One of the biggest reasons why people don’t try to make money online or run their own business is that they don’t have a product. This isn’t too surprising. After all, the time and money that goes into creating a product can be substantial and there is the risk that the product you make won’t even sell that well.
So, what’s the alternative? Is it possible to make money selling other people’s products online and if so, how? Certainly, selling products from other people can be a good way to make money. But, you have to find an approach that works and that gives you a good return for the time and money you put into the process.
The Advantages of Selling Products Online
If you sell your own product online, then of course you're going to do it through a website. In some cases, you might use a third-party site like Clickbank or Etsy, which would host your listing and provide a lot of the functionality that you need. If your product was digital, your product could even get sold and distributed through that same site. You can also sell it through your own website using checkout plugins with WordPress, or a digital storefront like BigCommerce.
One outcome of selling digital products is that it becomes fairly easy to scale up your earnings. After all, the online environment means that you don’t have to interact with customers on a one-on-one basis, particularly if you are selling something that is going to be the same for each customer. Your website provides (or should provide) 99% of what the customer needs, and then you can just field the odd question or request here or there.
This advantage is even truer when it comes to selling products for other people. In most cases, you will even find that the people who own the product are the ones responsible for customer service and for answering any direct questions. That means you're only responsible for selling – which doesn't include customer service, shipping, returns, or business growth/development.
At the same time, selling online gives you the potential to reach a large audience of people, many more than you could hope to reach if you were physically selling products. This is a major advantage and it’s another reason that you can scale up your earnings so effectively. The days of door to door salesmen is over, and hawking products to your neighbors, friends, or family like with many network marketing companies rarely works out long term.
Personally, I find that the ability to scale up to be one of the most powerful things about online business. Making more money, and using less of time is vitally important to reaching my goal of having more time for hobbies and family.
To a degree, your profits are still tied to the amount of effort you make but this is a much looser connection than you normally find with a 9-5 job. As such, it’s possible to dramatically increase your profits over time as your site gets more traffic and become more popular – even though your actual workload may not increase much at all.
In fact, it’s even possible to reduce your workload over time by outsourcing content creation or other tasks.
So, there is a clear advantage to selling online, especially if you can do so with other people’s products. But, what’s involved in the process? Are we just going to be an online salesman? No! So keep reading to find out how the process works.
The Case of MLMs
There is one other approach that I want to briefly mention, which is companies that are MLMs. The term MLM stands for multi level marketing and this is a fairly common model among companies these days. The key thing about this type of company is that they focus on two areas. The first is selling the products and the second is recruiting into the company.
Typically, it’s possible to make some money simply by selling the products. However, if you want to make a decent income from the company then you have to get involved in the recruiting side of things too.
For the most part, MLMs are physical companies and you sell products in a face-to-face manner. However, some companies are starting to take advantage of the online environment. So, in some situations, you’re able to sell MLM products through a website, which is normally one that the company provides.
One reason I don't recommend most MLMs is that they typically still require you to sell some of the product in a face-to-face manner. They don't provide you with proper training on how to promote your website, so often you're stuck doing the “party” thing, selling to friends and family rather than real customers.
At the same time, MLMs still have an emphasis on recruitment. This is a major issue with MLMs because recruitment is always much more difficult than making sales. Not only that, it makes the idea of making money with these companies more deceptive. If you're making most of your money recruiting, why would you have your team sell products and make less money? They are going to want to recruit too! And if recruiters are recruiting more recruiters (sellers), then it turns into a pyramid scheme with products.
Furthermore, you have to deal with the complicated commission scheme of the MLM and this actually serves to limit your potential income in most cases.
Finally, you are often working with a duplicate website when you’re selling MLM products.
It’s very difficult to get anywhere with this type of website because you don’t have the ability to do much search engine optimization (SEO) or to make changes to the site to suit your style.. In most cases, the only thing you can do is promote the site through your social media, which often isn’t especially effective. It's still basically just a tool to promote products to people you know, rather than reach out to the billions of other people that are online.
Did I mention exclusivity? Some companies will not allow you to promote other products side-by-side for comparison value! I've heard of six-figure earners kicked out of their top programs because they even mentioned competing products in a YouTube video.
Overall, it is possible to make money selling MLM products online but these issues mean that you will always be at a disadvantage compared to affiliate marketing. Plus, you will probably still have to rely on recruitment, which I don't recommend!
White Label and PLR Products
Most of the time, when you sell somebody else’s product, you sell it as-is, with their brand in place and you don’t tend to make any changes to the product. But, this isn’t the case in all situations. Instead, some products specifically give you the right to rebrand and even to dramatically alter the product.
The two most common types of this are white label rights and PLR (which stands for Private Label Rights), although I have also seen other options, like rebranding rights, although that tends to mean something similar to white label rights. Most of the time, these license terms refer to digital products, because making changes to the product’s branding or even its content can be fairly simple.
The first of these approaches, white label rights, means that you have the right to change the branding – but nothing else. Essentially, you can imagine that you have a box of cereal with a white label and you have the ability to put whatever you like on that label. In some cases, you may be able to claim that the product was something that you created but in other cases, you may still have to reference the actual creator in some way.
I've seen this a lot in the supplement industry, where a company will sell general vitamin C, but you can resell it at “Immune System Booster”. Technically, it's the same thing, but a change of branding could increase sales. Normal vitamin C may sell for $5 a bottle, but once it's called “all natural, gluten free, cold prevention, immune system booster”, then it appears as if it has more value, and can be sold at $15/bottle.
On the other hand, PLR refers to products where you also have the right to change parts of the product. For example, if you bought a PLR eBook, you would be able to rewrite it, edit it and/or change the formatting, if you wanted to.
I've also seen this with American rye whiskey. The vast majority of rye whiskey is produced in Lawrenceberg Indiana, then resold to smaller companies. Those companies then age, flavor, or just bottle the general whiskey and sell it to customers. Many times, two completely different-looking types of rye whiskey can have the same origin. Simply passing the spirit through a charcoal filter could qualify as re-creating an old-timey grandfather's recipe, and thus a “craft whiskey” is born.
In essence, you get to make money from selling the product, while having to do relatively little work to create it. It’s easy to see how this could be profitable. Additionally, selling a PLR product means that you tend to have the ability to set the price and to make the product look high quality.
Theoretically, this type of approach can work for making money but it is much more difficult than it seems. One of the issues is that PLR products tend to be pretty low quality. For example, I’ve seen many PLR eBooks and content that is uninspiring and fairly obvious content. Typically, this means that you wouldn’t ever want to use PLR content as-is.
Additionally, there are always some people that do use PLR without making many changes. So, if you do something similar, it may be hard to make sales. This also means that you should never put PLR content up on your website as a blog post or something similar, as there are probably other sites that use the identical content.
This is also true for white label products. In this case, you are just rebranding a product that is probably already being sold on countless other sites. So, your potential to make a profit is fairly slim.
If the ‘truth' is kept secret, then all is good. But for more savvy customers, as in the case of the rye whiskey, people can get pissed off and feel ripped off. It may not be fair, especially if you spent time reworking the content/product, but just be aware that this is a potential backlash.
With things like content, I don't recommend you use PLR because it's not worth the time and you can just make your own or pay for your someone to write it very easily. With other things, like supplements or whiskey, it may not be as easy. Applying for license to distill your own spirits and sell them is not easy!
I also want to point out that the licensing requirements vary across products and companies. There is no standard definition for what you can do with PLR or white label products and each company is going to have their own rules. For example, some say that you cannot give the products away or use them in a members’ area. Others are completely fine with the product being given away as a freebie.
So, if you’re even considering using a PLR or white label product, make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully.
Another option for selling other people’s products is a process called drop shipping. This is often presented as a great way to make money because it appears to be pretty hands off. The concept is simple to explain, and the business model tends to fit into the “get rich without doing any work” narrative.
The key idea here is that you are selling products on your site but ordering them from a supplier. The products that you order are then delivered to your customer, meaning that you do not have to deal with inventory or much customer service. You make profit based on the difference between the price your customers pay and what you pay to the supplier.
You are essentially providing the service of a middle man – doing the marketing for the seller, and helping the customer find the best product for their needs.
One issue though is profit margins. Drop shipping is a fairly common approach, so there are many people looking for low prices. In fact, you’re probably competing against others trying to do the same thing as you and this makes it more difficult to get a decent profit margin. Most of the time you make big money by moving large numbers of products, rather than having a few big sales.
With drop shipping, you also have to deal with some customer service, especially if the customer gets a faulty product. This can be frustrating and also suggests that you should make sure that whatever product you sell is decent.
Bear in mind that there also aren’t that many companies out there that support drop shipping. Realistically, the approach isn’t that good for the supplier and many prefer to offer affiliate programs or sell products directly instead. The small number of companies makes it harder to find decent products to sell, especially as you need to find ones that are also profitable. I did some looking for drop shipping companies a few years ago, and what I found was a lot of junky “made in China” stuff.
Not all products are like this though, but searching “drop shipping companies” in Google didn't really turn up any obvious suppliers. I think it's going to take a lot more digging to find specific companies that can provide this service.
Another interesting approach for making money with other people’s products is something known as Amazon FBA. The term stands for Fulfillment by Amazon. Basically, the approach means that you send your product to Amazon and then they do the rest of the work, including packaging it and shipping it.
Amazon FBA does have its advantages, because it means you don’t have to worry about inventory or shipping products out. Likewise, Amazon provides the bulk of the customer service and that’s one less thing for you to bother with. These advantages mean that the method is promoted as a way of expanding your business without dramatically increasing your workload.
There are lots of courses online for how to do this, and a lot of people are having success with it. I spent over $1,000 last year purchasing and reviewing a variety of courses. The Top 2 that I found were Amazon Bootcamp and Proven Amazon Course.
This method is something that you might not only use for your own products or also for products that you buy and are reselling on Amazon. Many people start just by reselling their old stuff, then moving up to ‘retail arbitrage', where you buy cheap in the store, then sell for more $$ online.
It is also important to note that there are issues with this process.
Personally, I'm not so hot on keeping inventory in my house which is why FBA is so useful. You send everything to be stored at Amazon, and they handle the rest. Of course, you still need to take care of packaging and actually shipping to Amazon, which can add to your workload. That's why overall I prefer affiliate marketing.
But as far as a ‘physical' business goes (instead of being 100% online like with affiliate marketing), FBA would be my first choice!
Affiliate Marketing (The best in my opinion!)
The final way that you can make money selling other people’s products is the process of affiliate marketing. In practical terms, this means that affiliate marketers promote products from various companies, normally through their own websites. If an affiliate marketer makes a sale, then they will typically receive a commission, which or a percentage of the total sales price. This is opposed to something like a franchise business where you purchase the rights to sell products under someone else's brand, or white label where you sell a product produced by someone else, but under your own brand.
This system is becoming increasingly popular and because of this, there is a huge amount of different companies that offer affiliate programs.
The key reason for the popularity of affiliate marketing is that it offers advantages to the marketers and to the businesses. The business essentially gets free marketing and they only have to pay anything if the affiliate marketer makes a sale. Even then, the amount the business pays is small enough that they still make a profit. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why so many businesses are starting to develop affiliate programs.
The system works well for affiliates too. Even though the actual commissions may be relatively small (Although, this depends on the program and the price of the product. Percentages range from 5% to 100%) these commissions can add up over time, especially for people who manage to develop popular websites.
At the same time, affiliate marketing provides people with a lot of control.
For example, affiliate marketers tend to develop their own sites and pick which products they promote. This gives them the chance to change products over time if they don’t like a particular company or if they just want to do something different.
With so many different affiliate programs out there, it’s also possible for affiliate marketers to develop websites in pretty much any field. So, people get the chance to develop a site that talks about their passions or things that they know a lot about. For example, this is one website that focuses on the idea of tablets for kids:
I have website about brewing beer at home. I've seen websites about fitness, and some about essential oils. That flexibility really is amazing and it means you have the chance to make money from something that actually interests you. Likewise, you can choose products that people are actually interested in, which serves to make the sales process so much easier.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, people often feel like the approach simply won’t work because there is too much competition. It is certainly true that there’s a lot of competition out there but that doesn’t make affiliate marketing irrelevant. The thing is, despite the competition, there is an unlimited number of topics and subtopics that you could develop a website on.
At the same time, you also have the ability to market your own website and drive traffic to it. So, you can target people who are wanting to buy the products that you’re talking about on your site. You can reach out to your own kind of audience. Two people selling the same product may promote it in different ways, which allows each person to be creative, and to add a personality to their brand. In many cases, this makes the process of making a sale very easy.
How to Take Advantage of Affiliate Marketing
Without a doubt, affiliate marketing is the most powerful way of making money by selling other people’s products. In fact, it is one of the best ways to make money online overall.
The very nature of affiliate marketing means that there is no cap to what you can earn and few limits on the site that you can design. This gives you a chance to develop a unique business that you are proud of, and that you can grow over time as your business savviness increases.
It's also super cheap to run an affiliate website. It's about $15/year for a domain, and $10/month for hosting, depending on which companies you set up with.
The other cool thing about affiliate marketing is that it is something that anyone can do. All you really need is the ability to write content (articles) and even this is something that you can learn as you go along. I started out needing about 4 hours to write a 500 word article, and now I can whip out 1000 words in about 1 hour. That's just from practice!
The rest of the skills that you need to be successful with affiliate marketing are easy to learn, including things like building the website, optimizing for search engines, and adding links to make money. In fact, the process of building a website has actually become much easier than it once was a few years ago. There's no coding required now!
I’m not suggesting that you go into affiliate marketing blind. If you want to be successful in the fastest way possible, knowing what you’re doing and having a plan really are critical. Instead, I recommend that you take advantage of a training program called Wealthy Affiliate.
In some ways, Wealthy Affiliate is hard to describe because the site offers so much. In a nutshell, this is a training website, specifically for affiliate marketing. As such, one of the key goals of the site is to teach members how to develop their own affiliate marketing business.
At the same time, Wealthy Affiliate is a community-based site and it has thousands of members. Because of this, the site is able to provide a large amount of one-on-one support and you have the chance to learn from a large number of people, many of whom have their own successful affiliate marketing businesses.
The community feature alone makes Wealthy Affiliate the best place to get started with affiliate marketing but there is also extensive training on the site, including videos, webinars and step-by-step directions. Overall, the site is a comprehensive database of all the information you need to find affiliate marketing success and it is certainly worth checking out.
It's where I learned how to build my first website, and I'm still a member today (6 years later!).