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Three billion dollars (that's billion with a "B") in revenues, 135 million users, millionaires all over the place at eBay! Yeah, eBaby!!!, to steal a line form another great author. (See "eBay: No Way? Yes Way (Ten Seller Themes) by Barbara Snyder M.A." at http://www.sbmag.org/howtoselloneBay.html)
Yeah! Wow! ? Make a million! Open a store on eBay and get rich! Man this is easy!!! -NOT!!!
It's way to easy to get caught up in all the hype out there about eBay and to start thinking all you have to do is set up an eBay store and you are on your way to the life style to which you would like to become accustomed. Don't believe it.
Before you start primping for your own segment of "Life-styles of the Rich and Famous," there are a few things you should learn about eBay and small business start-ups in general.
The rate of survival of a traditional small business reads something like half of all new business start-ups fail in the first year and half of the survivors do not survive the second year, and eBay is probably no different. In fact, it's not easy at all anymore (if it ever was) to carve out a fortune on what has been dubbed "the world's largest garage sale".
"But Floyd, take a look at all that money", you say. Sure eBay is doing just fine, but of that three billion dollars, how much of it is actually spent on items in "your" category or product line "you" have for sale?
Everyone has to decide exactly what business he or she wants to be in. Then they have to decide if they are going to be a niche player or try to carve out significant market share. Either way you decide to go, you may find out that the pool you are swimming in is not as deep as it may first appear. Unless you are selling automobiles or real estate, not all or even a large percentage of that three billion dollars is spent in your merchandise category. Make sure you check the water before you dive in head first.
When you do decide to jump in, make sure you are ready both financially and mentally to go through a learning curve of some months. Back in the earlier days this may not have been the case, but today eBay has become extremely competitive and significantly more expensive for sellers. And don't expect a lot of help from eBay directly. They are not the greatest company in the world at customer support. They have a lot of information available, but they also have a tendency to answer help questions with loads of boiler plate "fixes" that usually serve more to confuse then to actually help.
Speaking of fees, this is how eBay lives. They literally nickel and dime you to death (actually its more like quarter and dollar)? thirty cents for the cheapest insertion free, thirty-five cents for a gallery picture, a buck for "bolding" and on and on. And then there's the fair value selling commission and the PayPal fees (PayPal is a must have!). All these small fees add up fast. Don't forget, you pay the listing and insertion fees whether your item sells or not. You will quickly learn that your selling percentage becomes crucial and why it is so important you learn how to make very efficient listings at the lowest cost possible as fast as possible. If you fail to learn this, before for you know it, eBay is taking half or more of your total sales just in fees, not counting your cost of product and shipping.
eBay has been called the "world's largest garage sale" for good reason. You know what people are looking for at garage sales, cheap prices. In the beginning, if you were the only one on eBay selling a specific product, you could demand and get higher prices. Today it's a bit different. The competition is brutal. You are competing against people and business of all sizes, and there is always someone selling your product at very, very low prices, or worse yet, using it as a loss leader. Some of these people are huge jobbers and or the manufactures themselves, hard to compete against. Some sellers are part time or hobbyist and don't need or care if they make much money (and they probably don't). Unless you have a very unique product or are in a position where you can bring a new, hot product to eBay first, you must be prepared for extremely aggressive pricing competition in a market where the average buyer is looking for cheap beer prices on high quality champagne.
So, all said, you may be wondering if it's even worth the effort. That depends on you and how well you prepare.
Before you open your eBay Store or run out and buy a bunch of product, visit Strictly Business Magazine's "How to Sell on eBay Resource Center" at http://sbmag.org and read all the "free" articles. Then buy and read a series of books about eBay, there are a number of them listed there. Start out with a book on the basics and then the more advanced volumes.
After you have read up on the basics, set up a seller's account. Not a Store yet, that starts the meter running after the thirty day free trial. Not a lot of money, but why pay it until you have the necessary education you are going to need to be successful.
Once you have a basic education, experiment with a few items you have lying around the house you'd like to get rid of. This will give you the chance to experience the eBay process and give you an idea of what you are in for. Pick items that sell for under $10, this will give you the cheapest listing fees to experiment with. (A $9.99 item lists for half the price of a $10 item, same thing as $24.99 vs $25). Also make sure you pick items that are easy to ship. Check with the post office for shipping fees and packaging. If you use Express Mail, most of the shipping materials are free and in some cases will more then offset the higher postage fees and will get your product to your customer faster, resulting in better a Feedback Rating, something you will soon learn is very important in eBay.
As you're reading the books you have just bought, watch for important subjects such as Feedback Rating, shipping and handling, product selection, effective listings, taking and using photos and using hmtl in your listings. Also make note of other tips and ideas on keeping your listing professional but at the same time keeping the cost down. Other topics of importance include "keywords" and how they affect eBay search engines and auctions vs fixed price listings.
Don't be misled into believing that the buyers are clamoring all over themselves to bid up every item you offer up for sale. Go browse the listings in the category that you will be listing in. You may be surprised to see that most items don't have a single bid and will not sell at all and others have only a single bid. You may also want to find out what are the best days and time frames most successful auctions close.
The price you pay for a few books and the time it takes to read them and do a little research may be returned ten fold or more in just the first few months after opening your eBay store.
Floyd Snyder is the founder and former owner of Executive Advertising, Camera Ready Art and Strictly Business Magazine. Currently he is the owner of Strictly Business Magazine at http://www.sbmag.org, http://www.FrameHouseGallery.com, http://www.EducationResourcesNetwork.com/and http://www.TraderAide.com.