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How Long Does It Take to Make Money Selling Online?

February 21st, 2018 by Skip McGrath

Before we get too deep into answering that question, lets look at the types of online income:

  1. Active Income – Selling products or services
  2. Passive Income – Affiliate income (or advertising)

Active Income – Selling Products or services

If you want to sell products, or your services online, you are probably looking at venues such as eBay, Amazon, Etsy, or your own website (including Shopify).  We will look at these first.

Almost all major online shopping site have some type of payment delay:

eBay – eBay’s payment delay for new sellers comes in two forms, selling restrictions and payment delays.  Restrictions on new sellers usually last three months.

eBay will place limits on your account, or on particular categories and items until you, the seller, confirm certain information or establish a positive selling history. These limits help ensure a safer experience for eBay buyers.

New Sellers, have a limit on sold items, gross merchandise volume, and active items for sale for the first 90-days. If an item sells, it counts toward the limit, but if a listing ends without selling, it no longer counts toward your limit.

Sellers can request a higher account limit. You do this by confirming your seller information, linking your new account to an established account, or contacting eBay support.

When you reach a selling limit, eBay gives you an option to request an increase to the amount you can list. eBay often looks at your selling activity and may grant higher limits on your account if they see continuous good performance.

If you exceed the amount you can list in a month, you need to reduce active listings to reach the limit.

Here are the limits:

  • 10 Active Items at any one time
  • Sales, whichever comes first:
  • 10 Sold Items Per Month
  • GMV (total sales) Limit of $500 Month

Increasing Your limits:  You can ask seller support to increase your limits after 30 to 45 days.  Here are the things they look for

  • Feedback from buyers – you need at least 10 positive feedbacks and an average 4.8 DSR score
  • eBay Money Back Guarantee requests, or PayPal Purchase Protection cases with buyers, need to be in good standing or resolved
  • No Feedbacks that question product authenticity
  • Good history of following eBay policies
  • Positive account standing

If you have had a buyer account on eBay for a few years, eBay will be more likely to remove your limits sooner.


OK – lets look at Amazon:

Amazon does not have any public limits on the number of items a new seller (less than 60 days) may sell, but they do have secret limits on velocity – the number of items you sell per week.

If you exceed the secret amount, Amazon will put your orders in “pending status” and will release them as soon as you fall below their pre-set limit (Which they will never reveal to you).

Amazon also has payment holds.  Amazon normally pays sellers every two weeks.  But expect you first payment to take slightly over 6 weeks.  The reason is, Amazon offers a very liberal return/refund guarantee, and they want to get through that until they give you your first payment.

There is nothing you can do about the payment hold, but the more products you have and sell through FBA, the higher the secret velocity limit will be.

The other reason Amazon may hold individual product sale payments include:

  1. Awaiting order delivery
    2. A-to-z Guarantee claims (not resolved or too many)
    3. Chargebacks

Amazon may also suspend your payments for:

  • Seller performance
  • Account review

Now, let’s consider selling from your own website.

The big delay here will be caused by the various search engines, Google, Bing and Yahoo.  The simple fact is, it can take weeks (or in some cases, several months) before the search engines can find and start indexing your site into search results.  In general, the narrower your niche, the faster this will happen.

After you start making sales, it is up to your credit card processor how long they hold your funds and how often they pay you.

Passive income – Affiliate marketing or advertising.

The other popular way to make money online is from Affiliate Marketing or Advertising banners.

Let me deal with advertising first.  Unless you have a website that gets over 200,000 unique visitors a month – forget it.  The amount of revenue you will get from any one banner is minuscule – typically less than $25 per month.  You would have to cover your website with banners to earn any serious money.  So, let’s look at affiliate marketing:

In order to make any money from affiliate marketing you need one of three things: 1) A newsletter or mailing list of loyal subscribers, or 2), a website or blog on a topic of interest that gets relevant traffic, or 3) A social media group on a specific topic with at least a few thousand followers.

Before we get into details, lets look at a few best practices related to affiliate marketing:

  • Never recommend a product you would not buy or use yourself
  • Never recommend a product based on the affiliate income (I have a few products I recommend and endorse where my total affiliate income is less than $10 a month)
  • Never recommend a product you would not encourage your mother, brother or sister to buy if it were something of interest to them.
  • Only recommend products or services that relate to the content of your site or your readers
  • Always check out the seller or producer of any product (or service) you recommend
  • Always disclose to your followers/readers that you may make a profit from products you recommend

Newsletter – In my case, I publish a free newsletter for eBay and Amazon sellers.  I have approximately 40,000 subscribers.  Because I give away tons of high-quality free information, my readers are very loyal and tend to follow my recommendations as long as they relate to eBay or Amazon sellers.

That is hard to do with a mailing list if all you do is recommend products.  That is why I recommend the newsletter format.  It doesn’t matter if your newsletter is about making money, travel, food, quilting, or fly fishing.  If you give your readers good quality, on-topic, free information, then they will take your recommendations.

Website or Blog

In my book, How to Make Money with The Amazon Affiliate Program, I go into great detail about setting up blogs or websites to generate affiliate income on Amazon, but the same advice also works well for almost any niche product that can be linked to many affiliate programs besides Amazon.

The key to creating a successful website or blog, is creating a niche about a topic that people will search for.  In general, the narrower the niche, the better.  The reason is that recent changes on Google have made it very difficult for small new websites to be found.  However, that may not always be true.

A Niche is Key

Even if your product line is highly niche, it is still possible to be found on the web.  Consider this example:  If you sell a variety of gourmet foods, or you sell a highly competitive product such as tea or coffee, then the online competition from shopping sites is so strong it would be very difficult to come up on the first few pages of search results.

However, if you were highly specialized such as, instead of covering a variety of gourmet foods, you only wrote about dried Chili Peppers, that would be a very narrow niche and your chances of making the first page of search results goes way up.  Whenever anyone searches the term Chili peppers, your site will most likely come up well in search.

If you do set up a website or blog and develop a following, then look at setting up a newsletter.

Affiliate Marketing with Social Media

There are two ways to use affiliate marketing with social media.

  1. If you have a large following or group, then you can recommend affiliate products to your readers (members) directly.
  2. If your followers (or group) is limited, then you can use social media to drive people to your blog, website or newsletter.

So back to the original question: How long does it take to make money online?

It all depends on which of the above methods you choose.  If you want to sell on eBay and/or Amazon, you should realistically plan on waiting at least 60-days, and perhaps as many as 90-days before you see any serious amounts of money.  You can make some small amounts of money sooner –but a substantial income will take a bit longer.  Setting up an eCommerce website may be faster, if you hit upon the right niche.

As for affiliate marketing, you may be able to see some serious amounts within 30-days or so, but realistically, my experience has been that my affiliate income took a while to become steady, eventually it became quite a bit of income.

The best advice I can give you is take your time and do it correctly.  An investment in patience will pay hugh dividends in the long term.  It took my wife and I about three years to hit $100,000 per year income, but then it started climbing from there.  Our income took a huge hit in the recession of 2008 to 2010, but even then it managed to stay in the six-figure range.  We never became millionaires, but we are completely debt-free and own our homes and cars.


My two printed training manuals The Complete eBay Marketing System and The Complete Amazon Marketing System start with the basics and then go into the advanced techniques to build a long-term business.

Amazon Seminar Scam and New Newsletter

February 7th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

An item I mentioned in the last issue of my newsletter was the Free Amazon Seminar scam. Later, I heard from an additional 10 readers, who had been taken in .  Each of them lost over $5,000.  Three of them mentioned that they learned nothing that they didn’t already know from studying my Amazon course, The Complete Amazon Marketing System.

Now to the latest newsletter . . .

How to Use Amazon Date Range Reports
In this issue:

   Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  • How to Use Amazon Date Range Reports to Get Detailed Sales & Fee Information
  • How to Lose Money with Private Label Products
  • Having Problems with Purchased UPC Codes?
  • Will Coupons Replace Sponsored Ads?
  • Amazon to Share FBA Seller Info with Massachusetts Taxing Authorities
  • How to Deal with Challenges When Selling On Amazon
  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

eBay & Amazon Customer Return Rates & Tips to Reduce Them

February 5th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

eBay & Amazon Customer Return Rates & Tips to Reduce Them
Customer Returns can be real profit killers.  In general, return rates average between 5% and 14% overall on Amazon and 7% to 15% on eBay, but some categories can have much higher rates.  There is no hard data for these rates, so most of the information is anecdotal, gathered from other sellers and my own personal experience.

eBay tends to skew about 2% to 3% higher because people are dealing with individuals.  Although just over 50% of all sales on Amazon are from individual sellers, since over ½ of those sellers use FBA, the rates tend to be lower than eBay’s.

Online retail in general usually has higher buyer return rates than average (about 2-3 percentage points), because customers cannot feel & touch the product before they buy And, Amazon (and now eBay to a lesser extent) have very liberal return policies.

Products with Reasonable Return Rates (Typically less than 10%).

The variance tends to be a factor of the sub-category.  For example, in the Garden category, solar lighting products can be as high as 12% to 14%.

  • Books and Media (Music, Movies, games, etc.) tend to have lower return rates in the 5% to 7% rate.
  • Home & Kitchen – 8% to 10%
  • Garden – 7% to 10%
  • Automotive accessories – 8% to 10%
  • Art, Crafts & Sewing – 7% to 9%
  • Grocery & Gourmet Food 9% to 12%
  • Sports & Outdoors – 8% to 10%
  • Tools and Home Improvement 8% to 10%
  • Pet Supplies (hard goods – 10%, treats and food – 15%)

Higher Return Rate Categories:

  • Consumer electronics – 25% to 35%
  • Baby – 15% to 25% depending on subcategory
  • Clothing – 28% to 36% (Color and size tend to be the most reported reason for returns)
  • Cell Phone accessories – 30% to 40%
  • Fine Jewelry – 30% to 40% (Sterling silver usually does better than fine gold, and products with precious stones tend towards the higher end of the range)
  • Fashion Jewelry – 16% to 25%
  • Clothing accessories
    • Fitted items with sizes – 25% to 30%
    • Non-fitted (size) items – 18% to 21%
  • Toys and Games – 15% to 18%
  • Beauty & Personal Care 16% to 20%

Tips to reduce return rates

  • Write complete and accurate descriptions
  • Help buyers with sizing information (Size charts, etc.)
  • Render colors accurately
  • Carefully inspect packages sent to FBA for accuracy information
  • Send returning buyers a polite and respectful email asking them the precise reason for their return
  • You can use this feedback to prevent future returns

Tip to reduce return costs

  • Savvy Amazon buyers have learned that if they claim an item was defective, then Amazon pays their return shipping. The problem is I often get items back where the package has never been opened.  When this happens, I take a photo and open a support with Amazon.

This will occasionally cause Amazon to reverse my refund cost, but also causes Amazon to look at the buyer’s account.  If they see a lot of returns with the reason given as “Defective,” then they may block that buyer in the future.


How To Make Money With The Amazon Affiliate Program

February 5th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

How To Make Money With The Amazon Affiliate Program is the title of one of my best selling books.

Here is a link where you can read about it.   This book was originally published in 2015, and was updated in 2017

It is amazing but a lot of people have no idea that Amazon will pay you between 4% and 15% of sales when someone refers a customer to the Amazon website and someone buys something.

The Amazon Affiliate program may be the greatest business in the world:

  • You can get started with minimal investment –under $10
  • You can access over 1,000,000 book titles and 500,000 products in hundreds of categories and subcategories.
  • You can sell thousands of products yet – You have no inventory.  You take no photos.  There is nothing to ship and…Amazon takes all the risk and collects the money for you.
  • You have to do some work –but once it’s done, you literally make money while you sleep.

I always hate claims like that last one and rarely believe them, but when I woke up this morning I had made over $37 from someone who bought something on Amazon last night while I was asleep.

Get your copy of How To Make Money With The Amazon Affiliate Program today.



If you like digital and video programs, the Proven Amazon Course  from my good friend, Jim Cockrum, teaches  you how to sell products on Amazon, the Number 1 shopping site on the web.

If you prefer printed instructions, my Two-Volume printed training course, The Complete Amazon Marketing System covers most of the same information at a somewhat lower cost

Comparing eBay and Amazon

January 31st, 2018 by Skip McGrath

Here are some interesting facts about eBay and Amazon

Number of Employees:
  • eBay 12,600
  • Amazon 540,000

Annual sales

  • eBay $9.1 Billion
  • Amazon $136 Billion

Average Buyer Age

  • eBay 40
  • Amazon 46

Number of registered sellers:

  • eBay 25 million
  • Amazon 10 million

Estimated number of Active Sellers (sell at least 10 items per month)

  • eBay 115,000
  • Amazon   88,000

Percent of New vs. Used items sold (New/Used)

  • eBay 72%/28%
  • Amazon 89%/11%


Learn how to sell on eBay and Amazon





SEO is Alive & Well

January 30th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

Whenever someone one asks me if they should build a website, or sell on eBay and/or Amazon, I almost always answer: “Sell on eBay or Amazon.

The reason is: Recent changes in Google (and other search engines) has made it very difficult for small new websites to be found –especially eCommerce websites.

However, that may not always be true.  Contrary to what you may have read online – SEO is not dead!  Let’s look at a few things that still work:

A Niche Helps

If your product line is highly niche, then it is still possible to be found on the web.

Consider this example:  If you sell a variety of gourmet foods, or you sell a highly competitive product such as tea or coffee, then the online competition is so strong it would be very-very difficult to come up on the first few pages of search results.

On the other hand, if you were highly specialized such as, instead of selling a variety of gourmet foods, you only sold dried Chili peppers, that would be a very narrow niche and your chances of making the first page of search results goes way up.

This is where SEO comes in.  If you are planning an eCommerce website, the first decision you have to make is, coming up with a niche or specialty that enough people will search for.


The next step is to develop content directly related to your niche.   Content is still king, but it must be relevant to the readers search.

First, make sure your content is relevant, then make sure it is informative (educates rather than sells).  And, if you can make it entertaining, that is a bonus because it will help drive more traffic which Google Likes.


Don’t pursue links willy-nilly.  In the old days, the more inbound links the better.  That is no longer true. Current search algorithms, however, only count related links.  The content on the site linking to your site must be related to your subject matter, or it won’t count.

Links from social media still count –but for very little, especially if they are all from your Facebook account.  But, social media posts do help if they drive traffic (from others) to your site, because Google looks for sites that have traffic and rank them higher.

Videos and Images

Google, and the other search engines, like videos, especially if they relate to your content.  That goes for images too.  The only way Google will know this is, if you name the images and videos with names related to you content.  Instead of calling your video, Pepper video 1, name it something like, “Using dried chili peppers in recipes.

So, if your product is truly niche, then it could be a good investment to set up a website, but if not, think it over very carefully.


Read my FREE, twice-monthly newsletter for eBay, Amazon and Online sellers.  Just started our 19th year of publication.

You can read the current issue here.


The Customer is Not Always Right

January 26th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

The customer is NOT always right

We have all heard the term:  The Customer is Always Right.  Well, I disagree!

I don’t know about you –but I work very hard and am constantly busy.  The last thing I have time for is an irrational customer, or one with unrealistic demands wasting my time.  Does that mean I am dismissive of my customers?  No.  In fact, I work hard to under-promise and over-deliver on products and services and to keep every customer happy.  But, let’s face it –there are some real jerks out there.

Consider a few things:

  • Who knows your product or service best?

You do.   There are times when a customer thinks they know more than you do, and know best, how you should run your business.

  • Your time is important too

Fortunately, completely unreasonable are not that common, but they do exist.  My motto is “Forgive them and move on.”  Wasting your time with an obviously unreasonable person just wastes you time and can make you unhappy.  Why bother?

  • You work better when you are happy

Unreasonable customers can increase stress and make you unhappy.  This will affect your work and how you react to others.

  • Why I forgive people

It doesn’t matter if someone cut you off in traffic, left you an unfair negative feedback, or sent you a hateful email.  We all tend to internalize the feelings and can’t get it out of our minds.  The first thing I do before going to bed is think about all the people who were mean or just unreasonable and say out loud: “I forgive you.”  You will be amazed how quickly you feel better when you do that.  For one thing it puts the power back in your hands.

Forgiving someone can transform anger and hurt into peacefulness. Forgiveness will help you overcome any depression, anxiety, or rage.  Make a conscious decision to let go of a grudge and you will instantly feel better.


Learn How to Sell on Amazon

Good News and New Newsletter

January 24th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

What are your real product costs?As large as online sales are (almost $400billion), that total only represents 11.7% of all US retail sales -so it seems we still have a lot of growth ahead of us. I read one report that surmised Amazon could double its yearly sales within just 10 years. If that is true, we (sellers) are sitting on the cusp of some astounding growth.

In other news, I’ve got a new edition of my newsletter ready for you  . . .

In this issue:

  • What Are My “Real” Product Costs?
  • Is Now the Best Time to Incorporate My eBay & Amazon Selling Business?
  • Importing – What You Need to Know About Freight Forwarders
  • Problem with Using Amazon FBA to Fulfill Orders On eBay, or Other Sites
  • How Fees Affect My eBay & Amazon Selling Business
  • Is Amazon Seller Support Dropping the Ball?
  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

If you’d like to review any of these articles later, a copy of this newsletter will be available in my newsletter archives.

Wondering how the new tax bill will affect eBay and Amazon Sellers?

January 9th, 2018 by Skip McGrath

How Will The New Tax Bill Affect eBay & Amazon Sellers?Happy New Year! I hope 2018 is off to a great start for you.  On my end, I’m excited to be starting the 19th year of this newsletter.

In this issue:

  • How Will The New Tax Bill Affect eBay & Amazon Sellers?

  • eBay & Amazon Keyword Matching

  • eBay & Amazon New Year Business Strategies

  • FBA Fee Changes Effective Next Month

  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

If you’d like to review any of these articles later, a copy of this newsletter will be available in my newsletter archives.

Happy Holidays

December 22nd, 2017 by Skip McGrath

May your holidays be happy and safe!

Happy Holidays

December 2017 – How to Contact and Deal with Wholesale Sources

December 7th, 2017 by Skip McGrath

I’ve got a new edition of my newsletter ready for you.  This will be my only newsletter in December. Normally my next issue would come out in about two-weeks, but that would put us right in the middle of the holiday season, so I will hold the next issue until January 9th.

Since this is the last time I will talk to you this year, let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or Happy Holidays -and to all of you a very happy, prosperous and blessed New Year.

In this issue:

  • Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web
  • How to Contact and Deal with Wholesale Sources
  • Last Minute Holiday Selling Strategies
  • eBay and Amazon Sellers Who Sell in Europe – Dealing with Documentation
  • How to Monetize Your Blog
  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

If you’d like to review any of these articles later, a copy of this newsletter will be available in my newsletter archives.

Holiday Sale and Newsletter

November 28th, 2017 by Skip McGrath

2017 Holiday Sale

I’ve got a new newsletter ready for you.  It has some great content AND it announces my 2017 Holiday Sale!  Every year in December, my book sales drop to almost zero.  That is why I run my holiday sale where I offer 40% off on all my products.  The sale starts today and lasts until midnight on the last day of the year – December 31st.  To get the discount, use the coupon code SAV40SKIP on any of my products. After you enter the coupon, be sure and click the button that says APPLY or it will not take.

PLEASE NOTE – If you want to buy more than one book you will need to buy them separately because my shopping cart will only discount the last item sold.

UK Readers, my coupons do not work on my UK Site, so instead I’ve reduced my prices there.  Follow the link to see the discounted prices.

While I’m excited to let you know about the sale, there’s a lot for you to read about in the latest version of the newsletter.

  • eBay or Amazon – Where Can I Make the Most Money?
  • Making Smart Financial Choices
  • How to Gain Admittance to Wholesale Trade Shows
  • Sourcing from Overseas – Importing
  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

If you’d like to review any of these articles later, a copy of this newsletter will be available in my newsletter archives.

And the Winner Is . . .

November 21st, 2017 by Skip McGrath

Thank You!

Our 2017 survey has closed.  Thanks to everyone who participated.

Joseph L….  is the grand-prize winner of the free product.  I’ll contact you via your email address.  Congratulations!

New Newsletter – Use Amazon Reports to Increase Profits

November 7th, 2017 by Skip McGrath

want a $10 coupon?I’ve got a new issue of my newsletter ready for you.  This one has an interesting feature, an online survey.  I want to make sure that I’m writing about the subjects that matter most to you.  As a thank you, everyone who participates will get a coupon worth $10 on the purchase of any of my books*. You can also leave me your name and email address to enter a drawing for a free book.

Other features:

  • Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web
  • Using Amazon Reports to Increase Profits
  • Staying Compliant with Amazon Reviews
  • Is eBay Still a Viable Selling Platform for The Small Seller?
  • Tips to Cut Your Spending and Save Money
  • Sourcing Brand Name Clothes, Shoes and Handbags Through Liquidation Sources
  • Creating Legally Compliant Listing on Amazon and eBay
  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

If you’d like to review any of these articles later, a copy of this newsletter will be available in my newsletter archives.

*The $10 coupon is good for any product on my site that costs more than $10.

Thanks and New Newsletter

September 29th, 2017 by Skip McGrath

Thank you for your understanding about the newsletter schedule this month.  I had to skip the last issue to attend to my elderly Mom’s illness. Unfortunately, we lost her just a few days ago.  Over 1,200 of you sent emails offering kind words, your prayers and support.

I usually answer every email I receive -but 1,200 emails was just too much to handle. Therefore, I would like to thank all of you here, and let you know how much my wife and I appreciate your kindness, words, prayers and support.

 Comparing Business and P2P Lending Sites
I’ve got a new newsletter is ready for you. Here’s what’s included . . . .

  • Comparing Business and P2P Lending Sites (Including PayPal and Amazon Lending)
  • Keyword Tricks to get your Listings Found on eBay & Amazon
  • eBay Announces Fall update for 2017
  • eBay & Amazon Are Not The Only Way to Make Money Working Online
  • New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

If you’d like to review any of these articles later, a copy of this newsletter will be available in my newsletter archives.

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