Whoa…another year has almost passed!
This one, 2022, was quite challenging for me. I had several setbacks in my business ventures.
Mostly, I kept doing what I’ve been doing for many years – building and growing my print-on-demand business.
But last year, I started investing in NFT and crypto. I’m still doing it.
If you haven’t read my previous Year in Review posts, here they are:
Let’s take a closer look at some of the key events and challenges I faced this year.
NFT and Crypto Crashes
To start the year, I continued trading NFTs and Crypto, which I had done since late 2021. It was a fun experience because I saw the value increase in the NFT and Crypto I held.
But the thing is, I rarely sold my assets when they reached their peak.
I’m a HODLer…(hold on for dear life)
Most NFT values will peak after they sell out. After that, the price will start to decrease. So, if you don’t sell early, you won’t make a profit (unless you bought major NFTs like BAYC or CryptoPunk).
I learned this quite late, so most of my NFTs have lost most of their value.
That said, a few of them still look promising (like NeoTokyo by Alex Becker or DePlayground by Don Wilson). They might cover my losses if the NFT bull market comes back.
Apart from NFT, I also started reading and learning about the technology behind many Crypto Tokens. Many of them looked promising, especially $LUNA…
If you were in the Crypto game, you know what happened with it.
I went to an Internet Marketing camp in Thailand earlier this year.
Many people there were talking about $LUNA and Anchor Protocol. People said you could earn 20% interest if you deposited money into them.
As an action-taker, I put what I learned at that camp into action. I deposited some money into the Anchor Protocol.
I invested a lot of money in many cryptocurrencies, including $LUNA and Anchor Protocol, before they started to crash a few weeks later.
Poooooof…I lost most of my investment almost instantly.
Anyway, I still DCA my money in crypto and NFT regularly, but only in BIG reliable tokens like BTC, ETH, and a few other coins.
I still believe in the blockchain industry. I think it will make a comeback.
This same situation happened in late 2018. At the time, I entered the market when it peaked, and also before it crashed.
At that time, I left the market and rarely checked it later. The crypto bull run came returned in early 2021.
If I’d stayed in the game, not bailed when it was a bear market, and learned more about crypto and blockchain technology, I wouldn’t have missed buying NFTs when the prices were low. I might have had some good returns in 2021.
This time, I won’t make the same mistake. I’ll stay. I’ll keep my eyes on the crypto world and see how it goes.
It’s just a matter of time.
Spent three months trying to win the Pancake Prediction
Apart from trading NFT and crypto, I learned how to make (or lose?) money by betting on the Pancake Prediction.
In case you don’t know what that is, you can check it out here – https://pancakeswap.finance/prediction
PancakeSwap is a gambling game where you guess the direction of the price of BNB.
BNB is the Binance Coin. Along with BTC, ETH, and some other major coins, it’s one of the most popular coins.
You need to bet an amount of BNB and guess where its price will go in the next five minutes.
If you guess right, you’ll make some money on the BNB you bet – can be 5x or 0.25x of the amount, depending on each round.
The direction that most people bet on will produce a lower reward ratio (because there’s a higher chance that that price trend is true).
The fewer people who bet on a direction, the higher the reward ratio (i.e., you have fewer chances of winning). It’s as simple as that.
In my group of crypto friends, people said we could win easily if we made a bet when the price of the overall crypto coins is up or down significantly.
Like when the market crashes after the FED announces something, the price of the BNB will be down for 15 minutes or hours.
If we make a bet in the down direction, there will be a higher chance that our guess will be correct.
The first problem is, we can’t monitor the graph for 24 hours a day to check whether the market has crashed or not.
Most of the time, crypto prices will move significantly when I sleep.
I live in Thailand, so people in the US are awake when I’m sleeping, and vice versa. There are few trades during my daytime, so the price of the coins won’t change much.
So, I asked my dev team to build a program to monitor the BNB graph and make bets automatically, even when I’m asleep.
We did it. The betting part was not difficult.
The difficult part was the algorithm behind it.
My team and I are not technical traders.
We have ZERO knowledge of technical analysis.
So, I spent 2-3 months learning basic technical analysis and developing an algorithm to guess the direction of the BNB price.
Finally, after learning many basic candle patterns and backtesting many times, I found my algorithm had around a 70% win rate.
I opened the betting bot for like a month but found I rarely made any money back.
There is also a second problem.
As I said before, the reward ratio is not the same in each round. And my algorithm mostly plays only when there is a high chance of winning (like when the price moves up or down significantly).
In a situation like this, most people bet the same way my bot does, so the reward ratio is very low.
When my bot wins, it will earn around 0.25 to 1.5x the bet amount.
For example, if I bet 1 BNB and win, I will make 0.25-1.5 BNB back.
But when I lose, I lose all the money I bet.
For example, I bet 1 BNB. When I lose, I will lose 1 BNB.
Do you see anything here?
If I suffer 1 loss, I need to win 3-4 times in a row to get back the amount I lost.
4 Wins and 1 Loss = break-even.
That means I need a win rate of more than 80%.
I kept improving my bot for one or two more months, but still couldn’t make it work.
It’s a gambling game. The game owner designs the game to make money from people.
I lost 2-3 months working on this, but it’s okay. I learned something I never knew before.
I gave up and tried to find another thing to do.
Lost $2,000 on the Derivatives Market
After I gave up on trying to win Pancake Prediction, a friend introduced me to how to make money on the derivatives market.
In case you don’t know, it’s actually another kind of gambling.
You need to guess the direction of the coins you bet with – just like Pancake Prediction, but you can bet on any coin and on any timeframe (not just a 5-minute timeframe, like Pancake Prediction).
If you’re using Binance, the derivatives market is called Binance Futures.
I thought I’d learned a lot about technical analysis when I built the Pancake Prediction bot, so I figured might do well in the derivatives market.
Also, my friend advised me to join some paid *Signal* groups on Telegram. These groups will send you signals on the directions of many coins.
Just check the signals, analyze the graph, and open a position.
It looked simple, but it was much more difficult than I thought. I made many mistakes and lost lots of money.
In the derivatives market, there is leverage (like if you have $10, you can use leverage to make a bet at $100, borrowing from Binance.) So you can profit and lose very quickly.
In the first few days, I did pretty well, but I thought it was just luck. The crypto market crashed the day I started, so I opened a short position following the signal.
When the market crashes, it’s easy to guess the direction (like it was with Pancake Prediction).
But after that, the market went sideways (up and down). I followed the signal but rarely won and ended up losing around $2,000.
Moreover, I found I had to spend lots of time on the monitor to check the price of the coins I’d used to open my position.
When I put money in the derivatives market and see profits or losses moving, I can’t sleep well. I often wake up at night to check whether my position is still profiting or not.
The crypto market is open 24 hours a day, so you can’t keep your eyes off of it.
I thought this wasn’t the kind of work I like, so I stopped doing it and returned to what I do well: building a business.
Note: Many people are doing well and making lots of money from the derivatives market. I just think it’s not a good fit for my lifestyle.
Improving My Software-as-a-Service
My dev team did a lot of great things for our software services this year.
For example, we created a centralized marketplace system that can manage product listings, orders, and fulfillment for all the marketplaces we support.
We call it EcomPipe.
Previously, PODTurbo, PODtomatic, and Laser Chili had their own marketplace system. They were developed separately using different frameworks, so it took a long time to update the systems when Amazon or Etsy changed something in their API.
With EcomPipe, we can update everything in one place and it will affect all our software services, which makes our work a lot faster when something changes in a marketplace’s API.
Also, when we add a new marketplace such as Walmart (which we plan to add to our system soon), we can do it in EcomPipe and the new marketplace will be available across all of our software services.
Add more power to our POD Monster Uploader
We regularly added new products to our software this year. Our members have made tons of sales using the latest products, especially jewelry message cards.
PODtomatic also made more sales for our members last year. Not a significant increase, but a lot more sales than last year.
We also used A.I. to create quotes and add keywords related to product titles and descriptions, which helps our members’ products get more visibility.
PODtomatic is currently focused on uploading jewelry message cards because they’re top-selling products and have a high-profit margin per sale.
Our team uses ChatGPT to generate new quotes. We’ve found that the messages this A.I. produces are perfect for message cards.
So, I think our members will make more sales through our system next year.
Laser Chili has been the new POD Money-Making Machine
Many new members made over $1,000 a day from Laser Chili this year.
This surprised me because I saw many names I’d never seen before. I checked the sales stats for last year, and these people didn’t make many sales with us.
But they were making $1,000/day in Q4.
Some people made over $2,000/day!
This is impressive.
We don’t have many active sellers on Laser Chili, but 70-80% of the active ones are making a good number of sales.
In other words, most people who launched Laser Chili products on their Amazon, Etsy, or Shopify stores made good money this year.
So, if you’re looking to make more sales from print-on-demand products that little competition next year, be sure to check out Laser Chili.
You won’t regret it! 🙂
The Year of A.I.?
Apart from these print-on-demand uploading tools, our team also made some improvements to A.I. Quote, which is another tool you can use to find quotes for print-on-demand products.
GPT-3 is the A.I. behind this tool, and it’s been working awesomely well. It generated almost 100,000 quotes for our members this year.
I also noticed that some of them have been featured on top-selling products on Amazon. 😉
ChatGPT is the next version of GPT-3, but it doesn’t have a public API yet. Our team plans to use it when it’s available to improve A.I. Quote.
Okay, that’s it for my SaaS journey this year.
(Psst! We’re secretly working on some new SaaS tools. I’ll talk about them when the time is right.)
Okay, let’s get back to print-on-demand…
At the beginning of this year, when I blogged about NFT (which is what I was interested in at the moment), some people thought I’d quit POD.
So, I’ll take this chance to explain that while I’m not a multi-tasking kind of guy, I can do more than one thing at the same time.
NFT and crypto is the future, and I think I need to know about them.
And when I pay attention to something intensively, I like to write about it in my blog or on Twitter. If you’ve followed me for a long time, you know that I always, ALWAYS, write about the things I’m doing.
Robocode > Google AdSense > Affiliate Marketing > PPV > Travel > POD > Facebook Ads > Crypto > NFT
I’ve shared everything I know about this stuff.
Also, POD is what I have been doing for years, I can spend just a few hours or a few minutes a day managing it. So, I didn’t quit doing it, and I don’t think I’ll quit soon.
POD is my bread and butter, so I need to live with it.
I just allocate my time to learning new things, which we all should do.
All right. Let’s go back to what I did on the print-on-demand side this year.
Selling Print-on-demand on Amazon
This year, I did many things the same way I did in previous years. I bought boxes of coffee mugs from China and sent them to the Amazon Warehouse.
Most of the coffee mugs are winning ones from years ago. They sell over 3,000 units every year, so I don’t need to spend much time promoting them.
I just send the list of mugs I want to my Chinese supplier and let them do the rest.
But I didn’t focus on uploading new mugs this year. I created hardly any new mugs for my store because productions cost greatly increased in 2022.
Many years ago, you could buy a mug for just $9.90, including shipping. Right now, they cost around $14-15 each, including shipping.
And Amazon Inventory will count the number of items you’re stocking. There’s a limit on the number of products you can send to the warehouse.
If you want to make, let’s say, $3,000 in profits a month, you need to sell 700-1,000 units of a coffee mug.
Amazon typically sets a 1,000-unit limit. So, if you ordered a mug from a Chinese supplier and send 1,000 units to Amazon, you won’t have any space left for other products.
You’ll have to wait 1-2 months for your product to reach the warehouse and then wait for another month or more to sell all the mugs.
In this scenario, it might take 3-4 months to make $3,000 in profit.
In other words, it’s more difficult to profit by selling mugs. The profits will be also thinner every year.
So, these days, it’s better to sell other products, like jewelry.
Focus on Selling Jewelry Products
I started building my jewelry empire last year. You can read my blog post about it here.
I hired a team to launch tons of jewelry message cards through PODTurbo and make many passive sales. I don’t need to spend much time managing it.
Every day, I launch between 100 and 200 new jewelry message cards in different niches in my store.
And when Gearbubble announced that they’d opened an FBA service for jewelry message cards, I chose some of the winning ones I had and had them sent to the Amazon warehouse.
I’ve sold a lot of jewelry since then.
I used the same methods I used when I scaled my sales of coffee mugs.
Choose the winners, make them FBA
Apart from the Gearbubble jewelry message cards, I also directed my team to launch Laser Chili products.
It’s my company, so I need to sell my products too!
I asked my team to upload bracelets and keychains to my store via the Laser Chili system.
The Laser Chili system has the same functions as PODTurbo, so I don’t need to train my team that much. I just let them do the same things, but with different products.
Laser Chili products are VERY easy to sell because few people are selling them right now.
My team uploads tons of bracelets and keychains to my store.
Many products of these products have sold well.
So, I do what I always do: I buy many boxes of bracelets and send them to the Amazon Warehouse. (Did I mention that Laser Chili has an FBA ordering system, too?)
Laser Chili can ship FBA orders within 3-4 days, so I can restock my products whenever I need to.
I have sold FBA products for years, and the main issue that stops me from aggressive scaling is that most suppliers ship products VERY SLOWLY.
Most of them took 1-2 months to ship FBA products to my Amazon Warehouse.
So, I had to place orders 1-2 months in advance if I wanted to sell them during the holiday.
It’s quite risky if the supplier can’t ship your FBA orders fast. Some circumstances might cause you to lose money on stocking inventory.
Here are some examples of how such losses can happen:
- The products arrive at the warehouse after the holiday. Many products aren’t easy to sell after the holiday.
- Your products will lose their ranking FAST if you don’t have an item in your inventory. When your FBA inventory arrives, it might not sell as well as it did before.
- Amazon hijackers may hijack your listing if you don’t have an FBA inventory. Your listing might lose its ranking if hijackers send poor products to your customers, and you’ll never see the same sales as you did before the hijackers appeared.
- Worst case, your Amazon account is suspended before your FBA inventory arrives.
So, if you invest lots of money in buying products in bulk but the supplier can’t ship them fast, it’s difficult to scale your business.
I understand all the risks sellers might face because I’m a seller myself.
So, at Laser Chili, I encourage my team to make and ship FBA orders in 3-4 business days.
Not only my orders but also our customers’ orders.
When they see some products are low in stock, they’ll work on our customers’ orders before mine…lol.
This Q4, most of all Laser Chili orders, including FBM and FBA, shipped in 1-2 business days.
That said, I’ll focus on selling Laser Chili products next year because they ship faster and are easier to scale.
Dealing with Amazon Hijackers
Although my print-on-demand business did well this year, there was an annoyance that caused me to lose sales for around two months.
That is, a handful of winning products of mine were copied by Amazon hijackers.
You can read the full story here.
- Here’s How I Deal With Amazon Hijackers
- Dealing with Amazon Hijackers (Does the Brand Registry Help?)
I spent lots of time and money finding ways to eliminate these hijackers. I hired people on Fiverr to get rid of them.
Many of them disappeared, but new Amazon Hijackers kept hijacking my listing.
I had to lower the price of my products and lost money on every sale I made.
So, I decided to apply to the brand registry, which costs around $2,000 but allowed me to finally get rid of most of the hijackers. (A few of them are coming back, but I just report the violations to Amazon to remove them in just a few hours.)
It seems the brand registry was worth the investment. I should have applied to it a long time ago.
Anyway, the problem is solved, and I can focus on selling my products again.
After I got rid of the Amazon hijackers, my sales bounced back and I ended up making about 20% more sales than I did in 2021. It would have been higher if my listings hadn’t been hijacked for two months.
Google Shopping Ads and Print-on-Demand
Apart from selling print-on-demand on Amazon, I still have a team to run Google Shopping Ads for my store.
Although I can scale aggressively on Amazon, it’s more difficult to sell on Amazon.
There are more print-on-demand sellers here. They will launch more products and run Amazon Ads, which will make ads more expensive.
So, it’s better not to put all your eggs in one basket.
I started building my brand store last year and let a team handle the Google Shopping Ads for me.
I rarely touched my store, and this team managed to make almost $20,000 in sales for me.
It’s impressive because I didn’t do anything. I’ll talk to the team and see what we can do next year to make more from this channel.
Okay, that’s all I have to say about my print-on-demand journey in 2022.
What will I do in 2023?
All right, 2023 is on the doorstep. What should I do this year?
I will focus on improving the things I have.
For the print-on-demand business, I’ll focus on selling more on Amazon.
Previously, I hardly ever checked or optimized my products there because most of my sales are from paid traffic.
I just turned some top-selling products into FBA and made more passive sales.
But right now, Facebook has suspended my ads account, so I’ll switch my focus to Amazon.
(I can use Facebook Ads under my wife’s account, but I’m getting bored with Facebook because its ad performance is getting worse and more expensive. So, I think I’ll try to master other traffic sources.)
In Q4, I tried to optimize my listings on Amazon. I played with product titles, descriptions, and keywords. I also hired experts to rewrite all my titles and descriptions and saw my rankings and sales increase significantly for many products.
So, I think I’ll focus more on Amazon this year. I’ll try to make my top-selling products gain more visibility and sales.
My goal is to make $1M in sales from this marketplace alone.
Another distribution channel is my Shopify store.
As I said, I hired a team to manage my Google Ads for me this year and they managed to make around $20,000 for me, without me doing anything.
Next year, I’ll try to learn more about Google Ads to improve the sales in my store. Google Ads are complicated, but when you optimize them a few times the results can be very consistent.
So, for the print-on-demand business next year, I’ll focus on selling on Amazon and in my store using Google Ads.
In terms of SaaS, I currently have PODTurbo, PODtomatic, Laser Chili, A.I. Quote, and one other new piece of software my team is working on.
PODTurbo is quite stable. Our members have made over $2M in the past few years. My team keeps adding new products whenever Gearbubble launches new products.
We’re also adding new marketplaces to the system, starting with Walmart. I’m pretty sure our members will make more sales from the other new marketplaces we’re going to add.
PODtomatic did a bit better than it did last year. Since ChatGPT was introduced, my team uses it to find many new quotes. We’ve found it can write many nice messages that are a perfect fit for jewelry message cards.
So, we’ll keep adding new messages to the system using ChatGPT and focus on uploading jewelry message cards to our members’ stores. These are top-selling products with high margins.
Like PODTurbo, PODtomatic will have new marketplaces because of the centralized marketplace we built, which makes it easy for us to add new marketplaces to all of our software tools.
Our members can automatically sell products from PODtomatic on the new marketplaces when we add them.
I’m sure our tool will make more sales and profits for our members next year.
The Laser Chili team will keep adding new products to our system.
Recently, we added a Sunflower Bracelet with a message card to our catalog. There are new bracelets with message cards being added to the system, too.
Bracelets with message cards are selling like crazy, so we’ll add more styles of this product to the system.
Also, we’ll add new marketplaces to Laser Chili. Our members will enjoy wider distribution instantly after we add them.
We also plan to improve A.I. Quote once ChatGPT provides a public API we can use. So, we’ll create tons of nice quotes with A.I. Quote next year.
I’ll write about our new piece of software later. For now, I’ll have to keep it a secret. 😛
I still read the news about NFT and Crypto every day. But I think I’ll invest most of my money in the stock market because it’s seriously down and seems safer.
I won’t quit crypto altogether. I’ll still buy it when the prices of the major coins drop.
But in 2023, most of my investment will be in the stock market. I think I’ll allocate 80% to the stock market and 20% to crypto.
Okay, that’s it.
Before ending this post…(belated) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my followers!
I hope this holiday season brings you joy, love, and all the good things in life. May you be healthy, wealthy, and successful in all your endeavors in the coming year.
May 2023 be a year filled with happiness, prosperity, and everything you wish for. Wishing you all the best and a very happy new year!
See you next year!