STARTING AN EBAY BUSINESS - BEFORE YOU LOSE YOUR MONEY
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THIS GUIDE IS ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE, YOURS MAY BE DIFFERENT
This is a summary of what I know to be true, and can pass on to you. Others may have learned more, or experienced differently with other types of items. Ebay sells everything, and this guide is meant to help only on what I know to be true.
Selling other than clothing, gifts, may present a different experience. Guides are just assistance, a concept, and not the entire picture. They can however, save you from making any of my past mistakes and help you earn money faster by taking my tips and preventing the losses that I incurred.
To start a business on Ebay, it's great to know some things first. I knew nothing, and lost money for the first 2 years. I was lost on here, and there were not guides. I did not even know how to find the right category to list my items in, it was all a hard learning experience. Putting an item in the wrong category prevented buyers from even finding what I was listing. It's much easier now because I know what I am doing, and know how to list it under the right heading.
It's a little easier to start as a buyer, because then you have learned how it works. And it's really hard to start to sell, if you don't have a "Feedback Score" because no one knows who you are, or if they can trust you.
1. Start Small, Stay SIMPLE! So, to get going, start small. Pick something you know something about, and can easily sell. It helps if you have your idea already. You can have coloring books for kids, and make money on here, you don't need to find a hidden recipe or invent a new product.
2. Make it Easy. Next, make your listing easy. People on here write so many terms, and details, it's almost discouraging. It should not look like the Bible, I was looking at one auction with about 30 paragraphs, and had to go take a break. Too much crap in there - NOT NECESSARY.
My listings say the item, a small description that is accurate, in short detail, that I ship to US only, new or used, final sale, and non smoking. Shipping terms, a small paragraph about our length of time on here, and a thank you.
No need for to much blah blah blah, buyers don't care. Just the basics are perfect.
You do need to put in enough, and remember that people are buying from a picture, so nice flattering fun descriptions helps a lot. It's the descriptions that sound like signing a term paper that I am talking about.
3. Accurately Describe Your Item. Length, height, size, weight, color, etc. People may not be able to detect those automatically, even though you know, so that part is important to really describe. I only sell new things. That's personal for me. I don't like to sell something that I don't know the history. If it's used, it may break, or be damaged, and then the buyer is going to be upset. I stick with new, but many people on here sell used or antique items and are fine with that. It's whatever you feel comfortable with. There is a huge market in vintage and collectibles, and that is a great money maker, you just have to know that market, I do not know it well.
4. Pricing - I remember listing items that cost me $7.00 and listing them for $4.99. I assumed that there would be a huge bidding war on that item, and it would sell for the $15.00 that I wanted. And I only got one bid, and had to sell my $4.99 item, pay the fee to list that, and sell it at a loss. Yes, I cried. Did I learn from that?? No, I assumed that was a fluke, and tried another item at a lower price than I paid for it, assumed that the new item would be bid on by several people and get to my desired price this time. Did it? No, it did not. Yes, I cried again.
What I realized is that I had to have confidence in my item and myself, and ask for the price I need to have, and if it was bid up higher, good, if not, at least I wasn't using all of my lost money on Kleenex. Some items don't sell, but then Ebay may not be the place for them. But don't lose money. It does take a while.
It is not good to list your item cheaply to save in fees, and then mark up high shipping. It is discouraged now by Ebay, and you are marked down for it because legitimate shipping charges are high enough, so the thing to do is make enough money on the product that you can afford the fees. If you are only making a few dollars on an item, it's not going to be lucrative. You have to find something you can double at least over your costs - all of the costs from fees to shipping, and the cost of the item.
5. Learn your Market Items that may sell on here, may not sell somewhere else. It changes a lot, so I always test the waters on things. Meaning don't buy 4 dozen on a maybe. Buy 2 or 3 single items, first see if it sells, then you can buy more. Things are cheaper in bulk, but not if they don't sell.
Live Auctions get the most visibility, and are the most expensive. But they work. A large audience looks on all of the live listings. Bidding is fun, and a hobby for many people.
Fixed price auctions enable the buyer to not wait, and know the set price. But when you are starting out, live auctions introduce you as a business, and give more time for the person to see you are out there. If you use a fixed price, and it sells in 2 days, then there's 5 days that others don't even know you are out there. There is another market of people that shop, don't have the time to wait, and love that they can "buy it now" and just get what they want, and that works well when you start because then you build confidence, and know you are doing it right because it's been sold.
To find your category to list your product under, there are many ways to do it. Every name in the title can put your item in another category. for example: if you are selling a pink t shirt, and it's Disney, you can type DISNEY PINK MICKEY & MINNIE MOUSE TSHIRT LARGE your listing will end up in the Disney category, tshirt, mickey mouse, minnie mouse, and pink and large. And you will have the added category of "clothing. So it shows up in several searches when you type in pink tshirt, minnie mouse, large tshirt, the same shirt will show up in all of those searches.
For any items, you want your title to lead people to your item, so make the title appear in multiple categories. That takes some learning.
You do not need to spend the money to list in 2 separate categories - that doubles the fees, but not necessarily doubles the chances of a sale. If someone has what you want, they will bid. It happens to me in one category since day 1. The sad thing is people spend a lot in fees thinking they will double the exposure. When you word your title correctly, it lists in multiple categories for FREE.
6. LEARN BEST TIMES TO LIST - THIS IS MAJOR
Watch when other auctions end, and see if they have bids on the items. If you list out of the majority time for your shopping audience, you may not sell the item. This take some homework. All things sell better at different times. And all time zones are looking that things.
7. You need to be sure that you are selling something authentic. By that I mean, you can't sell things that have copyright infringement issues. If you don't know where your item is from, you need to check. If you sell anything that violates trademark infringement laws, they will and have the right to close down your store. So fake pocketbooks, etc, are highly visible on here. This is a nationwide, international, worldwide audience. And it's huge. Merchandise is monitored, so even if you think you won't have a problem, you will. Don't try it, you will lose your account. And it's not worth it. There are so many things on here you can make money with.
8. If your item is seasonal, list it ahead of time. I list my out of season items all year long inside my store, because people do by out of season. So at Christmas, I sell some Easter items because people who are shopping for Christmas see things, and get them when they see them. Christmas is the largest time when Ebay has the shopping audience. Some people only go on here at all for that holiday, so when they are on here, they buy things they see up, even if it's for a different time of year, but their schedule, or shopping agenda puts them on the computer for Christmas. So when you have out of season items listed, they buy them then as well. I used to not understand how at Christmas, I sold Easter bunnies and items, but that is why.
I have had many items on here that did not sell or work and I donated them to charity. I surely did not have it right for a long long time. Some things just don't sell at all - unload them. Pictures are from a flat screen, so some items a buyer just cannot grasp how they look in your own hands, and therefore, they don't easily sell. Multiple pictures of it can help sometimes, but other times, it's still just to hard to see from the flat screen. Also if you are listing clothing, it's better to hang it on a door or a wall, than lay it flat on the bed. We bought plastic mannequin forms, very cheaply on here and put most clothing items on the forms, so they show in a picture how they look on a person. It helps a lot. Visual aids of any kind, can really help sales.
For example, if you are selling large plush stuffed animals, it helps if you put a beanie baby next to a huge stuffed animal, so people can visualize the differences in size, which often cannot be seen from a picture.
If things don't sell right away, don't forget there is a process, and you need to entice people to shop with you. They need to trust you and to like what you are selling. It is the lucky person who has the perfect item and starts making money right away. That was not me. I had no idea what to sell, how to list, and the price ranges that my things were worth. I could write a book now.
9. Save some Profit from this - If you start making money, you don't need to re-invest it all into more merchandise. If you do, you end up with more and more to sell, and nothing in your pocket. I usually only reinvest a certain percent. I did end up with more merchandise than money, and I learned the hard way. It's easy to get excited and keep buying products, but the great thing is to learn from my mistakes, and don't overbuy. I no longer overbuy, but it took a long time to get that part down. I am a girl, I love to shop, and it was so much fun.
10. Use Insurance or Delivery Confirmation on everything. If anyone claims they did not get it, you have proof you sent it. Also, I don't even rule out the requests to ship oversees. I do it. However, I only use priority mail with a customs receipt. Many people will ask you to ship first class or cheaper. It can take weeks and weeks to arrive. I won't do it because if it does not arrive, they are going to leave you the bad feedback, and you may have to pay them back, so I will ship it, but so that it works for both parties. Do not let the buyer try to talk you in to saving them money because they will be first to say it never arrived..
11. If you get a bad buyer, the only recourse is to block them. Sellers can not even write a negative comment in a positive place. If you get a bad buyer, take the high road, and there are times (usually from fraud) that buyers will leave bad feedback. Sometimes you want to really leave a bad comment back to warn others, and I have been there. Mostly I try to either not comment, or in taking the high road, I try to ignore their bad messages and let it show that is is about the buyer and not me, but that is very hard in some situations. I try to work with everyone. and I block as a last resort. In my Ebay, you can go to the site map, and block bidders - up to 5000 names. If you have a really bad buyer, you can report them to Ebay, or carefully word comments in your feedback. The way I feel is that when people cause problems with you, they tend to cause them everywhere, and eventually they do themselves in. And also, it took me more than 2 years to learn how to block any bidders that aren't good, and prevent them from shopping again. It's inside the "site map" at the top of the page, and you find "block bidder", you have to type in their user name exactly, and it will block them from buying unless you take it back out of blocked buyers. Once I block someone, I do not take it back out at all. When things go wrong, they usually don't reverse themselves any time later on.
12. Buying things on clearance in retail stores can be an inexpensive way to start also. But be careful, sometimes items on clearance are odd sizes, won't sell on here either. I sell a lot of clothes, but some things I bought on clearance to resell on here, still have not sold. That was a hard thing to assess, and even when I have marked these items down really low, they have not sold.
13. You will get people telling you to "make a pretty store page", get a web store, pay for store graphics, and while all of that is fancy and nice, it takes away from your profits. I like to make money, before I spend money. Ebay has a free way to customize your store and it's been working for me FOR FREE. I love the stores that have the fancy borders and logos, etc, but it costs money to make it that way, and I just don't want to spend my profits on a fancier layout.
My store is designed by Ebay, and the best I can afford. I do not want a monthly charge to make my store have a "personalized logo" and all, they start from $10.00 a month and go up. And many ways to get that done. I even used auctiva for a while, it's like having a virus inside your own ebay business and it never goes away. They make it sound so good, but it screws up, and no one ever looked at those moving items going by when they bought a single item. And even though it made a pretty store design, it was hard to follow, and it interfered with my every day selling.
I say keep it simple, keep your money, and spend as little as possible on things like fees and designs . Ebay has done a great job all by itself with easy to understand ways to find what you are looking for.
So bottom line, - try it, keep it small, keep it short and sweet, be clear, take good pictures, and keep your profits in your pocket, not in inventory. Have fun, and definitely try it.
If your first idea does not catch on, or make you money, it's OK. You can still find other things that do work. I have found that if you sell things you are not interested in, you get very bored and don't have fun with it. Like I know nothing about electronics, wouldn't work for me to sell them. Or sports memorabilia, I know nothing about it. That's not my thing, but when I sell what I like, it's great and easy.
Also, Read my next Guide, the Shipping Guide because buyers need to know why shipping is a blessing, (because we have it as an option in life now) and how to understand the costs. You will only learn this when you have to buy the supplies, the tapes, the fillers, the cardboard, and buy actual boxes in larger sizes, and it is not apparent to a buyer what goes in to the shipping costs. You need to explain that in your listings, and the benefit to you is amazing. Once buyers understand it, they are much more at ease paying it, and they don't feel upset or ripped off when we have to cover the costs involved. And I explain in every single listing about shipping costs, because it is something that we don't know about unless we have done it ourselves.
I sell a guide inside my store called Before you Lose your Money, Learn from Me, and it has a much more detailed way to learn all of this, plus you can refer to it right next to the computer. The thing to remember is that we all started from scratch, and no one gets to be a millionaire when they start. I am still waiting, but in the meantime I have figured out how to keep my costs down, and my profits up.
There was a guy on here once complaining that his costs and fees were about 15%. That's a miracle. He found very cheap things like antiques etc, and marked them up alot and also did live auctions. He thought he could cut his costs even more, and I told him no, he could not. He was doing phenomenal business with low costs. Fees on here between Ebay and Paypal are about 20% give or take. You have to add in your cost of pictures, camera batteries, uploading, time, etc. So it's great when you can mark up 3-4 times your cost. Or sell in volume, with less profit, but more turnover.
When I started, if I was losing money, as I was, my costs were over 100% because I was doing it wrong. SO make sure you ask for enough, buy low enough, and expect to pay up to 20% in fees, and you are doing great. If it's a little higher, still great, but you can learn to find things as you go along that sell and have high turnover, great markup and it may be something you had never thought of at the beginning.
ALSO, please read my SHIPPING GUIDE as well as this one. If you are going to sell, you need to know the costs, and then explain them in your listings to your buyers who do not know. And when you learn what is involved, then you can tell others what's involved and get people to realize that things that arrive to your door do cost money to get them there, but you save money in gas and other expenses that you don't have to incur.
Good luck, enjoy and don't stress over it. You want this to be fun, and a good thing, not a new headache.
In this guide or the one that I sell, I do not infer to people what to sell. There are literally millions of choices. And what works for me, may not be available for you, or even something you like. When you start to sell, you have to like what you are doing. It's a 24 hour 365 day store out there in internet world, and you really have to be ready to do the work that it takes to do it right on here. This is not a business for an ammeter at all. People think you can just buy and sell, but it's a skilled profession for people that can deal with all aspects of retail, including fraud.
And lastly, fraud, it's out there, more of this is in my guide you purchase, because you have to learn how to handle it, and how to beat it. And it's a really small percent, but it feels like it's huge when it happens, and you need to know all of your legal, Ebay, & internet options, and own power to not be so targeted when you are new, and when you are selling.
Also remember that this guide, the guide that I sell are all just pointers. No one place has all of the information, but remember, Knowledge is Power, the more you have the more you succeed in everything.
GOOD LUCK TO EVERYONE, if you don't try it, you will not know if you like it or not, stay small when you try it, you can always donate things if you end up not wanting to be on here. It's a big job, not a small one, to sell on Ebay.