By Kate Hornsby | August 26, 2016
The old saying “time is money” is never more true than when you’re running an online business. If you’re not listing, you’re not selling and you’re not making money. If you’re not buying inventory, you have nothing to list, so you’re not listing and you’re not making money. Yet, in between trying to do all that, you still have to ship your items, take photos, create listings, and so on.
Hiring an assistant to help you with your online business is the obvious choice, but it’s important to remember that not all assistants are created equally. Whether you are hiring a virtual assistant or someone to work as an employee, it’s still important to find the right fit.
Here’s some tips that can help:
Decide what you want your assistant to do. A lot of sellers know that they need help, but then when they bring someone on board, they really don’t know what it is that they want the person to do. Having a clear idea in mind of what tasks you want to delegate to your assistant can help ensure that you and your assistant are the right fit.
Ask your network for referrals. If you’re looking for an assistant that can physically come in and work, it may take a little more due diligence to find a good employee. If you are using a virtual assistant, however, it’s usually fairly easy to get feedback on what people or companies are good and are bad by visiting some Facebook groups or forums devoted to online selling.
Check their references. A good assistant won’t mind sharing the contact information of previous clients or employers. It can be a little more tricky if they are still working for someone else and want to move on, but usually you can at least talk to a personal reference or two and still get an idea of what type of person you are hiring.
Find someone who knows the business. Although the type of assistant you hire will depend on what you want the assistant to do, it is generally a lot easier transition if the person already understands how an online business works and what the listing process is all about. Fortunately, if you’re going the route of a virtual assistant, there are companies out there that are familiar with the process and a few of them even specialize in helping online businesses that use platforms, such as eBay and Amazon.
Request a trial period. There is always an adjustment period when you bring in someone new. In some cases, the person will fit in almost right away and you know the arrangement is going to work. If you’re new to working with a virtual assistant or having an employee, however, you should expect a learning curve for both you and for them. Some online sellers discover that while they need the help and even want the help, the arrangement itself just does not work. Perhaps they like to micromanage too much, or what they thought the virtual assistant or employee would do and what they are doing, just really aren’t the same thing. If you have request a trial period, you can easily end the arrangement and either try someone else or take another approach.
Do you have an assistant to help with your online business? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | August 25, 2016
The things you learn from running an online store are things they just don’t teach you in business school. Sometimes there is just no way to learn except through trial and error. Other times, however, there are mistakes that could have been stopped ahead of time, if only you knew. Here’s some common mistakes you might be making with your Etsy shop.
Not doing the math. A lot of sellers end up with an Etsy shop because they decided they wanted to take their hobby to the next level and maybe (hopefully) get paid to create something. Unfortunately, many shop owners don’t do the math to see if they are making as much money as they need to be. They may have a good niche with a lot of demand, but aren’t taking into account the cost of creating the items they are selling or the fees involved in selling their items online. Take some time to analyze your costs to ensure that you’re making a profit and not actually losing money. Don’t forget to add in your time as a cost as well.
Wasting too much time on the small stuff. If you are like most sellers, you probably try to save money and do everything yourself. You create your listings, take your photos, and in between that, you’re creating new items to sell. The problem with this is that while you are saving money, you’re eating up a lot of valuable time. Time that could be spent elsewhere, either brainstorming about new products to create or even spending the time with you family.
Although you may not initially be able to hire someone to assist you, at some point you need to start relying on someone else and hiring people to do the nonessential tasks for you. Margie, a mother of two teenage girls keeps it in the family during the summer and pays her daughters to do many of the tasks for her, such as finding the items and getting them ready to ship. In the fall, she has a part-time assistant that work for her three days a week. During the time the assistant is there, she works on her new creations and designs.
Not understanding who your buyer actually is. There are two parts to claiming a niche when you have an Etsy store. The first part is creating your product to sell. The second part is knowing who to sell to. As an example, Janine was often complimented on the bracelets that she made, but when she decided to sell jewelry online, she had no idea who to market her items to. It took a couple of missteps before she finally found that the demand for her jewelry line was actually highest with older women who wanted to accessorize. Once she shifted from just general marketing to targeting her desired clientele, her sales begin to increase.
Have you been making any of these mistakes? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | August 19, 2016
As an online seller, you know how important it is to keep your business growing. You also know that no matter how well you are doing in your Amazon business, there’s always way you can improve.
Below are some tips that can help.
Know your numbers
You might find it tedious to keep up with the statistics of your Amazon sales, but it is a good way to tell how well you are actually doing. As an example, Amazon wants all buyer emails answered within 24 hours. If it takes longer, then it counts against you and can affect your contact metrics.
While this may not seem like something for concern, your overall metrics are actually quite important. Not only can Amazon actually cancel your account if your numbers get too bad, but it can also prevent you from winning the buy box when you are selling a product that is also sold by other sellers. Although price is typically the biggest determining factor for winning the buy box, you can still lose the opportunity even with the lowest price if your metrics are poor.
Keep replenishing your inventory
There’s a saying among eBay sellers that goes, “you can’t sell it if you don’t have it listed.” Well, the same applies to selling on Amazon. If you have a great selling item, it is important to make sure that you keep replenishing your inventory anytime the item starts to get low. Otherwise, when you run of out of the item Amazon will remove the listing from your results and in turn, your sales rank for that item will drop.
Get rid of your old inventory
Hanging on to old inventory hurts you in two ways. First, you have money tied up in an item that just isn’t selling. Secondly, if you are selling through Amazon FBA, you are continuing to pay storage fees, which are actually eating into your profits. Reducing the price on the item or simply getting rid of it actually ends up saving you money even if it initially feels like you are taking a loss.
Watch your pricing
Some sellers take a “set it and forget it” approach when it comes to pricing their items. Unfortunately, this can lead to one of two things. Either your items are priced too high compared to other sellers and your items won’t sell, or if the item suddenly becomes popular you might end up leaving money on the table by having your item priced too low. While it might be difficult to stay on top of every listing, try to make it part of your routine to view and adjust your prices on a regular basis. This not only can help you win against the competition, but it forces you to stay mindful of your inventory and you’ll know what you have that is moving or just sitting there.
By Kate Hornsby | August 16, 2016
Take a look at some of the listings on eBay and you’ll see all kind of gift cards for sale. WalMart, StarBucks and even eBay gift cards themselves. This week, however, eBay charted some new territory by carrying a different type of eBay gift card, one that allows the gift card holder the ability to buy shares of stock in the company itself.
According to eBay, the company has joined forces with another company known as Stockpile to sell digital gift cards for buying stock. The gift cards are similar to other gift cards in that buyers can purchase the cards in varying dollar amounts, but instead of using the cards to buy items such as clothing or food when dining out, recipients of the gift cards actually use the cards to purchase shares of eBay stock.
At the moment, a buyer can buy a $25 gift card for eBay stock for $29.95 or a $50 gift card for $56.95. The person they gift the card to, then goes to Stockpile and buys the eBay shares for the amount of the gift card.
It is important to note that Stockpile works a little differently than most stock trading companies. You don’t have to buy a whole share, the gift cards can be used to buy a fraction of a share instead. As an example, an eBay share is currently trading at $31.05 (aggregate). This means that if you used the $25 gift card, you wouldn’t get quite a full share, but if you used the $50 gift card, you would then own a share and a little bit more of another share. The shares then would become worth more or less as the stock price goes up and down and would be sold the same as any other type of stock.
Although eBay is focusing on its own gift cards, a visit to Stockpile’s website revealed that the company has a whole lot of gift cards that can be purchased in the same way. In fact, the company plans to have the gift cards in 14,000 stores by the end of the year. They are betting that the gift cards will be popular as Christmas gifts given by adults to children, in a way similar to how grandparents use to give their grandkids savings bonds back when savings bonds were more popular.
Will you be giving eBay gift cards for stock shares as Christmas gifts this year? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | August 12, 2016
If you’re like most sellers, you probably think that the worst part of selling online is having to keep up with your income and all those pesky seller expenses that you know you will need for when that dreaded tax season rolls around again each year. To assist with the record keeping process, Etsy announced this week that they are partnering with QuickBooks and will offer the service as a discount for those who subscribe.
According to Chad Dickerson, Etsy’s CEO the marketplace is now integrating with Intuit QuickBooks Self-Employed. The service, which works like Intuit’s other QuickBooks bookkeeping products was created to help make seller accounting tasks more simple while providing a way for sellers to keep up with the information they need for their taxes.
Sellers who use the service can import their information right from Etsy into the QuickBooks program. It also allows sellers to import date from payment services, such as PayPal and Square along with bank statements and credit card accounts. By using the service, sellers can view reports about their cash flow and also keep up with expenses like shipping costs, mileage and even supplies.
As a promotional offer, both sellers in the United States and UK can receive the QuickBooks service at a discount for the first 12 months. QuickBooks Self-Employed is currently offered at $5 per month, and sellers also have the option of using the QuickBook Self-Employed Turbo Tax Bundle at $12 per month.
Etsy sellers can learn more about the process and sign up for this feature by clicking here.
Do you sell on Etsy and if so, will you be trying QuickBooks Self-Employed by Intuit? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | August 9, 2016
Although the old saying “you’ve got to spend money to make money” is true, sometimes life happens and you just got to do what you got to do to keep on going. Whether you are just getting started or sales have been slow and you need to save money for inventory, here’s four tips that can help.
Tip #1 Boxes
Use free boxes from the post office or recycle old boxes. If you typically sell a lot of the same sized items or items that will fit into normal sized boxes, then you can save a ton of money by getting free boxes from you local post office. In fact, they will even ship them right to your door! The only problem is that when you use boxes from the post office, the item has to go either through Priority mail or Express Mail.
If your item is going by Media Mail or another way you can’t use the post office boxes, but you can use recycled. Depending on the size you need, grocery stores or local retailers are a great place to score free boxes and often come in a variety of sizes. Pay attention to the weight of the box, however, since if the box is made with double or thick cardboard it can add weight to the package and make your shipping costs go up. As an example, many wine boxes are made this way to keep the wine safe while it is in transit.
Tip #2 Packing material
Just as you can find free boxes, you can also find free packing material. Freecycle is often a great way to get packing peanuts for just the price of the gas in your car that it takes to go pick them up. You can also reuse the materials that arrive in packages from places that you order. As an example, keep and then reuse those air pillows that many companies use to keep items from touching the sides of a box.
Tip #3 Sourcing inventory from Freecycle
Although some members of Freecycle frown on members selling the items that they get through Freecycle, it can still be a way to get free inventory when times are tight. Do respect member’s requests when they ask you not to claim something if you plan to resell it, however. You may think that they will never find out, but you would be surprised what a small community Freecycle is.
Tip #4 Offer to sell other people’s things
Known as “consignment,” some sellers make a good living by simply selling other people’s things. Since you have no out-of-pocket costs to buy the inventory, you can keep your store full while not investing money. There are, of course, a couple of things to consider. First, you will still have store fees to pay whether the items you list sell or not. Second, you need to have a clear understanding upfront what you will make on the items you sell for someone and what portion they will get if the item sells.
Most sellers who work on consignment recommend having a contract for clients that lists what they will make on anything that sells and how long they will try to sell the item for. It is also a good idea to make sure that clients know that they will need to either pick up the items if they don’t sell or that after a period of time, you will be donating them to charity.
What money-saving tips do you have for eBay sellers? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | August 4, 2016
Many successful eBay stores have changed tremendously since back when they first opened. Sellers have brought in new inventory, updated the look of their store and logo, and even incorporated new trends and ideas into their online business. While the journey for each eBay seller and their store is different, there are some common threads among them that sellers say have helped their stores evolve.
Don’t be afraid to change direction
Like any good business, sometimes it takes more than one try for you to find your true niche. When Tiffany first started selling, she was simply getting rid of the clothes that her children were outgrowing. Overtime, she also begin making the rounds to local thrift stores and finding children’s clothing from there to sell as well. It wasn’t until she added some Little Golden Books into the inventory of her store that she realized what she actually wanted to sell. Today, she primarily sells vintage children’s books on both eBay and Amazon and says her store is continuing to grow as her inventory and tastes change.
Although becoming an expert in a niche is what every seller strives for, it is also important to continue learning new things so that you can keep challenging yourself. Brad went from selling vintage fishing lures to learning how to make his own. This has not only kept him interested in his store, but allowed him to expand his business in an entirely different direction. Today, Brad not only still has his eBay store for selling his vintage fishing equipment, he sells personalized fishing lure on Etsy. He states that he never would have discovered this niche if he hadn’t been trying to not only expand his business, but challenge himself as well.
Overcome your limitations
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Whether it’s a lack of space, lack of time, or a lack of money, all successful businesses eventually experience growing pains. While some are held back by these limitations (and often go on to other things instead), others make do with what they have or learn to work around their limitations. Tiffany initially could only work limited hours due to her three children, but discovered that two other mothers in her neighborhood were willing to look after her kids on certain days if she would look after theirs in exchange. She states that the other two mothers were lifesavers, since it gave her two days a week to take photos and list items undisturbed. She would then work on packaging items to ship after the kids were in bed and either ran the packages to the post office first thing in the morning, or had the post office pick them up.
Have you successfully evolved your business over time? Leave a comment below.
By Kate Hornsby | July 29, 2016
Last week, we began the process of how to name your blog. As you may recall, there were three questions to answer that are designed to help point you in the direction of choosing your blog’s name.
These three questions were:
What do plan for your blog to be about?
Who do you want your target audience to be?
What type of voice is your blog going to have?
Now that you have thought about it and have better idea of what the purpose of your blog is, we can move toward actually deciding how to choose a name. Interestingly, just as there are three questions, there are also three ways to approach choosing a name.
First, you can use descriptive words. These words should hint or tell what your blog is about. As an example, if you are named Frank and sell fishing lures you might call it, “Frank’s Fish Talk.” You could then either discuss different types of lures (linking to the ones you sell in your store), or talk about fishing, which is a way to establish yourself as an expert.
The second approach to naming your blog is to actually create a brand name. As a seller, this means that you would want to name your blog the same name as your store. With a brand name, you could then either discuss the items you sell or your actual online business.
The third approach is to simply call it by your own full name. This helps to build you as a brand and makes your business more warm and personal.
Still undecided? Here, are some additional tips to help narrow it down.
1.Keep the name simple, easy to remember and easy to spell
2.Make the blog name appropriate to the blog’s topic
3.Make it convey what your blog is about to ensure that it is different from the competitions -this not only helps you stand out, but keeps you from getting into trouble for copying someone else’s brand name
4.Consider a play on words
5.Use humor or an alliteration to find a name
Finally, remember to think long term before naming your blog. While creating a blog name that is all about the items you sell is great if all you ever plan to do is sell that particular item, if you think that at some point you may want to branch out and sell or talk about something else, then you may want to consider other options that will let your blog posts grow and change the same way your online business does.
By Kate Hornsby | July 28, 2016
EBay is apparently back to its old tricks of “if it’s not broke, we need to make it that way.” This week, sellers in the UK noticed that the online marketplace giant had decided to remove the feedback feature “Feedback left for others.”
Although eBay buyers still apparently have the ability to see feedback from sellers, sellers can no longer see what type of comments the buyers are leaving for sellers. Sellers have noted that this can be a problem because without this feature, sellers have no way of knowing exactly what kind of buyer they are dealing with. As an example, a seller has no way of knowing that a buyer constantly likes to state that the items they purchase never arrive or that the items always seem to arrive damaged.
While this may not seem like it would be very important, to many sellers it actually is. Since eBay only allows sellers to leave positive feedback, sellers have had to rely on other ways of determining what type of buyer they are dealing with. Analyzing a buyer’s comments on the feedback they leave can help to identify problems that might arise when they are dealing with that buyer.
As in the earlier example, if a buyer likes to say that the items they buy are constantly not arriving, the seller then knows that they should require a signature confirmation from the buyer to prove the item made it safely into their hands, or that the seller should insure even lower priced items, if the buyer likes to constantly state that items are arriving damaged.
According to an eBay discussion board, when one seller made an inquiry as to why the feedback feature had been removed, eBay dismissed the concerns stating that it was to protect the buyers by keeping their purchase information private.
Perhaps what is the most upsetting about this change, however, is not the fact that eBay has chosen to do this, but that they made the change without notice, once again helping the buyer while ignoring the needs of the seller. Despite the fact that the change is currently only affecting UK sellers, some sellers suspect that the United States will soon be next. If so, what will this change mean to you? Leave a comment below and let us know your opinion.
By Joanna Avellana | July 27, 2016
Slowly but surely, eBay is making a big comeback.
I am privileged to be giving a talk at next week’s eBay Open conference in Las Vegas (www.ebayopen2016.com) on some of the legal and tax issues involved in sourcing the merchandise that you want to sell on eBay.
Here are some highlights from my talk:
You must source your merchandise legally. A thief cannot pass good title to property of any kind. Seriously, dude, don’t even THINK about doing any of the following:
- stealing merchandise (until garbage is actually picked up by a trash hauler, it is still considered somebody’s property – resist the temptation to “dumpster dive” or “Blue Bin binge” on trash pickup day);
- robbing somebody’s grave, even if it is a centuries-old burial ground you discovered while installing your backyard swimming pool;
- shoplifting, even if it was during a riot or power blackout and, well, everybody was doing it;
- selling stuff eBay says you can’t sell on the site (an alphabetical list of prohibited items can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/index.html);
- buying merchandise from dubious sources that you just know, or have strong reason to believe, is counterfeit or violates somebody’s trademark (in the immortal words of rock singer MeatLoaf®, “there’s ain’t no Coup deVille hiding at the bottom of a Crackerjack box”).
“Drop shipping” and consignment sales. When you “drop ship” somebody else’s goods, you sell their stuff online, collect the money, take your cut, and remit whatever’s left over to the owner, who ships the order. Make sure you include sales taxes in each state where the owner has a physical place of business, and make sure the owner warns you when it’s running low on inventory.
Consignment sales are the same as drop shipping except that the owner is usually an individual and not a company. The same sales tax rules apply to consignment sales as apply to drop shipping. Also, make sure either you take possession of the merchandise, or get the seller to agree not to sell or give the merchandise to anyone else until your eBay listing ends.
The tricks to “retail arbitrage”. When you buy something and pay the full retail price, then resell that something on eBay for an even higher price, that’s called “retail arbitrage.” You will have to pay sales tax when you buy the merchandise, and deduct it as part of your “cost of goods sold” when the item sells on eBay. Also, if you resell the item to someone who lives in the same state you do, you will have to collect your state’s sales tax (yes, there is sometimes double sales tax in “retail arbitrage” transactions).
“Retail arbitrage” is all about maxing out your margins. Don’t buy gift pens for $1 apiece and resell them for $2. Look for the “clearance” merchandise that’s discounted 60% or more, then offer a 20% discount off the list price on eBay. Don’t worry: the buyers will be there. If it’s trademarked merchandise (think Coach® handbags or just about any brand of perfume), buy only from authorized sources and include a photo of the receipt in your eBay listing so you can demonstrate “provenance” in case somebody accuses you of selling bogus stuff.
Becoming somebody’s “exclusive online distributor”. This is the best way to “lock in” a continuing source of supply for high-demand merchandise. Approach a local manufacturer of really cool stuff and offer to be their “exclusive online distributor”. Many companies don’t have the time or patience to build an online sales channel and will welcome the opportunity to work with you. Make sure the agreement lasts for at least three years, and that the manufacturer agrees not to sell their stuff online with anyone but you during that time.
Selling “private label” merchandise. When you buy generic merchandise overseas (usually from China or elsewhere in Asia), slap your trademark on it and resell it on eBay, that is called “private labeling.” It can be a great way to build a brand if you truly are adding value to the merchandise in some way, but it can get you into a lot of legal trouble.
When you “private label,” you assume all legal liabilities of the manufacturer. If the product is defective or harmful, that will become your problem. You will need “products liability” insurance. Make sure the merchandise is not counterfeit, and that the manufacturer isn’t selling the identical merchandise to other eBay sellers who may then (believe it or not) sue you for infringing their “private label” brand.
The secret to success when selling on eBay, or on any other online retail venue, is to find merchandise that is always in demand, with little competition, in quantities big enough that you can easily restock your inventory whenever necessary, at a low enough price that you can realize a decent profit on resale, in a “niche” that’s big enough to give you a living and help you build a recognizable “brand identity”.
Cliff Ennico (email@example.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2016 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.