> How many people on hacker news are running successful online businesses on their own? What is your business and how did you get started?
> Defining successful as a profitable business which provides the majority of the owners income.
Indie Hackers is my full-time job now. Is it "successful"? I think so! I've done over 90 interviews, and they've been read over one million times in the past 5 months, largely by you guys! I also made $2239 in December and hope to grow revenue another 50% in January. (As I do every month, I just blogged about that here: https://IndieHackers.com/blog)
I'm working on a podcast as well that I'm really excited about, as I've found it's a bit easier to get famous founders to agree to that format and to speak transparently about behind the scenes details.
Great work and good luck!
2. Will try to do updates every few months or so in the future, don't want the interviews to get stale!
Don't do book reviews and the value of your site is in the data. What you should do is, for every interview, add a question in the form of "what books do you read" or "what do you recommend people should read?". Then for every book listed, add an amazon affiliate link (don't forget to be transparent about this - honesty is the best policy!) so that it provides some revenue and diversifies your income.
Now here is the kicker -> Add every suggested book as a data point and collate it all into a table(s) as a separate page on indiehackers! You can use all sort of filters such as number of times suggested, genre based on founder types, etc. For the sort of audience you have, there will be very interested in the number of times a book has been suggested rather than the book review itself.
Hope that helps. If you need a sounding board and perhaps a hand, my email is in my profile.
Hope the hockey stick goes up, and like a lot of people here, hope to be on those pages soon :)
What I would like to see in your future written interviews or podcast (a podcast would be great; I'll subscribe immediately!), is more emphasis on how they got the right customers and how they grew their customer base.
Definitely encourage you to build out the podcast since it will provide even more value to your audience.
Best of luck!
You are not making only yourself wealthy, but many more so. I really appreciate your site.
I created free software called SteadyMouse back in 2005 to remove this tremor while letting normal mouse motion through. It eventually moved up near the top of Google's search results. At the same time, the free version began to show its age with compatibility issues. I spent the last two years on a massive rewrite for a commercial version and formed a single member LLC to carry it back in July 2016.
Revenue is not enough to quit my day job writing automotive firmware, however it's still a nice bit of allowance on the side. I enjoy the stories from users mostly as well as trying to automate the repetitive tasks so I can focus on coding.
Do you need any help on the marketing side?
I am no biz genius, but I have good experience as a generalist digital marketer and also with customer development. I think I can help you with the content side of SEO and contact with niche media to spread the word about the profile.
The 90s look and feel of the site is on purpose? If not, I can help with that too. I can do all of that respecting your goals and principles.
Email me (on profile) if you are interested.
I started it as a free MVP about 2 years ago while in Thailand, and given that I was attracting a slow but steady stream of users I decided to build out a commercial v1 from it.
The freemium SaaS went live in March and it's growing monthly. If I still lived in Thailand I would consider it very successful, but I am in the Seattle area now so it's ramen profitable.
The biggest surprise I got was how slow organic growth takes. Every month I gain more users + MRR but discovery seems to be the biggest problem. I tried Google Adwords in June but Google decided to cost me upwards of $5/click for basic keyword targeting so gave that up. I tried Adwords again in November and now google thinks I'm more relevant, so I pay starting at $0.20/click for the same keywords that cost $5/click 6 months previous. I am currently doing experiments to see if the acquisition cost justifies that spend.
From a effort perspective, the SaaS api+backend itself was about 50% of the effort. The subscription service + user dashboard was another 50%.
From a skills perspective, I think doing a SaaS as a solo founder is only practical if you have extremely broad skillsets: Business management, UX, full-stack webdev, devops, sales, marketing, support. Thankfully I have some experience in all those (except sales) so I was able to either do or fake everything required. If you don't have all those skills, you are going to be increasingly reliant on luck, which isn't a winning strategy.
Thanks, that is a very important insight.
I solicit users to email whenever they have a question/comment/issue and reply to everything. Overall I think I have provided email support to aprox 50% of my paying customers, and maybe half of the support was provided before they decided to pay, so it is very important :)
What I hate is writing content :-)
Though it may not be a winning strategy, good luck anyway! It never hurts to have it.
"Headless Browser Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that's free for light use, and cheap for heavy use."
in as big a font as I can without it being annoying and move everything else lower, visible when the page is scrolled. Add a diagram if you could that supports the core product offering. Don't add carousels (please.)
Little bits help in ways we could never measure.
In between the big 3 sections, I would do at least 40px.
In terms of spacing between the heading and the content below, I generally use a variation of the rule of thirds. It's not a steadfast rule, but generally if you have 60px above a heading, something like 20px between the heading and the content it belongs to would work.
Also make your primary CTA bigger and keep it to one line. Put that 500 pages free text outside of the button:
Sign up now and get 500 pages free
[ SIGN UP NOW ]
I agree with the too much text comment as well, especially above the fold. Keep it simple and then provide a section where the users can go for more info if they need it.
Your headings and boxes are not aligned on the left side.
Change those example buttons into regular links.
40px+ between navbar and the h1, also make the h1 medium/bold weight. It looks weird when you have headings of the same font family alternate between bold/light.
I don't see a blog on your site. Have you considered writing about the technology? I'd think search would be a great growth mechanism for something like this. Certainly there are a ton of people searching for questions related to Phantom. I'd look around Stack Overflow and possibly Quora for topic ideas and then write posts answering those questions.
Regarding StackOverflow, yes, that's actually how I validated the free MVP (answering SO questions and if my product might be beneficial, providing a link to my product) but generally those traffic sources don't seem to scale very well past MVP validation. I haven't tried Quora though, I will add that to my todo list :)
Consider for a moment Dropbox: For a very long time they and their competitors catered to the needs of designers and other freelancers who had to share large files with clients. Was Dropbox anathema to IT departments? Yes, totally. But building a product that appeals to corporate IT departments has been a huge undertaking.
If your goal is to build a successful business, the easiest way to do that may be reaching critical mass with developers and then maybe finding ways to offer more value to your exiting (developer) customers and charging accordingly.
If you search around, Bing has a $100 coupon right now that you can use to play with the service.
I'm toying with some built-in proxy options, but nothing public at the moment. As mentioned, Crawlera is pretty nifty, but unfortunately it doesn't work with PhantomJs on HTTPS sites.
Regarding your suggestion on dedicated workers, the main benefit (USP) of PhantomJsCloud is the scaleability to hundreds/thousands of requests, so I think dedicated workers is a bit counter to that. However if I can figure out a nice way to securely let people run PhantomJs directly (remote code execution), dedicated workers would undoubtedly open up a lot more interesting use cases.
I'll add it to my feature todo list. if you sign up, i'll send an email when various new features are ready.
This is so true. But look at it from a personal growth perspective. You get to learn so much! Crash course in server-down-at-2am, in contradictory-marketing-advices, and in my-pricing-is-really-screwed :-)
I think this is what's changed from a few years ago. Expectations of usability, design, support, number of platforms, etc. have all gone up even from casual users.
37signals, probably the most-celebrated bootstrapper shop, grew up in the 90s. Imagine getting started today. You need a responsive, high-design website. You need to navigate an incredibly complex web of user acquisition channels spanning web search, paid and earned social, community, etc. You need some kind of mobile support (even if just an optimized website), real-time synchronization features, etc. It just doesn't end.
I'm not sure it's possible at all to build something yourself these days. You pretty much have to have a team, and pay them in stock/revenue share, or cash upfront, to get a real revenue-producing company going.
I think the one-man software shop is really on the decline.
I ended up giving the service away for free, but officially stated that the $10/mo tier was free during beta, and if you wanted more to subscribe at $50/mo. I got enough actual revenue out of that to justify continuing.
I don't know about Chiang Mai, but for a single expat I think anything less than $800/mo in bkk would be very enjoyable. I have a family though :P
The site is https://nepafiber.com
I still work full-time as a systems engineer, but the business started bringing in more money than my job does around 3 months ago. I'm only still at my job so that I can expand more rapidly; running fiber isn't cheap.
e-mail in profile if you want to chat.
How do you compete with AT&T/Google? Are you pretty much on business because AT&T/Goog/TWC are not serving in your area?
Can you do summary of how you grow the business if it's not too much? Really curious about all the logistics. Best of luck!!
That's it exactly. Prior to me, the only service available in the area was Verizon DSL or Cable (40 Down/2 Up).
Do you call up an existing ISP, like Verizon and say you want to set up a peering arrangement, or do you have to purchase a business account with an existing provider and increase the bandwidth you pay for as your own network expands?
i hear this question a lot. "how do you compete with xyz megacorp?"
delivering a better/faster product for less money, is the easy part. nearly everything is overpriced from megacorps. believe me, it's easy. even the accounting is harder.
the hard part is selling it. people will complain all day about megacorp sucking, but when it comes right down to it, they won't go with the little guy 99% of the time even when the benefits are staring them right in the face.
unless of course, you happen to offer a service in an area the big guys simply don't exist in, which is awesome and good for OP for spotting the opportunity.
Those rates are utterly ridiculous because the work can be done from any location, a lot of these companies are in 2nd tier cities where the cost of living is very reasonable.
I won't even go into the opportunities of automating this stuff, but it's ridiculous...
But the hard part is selling it. I could easily run a team of 10 of these juniors who produce the same work (volume and quality) that generates $5m in revenue a year at the bigcorp, on a budget of 0.5m. Business wise it's almost free money, but without the big corp brand name, it's really hard to sell, even prices were cut by 50% or more and you put sales agents are ridiculous commissions. It's just crazy how important it is to clients to interface with a big brand name corp, despite the fact the actual people doing much of the work are on the level of interns. This is true for lots of finance/legal/consulting companies I find.
They were previously paying $2,000/m for 100 Mbps. It's not that hard to compete with that. haha
the difficult part is getting someone to understand that they have been vastly overpaying -- that means they must call into question their own (past) judgment, which for some people is easy, but for most people, is extremely hard (mild cognitive dissonance).
i find it especially interesting that the question is coming from a small private school, who's business model is basically the same thing. i.e. offering a superior alternative to larger, better funded incumbent institutions.
I don't know that that is necessarily an accurate way of describing the role of a private school.
Stereotypically, charter schools are the ones that are supposed to be better than public schools at a cheaper cost to the government (charter schools can be private or quasi-public).
I'd also question the extent to which reality bears this one out, but yes, that is the view.
but i mean, this is simply what you believe to be true. in reality, it doesn't matter if it's true or not, because you believe it. that's what small companies fight against every day of their life.
1. yup. he doesn't take vacations.
2. if he's sleeping, he gets woken up, or he loses the business.
when you run a business there's nobody to pass the buck to. it's your problem, end of story. you're a big boy now, pull up those pants.
ask a line cook or sous chef how many vacations and how much sleep they get.
there are people who get blown up by bombs in the middle east, today. right now. those are real people. do you think not taking a vacation is some kind of huge sacrifice in the grand scheme of things, especially if you're trying to make a large amount of money?
these are the hard facts that people don't write fun blog posts about and that normal people with jobs find impossible to believe because they are not business owners and never will be.
Give me a break; what the hell does that have to do with the discussion?
Forget about the vacation then. Suppose he gets hit by a car.
let's suppose he does. let's also suppose a probate lawyer will notify you that the principal of the firm you are working with has been killed, the company will go into receivership and run by an organization that specializes in that sort of thing until all the customers have been notified of the need to switch providers. then the assets will be liquidated, either by the estate or the government in lieu of an estate if there is no next of kin or trust / family / whatever.
suppose your large provider goes bankrupt and is bought out, and accidentally shuts off your fiber as part of the takeover process? what then? do you think anyone gives a shit about you then?
this has happened to me, personally. i have 3 internet connections at home for this reason (2 LTE lines and a cable line). in addition, i know _ALL_ the spots around my house where i can get a wifi signal. this is because i take my business seriously, like most people do. i don't expect some magic person to drop out of the sky during an emergency and fix everything for me.
my primary cable ISP is one of the largest in the nation, i'm not going to be fooled into thinking they're somehow reliable. they're never on time, and their service sucks. yet my plumbing company, owned/run by a single guy, always shows up on time and fixes my problem (i live in an old building with plumbing problems).
you live in a world of constant "what if" fear because you lack the experience to know how to handle bad business situations. a small business has more to fear from their customers simply not paying than from inability to deliver good service.
Remote location, or otherwise protected against a national moving in?
No current competitors, or only low-quality competition?
But with enough latent demand?
If all three of those are yes, you might be able to make it work.
You'll need to think about fiber or wireless, and if you're doing wireless, how to get fiber to your distribution points. Licenses: right-of-way for fiber, radio operation for wireless.
IPv4 space? Good luck.
IPv6 space? Much easier, but people still won't find it compelling all by itself. (On the other hand, starting an ISP today means you can probably do all your internal work on IPv6. Do so!
Can you get two independent high-bandwidth connections? If not, can your customers stand the inevitable downtime?
What level of reliability are you aiming for, anyway?
What services are you going to provide besides bandwidth, IP addressing, routing, NTP and DNS?
Are you prepared for customer service? Business or residential? Either way, you will eventually have to listen to someone on the phone telling you that they deleted the internet.
Yes, we're peering with Zayo and will also have Level 3 (waiting on build) in April.
Don't really want to toss out numbers but the bandwidth itself is extremely profitable. The equipment and fiber needed to connect to end-users are 95% of the costs.
When (ages ago) talking to places about colo, it turns out places like HE would only allocate 7 amps for a full rack. Completely useless. ;)
I have not written about it, yet.
You said you are making more money from this than from your full-time job. So I'm assuming the business is profitable and has a ton of potential. Are you saying that it requires too much work, and that it wasn't worth it?
I got the idea when a buddy of mine and myself decided to live out of our cars and sleep in hammocks on the backstop of an abandoned softball field. Doing so made me more aware of the homeless and what they are going through, and I wanted to do something to help them.
I started the company and donate a meal to the homeless with every hammock I sell. Profits have been amazing, and I've been able to donate over 5500 meals to the homeless.
I'm actually working on a new project now. It's part of the same company, but it's a kickstarter campaign launched yesterday for a sleeping bag called the Yak Sak. It's got a couple cool design tweaks which you can read about here:
With every sleeping bag I sell, I donate one to the homeless as well so I can keep giving back.
It's kind of like the TOMS business model. I'm still out to make a profit, but I want to do some good along the way. I hope this answers your question without being too spammy of a post!
If you're interested, I can put you in touch with them!
It's amazing when people have a mission, they truly can do anything.
I camp year round in CA. I use a 20 degree bag for late spring/summer/early fall and a 0 degree bag for the rest.
I do a fair bit of camping and I use a 0 degree down quilt from September through May where I live, rest of the year a 20 degree down quilt or bag.
Soundslice is interactive sheet music synced with audio/video recordings — the Internet's best software for learning pieces of music.
We make money by licensing the technology, taking a cut of lessons in a video-lesson marketplace, plus charging $20/month for a "pro" version (Soundslice For Teachers).
We're happily bootstrapped and located comfortably far from the La La Land of Silicon Valley. (I moved from Chicago to Amsterdam a year ago, and my partner is in Chicago.)
In fact, being able to tell potential customers/partners that we're not a "conventional" startup (one that just wants to sell out to give its investors a return) has been an unexpected benefit. The story resonates with people, and it's good for building trust.
Thanks for the great work you do!
>Try unique sweets even if you are in United Kingdom
I also don't like the golden text-shadow, but that's just personal taste.
Every year that passes makes it easier to get something like this off the ground, as the infrastructure becomes cheaper and more ubiquitous, and the knowledge you need for the business side get better packaged into step-by-step guides.
It's definitely work, but once you're up and running, it's a lot nicer than having a day job.
Neither one grew particularly fast (aided by my only charging $2/month for S3stat when it launched). It was probably 4 years before it was enough to scrape by on, then 2 more after that before it looked like I'd be able to live off it for real while raising kids.
The big upside is in free time. I can ramp the two established products down to close to zero hours/week for months on end to focus on building the next thing (and playing with the aforementioned kids). Every time I tried that with a normal Software Engineering day job, they stopped sending me money. SaaS just keeps ticking away in the background, and is happy to pay me whether I'm in the office or not.
I recently launched http://www.smsinbox.net for Twilio devs, and am slowly gaining some users, but finding it very difficult to reach the target audience, and/or get visitor/user feedback.
Take a look at s3stat.com above for a good example, it's much more polished without much more content.
 I send a few thousand SMS a month via Twilio for thesimplepostcard.com
If help desk isn't the answer, then maybe another type of platform. Generally, I think you need to ride the coat tails of larger platforms.
(Note: I do realize this is developer focused today, but it didn't necessarily need to be.)
Of course I'm not a lawyer and it's probably a good idea to get a lawyer to review yours, blah blah blah.
Looks great, though!
I'm actually n hour north of Dallas, but pretty much all of the Geo IP products show me as being out in east Texas, usually Mount Pleasant or Longview. That's 150 miles from where I am.
As a result, I get streams coming from Shreveport, LA instead of Dallas, TX.
Not sure if there's a way to fix this.
Also, why didn't you just expand to a more capable Linode or add another Linode? I've found their transfer to cost a small fraction of what AWS charges. I would think your operating costs would be less with Linode.
I did initially add additional capacity at Linode, but eventually outgrew that. It'd been a long journey from the original Linode VPS to the current setup :)
How does your geolocation accuracy compare to MaxMind?
If it's more accurate I might be able to send some business in your direction...
What is the advantage of this over a local lookup, say with maxmind or similar?
edit: also, when I press the back button from this page: http://ipinfo.io/AS6830 all I get is a json
> if I understand this correctly, ipinfo is basically a lookup in a db? What is the advantage of this over a local lookup, say with maxmind or similar?
There are 2 parts to that.
1) What's the advantage of using an geolocation API over a local database?
It's simpler. There's no need to download a database, or to remember to update it. You can call it from anywhere.
2) Why use ipinfo.io over other geolocation APIs?
The main 2 reasons are speed and reliability.
i) Reliability - we have multiple servers in auto-scaling groups all around the globe with auto-fail-over, and an excellent uptime record
ii) Speed - our API is designed to be extremely fast. We have servers on both US coasts, Germany and Singapore with geoDNS to route your request to the closest servers to reduce latency even further
Im sorry but setting up a cronjob to download maxmind + include jars into project seems easier and faster than incorporating a third party web service.
edit: about speed, since you call such a database yourself most likely, you are not gonna be faster than local lookup
"...you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by getting an FTP account, mounting it locally with curlftpfs, and then using SVN or CVS on the mounted filesystem."
> Im sorry but setting up a cronjob to download maxmind + include jars into project seems easier and faster than incorporating a third party web service.
Sure, if you've got the required sysadmin and dev skills, and a server to host the file. Not everyone does.
We also return additional data beyond geolocation, such as the ASN and hostname, and have additional optional fields such as company name and domain, and carrier details. You could download multiple databases and do it locally, but it's even more effort.
> about speed, since you call such a database yourself most likely, you are not gonna be faster than local lookup
Oh sure - it's not quicker than a local lookup - it's quicker than _other_ IP geolocation APIs.
Funny you mention that, because I've had the same issue with regular IPs. I use ipinfo.io a lot for my job and have noticed this intermittently.
How I got started: when I started my first game I thought the hardest part was coming up with a good idea. Then I built and launched something amazing, I realized that the real hard part is figuring out how to reach the people that would want to buy it. So when I started the next venture, I started with identifying how I was going to market it, and building relationships with the right communities even as I was starting the code. That product launched successfully, then I learned that I can't wait till the end to figure out a business model that works for myself and the customers both. It took me several different products over several years to get a mix of product, marketing, and business model that worked well.
The hardest part is knowing when you're building something that just isn't right yet, vs when you're fooling yourself and failing and just not admitting it yet. I still don't know how to tell the difference.
Last March, in my little darky flat somewhere in the middle of France, I had this idea to launch a little chat bot in a platform called Discord. I was coding all day long to deliver a functional and satisfying version of what I had in mind. These were the most profitable 3 days of my life…
Discord is a slack-like application. The main difference between slack and discord is that discord is made for gamers. It’s free, easy to use and has gamers oriented features like a great and reliable voice communication feature.
The platform was crowed with a lot of chat bots. But those were very rigide, and kind of complex to setup. They were generally made from a programmer perspective. The user experience was meh…
My goal was to make the ultimate bot.
I wanted to bundle all the popular functionalities that people use. Instead of using 10 bots in your team, you’ll just have to use mine. But for that to work, I also had to make the bot fully customizable. So that you could enable/disable any feature easily.
And the coding started… After 3 days of hard work, It was time for me to find users. The first thing I did to gain some traction was to go to some big Teams and convince the owners to use the bot. I spammed a dozen of big team owners. The kick worked, the engine started and never stopped since.
I've been thinking of launching a bot service too, but focused on order deliveries through FB messenger.
Do you still think the chat bots market is a good niche to explore?
Because the revenue stream is mostly passive I still take some consultancy projects, but that's not quite necessary.
https://www.prikkebord.nl/ (dairy farming)
https://www.vastgereden.nl/ (bloopers! good for the views)
https://www.boeren.nu (combination of the above)
http://quotum.nu/fosfaatrechten/ (niche market, covers the trade in phosphor quota licenses)
I see you have links to your other sites, but maybe Google rank for a parent site would be more prominent since the one parent address would have a lot of traffic.
Maybe have a parent site that lists/links out your 45 (or just the a group of related sites) and maintain the individual addresses. Then have a link back to your parent.
I guess this is more of a branding idea. Google Parent Alphabet, with Google Mail, Google Drive. Also, honda.com
(You obviously know what you are doing, so take this is just a question, not a suggestion)
Also, while I certainly think of Google when I build things, I think of my visitors quite a bit longer. I always look at Google as the company that tried to replace me with their silly Google+ communities, as well as the company that sends me 40% of my traffic.
This is an absolutely fantastic idea! (Now that _some_ form of internet has made it most places.)
Previously I have 2 other startups, one was media monitoring and one was forex.
The media monitoring is B2B only. The forex trading is automated and run from my home research cluster.
Both are generating enough revenue to live off (media monitoring 120k forex, 60-80k)
I guess they fit the definition of solo founder and online, but they have no public facing websites (except SignalBox)
EDIT: I also run a slack group for Solo Founders, If you would like an invite, please email me
Can you elaborate on the forex gig? I've always wanted to do it. Are you doing only TA? it seems you scrap media sites for sentiment analysis too?
Where do you get your forex data tick feed? do you pay for that?
What timeline you trade? Hourly/4H?
Which broker you use? Metatrader to make your trades or using FIX protocol? EUR/USD only for low spreads?
not asking for your algorithm, just wanna get a background what someone successful is doing.
Don't rely on serendipity, we can do better than that. Use your programming skills.
Pull the meetup list, get all of their twitter profiles, search everyones last 1000 tweets for topics you are interested in. Pull all of their code on github. Push it through the profiler and find the talent.
Mirror github if you have to. Pull the whole darn thing, it's only a couple of hundred gigs (if you dont pull the code) Profile everyone based on their stars, contributions, watchers and pull requests.
How many other meetups do they go to? What's their history like on other forums?
Put the pics of these people on your phone, and then go and find them at the meetup. Pull their customer lists / testimonials and any other publicly available data.
Look at their company DNS records. Pull their company filings if they're available. Know their revenue, know their customers. Who's making the decisions at this company? Who is signing the cheques?
Scientia potentia est
Velkur (at) gmail
This is definitely doable for one person, and it isn't technically challenging for a software developer--but the hardest part (at least for me) is marketing, creating content, advertising, and so on.
Actually running a Shopify store and fulfilling by drop-shipping is simple. I would definitely recommend that as a good place to start, one person can do it.
Most sellers I've seen on AliExpress estimate 15-30+ days for delivery. In the age of ubiquitous 1 and 2-day shipping, I just can't see customers going for that.
Seems like there'd be tons of people who change their mind after a week or two and then start demanding a refund or pestering you about their items.
You just need to clearly state all over the site that your delivery times are 3-4 weeks.
It's unfortunate, but part of the business.
The only way around it is to have products that aren't easily sourceable via Amazon. They're out there, but mostly in very targeted niches.
You also might find that you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel for profits, but the money is still there to be had. I guess nothing ever comes easy, in any business--but there's still money to be made.
That's shady as hell, dude.
> You just need to clearly state all over the site that your delivery times are 3-4 weeks.
You definitely don't do this... at all. It's clear that you've intentionally buried that information in a separate "How we ship" page. Nobody thinks to look for that, they'll all assume shipping is the standard 5-10 days unless otherwise indicated.
If this is actually working and not causing tons of angry emails/refund requests, congrats. But I'd feel like a jerk doing that to people.
We do have the shipping times listed on 3 different pages accessible from the top nav (and bottom nav), one of which is labeled 'How We Ship'.. so I dunno. It's not really something I'd considered before this, or had offered as feedback (everyone so far has advised me that outlining your details on the Shipping page is the industry standard.) And I can definitely say that I have many more visits to the FAQ and Shipping pages than I have orders, so I'm guessing people actually do read them. But again, I can't say for sure, and I haven't seen complaints about it.
It also might have to do with the products themselves. These are unattached pieces of metal/wood for the most part, at lower prices than you'd see in a guitar shop.
Beyond that, Oberlo and Shopify are setup for these kinds of businesses, so users get a stream of emails confirming each order and tracking the package throughout the journey. That seems to be enough, so far, at least. But like I said, I think that's fair criticism and something I'm actually looking to change on the checkout. It would be great to load in a shipping time on checkout pages (this information is available from the vendors), but that's not supported yet, it doesn't look like.
20 days is certainly pushing the limits of what customers will tolerate without advanced notice. Many people would probably be calling for refunds after 2 weeks if they weren't told "This will take 2-4 weeks to ship" (which his site does NOT do).
30 days would be absolutely unacceptable to most people.
If you ordered a cheeseburger at a takeout place and they said "Thanks for your order!" then took 3 hours to make it, would you say "Oops, it was my fault for assuming it would be ready in a reasonable amount of time!"
No, you'd be frustrated and asking where your food was, especially since you'd paid for it 2 hours ago and they never warned you about how long it would take.
Is it because all products are coming from the far east?
I'm looking into making a dropshipping app, but for my niche anything more than 1-3 days would be a non-starter.
We have established suppliers now, many of which we originally found through Alibaba/Aliexpress, and we order hundreds or thousands of items at a time (I run a small chain of cell phone repair shops), but even then shipping on a couple medium-sized boxes can run $80 and up.
Most sellers on there only have China warehouses, and the free shipping option is 2-4 weeks+.
You can check whatever you're interested in on AliExpress though. It's the consumer version of AliBaba, which means the price and shipping info are always included in the listing. AliBaba is the one where you need to negotiate all the terms: Price, shipping, minimum order quantity, etc.
The absolute best (when the vendor has ePacket, which is like the FedEx of China) is 7-12 days.
But even then, you need to expect 2-5 days for the vendor to actually package and ship the item.
So you're much better off quoting customers 3-4 weeks. If 1-3 days is all that works for your niche, you probably need a new product, unfortunately.
I had a few other stores before this that didn't sell well at all, and I have to say that's because I just didn't know the products, or what the end users really wanted/needed/cared about.
Great ways to pick products:
- Terapeak (http://www.terapeak.com/), but this is paid
- eBay completed listings
- Or most simple (and what I use) -- once you know your products, search AliExpress and sort by "best-selling". That's my go-to.
Feel free to check my store for ideas (or if you want to buy something!). URL is: http://modshop.guitars/
Last question, you send directly from aliexpress to your clients right? Does it not bother you, your clients receiving packages coming from a different store than expected and with a Chinese address?
Oberlo (the drop shipping service) does have an email system that lets you track the package on its journey and see where it is shipping from, after an order is placed. So it's not unexpected that the address is Chinese.
Most of the vendors actually do a good job on the packaging/presentation, but it's advisable to try each vendor's products (even something cheap), so you know what kind of standards they have. Some are very good, others are poor. You can also leave the vendor an automated message when you order about how to package.
There are certainly faster shipping options from HK and China that aren't overly more expensive that you could get them to use or provide your own account given enough volume.
Honestly, my advice is to not worry about it up front, and dive in.
You need to worry about making your first sale (which is seriously, very hard), long before you worry about returns. =)
You'll figure out it when you need to.
Depending on the shipping company in use, there may be local returns addresses in some countries that will get on forwarded, or it may be worth it for you to set something up.
Assuming you are upfront about the product coming from China I don't think it is too bad to get them to send back there, obviously in some cases a customer won't be happy and you would offer to cover the return on a case by case basis.
In particular, I'm wondering about how to handle problems - when orders don't arrive, when customers want to return defective items etc.
Fair warning though: you'll still have a ton of problems and spend time dealing with customers.
For example, the first time I got a $100+ sale on an item, I went to ship it and found that the vendor took the product down from AliExpress... but my Shopfiy account didn't update to reflect that.
So there are tons of pitfalls and things to be careful of, but like any field, you need to experience them firsthand, it's just part of the process. You can make money at drop-shipping, but it really is not easy, and there's still risk involved, like any business.
Your customer never sees the original seller's listing, and therefore you can charge any price you want.
So, as long as you charge a price that is higher than the raw cost + S&H, you can then collect money from your sale, and use that to purchase the item from the AliExpress vendor (this is automated). Part of the automation process fills in your customer's mailing address, and the vendor fulfills their order directly. (So you don't have to hold any inventory, you're just the go-between.)
Your AliExpress vendors will know what's going on, but they expect and anticipate that people do this. It's how they make money.
Essentially, the service you provide is marketing, design, and salesmanship. They provide the product.
how do you find the vendor in AliExpress ? do you need to talk with him before ?
And if a vendor burns me, I remove their products and look elsewhere.
I wonder, how do you deal with customs issues? I've had issues in the past while shipping outside EU and customers always expected me to solve the issues for them
For customer issues, you just need to be responsive and as helpful as you can be.
I've also had issues shipping outside the US, but Shopify (the platform that I use) lets you disable shipping outside of certain countries.
I've had some issues shipping to Canada, (never had an EU customer), so I only ship within the USA now. And changing that was only a few clicks.
Something just seems... off.
So your website could have little social and organic search presence but still do decent sales just off Google Shopping. Certainly if I was starting a new solo dropshipping site I would be looking to optimise my Google Shopping traffic over building a following in social media or creating content to attempt to boost my organic search rankings.
Do you use Shopify for any specific reason? Or it simply satisfies your needs?
Last question (I promise!): Do you place the orders manually or do you have any sort of automated system integrated with your supplier?
So yes -- I use Shopify primarily because it's a relatively simple way to get up-and-running.
You'll make less money on Shopify, overall, because they take part of the profits you make (~2% to 5%). And that turns some people off, but the payoff is this: You can make secure, good-looking and effective site in just a few days. With no coding or server management involved.
Now, I'm a software developer, and I'm capable of building an ecommerce site from scratch (as I'm sure you are, as well) -- but why? It's not worth that kind of time investment until you know that you're going to make $$$ from the project.
Shopify is almost like rapid-prototyping. It lets you get started quickly with a working version. So, even if the first business fails (mine did), you're not out 6-months of time and effort from site-building, design etc. Customers don't really know (or care) for the most part that the site is built on Shopify. Overall, it just works.
But yes -- I use an automated drop-shipping system called Oberlo: https://www.oberlo.com/
This only works for connecting AliExpress-->Shopify, so it's constraining in that way. But mostly anything you'll want to sell can be found on AliExpress.
Try it. =)
I wonder, how do you deal if a customer orders multiple items and you have to get them from different sources? Does your customer get multiple packages? I've heard about third-party logistics in China that sort this issue for you and send just a single package to the customer.
I will definitely try this out, just need to figure out which products to sell :)
Do you use any other services? And how often do you need to reply to customer emails?
But -- you still need to get people coming to your site somehow, which is actually the harder part.
You can buy ads, do social media marketing, blog posts--lots of techniques. And there are a ton of services for that. I've experimented with many, and continually try to refine that aspect of the business, but I can't claim to be an expert yet.
I reply to emails every day. Once you get orders, you do need to check and make sure everything is going smoothly, and ensure that your customers' needs are met.
I also get a lot of emails asking for advice about various upgrades, fixes, product recommendations. And these often lead to sales, as long as I have something that works. Depending on your store, there can be a consultative aspect to it.
This was actually fascinating to me and I've spent the last 3 hours reading stuff from your links. Just trying to wrap my head around how you built enough inbounds to make that sort of revenue...
It's easiest if you can leverage knowledge you already have. I also tried stores selling items I knew very little about, and it was much harder. =)
There are many tools for finding what's selling though. The best ones are paid, like Terapeak (http://www.terapeak.com/), but you can also search eBay completed listings and get a sense for what's selling.
Finding the right product(s) is definitely the hardest part, though -- you're absolutely correct. Not only is it hard to find products, you also have to find products with margins that enable you to make money. For some of my sales, I only make about $1-2 dollars. Which is something I need to improve, for my own business.
AliBaba (as opposed to the "express" version) is generally used for buying direct from manufacturers, and there are other sources, as well.
If you order from AliBaba, many manufacturers will put your branding on items, and you can do custom orders as well--if you have a design for a new item. However, they usually have minimum order quantities (MOQ's) of 500+. So you'll be out a few thousand dollars to get started, even for a cheap item.
I haven't done it, simply because it's very expensive to get started, but I've read some blog posts from people who've done what you're saying.
The biggest selling point of AliExpress and drop-shipping is that it's low-cost to get started. You can build a business with only about $250 of capital. (Or less.)