Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Do You Have What it Takes to Be Self Employed?

eBay LIVE Chicago 2008


So you think you want to sell on eBay / Online? Or are you selling now? There are a few things to think about before you even get started. Are you the kind of person that is self motivated and can work for yourself?

Growing up in a house where my Dad was always self-employed with my mother’s help and support, I find it hard to answer to a BOSS. But many want to work their 8 –5, go home and forget about work.

On the other hand, there are those who like the flexibility of the hours and the (non) dress code!

Local laws – Every city / community / neighborhood has laws or covenants that either support in home businesses or are against it. A lot has to do with the traffic the business will generate to the neighborhood. Are you going to have a lot of deliveries? Will customers be coming to the house?

This legal complication must be explored thoroughly before one gets too far into a new in home business. It would be awful to get all set up, merchandise bought and then a neighbor complains and you have no recourse.

To be a good citizen, the business must be registered with all the local and state entities for collecting sales tax.

Space - Once it is determined that you can have an in home business, where will your office be? It could be in the corner of the dining room or in a designated space. This area can be a tax deduction if it is used exclusively for your new venture. Checking with your tax consultant will give you a great idea on exactly how this works. Your vehicle, electric, phones and Internet connection could all be part of your tax deductions also. So when setting up your space it is wise to keep in mind the ramifications of where you place it and will it be exclusive for your business.

Family Support – This is a big one. There are so many reasons to be self employed and will differ for each person.

Some of the most popular reasons are the stay at home parents; home schoolers who want to be home with the kids; the disabled, those in a poor job market; retired folks; people who just want to downsize and sell their things rather than yard sale; and on and on and on.

Because home selling takes a lot of discipline it is so important to have the time and space to ‘work the business’. In a home with other people, finding the time without interruption could be difficult.

We are retired and one of us does all the listings and eBay chores. Once an item sells the other one takes care of all the packaging and shipping. I find diluting the chores is helpful because it gives me time to concentrate on my part and not be diverted by the shipping routine.

It is also nice to have the co-operation and participation of a spouse, S.O., a child or another person. When they are active in the business they have a feel for what is happening and can be a great sounding board on problem solving or situations that arise.

Availability of product – So what–cha going to sell? That is a never-ending question and not one that any active eBay seller will readily answer. This is where you have to do all your own research.

If you are just starting out, it is really a good idea to start with things you know or have in the house or things friends and relatives give you outright to sell. As a new eBayer you don’t want to get involved with consignment sales or having to pay somebody part of the proceeds. That is too much pressure for a beginner.

The best way to research is to do a search on eBay in both auctions and store listings: - How much is it selling for? What are the shipping charges? How many are there listed? What keywords do they use? What category is it listed in? What is the condition? How many have sold and how many expired without a sale?

There are 3rd party companies that will give you all sorts of sold item info for a monthly fee. They are good once you get going and can pay the extra fees, but not at the beginning.

It may take awhile to find your niche, but every listing you post and every item you sell accomplishes a few things – more experience and more feedback.

Even if an item doesn’t sell, that could help too. Analyze what you did and if you could have done it differently - other keywords, a different category, a better picture, or a more thorough description?

Product Storage – Once you decide what you are going to sell – where are you going to keep it? How is it going to be organized so it can be found easily once it sells? There is nothing worse that having to write to a buyer and tell them you can’t ship (because you lost the item someplace in the house!!)

The storage question goes back to determining what you are going to sell. If you only have small storage space then you will want to carry smaller things. If you have a lot of storage space then large items could be best for you.

One resource for a large volume of items is wholesalers that sell pallets of merchandise. The items they include need to be researched thoroughly before you make a commitment.

Using a wholesaler or a drop shipper is not the best idea at the beginning. It is recommended that you have quite a bit of experience before you try either of these resources. (That is 100+ feedback!)

Education – As in any business there is ongoing updates to make the business better. Employees are required to go to seminars all the time to keep their skills at their peak.

The same goes for the self-employed. Read, read, and read some more. There are many books on the subject. In addition there are several eBay and Yahoo message boards devoted just to eBay where folks gather to brainstorm, ask questions or vent frustrations. All the posts are a learning experience.

There is a radio show on WS Radio devoted just to eBay. There is a PayPal radio show too. Every so often eBay hosts a town hall meeting and other classes and seminars where they take calls from sellers and buyers to answer their questions and concerns. EBay has all sorts of message boards on all subjects including category specific.

Attending any of the eBay supported events around the country can be very helpful with the info learned but also the networking with so many other folks. Listening to other sellers and buyers concerns helps to determine your Terms of Service too!

How important is this? Awhile back. eBay announced some changes. All the boards where filled with comments and concerns. The day the changes happened someone wrote that they were so surprised to see some changes – “what happened”? they wrote!!!

This is a perfect example of a seller plodding along and not running their business like a business. They did not keep up and you can bet their business will suffer for it.

Conclusion - Some people are cut out to be self-employed and others aren’t. If you need to have your hand held, have difficulty making decisions than the internet is not for you. Polish up your resume and go get a job.

But if you are determined, self-motivated, ready for a challenge and like to work in your PJ’s at 3AM then eBay could be for you.

Louise Sanchez – Retired / Always self-employed/ eBay seller since 2/98 - herbscraftsgifts http://tinyurl.com/pyq6bb. In 2003 we really started selling seriously and in Aug. 2007 set a goal to be powersellers in 2008. We achieved that in March 2008. We buy merchandise wholesale, love estate & yard sales, do several craft / gift shows and state fairs a year. We bought an RV in Dec. 2008 and now eBay while we are traveling and doing shows too. Our kids laugh at us that we are more active now than before we were retired.


papel1 said...

Great advice.

Louise said...

Hi Judy, I orignally wrote this as a chater in a book the folks in a group I belonged to were collabrating on. I left the group and this 'chapter' has been floating around my computer ever since. LOL

Thanks, so much. Louise