Q: I would like to start a business in my spare time and see where it goes. I don’t have a lot of time or money though. Do you have any suggestions? Leslie K., Toronto
A: I think one of the best, easiest and least expensive ways for anyone to start a small business these days is to begin an eBay business. It costs very little to start one and it is a great way to see if there is a market for what you want to sell. If it works, great! And if not, all you have lost is some time and the cost of a little product.
Similarly, for those who already own a business, eBay is a great way to set up another profit center. If you have old merchandise that you haven’t been able to sell, you might be surprised to find a ready market for it on eBay.
As you likely know, on eBay you sell items via an auction system. A recent change allows customers to “Buy It Now” supplementing the auction. You can sell almost anything on eBay. The most popular items being collectibles, books, movies, clothing, music, furniture, cars, and sports memorabilia. Note though that almost anything might sell on eBay – everything from a horse farm in Kentucky to a rubber band gun can be found there.
So the question is, what should you sell?
One secret to selling on eBay is, as in the rest of business, to buy low and sell high. My antiques dealer client used to say, “it’s all in the buying.” He knew that if he could buy items at a cheap price, reselling them for a healthy profit would not be that difficult.
So too on eBay. You have to have access to some product that you can sell at a healthy profit margin. One way you do this is by setting a hidden “reserve price” for any auction you offer. The reserve price is the lowest fee the auction will take for your product. Thereby assuring that you will make a profit on the sale.
Eric says that customer service is another secret to successful selling on eBay. Potential customers will email you questions, and those questions need to be answered promptly. Also, once you make a sale, stand behind your product and be sure to ship it promptly.
Other things you can do to make sure your foray into eBay is successful are:
- Use photos. People want to see what they are buying.
- Write a great headline. Headlines grab people’s attention.
- Be thorough. Giving a full description of the product can make a big difference.
- Accurately estimate your shipping costs. Even though eBay buyers usually pay for shipping, you still will eat into your margin if your actual shipping fees are more than what you are charging your buyers.
All in all, eBay is a great, low-risk way to start a potentially very lucrative, international small business with very little money.
Learning how to sell on eBay is not hard. Visit www.ebay.com/education to get a full tour of how the process works, or check your local bookstore – there are several good books on the process.