Welcome to the very first eBay seller interview! This series will highlight successful eBay sellers and give us a behind the scenes look at how they run their businesses. If you're an eBay seller, or thinking about starting an eBay bussiness, I hope you get some insporation and maybe learn a thing or two from these interviews.
I love hearing stories about people making a living selling things on eBay. It gives me hope that if something were to happen to my day job, I'd still be able to pay the bills. Who knows, maybe someday I'll even be able to sell on eBay full time and step away from the corporate world.
Our first guest is Joshua from Kentucky. Joshua's store is just shy of 2,000 listings. You can check it out here if you'd like.
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 started in the mid 2000's, pre-smartphone, selling books. I was at a Goodwill after work looking for books for myself. I saw a firefighter textbook and thought that it had to have some resale value. At the time books were $0.50, so I bought it and sold it quickly on half.com for $50. I was hooked. I bought and sold books (without the ability to look them up prior to purchase) for a couple years after. I moved and all my inventory ended up in a basement (not good for books) and ended up selling out.
Fast forward to March 2016 and I had a 2nd shift job that left me with a lot of free time. I was bored and had sold off and on in between the books, but nothing serious. I decided to give eBay another try and went off to the thrift stores and yard sales with $200. After a few sales, I mentioned what I was doing to my boss, Dave. Dave loved the idea of what I was doing and offered me an immense amount of support and motivation. I likely would have floundered again without his help. From there I ramped up rather quickly and was a full time seller by June of 2018. I am on pace for $70k in revenue for 2019.
Do you sell part time or full time? If full time, how long did it take to go full time?
I started selling at the end of March 2016 and was full time by then end of June 2018. I had a job in IT where I had worked myself out of work and was miserable. Along with the office politics, I was at the end and had already decided to leave the company. It just so happened that the same day they pulled me aside and told me my position was being eliminated. Took that sign and never looked back.
I will say that I am single with no kids. The only debt I have is <$5k on a vehicle at 2.99% interest and about $10k from doing work on my house in preparation for sale.
So, I'd caution others when thinking about full time to have their debt in check and to make sure they can support their families and the lifestyle they prefer. I have been able to live comfortably, put about $30k of work into my house in the past year (all cash, minus the above mentioned 0% interest loan) and basically tread water with the cash reserves I had before going full time.
What kinds of items did you start off selling and do you still sell the same kind of stuff?
I started with clothing as many do. There is an abundance to choose from and the price is right. Within the first month I was out at yard sales. I've got a natural eye for quality and started taking chances on items that were cheap. I've discovered tons of items to sell and am always learning about new ones. Now, I sell just about anything. My store name is Bourbon Trail Bazaar, so like a real Bazaar, it's an amalgam of everything. From women's purses to antique shaving mirrors to PS3's.
Where do you find your items to sell?
Auctions, yard sales, and thrift stores are the most common.
What is something you will always buy when you come across it?
Kitchen and bath faucets new in the box.
What is something you will never buy again?
Most modern video games. They have very little value and need to be bundled to sell.
What's the weirdest thing you ever sold? (how much did you buy it for and how much did it sell for?)
A fake breast for a mastectomy patient. Paid $5 sold for around $40.
What's the best sale you ever had?
Top money was a Yamaha Saxophone I sold for $600 (paid $175). My favorite was a recent watch I paid $1 and sold for $110.
What's the worst?
Don't really have a worst. My average buy price is between $4-5 and I rarely sell anything lower than that (clearance items, items that were in a box lot, etc.).
How much are you profiting each month?
$2k-5k a month. It all depends on the season. I rarely put in an actual 40 hours a week right now (and it's hard to include sourcing since I love it, but that includes sourcing).
Dojo note: If you need a way to calculate your net profit for eBay sales, check out Easy Auctions Tracker. You can read my full review here.
How do you handle storage and inventory?
I have several industrial food grade stainless steel rolling shelves with adjustable shelf height. I don't, as of yet, have a database set up (though I have looked into it). Each item gets a SKU for when I do go that route. I use bins for clothing and hang up jackets. Nothing really has a dedicated place on a shelf, but I know approximately where everything is.
What's your listing process like?
I have a staging area for new items I bring in. I test and do comps on anything that might be borderline before photographing. I take pictures of all the items. If I have a large amount of items for the week, I may split them up into smaller lots. I download the pics on to an external HDD on my PC and number each photo according to the SKU it will be assigned.
I use a year/month/item number format example: 1908001-1, 1908001-2, etc. That allows me to know when the item was purchased and be able to find the photographs again if ever needed. Some may find this to be a needless step, but it takes me just a few minutes to rename all the photos using a 10 key and tab. From there I research and list the items on ebay.
What tools do you use for eBay? (this could be physical or software).
About how much time do you spend on eBay each week?
Proably around 30 hours. I have a lot of room to expand before I need to hire someone.
What's your shipping process? Do you use specific methods for each item and do you do free shipping?
I ship one item at a time so I have a much less chance to mix items up. I pre-weigh all of my items so the shipping costs are calculated for the buyer. I adjust as needed once I pack the item. The thermal printer will be one of the best investments you can make in your business and I just figured that out in the past month. I rarely do free shipping unless it's on a high competition and/or very light weight item. Examples would be DVD's, video games and individual baseball/trading cards.
Do you do anything to promote your listings?
I recently started using the ebay's promotional option. I set it very low. It has helped with sales. I'd say about half of my sales are from promoted listings.
Have you ever sold on consignment?
Only a couple times. It's not worth it for me in most cases as I can find items just as easily and keep all the money.
What's your best eBay story?
Nothing that I can really think of at the moment. My best story is starting with $200 and making this a full time job within a couple of years. It can be a lot of work, you'll get discouraged and even sometimes depressed, but nothing can beat working for yourself on your schedule. There's no ceiling for advancement, no bosses, no HR, no corporate nonsense and only self imposed metrics.
For me, setting and achieving new goals has been much more rewarding than doing it for someone else. I have increased my sales by double digit % points each year. I learn about new things to sell and find new places to buy all the time. It's a job that only gets boring if you allow it to.
What’s your worst?
Someone who bought a box of unopened baseball cards, opened several packs, decided I was lying to him about what was possible to be pulled and opened an INAD case. The person sells baseball cards on ebay stated in his about me section that he had been collecting for 40 years. So likely scammed me after pulling the top card from the set and sent me back the junk.
ebay sided with him even though the item had been modified. Lost $100. The silver lining is that what he sells is trash, he sells very little and he still gets a ton of negative feedback. So there's that lol.
Do you sell anywhere other than eBay? If so, tell us how that's going.
I do not at the current time. Local sales are just awful to deal with and other platforms just haven't shown they are viable enough for me to split time on them. I may at some point try to do more local sales, but CL, LetGo, etc are just awful. Flash sales or flea markets would be better I think.
Being able to turn eBay selling into a full time income stream within 2 years is pretty impressive! I really enjoyed reading Joshua's story and hope you did too. If you're on Facebook and would like to joing our eBay seller community, be sure to hop over and ask to be added. We talk all things eBay and I've learned some good tips myelf from some of the members.
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.