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Toward Self-Sufficiency: Selling on eBay to Achieve My Goal

December 12, 2010

Last week I the posted the first article in an eight-part series through which I will be outlining how I am working making my hobby of collecting sports cards and memorabilia self-sufficient from a financial standpoint.

In my original article that summarized the actions I have taken to move toward that goal, the second step that I took was to teach myself the basics of selling successfully on eBay through online auctions.  This was done in an effort to begin moving out the cards that were not deemed to be keepers for my collection after going through step one, which involved establishing what my collection would focus on moving forward. 

eBay appealed to me as the outlet to use to begin turning those unneeded cards into money for cards that I did need for a number of reasons, the most notable being:

  • I was familiar with the system from using it to buy cards and memorabilia for years (I’ve had an account for nearly a decade now);
  • I felt as though the potential audience I could reach far exceeded any other sales outlet available to me given eBay’s massive number of users and popularity amongst collectors as a source of items.  Where else would I have the ability to get my cards into the hands of collectors from literally all over the world?; and
  • The time commitment required for selling was far less than using any of a number of online message board websites.  There is no negotiation involved and no inventory list to manually maintain on eBay, it’s all done for you.  You simply list the items you want to list when you want to list them and come back to them when the auction has ended.  This seemed like a far better option to me when compared to sending e-mail after e-mail back and forth trying to settle on a price and maintaining a document or spreadsheet of exactly what I had available at any given time.

With some hard work, experimentation, and lessons learned along the way, I gradually became as comfortable with the selling aspect of eBay as I was with buying on the website.  As a result, I’ve made a great deal of progress in converting the items that won’t be a part of my collection into cash for those that are.

Among the important things I have learned about what it takes to be successful selling on eBay include the following:

  • It takes time to learn how to do it, let alone do it well.  When I first started selling on eBay, the process was much more complicated and time-consuming than it is now.  Getting five items listed over the course of a few hours was a major success at the beginning. 
  • Do some background work in advance rather than trying to figure things out on the fly.  Research other sellers are doing to see what has made them successful.  Figure out the best times and days of the week to have your items end.  Create listing templates so selling similar items becomes easier to accomplish.  Establish policies related to your shipping activities that make sense both financially and from a timing perspective.  All of these will increase your chances of
  • List your items as you would want to see them listed if you were the one buying them.  Include useful titles and detailed item descriptions and be honest about what you are selling.  The buyer should not have to work to understand what it is you are selling and should not be surprised by what it is they receive should they purchase your item.
  • Consistency is king.  Having all of your listings looking, feeling, and being the same outside of item-specific descriptors establishes a sense of professionalism and trust from your buyers that you have what it takes to deliver what they are expecting.  Don’t get caught with shipping charges that vary wildly.  Keep colours and fonts regular from one listing to the next.  In short, look like you know what you’re doing and look like you care.
  • An item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  Price guides and past sales figures may lead you to believe you have something special up for auction, but unless there are others out there who feel the same as you do about your item you are bound to be disappointed from time to time. 
  • You need patience when it comes to dealing with buyers.  Many eBay users only buy through the site and as a result you are bound to come across some who have little appreciation for the demands of being a seller.  Unrealistic expectations on shipping times and uneducated opinions on shipping costs tend to be the biggest issues I’ve come across.  Some may take the time to point out flaws or typos in your listings.  Others may feel that they are entitled to bonuses and extras that have nothing to do with the transaction you have with them.  Keeping a level head and being patient in how you deal with problem buyers or bidders will help in achieving sales success.
  • Finally, use the feedback system.  Some people feel that it is not necessary to leave feedback (sellers in particular it seems), but I wholeheartedly disagree with that sentiment.  As a seller, your feedback rating is of the utmost importance as it directly impacts your items priority in search results and is the best measure of your reliability to buyers.  By leaving feedback for your customers to build their own rating you offer them an incentive to do the same for you, thereby building your reputation and subsequently your chances of success.

There are countless books, articles, and blog posts about what makes a successful eBay seller.  Having read a significant number of them myself in an ongoing effort to improve my own services I can comfortably tell you that no single method of doing things will work for everyone. 

The views I outline above come from a hybrid of a number of different recommendations from a number of sources and are coupled with my own experiences selling on the site, but by no means does that mean I am an expert on the subject or know everything there is to know. 

If I did, I would be doing this as a full-time job and my selling activities are far from that.

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As a buyer, what do you look for in an eBay seller?  Do you sell on eBay and have some advice that I don’t have listed in this article?  What tips do you have for people looking to get started selling their own unneeded items on eBay? 

Post a comment or shoot me an e-mail at bb_bros [at] hotmail [dot] com.

In next Sunday’s “Toward Self-Sufficiency” post, I will  give some background on how I gradually moved toward setting up an eBay store to further expand my selling efforts and lead myself even closer to accomplishing my goal.

Before that piece is posted though, I’ll be using Wednesday’s post for my first “Steal of a Deal” article, featuring the card shown here:

Until then, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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