What we learned from our first 1,000 eBay sales

During our first year on eBay, we had 1,048 sales.   eBay quickly evolved from a way to get rid of a few things around the house to a part- time business which makes us more than my full time job.  The road hasn’t been smooth, however – during the past year we’ve had huge sales, slow times, some returns, and even a suspension.  Through it all, we’ve learned from our mistakes and bounced back to push profits higher than ever!  Here are the 5 most important lessons we’ve learned from selling on eBay: 

1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES

A  lot of people are paralyzed with fear and so have never really taken off on eBay.  You can see this type of person on forums or Facebook pages, constantly asking questions and providing little value in return; “How much should I list this for?  How do I pack this? Why haven’t I sold anything today?!” and so forth.
Asking for help is awesome.  We’ve read hundreds of articles, blogs, and Facebook posts.  However, there comes a time when you have to have a little faith in yourself and go for it.  What’s the worst that could happen?  So you priced an item too low, or too high, lost money on shipping, etc.? You don’t succeed or fail based on a single item.  Whenever an item sold I used to think to myself, “Man!  I probably could have gotten more out of it!”  But now, when something sells, I’m glad to have it gone!  If I made money on it, I’m happy with the sale and simply learn from it.  If we’re unsure of how to price something, we highball it and, if it doesn’t sell, add a “best offer” option to the listing. Also, we never worry about the amount of shipping the buyer pays. Once it’s listed, we view it as a contract.  Sometimes we severely underestimate weight and lose our pants on shipping, and other times we make money on shipping!  Just as we would not ask for more, we do not refund.  It all equals out in the end.  Perhaps the best slogan to go by for selling on eBay is Nike’s ever famous moniker, “Just Do It.” Just list, just price things, just ship things – if someone else can do it, there’s no reason you can’t figure it out as well.Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and blaze a trail! – Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. LONG TERM CONSISTENCY TRUMPS SHORT TERM INTENSITY.

There are many people who hit the ground running on eBay….and run right into a wall.  For us, eBay is a part time job to earn some extra income.  It is simply meant to fill in the cracks.  The problem is, many people find that when they have a stay at home job, they can never escape from their work and are, more or less, almost always working.  There have been days (weeks even!) when we haven’t listed anything on eBay.  If we had, we would be burned out and quite disenchanted already.  We would much rather be the person who consistently lists 3 items a day during their lunch break, with 1,000 listings on eBay and a thriving side business 5 years from now, than the person who spends hundreds of dollars thrifting, lists 20 items a day, and is done with eBay 6 months from now.  eBay will always be around.  Do what you can, take breaks when you need, and realize that you’re in it for the long haul.

3. KNOWLEDGE IS EVERYTHING

There isn’t much that is more satisfying than spotting another reseller in a thrift store, following them down an aisle, and pulling $100 flips off the shelf they just dug through.  To our chagrin however, this certainly happens in reverse as well.  It’s simply not possible to look every item up online while you’re out sourcing, so the prize goes to whoever did their homework!  Many times we’ve looked through eBay blogs and threads for BOLOs and found the exact items next time we thrift.  It drives us crazy to know that we have likely passed items worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, and did not recognize them for what they were.  Knowledge of a large variety of brands and types of items helps you find product, list it correctly for the maximum amount, ship it cheaply, etc. We’ve included a bunch of helpful resources here, but never forget, experience is the best teacher!

Our Favorite WebsitesThis one! (Just stick around and keep reading…)SheThriftsGoodwillHauntingebaysellingcoachFacebook Groups​eBay for businessResellingRevealedStay At Home Moms Selling On eBay

4. CUSTOMER SERVICE SHOULD BE YOUR #1 GOAL

The old adage that “the customer is always right” is always right!  At least, almost always.  eBay is a service business.  As resellers we source what people want, and charge them a finders fee.  In order to keep the customer happy, take great pictures, undersell your items, communicate well, and ship quickly and professionally!  Just as they say that you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have – on eBay you should emulate the business practices of the business you want to be, not the business you are.  Can you imagine an eBay store which sells dozens of items a day refusing a return?  Of course not.  Whether it’s buyer’s remorse or simply buyer idiocy we always accept returns, are cordial during emails, etc.  A happy customer leaves positive feedback and lets you continue to sell on eBay.  We would rather take a small loss and keep listing, than spend the time appealing to eBay to intervene (even if we’re right).
One of the most helpful pieces of advice we’ve heard came from an unknown person on a Facebook page (thanks unknown person!), and it is: Be A Robot.  In all your interactions on eBay, leave emotion out of the picture.  We receive some really frustrating emails from customers and get asked the dumbest questions sometimes.  We always do our best to answer quickly and cordially.  There is no room for snarkiness as a business owner.  A snarky attitude should be found only in a low level manager that you fire after they offend too many customers.  We must admit we’ve gotten in a few jabs to annoying customers, but we regret them now.  We felt vindicated for a second or two and kept our poor little egos intact, but we’re on eBay to make money!  Not to feel warm fuzzies!  
Go the extra mile.  Your customers will thank you!

5. FIND JOY IN THE JOURNEY

Here’s a secret: when we get tired of working on eBay…we take a break.  We started on eBay to have something to do as a couple.  Turning into a slaving business where we have to meet a quota is just counter productive.  Yes, we still set goals.  Yes, sometimes we ship when we’d rather watch a movie (or do anything really, we hate shipping). But in general, we are not willing to trade our happiness for a bit more success on eBay.  We thought we would be happy when we passed the $3,000 a month mark.  Nope… Well maybe when we have 1,000 listings?  Nope… There is no accomplishment on eBay or in life that will bring happiness or freedom from stress.   Happiness is not a destination, but a mode of transportation.  Many people simply choose to drive the Stress Mobile instead.  Culture tells us that we have to be stressed, we have to be short on time, and we have to hate our lives if we’re doing what we should.  Well, there is always more to do and the world will keep on turning whether you spend the afternoon playing with your kids or listing 5 things on eBay.  Find joy in the journey. You’ll be happier and wealthier, whether you make more money or not.

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