Where do you sell your products?
I sell in a few different places. I sell on Ebay (Username: Raunweb), on my blog at http://www.BackyardLifeBlog.com and in person. I’m experimenting with niche sites to see if I can build some community around specific products. It’s still early in that process, but it’s moving in the right direction.
How did you get into selling like this?
I got involved in affiliate marketing in 2001 selling generic ink and toner cartridges. I consistently got checks in the mail, but not enough to really call it a business.
One day, while wandering around a thrift store, I noticed they were selling used printers very cheaply. I thought I could make a little money by reselling them on Ebay so I bought one to see what would happen. I had made a few purchases on Ebay but never sold anything to that point. After my expenses, I made about $15 on that first printer. I bought some more and sold them successfully. At the peak, I had 8-10 auctions going at any one time and made a few hundred dollars a month doing this very part time. I’m talking five or six hours a week. Not bad, but I was just taking advantage of an opportunity. I did that for a couple of years but I lacked the drive to grow it into a real business. It just wasn’t that interesting to me.
Fast forward to today. I now sell products that I can get excited about. I look for the “guy in his garage” that created something to solve a problem related to my interests. When I find them, I ask them if they offer wholesale pricing. Most of the time, they are more than happy to offer decent prices when buying in case-quantities.
Where did you learn how to do it?
It’s a lot of trial and error. The best advice I ever got was to test and evaluate, test and evaluate, test and evaluate. The more I sell, the more refined my listings get. Sometimes changing a word or two can make a big difference in converting browsers into buyers. Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’re not going to be as good on day 1 as you’ll be on day 101 or day 1001. I got this far by consistently taking small steps forward.
What are you currently selling?
I mostly sell products related to outdoor cooking and the outdoor lifestyle. I occasionally throw in an oddball item just to see what happens. My next project is to create digital products that add value to my primary offerings.
Are your products related to your business?
Yes. They support my platform and my platform supports the products. I want give my guests an opportunity to learn, grow, and get more enjoyment out of their leisure activities. If I think a product helps me in that way, it could help them. Win-win!
Where do you get your products?
I buy straight from the inventor whenever possible. One benefit of dealing with small producers is you can get in contact with them fairly easily. Every once in a while I get a deal on a closeout.
Where do you find these inventors?
One great place to find new products is on forums about your areas of interest. Where there is conversation happening, there are problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. Find the one offering a solution.
Do you buy in bulk from the inventor or have you ever tried a drop ship arrangement?
I buy a case or two at a time. I’ve discussed drop shipping, but decided against it because it would drop my margins. Since it doesn’t take much time for me to drop packages off at the post office, I’d rather make that money than give it up for the convenience of not having to do that work. That doesn’t mean it’s never a good idea, but I like the continuity of taking the orders and fulfilling them.
Also, the people I’m dealing with generally aren’t big fans of drop shipping, which makes it tough to do a deal like that.
How do you know you are buying at a price where you can make a profit?
I see what the products actual sell for (which is different from the manufacturer’s suggested retail price) and work back from there. On Ebay, the fees are explicit, so it is easy to calculate. I only have PayPal transaction fees on products sold from my website, so my margin is better there.
I generally want the physical products I offer to sell for at least $20 to make it worth my time if I only sell one per day. It helps that the post office is only 5 minutes away. Remember that time is your most valuable resource. As a general rule, I want to make at least 30% after expenses.
Is this process scalable, why, or why not?
The process is scalable to a point. If you make enough per unit and sell enough units, it’s great. I know of several Ebay veterans that work like dogs because their products don’t earn enough to be worth the time. The other end of the spectrum is to be so successful that you sell more than you can physically process. At that point, it might be worth it to bring in some extra help.
What key thing am I not asking that I should be?
Remember that everything is negotiable. It’s ok to ask for better prices. Also, care about your customers — before the sale, during the sale, and especially after the sale. Take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships.
Update 12/10/12: Raun has been hittin’ it hard teaching people how to sell on Ebay so I wanted to share some of the places you can find him to learn more about selling on Ebay.
Here is his website dedicated to selling on Ebay: raunweb.com/
Here is his 48days.net community whee he interacts with other Ebay sellers who share information and improve their craft: Earning on Ebay, Amazon, and Etsy