This blog will cover a lot of territory when it comes to building a freedom-lifestyle business. I’ve been at this for several years and I’ve tried a lot of different tools and services. I’ve put together this handy Resources page to let you know what I use and why I like that product/service.
Table of Contents
- Reader Discounts
- Niche/Product Research
- Manufacturer Research
- International Freight
- Packaging & Shipping Tools/Supplies
- Amazon Product Listing Resources
- Image Tools
- Website Resources
- Review Services
- Email List Services
- Tools for the Road
To get the discounts on these products/services, follow the directions below. To learn more about them, go to the applicable section on this page.
- Amazon Advantage: Product Listing Strategies to Boost Your Sales: Enter REE30 at checkout to get 30% off the list price! (Learn more under: Amazon Product Listing Resources)
- Bubblefast: Enter the code PLP10 to get a 10% discount on all orders except for closeouts! (Learn more under: Packaging & Shipping Tools & Supplies)
- KarmaGo: Click this link to get $10 off your order! (Learn more under: Tools for the Road)
ASINspector: I love this tool and use it all the time. While you can do most of this research manually, it is very time-intensive and you have to know exactly where to go to get the information. ASInspector streamlines product research by extracting rank, sales volume and estimated revenue along with a ton of other useful data.
ASINspecor also makes it easy to find out where your potential product is being sold on other sites and it provides easy access to sourcing resources and more. They have two plans; I use the basic level, which is a one-time fee and well worth the money.
CamelCamelCamel: This is a free tool that is really handy when doing research for a new product or niche site. They “…are an Amazon price tracker that provides price drop alerts and price history charts for products sold by Amazon.”
Long Tail Pro: This tool is amazing. If you are building a website, understanding which keywords to focus on is critical to getting ranked in Google searches. Long Tail Pro makes finding easy-to-rank-for keywords a cinch. After just three weeks of posting a topic based on a keyword I found in Long Tail Pro, that post is now in the middle of page three in Google search for that term. It’s not on page one yet, but it’s far from being buried. In fact, as of the time I added this note, I’ve already made affiliate sales through links on that post. Now there’s proof!
Merchant Words: This is a fantastic tool for researching keywords that people actually use on Amazon. I use this product to help me with product research and for choosing keywords for running my Amazon ad campaigns. The price is $30 a month, but if you use my link, you’ll get 70% off the current price. Now that’s a deal!
Ubersuggest: This is a awesome, and free, tool you can use to find keywords and to for researching products. Simply type in your word or phrase, choose your language and then click the Suggest button. Voila! Ubersuggest generates a comprehensive list of possible keywords/products using the ABC method (I describe what that is in this post). You can export the entire list or choose the ones you want and copy/paste only those phrases.
99designs: I am in LOVE with 99designs! I’ve run two contests and placed several 1-to-1 Projects through this company for cozy art and logo design. The designs you see on our Boater cozy set come from an artist who won one of the contests I ran. If you need any type of art for your business (logo, product packaging, t-shirt designs, website design, etc.) you can’t go wrong with 99designs.
Coolers: I’m not an artist. Heck, I struggle with choosing paint colors for my house. This free site makes choosing a color scheme for your website, products, etc., a breeze! When branding, it’s really important to be consistent with your colors and if you have the hex codes handy, you’ll easily be able to create a cohesive look.
Alibaba: You may have stumbled upon this site while doing a Google search and, like me, you were probably suspicious of it. But now that I’ve been sourcing products through their service, I can assure you that they are legit. In full disclosure, so far I have only ordered and received samples from various international manufacturers, but I know that I will feel confident placing my order once I’ve selected a manufacturer.
Maker’s Row: This is a service that helps people find manufacturers in the United States. I like their system and joined before there was a monthly fee for the service. Now, the basic fee is around $19/month but I think it would be well worth the price if having your product made in the US is important to you.
Google: A simple Google search can turn up some great manufacturing resources for you to check out. It’s free and with a little digging, calling and questioning you can go a long way and maybe find the perfect manufacturer for your product. I’ve done this with success.
Freightos: Modeled after companies like Expedia, Freightos provides a platform where you, the buyer, can enter your shipping information and get back quotes from multiple companies. When companies compete for your business, you win. Read the post 9 Expert Tips to Mastering International Freight to learn more about Freightos and why I think they can be a great resource for private labelers.
Nationwide Barcode: If you want to go beyond simple retail arbitrage, you’ll need barcodes. Nationwide Barcode makes it easy to learn about barcodes and get going fast! I use them exclusively for my barcodes.
DYMO LabelWriter 450 Turbo Thermal Label Printer: This is a tool I can’t live without. I use it every time I package products for shipment into Amazon’s warehouses. Amazon requires that you print your labels using a laser printer or a thermal label printer. I’ve been using this printer for nearly two years and it performs like a champ!
Dymo replacement labels: Amazon has specific size requirements for labels. Your labels must be between 1″ x 2″ and 2″ x 3″. I find 1″x 2 1/8″ is perfect. This size fits all the required language including the barcode and it isn’t so long that it is a problem for smaller items.
Official Dymo labels are expensive. I purchased Dymo-compatible labels from Uline. I ordered Model # S-10770 and they work perfect; they meet Amazon’s requirements, come 500 to a roll and cost about $12/roll. You can also buy labels on Amazon that are less expensive. Here’s an example of what you could try.
Do Not Separate labels: If you are going to create multipacks or bundles, you’ll need to bag them and make sure the items don’t get separated once you ship them to Amazon’s warehouses. It’s best to put a Do Not Separate label on the wrapper to ensure no mistakes are made.
Suffocation Warning labels: If you are using bags or packaging material where the opening is 5″ or greater, you must include a suffocation warning to comply with Amazon’s FBA rules. You can purchase bags that already have this warning printed on the bag (that’s what I do) or affix a warning label.
Fragile – Handle with Care labels: If your product is delicate, you may want to include a Fragile – Handle with Care label. Of course, I avoid fragile products like the plague, but if you are brave and want to venture into that realm, be sure to take extra precautions!
Self-seal poly bags: You will need to bag your products if you are doing bundles, multipacks or sell things that can get dirty, like stuffed animals. I now buy my poly bags from Uline, but you can get them from Bubblefast or on Amazon, too. If you aren’t sure what size you’ll need, get this variety pack on Amazon. Check around for the best price.
Shipping boxes: At first I tried to use boxes from home or cast offs at retailers. I gave up on that because I wasn’t confident that the boxes met Amazon’s requirements for strength (at least ECT-32 edge crush test) or that they would adequately protect my inventory. Boxes are cheap so I started ordering them from Uline (less than $1 ea). Here are the two sizes I tend to use the most because my unit size is smaller and it’s hard for me to handle larger sizes: 12x12x12 and 16x12x12.
Box sizer: Good grief…I wish I would have bought this in the beginning! This handy tool lets you easily cut a box down to size so that you aren’t paying more for shipping (based on weight and size) than necessary. Now I can buy a couple of box sizes and just cut them down as needed. This tool paid for itself with the savings on the first shipment I processed after buying it. Nice! It isn’t a tool you need right away, but if you think you will be selling online, it is a real handy gizmo to have.
Filler: Invariably you’ll need filler to ensure the contents of your boxes don’t shift during shipping. Some items need a little extra protection so bubble wrap is also handy to have around. Amazon doesn’t allow foam peanuts, shredded paper or anything that would cause a mess for them in the unpacking process. However, you can use sheets of paper. I save all my junk mail. Paper grocery bags also make great filler (yes, I admit to killing trees here…I have to use something and asking for paper bags at the grocery story is free and keeps me from buying other paper products for this purpose).
Scale: This is an important tool. You need a good scale for two reasons:
- To create multipacks or bundles. You must accurately state the weight of the package when adding the new listing in Amazon.
- To accurately weigh your boxes for shipment.
For the first two months I used a food scale to weigh individual items and that worked fine. I used a bathroom scale to weigh the boxes for shipping…I’d weigh myself (ugh) and then weigh myself with the box and do the math. It’s close but about two out of three boxes was off by as much as a pound. That can cost you over time. In fact, it can pay for the cost of a decent scale.
I purchased an American Weigh Scale and it’s awesome! Besides being spot on accurate, it’s portable and easy to store. It has a separate reader, which makes it easy to see the display without having to remove the box. Pure bliss!
Scotty Peelers: These are not a necessary item and you only really need them if you’re doing retail arbitrage. These tools make removing labels & stickers so easy!
Sharpies: Another really handy tool is a Sharpie. You most certainly have one of these laying around the house. I’ve used my Sharpie to draw a line through the manufacturer’s barcode when I’m creating bundles and multipacks. This is another way to help ensure Amazon workers don’t scan the wrong barcode.
Scotch Tape: I realize this may seem like a silly “resource” to put on the list, but I go through TONS of this stuff and don’t want to risk running out. I buy mine on Amazon because it’s less expensive than Target and I get it fast.
I use tape to secure the self-seal bags (they will separate in hot weather), tape my shipping labels on merchant-fulfilled orders, etc. Trust me, you’ll use it a lot! I’m picky about my tape and prefer this one on Amazon.
Bubblefast: They are a family-owned company that has been around since 1999. They sell packaging and shipping supplies and cater to those of us who sell online. Mark and Robin are great and have offered my readers a 10% discount on all purchases (excluding closeouts). To get the discount, enter PLP10 at checkout!
Uline: This is a huge company and they sell just about anything you need for packaging and shipping. I use them for shipping boxes and self-seal bags.
99c Only: In a pinch, I’ll head over to my local 99c Only store for tape and padded mailers. It’s more expensive than getting your supplies from Bubblefast or Uline, but it’s still a lot less than Target!
Amazon Advantage: Product Listing Strategies to Boost Your Sales: A great product listing can make the difference between enticing buyers to click “add to cart!” or making them click over to the next seller’s product. Don’t lose sales because you don’t take the time to get this right. I highly recommend Karon Thackston’s ebook Amazon Advantage: Product Listing Strategies to Boost Your Sales. I’m so serious about this that I wrote an entire post about it over at EscapingDodge.com. You can read it here: Income Lab 1.5: Writing a Killer Amazon Listing Just Got Easier!
Listing Eagle: If you have more than a handful of Amazon listings, monitoring them for hijackers can be a time hog. I signed up for a Listing Eagle account to make monitoring easier. Granted, this service only monitors your Amazon listings so you still need to keep an eye on other eCommerce platforms like eBay, Etsy, etc. But with Listing Eagle, you can sleep easier and spend your valuable work hours doing activities that only you can do.
Your images are an important element of your listing. If you are creating a listing, make sure your images are as professional as possible. Here are the tools I use:
- White Poster Board. You need a solid white background because that allows you to remove the background.
- iPhone. I use my iPhone 5s for taking pictures. It has an amazing camera so I don’t need to use my bigger Cannon Rebel to get great shots!
- Pages for iMac or FotoFuze. I use Pages on my iMac to remove the background (via Instant Alpha) and combine images for bundles or multipacks. If you don’t use Apple products, try the FREE version of FotoFuze.
- PicMonkey. This is a FREE website that allows you to modify images. I use it mainly to crop and resize my listing images. Amazon requires that one dimension of your image be at least 1,000 pixels.
- Canva. Another FREE website that allows you to create and modify images. But this one is really amazing! You can create just about anything you want from simple images to collages, presentations and a ton of other cool things. Canva also gives you templates for social media sites, which can help if you want to promote your products outside of Amazon.
Caution: Be sure to read the Terms and Conditions and/or License Agreements on sites like Canva and PickMonkey if you are using their stock images. There may be limitations on use (e.g., you’re using the image as a design element on a physical product like a T-shirt for commercial resale).
Blue Host: I use Blue Host for all of my web properties: EscapingDodge.com, MyBeerCozy.com, PrivateLabelPreneur.com and a few others. The price is very reasonable and the support is unmatched in my view. I call them for help any time and always get prompt and professional help.
GoDaddy: There are many companies you can use to purchase domains. I happen to like GoDaddy. I’m a domain junkie…any time I come up with a new idea and do enough research to make me think I might want to pursue it in the future, I’ll buy a domain to ensure I don’t lose the name. All my domains are purchased through GoDaddy and when I go to build out the site, whether it be via BlueHost, Shopify or some other source, I’ll just point the domain from GoDaddy’s servers to the new location. Nice and tidy.
Thrive Themes: Many of my peers use Thrive Themes along with Thrive Content Builder to build their websites and create content to drive traffic. If you’re looking for a flexible easy-to-use theme, this just might be a perfect choice for you.
Rehub Theme: I use Rehub for PrivateLabelPreneur and for Niche Site #1. I love this theme because it supports advertising, affiliate programs and integrates beautifully with WooCommerce, a free eCommerce platform, so you can host your store right on your site. It’s easy to use and I love the way it looks to visitors.
Shopify: If your technical skills are lacking or if you just want a simple solution to creating a nice-looking eCommerce store, then Shopify might be right for you. I have used them in the past but currently I build out my own eCommerce sites using BlueHost and WordPress. Shopify makes payment processing a breeze and there is a lot of support available. Overall, I think it’s a good choice for getting your feet wet in the eCommerce space.
WARNING: As of October 3, 2016 Amazon has changed its policy on product reviews. They no longer permit sellers to give product away at a discount or for free in exchange for honest reviews. The only method allowed is through Amazon’s Vine Program but you must be in their Vendor Express program to participate.
Tomoson: This is a service to help you get quality, honest reviews for your products. Whether you sell on platforms like Amazon or have your own eCommerce site, you need reviews for social proof. Buyers feel more confident in their purchase if they know others like your product. I’ve used Tomoson to obtain reviews for several of My Beer Cozy products. They usually offer a free trial period so you can test out their service and see if it’s right for you.
Feedback Genius: If you sell products on Amazon, getting seller feedback and product reviews is a critical part of growing your business. If you don’t use a system like Feedback Genius, you will have to manually reach out to each customer to ask them for feedback and reviews.
Feedback Genius is AWESOME! It has saved me hours of tedious work. Even better is that their service is FREE for the first 100 emails they send out for you. That was sufficient for me for quite some time and now I pay just $20/month. I’m happy to pay.
GetDrip: I converted from MailChimp to Drip because Drip is a powerful system for creating email campaigns and managing your email list(s). Now that I have several brands and websites/landing pages, it’s really important to have a robust email service. This isn’t the most inexpensive choice and, quite frankly, there’s a pretty big learning curve if you aren’t a techie. If you’re ready for a system like this, I will tell you that I’m loving it so far.
MailChimp: This is an email list service that is free up to 2,000 subscribers. I’ve used it for about three years now and have been very happy. However, I am now wanting to use some more sophisticated features and so I’ve switched over to GetDrip. MailChimp is a great place to start your list because it’s easy to use and free!
MacBook Air: I must admit that I’m a converted Mac lover. The MacBook Air is so convenient for travel; it’s light-weight, slim and who doesn’t love a keyboard that lights up so it’s easy to see in low light?!?
Karma Go: Okay, this thing is awesome! It’s a small wifi device that fits in your pocket. You buy the device for about $149 and then load it up with data. You use the data as you need it…never lose what you have. You only pay for more data when you need to fill up your account again. The pricing for data is very competitive.
The best part is that I can surf the web, work on my business and even fulfill orders or prepare shipments while on the road! I have an iPhone with Verizon service and the Karma Go gets better service in some areas than Verizon. Nice! If you buy through my link you’ll get $10 towards your purchase.
Mobile Printer: I have an HP Officejet 100 Mobile Printer and I love it! It’s small enough to store in one of the drawers in our RV and has survived being on several long trips and a few dry-camping trips over bumpy, dusty roads. It also serves as a back up in case the printer in our home office fails.