My Amazon sourcing life has become about 100 times easier all thanks to a small Chinese man called Philip.
No, Philip is not some live-in man slave, but my new sourcing agent over in China.
For the longest time, I did my own sourcing on Alibaba or Aliexpress, like most of you are probably doing right now, but for me, when trying to research many different products at once, the daily slog of emails to different Chinese suppliers was sucking up a hell of a lot of time.
Since I’ve been working with Philio, I can’t get over how much quicker and easier my life is. So, I’m going to get evangelical for a minute a lay down 4 reasons why I think you find yourself a sourcer too.
1: You consolidate all your communication
Typically, I keep a running list of products I think have potential (in terms of my criteria), so I might have 5 things that could be interesting, but naturally, I need to get the shipping and unit costs.
That means Alibaba or other sourcing websites and endless emails to various suppliers.
Every time I want to get price and delivery information for more than one product, I have days of back and forth soul sucking exchanges.
Huge time suck and a total pain in the ass.
Now all I need is a group on Slack and Wechat for quick messages (all Chinese are on Wechat).
When I have 3 products I think look good, I just drop links or images into Slack and say: “Philip, see what price you can get on a 100-200 unit order for these types of product.”
Then the next day, I have my prices all in one place in one easy channel.
2. You can get a better price and fewer units
I always start off with 100-200 units because I want to test a product, see how it behaves, get a feel for the ppc and overall performance. Because I sell mainly in Europe, I can get away with stock branding or non-branded units without any worry or hijacking (although sure, I have been hijacked before).
What Philip can do is hit up the local supplier markets where factories sell off their surpluses or other places that never even pop up on the Western radar.
Usually, these places only accept RMB, but I can just PayPal Philip the equivalent, and get my test items.
Not only that, I can get as little as 50 units if I want with no hassle and no risking extra money.
3. You get a competitive advantage
With a lot more sellers jumping on Amazon, all using the exact same sourcing sites, we’re all drinking from the same proverbial fountain. And guess what? The source is getting corrupted and more expensive!
You might even have noticed suppliers adding things like ‘bestseller on amazon’ to their titles. Now think about that, do you really want to be using them? They’re probably selling on Amazon themselves too and good luck beating the supplier!
When you have someone on the ground, they know the places most other sellers will never hear about because, duh, they don’t speak Chinese.
This absolutely gives you an advantage because they’ll usually be able to get you a better price too.
4. Consolidation, test buys and shipping services
If you have ever requested multiple samples, you’ll know that it can get expensive when shipping. Well, when you have a sourcing agent, you can have all the samples sent to them, then they ship them out to you.
Since most freelance sourcing agents already work for bigger companies, they can send things out via air courier at decent rates. Philip for example, can FedEx me anything for just $5.20 per kg – which is decent.
Another benefit crops up if you are the victim of a Chinese-side hijack. For example, if a Chinese seller is selling a fake or different item on your listing, to get them off, 9 times out of 10, Amazon will require you to do a test buy.
Because the sellers are in China, you then have to order the product and wait weeks to get to so you can prove to Amazon that it is indeed, not the same as yours or a knock-off.
But, hey, if you have someone on the ground, get the order sent to them and have them air ship that bad boy out to you ASAP so you can get the filthy hijacker off your listing.
Finding a sourcing agent: tips
Now, after all that gushing, you might be wondering what the best way is to find a sourcing agent. Well, I can’t tell you the best way, but I’ll tell you my way.
For me, I didn't want to use some big company. I want to work with someone one on one and build a relationship.
So first up, I just went to Upwork and created a job offer and was fairly specific in my requirements (i.e. located in China, has VPN, has PayPal, speaks decent English ) and tried to get across who I am and who I would like working with me.
This stuff is important. Kind of like a dating profile, you want to attract people that are a good fit for you.
As an Upwork freelancer myself, all too often I see offers written by people that look like they would be a nightmare to work with. People that write in all caps or sound like this: if I choose you then you must prove to me you are good enough, you must find 15 items per week, must be on Skype at all times etc etc. Basically, try not to come across as some kind of autistic sociopath.
How much to pay them?
Chinese workers are obviously cheaper than a US worker, but IMO you probably won’t find anyone worthwhile if you try to offer stupidly low amounts.
If you want to low ball, expect to get what you pay for. Don’t be the guy offering writing jobs for $5 per 500 words or something ridiculous, and yet, expect something other than toilet paper scribble.
Personally, I pay $15 per hour because, firstly, I can’t afford to pay much more and secondly, because I think anyone who works with me should be at least paid enough where they feel happy and fairly compensated for their time.
You want your sourcer to be fighting in your corner and they can save you a lot of time and money, so it’s in my interested to have them as motivated as possible.
But can you be sure to trust them?
What if they lie about the time they worked?
What if they cut a deal with manufacturers and jack up your price while they keep a per cent?
What if they screw you over?
The simple answer is: all of those things can happen. Your only safeguard is your instinct and a touch of luck.
While it’s natural to have some doubts, in business you can’t let them cripple you, that’s why we chose to at least try and be entrepreneurs and not employees.
To me, worrying about trust too much is counterproductive and comes from a fear-based mentality that should be fought against.
Do your due diligence of course, but don’t go too far down the paranoia rabbit hole.
If you are unfortunate enough to get burned, use it as a learning experience and jump back on the horse.
I really do believe that having someone source in China is kind of a next-level seller strategy right now.
They’ll help you find products faster and, most probably, for a better price too.
And you will be amazed at just how much time they will save you!