For many of us, coffee is an integral part of life. That first cup in the morning is what makes the day bearable and other cups can be just as critical. But, what about coffee as a way to make money? Is it possible to make money selling coffee online?
Certainly, this could be an interesting approach to earning extra cash or even making a living if you are passionate about good quality coffee. And, it turns out that there is no shortage of different options out there.
Selling Coffee Directly Online
The most obvious way to sell coffee online is to do so directly. By this, I mean that you’re actually dealing with the physical product and selling it online.
Now, you probably won’t be actually creating coffee yourself by sourcing the beans, roasting them and the like. So instead, your focus would be on finding good coffee that you can then turn around and sell at a profit.
There are various ways of going about this. For example, one method would be to look for specials on coffee that you know is popular. This lets you get the product at a lower price and gives you the chance to then sell that coffee online.
Alternatively, you might be able to get coffee from the company itself at relatively low cost if you buy in bulk. Again, this practice offers the potential for profit, especially if you’re buying for less than the retail price. Any retailer will be happy to make more sales, so if you can figure out a way to access a market they haven't reached yet, you could easily convince them the work with you.
Getting coffee at a good price is critical if you want to sell it online because it's a commodity and there are a massive variety of cheap, generic coffee. Figuring out how you’re going to sell it online is an equally important consideration.
Option #1: Selling Coffee From Your Own Website
One option would be to sell the product through your own website. In theory, this gives you the most chance for profit, especially as you have control and there are few fees to worry about.
However, selling products directly from your own site can be tricky. For one thing, you need your customers to actually trust you. This can be difficult to achieve, especially early on. After all, people are often wary about buying things online and new sites frequently seem like they are scams.
Getting around this means that you have to take the time to establish a reputation and build trust. Building a base of reviews, comments, and supportive posts can take time. Doing so is achievable over time, but it does take consistent effort in a competitive market. Nevertheless, you’ll still find that people are less likely to buy from you if they can get the same product for a similar price from a site like Amazon. You've heard they have free 2-day shipping right?
Which brings on another point to consider: You really need a unique selling proposition. What makes your coffee different? Death Wish was able to accomplish this by making a highly caffeinated, dark coffee with for truly addicted individuals. You could also buy a coffee white label meaning you buy it in bulk then take care of packaging and branding. This is done a lot with rye whiskey, believe it or not, and a lot of the so-called craft whiskeys out there are actually sourced from one plant in Indiana. The only difference is their packaging.
Some may call that dishonest, but as a business, you can take the same product and tell its story different ways. Is it just “Columbian coffee”, or is it, “Single bean, slow roasted, fair trade traditional Columbian breakfast blend”. Does coffee sell better in a brown package or a blue one? These are all things you can play with selling white label. Using your own website to sell coffee will give more of an impression that you are an independent business rather than a reseller, so I'd recommend this route if you plan on using this method of acquiring your core product.
There is potentially also a lot of work involved in selling products from a your own website. For example, you need to set up the various aspects of eCommerce on your site. This includes some type of shopping cart functionality, along with the ability to accept payment. You can use a service like BigCommerce or Shopify to do this for you, but that also means you have to learn the platform. Once you learn it, then you have to get traffic to the website.
At the same time, you also have to deal with the physical side of the products. You would need to keep stock of the coffee (and related products) that you’re selling and ship them out when people make orders. Again, this is achievable but it does result in a fairly high workload. Are you ready to hire an employee? Is someone in your family willing to help when orders pick up?
Selling From Amazon (Or Other Sites)
If you’re going to directly sell coffee, then you can cut down on some of the work by relying on sites like Amazon and eBay. Doing this lets you avoid dealing with eCommerce and means you don’t even need a site of your own. Instead, you can create listings and sell that way.
This method is also beneficial in terms of trust. For the most part, customers tend to be more willing to trust sites like Amazon and eBay than a random site. Plus, the ability to get feedback on Amazon and eBay can help you to build a reputation and make more sales in the future. Everything is coded and set up, and you already have a reliable traffic source to start with.
Amazon also offers an interesting way to decrease the workload involved with selling products. This is a program called Amazon FBA and it is a pretty effective tool.
Amazon FBA provides sellers with the chance to take advantage of Amazon’s systems and storage. Under this program, sellers send their products to Amazon, rather than storing the items themselves. Those products are then kept at the warehouses that Amazon owns and are shipped out from there.
This system means that Amazon deals with the storage and shipping aspects of selling, along with some components of customer service. By doing so, Amazon FBA makes it easier to scale up a business and is particularly important if you plan to sell a large number of items. Millions of customers take advantage of Amazon Prime, which means your product suddenly becomes more attractive simply because of fast, reliable, and free shipping.
With Amazon FBA, you do pay some fees for storage and for shipping. However, if you plan well, those fees tend to be relatively low. As a result, this can be a powerful system.
In fact, Amazon FBA has become incredibly popular, with some people creating large businesses. It takes time to build, like any other business, and there are strategies unique to this style of online business. Links above go to training reviews I've bought and sorted through if you are interested in learning this for your coffee business.
Turning A Profit
Theoretically, directly selling coffee could work well for income. There is certainly no shortage of people who love coffee and many people are looking for new types to try out.
Nevertheless, actually turning a profit when selling physical products isn’t as easy as it sounds. More than anything, you have to be able to source your products at a decent price. That price needs to be low enough to let you make a profit without making the coffee too expensive.
At the same time, you’re also going to face a lot of competition. That’s true regardless of whether you are selling on your own site or relying on a site such as Amazon. Competition can often be fierce, especially as you may be fighting against some people selling the same products as you, along with others selling coffee from different brands.
Even if you do find a good source for your coffee, there is always the risk that someone will undercut you in price or that the price you’re paying will increase. As a result, a given product may be profitable for a while but might not continue to be so.
The end result is that it takes a lot of planning and strategy to make a profit directly selling coffee. Likewise, you need to pay close attention to your market and your competition. How is your coffee different? Who is your target customer? What's your planned ROI? These are all questions you should be asking while you take your first steps.
Finally, this method does involve some risk, as you have to buy the products in order to sell them. This means that you may lose some money, especially when you are first learning which products sell well. There is also a chance that you’ll get stuck with some products that you can’t move, especially if there was a sudden change in demand or competition.
Selling Coffee Through An MLM
A different approach for selling coffee is using a coffee focused MLM. The term stands for multi level marketing and refers to a type of direct marketing company that has a strong emphasis on recruitment.
Now, MLMs focus on direct sales, which means that you would be mostly selling coffee in person, rather than online. However, I’m bringing this up because some MLMs do give you the option to sell online as well. Additionally, there are actually some MLMs that do focus specifically on selling coffee.
One example is Organo coffee, which you can see in the image below. This brand, and others like it, focus on the potential of the coffee to help improve health (although there is little evidence that they achieve this).
In fact, most MLM coffee companies seem to focus on ‘healthy’ coffee. Much of the time, this seems to be regular coffee with some type of herbal additive. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to make money selling coffee, I’d focus on high-quality coffee that actually tastes great.
Besides that, joining an MLM doesn’t tend to be a great way to earn money. MLMs tend to have complicated compensation plans and they heavily rely on selling to friends and family, along with trying to recruit. Most of the time, you have to get high in the company’s ranks to make the process worthwhile and doing this involves building a significant team.
On the plus side, if you sell online MLMs don’t typically require you to buy the product and then sell it. They'll be shipping via your website, which means you don't need to have the product on hand. This is a better option than what people usually do, which is buy product in bulk and store it in their garage, hoping to sell it to friends and family.
Nevertheless, the risk here is still significant. In particular, you typically have to buy a starter kit, which may cost between $100 and $1500, depending on the company. Also, many MLMs also require people to buy a certain amount of product monthly and you have to do this to be considered active. This is called autoship, and may be necessary for you to remain an active member and receive commissions.
Selling Coffee With Affiliate Marketing
If you’re going to sell coffee online, affiliate marketing makes the most sense. With this method, you’re acting as an intermediate, helping to promote the coffee from companies you choose. As such, you don’t sell it directly. Instead, you direct people to a site where they can make the purchase themselves. You receive a commission for each sale.
Affiliate marketing tends to involve less financial risk. For one thing, you’re not directly selling the products, so you don’t have to buy them first. Additionally, affiliate marketing programs don’t have purchase requirements. So, you can promote products that you’ve never even tried before if you really want to. With coffee, it's very important to give your own opinion on things like flavor, so buying a sample and trying it is a good investment of time just to gain the knowledge. But you could potentially promote an Italian espresso maker with incredible reviews from multiple sources without needing to spend $30,000 to buy and try it yourself.
There are some costs involved with affiliate marketing but they are extremely low. For example, the main costs are tied into having a website. In most cases, those are simply to do with having a domain name and paying for hosting. The prices vary depending on the company you go with but either way, you’re paying much less than having to actually buy the coffee yourself.
Affiliate marketing also works exceptionally well for coffee because you can promote brands that people already know about and are interested in. At the same time, you don’t have to compete against other sites in terms of price.
For example, Starbucks actually has an affiliate program, where you can promote their coffee and various other products on your website. Likewise, there are similar programs out there for less well-known brands, like Three Avocados and Coffee Club. You could also promote various types of coffee sold on Amazon, which has its own affiliate program called Amazon Associates.
In fact, there is no shortage of different programs that let you be an affiliate marketer for coffee. What you do with this is up to you. Likewise, there are many different choices for affiliate marketing approaches.
One option might be to create a website that talks about the various health benefits of coffee. Alternatively, you might talk about the best ways to make coffee and related products. How does a Chemex compare to French Press or a drip machine? In either case, you could pick a specific coffee brand to promote, along with the various other products they offer. Some other potential ideas could be
- how to roast your own coffee beans
- premium coffee brands and hard to find styles
- home espresso machine reviews
- how to make coffee cocktails and flavored drinks
- caffeine products (coffee, matcha, yerba mate)
- coffee cups for all occasions
It’s completely up to you. Affiliate marketing is an incredibly versatile technique and you can tailor your site and product selection based on what works for you and what you’re interested in.
Getting Involved With Affiliate Marketing
Of these three methods of making money selling coffee online, affiliate marketing tends to be the best choice for beginners. It simply costs less money to start, and mistakes will cost you less down the road. Purchasing hundred of pounds of coffee that doesn't sell could bankrupt a new entrepreneur. Writing a review of a coffee you tasted that doesn't generate traffic to your website costs you only an afternoon of typing.