Starting an eBay business is appealing because it's easy, fun and can be done from the comfort of your own home. But what if you want to do more than just sell a few items and actually make money on eBay?
How do you turn your selling on eBay hobby into a successful eBay business? That's what Adelia Linecker wanted to know when she interviewed me. The following interview transcript presents what I think are the keys to successful eBay selling. (Adelia Linecker's article, “Kicking Up Online Profits”, appeared in Investor's Business Daily).
Starting a Successful eBay Business
Question: What is researching before listing a product or launching a store on Ebay important?
Answer: Researching before listing a product or launching a store will answer three questions that are vital if you want to make money selling on eBay:
- Is there a market for this?
- How much is this item worth?
- How much competition is there?
Start with the second of these questions; check both eBay and a variety of other online sites to find out what an item is typically going for. (You need to check several places because you don't want to charge way too much or too little.) Answering this second question first will also give you input on the other two questions. If the item is really hard to find or non-existent, it may be that there's no demand for it. Before you bother to clutter up your inventory with bunches of whatever it is, run a few sample auctions to see if anyone bites. If you search for an item and find lots of listings on eBay and elsewhere, there may be too much competition for a newbie like you to bother with it - especially as seller ratings are so critical on eBay (see below).
Question: How important is it to the success of your eBay business that your products are easy and not too expensive to ship? What else should you know about shipping before starting an eBay business?
Answer: Shipping is critically important, especially as so many online sellers are offering free shipping on items. Take a foolish example. Suppose you want to sell rocks on eBay. It cost $86 to ship each rock because of the weight involved. However, no one seems to want to pay more than $5.00 for a rock. You can see what would happen to your business if you were dumb enough to try to sell any rocks under these conditions.
You need to know all the details about shipping before you choose anything to sell on eBay.
And you need to make all the details about shipping perfectly clear to your potential buyers.
Question: What must you include in the description of your products to improve chances they will sell?
Answer: When you’re selling on eBay, the description of your products is your Unique Selling Proposition. It's one of your big chances to get the viewer to want your product. (The other is the picture of the item.) So if you don't invest time in developing a mouth-watering description of your product, you're throwing away half your chance to sell it.
You need to include details (such as color, size, weight etc.) as well as features that set your product apart from other such products and make it desirable. For instance, you don't just sell "teddy bears" on eBay. You sell "handcrafted, one-of-a-kind teddy bears". The trick is to think like a purchaser. What would you want to know about the item? What would make you buy it?
And make sure that the photos of the items you have for sale are as appealing as they can possibly be too.
Question: Some people are eager to make "a ton of money" with an eBay business. How realistic is this? What should your focus really be at first so that you can eventually make a decent return?
Answer: Making a "ton of money" is not a realistic expectation - but if you have the right products, do things right and are prepared to work at the business, making a good living is. Because of the way that eBay works, your focus at first should be establishing yourself as a proven, trusted seller and building up the positive feedback you need to do this. If you want to run a successful eBay business, you have to take the time to do this because generally eBay buyers favor sellers with a long trading history and a large number and high percentage of positive feedback ratings. Obviously you don't have a long trading history when you're starting out but it's never too early to work on acquiring positive feedback ratings.
Question: eBay sellers can sometimes come across as unreliable, or at the very least obscure. What can you do to make buyers feel you are a serious business?
Answer: Run your eBay business as a proper business from the get go. That means going through the steps of setting up a real business, charging appropriate taxes, following standard business practices and investing in things such as professional looking packaging.
Question: Any books, websites or other reliable sources you can recommend for those who want to start an eBay business?
Answer: eBay itself is a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to become an eBay seller or increase their eBay sales success. Besides the resources on the eBay site, they also offer eBay courses/seminars in various cities around the country.
Adelia Cellini Linecker is a Los Angeles-based business writer.