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Many people who read this blog are part-timers like me.  We look at the Amazon FBA program as a way to make good money in our limited time, but often struggle with the demands of our day jobs and family. Even full-time FBA-ers sometimes find themselves in the weeds dealing with distractions and tasks that take them away from their priorities. Last night the folks at ScannerMonkey invited me to speak to their group of FBA sellers about how to squeeze out the time to work this business.  If you missed the live interview, be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this blog post.  In addition, here is a summary of my seven-step approach to being more efficient in my business.  Do you have tips for how you are more efficient?  Please share in the comments below!

7 Steps To Create More Time For FBA

1.   Eliminate–something has to give

2.   Prioritize–you can’t do it all at once

3.   Focus–your most productive activities

4.   Leverage technology

5.   Organize your workspace

6.   Delegate ̶ minions, elves and virtual assistants

7.   Plan/Combine activities wherever and whenever you can

Eliminate ̶ Something has to give. You can’t add in FBA without taking something out. Here are some of the things I gave up to make time:

  • Nearly all of my networking and other professional groups
  • Cut back on time with my friends
  • Cut back on TV (I record everything now and binge-watch when/if I have time)
  • Making dinner every night.  My husband and son now help out and we eat lots more spaghetti than we ever did before.
  • Fancy meals (I’m an adventurous vegetarian) with lots of prep. My new approach to meal creation is “assume I’ll be tired.”
  • Saturdays/free weekends – there are many book sales, estate sales, etc., that only occur on the weekend. I take time every weekend for my family, but I also know I will be working part of the weekend.

Prioritize ̶ There is no way I can handle everything related to our business at once or even every week.  Since I only have limited time each week to work the business, I have to determine what I’m going to do with that time. Basically, I take care of my top two priorities and then fit in the others as I can over the course of a month. Here are my priorities:

1.   Sourcing and Shipping ̶ I follow Jon Groleau’s axiom to “Always be sourcing”

2.   Customer service ̶ keeping Amazon’s customers happy means I get to keep selling so if an issue pops up, I deal with it in less than 24 hours

3.   Sales tax (monthly ­ now delegated) ̶ talk about a time suck.  I’ve trained my virtual assistant to file and pay for me now. What a relief.

4.   Taxes (annually in March and August) ̶ I have a CPA but there are a lot of tax obligations for a C Corp. I extend my taxes so I can deal with them in the summer when both of us are more relaxed (me and my CPA).

5.   Education, learning, reading blogs, etc. ̶ I love reading books by other sellers and learning something new, but it is low on my list.  I just read Jon Groleau’s new book and recommend it for inspiration.  I don’t spend much time on facebook or other social media because I don’t have the time and I can get sucked in so easily.

6.   Reporting/Admin ̶ I hate this part of the business and do as little as I can get away with legally. I have a Neat scanner that helps me with receipts and online filing so I can reduce paper filing.  I have a terabyte drive that is backed-up real time. This saves me a lot of time and provides peace of mind. I record purchase price of my items in ScanPower (you can do this in InventoryLab, too, click for my recent blog post) as I go.

Focus ̶ What stores are most productive? Can I do a cluster of stores near each other? What types of items have the biggest margin and/or bang for my buck? What categories are best for me? What trade­offs am I willing to make? Some categories are steady and profitable but take more time to process ­ like grocery.  Books take time because when you have 300 books, you have 300 separate MSKUs most of the time. But they are high margin items with a cheap entry price. Collectible games are work, too, but can be extremely profitable. Over time I’ve determined for myself what kind of inventory works best for me in my timeframe. I do books, food, beauty, pets, appliances and some baby right now. I sell both new and used.

Leverage technology ̶ Good scouting and listing tools are a must.  You can hobble together a cheaper solution from Amazon and ProfitBandit, but when time is a priority, spend the money. It is worth it. I can’t imagine the additional hours I would have to spend scouting without my Scanfob and Scanpower Mobile solution or listing without a tool.  ScanPower List and InventoryLab are both good tools. I’m not as familiar with some of the others. You will eventually also need a repricer once your inventory gets to a certain size. Many of my readers start small with minimal investment which I completely understand – I did too – but I tell them to use their early sales to buy technology. Your business will expand much faster.

Organize ̶ It is worth the effort to get organized. Make it easy to assemble your boxes and clean up your inventory. Protect your supplies jealously and don’t let anyone use your stuff but you. I created a shipping center in my office with a magnetic peg board and organized polybag boxes so I could grab my supplies easily when I needed them.  You need scissors, tape guns, un­du, sharpie pens, poly bags, Scotty peelers, measuring tapes, packing paper, stickers (mine say “Heavy” and some have the suffocation warning on them) and boxes all within easy reach. Don’t let your supplies get buried underneath your inventory!

Delegate ̶ I now have minions (grumpy sons forced to help instead of texting friends), elves (my niece and nephew who think it is fun to help Aunt Cynthia, plus my very supportive husband) and a virtual assistant. They are all helpful.  I count on my VA for regular support.  She does a lot of the admin stuff like fixing my listings, repricing, HTML stuff on my blog and much more. I have a CPA who handles my bookkeeping (most of it is automated) and filing needs. I have a housekeeper who cleans and does laundry for us on Fridays. I paid Dell for unlimited tech support when I bought my laptop which has been awesome when I needed help and so affordable. If I could train my dog to do more than keep the kitchen floor clean…I would! I’m a big believer in delegation so you can focus on what matters.

Plan/Combine ̶ I set routes for myself and combine errands with scouting so I can maximize my time. Anyone stuck with me during these times…like my son…is put to work.  He’s actually very good at finding high value stuff.  He found a brand new scuba wetsuit at our local thrift store for $12.50 earlier this week.  They are normally fairly expensive. I make special trips into Fort Worth and the mid­-cities area when I have at least $500­$600 to spend on volume buys. Otherwise it is books, thrift and local stores for me. I also used to combine packing/shipping time with education time by listening to FBA Radio and ThatKat! podcasts while I processed inventory.  TV time with the family often includes de­-stickering and book sorting, or reading and watching or paying bills and watching…it is almost impossible for me to watch TV without doing something else (except Downton Abbey…that requires my full attention!).

I look ahead to book and other sales and plan them on my calendar. I use Frank Florence’s Book Sales Foundservice to help me find sales less likely to be filled with other scanners. It definitely makes a difference.  I’ll work both but being the only scanner at a sale is like shooting fish in a barrel, I fill my boxes much faster.  I figure out every week when I’m going to source. [I am an affiliate of BSF as well as a customer]

UPS comes to my house every Friday after 5:00 p.m.  This keeps me disciplined and focused on getting out a shipment every week which means I usually source on weekends and early in the week, process during the week and pack up on Friday before my son’s violin lesson.  If I don’t already have an inventory plan at the beginning of each week, I make one. While it is only $9 a week for UPS to come to my house, I hate to waste money.  Thursday nights are usually inventory prep nights at our house.

If you are finding it hard to find time for your business, hopefully one of these steps can help you create more time.  See my video with ScannerMonkey for more!