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“Dancing” To a Successful eBay Business

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Guest post by Kimberly of Garage Sale Heaven

My online selling success story began with a “dance”. Prior to selling online, I was working as a part-time writer and full-time homeschool teacher to my three children. My husband’s job as a public employee paid the bills, and the little bits of cash I made here and there for writing gigs paid for our little extras.

My oldest daughter, Madison, has danced since the age of three and in February 2013, she was accepted into Nashville Ballet’s Summer Intensive Program. Dance is her passion. She eats, sleeps, and breathes dance.

Needless to say, she was beyond excited to get this opportunity. The only problem was that it was going to cost over $3,000 to attend the 3-week program.

My husband and I knew what an incredible opportunity this would be for her, and we wanted her to have it, but we didn’t have an extra $3,000 sitting in the bank to pay for it.

While brainstorming different ideas, my husband remembered that he had several boxes of toys in the basement from his childhood. Since they were just collecting dust, we decided to try and sell them on eBay.

To our surprise, the toys sold quickly, and for great money! And to top it off, I really enjoyed selling and interacting with customers. After our success with the toys, we wondered what else might sell.

In June of 2013, I opened my online store, This and That Shack. In July 2013, Madison attended the Nashville Ballet Intensive, where she had the opportunity to follow her passion thanks to my eBay sales! And by a happy dance accident, I also found my passion. I haven’t looked back.

Since that time, I’ve expanded my sourcing to garage sales, auctions, antique malls, and the clearance racks of brick and mortar stores. I work, on average, about 25 hours per week. My sales have continued to grow, and I’m earning about $2,500 profit each month after expenses!

While dance is my daughter’s passion, eBay has become mine. I love sourcing and listing cool stuff, and I love hearing from happy customers that I helped them find exactly what they were looking for. This is definitely the most enjoyable and lucrative part-time job I’ve ever had, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

My family is grateful, too. They are enjoying many more little extras since I started my new endeavor. We’ve enjoyed a few small vacations, and Madison has since attended another Ballet Intensive in Michigan.

For those of you who might be interested in selling on eBay too, here are a few tips:

1. You will need to set up a PayPal account. All payments on eBay are done via PayPal.

2. You’ll need to register as a new user on eBay. Just click the Sell your item button on the eBay home page, and you will be walked through this relatively quick process.

3. As far as tools/supplies, you’ll need a computer, tablet, or smartphone with internet access, a digital camera or phone that takes good pictures, a shipping scale, shipping tape, bubble wrap and boxes. You can order free Priority boxes from USPS.com.

4. You will need a space to keep your inventory neat and organized. Once you sell something, you don’t want to have to dig to find it.

5. If you’re wondering what sells on eBay, the answer is practically anything. The trick is always to buy low and sell high.

6. It’s a good idea to get the eBay app on your phone. When you are at garage sales, thrift stores, or auctions, you can easily look up items you’re interested in to see what they are selling for. Keep in mind that eBay and PayPal fees will take about 10-13% of each sale.

Any other tips from experienced eBay sellers?

Kimberly is a wife, mom, teacher, and eBay Top Rated Seller. She created her blog, Garage Sale Heaven, in order to share her frugal finds and reselling adventures. She loves a good garage sale! If you feel the same way, she hopes you’ll stop by.

photo source

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35 Comments

  • Ramona says:

    I haven’t sold anything on ebay but I am looking to make some extra cash right now so thank you for the tips.

  • shannon says:

    Do you have any tips on calculating shipping costs? I guess I am thinking about items too big to fit into one of the prepaid shipping boxes.

    Also, do you find it better to increase the price of your item and do free shipping or lower the price of your item and add on shipping. I guess I get really discouraged when I go to buy something on Ebay and it is a great price and then the shipping is 15 dollars.

    • Sarah says:

      You can just list your item with “calculated shipping” which means you just put in the weight of the package, and eBay will automatically calculate the shipping for each customer based on where they live. This works great for me and is especially helpful if you are shipping to an International customer.

    • What Sarah said. Also, if I have an item that’s too large to fit in a USPS Priority box, I can almost always get a free larger empty box from the shelf stockers at Walmart. I won’t list an item like that until I have a box that it will fit in, because I don’t want to be in panic mode when it sells. As for the second part of your question, I don’t offer free shipping on much of anything. Shipping costs what it costs. I do the calculated shipping, so I only charge the customer what it actually costs me to ship it to them. Here’s a tip for you as a buyer. If you can find the item you want to purchase from a seller who lives in your state or region, the shipping costs should be cheaper. For instance, I live in Illinois, so if I sell something that weighs 4-5 pounds to someone in Missouri, it will only cost me about $6.00 to ship. However, if I have to ship that same item to California, it’s going to cost more than double that price.

      • Lyn says:

        Hi Kimberly,
        Do you know if there are still cost-effective flat-rate Priority boxes and how much do they cost now? Specifically is there a certain box for this? I know there are different types of boxes. I have heard of a Regional A or B box but don’t know the difference. Also, is there a minimal/maximal weight in using flat-rate Priority?

        I do use free shipping but I list small items generally and use padded mailers so it has worked for me. I do find that some buyers seem to prefer that, even though, yes, shipping is not truly “free”. I can see that it would not be worth it for larger items.

        I appreciate your post – very helpful, thank you.

        • The regional boxes are great for shipping items in your own region, or for even shipping heavier items to different regions. The cost for these depends on which area you are shipping to (each region has its own flat rate for these boxes). I believe the max weight for an A box is 15 pounds. So, if I’m in Illinois, and I have something to ship to Missouri that weighs 15 pounds and will fit in the A box, I’ll be able to ship it for about $5.50. I think the most I’ve paid to ship to another region in an A was about $9.00. So if I had something going clear out to California, and it’s heavy and fits in an A box, it’s definitely a savings over a regular Priority box. Definitely check out the USPS online store and order a variety of different sized boxes, if you haven’t already. They have many more boxes available than what’s available at your local post office, and they are FREE!!!

  • lizajane says:

    There is a ton of information in the forums on eBay, so read and search for answers to any questions you have. I’ve been a sporadic seller for many years, and it is very easy, but yet a little intimidating at first. Start with small items. List with several pictures of your own, not a stock picture or someone else’s pictures. Describe your item well, including any flaws at all, even something you think is minor. If you have the digital scale, the packing supplies and boxes, USPS will even pick up your packages for free. Before I list, I put the item in a box with the packing material I plan to use, and weigh it. Then I have the measurements of the box and the weight to help determine the shipping. Sometimes I list with shipping included in the price, sometimes I have the buyer pay it, but either way I like to have the information to put in the listing form. My advice would be to steer clear of trickier categories, like electronics, where there is more potential for problems. (You ship working item, buyer claims it doesn’t work and wants refund, and you don’t know if they are returning identical item you shipped or not, etc….it happens!)

  • Another example of a mom going out there and creating her OWN opportunity. Good for you. I LOVE hearing stories like this.

  • Ann says:

    I was hoping that you would mention collecting sales tax for items sold to buyers that happens to be in the same state or other states that require a destination tax.

    • Ann, I do have to keep track of sales in my own state and pay quarterly state taxes on those sales. The first time I did it, I took all of my information to our local Revenue office. They helped me fill out the form and showed me how to calculate the amount owed. I have used that original form as my template to help me do it on my own ever since.

  • Mary says:

    Just wondering what an average markup might be. Also what level of profit do you strive to get?

    Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Kasey says:

    My husband has always had a knack for finding great deals and so he is starting his own resell business as well. One thing I’ve learned is that it takes a good eye- he has found a few things that I’d just ignore (like a special plug that reverses electrical current for a generator) and resold it for a major profit (bought for $2.25, sold for $35). His best deal so far were some old Little People toys- found them for $3 and sold them for $54. My favorite deal was when he came across a big bundle of scrapbooking stuff- much of it still brand-new, unopened. I helped him sort it and explained what many of the items were, and then I got to pick out the stuff I wanted to keep. 🙂

    So my advice would be to go out shopping with some people who might know about different sorts of items than the ones you’re familiar with- take note of the things that excite them and ask questions- How much does this go for new? How much would you be willing to pay for one like this? What might this be used for? I am my husband’s go-to expert for clothes. When we shop together he lets me do the clothes because I’m familiar with brand names and I can tell if something is high-end just by the feel of it. 😉

  • Debbie says:

    Thrift stores exist to raise money for a particular organization, ie. the Salvation Army, a church, Goodwill, etc., not to give people an affordable place to shop. They are great for people who want to or need to save money but that’s not their main purpose. People have garage sales to raise some extra cash for themselves or for a cause they believe in. So, it shouldn’t matter who shops at them–they’re all designed for anyone.

  • nikki says:

    I started last month selling on Posh Mark and EBay. I opened up stores and have been thrift flipping. Finding designer clothing brands like Anthropologie labels. I have been able to work my full time job, not take anytime away from our toddler son and still work this as a side job too. Paying off some bills and money towards debt, college loan. Every other day something sells on one of the sites. Finally my love for thrift shopping is paying off. Lol it’s fun and profitable.

  • Erin says:

    Kimberly, Do you find that opening a store on ebay is worth it? Ebay keeps asking me to do this, but I haven’t taken it to that level yet and wonder if it would really be better for me or not.

    • Erin, you have to do the math for yourself to see if the store costs would be beneficial for your situation. In my case, I have over 2,000 items in my store, and I’m selling about 200 items per month. So for me personally, the best option financially is the eBay Anchor store. If you want eBay to only sell occasionally as a hobby, a store is probably not going to make sense. However, if you’re listing and selling consistently, you should probably look at a basic store subscription.

      • Lillace Christianson says:

        Kimberly, this is all great information–thanks! Also, do your store items get the same exposure on ebay that that they would if not in a store?

        • Lillace, back in the early days of eBay, stores did not get the same exposure as auctions. However, that has not been the case for several years. The new Cassini search engine that eBay uses puts everyone on a level playing field. What will get an item higher in the search results is being a Top Rated Seller, good photographs, offering hassle-free returns, offering international shipping, and offering free shipping.

        • Lillace, stores get the same exposure as items that are not in stores. Generally, items will appear higher in eBay search results when the seller is Top Rated, the photographs are clear, returns are offered, international shipping is offered, and free shipping is offered.

          • Lillace Christianson says:

            Thank you, Kimberly, for all the information. Do you have many problems when offering international shipping? I have found the entire process (including receiving payments) so slow that it hardly seems worth the trouble.

            • Lillace, I only sell internationally through eBay’s Global Shipping program. With this program, I only have to get the item to the shipping center in Kentucky and then eBay takes responsibility for it from there. I don’t have to mess with any customs forms either. As far as timely payments, if you mark the Require Immediate Payment box in your listing, the buyer has to pay when they place the order. I do this for all of my Buy It Now listings.

  • Karen Maio says:

    Tip: Be sure to describe and photograph your item well, especially if it falls into the category of collectibles. If a problem arises and the situation isn’t resolved between the parties and escalates to Ebay, they will almost always side with the buyer. (simple example: I sold 4 of my son’s bobbleheads – described and photographed perfectly, the buyer demanded “original boxes”, which were neither mentioned, nor photographed (because we didn’t have or keep them after they were torn open) as being part of the sale – They sided with buyer, letting him keep the bobbleheads and get his money back, but said I wasn’t at fault, so they didn’t take the buyers’ refund from my account. Ebaying can be fun when everyone is happy.

  • jess says:

    Do you stick with a specific category of items or do you just sell anything you come across?

    • I will sell anything that interests me. If I’m excited by it, then I feel like someone else will be, too. I’ve dipped my toes into almost everything, and some things just bore me. For instance, many sellers have great success selling flatware, but I really don’t enjoy researching and photographing flatware. I’ll still list it once in a while, but it’s definitely not something I seek out like I used to.

  • Tanya says:

    Question… I have only sold one thing on ebay but have a lot more that,I want to sell. Do you start your prices low and hope that you get what you want? Or do you set the price at what you want and hope to get more?

    • Everyone has a different pricing philosophy. I usually list all new items for one week at auction with a starting bid of the least amount I’m happy with receiving if the item sells. I don’t list much anymore for less that 9.95. If I don’t think I can get at least that much, then it’s probably not worth my time to list it. If it doesn’t sell at auction, I raise the price by double or even triple what my auction starting bid was and put it up as a Buy It Now. I put the Best Offer option on most of these listings. I sell about 75% of my listings through Best Offers. When pricing, don’t sell yourself or your inventory short. When you see those 99 cent auctions, most of those come from newbies that don’t know any better. They are not making a living with 99 cent auctions, and in fact, some are going in the hole. When pricing, keep in mind what your time is worth- you, have to find, clean, photograph, and list each item. You will also have to pay eBay and PayPal fees.

      • Tanya says:

        Thank you. That is very helpful.

      • stephen john says:

        Hi,
        Thanks for your advice Kimberly.
        Your buying strategy has helped me alot.
        I was of the 99 cents mentallity, thinking this would at least get me selling experience. However, I suppose the Ebay is that huge, and the turnover is also that selling that cheap isn’t good common sense.
        I haven’t sold anything yet. I did list some items over a year ago now. A silver tray from memory, with plenty of good photos, however I didn’t get one offer. I was trying to sell it at a set price.
        Following your strategy seems the best way though.
        One quick query Kimberely, the best offer option, if someone offers ridiculously low price, do you have to sell it at that price. I’m new to all of this.
        Thanks
        Stephen
        England UK.

  • James Brown says:

    I’ve bought several items from ebay and was able to successful resell them in my country. Besides, as a finance researcher, I can say that shopping at this popular marketplace is one of the the best ways to save money. Especially for moms.

    Kimberly , Thank you for your informative post.

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