From Side-Gig to Full-Time: Leaving Your 9-5 to Focus on Amazon w/ Guest Taz Ahsan

From Side-Gig To Full-Time: Leaving Your 9-5 to Focus on Amazon w/ Guest Taz Ahsan

The ultimate goal for most Amazon sellers: freedom. Many sellers get into selling on Amazon to gain some sort of financial freedom. Even with this light at the end of the tunnel, it’s a struggle for sellers to find the balance between working a full-time job and grinding with Amazon on the side. Taz Ahsan, our guest on today’s show, has successfully scaled his Amazon business while working in a time-consuming, full-time job. Today’s episode gave us the chance to break down how Taz is successfully finding harmony between working a full-time job, Amazon on the side, hosting a Podcast, and living life all at the same time. There’s a LOT to take away from this week’s episode – let’s dive in.

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Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

The dream shared by almost every single Amazon seller, freedom.  Whether you’re unhappy with your 9-to-5, stuck in a job you don’t really want to be in or brighten up at the idea of venturing out to do your own thing, freedom and independence are large goals for a majority of sellers getting into Amazon.  It’s difficult to find the balance between working in your current job and scaling your Amazon business at the same time.  Knowing when it’s time to make the switch is difficult, and leaving a secure job for a risk like Amazon ends up scaring a lot of people off from making moves that would allow them to move towards their goal of independence even more quickly.  I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data that we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

In this episode Casey and I talk with Taz Ahsan, an Amazon seller who has honestly successfully scaled his Amazon business while also working full time at a pretty demanding job.  And he’s successfully worked towards what a lot of sellers are after, which is ultimately independence.  Taz has a really unique perspective.  If you’re considering leaving your job, or if your goal is to make Amazon your independent thing, whatever your goal is with Amazon, Taz is honestly in the grind right now.  So he has a really good perspective to offer.  All that being said, today’s episode is a really good one.  Let’s jump right in.

CASEY GAUSS:

What’s up, guys?  So we’re here with a good friend of ours, Taz Ahsan.  This guy is absolutely killing it and in a way that maybe some of the other people that we have had on the podcast are not.  And so this guy is, I think, a very special guy, and he’s absolutely taking the right approach to getting started on Amazon.  And so we really kind of wanted to talk about this.  So this is largely for those that are kind of just getting started.  You still have your 9-to-5 job.  And I know a lot of us are asking the questions of like when should I get out of my 9-to-5 to really focus on this Amazon business?  And you may be dreading going into work every day, and you may just not be happy with where you’re at, but sometimes delaying that gratification is what allows you to have the ultimate success over time.  And so that’s why we felt like it was really awesome to bring Taz on here so that he could share his experience with how he’s growing his Amazon business while having a full-time job.  So Taz, welcome, man.  We’re so stoked to have you finally.

TAZ AHSAN:

Thank you for the amazing intro, Casey, and honored to be here.  And you called me a special guy, man.  I didn’t know you felt that way about me.

CASEY GAUSS:

I like to call it how I see it, man.  So for those of you who don’t know, Taz has a 9-to-5 job.  He was – Taz, correct me if I’m wrong, but you got started doing wholesale and then recently got into private label, correct?

TAZ AHSAN:

I’ll correct you.  I got started doing retail arbitrage.

CASEY GAUSS:

Gotcha.

TAZ AHSAN:

And then wholesale.

CAMERON YODER:

How long did you do retail arbitrage?

TAZ AHSAN:

About three months.

CAMERON YODER:

Three months, and then –

TAZ AHSAN:

That’s as long as I could last without a vehicle.

CASEY GAUSS:

Oh wow.  How did you get into it then?

TAZ AHSAN:

The whole Amazon thing, so it started back in – I think it was – I guess it was December 2016 into January 2017 was when I first sold something, but the idea came from a friend of mine who – I was at an event.  So I’m into personal development, so I was at this Tony Robbins event volunteering, and I was talking about this idea I was working on with my friend.  I was like hey, I’m building this social media marketing agency.  I just wanted to start my own thing, and he told me about something he was doing, and he explained to me what retail arbitrage was on Amazon.  And I said hmm, okay, so I have this thing I’m trying to build.  I don’t really know what it is or how I progress, and then you’re telling me if I buy these things I can start making money on Amazon.  Okay, so let me just switch to what you’re doing was basically what happened.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah.

TAZ AHSAN:

And I literally there and then ordered all this stuff off Amazon for retail arbitrage, like you know some boxes and the tape and all this kind of stuff, so I could go and start scanning things when I got back.  And that was it.  I got directly into retail arbitrage.

CAMERON YODER:

Wow.  What led you then – you said you did wholesale next?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so I did that for about like – I was into it fully for about a month, a month and a half, and as I was doing it I was listening to podcasts.  There were loads of podcasts out there.  I listened to all of Manny’s, and I was like okay, there’s definitely a better way of doing this because whilst I was doing retail arbitrage I still had my full-time job, of course, and retail arbitrage is very labor-intensive.  So I was – after the office I was walking downtown or getting an Uber downtown, buying like thousands of dollars of stuff and then coming back and then –

CASEY GAUSS:

With an Uber?

CAMERON YODER:

You were Ubering there?

TAZ AHSAN:

Uber.

CASEY GAUSS:

Hustle.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, that is hustle, man.  That’s dedication.

TAZ AHSAN:

And uberPOOLing most of the time.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, so you’re lugging around all the stuff in an uberPOOL.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and they’re like what?  Who is this guy?  Does this stuff even fit in the back?  And sometimes I had to make adjustments, like carry stuff inside the car.  Sometimes I was like hey, do you mind just holding this for me in the car?  It was kind of insane.  And then on the weekends I would rent cars.

CASEY GAUSS:

Gotcha.  So correct me if I’m wrong, but you have a good paying job, too, right?

TAZ AHSAN:

I have a six-figure salary, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, nice.

CAMERON YODER:

Nice.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.  So I really appreciate the frugality and like the hustle in that respect, right?  So why were you, you know, cost-saving on the uberPOOL?

CAMERON YODER:

Why were you hustling, man?

TAZ AHSAN:

Well, it was the first thing I had ever done on my own.  So I had started like a small company in the past with friends and didn’t really go anywhere, and this was the first time I was doing my own thing, so I was just thinking to myself, well, what’s the best way and most cost-efficient way of doing this?  So I thought well rather than spend $25 on an Uber, I don’t  mind, I don’t care if I have to squeeze in with people and I save $15 because I was going downtown, and I was going at peak times, and I thought that stuff’s going to add up, so why not just pool it?  And sometimes I would, if I had loads of stuff and I actually knew it wasn’t going to fit in a trunk I’d be like okay, got to – probably not going to be able to pull this one.  But most of the times I’d go straight into pools, yeah, because this was my thing now, and any money – it was different before where I’m getting a salary.  I don’t know why it’s a different mindset for me.  Now it’s my business.  I don’t want to spend that money that I could be using to grow the business.  That’s my mindset now.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, did you have – you had the job that you have now then, when you were doing retail arbitrage?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so I moved to the US a couple of years ago, about 2 ½ years ago, and I’ve had the same, pretty much the same role at Akamai Technologies, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:

So I’d love to just clarify real quick for everybody to recap, so this guy has a six-figure salary, but he is so focused on keeping capital so that he can grow his business, so he’s taking an uberPOOL and getting in, you know, these somewhat uncomfortable situations just so he would have more capital to continue to put into the business.  Right, Taz?

TAZ AHSAN:

100%.  And this whole retail arbitrage piece was, in essence, in order for me to generate some capital to then go into retail – sorry, private label.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, did you start out – even with retail arbitrage did you have one big main goal to do something like leave your full-time job and make this a full-time thing, or did you just start out wanting to generate some side income, kind of have a side hustle and wasn’t really sure where it would go?

TAZ AHSAN:

So I definitely had the mindset of I want to create something for myself.  That was the main thing, and I also 100% saw it becoming my main source of income.  I didn’t know how long that was going to take me, and I wasn’t –  I didn’t have my mind set on oh my God, I have to leave my job in six months, like you were saying in the intro.  I don’t hate my job.  I really enjoy my job, and I see it as a blessing, and I see it as a way for me to take risk in a business and be able to support myself whilst I keep growing and just, you know, snowballing all of the profits into the business.  That’s exactly what I did with retail arbitrage for 2 ½ months.  Whatever I was generating I was just putting it right back in and paying off that card and just going out and buying more stuff.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.  So then fast-forward.  We actually met in China on a China trip, and you were sourcing products for private label, correct?  This is April of 2017.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yes, so this – I’d say when you say sourcing products I am using quotes in the background when you say sourcing products because at this time, right – so this is my timeline.  I get into Amazon around about in January.  This is the time where I’ve tapered off retail arbitrage and I’ve switched to wholesale, but I honestly went to China really not knowing anything about sourcing.  Like really nothing.  I didn’t know what I was going to buy.  I was like filling out POs in Yiwu, not really knowing what I was doing, but I knew some cool people were going to be there, and lo and behold, I met you.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice. 

CAMERON YODER:

That’s legit.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so it worked out.  So then from there you started a podcast of your own, correct?

CAMERON YODER:

At that time?

TAZ AHSAN:

So it was a few months later.  So back end of July, early August was as I was starting to figure things out – so I came back from China, and I was like I don’t understand any of this stuff, so I started doing more and more research.  I spoke to loads of different people, and then I finally came out with my brand idea of what I wanted and started manufacturing, or starting that process.  And I thought I think it would be a great idea for me, someone who is really new, I don’t – and the cool thing, I think, from my perspective is I don’t have a business background either.  Like Manny and some other guys have run their own businesses, and they have all this great experience, which lends themselves really well to starting their own Amazon business.  For me I’m coming in super raw, not having any of that knowledge.  I mean I know how to do my job, and I think I’m a smart guy but I don’t really know anything.  I didn’t really know anything about business at the time.  So that’s the perspective I thought I would try and bring, and also just to kind of raw and honest, here are all the mistakes I’m making kind of perspective on the podcast.

CASEY GAUSS:

So you started a couple months after we met.  You started your podcast a couple months after we met in Yiwu in April.  What was the month that you started the podcast?

TAZ AHSAN:

So late July was my first episode that I had out.

CASEY GAUSS:

Okay, awesome.  And for those of you who want to check it out, it is called The Amazon Entrepreneur podcast.  Obviously Taz is a cool guy that we know, love and trust.

CAMERON YODER:

Super cool.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so anyways, wanted to see – so you started end of July, and then when did you see your first sale on Amazon?

TAZ AHSAN:

So I was very, very ambitious with my – with what I was trying to do, and the very first product I chose was a big oversized product, and it was taking a really long time to manufacture, and I was having all these issues with the factory, the factory being shut down and coming back up, and my manufacturing timeline doubled from 45 days to 90.  So in that time I was thinking hey, well I don’t want to wait all this time just to launch this one thing.  What else can I launch at the same time?  So I looked into a few other things, and then I found something that I could manufacture.  I was like okay, well I’ll choose this thing.  So I chose something else that kind of still pretty much related to my brand, my brand idea, and I got going with that and that eventually came in – I air-shipped those into Amazon, and I made my first sale in, I think it was October, early October.

CASEY GAUSS:

Nice.

CAMERON YODER:

Wow.  So okay, hang on.  Let’s pause at this point in time.  So you’re running, you’re working your full-time job, you’re working your full-time job and you’re running your podcast, and you just got your first sale.  That’s right?

CASEY GAUSS:

And at the time – I’m going to add to this – I was working with Manny, and I was doing some consulting for Helium 10.

CAMERON YODER:

Okay, dang.  So you were doing a lot.  But okay, I just want to take a pause, a snapshot here.  What did your day-to-day look like during this time, just the specific period of time because obviously you were grinding a lot?  How, just at this specific point in time when you’re getting your Amazon stuff up and running, when you’re handling a podcast, you’re handling consulting, everything, how did you balance it well and/or did you crash and burn at first?

TAZ AHSAN:

It was definitely a struggle.  And then I’ll also add one other thing.  I had a girlfriend at the time, and that requires its own time, obviously.  I wanted to – and I wanted to give – Cara [sp], if you’re listening I still love you – but so my routine was pretty insane.  So I would start at 5:00, and I’d give myself – I usually give myself about an hour or half an hour, an hour myself to in the morning, just to meditate to kind of figure out what I’m doing with the day.  I planned everything.  So I’d plan out every, pretty much every hour of the day.  So the morning time, that first couple of hours I’d talk to suppliers, and [unintelligible 0:12:48.8] back and forth with suppliers, people who were working on designs for me and figuring out things with China because they were kind of the tail end of their day, but they work pretty late so I could talk to them.  And then I’d go and work my full-time job, so I’d be there from 9 to 5, 6, whatever that would be, and in between that though sometimes I would fit in the consulting call with Manny or those guys or work on something else.  Then I’d come back.  I’d usually go straight to the gym, and so say it’s about 7:00 now.  Then I’d go back into okay, do I need to report a podcast, do I need to edit a podcast, spend a couple of hours doing that.  Then China will come back on.  So roundabout 9:00, 10:00 I would talk to them a bit more, and then in between some of those days were just that and I really didn’t get to spend any time with my girlfriend or anything.  And then we would make time like different days because she was pretty busy as well.  It was a bit insane for me, but we would still figure out time to slot in time for each other as well.  But it was insane, for sure.

CAMERON YODER:

So it was an ebb and flow.  It was a lot of – it was a lot of stuff kind of all at once, but you were kind of able to balance everything?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, it was – I mean I honestly don’t really believe in balance.  I believe in counterbalancing.  I think sometimes you just have to go really, really hard for a period of time.  And it’s a choice, right?  You can choose to take things slower, but that isn’t my personality.  I’m someone who really wants to get things done quickly, and I’ll push myself.  And I’ll know I need to sacrifice certain things at the time.  So that’s why I call it counterbalancing.  So I’ll sacrifice some time and do all these things and work really, really hard, but then I’ll make sure I take time back and give myself time to go away and relax, or travel and not really work as hard.  So I think it’s a counterbalancing act.

CASEY GAUSS:

Awesome.  I’m with you.  I’m all about, hey, there’s this incredible opportunity ahead of us.  So the last thing I want to do is look back, you know, 10 years from now and say wow, I wish I would’ve not watched as much Netflix or whatever because I could have done X, Y or Z.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and I do want to add, though, I definitely did it in hindsight, so I also have a lot of belief in myself that I can pretty much do anything I put my mind to, and I believe that’s a fact.  But I took on – I definitely took on too much where that being my first ever run and trying to launch seven products and at the same time not even really being able to dedicate myself –

CAMERON YODER:

Wait, seven products?

TAZ AHSAN:

Oh yeah, yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Oh snap.  Okay.

TAZ AHSAN:

So here’s what happened, right?  So I had this – I was like okay, I need to get some cash, as well.  So I have about – I think I had – what did I have, about 25K built up [unintelligible 0:15:13.9] saved from the retail arb stuff, 20 or 25.

CAMERON YODER:

Nice.

TAZ AHSAN:

And then I was like okay, well, I want to get this big product in, and that first order was massive.  And because I didn’t really know what I was doing at the time so in total that order was $45,000.  I obviously didn’t put all that down, but I had to put a deposit down for that and knew I had to pay 25 to get it in.  And that’s one product.  That’s all that cash gone.  I was like what am I going to do for the rest of the time? Well, let me find some more cash.  So I leveraged different funding sources, and I thought okay, well now I’ve got all this cash.  I need to figure out some other products to launch.  So I started figuring out all these other products I wanted to launch related to my niche, and got all these cool ideas I thought were going to be great.  And had everything gone perfectly I would have had all of them in for Q4. 

In hindsight it was very, very silly and risky to do that.  And had I got all of them in I still wouldn’t have had this I don’t even think I would have been able to afford to – I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford to reorder any of them.  I would have sold out and had to figure out how to [unintelligible 0:16:14.4] and that’s the whole thing on cash flow.  Like cash flow is so important in this game.  You always need to have some fluid cash to be able to reorder stock.  Otherwise you’re going to run out of stock.

CASEY GAUSS:

And kind of the point of this podcast, or this episode, is that by keeping yourself in your job you’re making money from the job that you can push into the Amazon business, and 100% of the money from the Amazon business you can continue to push back in, right?

TAZ AHSAN:

100%.  So had I been a bit smarter I would’ve said okay, maybe I’ll do one or two products and just keep it going, but I didn’t.  I went crazy, right?  But what kept me alive was my real job.  So let’s fast-forward to say October when I launched [this 0:16:52.8] thing.  I launched this product and two weeks in I got an IP claim, right?  Just start to rank, just start to stick, IP claim.  Fake IP claim.  So now I spend another $1,000 with a lawyer trying to get that fixed, so I’m out for another two weeks.  That obviously reduces my funds further.  Then I go to – I’m like okay, this is – I’ve got traction again.  I do this relaunch.  I get traction and start into something.  Okay, I am going to sell out.  This is selling really well.  It’s Q4; everything is going to sell.  And so I send, I get – these guys are already manufacturing the next batch, and I send them $16,000 to get that next batch in.  They disappear.

CAMERON YODER:

Disappear?  What do you mean?

TAZ AHSAN:

No contact.  Is it ready?  I send the money, nothing.

CAMERON YODER:

Oh shoot.

TAZ AHSAN:

So they’ve completely disappeared.  That was the only other product I could have got back or got in stock in time, so they’ve left with that money.  I haven’t got enough money to get the other stuff in.  Oh, I’m too late.  Actually I have enough money to get some of the stuff in, but it’s too late anyway.  It’s not going to come in in time for Q4, so I’m left with no stock, less 16K and waiting until January of 2018 to get some of the stock in January and February.  And I’m paying $4500 in loans and credit thinking that I was going to be pulling in massive amounts of cash.  So had I not had my full-time job I would have been in some serious trouble because there was a period of time for about two months, two or three months, 2 ½ months I wasn’t selling anything.

CAMERON YODER:

So you had to really rely on your full-time job at that point in time to really pay off or maybe pay some of that debt and I mean live at the same time. 

TAZ ASHAN:

Stay alive.  Yeah, basically.  Yeah, I mean, and that’s a benefit.  That’s one of the biggest benefits of having a full-time job.  So the first one is obviously that I don’t need to take any money out of the Amazon business to live my life.  I can live my life through my full-time job and roll the profits into Amazon.  But the second thing is I also have a higher comfort level with risk because I do know that if everything goes pear-shaped in the business – I don’t believe it will, but it went pretty badly late 2017, late 2018 – no, 2017 yeah.  But I still had the safety blanket of my full-time job that hey, if everything goes really badly I can still survive with my salary and pay that off and keep going.  So yeah, I’ve been – honestly I’ve been dumping so much of my cash, and I’m working with my accountant now, my CPA, to try and figure out exactly how much has been going in.  But I’ve been dumping massive amounts of cash of my own every month into the business just to speed up that growth as well.  I don’t plan on taking anything out for a while.

CASEY GAUSS:

Well, I love it.  So okay, so your first sale in October of 2017.  I think things really started to kick off when, in March or February I think you told me?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so in November was when I sold out of that other stuff, right, and it was 1000 units.  It was great.  I made like – made – I sold like a 30K in the month.  I was like wow, but then I obviously couldn’t get any of that stuff in.  So now I was out all of December, out all of January, and then I got my stock in like early February, but and then I started the process.  I was also a bit – I didn’t really plan it perfectly.  I could have been way more ready than I was, and I didn’t factor in the fact that one of the products I was launching had pretty low search volume so I could have launched it as soon as it arrived, but I had all these fears about super high sales velocity in January because of the fallout from Christmas.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.

TAZ AHSAN:

And Q4.  So oh no, I can’t.  I can’t launch this thing.  I should slow down.  But yeah, it was a mistake.  But yeah, then so things really started to pick up probably around when I launched that first product.  But then I launched  a couple more behind it around February, March.  I wasn’t really [unintelligible 0:20:34.7] March when it started to pick up, and then April I guess everything was kind of ranked and April, May was when things really started to pick up for me.

CASEY GAUSS:

And now you’ve crossed the 50K a month mark, right?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so I just crossed probably about a week and a half ago, two weeks ago I had crossed the 50K a month mark with three products.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, which is insane.  And again, you would – like so 50K a month –

TAZ AHSAN:

And I’m dealing with a patent claim.  So it would have been four products.  It probably would’ve been higher up right now.  But these things happen.

CASEY GAUSS:

50K a month is a lot.  Approximately what percentage of that is profit would you say?

TAZ AHSAN:

Right now my margins sit at around 25%, but it doesn’t include all of the – like it’s difficult to figure out exactly.  Like if you look at – if I look at my last week’s sales my margins very between like 25% and 30%, and that’s inclusive of all costs and [PPC 0:21:28.7] and all that kind of stuff.  It doesn’t include all of the, say, the launch stuff I did or all the preparation of the listing and all that kind of stuff.

CASEY GAUSS:

Okay, but still I mean that’s – call it over $10,000 a month already in profit.  So I could definitely see people getting super stoked about that,  saying okay, you know I only need $5,000 a month to live or whatever.  I can quit my full-time job, and I can really go full-time on this Amazon business.  And so where are you at in that current like scope of things?

TAZ AHSAN:

So it’s interesting because I’ve spoken to other people who have been in similar situations to me where they’ve been making X amount, and have thought this would be a good time to take a step back.  And I mean they were already in the millions, and over 1 million.  And as soon as they stopped and started to funnel a little bit of money out of the business they realized how quickly that was slowing down their growth.  Like it was very, very visible effect because they couldn’t now just take all that cash and roll it back in, and because cash flow is so important.  And if you’re doing this well you’re keeping it very, very tight.  So if you are reordering things you don’t have too many things liquid because if you have too much cash you’re finding another product and you’re investing in that and started that whole process again.  But then because you’re doing that, if you take money out then you suddenly realize oh, my product launch process has slowed down, which means your growth slows down.  And so from my – go ahead.

CAMERON YODER:

No, I was just going to ask like – well I want you to finish your – finish your thought and then I want to ask something.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, so from my perspective I’m thinking I have a great job.  I have no reason apart from time – time is the one thing that I don’t have a lot of, but I’m at this point now where I’m – I just want to grow, and I want to work really hard, so why not?  I’m young, and I’m healthy.  This is the time for me to do it.  So given that, I don’t see a reason for me to really just go full time at this and leave my job because I think I’m doing pretty well, and I really, really enjoy my job.  So I enjoy my job.  Yea, h I’m building something on the side which is going to become huge, which is my plan, right?  I’m not doing this as a, hey, this is my side hustle; I’m not really taking this seriously.  This is super serious for me, and I have a podcast because I want to help other people do this as well.  And one of the driving factors behind the podcast is I know people, A, want to learn about how to sell on Amazon, but B, there are lots of people out there who don’t want to do the thing they’re doing, their job, whatever their 9-to-5 is.  And they want something else.  I don’t fall into that category completely, but I definitely do want a way of life that my job won’t afford me in the long term.  I want to be able to just disappear whenever I want, and hey I’m going to take three months and do this, whatever I want to do.  So that’s the level of freedom I’m trying to get to.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, and I’m personally of the belief that, again, anybody selling on Amazon or getting started in selling on Amazon, we still have such an amazing opportunity ahead of us.  So like making something your side gig that could really turn into something that you go and you sell for a few million dollars after a couple of years, like I think that we should be taking it seriously because you can do literally, like you’re saying, whatever you want.  You can disappear, and you’re not really doing yourself justice if you’re not taking it seriously enough I feel like.

TAZ AHSAN:

100%, and what you just said in taking something that’s kind of a side hustle or whatever, by taking it seriously and over a couple of years selling for a few million is not a fad – or sorry, it’s not a fable.  It’s the truth.  Like that actual story can happen.  I just had somebody on telling me that’s exactly what he did, and this opportunity is here now.  You have to take it.

CAMERON YODER:

I want to –

CASEY GAUSS:

Sorry, last thing.  On that note I think that as Amazon continues to – you know, as competition continues to increase on Amazon it will also become more difficult to maintain a side hustle without putting in the work necessary.  And so what two years ago, three years ago was easy for you to get in, make some good money and not really spend much time on it will continue to get harder to have that kind of story.  So again, it’s like you might as well get in, get all that – like go really hard, build up this valuable asset and then sell it.  Get all that risk off the table because I hear people time and time again say that they’re just looking to get to a good amount of revenue and then sit on it until they retire.  I just don’t see that happening because what we see happening is all of my friends or the guys that have tons of money, they come in and they can just dominate any market because they’re able to outspend people in promotions or paid media or whatever.  And like someday someone is going to come across your market, or a few people are going to come across your market that has traditionally been doing well for you.  But if these guys are coming in and using all kinds of tactics to outrank you and take away your market share and your sales, it’s not going to be this great retirement vehicle.  And so what the retirement vehicle should actually be going hard, selling your business, getting $1 million off of it, go invest that smart, you know, in a smart way and live off of that.  Live off the returns that you’re getting off of dividends or something like that.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and it’s funny you say that because it’s the exact same thing that I’m doing now.  Everyone is scouting out new markets, and whoever is in that market right now, whatever profit or revenue they experience is going to be diluted, and I’m in markets where new people are coming in and new people are launching, and that’s just a fact, and there is always going to be more competition.  But to balance that out there are all these amazing tools out there like you have to help you launch, help you do all these different things that lots of people still aren’t using, aren’t aware of.  And you can really separate yourself by being diligent in what you learn and what you study and who you listen to in this environment because there is still going to be hundreds of thousands of people doing this wrong.  And if you really focus in there are so many – there are also new niches coming out all the time.  There are new people coming onto Amazon to buy.  More people are buying on Amazon.  So still think like the challenges – the challenge [weighs out, outweighs 0:27:32.8].

CASEY GAUSS:

I agree.  I’m not saying that I don’t think there’s opportunity.  I just think that over time it gets more difficult to take the lazy approach to getting that opportunity.

TAZ AHSAN:

Oh, for sure.  Oh, absolutely.  You know, three years ago I’m sure you know what it was like.  You know you could literally go on Alibaba, find a thing, not even put your logo on it, sell it and start making $10,000 a month.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep, no need for good photos, no need for a good listing, no need for launches.  Like you literally just list it up there.

TAZ AHSAN:

Yeah, and now it’s very, very different.  So you definitely have to have a plan.  Treat it like a real business.  But like you say, the opportunity is still there.  It’s huge.  It’s still massive right now.

CAMERON YODER:

So Taz, I want you to touch on the idea of patience.  So I think the concept that we’ve been talking about really is the balance of being patient but also taking advantage of an incredible opportunity, and that’s what Amazon is.  Amazon is that incredible opportunity, but many people get antsy in their 9-to-5 and want to just kind of leave as quick as possible, or think it’s the best idea to leave.  So how do you know – how would you best tell someone?  There isn’t really, I don’t think, a just a direct answer for this, but how would you let someone know from where you’re at right now, because you’re in it, how would you let someone know when the time is right, you feel, for someone to leave a full-time job to focus on Amazon?  What would you speak to that with the idea of having patience but taking advantage of the opportunity? 

TAZ ASHAN:

First of all, I don’t have patience.  It’s one of my challenges.  This is why I tried to go so hard last year and you know fell a bit flat on my face.  And I think it depends on the person’s situation really.  You can – and it also depends on how much time you want to put into it.  9-to-5 is exactly what it is, 9-to-5.  If you wake up at 4:00 you have four, five hours to do stuff, and then you come back at 6:00.  You have another four or five hours to do things.  So you could honestly, depending on how dedicated you are – and it’s probably part of the reason why I don’t need to – I don’t feel like I need to quit because I make use of the time I have.  So I don’t – so it depends on the situation, depends on how much time you’re putting into it, but the biggest challenge with deciding whether you’re going to quit your job or not is the realization that you’re going to slow down your own growth.  And if you’re happy with – if you’ve got to a point where you think okay, well I’m making 250 a month, a good 50 of that is profit and I’m happy to take 5 of that and still look to have a view of okay, I’m going to sell or exit because I think – honestly, I think that’s the best way to really generate cash in this business.  Like Casey, like you were saying, it’s not about staying in the same market and just hoping that revenue’s going to stay the same because it 100% won’t.  Like it will change from month to month as new people come in.  So you do want to try and build something that has a really strong foundation and have that – build a really attractive business and then exit.  So to do that, though, you need to put in the time.  And it should be more about how am I going to build this amazing vehicle rather than how quickly can I leave my job?

CAMERON YODER:

You are a pretty disciplined person, and you’re obviously motivated.  What would you say – let’s talk about those two concepts.  Let’s talk about motivation.  Let’s talk about discipline when it comes to Amazon specifically because I feel like a lot of people might come into this space and enter into just even entrepreneurship in general and maybe be missing one aspect of either motivation or discipline.  In what you’re doing and what you’ve done, where do motivation and discipline come into play?

TAZ AHSAN:

So motivation – I have to explain what the concept is.  It’s a finite thing, right?  Willpower and motivation, they’re similar, and it’s finite.  So it’s very difficult to be on all the time if you’re doing it for a soulless kind of reason.  So I do think about why I do this, and one of the biggest reasons why – I said I wanted to live a certain lifestyle, but an even bigger reason than that is I want to give my family a life they’ve never had.  And they worked so hard for me, and I basically was poor growing up and still, you know, they’re doing okay, but I want to create something really special.  And I have one, one of these goals where I just want to buy my dad this brand-new Mercedes.  It’s something that is really close to me, and it makes it really easy for me to wake up at 5:00 and get these things done most of the time.  And when it comes to discipline, discipline is formed, and to do that you have to form a routine.  And discipline comes from that.  When you get into – and people think discipline is a lack of freedom, but if you really think about it when you have discipline and you go through certain things you’re supposed to do every day, that gives you the freedom to do all these other things that you didn’t have to do in that routine, or it gives you the freedom once you’ve built this amazing vehicle, this amazing business, once you’ve sold it you have so much time to do all those things that you’ve wanted to do.  But it’s about delayed gratification.  It took me a very long time to really hone in on that concept because initially I was always like oh my God, I want to – like the retail arbitrage thing is kind of a misnomer because you sell things, you get money.  You sell things, you get money, and it’s a really quick turnaround.  So when you go down and start doing private label you have to use that money, and it’s sitting there, sitting in China, sitting in a deposit, and it’s coming over on the ocean, and it’s getting checked into Amazon.  Then someone’s going to buy something.  Then there’s going to be refunds.  And it takes a – it’s such a long process to actually get paid from that first set of products you launch that again, I always harken back to cash flow, but you have to be at peace with delayed gratification and know that – know why you’re doing what it is you’re doing, like why you’re creating this business.  Even if it’s not for whoever – you know, I have a great reason for my dad, and I want to do all these other things.  But even if it’s just for you and you want to create a different life for yourself, just kind of envision that life.  Know why you’re doing something.  If you really feeling really crap one day or you just don’t feel like doing whatever it is you’re doing, what helps me is going back to why I’m doing it, like why do I want this, why am I selling on Amazon?  Why am I trying to create this business?  And I try and look at and envision the life I’m trying to create for myself.  And so it helps me.  It brings me back, and I’m like okay, well look.  This is why I’m doing it.  I want to live a different life.  I want to be different.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, what would you say some of your greatest challenges have been with balancing a full-time job – even though you like your full-time job – balancing that job and scaling Amazon at the same time?  Like you’ve mentioned time and maybe even just energy, but how did you – what were those challenges, and how did you overcome them?

TAZ AHSAN:

I think actually the biggest challenge that I faced that I didn’t know I was facing at the time was spending time on dumb things and not prioritizing my time.  So when I – so I haven’t ever really been taught Amazon.  I’ve just done my own research, studied different things, learned, done different trainings.  I’ve never actually gone through hey this is the course.  Here’s Amazon.  Go and learn it.  There are so many things out there right now that you can do that for.  I didn’t really do that, so I think my challenge really was I was doing it – so here’s an example.  I don’t have a product idea.  Yeah, I’m learning about how to optimize a PPC campaign.  Why?  Why am I teaching myself that?  I remember this so vividly.  I think it might have even been on the plane to China.  It was this four-hour training, [unintelligible 0:34:31.3] seller training that I’m listening to, and I’m studying it.  I’m taking tons and tons of notes.  And at that time I was like oh yeah, cool.  All right, yeah, I’m learning this.  Now I’m like why the hell am I wasting this time, did I waste this time learning about PPC?  I had no guidance, right, so I think it was not being able to – I didn’t know how to prioritize.  I didn’t know that hey, I don’t need to waste time on PPC because I’m six months away from launching a product.  I can learn that when the time comes or closer to the time. 

So I think that was probably my first challenge.  And it was a time thing because I had way more time than I realized, but I was wasting time on these things that didn’t matter.  And then as soon as you start getting more – you’re trying to launch more and more products, and you have upwards of 10, 15 different suppliers contacting you every day, that’s a lot of time, and that can get overwhelming.  So it’s definitely time is probably one of the biggest challenges.  And to overcome that it’s definitely my biggest thing about the entirety of 2017 was getting a mentor.  Having someone who, whether it’s like a mentor through a course you’re doing, but someone you can contact directly, you can ask a direct question to when you’re doing things, who can review your progress and who can say that’s a terrible idea don’t do that, or why are you wasting your time there?  Focus on this.  And so when I got that, that freed up so much of my time and also my own nervousness having made all these mistakes because I now have someone who is doing the numbers I want to do, who is helping guide me along this path.

CAMERON YODER:

Did you just find – did you find a mentor just from traveling around, meeting people, getting connected in the space?

CASEY GAUSS:

Just a note.  Taz is probably the best-connected person I know.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, he is very well-connected.

TAZ AHSAN:

Well, that was my investment, right, so I made all these mistakes in 2017, but one of the things I did do was I went to a ton of events.  I think I went to four, maybe five events, and I networked hard because I didn’t really know what the hell was going on, but I wanted to learn, right, and I had a thirst for knowledge.  So I was asking tons of questions, meeting tons of people.  And yeah, one of the people that I connected with I made a proposition to.  I propositioned to be my mentor and yeah, it worked out.  So now I get mentored by this guy, and it’s fantastic for me to be able to – what I think is a tough question he will be just like – and it matched my personality because I might overthink something.  He’s like why are you doing that?  No, don’t do that.  Do this.  Okay.  That’s it.  And there’s no more thought.  There’s no more thought involved because I trust him, right, and you have to – if you do [sign out 0:37:00.8] for somebody or find somebody, just make sure you trust whatever they’re saying because it’s pointless if you have a mentor who’s going to try and guide you and you don’t listen to them.  That’s just  the ultimate waste of time.  But definitely my biggest lesson from 2017 is follow something.  Don’t do it so unstructured as I did.  Like I didn’t even do a course or anything like that.  I was just like oh, you know, I really honestly thought – this was my thought.  All right, I went through 115 episodes of Manny Coats’ podcast, and I thought man, I know exactly what I’m doing.  Done.  I knew nothing.  I knew less than nothing.  The more I listened to the more confused I was getting because I was going through his whole process that he went through in 2016, and half that stuff wasn’t even relevant in 2017.

CAMERON YODER:

So okay, just to kind of summarize everything – not necessarily done yet, but to summarize everything, what would you say are just some of your best tips for sellers to focus on working towards the ultimate goal of independence?

TAZ AHSAN:

What stage are these sellers at?

CASEY GAUSS:

There’s a really good range.  The largest like cohort or whatever would be to sellers that are doing at least $100,000 a month – or yeah, somewhere around $100,000 a month.

CAMERON YODER:

Yeah, yeah, somewhere around there.

TAZ AHSAN:

I think the biggest thing for me is – and getting to that point is scale.  I think it’s all about growth, and the quickest way to grow is by launching new products.  I think you need to make sure you have a system.  So I have a very specific strategy for exactly how I launch a product.  I know what the numbers are.  This is what I’m going to do.  This is how I’m going to do it, and this is how much it’s going to cost.  And I have a plan for that product.  I know how much it’s going to cost, and then I can decide okay, well now I understand this is my cash flow for this product, and I understand what’s coming in.  What can I do next?  And I think by having a pipeline of products that are constantly coming out, that’s the best way, the single best way of getting to exceeding the 100K, exceeding the $1 million, $2 million mark.  And my other partial tip is maybe don’t go for those massive $100,000 a month products themselves.  And this is actually advice that has come to me from many multiple million sellers who all say to me yeah, we’re not really going for those massive ones anymore.  We’re launching five products a month.  They’re all going to do around 10,000 because that’s – those are the markets that are far less untapped and are much easier to launch into and much easier to maintain.  And you can churn out those launches, and they cost less as well.  And then most likely you’re going to also have less issues with people who are using black hat tactics against you or leaving fake negative reviews and all this kind of stuff in those niches that are slightly less popular.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, do you think that complete independence with – from a 9-to-5 job, from another job, just focusing on Amazon, do you think complete independence like that is real – being completely honest – is realistic for a lot of sellers?

TAZ AHSAN:

I think it depends on how far you want to take the business and at what point you want that complete independence.  It’s 100% realistic, and I wouldn’t be in the business if that wasn’t an end term goal for me.  Now I have a slightly different situation as well because I am also in the US through a visa, so I’m going through a green card process with my company.  So I have some other hard stops that won’t let me leave the company.  But really thinking about in my own mind, if I had a choice side probably give myself a review date of about a year and look at where I’m at in 18 months and then decide at that point where do I want to take this, and how well am I doing?  Because you can be doing really well, like I get to $250,000 a month by the middle of next year, and that’s a decent amount of profit.  I’m doing 50K profit.  Like what more do I need?  How much further do I need to go?  And I think you do need to ask yourself that question and figure out well, at what point do I need to leave?  And at what point do I want that next level of freedom because at some point you’re going to be working so hard on the business and you’re going to be scaling a team, you’re going to be paying other people to work for you, and you’re still going to have your own thing, your own full-time thing.  You have to understand at some point that that can’t work.  Like I think I – personally, myself, I think I’m going to get to a point where I might hit a certain revenue number and think man I really do need to manage my team more, and I need to spend more time here.  And I haven’t got to that point yet because I’m still new and I think I can get to a decent amount of revenue right now having the full-time job.  But there is a tipping point.  I don’t know what that is for myself personally yet, but I believe there is one.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, is there anything else that you want to leave our listeners with?

TAZ AHSAN:

Yes.  I always want to tell everyone who is listening to just jump in.  There’s so much – I know there’s fear, and I know there are going to be challenges.  So know this.  There’s two main messages I want to leave you with.  The first thing is just try.  Just jump in.  Try and fail, whatever it is.  There is so much information out there , and there’s so much good information out there.  I really hope that if you are listening to this or listen to my podcast you understand I’m coming from a place of authenticity.  I’m not lying to you.  I’ve made all these mistakes.  I could tell you in five minutes all the things not to do initially.  And if you listen to my podcast you’ll hear all those crazy things, and you’ll figure out a ton of stuff from that and what not to do.  The second thing is if you’re going to jump into this know there’s going to be ups and downs.  There’s going to be challenges.  My first product I had a patent claim.  I had an IP claim on it, and it disappeared.  They ran off with money.  I’m still figuring that out, but it’s okay because this comes – it comes with the good and bad, and eventually when you get over all of that stuff I’ve learned so much through those experiences that it’s going to be really hard to knock me off right now.  Like having gone through all those challenges and going through more now because I’m dealing with another patent claim right now – going through this, and learning these things, and understanding hey, this is how you build a sustainable business, it’s going to be really hard to break me down and be like hey you can’t be successful because I’ve gone through all that crap already.  And I’m going to go through more of it.  So just understand that it’s going to be probably a bit of a roller coaster ride, but in the end it’s 100% worth it.  So just take the leap and give it a try.

CAMERON YODER:

Awesome.  That’s really good advice, Taz.  Thank you.  Taz, thank you so much for being here on the podcast.  You provided a lot of really great perspective, a lot of value just to everyone, wherever they’re at, whether they want to get started or they’ve started now or they’re scaling, there’s a lot here that people can take, and I know there’s a lot also that we didn’t get to touch on.  So thank you so much for just being here and for being an awesome guest.

TAZ AHSAN:

I really appreciate it, guys.  It’s an honor.  And yeah, I wish you guys all the best.

CAMERON YODER:

Taz, everybody, we’ll link to your – we’ll talk about your podcast in our show notes.  So if you want to check it out then you will be able to do that.

Well, that is all for this week.  Thank you so much for joining us here on Follow the Data.  For more insights and reliable information on how to succeed on Amazon, subscribe to the podcast, subscribe to our blog, follow us on YouTube or like us on Facebook.  The options are limitless, and we’ve got news, tips and best practices that can help you build your FBA business.  And also, everyone your feedback is really important to us.  It’s really important to me as well.  If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, please consider leaving us a review and/or rating, just your honest opinion.  I would love to see what you have to say about the show, and if you know a fellow seller who needs help or just needs encouragement, honestly, with their – with, working full-time and handling Amazon or is considering getting into Amazon, send them this episode.  I think Taz has a lot of great things to speak to a lot of people, and this is a topic that a lot of sellers are talking about.

So if you know anyone that would benefit by listening to today’s episode, then shoot them our way.  We’d love to help them out, and we’d love to help you out.  So if you have any questions, or concerns, or anything at all, hit us up on Facebook, or give us a call.  Our number is 317-721-6590.  I would actually – personally, I would love to see what you all would like to see in future episodes.  We have a lot planned on the content schedule for the podcast in the coming future, but I always, always love to hear what people want to see us or hear us talk about.  So if you have any suggestions or any ideas, just really shoot us a message on Facebook.  It’s as simple as looking us up, looking up Viral Launch and DM-ing us, sending us a direct message, okay?  So I would love to hear from you all on ideas for future episodes.  I’m stoked to hear from you.  I’m excited to hear what you all have to say.  That is it for this week’s episode.  Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

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