How to Become an Independent Distributor

by Andra Picincu - Updated July 16, 2018
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Increasingly, more people are starting a side hustle to supplement their incomes. Some develop and sell their own products; others choose to sell existing products and services. This option involves lower costs and less paperwork. As an independent distributor, you have the freedom to set your own schedule and choose a business model that meets your needs and budget. From world-famous brands to startups, there are thousands of companies who need distributors. This allows you to choose from a wide range of products that appeal to your target audience.

How to Be a Distributor of Products

There are no set rules on how to become an independent distributor. Each company has its own policy for recruiting and training affiliates. Some require previous experience in the field or a specific educational background. Others have extensive training programs in place. Independent distributor is another name for independent representative or affiliate. Those who choose this path are either looking to start their own business or have a side gig in addition to a primary job. In 2017, as much as 85 percent of U.S. workers had side hustles. More than half hold at least two side gigs.

The first step is to choose a niche and decide what types of products you wish to distribute. This will depend largely on your budget, time constraints and career goals. Decide whether you want to do it full time or part time, online or onsite. Consider your budget before making a decision. Let's say you want to distribute beauty products. In this case, you have several options:

  • Set up a website and sell products online.
  • Sell products on social networks or online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
  • Open a physical retail store.
  • Sell door-to-door or through personal networks.

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If you have a small budget, online sales can be a viable option. A physical store requires higher costs but comes with perks: You can interact directly with your target customers, make live demonstrations and launch beauty workshops. Also, it's a great way to gain exposure for your business, especially if your store is located in a prime area, such as the city center or a large mall.

Research Your Options

Now that you know how to be a distributor of products, assess your options. Research the market to see what goods are in high demand. For example, if you're planning to sell products online, look for popular niches that generate the most revenue. Weight loss and fitness, dating, health, pet care and self-improvement are all blooming in this day and age. The U.S. weight loss market, for instance, was worth $66 billion in 2017. Meal replacement sales are predicted to outpace the growth of OTC diet pills over the next four years.

Next, look for independent distributor jobs in the niches you're interested in. Make a list of companies who need distributors and check their websites or contact them by phone or email to find out more. Consider these factors:

  • The company's reputation and brand image.
  • Its track record of success.
  • Training resources.
  • Support from other team members.
  • Short- and long-term objectives.
  • Customer care.
  • Compensation model.
  • Competition.
  • Promotion tools and resources.
  • Demand.
  • Terms and conditions.
  • Noncompete clauses.
  • Business model.

Some companies seek exclusive distributors. In this case, you will not be allowed to sell competing products or work with other brands in the same niche. Read the terms and conditions before signing a contract.

In case you decide to start a distribution company and open a physical store, look for businesses that offer wholesale products. This will allow you to purchase a larger amount of goods for less and sell them individually at a higher price. Research the company you're interested in. Go online to find out how much money its distributors are making on average. Read customer reviews to see how people feel about its products. Check with the Federal Trade Commission, the local Better Business Bureau and other organizations that provide information about companies across all industries.

Promote Your Business

As a distributor sales representative, you’re responsible for advertising the products you sell online or in your store. The company you represent may provide marketing materials, such as brochures, flyers and banners, but you still need to actively promote your business.Your marketing strategy will depend on the business model, location, niche and target audience. Advertising a physical store is different than promoting a website. Even if you choose to sell your products online, it's perfectly fine to reach out to local customers as well. For example, you could sell beauty products to your friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over nine years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness.

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