Welcome back to the eBay seller interview series!
This series highlights successful eBay sellers and gives us a behind the scenes look at how they run their businesses. If you’re an eBay seller or are thinking about starting an eBay business, I hope you get some inspiration and maybe learn a thing or two from these interviews.
Today’s guest is Steve from Wisconsin. Steve and his wife are working to grow their eBay business rapidly and I enjoyed hearing their story as it shows the benefit of working together with your spouse.
If you’re an eBay seller and would like to be featured in an interview, all you need to do is fill out this form.
Now for the interview.
When did you start selling on eBay and what made you decide to be an eBay seller?
I first sold old work supplies on eBay 20 years ago, but really focused on using it to purchase supplies for a lot less than the distributors charged. In March 2018, I listed a few waste items from work and found that I could make $600 in monthly sales from 1 particular item. That was enough money to get me curious. If I could find 10 streams producing like that, I'd have something real.
Do you sell part time or full time? If full time, how long did it take to go full time?
Between my wife and I, we are now putting in full time hours. For the first 3 months, I did it all myself. Basically, I bought a bunch of stuff and spent too much time at yard sales. I listed about 500 items and stalled. I didn’t do anything but ship for the next 9 months and was still generating about $400/month the entire time.
When our daughter began preschool this fall, my stay at home wife got involved. We now spend 10 hours per week at the shop photographing items and another 10 hours listing. We do it together most of the time, so that's about 40 hours per week.
In addition, Sunday auctions have turned into our only source of new items and it is basically our version of a weekly date night without any kids. It's amazing and gives us so much more to talk about! We list a minimum of 120 new items per week and have grown to 1500 listings.
What kinds of items did you start off selling and do you still sell the same kind of stuff?
Used electronics destined for recycling. I still sell both occasionally, but I got tired of cleaning filthy parts with baby wipes and toothpicks. You should see the condition some of these come in!
How many items are in your eBay store?
1500, but that's growing 100 every week. Our goal is to catch Jay and Ryanne from Scavenger Life‘s store size in 18 months.
Where do you find your items to sell?
My highest valued items were at dingy estate sales that were not run by a professional company. We do auctions almost exclusively now because it saves so much time. Yard sales are great, but we NEED to get 120+ items every week to continue our growth. That's a lot of garage sales or an afternoon at 1 auction
What is something you will always buy when you come across it?
Hats, vintage electronics, and really anything we can get for less than $1. The goal is to get a bunch of stuff where 1 sale will break us even on the investment.
What is something you will never buy again?
I'd buy anything at the right price, but I really dislike women’s clothing. The competition is fierce, returns are high, and they take longer to photograph due to the measurements needed. I bought many boxes from another reseller for $100 and made nice profits, but some of the listings only make $1-3 per item. Too much time per dollar on something I'm not passionate about.
What's the weirdest thing you ever sold? (how much did you buy it for and how much did it sell for?)
There are so many things I find crazy to sell, but it all sells. A crotchet Afghan for $85, broken vcrs, 1970s measuring spoons for $22!
What's the best sale you ever had?
An accordion from 1926. It looked awesome. It was old. I paid $80 at an estate sale and sold it for $800 +$400 shipping to Sweden.
What's the worst?
Coffee mugs, or basically anything heavy that has to go to California. The shipping kills profits.
How much are you profiting each month?
Well, we are growing so rapidly that every month has been a record. The last 30 days' profit was about $2400.
How do you handle storage and inventory?
I have a small shop for my traditional work and now have (6) 8'x6′ shelving units. Hard goods and clothing get numbered in totes. Glassware and bulky items go straight to a numbered shelf.
What's your listing process like?
We dump all the items purchased into 1 room at the shop. My wife and I spend 1-3pm each day photographing at 2 different photo stations and upload all pictures to Dropbox. We don’t allow any distractions and have made this a mandatory part of every day.
We list items at home each morning while drinking coffee. I use my desktop and she uses a laptop next to me. Usually from 8-10am. We occasionally bounce pricing suggestions off each other as we work. We definitely like working together and this is our quality husband and wife time before the kids and life get chaotic.
Sundays are auction days. If we’re bored, we don’t watch a lot of TV. We sit down and list for an hour to get closer to our goals and it really feels great bypassing the wasted time.
What tools do you use for eBay? (this could be physical or software).
We have a basic light kit on a 6×6′ table for listing large items and a small photo box for smaller items. We use our phones for pictures(always hold the phone sideways so you don’t have to rotate on eBay!). We use an old UPS thermal printer for labels. Dropbox makes it smooth so we can spend half the time working at home over coffee.
About how much time do you spend on eBay each week?
Usually, I put in 18 hours and my wife gets in 24 hours. I do actually work outside of eBay(contractor, not a normal clock in and out job) so there are a couple of days per week where I don’t help photograph.
What's your shipping process? Do you use specific methods for each item and do you do free shipping?
I have a small shipping area and simply use an old laptop for eBay shipping only. I have a lot of boxes from work and use a ton of poly mailers. I always cut boxes down to size to save shipping. We used to use USPS almost exclusively, but have found recently that FedEx beats their price 25% of the time. We recently tried pirate ship, but it's only saved money twice for very small but heavy packages. We don’t do any free shipping.
I differ from most in that I charge flat shipping rates. The shipping charge has enough profit built in to cover all eBay and PayPal fees. This way free returns don’t actually lose us money if I refund shipping. I also do not give breaks on shipping for combining items.
I'll refund a portion of an item, but that helps secure some profit even in the event of a return. Almost like a hidden restocking fee. We had been doing 1-day handling, but just changed to 3 days. I don’t mind losing the 10% discount. It's really nice shipping twice per week only
Do you do anything to promote your listings?
Nothing at all. That's why we pay eBay.
Have you ever sold on consignment?
I have no trouble finding things to sell, so I always turn consignment down. They usually offer 10%. I would only consider it on high-value items and I'd want 50%.
What's your best eBay story? (could be something funny, heart-warming etc).
The accordion I sold to an older lady in Sweden for $1200 shipped. She sent me pictures of her playing the accordion in her little log cabin in the woods. Complete with her very funny looking clothes and tough weathered smile. It made me very happy to know how thrilled she was and I still made $600 by connecting her with an item she could never have found otherwise.
What’s your worst?
Nothing bad really. People send returns or leave negative feedback stating items were not as described…when the item was exactly as described. If that's the worst, I'm happy to accept it.
Do you sell anywhere other than eBay? If so, tell us how that's going.
I sell some larger things on facebook marketplace if I don’t feel like shipping them. Usually, I sell about 5 items per month. If they don’t sell on FB after a couple of months, I breakdown and list on eBay.
Nathan has been a personal finance writer since early 2018. He and his wife reached a net worth of one hundred thousand at the age of 25 and are on their way to financial independence. His favorite way to make money is selling things on eBay and has grown his eBay business to earn five figures selling part-time. He loves sharing what he learns about finance and any eBay tips he comes across. If you’re interested in becoming an eBay seller, check out his reseller Facebook group.