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Run a successful eBay Business

For many professional sellers on eBay, the e-marketplace platform behaves in many ways like a traditional brick-and-mortar business. Although there might not be any storefront per se, the rest of the model is familiar: sourcing products carefully, managing inventories, maintaining turnover, and charting numbers.

One of the most common small business models on eBay is by sourcing from closeout liquidators or craigslist and then sell them on eBay at a profit. There are sellers like this working in collectibles, books, technology, cameras and photography, and even in fashion and clothing. If you have the right personality type, you might succeed at this game, too.

The video below illustrates how to set up shop and sell on eBay:


Basically, the two sets of skills that most eBay sellers must have before they begin to see a livable profit on eBay are business skills and eBay skills.

Read on to find out more about the unique set of skills and practices that must be employed if an eBay seller is to become successful.

Additionally, there are a few other basic skills and practices that you will need to master in order to become successful at what you do.

Keep Inventory Organized
You're likely to be dealing in hundreds or even thousands of unique items for which you always have a quantity of only one. If you don't have a great system for keeping track of which item is listed for how much, which has sold, and which gets shipped where, you'll soon want to pull your hair out. Here are some inventory tips that can help you to keep track of your business.

• Log your purchases. Log every purchase you make along with the amount paid and a brief description that differentiates it from the rest of your stock.

• Attach item numbers to items. The moment you list an item, affix a sticker or post-it note to it with the listing number in question.

• Keep your inventory tidy and organized. Have a good system for arranging already-listed items in your inventory space so that you can easily find them when needed.

• Be your own detailed bookkeeper. Maintain a ledger or spreadsheet that lists at the very least an item number, brief description, what you paid, what it sells for, whether or not you've shipped it yet, whether you received feedback yet, and whether you've left feedback yet.

• Run the numbers. Tally this ledger or spreadsheet often and use it to track net profits and the success (or failure) of different types of goods.

As you can see, in a business like this one, bookkeeping is everything. Without good bookkeeping, sellers commit cardinal sins like listing the same item twice, shipping the wrong item to a winning bidder, losing the item in question and being unable to ship it, or other problems that are often symptomatic of very disorganized sellers.

Make It Simple for Your Buyers

If you want to generate sales with used goods, you'll need three things:
1. Good feedback.
2. A concise, reliable system for rating item condition.
3. A good photo for each item.

Although sellers often focus on maintaining good feedback, you shouldn't ignore the latter two. A clear, detailed photo is absolutely essential for selling used items on eBay, and a clear, simple system for rating the condition of the items that you sell is also essential.
Be sure to post the details about your ratings system in the description of your item. If it won't easily fit in an item description, or you feel that it will unnecessarily detract from the listing, that's a good sign that your ratings system is too complex or ungainly.

Make It Simple for Yourself

Because each transaction in the used goods market is unique (a different item with a unique condition, appearance, and history in each case), you can quickly drive yourself mad with busywork if you don't work smartly.
• Use a bulk lister. First, use one of eBay's bulk listing systems, one of the most popular of which is Turbo Lister. When you have 200 unique items with unique photos and unique descriptions to list, the last thing you want to do is click-click-click through a web form designed for listing single items at a time.

• Create a great disclaimer. Remember, the used item seller is buying and selling goods with a history about which he or she isn't aware. Issues related to liability and refund/exchange are not to be taken lightly—imagine, if you will, a used shoe seller who sells another eBayer a pair of shoes that causes its wearer to develop a contagious foot ailment, or an expensive vintage mechanical item that sells for a high price only to break down the day after it is received. In general, for used goods, sell "AS-IS" or with a very draconian return policy, and don't forget to disclaim any responsibility for any failing the item may have.

• Use a listing template. Whether using a bulk lister or just the eBay web form, use an item description template whenever possible for items of similar kinds. Don't re-type your entire description each time you want to post a single new listing.

• Request (or demand) PayPal payments. Though some people don't like online for various reasons, often related to privacy, the fact is that PayPal remains the easiest way to automate your payment processing and record keeping on eBay. In contrast, dealing with checks and money orders is beyond cumbersome.

• Streamline your shipping. Choose a shipper, get a scale and a label system, and buy boxes, tape, and whatever packaging material you need in quantity. Many try to save a little money here by looking for free boxes one box at a time, using newspaper or shredded documents as packing material, or making a separate trip to the shipper each time a package needs to go out. In the end, the time and energy you save by streamlining your shipping will easily pay for any costs associated to actually having to buy shipping materials out of pocket.

Can It Be Successful?

The answer to this question, of course, is "yes."
I've known eBay discounted sellers that made partial or full livings in several areas of eBay trading, from computers and technology to fashion and shoes to used books and videos. The keys are to have great sources for used goods, a great eye for cheap deals that are nonetheless highly desirable, and a dogged determination to maintain best records and selling practices as you trade online. Start an eBay business now!

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