Top 5 Things I’m Doing To Prep For The Holiday Season

Ever since I realized that 73.8% of my sales for ALL of 2016 happened in November and December, I’ve been working hard to maximize holiday sales for this year.

I believe in the 80-20 rule, and that taking the time to narrow down the 20% that yields 80% of results is time well spent.

This post goes over the action steps I’ve found to be the most important for making holiday sales. As I was writing it, I realized I’ve been (unconsciously) focusing on these steps… and my year-to-date revenue is almost 5x what it was at this time last year.

Though I’ve written mostly about my Amazon print-on-demand biz, the majority of this information can be used with any ecommerce model.

Here’s what I found to be the biggest “bang for your buck” steps, in no particular order:

#1: Keep adding products.

Platforms like Amazon, Etsy, and eBay reward you when you list more products with them. You scratch their back by adding more value to their marketplace, so they scratch yours by rewarding you with better search engine rankings.

Even traditional sites get SEO love from Google when products are added. Google loves to see actively updated sites.

Beyond that, though… more products = more money.

The more buy buttons you have for people to click on, the more opportunity you have to make sales.

If you’re doing the LHS model, this is crazy-easy. I’m not trying to sell LHS, ha, but this picture was sitting on my computer and I thought it made a great point. Check out the power of one design:

One design = 10+ more ways for people to buy from you 

Adding more products to your catalog is HUGE in maximizing your holiday season.

#2: Make sure your products are the right ones.

Last week I posted my my 2016 review where I went over my sales numbers for 2016 and assessed what worked well and what didn’t.

When I saw how helpful that was, I ran through my 2017 reports.

The time spent doing that was fantastic. An hour of poring through this information helps you get laser-focused with your time and lets you concentrate on what will earn you the most sales.

If you have any selling history, take the time to review it.

If you don’t, feel free to use mine.

#3: Send bestsellers to FBA.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t need FBA (where you pre-send inventory to Amazon) to make great profits on Amazon.

During Mother’s Day I sold $54k worth of one mug in a few days and most of the time it was was not an FBA item. Most of my sales are not from FBA items.

That said, FBA does help increase your conversion rates. More people buy products when they see the “Prime” button on your listing. It’s an indisputable fact.

I’m sending some of my bestsellers to FBA this year.

If you plan on doing this as well, I recommend you do it soon. Last year Amazon stopped accepting shipments sometime in November and if I recall correctly, there was no warning given in advance.

If you want my warehouse to ship items on your behalf, either email rachelreports or check out The Holiday Challenge if it’s available when you’re reading this.

#4: Outsource whatever you can.

Last year during the holidays I didn’t have time to eat or sleep (#joysofowningawarehouse) and I did NOTHING in my Amazon business during November and December. I’m not counting on having time this year either, so I’m spending a good amount of time working on outsourcing systems so that progress happens without my being personally involved.

Even if you do have time, outsourcing is a no-brainer if you can afford it. It helps you multiply your efforts (creating and listing more products), supports you as your business scales up, and helps ensure that progress is happening even on your off days.

Now’s the perfect time to get help with adding in new designs, listing products, and finding slam-dunk niches to sell in.

#5: Learn from people who are doing well.

I was recently considering buying a product from some Amazon mega-sellers. It wasn’t an easy decision because I didn’t know if I’d have a ton of time to go through it, and because the investment was very sizable.

To make a decision, I decided to look at what I’d get instead of what I’d give up.

Instead of having to “give up” time, I realized that I’d ultimately be saving time. Learning from experts means you don’t try and reinvent the wheel yourself and that you don’t waste fruitless hours doing things that won’t work.

Instead of having to “give up” money, I looked at it like I was getting the knowledge of people making 10x what I was for a fraction of the cost of the knowledge inside their head.

The course had a limit of 100 students and ultimately I squeaked in at #99. (And yes, I did confirm they weren’t lying about the 100. ;))

I haven’t regretted joining at ALL. It’s been a great decision and even though I may not ever make it through even half the information, what I’ve gone through already has made it worth it.

Whether or not you invest in something, I recommend taking the time to learn from people who have gotten where you want to go. You save a boatload of time and aggravation and reach your goals a lot faster.

Hopefully this helps give you at least some insight on where to focus your energy this year. Even if your list doesn’t match mine, hopefully you at least have some new things to think about. :)

Want my personal help this holiday season?

I’ve crafted a Holiday Jumpstart package that specifically takes these 5 factors into account. It’s a high end package where you get everything you need to make this holiday season incredible: 100 done-for-you designs, cases of mugs shipped to FBA for you, coaching from me, gives you software to find hidden-gem niches, and a LOT more.

I’m closing this down over the weekend, so I recommend you check it out ASAP.

Full transparency: there’s a slight chance I re-open, but I want to make 100% sure that everyone gets a great experience before I do. Either way, the time you have left to rock this season is ticking, so  I recommend you start making your moves now.


Simbi Tips, Tricks & Advice

[Note from Rachel: The following is a guest post from someone I traded with on Simbi.

She doesn’t focus on marketing things you can do, but here are some of the things I’ve found: virtual assistant support, ghostwriters, software developers, project managers, Instagram influencers who share tips, people successfully selling on Etsy to interview, and even people who speak Mandarin if you do any kinds of negotiations in China.

One quick thing: when you join, you need to complete a deal with a newbie to get access to all of the site. It’s easy and doesn’t cost anything, but a quick tip to get this done quickly would be to make your first service something like “Rachel Rofe Marketing Tip” or something. I say my name specifically because you can then search for other people who have that service and quickly share a tip and get the deal finished so you can get into the rest of the site. I guess it’s not exactly the point, but I’m a bit of a rebel and don’t care for that newbie unlock rule. ;)

And if this doesn’t make sense, you’ll see what I mean when you sign up.]

Enter guest article:

Welcome to the future! Well, not quite yet but you’re getting there. You’ve taken the first step by asking “What is Simbi?”. I’m sure that you’ve seen the name floating around your social media pages already, and with people getting simbi coins for getting you to sign up, it’s no wonder! Still, you probably haven’t gotten a clear answer. Simbi is short for “Symbiotic Community”, and that is exactly what it is.

Yet, that doesn’t tell you much either. This is a concept we haven’t had in quite some time. To put it in laymen’s terms, Simbi is all about trading. It’s a trade and barter platform, essentially. You can trade your services or your goods, so think about that Medieval Market that you’ve always fantasized about (okay maybe that was just nerdy me!), and bundle that into a website. You have everything from electricians to jewelry makers to blacksmiths. Yes, there are actually a blacksmith or two (at least when this article was written) that you can trade services or goods for! The idea is that everyone has a skill, so everyone can trade.

Does It Work?

Simbi seems like such a fun concept on paper, and it can be. However, it’s a lot of work too. Just like anything, you’re going to get what you put into it. If you work hard at enriching the community with your services and make sure to revise, check back, browse, search, answer messages and apply the techniques in this article then you’ll have a successful time on Simbi. It does work, and you can even check their Leaderboard awards to see who Simbi is working for best. These people often have tips, tricks and advice for you as well if this article isn’t enough for you, which will help you to get started.

What Can I Trade?

This is a question that so many people ask themselves, and if you really want to get started and be successful on Simbi, you don’t want to just list any service. You want to list what will be the most profitable for you while still enriching the Simbi community. Speaking of community, local chapters are starting to open up, so you might get the live action market soon enough! Be a part of the change, and to do that you’ll need your first service.

Right now, Simbi seems to mostly attract females. That’s because they’re the ones that think “well I can___” crochet, knit, embroider, create mugs, craft, make jewelry, bake or cook. You get men that offer these skills as well, but women are more often taught to be crafty. Thinking that Simbi is just for females is wrong though! There are many things that ANYONE can offer to this lovely community. Sure, all of those skills are needed, but to get Simbi working for you, you’ll need to offer something new.

Do you have a family recipe that you can cook, teach or offer? Do you have a really good car so you can offer rides? Do you DJ super well? Are you great at teaching a class for something? Classes could be couponing, cabinet making, gardening, landscaping, tiling, or so much more! Can you help someone with their car, motorcycle or even just help with an oil change or installing breaks? Everyone knows how much an autoshop can charge, so getting help with this could be great.

Can you create something like small wooden boxes, leather cuffs, or even just wood turn a nice pen? This would be great too. Maybe you aren’t super good with your hands, but I bet you have knowledge that could help as well! You can help people who are socially awkward if you have a silver tongue and make friends everywhere. You can host simbians in a spare bedroom, help to deliver groceries, or even go out and buy a birthday present for someone. There is so many possibilities, so you’ll just need to brainstorm a little. Hang in there, you’ll get some tips soon!

What Services Work Best?

This is a tricky question because it’s not really WHAT services you list but HOW you offer them. Every service can do well, and I mean that. you just have to know how to make your listing work for you. You need to:

  • Write a good description. Without a good description, no one will know what they’re looking at. You need to really make sure that it’s to the point without losing details. Make sure you’re clear, and show the value in what you’re able to provide people.
  • Use a good picture. Your picture will really sell your service for you. If you are teaching a class, show what that class can teach you or what the experience is like. If you are offering a product, you’ll want to have a few different pictures of the product.
  • Decide on a good ratio. Most people that are using Simbi successfully know what to charge for their service. The majority of people are using a 1:1 ratio from $USD to Simbi coin (often just called “simbi”). However, no one wants to work with ANYONE over a 2:1 ratio, and when you offer a 2:1 you’ll get less buyers overall, meaning you’ll earn less simbi overall.
  • Utilize the market. If you’re offering a product, you’ll need to either put it under services, and be clear you aren’t asking for shipping, or put it on the Simbi Market. Simbi Market allows you to get reimbursed immediately for any shipping that you’ll incur. However, if the shipping is very little, you may just want to include it in your Simbi price. Again, you’ll get more orders and there are tons of people who are doing this!
  • Utilize your tags. If you aren’t utilizing your tags correctly, which we’ll go over in a later section, you aren’t going to appear in people’s searches as well.

How Do I Choose Tags?

This is essential to making sure that people find your services or products. If they can’t find it, then you can’t make Simbi work for you. Think about it this way: If you were looking for your service, what would you type in? That is the easiest way to figure out what tags you have. If you think that other people are offering the same service as you, then you’ll want to type in the main words that describe your service such as “catering” and see what words other people are using.

If you see that they have things in common, put that in your tag too. It’s good to put some of these tags in your title and description as well. Go to the bottom, and then add the tags. Taking the catering example, it’d be “catering”, “BBQ catering”, “party catering”, “cooking”, “party help”, “dessert”, “dinner”, “snacks”, etc. until you feel you’ve redundantly described your service so that it’ll appear with any of these searches. If more people see your service, you’ll be earning more simbi!

How Much Time Should I Spend on Simbi?

You should visit Simbi each and every day if you want to be successful. Don’t worry, it’ll get just as addicting as Facebook after a few deals! Simbi isn’t just straightforward bartering. You’ll find that many people offer fun games, have you answer questions, and even the Simbi team will have easy requests to fill (you’ll learn about that section soon!) which will help you to earn points and build a real connection to the Simbi community. You’ll want to favorite what you like so that you can order later (maybe more than once if you’re like me!), reply to your messages so that Simbi doesn’t hide your listings (this is so that you only see active member’s listings so trades can work out), and post a request if you aren’t finding what you’re looking for.

It’s best to try and log on each and every day, and check out the “New on Simbi” section to see what people are now offering. After that, you’ll want to head over to the “Requests” to see if you can get your Helper Badge and see if you can earn simbi by fulfilling a request for someone. When you’re done, you’ll want to check out the “Matching” section to see if there are any direct exchanges you can make. IF you have services or products you can bundle, you’ll also want to take the time to see if someone likes more than one of your services/products and offer them a deal. Knocking your simbi price down even a little bit can get people to finally order! Think about it. In a real market, people do love to haggle.

Should I Wait for Them to Message Me?

NO! If you see you Match, message them. There will be some people that don’t reply, some people who won’t want anything but a direct trade, and then there are some people that just get distracted and forget to come back to your service. If you message Simbians to get what you want, you’re more likely to actually get what you want. Be the aggressor and send a message or two! Even our friends can forget to message us if we aren’t actively talking to them, so feel free to check in on pre-existing deals as well.

Why Follow Someone?

If you like a service or product that someone offers, when you follow them you’ll be able to see what they have to offer. I certainly recommend following people! When people follow you, you’ll be alerting them when you offer something new as well, increasing your chances of getting something bought for simbi! You’ll also see what other people are spending their simbi on when you follow them, which will give you more ideas so that your simbi doesn’t just pile up in your account.

How Do I Make Requests Work?

Logically, not every request is going to get fulfilled. With people joining every day, you may not be able to get your request filled immediately because there’s no one that can fulfil it, but someone that will join later can. This doesn’t mean you should just leave an old request up. Old requests will get buried, so make sure that you delete and post your requests again at least once a week for the best results.

If you really want a request to get filled, then you’ll want to make sure that you also are clear in what you’re wanting. If you aren’t sure how much simbi to offer, you can also post a price but tell people the price is negotiable. If you have any pictures, outlines, or anything you feel will help people fulfil your request and understand what you can talk about, put links to it or tell people to message you for more info. Just make sure you’re clear what you have that could help people to understand what you’re asking for better.

What Can I Use Simbi For?

If you can’t figure out what to use Simbi for, then of course it won’t work for you. Maybe you figured out what you can offer, but you have Simbi just piling up in your account. This won’t help you, and you’ll just get frustrated. Favorite the services that you like, and then make a word document that further has links to who you liked working with and what you liked getting. Look for things to spend your Simbi on, post up requests, and put the effort into spending your Simbi. Remember it’s a virtual market, so you’ll need to check out what’s being sold at the time.

Personally, I’ve used Simbi to get necklaces, mugs, beer steins, help with editing, leather work, blacksmithing, baking, catering, light shows for a party, housecleaning and so much more. The possibilities are really endless, and with more and more people joining what’s being offered is always growing. Simbi is a useful “currency”, but you have to browse the website regularly. I’ve gotten custom birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, things for work (yes! I’ve even got “branding” packages, business cards and more!), and just luxury items I wouldn’t usually be able to afford.

Start using Simbi, and enrich your life without having to spend your hard earned cash!

Copyright Images: What’s safe to use?

During all the holiday madness I made a video (hence the tired voice) but never wrote an email to tell you about it.

It’s a less-than-6-minute video that goes over:

  • What images are safe to use for your products, blog posts, or anything you use commercially?
  • Can you really use any Creative Commons images for anything you want?
  • What is the Fair Use act and how does it apply to selling products?

Check out the video below or view the cleaned up transcript underneath it:

copyright 101Hey, this is Rachel Rofe, and this video is a short video on copyright infringement. A lot of people ask me about which images you can and can not share and I wanted to make this clarification video.

It’s not really my normal style, in terms of what the video looks like because my incredible assistant created this. She created the slides and made an outline that I’m going to work off of.

My hope is this will give you some great insight onto what you can and can not use on your mugs, t-shirts, products, and blog content.

Let’s dig in.

Copyright Infringement

First, what is copyright infringement? Well, it shows up in a few ways.

One instance is when someone other than the person who possesses the copyright copies the expression of a work, whether it’s a photo, video, song, or something else, without the consent of the person who owns the actual copyright.

To clarify, this could be either when somebody directly copies something, or it could be something that is highly similar to works created by a copyright holder.

People who own copyright, by the way, happen to own it automatically. It’s not something where you need to fill out paperwork or apply for anything like you do with patents and trademarks. It’s automatic.

If you do post copyrighted material, the penalty can be having your content removed, which would be on the lighter side, having your website shut down, or even receiving a lawsuit.

Fair Use

That said, there is something called fair use, which says that works can be used without the copyright holder’s permission for limited and reasonable purposes, as long as they don’t violate the copyright holder’s right.

An example of something you could do within Fair Use would be writing a book review on your website and including an image of the book that you didn’t personally take.

It could also be something where you have criticism of something, or a commentary, or news reporting, teaching, scholarship, research, things like that.

What’s a violation?

Using other people’s images to put on things that you sell is definitely a copyright violation.

You are financially liable, of course, for posting copyrighted materials.

Even if you have a disclaimer on your site, by the way, you have to credit the copyright holder or you have to immediately take the content down.

Which images can you use?

There’s a couple. You really need to know your labels in order to be able to use copyright images the right way.

copyright logo information

If you see something like this, the single C, this means that the copyright holder reserves all rights. You can’t use the image unless it’s considered fair use, which means most of the time you won’t be able to use those images.

creative commons logo

This, the CC, stands for Creative Commons, and it means creators can stipulate which rights they continue to hold and which ones they want to waive in order for other people to use their materials.

You can use an image with this label only in certain circumstances.

Also be aware, by the way, that these stipulations can change at any time. Really, you’re going to have to research if you see the CC, to figure out if you’re able to use this or not.

It’s a little bit trickier, because those rights can change at any time.

public domain mark

If you see images like this, with a C or a zero with a strike through, that means the work is in public domain.

The creator has waived all of their rights, so this is 100% good to use all the time. You can use it in any way that you want, even if it’s for a moneymaking purpose.

This is definitely your simplest route.

This symbol over here is a fair use symbol. This means an image can be used on a case by case basis, provided it meets the criteria of fair use, which includes specific things pertaining to the purposes of the images used. It might be that there are specifics for the image, or the nature of the type of the image, the amount of the image used, the market effect of using the image. Perhaps you can use it a little bit, but you have to make sure that you meet the certain criteria. This, again, is a little bit tricky.

Public domain is certainly the easiest.

If you’re going to use an image…

Your safest bet is to copy both the image’s URL and the name of the person who created the image.

You also may want to contact the image’s creator, tell him or her how you intend to use the image, and then if you can get permission from them, attribute it to them.

To attribute, add the image’s attribution to both its alt and title tags, and name the person who created the image along with their image stream, if applicable, in a caption.

Edit: when it comes to attribution, it’s also a good practice to list the title of the image (if the author has specified an original one) and the license it’s under…e.g. CC. 

If you want to do this the 100% correct, legal way, there is a bit of work to it, but you also get to use some pretty cool pictures.

Wrapping up

I do have other videos, by the way, and blog posts, which I’ll link to underneath this, and the blog post on different places you can get free images that are significantly easier. But for now, this is how you can use them if you have your heart set on a specific copyright image.

Definitely make sure you treat, by the way, infographics and slideshares the same as images. It’s the same thing. Even if you’re not making money from those things directly, you still need to have the same exact treatment of them. That means you have to include a link back to the original source, as well as the creator’s name. Try not to compromise the image’s quality when you’re republishing. Use an embed code whenever you can, not 100%, but whenever you can. For the times that you can’t, leave instructions that say click to enlarge so that people can get the entire picture.

— Disclaimer: This advice is general in nature and not to be taken as personal professional advice. I am not a lawyer. —

You might also like…

Here’s where you can find awesome royalty-free images for commercial use: Blog post

Low Hanging System: Use images (or just text) to put on products and make passive income