I've been thinking for a while that I should set aside some time and write a big mega post about garage sales, starting a blog, selling on eBay and other sites, and various way of making money online.
Basically, it is a road map to the path that I, myself, have followed. Several people who have known me since I started selling on eBay many years ago, have asked me to explain this whole "thing" to them. I've been meaning to write this for them for what seems like ages. I started this website in March of 2008 and I had already been selling on eBay for quite a while before that.Today I guess I woke up with a little bit of extra energy, because I'm writing that post as well as changing up the theme on my site to give it a little bit of a cleaner look. There is a lot of information here. I know that it can save you a lot of time and it might even help you to make some money. Heck, maybe some of you will follow all the way through, go on to build an amazing website, get rich and famous, and retire on the profits!!! If you do, please remember me. I'm also going to post a list of useful resources for people looking to make more than a pocketful of extra cash. I hope you enjoy what follows and find it useful. I'm writing it in the order that I learned things. It took me several years of experience to put all of the pieces together. I'm toying with the idea of pulling it down and making it into an e-book, but for now, I'm leaving it right here. My hope is that it will save a LOT of time for my friends who have been asking me questions and anyone else who happens to visit. If you follow all the way through, it may just change what you see as possible for yourself. Now this might not interest you at all (but I hope it does). If you are just looking for some good basic tips for having a garage sale, you can just read these posts about Garage Sale Pricing and Organizing Garage Sale Merchandise. If you're still here, then get yourself a cup of coffee and read on...
Garage Sale Ideas Fill My Mind
Ever since I made my first sale on eBay several years ago, I've been fascinated with the idea of making money with my computer and the stuff I could find at garage sales. I actually started out on eBay by selling local editions of the newspaper the day after the Steelers won the Super Bowl (2005 season). Once I saw money going into my Paypal account, I was hooked. I've gone on to sell a boatload of items on eBay over the years. As time passed, my interest grew and I started to explore various other methods of making a buck online.
A lot of people are struggling nowadays, but with a little bit of creativity, you can still do OK. A lot better than OK actually. We'll start with the simplest stuff and move on from there. Nothing I'm going to mention is particularly difficult, but some things will take some time, effort, and patience. Of course the rewards are generally going to be better for those willing to put in the extra time and effort. Just as a disclaimer, there are NO guarantees when you enter into any kind of business. You never really know what will sell, or interest people, or go viral. That's all part of the game! There is always some risk involved. If you can't understand that you are responsible for your own actions, then you should probably leave now and go watch something on television. The only thing you risk there is losing a few brain cells. I think that most people "get" this, but I'd be the last one to ever promise that something was a sure thing. I've had a lot of winners on eBay over the years, but I've also tried selling some things that totally flopped. Same deal with websites I've built. You live and learn.
What Sells on eBay?
This is the stuff for people who just want to sell some stuff on eBay and be done with it. Forget about the bigger opportunities (they are later in the post if you stick around that long). The truth is, just about anything can sell on eBay. It's a great example of supply and demand at work. There are some things you have to keep in mind though. First of all, to make selling anything worthwhile, you have to be making a decent profit on each sale. That is the reason that I have always enjoyed searching out unusual collectible items. They are usually sold at estate sales, garage sales, and flea markets at very low prices. Not many people even realize that they are worth anything, so you can often pick them up dirt cheap. I'll go into more on this shortly, but let's start with another popular approach...
Dropshipping on eBay (or your own site)
If you happen to have the inside track on some wholesale merchandise for sale, then by all means, go with that. Most of us don't have that golden connection though. The closest we can come is a dropshipping service. These are usually large companies that will deal directly with small sellers (you) and even fulfill orders (deliver the merchandise). In order for this to work, you have to find a dropshipper who offers you prices that you can mark up while still getting the products to sell on eBay. You'll want to be sure that the products are good quality before you start advertising them. It won't take long for word to get out if you sell junk.
A lot of people like this set up because they don't ever have to handle any merchandise themselves. They get to advertise their product(s) and pass the order along to the dropshipping company. This method has pros and cons. If you manage to hook up with a quality dropshipper, it can work out great.
If your supplier does a poor job of fulfillment though, you've got some explaining to do to your customers. In other words, you get the convenience of not dealing with product, but you are also at the mercy of the dropshipper's current supply and their ability to get the goods to your customer in a timely fashion. I've never used a dropshipper myself, but a friend of mine has put together an outstanding guide to e-commerce that includes information on getting a good dropshipper. If you are thinking about using a drop shipper or getting into e-commerce, check out grabapple.com.
Selling Vintage, Antique, and Collectible Items on eBay
This is what I have always specialized in. I love going to estate sales and digging around for unusual treasures. I know it sounds strange, but there is a certain "thrill of the hunt" that I get when I walk into an estate sale that is loaded with tons of small items. Every sale is like an Easter egg hunt as I search for that one thing that could make the day really profitable. My best example so far is probably the original flight manual for a P-51 Mustang fighter plane. It cost me less than 50 cents and sold for over $600. Sweet find. Dig up something like that, and its easy to become addicted to selling.
Of course there were plenty of weeks when I didn't find anything as cool as that manual. Overall though, even without a whole lot of effort I can usually count on turning a fairly nice profit on a weekly basis (even after eBay and Paypal take their cuts of the profit). If you know a lot already about vintage items or antiques, you are at a nice advantage. If not though, you have a couple of options. What I did was spend about the first two years of my eBay selling doing two things. First of all, I bought a TON of old "vintage" stuff and hauled it home. Then I listed everything. If it sold, it made it onto my list of things to buy again. If it didn't sell, it got stashed in the garage and I tried to never make the same mistake. To make things easier, I would spend hours studying the completed listings in the Collectibles category. Completed listings is just a fancy way of saying the auctions that have already ended. Looking at these lets you see what sold and what did not. You can also use these listings to get a good idea of how to price items when you do decide to put them up for sale. This method works great, but it is EXTREMELY time consuming. The collectibles category is humongous. I finally found Terapeak after a couple of long years. That cost me a little bit of money each month, but the savings in time can be tremendous when you want to get data regarding what sells on eBay. Many eBay sellers swear by it.
Some Tips on Listing Items on eBay
There are entire books written about the art of selling on eBay, but I'm going to point out a few of the most important things that eBay sellers often overlook. I've sold thousands of items on eBay and it took me a little while to figure these things out. Hopefully, if you decide to sell on eBay, these three simple things will help you to get things sold quickly and for the highest price possible.
1. Include Keywords in Your Title
Keywords are the words that searchers type into either the eBay search box or search engines like Google (yes, eBay items can show up on Google). You need to include these terms in your title so that eBay and Google (and other search engines) know that what you have for sale is a match for what the searcher is looking for when they click on "search". eBay now allows 80 characters in the title when you sell things. It used to be only 55 characters. This gives you a golden opportunity to get important keywords seen by the search engines. When you are writing a title for whatever you are selling, think of what buyers would be looking for when they start their search. Include details and specifics if you have enough room. People who are ready to buy often will get very specific with their searches... sometimes to the point of typing in exact model numbers. If you are the only one who bothered to include those buying keywords and numbers in your title, guess what? Your listing is going to be the one that shows up first in the search. I'm always amazed when I see people including words like "WoW!!!" or "LOOK->>" in their titles. It is a ridiculous waste of keyword space. Don't make that mistake. Just making the most of keywords can make a drastic difference in how often your listings get seen by potential buyers. More eyeballs on your listing often means more money in your pocket.
2. Include Details in Your Listing
Have you ever looked at a listing on eBay and been left with questions about the quality, condition, age, etc.? That should NEVER happen. This is your chance to sell what you've got. Tell everything there is to know about the item. You should also make sure that you use even more good keywords in every listing. I'm not saying that you should stuff them in to the description in an unnatural way, but, once again, think about what buyers want to know. Some eBay sellers write 2 sentences about the product and then have four stinking paragraphs of terms and conditions. These people have things completely backwards. Honestly, out of my thousands of sales, I think I had one person who wanted a refund. Be honest, give great details, and treat the buyer the way you would want to be treated. Simple, huh?
3. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Use plenty of photos to show off what you've got. Some people are much more visually oriented than others. These buyers will skim what you wrote and go straight for the images. Take well lit photos that are in focus. Include closeups and be sure to disclose any wear or damage that might be present on previously owned items. The last thing you want to do is dupe someone into buying something. If you misrepresent what you've got for sale, your just going to end up having to deal with a return and you'll probably also end up getting some negative feedback. Include great pictures and maybe even a short video. Using video on eBay is a great idea for items that are going to be expected to perform some function. Use the video to demonstrate that what you are selling can do what it is supposed to do.
Taking Things to The Next Level (Beyond eBay)
If you are really serious about making a business out of this thing, you might like this next idea. It is actually the path that I ended up following, but I didn't really have any kind of guide to turn to as I learned. I'll include links to a detailed guide on the resource page. After I had been selling on eBay for a while, it occurred to me that people were probably searching for these items on Google too, not just eBay. This was back around the time that I started this blog. My idea was to start a website (blog) specifically about the items that I had for sale.
Obviously I started this website to talk about my selling adventures and to help people looking to make the most of garage sales, but I also started some other sites around the same time. Many of the other sites I started are based on the old collectibles that I like to sell. Why would I do this? Well, here's why. Let's say that I'm selling "vintage widgets" a lot on eBay. I would go to a domain registrar and buy a domain based on that keyword. Next, I would fill the website with interesting, well written and researched information about vintage widgets, and include links to my items for sale on eBay. Now, when someone searches Google, or any other search engine, for "vintage widgets" there is a very good chance that they will come across my site, vintagewidgets.com. They follow that link, check out my site, and follow the handy dandy links to the products I've got for sale. A popular website can be built up to draw in hundreds, if not thousands of people per day. Do you think that can help sales? You bet it can.
Ok. So that all was working pretty darn well and it isn't hard to set up at all. BUT, I was still curious. I started to think about ways that I could make money with a blog and completely do away with handling products. I still like the eBay selling model, but even when you're making money, taking the time to deal with shipping and handling can be a bit of a pain at times. What I did next was build a site that was completely unrelated to selling things on eBay. It wasn't even about collectibles. It was what you might call a passion site. The site was actually about dogs. I've always been a dog lover, so I built a site all about dogs (I've since let a fellow dog lover take it over). What was cool was that I loved writing everything that I posted. What was also cool was that I learned that I could show people affiliate links to products I used and liked. When people followed those links and bought things from places like Amazon, I got a commission! I didn't have to handle the transaction at all! All I had to do was point my visitors to high quality products. That is much better than spending hours in the game room taping on shipping labels.
Why I Think Everyone Should Have a Blog
Today blogs are incredibly easy to set up and maintain. As I'm writing this, all I'm looking at is a WordPress dashboard. Wordpress is a nifty little application that makes typing a post as easy as using a word processor. I actually think it is about 10 times easier to understand than Microsoft Word. So why should YOU have a blog? Well, for one thing, you can use them to make money for yourself. That will be enough for some people to get interested. There are other reasons too though. Here are a few that I can think of:
- A blog lets you express yourself to the world.
- Do you have a cause that you feel strongly about? Use your blog to persuade others.
- Do you have a message that you think the world should hear?
- Maybe you feel like you could make life better for someone or help them to solve a problem?
- You can share your knowledge about some passion that you have and meet tons of people with the same interest.
Having a blog today is like having a calling card used to be. There is a big difference though. A great blog can change the world. Think about that. There has never been a time in history when one person could so easily get their message out to the entire world. As you are reading this post, someone on the other side of the Earth could very well be doing the same thing. Do you know how long it takes to set up a site like this? About FIVE MINUTES. Each of us has a story, a passion, a cause, or some other special gift to share with the world. You can do that in just a few minutes. I still find that amazing. Oh yeah, there is also the fact that a lot of folks manage to make a full time income and then some with their little blogs. Not too bad. My friends and family know that I now make money with blogs. That is usually why they ask me to tell them this tale. So now, 3000 plus words later, it's done. I honestly could spend a lot more time explaining all of the best tips and tricks for starting a successful blog, but I'm about spent for the day as far as typing goes. Instead, I'm going to point you to the resource page where you'll find some very useful links. I hope that you have found my little Garage Sale Manifesto useful. If you did, please give a little social love and tweet it, like it, + it and such. Thanks and Good Luck!