For this post I thought it would be interesting to look back at the various methods my wife Angela and I have used over the years to make money online. Some have been really good, others not so good, but they have all been a learning experience, that’s for sure! Most of these methods were part time “extra income” that we had no expectations for other than as a hobby and to supplement our family income. Some were fairly short lived while others lasted for a while. It’s interesting to look back at them and think about what we could have done differently. It’s also interesting to see how the online marketplace has changed. EBay used to be the best place to sell by far as there was no such thing as Facebook Marketplace, Craigs List, Shopify etc. It made things pretty simple but it also had its own challenges.
Most of them were items that were “hot” at the time but eventually sales declined as they became less popular. Still, it was a lot of fun and really opened our eyes to the possibilities out there.
Here they are in no particular order.
Quite a few years ago there was a lot of interest online in buying and selling Beanie Bears, which were smallish soft toys. It seems that different countries had their own versions and we mainly sold the Australian ones. They came in literally hundreds of varieties and there were a few rare ones which could fetch quite high prices. When say high, I really do mean high! They cost about $10 to buy new from stores but some of the rare ones could fetch $700-$800 dollars! The company was very clever with their marketing and would sometimes sell special ones which came in a sealed bag that you couldn’t see into. The kicker was that some of these would be “extra special” ones called mutations, so you never knew what you were going to get until you after you bought it and opened the bag. These mutations were quite rare and could fetch a hefty price. We did most of the selling on eBay and it was quite amazing how popular these were. I have no idea how much money we actually made buying and selling these little beanie bears but I do remember that one month we spent over $4000 buying them! We would often buy them offline from people who would sell a bundle for less than their true worth, then sell them individually for a profit.
Like anything it eventually ran its course but it was definitely a lot of fun while it lasted.
Note – Angela became quite attached to them and we still have boxes of them that she didn’t want to sell! Hopefully they will have a resurgence one day and will be hot again.
Rubber Craft Stamps
These weren’t postage stamps but were rubber craft stamps which people would use for making greeting cards, scrapbooking and the like. They were quite popular back in the early 2000’s and we got right in to buying and selling them on eBay. We would buy the raw rubber stamps in bulk sheets , then I would cut them out, make wooden backs for them, varnish the wood and stamp the image on the back of the wood. It was a bit labor intensive but we would sell them individually for a lot more than we paid for them. We also negotiated wholesale prices from a couple of companies who sold them all finished and ready to go and would resale those for smaller profit margins but with very little work. Selling these stamps really helped me understand the true costs of buying and selling, particularly the hidden or less obvious costs like labor and the time it takes to package something up ready for shipping. It’s amazing how these costs can eat up your profits or at the least make it very difficult to scale.
They did well for quite a while but I think we just got bored of doing them and moved on to something else!
This is something that Angela is currently doing, with not a lot of input from me, although when I have time I am going to create an online store in Shopify for her. Diamond paintings are quite popular at the moment and she sells most of them locally through Facebook rather than eBay. She generally buys them in bulk from China then once again sells them individually for a higher price.
Probably one of the most fun things we sold online was T-Shirts. Once again this was on eBay and we specialized in WWF (wrestling) and music artist shirts. We had a supplier who would fly over to Thailand and buy directly from the factories over there, then he would send us a bulk lot, I think it was usually around 100 shirts at a time. We used to buy them for $10 and sell them for $20. We also used to set up a stall and sell them at our local markets. They did well for quite a while as we were one of the few people selling them on eBay in Australia (this would have been around 2008) but then we noticed a lot of other sellers on eBay starting to copy our listings, often word for word and would start to undercut us. They would often use our photos as well, which we had taken ourselves.
We had spent quite a bit of time perfecting the listings, and including lots of information like the exact sizes of the shirts, so it was quite frustrating to have other sellers blatantly copying us. EBay weren’t a lot of help and we noticed that WWF was starting to decline in popularity at that time, particularly in Australia, so we eventually stopped selling the shirts.
A couple of years later I tried selling custom t-shirts using Teespring but just couldn’t get any traction.. I quickly worked out that the key was to use really good graphics and unique designs but it was too expensive at the time to hire someone to design them. It would probably be better now with Fiverr but they were in their infancy back then.
This was my first online product launch back around 2013. I had been following John Thornhill for some years and we had spoken a couple of times about me creating a product but it took a while for me to actually sit down and do it! I paid for some coaching from John and he helped me every step of the way, which was great because I really needed help!
I had no idea about Joint Ventures or getting other marketers involved as affiliates, so for the initial launch John was the only one promoting it, but it still ended up doing quite well.
After the launch I ended up with an email list of several hundred people, which was great, but my next problem was I didn’t know how to treat them properly. Every time I sent out a broadcast email a bunch of them would unsubscribe so I eventually just stopped sending emails. At the time I was also doing SEO so I just decided to concentrate on that for a while. Unfortunately I lost all momentum so my first foray into being an internet marketer basically just fizzled out.
Over the next few years I created some more products like:
- Google Domination Diaries
- Beat The Penguin
- 14 Day Traffic Blueprint
- List Genius (more on this one in other blog posts)
I was too busy raising a family and working in the offline world to really put a lot of effort into marketing these once they were finished but they were all fun to do and gave me a creative outlet.
Looking back, all of these ventures in the online world were a lot of fun and while we never made a fortune they were just really good experiences. We also had a couple of forays into offline businesses as well, and it’s interesting how much of these different ventures overlapped.
If you are thinking about starting an online venture my advice to you is to just do it. You don’t need to spend a fortune, you just need to make a start and work it out as you go.
Most of all just enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you.