In the past week or two, I have been surprised that I have gotten questions about selling on eBay from five different people. It seems that there is a real spark in interest on the topic of selling on eBay.
I have made my living, off and on, through eBay for almost 15 years now, pretty much since eBay went into business. When I first started out on eBay, it was still a relatively small site, at least in comparison to what exists on eBay today. Things were a lot “looser” too, meaning that back in those days eBay didn’t have nearly as many rules and such. In fact, a lot of people back then were selling fake, pirated type stuff. I remember that the first thing I bought on eBay was a full copy of Microsoft Office, and it was like $20 or so. Obviously not genuine. To be honest, these days eBay is pretty strict on this sort of thing, and selling pirated type goods is one of the fastest ways to get kicked off the site.
Out of the questions that I have gotten in the past couple of weeks, three areas of discussion are the most asked:
- What to sell on eBay
- Drop Shipping
- Shipping Issues
What to sell on eBay
OK, let’s be honest here. The truth is that of all the questions I get about selling on eBay, this question of “what should I sell on eBay” is the only question that I do not answer for people. Why? Well, it is a personal choice as to what you should sell. It also depends on other factors too. For example, I don’t know what is available in your area. For example, if you live in Hershey, Pennsylvania, perhaps Hershey chocolate memorabilia is a good choice, since it is readily available in your area, and may not be available to collectors in San Diego, California. Again, if you live in the Northeast USA, or in Canada, maybe Maple Syrup is cheap and available in your area, and that guy in Florida just can’t get the “good stuff” that is cheap and easy to get where you live. See what I mean?
Another variety of this question is that people ask me, “Bob, what do you sell on eBay.” I don’t answer that question either. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, if I have found a nice niche selling a certain product, I don’t want to give my idea away and have a half dozen new competitors selling the same item. Secondly, I just feel that what you sell should be based on what your interests are, where your expertise is, and what is available in your area, especially at a good price. Another part of my reasoning on this is that I don’t always sell the same things. If I find good items, I sell them most all the time, but I also look out for good deals on items that I don’t normally sell. I remember one time when I still lived in the USA (I live in the Philippines now, and have for more than a decade), I went to a surplus store and saw that they had a buy out of Santa Claus Coffee Mugs. They had something like 500 of them, or so, and they were like $5 each. I convinced the store owner to sell me every one of them at a price of $1 each. This was like in July, or one of the summer months. I brought my purchase home, stored them in my garage until November or so, and sold them for something like $12.99 each, making a great profit. But, I didn’t normally sell coffee mugs, especially Santa Claus coffee mugs. It was just a special deal that I happened upon and snatched it up. That is a good reason why I cannot really say what I sell on eBay, it changes all the time.
There are companies you can find online who are like wholesalers of various merchandise. Basically, you get a catalog or a selection online of several hundred different items, or even more. You can then sell those items on eBay, and when somebody buys the item from you, you just notify the company to ship out the item to the person who made the purchase. You never have to touch the item at all. Sounds great, right? Well, I disagree. I think it is very dangerous to sell through a drop shipper.
Why would I say it is “dangerous?” Well, for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t really know the quality of the goods. Maybe they are shipping your customer very low quality merchandise. That reflects on your business. The customer doesn’t know or even care that it is a drop shipper, they know they paid you for a quality item, and what they got did not measure up. The second and most important reason that using a drop shipper is dangerous is because you have taken your control of your reputation and given it to somebody else. What if the drop shipper waits 2 weeks before they ship the goods? Well, you will get negative feedback from your customer, and your reputation will go south. And, it’s all out of your control.
A couple of other reasons why I think using a drop shipper is a problem: Firstly, usually you don’t make much profit on the items. Maybe you make 20 or 30%. On eBay, I personally like to sell goods that I can make huge profits on, like those coffee mugs that I mentioned earlier. Another reason why I think drop shippers are not the way to go is that there are generally a lot of people on eBay selling the exact same products. I like to find unique things that I am the only person selling, or that there are only a few people selling.
For a person who lives in the USA, or lives in the same country where they are selling to, shipping is not a huge concern on eBay. But, because I am an American who lives in the Philippines, many of my followers online are also Americans (or other westerners) who want to live abroad, mostly also in the Philippines. They want to live in the Philippines but sell items to customers in the USA, like I have done. This can present issues. So, I get a lot of questions about this particular area of interest.
While I am not going to get specific on this question here on the Virtual Earner Blog, because not all readers have the Philippine connection, I will share some general observations with you.
- When shipping from overseas, it is important that you keep your customer informed that shipping will take extra time because it is coming from overseas. Let them know before they make the purchase. Put it right in your auction that it will take 2 weeks, or however long, for the item to reach them because you are in a different country. This is very important.
- You can get an advantage by selling products that are more expensive, because you will make a larger amount of profit. When you do this you can “subsidize” the shipping cost with your extra profit. So, if you are selling a $50 item, and making a profit of $20 on the item… let’s say that the shipping is $18. If you charge $18 on a $50 item, people will not buy, they will think you are ripping them off on the shipping. But, you could charge $10 on shipping, and then take $8 from your profit to cover the shipping overage. This way you still make $12 on the item and will sell many more than if you tried to charge the full $18 shipping.
- If you are shipping from overseas, it is very advantageous to be able to provide a tracking number to your customer, so that they can go on the internet and see where their item is. If you are selling low cost items, this may not be possible, as tracking may be too expensive, but if possible this will be a real life-saver for you.
Selling on eBay is a great way to earn your living, or supplement your regular income. I had a regular job when I first started selling on eBay, but within 6 months or so, I was making more on eBay than on my regular job. You can do it too! Give it a try!