by: Ken Szovati
Once upon a time, about 6 or 7 years ago, a young man laid off from his job discovered the world of eBay. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I can literally sell just about anything on here?”. So since I had quite a bit of time on my hands, I gathered various things around the house I didn’t need, even some old coins that were passed down to me that had no collector value (selling Silver was hot at the time). I couldn’t believe what people were paying for this stuff!
Lesson 1: Confirm the Demand
I signed up for an account, and was listing/selling things within an hour or so, of course I started small. I was AMAZED at how easy this was. I questioned why I even bothered going to school. With a computer at my hands, and an item someone wanted, I felt like I had the key to life. Sales went well for a while but eventually I got another job (consistent money) so it took up my time again. Looking back, I probably could’ve still done both, especially with how busy I am now.
Lesson 2: Manage Your Time
As I moved along on my path towards getting a degree I found a job selling phones for a company called Target Mobile. I enjoyed it, I’m a technology nerd and I like people (except on Black Friday), so it was fitting. Plenty of perks to go along with the job. I got plenty of questions, mainly about how to unlock phones (getting around carrier rules), the whole nine yards. Every week it seemed like I’d answer a few so I started to notice a trend and was on eBay looking for tools to help do this. Keep in mind my search was strictly set up to help other people and have a better answer to these questions.
After searching and finding a product that did this, I bought a few to resell. Here’s an example of one in the photo. I won’t link to the page or anything, and you will learn why a bit later on. My buy cost on this was $1.07, I was selling them for between $7 and $8, but the price that sticks out to me was $7.17. 10% of this sale went to eBay, and PayPal took their fees too. Just for the sake of easy math, we can set the fees at 15% (that will even cover the packaging costs. Subtract my fees from the $7.17 and I was left with $6.10. If we subtract my shipping cost ($1.64) and the buy cost ($1.07), my net profit was on just one was $3.39. This is a solid margin for selling one at a time and I did that often, but I started having buyers wanting 10, 20, even 50 of these at a time, but I couldn’t keep up.
Lesson 3: Know Your Margins
So my orders got bigger. I was ordering 100, then 200, and then up to 400 at a time. I was killing it. I listed single items, multipacks, no matter what I did, I was selling out. I ran the numbers and I was profiting about 400 a week, and I was going to school, only working 20 hours (printing the shipping labels at work, and then doing these orders when I got home. My orders were going all over the world. I was shipping to the US, Brazil, India, Ireland, I even had one order to go Australia. I was ready to take it full-time. But then, things started taking a ride downhill. I forgot about the customer service aspect of business, probably because I was so focused on profit. With eBay, you have to deal with customer inquires and it’s not easy to do, especially when you have 5 to 10 per day.
Lesson 4: Know Your Customers
I kept getting messages from people stuck on how to use the product, maybe it ended up broken, some questioned the authenticity of the items. From what I knew they sold, so they must work, right? They didn’t know how to use it, but can’t you just Google it? Authenticity? I was buying from a distributor in China who sells thousands of these a month, how could they truly be fake? These were the thoughts going through my head every day. I was able to help some people, send out replacements if needed, but what I couldn’t do was stop the negative feedback from coming in.
Lesson 5: Know Your Product(s)
After riding high for a couple of months, my negative feedback got me shut down. I tried, pleaded, begged, and couldn’t get eBay to budge. Luckily I never created an order for more stock and wasn’t left with a ton of inventory. But my passive income was GONE. I couldn’t sell anything on eBay. They said “indefinitely banned”. I had no other option but to move to Amazon at that time. They were hopefully a little easier to work with, but truly I was the one at fault there. I think back and I’m glad I went through that experience. It made me change the way I saw selling online and truly helped me provide a better experience overall. From sourcing to shipping, and then to selling. I wouldn’t change a thing about it and overcame that fault for the better.
I hope you all found some value and important lessons here. My goal is to help other sellers overcome obstacles to better their business and truly crush it when selling online. Feel free to reach out to me in my Facebook Group here: Reseller Central, you can also follow me on Gumroad too! I also have a YouTube channel if you prefer to see my face more.