see professional accounts. Do I need a professional account to use FBA?
    Thanks,
    Craig

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Craig,

      That’s a good question, and I probably should have included this in the original post. I recommend that people start off with an individual account (you can still sell via FBA with an individual account) until you are selling more than 40 items per month. The individual account has no monthly fee but you are charged a $0.99 fee per item sold that is not charged to professional sellers, however professional sellers pay a monthly fee of $39.99 per month. So until you are selling more than 40 items per month, I recommend using the individual account.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Chris says:

        It seems like using any of the scanning apps now requires a Professional account. This is one of the issues I’m working through right now as a first time FBA seller.

        • Ryan Grant says:

          Hey Chris,

          You don’t need a professional account to use Profit Bandit. If you email them and say that you do not have a professional account, they have a “workaround” that will allow your app to work with an individual account. I believe Scanpower Gateway and Seller Mobile from amazon do not need a professional account either, but I can’t say for sure since the android versions are not out for me to test.

          Best Regards,
          Ryan

          • Chris says:

            Hi Ryan,

            I have emailed them. Unfortunately they no longer have a work around for this situation so you must have a Professional account to use Profit Bandit now.

            This seems like a larger barrier of entry, but I’m still going to try it.

          • Craig says:

            I’m having the same problem with Profit Bandit. It seems their workaround is to take advantage of the free month from using the professional account, which is not an option for me as I already have a seller’s account.

          • Ryan Grant says:

            Hi Craig,

            That’s interesting, would you mind forwarding that email to me? grant.ryanj@gmail.com. I have had a few people be able to use the workaround within the past month so I want to see if something has changed so I don’t spread incorrect info.

            Best Regards,
            Ryan

          • Ryan Grant says:

            Hi Chris,

            That’s odd and I have now had several comments mentioning this, would you mind forwarding that email to me? grant.ryanj@gmail.com. I have had a few people be able to use the workaround within the past month so I want to see if something has changed so I don’t spread incorrect info.

            Best Regards,
            Ryan

  8. chad says:

    Hey Ryan,
    Got an update on scanpower gateway , I could
    Not ever find it for iphone so I emailed scanpower
    And this is what they sent me back:

    Ticket: https://help.scanpower.com/helpdesk/tickets/3220

    Hi Creelchad,

    Thank you for the email. Gateway was a free version of the app that was briefly available. Amazon has asked us to take it down while we make some changes they requested. We are not sure when it will be up and available again. Please let me know if you need anything further. This ticket can be easily re-opened by simply replying to this email. If you are satisfied with this ticket being closed I would appreciate your feedback at the bottom of the closed ticket email to follow.

    Cheers!

    Andrea Fernandez
    ScanPower

    So I guess this option is no longer available
    And the amazon app is only compatible with
    Pro accounts..
    I have downloaded everything and still do
    Not have a working scanning app..

    Anyways just wanted to pass this info on
    To your users.

    Thanks
    Chad

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Chad,

      Thanks for the update, good information to know.

      As for you getting a scanning app, have you emailed profit bandit to see if they have a “workaround” for you? I used profit bandit before being a pro merchant and know several others who have used Profit Bandit without the professional account.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Janet Boyanton says:

        I purchased Profit Bandit and, once I found I couldn’t use it, emailed them for assistance. The suggestion was to try professional for 30 days free. That isn’t useful since I can’t assume I will be selling 40 items a month.

        Any suggestions for fixing this or suggestions for an alternate app would be appreciated.

        Oh, their email came today.

        • Ryan Grant says:

          Hi Janet,

          This is a recent update from profit bandit, and I need to update this post to reflect that, if you are not going to do the pro merchant account trial, then I would probably request a refund from profit bandit. I am guessing you are an android user, so I would recommend trying out the amazon mobile app, it’s designed more for buying but has the necessary info for selling as well.

          Best Regards,
          Ryan

  9. Kaitlyn says:

    How can you find out if you have liquidation stores in your area? I’ve searched the internet but can’t find anything. I want to purchase liquidation gold but I figure it would be a waste of money if I can’t find a store!

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Kaitlyn,

      I would recommend searching google as you have already done, also checkout sites such as yelp as well. You can also asks friends in family if they are aware of any “scratch and dent” or “banana box” type stores. They sometimes are kind of hard to find, but most major cities will have at least a few. Good luck!

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  10. Ron says:

    I heard of an app for IPhone a little while back. It was FBA Scout. Does anyone have information on FBAScout?

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Ron,

      FBA Scout is now Scanpower, they changed their name awhile back. I recommend looking into them (I use Scanpower) once you are doing a little more volume as it has a monthly fee, as opposed to the other apps mentioned which are free or a one time fee.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  11. Chad says:

    Ryan,
    Below I quoted part of this post and I have a question about the individual item labels. Are you talking about if the product does not have a UPC and we have to make one or are just talking about the item label that Amazon gives you for each product you enter into inventory? (are these what you are saying requires a laser printer?)

    “A quick note about the printer that you would need for selling via FBA. An inkjet printer is fine for printing off packing slips and shipping labels, but per amazon’s rules an inkjet printer is not acceptable for individual item labels. If you only have an inkjet printer, I would recommend utilizing amazon’s label service, (more info HERE) initially and paying the $0.20 per item. Once you know you are going to stay with selling via FBA and are regularly sending in items, I would then look into a thermal printer.”

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Chad,

      I am referring to the item label that amazon gives you for each product you enter into inventory in this section. Let me know if you have further questions.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

      • Chad says:

        Can you tell me what kind of laser printer you have ? or what you would recommend getting? thanks

        • Ryan Grant says:

          Hey Chad,

          I use a dymo 450 for printing individual product labels, and a zebra thermal printer for printing the labels that go on the actual box. I will plan on putting together a post together soon with the printers I am using and some of the other more advanced tools beyond the basics.

          Best Regards,
          Ryan

  12. Jeff says:

    Ryan,

    Can the Dymo 450 be used for printing the labels that go on the actual box (box shipping to Amazon)?

    Thanks!

    -Jeff

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Jeff,

      It’s just for printing the labels to go on the products as far as amazon is concerned. There is a way to print postage with it, but not in a way that is compatible with using fulfillment by amazon.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  13. chad says:

    Ryan,
    I am using profit bandit to scan,
    I noticed it has a button that says “sell it” have you ever used this to list a product or is it better to just go to amazon to do this step ?

    Thanks
    Chad

    • chad says:

      Ryan,
      Creating my first shipment do you suggest i use the upc’s that are already on the product or create my own amazon labels for each product ? Thanks

      • Ryan Grant says:

        Hey Chad,

        If you aren’t concerned with the $0.20 per item fee, I would just let amazon label each product for you. It’s easier that way, and speeds up the process your first time going through the process. Let me know if you have further questions.

        Best Regards,
        Ryan

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hey Chad,

      Yes I have used this button and it works quite well. That button links directly to amazon so you end up listing directly on amazon from your phone, but the “sell it” button is a quick and easy way to get there. Normally I am listing on a computer, but every now and again I will use the sell it button.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  14. chad says:

    When sourcing with profit bandit i see n/a on rank does that mean it has never sold ? And do you stay away from these products?
    Also do you have certain ranks you look for when buying and are they different ranges for each category like do you have a different one for toys , grocery hba etc

  15. Dave says:

    Hi Ryan, I understand that UPS offers free shipping supplies, like boxes, etc. to those with ups accounts. There doesn’t seem to be much discussion of this as part of an fba business strategy.
    There is the question of using the free boxes. While the shipments are actually paid thru amazon’s ups account, and it may look to UPS like you’re not using your account???

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Dave,

      UPS does offer these supplies to account holders, but currently I am not using any of them. From my understanding the boxes that are free are just small security boxes and not boxes big enough to actually send product to amazon in. Let me know if you have further questions.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  16. De says:

    what about the money to get started to buy products to sell on azon? How much do you need to start seeing a decent return and how long do you think it would take considering the items you purchase and pay to ship to azon sit in inventory until sold then you wait a while to get the profit from amazon.
    thanks,
    De

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi De,

      You can really start with just about any amount of money. It depends on your personal situation and what type of returns you are looking for from selling on amazon. I would say that you could get started fairly easily with $100, and even cheaper if you send items from around the house into FBA to get a feel for it. Hope that helps, and let me know if you have further questions.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  17. Kate says:

    Hi Ryan,
    I’ve read nearly every post you have and find it to be very helpful. I’m getting ready to place my order for everything I need to get started and will start my first FBA account this week.
    I’m ordering Dymo 450 for the product labels on books I’m sending to Amazon. I want to make sure I buy labels that are easy to peel off if needed. Which labels do you use?
    Thanks,
    Kate

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Kate,

      I am planning on adding a resources page very soon with all of the supplies I use. I normally buy Dymo 30252 compatible labels, I will track down the actual link soon and put it on the “resources” page in the next couple of days once I get it created.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  18. George says:

    Hi Ryan,

    Great website! I love your transparency and sincerity – quite a rare combination in this field.

    I have been planning for a while to start Amazon selling but going the white label route. However, I’m absolutely green and stumbled on your blog and now you’ve got me thinking I should dip my toe in these waters before going off the deep end with WL.

    One question though about something that has been nagging at me if you would, for FBA I had the impression that you should typically send in some volume of the same product, but I gather from your blog you often send in single items all on their own – is this right? And when shipping items to FBA, do you mix items together in one box and let Amazon sort them out on their side? Or do you box each type of item separately?

    Thanks a lot!

    George, UK

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi George,

      There are many ways to sell on amazon, so there’s no one best route in my opinion. I do sometimes only ship one of a single product, and I am able to put this in one box with other products to let amazon sort through them. Amazon is in control of which warehouse your items are sent to, so it’s possible you will be sending items to a couple different locations.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

  19. Buncheuth says:

    Hi Ryan, thanks you for all the amazing information. I just bought the Dymo 450XL and curious if i could use that to print indivdual product label? Everyone i know uses the Dymo turbo thats why. Thx:)

  20. nicky says:

    I have attempted fba. Got my profit bandit. Bought things. But I couldn’t get approved for certain accounts.
    I found a site that may be able to help. Any advice?
    My number 1 issue is what to buy? What’s the best items ? Sell fast And you make good profit? Please help and Ty!
    A friend of a friend is on his second year with a 100k a month in sales he Keeps reinvesting and his goal is a 1mill this year in sales. But he doesn’t ever say to much lol.

    • Ryan Grant says:

      Hi Nicky,

      I don’t share exactly what to buy or the exact methods I am using to source at this time. There are some posts that discuss some of my methods if you looks through the archives.

      Best Regards,
      Ryan

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