Thursday, March 4, 2010

To Ebay or Not to Ebay... An Update

As I mentioned last month, I'm still trying to decide whether it is worth it to sell on Ebay as a very small-time seller. I've made a handful of sales now that have contributed nicely to my personal Declutter Challenge, and have a bit more perspective on the whole process.

I'm continuing to select items to sell on Ebay following a strict criteria. The item must:
  • Have Value If I look up a book on and someone is selling a copy for 75 cents, I don't list my book. If there are a number of auctions on Ebay for an item I am considering selling, and no one is bidding on the items, I don't list my item. It is not worth it to me to ship an item that is worth only 75 cents or 99 cents across the country, and I want to avoid doing that as much as possible. (On the other hand, it's important to be prepared to sell your item for $.99 if only one person bids on your item. If your item does sell for $.99, ship it gracefully and tell yourself that you have provided a much-needed item to a cash-strapped family who desperately needed a great deal. That's what I did when it happened to me last month!)
  • Be hard to find in stores (or no longer sold): Be sure the item hasn't been recalled, of course.
  • Be easy to ship:  I am trying to avoid selling bulky or breakable items
  • Be in demand for a hard-to-reach group of people who shop on Ebay: To find out if my item is a potential 'hot item', I just do a search for it as if I am trying to purchase it myself, and see what turns up. I keep in mind that certain items probably sell better at different times of the year. You can also do a search here to find out whether items similar to yours have recently sold.

Following this criteria is working well for me so far. What it means is that I have only a handful of items each month to sell! I see this as a good thing--I can focus my energy on preparing a small group of items for sale, and have a better chance of actually selling each item, maximizing my profit for the time I am putting into the project. I'm managing my time on Ebay by following this process:
  • First Week: Collect and assess items to sell. Does it meet my criteria above?
  • Second Week: Prepare items for listing: cleaning, selecting shipping box, photographing, and deciding how to list the item (Auction vs. Buy it Now? More than one photograph? Additional services?)
  • Third Week: List Items for sale. I'm listing all of my items for the month at once. This means that there is only one week out of the month that I have active listings on Ebay, and they all close around the same time. I can focus on tracking the listings, respond to questions asked by buyers, etc. Buyers can win more than one of my auctions and request to combine shipping.
  • Fourth Week: Collect payments and ship items. I have figured out how to process all my shipping transactions from home. If you use flat rate shipping boxes and envelopes, you can ship all over the U.S. for the same rate, whether the item is traveling 300 miles or 3,000 miles. By ordering USPS shipping boxes online for free, purchasing and printing shipping labels online, and arranging pickup with your local postal carrier, you can completely avoid having to take your kids to the post office!
This is probably old information to all the Ebay experts out there, but it has been really helpful to determine how this process can work most effectively for me and my family. By managing the time I spend selling on Ebay, I can free time to focus on some of the other decluttering projects going on around the house.

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