This is a short eBook that I wrote and decided to post it here instead of publishing it elsewhere. I hope that it helps you in your quest to turn eBay into a business.
eBay, From Hobby to Business.
I keep getting requests to teach others to do what I am doing on eBay. I think the best way to do that is write a book about it. Want to hear it? Here is it goes. Enjoy.
I started selling on eBay in April of 1999. You can look me up and see what I am doing on there right now. My user name is mm9281004 and my store link is http://stores.ebay.com/The-Cherry-Picker-Boutique . I registered so I could sell some of my daughter's clothes that she had outgrown. She was about 18 mos and was growing like a weed so her clothes were gently used. I soon figured out that things were really selling on eBay and it was fun.
Over the next several years I always had something listed. My husband learned to tell me if something was off limits to sell on eBay. I was selling anything and everything that was not nailed down. I think it was in about 2008 that I discovered a little jewel in my home town of Klamath Falls, Oregon. It was...the Goodwill As Is store. There were wooden bins full of clothes, household items, electronics, furniture, all kinds of cool stuff. The catch was that you had to buy the items as they were, no trying them on or plugging them in. But... everything was sold by the pound. I was hooked and soon had an eBay Store with over 200 items. I did this mostly for mad money, not really taking it seriously.
In 2010 we moved to Vancouver, Washington. My husband had changed jobs and was working outside of Portland. Upon moving my first line of business was finding the closest Goodwill As Is store. Low and behold it was about a mile away and so started turning my hobby into a business. To avoid getting a 9 to 5 job in our new town I was determined. I knew what I could do and started making goals. Within a month I was back to 200 to 300 items and have been selling like crazy ever since. As I sit here writing we have been here for a year and half and my current 31 day sales for my Store is right around $1500. My goal is $2000 and I am fast approaching it.
I chose eBay because it is where the people go. Ebay is a household name. I have looked into other auction and selling sites and they just don't get the exposure and customer base that eBay does. If you are selling books I suggest also looking into http://half.com and http://amazon.com If you are selling handcrafted items I suggest http://etsy.com and for Antiques I suggest http://rubylane.com
What to Sell on eBay?
First I will tell you what I sell and why. I sell mostly used clothing. This is because I have a great source to buy them cheap and mark them up. Clothing is easy to ship. Most items I throw in a poly shipping envelope and slap on a shipping label, that I print out, and drop it off at the Post Office. I have been selling clothing long enough that I know what to look for and what sells. If I am not sure what a certain brand is I can buy it anyway because the cost is so low that it's ok if it ends up not selling. But usually it is a winner and I make money.
So what should you sell? You should sell what you like. If you like motorcycles sell motorcycle stuff. If you like pet supplies sell them. The key is to get on the site and see what your competition is doing. Research is key when finding a product or line to sell. I will explain more about researching prices next. You want to know about what you are selling. If you see that cellphones are selling like hot cakes but you don't know what phone goes with which company and are unable to list the items with the correct information you will get bad feedback and probably will not sell very many. So stick with what you know.
There are many ways to do this but here is what I do. It is simple and free. I just get on the eBay site and put in a search for what I am selling. I then click on advanced search and check the box for completed listings to see what has sold and for how much. Example: Lucky Brand Jeans, the search will bring up what is for auction and buy it now on eBay. For this search there will be many to see so I might narrow it down to skinny jeans or new if they are new. I can see the price range and condition of the other jeans to make a determination of about what I should list mine for.
I have reached a point where I know what most items and brands will sell for and usually just research brands that I am not sure about. You will get to that point too.
Where to Find Items to Sell
As you can see above I find most of my items at an outlet thrift store and pay by the pound. That is what I do and that is what I discovered. You will need to find your source for wholesale items. If you are selling cellphones you could put an add on craigslist to buy used cellphones. If you know how to repair cellphones you can purchase broken phones and fix them. You can find a wholesaler of new items and buy low and sell high. You could repair of alter items to sell. If you have a collection of your own you are ready to unload you could start with that.
If you are unsure of what to sell and where to find it I suggest that you start with items that you already own. With this you are starting with $0 investment and you can see if anything sells really well or if you really enjoy selling a certain item. Like I said before that is how I started and look at me now.
Newbies and the Challenges
There are quite a few people out there trying to make a buck on whomever they can. When you first start selling on eBay your feedback is going to be low. Some of these scammers will prey on you and see if they can get something for nothing.
Example: A friend called and said that she was selling her family's 3 used cell phones on eBay because they had all upgraded and bought new phones. Two of them sold without a hitch but the 3rd was “won” by someone in Africa and they sent her an email that looked like it came from PayPal that stated that the funds were being held until she gave them the shipping information.
Paypal does not hold funds for shipping info. The buyer was trying to get her to ship the phone without receiving the money and then she would be out the phone and the money. The buyer saw the low feedback score and pounced, produced a spoof email and waited. She called me because it didn't sound right and she had not agreed to ship out of the country.
So just be careful in the beginning and contact PayPal or eBay if there is doubt. Live and learn that is what it's all about.
This is a process that you will become very good at. The eBay site is super user friendly and the listing process is a step by step that is easy to understand. I will bring you through the basics but you will need to figure this out on your own too and the process changes all the time with new applications and options so here are the basics.
Auction or Buy it Now?
I sell BIN because I have a store with over 400 items. You can start a store or choose to sell in auctions format. The choice is yours and you will see what works best for you. Just try them both and see what you like. Look into the store prices and auction fees to determine what will be more profitable for you and your items for sale. Also if you are just starting out with your eBay account they will limit you to 10 items to sell. You will need to get your feedback up and prove that you are a reputable seller before you can list more than 10 items at a time and/or start an eBay store. I am not sure what the current requirements are for either so you will have to look into that.
Your first options for listing are the categories. Each item you sell will fit into a category. Example a tee shirt will go under Clothing, Women's Clothing, Tee Shirts. A doll will go under Dolls and Bears, Dolls, Cloth Dolls. You get the point. Most of the time when a buyer is searching they will just put in a specific search but sometimes they will want to see all the items in a certain category and then refine the search.
This is where you are going to describe your item for the buyer to find. You want to get as much information about the item as possible in this line. When a buyer puts in a specific search the title is what will bring them to your listing and others like it. If you just put the basics you might miss a search. For example if you are selling a Wet Seal shirt size medium and that is all that you put in the title you will miss out on the buyer who puts in the search for Wet Seal green ruffled shirt. I would put WET SEAL GREEN RUFFLED SHIRT TOP BLOUSE SIZE M MEDUIM.... That will cover the Brand, Color, Details, Item and Size in two forms... abbreviated and spelled out.
I also use all caps in my title to make it stand out. You can do what works best for you. Look at other seller's titles and see what fun tricks they are doing to catch attention. Have fun with it.
Note: There is a subtitle option. I use it very rarely because it does cost a fee. I use it if there is more information that I just can't fit into the title that is so important it warrants the extra fee.
Easy... What condition is the item in? The options are pretty basic... New, New with tags, Pre-owned. You can describe the specifics in the description.
There will be a list of options depending on the category you chose to put your item under. If there is a green astric next to the option it is required that you choose something or write in your own option on that line. The others are optional and can help buyers find your item.
They are not required. BUT... if you want to sell your item you want a picture of it. After all would you buy an item from a stranger sight unseen? Me neither. So the goal here is to get the best possible picture. I use a point and shoot digital camera. I have toyed with it long enough hat I know what settings work best. I also utilize eBay's photo editing when loading and placing photos on my listing. You will need to get good at this with your own camera. I suggest looking at other listings of like items and see what looks most appealing to you. For example if you are looking at a pair of pants would you be more apt to buy the one that is folded up sitting one someones bed or the one laid out on a hardwood floor with close ups of the front and back pockets. This is the same for all items... you have to think about if you were the buyer... what would you want to see of that particular item before buying it.
Here is an article I wrote about taking good pictures. http://www.squidoo.com/how-to-photograph-clothes-for-ebay-and-craigslist
PayPal is the way to go when selling or buying on eBay. I use PayPal exclusively for receiving payments for the items that I list on eBay. I have a PayPal debit card that I can use against my current balance at stores and at the ATM for cash. When a buyer pays me for an item he/she also pays the shipping amount which I in turn use to pay for the shipping label that I print out. I also use my PayPal card when buying inventory. So my business stays centralized to my PayPal account. I can also transfer funds to my personal bank account and visa versa.
eBay has its own shipping calculator. You put in the approx weight of the item including the box or envelope and eBay will calculate the shipping for different areas of the US that your buyers are. For example if you have a pair of jeans that weight 1 lb. 7 oz. the eBay shipping calculator will give a shipping price differently for someone who lives a state or two away than someone that lives across the country. This makes your job much easier. As you will see when entering your shipping information in the listing you will have the options of weights, shipping methods and size of package. I suggest giving two options, the most inexpensive one (usually parcel post, first class or media rate) and a priority option. This gives the buyer the option to get it fast if needed.
Printing Shipping Labels
When you sell an item and the buyer has paid you via PayPal you can print out a shipping label directly from your computer's printer. Here is how you do it. Go to “my eBay” on the left side scroll down to “sold” and you will get a list of the items that you have sold. The items with the $ highlighted are the items that have been sold and paid for. All the way to the left of the item is a Highlighted option to “print a shipping label” . When you click on that it will take you to a page specifically to print and pay for that item. It will list the weight, method and price that the buyer opted for. You simply click on the “Pay and Print” button and follow the prompts. Ebay then automatically takes the money for the shipping label out of your Paypal account and directs you to a page to print out the label. I just print the label out on plain copy paper, cut it out and tape it to the package using clear packing tape. No need for a special label printer or adhesive paper.
I use a household kitchen scale for weighing my items. My scale goes up to 25 lbs but with clothing and household I rarely go over 5 lbs. Find one that suits your needs best.
I currently accept returns up to 14 days. I do this to keep my Top Rated Seller Status. My returns are accepted if the buyer returns the item to my per their cost. I do however make huge exceptions for items that were damaged that I missed. Some items I just return money and don't ask for the item back especially if it was a low cost item. The reason I do this is because I get my inventory for so little that it is no big deal and if the buyer is a good buyer I would rather just make them happy. You can tell if you have a good buyer by their feedback scores. I have on occasion felt that something was not right when a return/refund was requested and have contacted eBay support on unique situations. They are most helpful and I recommend talking to them if you feel something is not right.
As a Seller you are providing items for sale but you are also providing customer service. Think about if you were buying items from a picture... similar to catalog shopping. If when you received the item and were not happy with it or it had a rip or stain on it how you would want to be treated. There are some scammers out there that might be trying to get something for nothing. I usually ask for a photo of the item's flaw or on high priced items ask for the item to be returned. I know if I received a shirt with a rip or stain I would have no problem sending a photo as proof to the seller.
The better you are in difficult situations the better feedback you will get and the higher your score will get. Follow your gut and if if feels right do it, if it doesn't call seller support and see what your options are.
I try to put as much information into the description of each item, color, measurements, condition, flaws, etc... but I still get questions about all sorts of things. Do your best to answer the questions and post the question in the listing if it is universal like how big is the hole or what is the inseam measurement.
I hope this has helped you and given you some ideas to make your eBay selling experience a better one. Bringing eBay from a hobby to a business is fun and profitable. I love the hunt/picking process and don't like the sitting down and listing. I do love the freedom I have as an eBay seller. It allows me to be a stay at home Mom to our daughters that are in school all day. I don't have to abide by anyone else's schedule and can make more by doing more. I make money while I sleep, vacation or just take a day off. I hope this inspires you to do your own thing and make money doing it.