Selling on eBay: A Home Working Case Study

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Selling on eBay, for many, is a means of making a little extra cash, rather than a full-time home working venture. interviewed Ashley Allgood, a regular eBay seller who does just this. She had some interesting insights, and a few tips and tricks to share.

Please tell us a little about you and your home working life

I’m a stay at home mum and I also homeschool my children. One child has graduated and is in college. My other two kids are 17 and 15.

This year I have my two teens working on their school work independently, which gives me a lot more time. Once I give my teens their daily school instructions I do the housework, then I can start selling on eBay.

My work on eBay depends on a few things. Since eBay charges to list items for sale I only list items when they offer free listings. When I have free listings I start the hunt for items to sell. I sell items from around my home such as books, homeschooling curriculum materials, DVDs, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, CDs, collectables such as Tupperware, computer games, instruction manuals and so on.

eBay Selling

I will take a box and walk around our home looking for things we don’t need or use anymore. We have a basement with a lot of things we have collected over our 23 years of marriage, so I often look there too.

Once I have a box full of things I then clean them up and check on eBay to see if they are worth selling. If they are I take photos of the items and list them to sell.

When did you first start selling on eBay?

I started selling casually as needed on eBay back in 2002.

How many items do you sell in an average week?

I will go through periods where I hardly sell anything for a few months then suddenly I will have a rush of sales. But on average I’d say I sell about three or four items a week.

Would you be willing to share how much money you typically make on eBay? 

After seller fees on eBay, shipping and Paypal fees my profit is small – about $50 a month, but I don’t sell to supplement an income.

I use the money for extras such as eating out, going to a movie or buying things for the family such as new DVD releases or games. I sometimes treat myself to something special too.

Some people think that if they don’t have clutter to sell, they can’t make money selling on eBay. What do you do if you get low on stock?

I’ve never had this problem. Over the years we have collected so much stuff that it has piled up.

Family and friends who know I sell on eBay often give me yard sale leftovers and boxes of things they don’t want. If I go to a yard sale I will often make an offer on a box of books then sell the books individually.

We live in a college town so I often find school books and curriculum materials at yard sales. If I see something at a good price I buy it, then sell it for a small profit.

The thing to keep in mind is most people want to get rid of their clutter and many are willing to get rid of it for free.

They do not want to have to load up the car and take it somewhere to dump it, so they are happy to give you things for free. At times I see ads on local Facebook yard sale groups offering free “junk.” If I ever do run out of stock I can pick it up for free.

How much do you think people can make on eBay if they really put their mind to it? Making money selling on eBay

I think it really depends on what you sell and why you sell it. As I said, I do not sell for an income. I sell for just a little extra spending money. I have seen mums on eBay have success selling but I’ve also seen them fail. I sell for the fun of it because I enjoy it.

I think if you have passion for selling on eBay then you can make it work, but you need to really educate yourself on how eBay works. I educate myself by reading the community boards where sellers and buyers post questions. I have learned a lot from other sellers’ mistakes and their successes.

I always suggest that people start small by just selling things from around their home, and if they find they have a passion for selling a certain item then educate themselves on the niche and go from there. I don’t think there is a set income anyone can guarantee selling on eBay. Every seller on there goes through periods where sales are low or non-existent.

Do you do any other kinds of home working?

Right now eBay is my only home working job, but my goal is to be a paid freelance writer. I write monthly for Molly Green Magazine but at the moment that is not a paid job. I have written one paid article for a local parenting magazine.

I also make homemade lip balm and sell some of those to friends for a small profit. I have plans to try to start selling other homemade items such as lotion, cleaners and soaps.

Interested readers will find Ashley’s personal blog here.

What’s the best thing about home working for you?

Working at home allows me to stay at home and educate my children at home. I also deal with chronic pain and illnesses. I would not be able to hold down a full time or part time job. I enjoy being able to work when I feel up to it and rest when I’m in a lot of pain or sick. I enjoy the freedom of being able to stop working if I don’t enjoy it!

And the worst?

The downside to selling on eBay, specifically, is that sales are always unknown. You also never know when you will run into an unhappy customer. Unhappy customers can leave you a bad rating, which can hurt your future sales.

I used to stress about this so much that I stopped selling on eBay for over a year and a half. But since I read the eBay community forums I have learned that there are ways to handle unhappy customers, ways to protect yourself, and that in the end one unhappy person is not the end of the world.

Angry eBay customer

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Selling on eBay for me is a joy. I love knowing that my unwanted item is going to someone who wants it. I’ve use the tag line “our junk is your treasure” on my listings.

I enjoy selecting the sold item from my bookshelf, carefully packing it up, and always include a thank you note for the buyer. I like to make each sale personal. I have run into a few unhappy buyers but I can’t make everyone happy. I have also lost money at times due to mistakes, such as errors in shipping costs and not noticing a flaw on an item, but I learned from those mistakes. I have enjoyed being able to clear out clutter in our home while making money. When the day comes that I do not enjoy selling on eBay I will stop and find something else to do.

My key advice to anyone wanting to start selling on eBay is first be a customer. Buy a few things and learn how eBay works. Read the community boards daily. I joke to my kids that this is my homework and it truly is a way to learn. Do not go out and buy stock when you first start selling. Each new seller starts with strict selling limits and these limits are there to keep you safe and keep buyers safe. Start selling things around your home and stick with easy things to sell such as video games or movies. If you start selling something expensive then you open yourself up to scammers.

I’ve told other stay at home moms that when you start thinking about working from home you need to remember that your home comes first. It is easy to let your mind overrun with worry about working from home. The way I see it, you are a stay at home parent first and a home working mum second.

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