How I Designed My First Product, Had it Manufactured in China, & Learned to Sell on Amazon.

Ever wondered how to sell on Amazon?

The official Dream Dash Journal is the first product I’ve ever created aside from handmade items. Although I’m no Amazon expert, I’ve learned a lot about designing and sourcing a product from China, and I’d like to share with you my entrepreneurial journey thus far. Read on to learn exactly how I designed and had manufactured my first brand name product to sell on Amazon.

If you’d like to know more about the inspiration behind my brand and blog, please check out the about page.

**This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you for products you purchase via this website. For more information click here.**

sell on amazon

In this article I’ll share the following:

  • The exact steps I took to design my product.
  • The exact steps I took to source a manufacturer.
  • The mistakes I’ve made so you don’t make them.
  • What I’ve discovered about how to sell on Amazon.
  • Where I’m at currently with sales and what my game plan is for the future of my brand.

Step 1- Designing the Journal

One of the reasons I chose to create a journal was because I knew that I could. I didn’t need Photoshop or any special skills. To design my first journal, I simply used Microsoft Word to create my interior pages and the free graphic design site Canva to design the cover.

I actually messed around for quite a while on the interior pages before I settled on the format they have now.

The journal has 5 lined sheets, followed by 5 blank sheets, repeating throughout. I wanted the journal to have both blank and lined pages for writing and drawing. I imagined myself writing a few pages, then doodling a bit, then writing some more. Flitting back and forth between the two like the left-brained type I am. I hadn’t seen any other journal with both types of pages like that before.

Originally, the journal had mandala images and positive quotes scattered among the lined/unlined pages. My original vision was of creating a whole line of journals with different themes, the mandala theme being the first. But in the end, I removed the images and quotes. I imagined that my customer might find those elements distracting, so I decided to keep the journal pages simple. The mandala cover remains.

In addition to designing the journal, I had to obtain UPC codes for them, (barcodes.) Amazon requires UPC codes for selling any product, as do all retail stores in the US.

Step 2- Educating Myself

Before and during the process of finding a manufacturer, I did a lot of research on how to sell on Amazon including much time listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. What a wealth of information! Huge fan of Steve Chou! His podcast rocks! I also read tons of information about blogging.

My baby (second child) was only 4 months old at this time. I didn’t have much time to work with taking care of a family and being perpetually sleep-deprived, but I could at least listen and learn about Amazon selling, blogging, and more as I went about my day. My creative vision had me really fired up, (and still does!)

Step 3- Creating My Website

I created my website at this time and slowly began designing it. I use Global Sources to locate a manufacturer. I started by searching for journals that looked to be high quality in the photos and had the features I wanted. I knew I’d need samples to compare quality and price, so I selected 3 manufacturers to contact. Then I checked the manufacturers’ website to look at physical addresses and make sure the factory followed safety codes and looked legit.

Why didn’t I choose to work with a US manufacturer? Price. I just couldn’t find any manufacturers at the time (2018) that would create what I wanted in the price range I needed. So anyway, I wrote a letter introducing myself and inquiring about a small bulk order, then sent it to the three manufacturers I chose.

Step 6- Obtaining Samples & Choosing a Manufacturer

I spent about 2 months in communications with the 3 different manufacturers trying to obtain samples, talking price, and going back and forth with emails.

This really took a lot of time, probably because I was so green, but also because of the time difference. I was getting up with the kids at 5:30 am and trying to check my email while changing diapers and making bottles etc. The contact person in China would be ending their day by 6 or 7 am in most cases my time, and I might not get an email reply for 24 hours, (by the time I had a chance to check my email again the next morning.)

When I finally obtained all three samples and decided on a manufacturer, the manufacturer I chose raised their prices at the last minute. Not cool.

My 2nd choice manufacturer (that I had turned down because I thought I was going with the first guy who ended up raising prices) sent me borderline harassing emails for the next 3 weeks.

And the third manufacturer had slow communication.

I scrapped all 3 potential choices. I had to start all over from square one.

Two more samples, more time, more delay.

Related: Amazon Product Photography the Easy Way, No Photoshop Skills Required

Finally, I chose the high-quality journal that you see on my website. It’s truly very nice. The factory rep was friendly and receptive, and we made a deal! The rep and I came to an agreement on price after I obtained a beautiful sample from him. I knew this manufacturer was the right one. But I did make a big mistake here- we didn’t talk about shipping charges right away. More on that in a minute….

Step 7- Setting up Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon)

My other big mistake? Setting up my seller account on Amazon too soon. The seller’s account charges $39.99/mo versus an individual selling account which charges a flat fee of $0.99 per item, not including FBA fees. I paid for 3 months of having a seller’s account before my product ever even got to Amazon! I’m sure you are shaking your head at me right now.

Luckily, Amazon refunded me this money.

Important side note: You cannot run sponsored product ads, (Amazon ads on Amazon’s actual pages,) without a seller’s account, so you’ll need to pay the $39.99/mo for a seller account to market your product to Amazon customers from within Amazon.

Anyway, I had my manufacturer ship the journals directly to Amazon’s fulfillment center, (FBA, aka fulfillment by Amazon,). At the fulfillment center, (for a per-unit fee,) Amazon packs and ships my journals. They handle returns and customer calls as well.

Amazon is great to work with as a seller. You can always call with questions, and they are quite helpful to solve problems. Those were the steps I took to start selling on Amazon. Now I’ll get into the shipping issue, how sales are doing, and my plans for the future of Dream Dash Journal.

About the Problem With Shipping Charges

As I mentioned, when the factory representative and I first agreed on the price for the bulk journal order, I didn’t get a shipping quote from him. Amazon has many FBA centers, and I couldn’t give the factory rep the Amazon FBA address until I finished the final step of creating shipping labels. So I paid for the journals and waited for the rep to give me the word that they were ready to ship. When they were ready to ship, I finished creating the shipping labels, which you create in your seller account.

I did ask the rep about shipping charges at the last minute before he shipped out the journals from China, but he didn’t get me an answer as to the cost. I let it slide, figuring the shipping cost would be maybe $300 at most. Wrong! 

The journals arrived at an Amazon FBA center in Texas in August 2018. I heard nothing about shipping charges from the factory rep until November when he finally emailed to tell me the cost. Which was more than half the cost of my full order! I was shocked.

Honestly, I didn’t know what to think. I was not prepared with that amount of money set aside to pay for shipping. He and I both did wrong here: I was naïve just to assume the cost would be a few hundred at most. He didn’t warn me about the high shipping costs which would have prevented me from doing business with him to begin with.

I ended up negotiating and making a smaller payment.

You’d never guess what else I gained

Because the rep & I had a fair and pleasant email exchange over the whole shipping thing, believe it or not, I made a friend. I’m not kidding.

And you know what’s really cool? As I update this blog post in November of 2021, the rep and I are still in touch. We send happy holiday emails. He stopped asking if I need more product long ago. He is a really nice guy, super kind, and professional. He has become a real friend that I hope to meet one day in real life! I know how extra crazy that sounds, but the good vibes are real.

So, How are the Journals Selling?

To be honest, I’m not selling 50 a day as I’d hoped. And the cost of a seller account plus the cost of ads is still eating up too much of my profit margin. Playing around with the advertising settings/keywords has helped, though sales are not quite where I’d like them to be.

But I’m not dismayed. I’m still learning, and I accept the learning process. I’ve got a positive growth mindset and feel pretty thrilled when I look at the big picture.

I will say that my third biggest mistake in all this has been spreading myself too thin. I simply don’t have time to care for a family of four, grow my blog, and do a bunch more research and tinkering around all day with the ad settings to figure out how to make my journals sell better. So I’ve kinda said “f*ck it” about the whole thing. (Please excuse my language. )

What’s the Future Looking Like for Dream Dash Journal?

It’s looking bright! I have no doubts about the success of my blog. My focus for earning income has shifted (for now) from how to sell on Amazon to making money with ads up with my blog. I love blogging, and I’m committed to the entrepreneurial journey!

I’m grateful for my Amazon selling experience. I will ABSOLUTELY design and sell more products in the future,  I’ve got so many product ideas! *Update- check out my Etsy store!

So, what do you think? It’s all kind of crazy, right? Curious about what will happen next with this blog? Subscribe for blog updates!

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How I Designed My First Product, Had it Manufactured in China, and Learned How to Sell on Amazon.“>

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