Yearly Archives: 2014

Time for another book?

It’s been a couple of months now since I published ‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure‘ and it continues to sell well, so much so in fact, that I am about to start bashing out another book.

I almost wrote the book I am about to start before I wrote ‘One Day Ahead’ but friends and family convinced me to go with the Tour de France-related story first because they thought it would make a good read. Turns out that they were right but now that it’s done, I’d like to get started on my original idea.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in numerous businesses – some big, some small but all a learning experience. My mum has also been involved in a fair few ventures and so has one of my best mates. It occurred to me some time ago that a light-hearted business biography covering the entrepreneurial escapades of the three of us might make for an interesting read and this is the basic outline I am starting with.

To be honest, I have no idea how this idea will develop; I’m not sure if the book will become a ‘how to’ type product or just a humorous read or maybe something completely different. The thing with writing something like this is that you don’t actually know what you’ve got until you’ve finished. Just like in business, writing a book means taking a risk and gambling something. The risk may or may not pay off in as much as the book may or may not sell. The one advantage though of writing a book over, say, setting up a new shop, is that writing costs next to nothing financially. The only real cost is time. So, as I have done many times before, I will be gambling my time to produce something which may or may not be worthwhile. In this respect, writing a book is no different to setting up a new website, creating an info-product or buying something to sell on eBay. It’s all a game of risk and reward. I’ll risk my time and hopefully a few sales will be my reward (oh, and some nice comments from happy readers too!)

Watch this space for more updates. In my head I would like to have this latest book ready for publication by Christmas but I think this may be a tad optimistic. Early next year is probably more likely…

Struggling to make money on eBay?

Is it any wonder that people struggle to make any money online? The Internet moves so fast. What worked a treat for pulling in the cash last week, is now old news. The days of being able to throw up a web page and start selling the same day without doing a jot of advertising are long gone. Equally, the days of buying pretty much anything from a wholesaler and chucking a quick advert on eBay to turn an instant profit are also a distant memory.

One of the main problems online is how easy it is for people to copy a great idea. Someone starts selling widgets on eBay, someone else sees how many they are selling and for how much. They spend some time looking for a wholesale supplier of widgets (much easier now than it used to be) and order a few. Now they start selling widgets in competition with the first seller which leads them into a price war, each knocking 50p off at a time until they have squeezed their margin right down. Oh and just to make things interesting, two more sellers have noticed how popular these widgets are and they too are now selling them and have also joined in the price war. The original seller throws his hands up in disgust and leaves the party – it’s all too much effort for no reward…

Of course, this type of competition has been going on for years offline but the process is much quicker online. So what is the answer? Well, you can make very good money simply jumping from one product to another, moving on when the market is saturated with sellers and the margins are too fine to make it worthwhile. The downside is that you have to constantly be looking out for new products to sell. This makes it a lot of hard work but the rewards are there if you are prepared to put in the effort.

If you don’t fancy chopping and changing your product line every week, you could stick to the same products but work on the basis of selling for absolutely the lowest price you can manage. You make a tiny margin on each product sold but hopefully you will be the cheapest and can therefore sell a lot more than your competitors. This is a risky strategy and even if it works, you will end up having to pack and ship huge quantities of product just to break-even. Not something I would recommend (unless you like working 20 hours a day packing up widgets!)

The Internet isn’t everything of course – you could always try selling ‘offline’! I know, I know, who does that these days? Well actually, plenty of people! I’m not suggesting going out and leasing a retail unit in your local high street but how about car boot fairs (yes they are still very popular), craft fairs and so on? I started selling offline long before the Internet was even invented – I used to take stock to school and sell it! Seriously, I liked nothing more than relieving my classmates of their dinner money for whatever the latest craze was!

Or how about simply finding something so unique that it is very difficult for someone else to copy it? Maybe you have a particular talent and can design something individual or maybe you can think of something which requires a fair bit of work before it is ready to sell, thus meaning that all those lazy ‘steal someone else’s product idea’ sellers won’t be bothered with it? A couple of years ago, I was making upwards of £500 a month from one of these very ideas. I’ve never shared it with anyone before but as I don’t use the idea myself now, I am happy to pass it on. It gives you an idea of what is possible if you think outside the box.

I came across a huge collection of old car magazines for sale ranging from the 1940s onwards. I figured that the magazines had lots of articles and adverts which car enthusiasts might be interested in, either for collections or to frame. Turns out I was right. I cut out and scanned some of the better adverts for cars such as the Jenson Interceptor, Ford Escort Mexico or the Ford Capri and listed them on eBay for a few pounds each (£5.00 including postage was a nice round figure). To say I was amazed at the response is an under-statement. These old adverts literally flew off the shelves.

I had a few weeks spare so I devoted some time to listing more adverts and articles and ended up with several thousand on eBay. It was very time-consuming BUT this meant it would be hard for anyone else to compete. Equally, all the work was done upfront – I had to cut the adverts out, scan them, file them and upload them before making a penny (again this made it unattractive to the ‘get rich quick’ merchants). On the plus side though, when someone bought one, all I had to do was put it in an envelope and post it.

The other plus side was the profit margin. I purchased over 1000 car magazines (each one containing 30+ usable adverts and articles) for £150. Just one of these adverts sold for £5.00 (less a couple of quid for postage and packing), so if you say after eBay fees etc you were making £2.50 an advert, each magazine was potentially worth £75.00! If you couldn’t be bothered cutting all the adverts out, there was a good market for individual magazines but you would only get around £7.00 – £10.00 per mag. Still a superb margin though if you consider that 1000 would be potentially worth £7000+!

In the end, it became too much work for me and other business interests took over but for a time this one, unique idea was making me some very handy pocket-money.

There must be thousands of opportunities out there to do similar things so don’t try and copy everyone else selling the same items on eBay, do something different and see how much easier it can be…

New book: ‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure’

It has been a while since I put pen to paper to write anything longer than the odd article or quick email newsletter – the last eBook I published was the second part of my ‘Making it Happen’ story in 2006. Even calling this eBook a ‘book’ is a stretch since it ran to just a hundred or so pages. Earlier this year I decided it was time to start bashing the typewriter keys once more and after several months of writing, editing, proof-reading, re-writing and obsessing over commas, semi-colons, paragraphs and chapters, I have now published my latest book…

One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure

‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure’ covers a three week period of my life, which, in many ways, I would be happy to forget! In short, a very good friend of mine decided in 2012 that he would like to cycle the entire Tour de France route (some 3,500km) and he would like to do it while the actual Tour de France race was in progress. The plan being to ride one day ahead of the professionals. I got roped in to provide support and to drive one of two team motorhomes.

I had been persuaded to provide support for similar events previously but never for a three week period. I knew on day one that it was going to be a tough gig and I also knew that I (and my fellow supporters) were in for three weeks of hard graft, while the cyclists had a lovely time meandering around the French countryside.

‘One Day Ahead: A Tour de France Misadventure’ tells the story of our trip from my point of view – not much cycling and a fair bit of grumpy old man style moaning. I hope it’s a light-hearted and easy-going read which won’t be taken too seriously and might save a few people from falling into a similar situation!

Available now in paperback and Kindle formats from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com