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…

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:

pic-holder-2 

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

small-pic-1

 

These are up for auction this week:

frames-2

 

Saved my favorite for last.  Check out these tulips:

tulips-1

 

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!

Don’t slip to the dark side.  Not in front of your customers anyway.

Sellers, you know what I mean.  You read an email from a potential buyer that just doesn’t sit right.  Or, you just read a post in a discussion forum that raises your hackles.  Or maybe another seller just implied that you’re not doing things “the right way.”   You know, their way.

Your fingers are on the keyboard before you even exhale.   You fire off a blur of  emotional paragraphs  peppered with words and phrases that may not be as professional as you would normally write.   You might write with anger, sarcasm, or even profanity. 

Have I done this?  Yep.  “How’d that work out for you?”, you ask.  Not well.  Every time.  Did it give me inner satisfaction to make my point known to this awful person who dared to disagree with my opinions?  Temporarily, yes.  But it was very fleeting.  It fled quickly after it occurred to me that there was now a written record of my dark side.

You know about the dark side, don’t you?  That (hopefully) small, dark, gnarly and nasty place inside that is just looking for a reason to come out and play.  It’s that place where we cram all of our daily exasperations to which we can’t always react.  Life busts our chops every day.  Some days it just has a field day.  Many days we can’t afford to react to each thing that Life throws at us.  Where do those feelings go?  To the dark side. 

Ask my husband about my dark side.  Preferably when I’m not in the room.  He’ll tell you (if I’m not in the room) that I can be sarcastic and nasty when my dark place flairs up.  Does it happen often?  No, thank God for that!

Ask my former co-workers about my secret dark twin.  As my unhappiness with my life-sucking job increased, my demeanor slipped to an all-time sarcastic low.  Hint:  If you ever become the most negative person in the room, it’s time to leave the job behind and find out how you can again become the most positive person.  Something has changed and it may just be you.  Don’t rely on negativity to improve your work environment.  It really doesn’t work that way and you know it.  Just a little career advice that I feel qualified to give.  Trust me on that one. 

Anyhoo…  Sellers, now that you’ve ignited your dark side what are you going to do about it?  Should you fire off that email response to the buyer that criticized your listing?  Should you get into a pissing match with another seller over business practices about which you totally disagree?  Will you lambast that newbie on the chat board that just thinks she knows everything?  You might, but I’m thinking you’ll regret it later.

It’s hard to rise above it all but in every instance that I chose that route, I have not been sorry.  Conversely, every time I took the “blast-it-all-to-Hell-I’m-telling-you-exactly-how-I-feel-because-it-will-make-me-feel-better-and-really-important-too” route, I wind up feeling very unprofessional and lacking in self-control.  “Why did my emotions get the better of me?”  “How come I actually mailed that email?”  “Now every time I go to that chat board I (and everyone else) can pull up that thread and see what a bitch I am!”  yadda yadda – self-loathing, remorse, wanting a do-over that can never be done.  In other words, a complete waste of precious time.

What you write down on the internet and in emails can not be unwritten.  Simple, right?  We all know this.  Remember it.  Rise above the negativity.  There’s an awful lot of it out there.  You have the power to wade into it and become part of it or to take the bridge over troubled water away from the dark side and into the light.  There’s a troll down there that would love to deliver that angry post or email.  Tell him very professionally that his services are not needed and that you’ll be responding when you are in a better frame of mind.  Or that you won’t be responding at all, thank you very much.

Our online words, emails, and posts are the only “faces” that our customers (including other sellers) will probably ever see.  That one email, Tweet, or post may be the only thing they read from us.   Wouldn’t it be a shame if the only side they saw of us was our tiniest worst side?

Lately I’ve been thinking of ways to diversify my online business beyond eBay and Amazon.  I have my own website that I do next to nothing with due to time constraints and I sell on five other sites that provide some extra sales in addition to the “Big Two”  – eBay and Amazon.  With eBay ripe for competition, there are other sites that seem to have survived a while so I took the time this week to jump in.

Not long ago I had looked into two new sites, eCrater.com and Bonanzle.com, but didn’t have the time to peruse yet another site that wants to take on dissatisfied eBay sellers (there are many) and I assumed that there was minimal traffic to these sites anyway. 

Maybe I was wrong.   I have spent the better part of the last two days setting up webstores at each site (they’re free) and have yet to get sales there.  It’s a tad early for that probably, but after having looked in detail at each site, I have to say that I’m impressed with their visions.

Bonanzle was a very easy set up that allowed me to load my listings from eBay without too much effort.  It rounded each dollar amount up to the nearest dollar and loaded my photos perfectly.  It has a Facebook kind of look to it and was extremely easy to use.  It also took my feedback from eBay and transferred it over to my Bonanzle webstore.  Wow!  Free and easy.

eCrater was only more difficult because I had to add each item myself.  I took the items that I have multiple quantities of, and could very quickly list items by cutting and pasting from my original listings.

These two sites have their work cut out for them but they are definitely on the right track.  They remind me (especially Bonanzle) of the way that eBayers still talk about the early days of eBay.    It was fun, easy, profitable for both sides, and customers got great deals.  Not so much fun for all 3 parties these days.  Ebay’s greed is notorious and they have recently changed their selling rules so frequently that it’s hard to keep up.  Many changes were  not seller friendly either.

Check out my new webstores if you get a minute.

Links:

http://www.bonanzle.com/booths/booksaroundtheclock

and

http://booksaroundtheclock.ecrater.com/

Any helpful feedback would be appreciated.