Why is starting an eBay business so 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 foray 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).
Question: What can researching eBay before listing a product or launching a store reveal?
Answer: Researching eBay before listing a product or launching a store will answer three questions that are vital if you actually want to make money on eBay:
- Is there a market for this?
- How much is this item worth?
- How much competition is there?
You need to know the answer to at least the second two of these questions before you bother to list something on eBay.
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: Critically important. Take a foolish example. Suppose you want to sell rocks on eBay. It cost $86 to ship each rock to a Canadian address and more to send one anywhere else. 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 sell any rocks under these conditions.
You need to know all the details about shipping before you sell anything on eBay.
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.
So you need to include details (such as colour, 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?
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.
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, Web sites 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 their site, they're also offering eBay courses/seminars in various cities around the country.
We (About) also have a site all about eBay (http://ebay.about.com/). And, of course, those interested in starting or running an eBay business will find plenty of material to help them get started and develop a successful business on my site, About Small Business: Canada. (You knew I was going to say that.) See also eBay 101: a Primer and Beginner's Guide to eBay Navigating, Buying, and Selling and eBay 101: Understanding the World's Single Largest Marketplace.Adelia Cellini Linecker is a Los Angeles-based business writer.