Believe it or not eBay has been around for over twenty years. That’s twenty years of people cleaning out their grandma’s attic and twenty years of ordinary people waiting countless hours at USPS to mail a dozen packages. Anyone can get started – eBay makes selling almost fool-proof – but how can you use eBay to make real money?
Specialize, Specialize, Specialize!
The first step is to think of your eBay business as, well, a business. Like with any business, your value is higher as a specialized company than as a conglomerate. Focus on one industry or one range of products.
Specialization has so many advantages compared to running an eBay store selling an array of products. Nasty Gal Vintage is probably the best example of a specialized eBay seller. From humble beginnings buying products at her local Salvation Army, Nasty Gal Vintage’s founder Sophia Amoruso is now worth $280 million. Sophia grew her eBay store through word-of-mouth advertising by establishing a reputation for herself in the online community as a place to shop for good prices, good customer service and great vintage clothes. Had Sophia sold only a handful of vintage clothes as well as office supplies, books and electronics, she wouldn’t have been able to build a reputation in any of the categories.
As an added benefit, by being specialized Sophia was able to focus her attention on acquiring as many goods as possible and eventually had an in-depth understanding of her market. This helped her lower her acquisition costs since she knew the true cost of a product which enabled her to maximize her profit.
Marketing is Key
So many eBay listings are set up by amateur sellers. Amateurs take terrible photos, write a dozen words as a description and don’t spend any time creating the perfect title. If you were a buyer, would you trust an amateur seller? Would you buy from him if there was an identical product for sale from a more professional seller? Don’t be an amateur.
Instead, take as many pictures as you can and use good light. Angle your products attractively or, in the case of clothing, show them styled on a person or mannequin. No one wants to buy a t-shirt that looks like it’s been in a box for 30 years. For sellers with larger margins, eBay offers a dozen or so eBay marketing tools to make your listing stand out from the competition.
As with life, staying organized will keep you sane. Once you’ve decided to become an eBay seller, you’ll have to start keeping detailed account records. These records will help you determine your profit – if you aren’t making money, why are you wasting your time selling on eBay? Good records will also help you experiment with your marketing strategy and help you determine which products sell best. In other words, if you find that knee-high boots are popular and sell best on the weekends, you should list your knee-high boots on Thursday afternoons.
Then of course, you’ll need good records for the tax man. And to make sure you don’t list something twice. Or that you forget to ship it. Speaking of shipping, you’ll want to do it right and do it fast. Use insurance or require a signature if you’re shipping expensive items. The last thing you want is to fall victim to the popular eBay scam where a seller will get a package only to then file a claim against you for “non-receipt” of his item.
Making money as an eBay seller is tricky. In order to stand out amongst the competition, you need to market yourself well and establish a good reputation as a specialized seller. But, once you’ve got a good reputation and people seek out your store, you’ll be well on your way to making real money selling on eBay.
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