I’ve been selling items online for about 5 years now.  Currently and hopefully for the rest of my working days this is a full-time gig.  In the past it has run the gamut from part-time in addition to a full-time lifesucking corporate job, little time because it was just a hobby, to virtually no time as in listing on occasion and letting the “business” sit there until a sale occurred.

 As with most things in my life, I have learned this business the hard way.  From my mistakes, from others’ mistakes, from reading incessantly for hours, and from trying a variety of new things as I went along.  Some attempts were successful and many were abyssmal failures but all were necessary to get where I am today – a mild to moderate success with much improvement needed.  🙂

I still feel like I don’t know a lot about this business but there are a few things that I feel that I know for sure.  These thoughts have occurred to me a lot in the last few weeks so I felt the need to write them down.  You may agree with some of these things.  You might strongly disagree but this has been my experience.

1.)  Online selling is a numbers game.  All the studying, Tweeting, webinars and podcasts do NOT replace listing and more listing.  The more I list, the more I sell.  Period.

2.)  Surround yourself with whiners, complainers, and do-nothings and that is what you become.  There are plenty of capable, successful people on the internet that are more than happy to be an example of what works and will share many helpful ideas on their blogs or on Facebook/Twitter.  There is a disproportionately large number of disgruntled negative sellers that feel the need to channel all of their energy into “not selling so that I may complain.”  Avoid them.  They are everywhere.  Especially in chat forums.  Enough said, until you get to Number 4 anyway.  But first, Number 3… 

3.)  Put the Best Offer on your eBay listings and OBO (Or Best Offer) on Bonanzle.  Not everyone will be a lowballer and I can always reject any offer.  It’s also FREE, so why not?  This single item is the best thing that I’ve done for my eBay store this year.  Not every buyer uses it but many want to haggle and succeed in getting an even better deal.  Some offers get declined but I wake up to a few of these every day.  In a tough $$$ week, I’m happy to see these offers because they represent to me “money in the bank.”  If I accept an offer on eBay, it’s an automatic sale.  Craig Stark of BookThink just wrote about this feature and his experience was similar.

4.)  Chat forums are, by and large, supreme time wasters.  Hours can go by while I read about the latest “controversy” on each venue.  I use the chat rooms now as a water cooler (with time limits in place) or as a place to go to find answers.  Working at home is isolating but I don’t need to have hours of online conversation either.  Don’t even get me started on the people who spend all of their time Tweeting news stories all day…  😦

5.)  Be flexible.  As much as it pains me to constantly change and ‘roll with it, baby’, it’s a fact of life online.  Things move fast here and when you sell on many venues there is always a “major change” ahead.  Each venue is constantly improving themselves (or they’re trying anyway) and that means CHANGE.  Whether I like it or not.  Will I complain if I don’t agree with the change?  Yep, but hopefully not for hours in a chat room and not for long.  I will tell myself to get over it and plan accordingly.  It’s their sandbox and I’m not taking my toys home unless it causes me to lose a significant amount of money.  Then I’ll just leave. 

Many MANY people criticize eBay.  I have many not-so-nice opinions of the way they’ve done business over the last two years.  I’ve never left them though.  It’s where I have made a large amount of money and their traffic still can’t be beat.  When I tell people that I sell on Bonanzle, they’ve never heard of it.  This is changing and it’s why I stay even though my sales there have been poor.  I have faith in Bonanzle and the people that run it.  When I tell people that I sell online, they say “You sell on eBay?”  It’s still the synonomous word for “online sales” and that is where the average internet buyer will go to look for a deal.  So I stay there and roll with the changes, for good and for bad.  Which brings me to…

6.)  Sell on various venues.  Don’t get roped into believing that one venue is the answer.  Always have an alternative site or, in my case, many sites.  I’m not so enamored of eBay to not realize that they can shut me down in a second.  I’ve read all the stories and heard all of the tales.  If Bill Harding at Bonanzle was offered a mega-million dollars to turn over the keys to Bonanzle, would he be foolish enough NOT to take it?  Even if it happened to be from his competitor?  And I wouldn’t blame him one bit for taking it and running.  These types of things happen all the time in business.

Spread yourself around and try to stay away from trouble.  Read the guidelines of each site and try, although this one is tough, to keep up with the ever-changing rules of each site.  Don’t try to cheat the system.  Don’t give a venue a reason to shut you down.  If you get an offer on eBay, keep it on eBay.  If you’re not allowed to direct a buyer to your blog off-site, don’t post your website on your listing.  When you get a sale from Borders through Alibris, don’t tout your own site in your packing materials.  “Dance with the one that brought ya” as they say. 

7.)  Sell a variety of items.  Having a mix of new, used, collectible, and rare items is a good plan for me.  Used books are becoming harder and harder to sell for any real money.  This is the market that I started in and it is becoming the part of my business that I’m spending the least time with.  The Kindle is here whether we like it or not.  Used books donation bins are becoming a business model for more and more megasellers.  Friends of the Library sales are increasingly rare and usually picked over by the libraries themselves, who have finally figured out that the books they were selling for 25 cents are worth a lot more to keep and sell on their own.  Amazon is continually hawking how easy it is to “Sell Yours Here” to anyone that pushes the button.  Anyone can be a bookseller on Amazon, just hit the button.  Many wholesalers are now competing against their retail customers too. If I stayed with the books I would be very much worse for the wear right now.

These are just a few things that I know and I have so much more to learn.  For now, I’ll be listing auctions for the rest of the day because —  8.) Blogging  doesn’t make me money despite what I’ve read on Twitter…

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Who exactly is eBay appealing to now?  I’m not so sure that they’ve figured out what sellers want nor do they seem to care.

The latest “big announcement” is that eBay will, as of June 16th, 2009, be allowing the first five auction insertion fees to be waived and the Final Value Fees on those auctions be lowered to either $20.00 or 8.75% whichever is lower.

Hardly a big deal for those of us who list many auctions per week.  For me this new procedure will save a measly $1.75 per month (.35 x 5) in listing fees plus a few percent of the FVF which has lately been a low selling price (assuming that those five auctions result in a sale.)  It’s a start and it’s heading in the right direction (down) but I can’t even begin to feel excitement about this change.  Also part of this new offering is that in order to get the five free insertion fees the seller must use the Sell Your Item or Simple listing tool.  I use a third party listing program (Inkfrog) as many store owners do, so I would have to go outside of my inventory management program to save a few dollars.  Probably not worth the trouble for a few dollars.

Why is eBay appealing to the very casual eBay seller?  What do they gain by targeting this customer?  Not much from the looks of it.  Anyone who sells just a few items a month on eBay may not be aware of this change or may not care enough to  increase their auction listings.  Isn’t that what the intended result of this change was?  To increase listings thereby making more money for eBay?  If so, why not serve casual and mega-listers and make that magic number 20 free auctions?  That way the casual listers can still list a few per month, possibly list a couple more things from the basement, and megalisters can actually get a bit of a break on a larger number of auctions and actually be happy to see their monthly bill go down a notch.  Here’s an even better scenario:  the first fifty auctions per month free.  Watch the auctions go up, up, up and eBay can collect all the FVF’s they want.  Ebay and the sellers are happy as clams.

I can still dream, can’t I.

Went to my favorite kind of auction last night. 

What makes it my favorite kind of auction you ask?

It’s rural.

It’s far enough away from home without being annoyingly far.  In other words, within an hour’s drive.

The Amish park their horses and carriage under a shade tree.  This always fascinates me.  I try not to stare at the people who are obviously Amish because of their dress.  I’m not a rude person just a people watcher.  The men do the bidding.  Their wives quietly browse and bring their husband’s attention to any hidden bargains like every good wife does (including this one.)  Their clothes are very clean and all handmade.  I have to stop myself from staring at their clothes.  The seams are always so well sewn and the ladie’s dresses and bonnets are usually made of such durable fabrics.  Nothing fancy but made to last.  I could go on and on about this.  Did I mention how people fascinate me? 

This auction takes place in cow country.  It’s always a beautifully scenic drive.  I’m a country girl at heart even though I’ve spent most of my life in suburbia.

I have to park on a winding country road with a ditch to my side that I have to remember is there when it gets pitch black.  OK, so this isn’t one of my favorite things about this auction.  My husband was not able to go with me this time so I had to do the “parking thing” alone.  If I fell into the ditch no one would hear the thump, the probable screams, and even if someone did they would think “Eh, one less bidder.”    So I had to be extra careful.  It’s out in the country but there’s still danger out there folks. 🙂

It takes place in a driveway.  The box lots are all pulled out to the driveway and choiced to the highest bidder.  You have to be fast on your feet and well prepared.  I learned this the hard way as I’ve learned mostly every else.  It’s lightning fast and there’s no time for slackers.  The auctioneer will usually taunt the unprepared, “What? Is this your first auction?” and everyone chuckles.  Been there.  On both sides.  It’s fun though.  Really.

The food is good but sometimes it distracts me.  One time I was munching away and didn’t realize that half of the crowd had gone out to start bidding.  I missed the lot that I wanted while I fed my face.  Boy that food was good but it could have waited.  Honestly, I was pissed at myself for doing something so stupid.  Now I eat when I’m done.  Period.  Between my purse, my bidder card, my lot list, and my pen, I don’t have any hands left for even a drink.  When my husband’s with me he might be the water boy (or should I say “man”?) but he wasn’t so I had to stay parched.  Oh yeah, and there’s only a porta-potty so there’s incentive to not drink a thing if you know what I’m saying…

Do you love to go to auctions too?  What makes them fun for you?  I’d love to hear from you.

Recently I bought a lot of inventory from a gift shop that had closed.   These neat easel picture holders were part of my loot.  They’re in great condition and if I didn’t have cats that liked to bat things off of my fireplace mantels they would have never made it to eBay!

This is a more ornate display holder with a thicker rack:

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This one is not as frilly looking and has prongs instead of a shelf-type display:

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These are up for auction this week:

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Saved my favorite for last.  Check out these tulips:

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Just click on any of the photos above and you’ll be taken to the store listings or the auctions. 

Display your favorite photos, books, certificates, family Bibles, or rotate your kids’ artwork in style!

I’ve just added some really neat stuff and the good news is that I’ve only just scratched the surface of the items I have to list.

When I think of wigs, I think of being a little girl in the sixties and early 1970’s.  My mom had various wigs on styrofoam heads that she actually let me play with too.  I remember how neat they were and how pretty my mom and all of her friends looked when they were wearing these cool hairstyles.

Do women still wear these?  I don’t know of one.  That’s why I put in my auction “Drag queens, Halloween, and everything in between” because I’m sure there are a variety of uses for these gorgeous pieces.

Like this one:

Christian Dior Wig

Christian Dior Wig

And a partial wig (wiglet) like this one:

Wiglet

Wiglet

I’ve got some great vintage neckties up too:

Tie Lot Auction

Tie Lot Auction

I love this one:

Moonrocks Apollo 11 Tie

Moonrocks Apollo 11 Tie

Why did I start this auction at 99 cents?  I guess I felt like living on the edge today.  That’s how I roll…

This is more my style…  if I wore ties, that is:

Garfield the Cat Necktie

Garfield the Cat Necktie

 

I felt the need to tell a story in this auction.  No I didn’t make it up.  It’s true:

Ugly or Unique? You Be The Judge

Ugly or Unique? You Be The Judge

 Clicking on the above pictures will take you straight to the auctions if you’d like to see them. 

Not only did I have a blast putting these up for sale but I have so much more good stuff to put up.  Can’t wait to keep going!  I’m off…

 

It never ceases to amaze me when my husband and I discuss something that one of us has read and he will be in total agreement and I will be shaking my head in disbelief.

It usually begins with him telling me about something that he read that really clicked with him.  He found someone with whom he can relate.  Someone who understands him.  Someone who’s been writing what my husband’s been feeling.   Great.  But sometimes I just shake my head and think, “You’ve got to be kidding?”

Do we often have similar opinions?  Well, yes and no.  That’s a complex answer for a simple question.  Sometimes I can read his mind and we’re totally on the same page.  Other times… well… I can admit here that I think to myself “I’m married to a person with this idiotic opinion!”  But just to myself….  wink

Opposites attract.  Yep.  Hubby and I have the same basic values, ethics, morals, and all that jazz but maybe it’s a male/female thing because on the issues in which we disagree, we disagree BIG.

Hubby mentioned seeing an article written about a rich, famous CEO who when asked about his “secret” to becoming successful said that he never does more than one thing at a time.   My first thought was “Only a man could have the luxury of doing one thing at a time and still be a great success.”  When Dave (the husband) told me this story my second thought was, “I know where this is going.”  He went on and on about the fact that someone so successful shared this trait with him.  Dave didn’t say it that way but I knew why he was telling me this story.  We’re very different in this respect and we don’t understand this opposite trait in each other.

Is it typical male behavior to do just one thing at a time?  Is it more of a female thing to multi-task?  Not sure but that’s the way it is in this household.  Always has been.  Not that there’s anything wrong with either way but each of us can NOT understand why the other is the way they are. 

I can not for the life of me understand how my husband gets by only doing one thing at a time.  He can not see how I can simultaneously be doing 12 things and get anything done.

Here are pictures of my kitchen yesterday:

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My laptop was running Dave White’s “eBay and Beyond” talk show yesterday while I was simultaneously making cookies, listing auctions, doing laundry, making tea, and doing dishes.  The orange spray cleaner was left out to use for cleaning up the mess I would eventually make.  Don’t ask me about the green ground strip.  I have no idea why it’s been on the dishwasher for a month week next to the purple cat brush kitchen utensil.   😉

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Here is my cookie sheet at the ready, my tube of cookie dough made the day before, and my electric hotpot all plugged in and ready for my tea break.  “eBay and Beyond” was still going strong and I hadn’t missed a word.

Who can do just one thing at a time?  Obviously, not me.

Today, it came back to bite me though.  I nearly burned down the kitchen while I was boiling cooking tomato soup on the stove for lunch.  By the time I got back into the kitchen after listing “just one more auction”  it had boiled over and run down the front of the stove to the floor, not missing the insides of the pull out drawers on the way down.  Tomato chaos.  Monday Bloody Monday.  One big mess.  Set me back a half hour by the time I cleaned it all up.

Should’ve been doing one thing at a time today.  Also should’ve left out that orange spray cleaner.

Are you a multi-tasker or a one-at-a-timer?  I’d love to hear from you.

Last week I was telling a friend that there’s only one thing worse than getting to an auction, previewing it, and finding nothing interesting for resale — that would be wasting the whole day sitting there only to find out that you were right.

I have been to 2 auctions this weekend and have left both empty-handed.   On Saturday I immediately left an auction after previewing nothing of significance to me.  On Sunday I wasted 3 hours at an auction after confirming what I already thought.  If it ain’t there, it ain’t there. 

“Get in, get out, and go home” is my favorite mantra that unfortunately I ignored on Sunday.   Sat outside in 90 degree heat and high humidity just to do what I call “research” of the prices that other dealers will pay for items.  This is how I pathetically justify my time spent at unsuccessful auctions.    What the other dealers are paying for items is a good indicator of what their market will pay, but I remind myself that their market may be NYC or an equivalent high-dollar market which is NOT eBay or my local suburban low-income population.  It interests me nonetheless.  It did not, however, excite my wallet.