Elin Rose fell in love with sailing, quit her job and worked out how to fund her sailing lifestyle by Selling just two things to give her 8,000 pounds per month. In this podcast she gives you some insight into how it is done.
LINDSAY: Today I’m interviewing Elin Rose who’s successfully funding her sailing life through Amazon, eBay and AirBnB.
Welcome to the interview Elin.
ELIN: Thank you so much Lindsay. Thank you for having me.
LINDSAY: So how did you get into funding your lifestyle online through these tools? What’s that all about?
ELIN: I moved to Nottingham last year in January, and I had already started sailing. I was going from one job to the other and I was doing mainly interior design because that’s what I studied in London.
So I was going from one job to the other and I loved sailing a lot, so I realised I would have to either be a freelancer or find a way to do both. Because I wasn’t really ready just to put my sailing dreams on hold while I was doing a job maybe for a year or two. It was really hard for me to just have both a job and a sailing life. I realised I had to change something and I ended up simply just leaving that design job.
When I did that obviously I had no security or no other net, or no other money or source of income to rely on, and I just thought, “Okay what are my options? I have a design degree. Can I do anything? Could I possibly sell something online?” Then somehow came across Amazon. Somebody suggested it to me and I first thought it was a ridiculous idea. I just sort of tried it out to see it for myself and launched the first product. I realised I have to obviously sell something so I just, you know, imagined what I would like to sell that would resonate with me. Then as I started doing this it just sort of grew month-by-month, and I realised, “Well I’m able to sail. I can be sailing, and then I can just check my account maybe in the morning or in the evening.” I realised I was just doing sales and I wasn’t doing anything in particular to make those sales. I realised this was sort of like a great platform for me. This just grew and grew.
I started doing eBay and then I also somehow got introduced landlords in my city, and then I started doing AirBnB for them. I was also able to do that from the boat, so I just sort of somehow accidentally but very purposefully managed to do this just by following my core values which were just to be independent, free, and just free from a job, and also able to sail.
I think sometimes when you just put yourself in a very uncomfortable situation the answers just come to you. I think it just happens to everyone. That’s what has just happened to me. Obviously this is a great situation and I’m able to do this from the boat. I was also in Iceland this summer and I’m not doing any major work from day-to-day. It’s like you only have to get this right once. You only have to find one product or two products that sell really well, and then you’ve done the work. That’s just you - just making sure you’re in stock. You’re just making daily sales.
LINDSAY: Oh that’s incredible. So you just do the work once and you keep getting paid over and over for it. That’s the way it works?
ELIN: Yes. Absolutely and that’s sort of like, the sort of passive income, or the laptop lifestyle I think one should be trying to do. Also with the AirBnB - I only had to set it up once, set up the account once. The bookings keep coming in, and then the orders for the Amazon business obviously come in on a daily basis.
Obviously if I had all the time in the world I would always be researching more and more products and adding to the product range, but I’ve done this twice now with two products that just sell and there’s no major pressure for me to increase my sales. Obviously it would be great if I was doing that, but it doesn’t seem like very, very urgent, because I also want to focus on my sailing. Yeah, that’s just how it’s happened.
LINDSAY: Well that’s a really nice to place to be and I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are either living on their boats and stuck to a job ashore trading their time for money, that would just love to hear how you do that.
Now I think we should probably focus on one area at a time. I know that you’re very generous in telling people how to go about doing this. How much detail can we get out of you? Can you tell us in a lot more detail what it’s like? Is it really really hard?
LINDSAY: It is? Okay. So things don’t come for free. You’ve got to put in some work. Can you take us back to the basics and tell us what it’s like when you first starting out?
ELIN: Exactly. It would be great to do that because I think there’s quite a lot of disbelief. You know, “How do you do that? You don’t have access to the internet when you’re sailing. We don’t understand how this is done. Is this all true?” So, I’ve set up a site which is called www.sailopreneur.com. I have a Facebook group as well where I talk about how I do this. I think the key in this is to when you’re setting yourself up, when you are deciding what you want to sell - when you’re setting up your eBay and Amazon account, you need to have a stable internet. You cannot really work on the boat doing that job. At least I wasn’t able to because I was in marinas and marinas have very shit WiFi. I had to be in a house, at home, and I just took a few months and I did this. Found a product. Launched the product. Went to the supplier, booked like a stock or inventory, branded this with my brand which obviously I had then decided what it should be called and what it should be about. Then sent this in to the Amazon warehouses and I do this every month. Obviously I have to be in stock so that I can sell, but I only have to order once a month from my supplier.
Then what you do - you launch the product and you realise, “Okay there is not much major work that I have to do. I can go to the boat now.” That’s what I did in the first year when I was setting up. I just went a few weeks to the boat, and then I was at home maybe a few weeks, and then I went a few weeks to the boat again. So I was getting used to the laptop lifestyle, getting used to the idea that I was setting myself up for this lifestyle and for the success that I wanted to have. So just getting used to it, and I realised every time I was on the boat - it works because you don’t really have to use the WiFi. Obviously when you’re sailing, you’re not doing anything else but sailing. I’m not on my laptop and doing work. When I then come into a marina I will ask for the WiFi. Usually it’ll be very, very poor, but then I have a back up on my phone. My UK internet supplier has this thing where you can be roaming in Europe so that’s great. I can use that and I only need maybe an hour. That’s easily. I just want to check my account and to see if there’s anything urgent that needs doing. Usually there is nothing urgent. You might have ten emails, but none of them are urgent. They can all be answered the day after if you go to a WiFi cafe for example.
You know, you have to be a bit creative and not be overly stressed about things. If you have emails, or if you have orders, or what sort of thing, it’s all being fulfilled by the Amazon warehouses, so it’s not like you have to see or touch the products. They just come from the supplier, they go into the warehouse and then they’re being shipped out to the customer. You can be anywhere in the world. You can take this business to anywhere.
That’s how I do it. What I really like is to have my own hot-spot, like my own WiFi because often you’re checking your bank statements and you’re checking your Amazon account, and you have to be typing in all sorts of passwords and bank details, and sensitive info that you don’t want to share on a public WiFi. I think that’s a good thing to have.
Then you just sort of go about it. You know, I think we often get trapped in this thing when we’re running a business and we think, “Oh my god I have so many emails.” If I have ten emails, maybe only one of them is really urgent that I need to respond to immediately. All the other emails are maybe just customers asking for some information. You can direct them to your website and there’s nothing urgent. I think that’s important to understand. You can actually just do this. You just prioritise everything in your business.
Your number one priority is to be in stock always. Make sure you don’t run out of stock because then you can’t make any sales. I think that’s the most important thing.
LINDSAY: I’m just trying to get my head around this. So what’s happening now is Amazon have got this huge warehouse and obviously you’ve got a little bit of allocated space there or something where your product is stored.
LINDSAY: Okay. So you’ve chosen this product online through the Amazon stores - what’s available there, and now you’re marketing that to the public through your Amazon website. Is it?
LINDSAY: Oh okay. So how do you go about setting up your website?
ELIN: Yes that’s really simple. You create a listing page. First you set up an account with Amazon and then they give you a page basically. You create your own listing - what the product is, what it should be called - and then you upload nine pictures. That’s it. Your product is launched. Your product has probably arrived in the warehouse by the time you do this. You never have to do anything with the product once you’ve done the first initial work. It gets sent to the customer from the warehouse. They’re obviously nationwide and worldwide so it doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to live in the country that you’re selling in. It’s an incredibly good system.
They don’t take - I mean obviously I make Amazon thousands of pounds every month but I feel like they’ve given me so much. They’ve given me all the traffic. I don’t have to spend anything on advertising.
LINDSAY: Oh woah.
ELIN: Yes. So they give me all the customers.
LINDSAY: You don’t have to do the marketing for your product? They do all the marketing?
ELIN: No I don’t. Yeah. I just make sure that I know a little bit about keywords, so that I know what the customers that are looking for this product - what keywords they are searching. What are they typing in.
LINDSAY: So how do you get in front of those customers if you don’t have to do any marketing? Do you do that through Facebook?
ELIN: No no. It’s just an Amazon listing. I do have a WordPress site as well, just for the social proof for the product. So that the customer can go on my own WordPress site. That’s a free template. I don’t even pay for that. I’ve set that up once and occasionally I add some new information and stuff like that, but it’s not a major work. I would say less than an hour a week. It’s this incredible system. It’s unbelivable and I could not have believed it, but I think it’s important to know that in the beginning obviously it’s going to be work. It’s not easy. Finding those products requires some intense research and you have to be interested in what you’re selling. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s very simple steps that you have to take.
LINDSAY: Okay. So you’ve just got to follow a process, and if you follow the process you’ll get the results. It just takes time and a bit of effort and research. A bit of analytical mind perhaps is it?
ELIN: Yes. I think so. Although I don’t feel incredibly analytical at all. I googled a little bit about how to do some SEO and things, but then I was just interested to know what was already selling on Amazon. That’s also a key in this because you don’t launch a product unless you’re sure it’s going to sell. How are you going to know it’s going to sell? You’ll check the best sellers, you’ll check also how many competitors there are selling this product, what sort of prices there are. Then I have written a small ebook about how I started. Those are simple steps. It’s a free ebook. Tools that I used in the beginning. Mind you, when I started out I didn’t have any money to do this. I didn’t have any money for courses. I did some free courses, spoke to other sellers and just tried to consume every bit of information I could find.
LINDSAY: Now if anyone wants to learn what you’ve learnt they can just go straight to your website and you’ll be able to coach them through it, which will save them a lot of time. Is that correct?
ELIN: Yes. It will because all the mistakes that I’ve done I’m making sure that they don’t do these mistakes. Those were costly mistakes. I didn’t even know that they were mistakes. I have learned so much doing this over and over. I coach them, but I also give quite a good information in the beginning if they want to do this themselves, not everyone wants to have a coach which is understandable. It’s not for everyone. So I have this ebook which can be found on my site.
LINDSAY: So if you were to just break it down into bullet points. What is the process for making money through Amazon? Can you just give us in ten bullet points how you would start it. Then obviously it’s not going to be enough for somebody just to go ahead and do it without some guidance, but that’s where you come in with your coaching and all. Can you tell us what to do to make money on Amazon?
ELIN: If you’re a sailor I’d recommend - stay at home for at least the first four or five months. You need a good internet and you need to kind of not be too distracted with other things. Do that. Then log into Amazon whether that’s in the UK or in America - wherever you live, check the best sellers. What are the best selling products in the category that you’re interested in. You need to sell something that you are interested in. I think you’re far more likely to be successful if you love and like the product. If you’re doing a sports equipment - if you use the sports equipment yourself you have much more interest than you’re selling something random that you’ve never even seen or you don’t even know what is. So make sure you are interested in the product.
Best sellers - this is a product that is selling. Learn a bit about keywords. There is a site called merchantwords.com where you can see - it’s a good starting point for anyone starting out with keywords, seeing how many people are typing in a certain keyword. You can start there and if you see - okay so let’s say this is a skiing equipment - how many people are typing in this skiing equipment. You can make like an initial decision. This is likely to sell, and then you check the competitors. Then you think, okay they’re all selling the same product which is good. That means there is demand. There are other people selling it as well. It means that it’s being bought usually. Then you think, “What can I do to sell the same product but adding more value?” You go and do a better product than they are doing. That’s the easiest part. It sounds difficult but you just have to add one or two things or just make it a bit more expensive by doing something that justifies that.
There is a software called Jungle Scout where you can type in the keyword that you’re trying to rank for and you can see how much these sellers are making every month. You can make a decision, you can see if this product that you want to sell is selling.
Then you go to the supplier. You google some suppliers. You say you want to buy you know maybe 10 or 50 units - it depends how much you want to invest and how much risk you want to take. You tell them, “Okay this is my brand. I want this product to be branded with this mark” - Your brand basically. Then you get samples. If you like the sample then you are happy and ask the supplier to send your inventory into this warehouse, and you schedule that into your Amazon account.
There’s quite a lot of steps which I can go into detail if anyone wants to get some guidance on this. That’s sort of like bullet points that I point out.
LINDSAY: Okay that’s pretty clear now. I understand it a lot better now what the process is. Thank you very much for that.
ELIN: Sure. No problem.
LINDSAY: I’m sure a lot of other people are pretty interested in this now too. It just takes a bit of research and there’s a couple of tools out there like www.merchantwords.com and Jungle Scout which will help you to do that research and work out. Then you’ve got to get some samples in and just ensure that you are happy with the quality of it, and then you start. Obviously you have to buy it off the merchant and put it into the warehouse. Is that correct? So there’s some money upfront up there?
ELIN: Yes. You have to negotiate a good price that you’re happy with. You need to know your margins - what you’re going to be selling this product for. You make your own decision on what you want to make per sale. Amazon typically takes 30% so you need to factor that in.
LINDSAY: So is there any price range that’s ideal when you’re starting out? Would you go for low end sort of products and sell lots of them, or would you go for a higher value product. Say, I don’t know it could be a lounge chair or something like that - or a high quality chair that’s worth a lot more?
ELIN: That is a bit more expensive than I had imagined that I would want to sell. I sell products that cost more than 20 pounds usually. I want a 30% or 32% margin. So from my sales price and what I source it from. There are different rules for different products, but I quite like to sell products with a rather high profit margin because margin is more important for me than to sell loads for a pennies. If that makes sense. I want a bit more valuable product and I want people to come again and again and again, to buy the same product and to recommend it because it worked. I think that’s important. You need to have good products.
Customers - they’re so aware of what they’re buying and sometimes they know much more about the product than you do as a seller. I wouldn’t underestimate or try and cut any corners by going for some cheap stuff. Stuff like that.
LINDSAY: Yeah I know exactly what you mean. I bought some earphones the other day off an online store and the sound quality is shocking. They look good…so I got a bit ripped off and I don’t think I’ll be going back there any time soon.
Now it’s interesting that you use eBay as well as a medium for doing something. Now is that something that is very similar? You don’t handle any products again with eBay, it’s all done through the internet? Can you tell us a bit about how that works?
ELIN: Yeah. So when you got your listing on Amazon ready, you start to create an eBay listing page. That takes a few minutes. You upload some pictures. Once you start to make sales on eBay you’ll get an email notification that someone has bought and you’ll see the money in your PayPal account immediately. Then you log into your Amazon account and you ship that order to this eBay customer. You can either do this yourself. I don’t make as many sales on eBay as I do on Amazon which is good because in the Amazon they are fulfilled by Amazon. Ebay you have to fulfil them yourself.
So let’s say you make an eBay sale and it’s Saturday and you’re going to be sailing until Wednesday, that eBay customer has to wait. Which is not good. So I always have a backup of a virtual assistant. If I make that sale, if I’m unable to fulfil it myself then can you please go ahead and do that. That’s how it works and they charge very little. It’s definitely worth having when you’re sailing.
For some products you will have more success on eBay than Amazon. So you’ll understand how it works for you and you have to make your own arrangement if you make more eBay sales than you need to probably have someone to work for you. I don’t. I’m able to do this myself. I have had I think two occasions where I’ve had to have an assistant do it for me, but that worked really well as well. There’s nothing to worry about there. I think they charge four dollars or so an hour, and if they’re not working all that much then it’s fine. Maybe just an hour a day. That’s how eBay works.
LINDSAY: Okay. I didn’t realise the two were connected. When you think about it, that makes sense. You’ve still got to have the warehouse - you’ve got to have a place where the product is stored, and the only difference is that you have to do the fulfilment which is basically just sending on an email from their order to the store. Is that what a fulfilment is?
ELIN: Not quite exactly. You log into your Amazon…What you want to do is to ship this order from your Amazon warehouse because you’ve got all your stock in the Amazon warehouses, and then you ship it from your Amazon warehouse to your eBay customer. It’s called “Drop Shipping”. It’s a strategy on its own and many people do this only as a strategy. You can even drop ship other products that aren’t even your own if you want to do drop shipping as your main strategy.
I like what I do because I own my products and I own my brand, and I own my business. The more valuable it gets the higher you’re going to be able to sell it for if they want to sell it in the future.
LINDSAY: So you can increase your profit margin depending on the demand?
ELIN: Yes. Absolutely. You are in the helicopter position when you own your own stuff. It’s the most longterm. Most sustainable strategy that I’ve found so far. I like owning my own products. I like to control the price and I like to be in control. Whereas if you’re just drop shipping other people’s products you don’t have any control. They can be out of stock and you’re making a sale accidentally, and oops, you kind of have to invest in some softwares to try and prevent that.
This is what I coach because I think this is a good strategy and yeah, I just love the products. I love the products that I sell and that I own.
LINDSAY: It’s really interesting. I think what you’re doing is fantastic. The fact that you can do this from anywhere in the world and not have to handle any actual items. That’s all done for you. What a great concept.
I’ve heard the term drop shipping before and I’ve heard that people negotiate things like that with suppliers direct. That gets a little bit more technical but there’s a lot of options out there and I really like it.
So what are the potential earnings that you can get? I guess there’s a few people thinking, “Well I don’t really need to earn that much. I’m living quite cheap.” How much can you earn without having to do more than an hours work a day. Or maybe even leave it for a couple of weeks in the hands of an outsourcer or something?
ELIN: Yes. With two products only, one of these products takes the chunk of all the sales. So basically one of those products is very successful, the other one is sort of average. I made last month, I think it was £12,000 pounds in sales and this month I’ll be doing £13,000 - so it grows every month. It’s been growing every month since I started. It’s not like I do any more work. Off that I got paid last week…So you get paid twice a month from Amazon. So every two weeks you’re going to get paid which is also great so you don’t have to wait until the end of the month. I got paid £8500 only from Amazon, and then I have additional £500 that I made on eBay. So it varies. I think what I do on eBay but Amazon is always sustainable and always growing. I’m in the process now of launching a third product. I take probably quite a long time sourcing a new product because I want to make absolutely sure that this is the highest quality product that I can get without it being the most expensive to source.
It varies how successful you’ve sort of, been able to find a product that sells well. Sometimes when you’re starting out you have a good success the first few months and then it sort of drops. Either your product is seasonal or other competitors and stuff like that. I think it’s important to have more than one product I would say. Two products is great if you have the time to add the third one, then obviously do that. It depends how much you want to make I suppose.
LINDSAY: That’s pretty incredible. Now I just want to check I heard that properly. You said you’re making…getting a cheque for £8500 from Amazon, and another £500 from eBay every month.
LINDSAY: That’s really good income you know and it’s not like you’re working all day to achieve it.
ELIN: No, and the great thing is with it growing every month, it just means that there’s more and more demand for this every month. It doesn’t mean that I do any more work. I just buy bigger orders from my supplier. That doesn’t take any more work than buying a smaller order if that makes sense.
LINDSAY: You’re reinvesting some of those earnings back into buying more product.
ELIN: Yes. I always increase it and it depends how much. I probably buy every two weeks. It depends. Sometimes I’ve bought just larger ones - like if I’m going sailing out I’ll arrange to have enough to cover, I don’t know, how long I’ll be sailing for. It depends, but I cover that as well if anyone wants to talk about it in detail just to make sure that you are quite worry free when you’re sailing. If you’re worried about running out of stock and you’re going sailing, that’s a very bad sign because you probably are going to run out.
LINDSAY: Yeah, and you want to keep that flow going. You want to keep that stock turning over.
ELIN: And when you have incredibly good products what will also happen, not just more and more customers are going to come to you every month, but you have these repeat orders. Someone will buy it, and they will buy it again and again. They’re going to recommend it to their sisters and their family. Then you start getting trade customers that have also noticed this product and they’ve tried it and they want to buy. Like for example this month somebody bought 25 from me and another trade customer bought 12. I have a shop as well in Nottingham that has been buying. So if you have a product that you can pitch to shops that’s also very good. You can get those trade customers in, then try and keep them on the conveyor belt as long as you can.
LINDSAY: Obviously some of these products are going to have a life. Especially if they’re electronics and things - they go in and out of fashion really quickly. What sort of items are you looking for that would fit your criteria? Give us some of the ideas about what to look for in a product.
ELIN: Yes. I’m quite interested in sports and outdoors category. Kitchen is also a good category and pets is as well. I would avoid electronics all together because you can have lots of problems with electronics. They’re either chargers or batteries, and things that can go wrong and they’re going to cause you so much headache if 10 customers got your product and let’s say the entire batch was faulty. Then you have to recall all the products and it’s going to be an absolute nightmare. I think games is also one category that is quite good.
If you are to look what the best sellers in your desired category are I think that’s going to be your biggest success. I think it’s more like that rather than specific products. So much sells. There are I don’t know how many thousands of people shopping every day on these platforms. Electronics - I won’t recommend.
LINDSAY: Well Elin, that’s awesome what you’ve been telling us but my listeners have been telling me that my podcasts are too long so we’re going to cut it short there and end this part of the interview anyway. Thank you very much for giving us a good insight into what people - anybody really can do to make money through Amazon and eBay.
If you like what you’ve heard here, don’t forget to come back to www.toseethesea.com podcast. We’re going to come back and get some more information out of Elin Rose who is the Sailopreneur. She’s also got a couple of other tricks up her sleeve like how to make money through AirBnB, and she’s going to tell us a little bit about her experiences out there sailing. It’s not all Caribbean beaches and beautiful sunsets. There’s also downsides to sailing that everybody has to work through.
So thank you very much again. Remember to subscribe or leave a comment, or share To See The Sea Podcast. Get the information out there. The more you share, the more you care.
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