Dollar-earning in Colombia: Start an Online Business

in Finding work/How-to guides/Investing/Plan to stay

Here’s what I wrote in bullet point 7 in my original article on how to earn dollars in Colombia.

“Even if you have no technical skills whatsoever, you can still start an online business using platforms like Shopify, Etsy, Ebay, Amazon or TicTail. Find a Colombian product like mentioned in my previous post, or any other product from anywhere else in the world. The point is having a location-independent business where you will be earning dollars. Using any of the platforms above and all you really have to do is source the product, upload photos, set prices, market and ship it. For a small fee, Amazon will even store and ship your products for you.”

Amazon

Let’s start with Amazon, the most well-known of the above. While not the biggest online retailer in the world anymore (Alibaba is), it is still, by far, the most dominant force in online retail in the western part of the world. What started as an online book shop in the 90’s, has evolved into a mega-store, selling pretty much anything you can think of.

What many people might not know, is that most of the stuff sold on Amazon is not their own products. Instead, Amazon has become a platform which companies, small or big, from all over the world can use to sell their products.

You, me or anyone else can set up a shop on Amazon and start making sales today. All you have to do is find the products that you wish to sell, sign up, upload photos, set prices and you’re in business. Like I mentioned above, Amazon Fulfillment Services will store, pack and ship your products for a small fee – even if the products hasn’t been sold through their platform. Pretty cool, right?

Let’s say that you want to sell a Colombian product, like organic peanut butter, on Amazon. Your target clients are in the US, but the shipping of small packages of peanut butter from Colombia to the US is eating away all of your profits. With Amazon Fulfillment Services you can simply send a full pallet (or even just a box) of peanut butter to an Amazon warehouse and have them handle all storing, packaging and shipping. Amazon’s Prime members will get free 2-day shipping in the US on your products as well. It’s really that simple. And do I have to tell you that ALL customers LOVE free and fast shipping!?

While Amazon.com is the mothership and will ship world-wide, it is focused mainly on the United States. But the fun doesn’t stop there. With international subsidiaries in France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, Mexico, Holland, Japan, Italy, India, China, Canada, Brazil and Australia you have access to literally billions of potential customers for your products.

Ebay, Etsy and Tictail

Ebay is the world’s largest auction site, where new and used items change ownership. You can avoid bidding by setting fixed prices for your products. Setting up a shop is easy and free. You only pay commission the moment that you generate a sale. The same goes for the other sites.

Like Amazon, Ebay has international subsidiaries all over the world, so there is no excuse not to get started. On Ebay, you – the seller, gets reviewed by the buyers. If you’re in it for the long term, I highly suggest that you guard your reputation like a bear mama looking after her cub. If two vendors sell the same products, it’s usually the one with the best reputation that wins the order.

Etsy is an online market place where people all over the world connect to sell and buy unique things. It’s a place for creative entrepreneurs, for the artsy people, for the craftsman, and for the artisanal shopping experience. You will not find many name-brand items here. Instead, the site is packed with hand-made goods by small manufacturers. Esty would be a great place to sell locally made leather goods, jewellery, art, clothes, accessories, etc. It’s easy to get tempted here.

Tictail is the newest player of the online shopping platforms. It’s a Swedish startup attacking the big boys head-on. They explain their business as a place “where you discover new, emerging brands and help them grow.” Like Etsy, it’s full of tiny brands that you have never seen or heard of before, but who produce interesting, high-quality goods.

Shopify

If you want to have your own domain (like www.myfancyshoes.com) and your own unique website layout, but have no idea about how to code, and you’re on a small budget, then Shopify is your best bet. It differs from the above mentioned options by being a framework instead of a platform. It’s kind of like WordPress for online shops, but easier to use. They have all of the programming done, they host your shop and they have the templates to make your shop look good. All the back-end programming is solid and ready to handle payments, order processing and so forth.

Their website is packed with case studies and their support forum is full of easy to follow step-by-step guides. If you have your product(s) and photos ready, I’d argue that your business could be up and running in less than 24 hours.

Competitors to Shopify include Magento, WooCommerce (for WordPress), BigCommerce and PrestaShop although I’d argue that Shopify is the easiest platform to get started with.

A few tools

Dropshipping is a concept that allows you to put your business on autopilot. It’s also a way to get started with very little money invested. All you need is a website. A dropshipper, who could also be the manufacturer, has all of the goods. You sell the product through your site and forward the order to the dropshipper, who packs and ships it from his warehouse to your client.

Shopify has developed The Ultimate Dropshipping Guide which I highly recommend reading for anyone who is thinking about opening a webshop. It’s a gold mine of information and free to download – even if you’re not using their services.

Not all manufacturers offer to dropship. Many might refuse it, others might take a bit of negotiation to convince. Luckily there are databases of business that already offer to dropship for you. Check out Wholesale Central and World Wide Brands to get ideas about what you can dropship from your webshop.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is by many considered the Bible of business automation. Packed with tips, tools and case studies to help you create a location-independent business.

ShopifyEcommerceFuel, Prestashop and GetElastic all have great blogs full of advice for anything related to running an online shop.

Ordoro is an online shipping software with built-in inventory management, that integrates seamlessly with all of the above mentioned sites and platforms. They even allow you to synchronize your online webshop’s inventory with the inventory of your dropshipper, so you will never end up selling an item that is not in stock. Pretty darn smart. Check it out.

Trustpilot is quickly becoming the world’s leading platform for reviewing both online and offline businesses. Keeping a good reputation and encouraging your (happy) clients to leave a review for you, will prove beneficial in the long run, and leave you a step ahead of the competition. A good score is a must for any serious online retailer who is selling under his own domain name.

Questions or comments? Please don’t hesitate to ask – I’m happy to help!

(Photo credits: By Namakkalshowroom (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Passed through Cali for the first time in 2011, on his way from the US to Brazil on a motorcycle. Ended up kissing a caleña on his last night and the rest is history. Has been a resident of Cali, Colombia since 2013 and currently living in Barrio Bellavista with his girlfriend and 2 daughters.

3 Comments

  1. Hello Patrick,
    I would love to move to Colombia as well as my wife is from there and I was wondering if you need any type of licensing to run my Shopify business.

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