Henryís Random Thoughts
This is a beginnerís guide to selling on ebay. It is not meant to walk you through all the technical steps of listing. I am going on the assumption that the reader is at least moderately computer-literate, and thatís really all you need to sell. The most important thing to know about selling on ebay is that it is not much different from selling anywhere else. You have to figure out what you are going to do, why you think you can do it, how much time you want to put into it, how to handle disputes, etc.
Ebay has a huge advantage over other selling methods, beyond its obvious fame and existing customer base. That advantage is that you can use it as much as you want and work on it whenever you want. There are no fixed charges for being a member. You can sell one $20 item per month on the site and turn a profit. Yes, it would be a small profit, but it would still be a profit. You can do your listing and shipping in your free time. This is a major improvement over the world of the mid-90s. I had a small baseball card shop back then. Not only did it lose money thanks to the overhead, it had to be staffed in the afternoon and evening. I had to hold a third shift job to be able to keep the place open. It wasted a year and a half of my life. Never again would I try to establish a physical store. Below the level of a shopkeeper is the weekend warrior who does flea markets and yard sales. These people can have a normal job, but their weekends are shot.
Thanks to ebay, you can sell some of your excess attic junk, start a side business or try to make a living.
The great advantage of ebay is also its biggest challenge to sellers. The lack of fixed expenses and relatively open community means that if you are making a killing selling something, you will soon have competition. Overpriced junk simply wonít sell. You need to have a competitive advantage to really thrive. Either you have access to better stuff than anyone else, offer a better variety or service, or you can get it cheaper.
When I had my card shop, there really was no advantage. Our inventory was second-rate and our prices were about as high as any of the other places around town. But still, we did a certain amount of business just because we were the only card shop within a few miles. If it had been an ebay business, we would have had to lower our prices dramatically to make any sales at all. Then, we would have had to have gotten a lot better at buying quality stuff on the cheap. But if we had done it, I could have gotten a day job and not worried about rent and utilities.
Good examples of a competitive advantage is the ability to get things cheaper, low or no overhead costs, or the ability to find quality merchandise that other sellers canít get.
Therein lies the problem with prepackaged ebay businesses being marketed via TV commercials. These people will set you up with sources and get you going, but they are setting dozens of other people up in the exact same business, taking some kind of cut from suppliers as their profit. With so many people selling the same product the same way, the only way to compete is by cutting your price. Eventually, the profit margin at which you can sell product is that at which it is barely worth the time. Your profit will be similar to the wages you would make at a job doing the same thing. Now, some people might be desperate to make a living and need to get started this way. But if you are one of them, you should be thinking of ways to piggyback other items onto the existing business, items that other people might not have the same access to.††
Written by Henry Grimmelsman starting in 2007. Please do not use without citation and linking to my website.