Manufacturer’s Representative

Manufacturer’s Representative

Start-up cost: $2,500–$9,000
Potential earnings: $45,000–$150,000, depending on your sales ability
Typical fees: Commission basis, usually 5 to 15 percent of product price
Advertising: Cold-calling, networking, presentations, reference
Qualifi cations: Sales experience or expertise in a particular fi eld, good
  people skills, an ability to negotiate

Equipment needed: Computer, fax, phone, cell phone, office furniture, business cards, letterhead

Staff required:  No

Hidden costs:  Mileage and costs associated with travel

What You Do

Companies are operating with slimmer sales forces these days, creating a need for outside help with marketing and selling their products. Independent reps can take on an interesting variety of products to sell, everything from gifts and sporting goods to chemicals, adhesives, and heavy machinery. Many experts recommend that manufacturing agents handle eight to ten lines of goods in order to make a nice profi t. In addition to a thorough understanding of your product’s features and benefits, you also need a solid customer base for each line and enough money to carry you while you get established, which can take up to a year. Having a background in the product(s) you represent is the easiest way to succeed. Look for opportunities with emerging companies, such as those profi led in entrepre-neurial publications and business newspapers. Be sure to include a client list or background sheet on yourself when approaching new companies. They appreciate and often require this level of professionalism.

What You Need

Costs start at approximately $2,500 for computer and office equipment. You may also need a laptop, preferably with wireless Internet capabilities, cell phone to use while on the road; if so, tack on another $5,000 to $6,000. At 5 to 15 percent commission, it could take awhile to earn a profit. But one good customer with the potential for repeat business is all you need to start building a business that can grow.

Keys to Success

Sales can be one of the most lucrative home businesses of all. Meeting and working with people can be very rewarding, as can the freedom of choosing the companies you will represent and setting your own hours. On the downside, repping for a living can mean long periods of travel and, sometimes, a long wait to be paid for your services. Also, sales in some fields will require you to be aggressive and highly competitive to succeed.

Can you swim with the sharks—or will you be eaten alive?

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