2008 is the Year to Finally Become eBay Independent

Posted on June 26, 2008. Filed under: eBay, eBayInkBlog, Tips - for the eBay Seller | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

eBay sellers have been hit incredibly hard with the changes eBay is making in 2008.  For more than 10 years eBay let their community pretty much run itself and now, all of a sudden, eBay is afraid for its own survival and is changing the rules on an almost daily basis with no apparent regard to what their changes are doing to the good sellers on eBay who have built their business around eBay.  It is clear that eBay 2008 is operating in crisis management mode and folks whose livelihoods are dependent on eBay are frightened and angry because there is absolutely no stability in the eBay community.  My suggestion for all eBay Sellers is to become “eBay-Independent” by taking things one step at a time.  

Many sellers cannot simply stop selling on eBay overnight.  We have families to support and we do that by selling on eBay.  But what we can do is reduce our dependence on eBay to the point where we are no longer affected, emotionally or financially, by their chaotic whims.  With Fourth of July right around the corner, I came up with the “4 Steps to Becoming eBay Independent”:  
1. Get control of your emotions
Many eBay sellers feel anger and fear concerning the eBay changes of 2008 and it is crucial to find a way to deal with these very real emotions.  Good eBay sellers are being punished often times with no warning and for no logical reason, are being kept in the dark about changes, and are tired of the years of abuse suffered on eBay.   And most eBay sellers are flat-out exhausted from working harder and harder each year just to pay their eBay and PayPal fees. 
As an eBay seller, getting control of your emotions is the first step to becoming eBay Independent.  Nothing we can do, either individually or collectively, will alter eBay’s course of action and so we have to give up the idea that we can somehow convince eBay, threaten eBay, or beg eBay to do what we know is right for the community.  Having said that, we can still make it our mission to educate the public about the facts.  Creating blogs (such as this one!), communicating with our eBay buyers (when and where appropriate), and talking to people wherever we go about eBay can be a healthy outlet of emotion as long as we keep in mind that we are doing these things for OUR benefit, not as a way to punish or shame eBay.  We have to let out the steam a little at a time so that our anger does not impede our ability to function well with our customers or with our own families.  And anger and fear, not dealt with properly, can keep you immobilized and unable to go forward with your plan to become eBay Independent.   People deal with anger, grief, depression, and fear in a variety of ways.  You will need to find a way to deal with your emotions so that you can move forward.  The eBay of Yesteryear is gone and we have to be willing to say goodbye to the past.  The eBay of 2008 is here to stay and we must learn to survive in the new eBay temporarily until we are eBay Independent.   Get emotional, get control of your emotions, and then get moving on to something better. 
2. Find ways to save time & money on eBay
You will need time and money to invest in securing alternatives (step 3).  Don’t put off becoming eBay Independent with the excuse that there is not enough time and money to do so.  I am sure you have the extra money and time already, you just haven’t thought about how to find it.  I suggest you evaluate your eBay selling actions from top to bottom to find those areas where you can save time and money.  Start with your eBay and Paypal expenses and review those. 
After you read and study all the fees, ask yourself how you can use your understanding of the eBay and PayPal charges to lower your fees.  For example, if you have been paying $1.00 insertion fee to list your item at fixed price for $25 Buy Now, you could save 45 cents by just lowering the fixed price to $24.99.  Or if you have multiples of a $49.99 item and you expect to sell 3 a week, you can save yourself $1 in insertion fees by listing one item with a quantity of 3 (total $2 insertion fee) rather than 3 individual listings for $1 fee for each one.  Also, take a look at your sales and if you notice any particular store inventory item selling well, you might want to consider listing it as a fixed price rather than store inventory item because the final value fees will be significantly less.
Depending on your volume, you may also find that you could save yourself hours every day by simply increasing the level of your eBay store.  A premium eBay store, $34 more than a basic eBay store, allows you the flexibility of having your customers emailed at several points – when payment has been received, when items have been shipped, etc and allows you to send automatic payment reminders and leave automatic feedback.  For our company, the automated services of a premium store save us approximately 10 manhours a day so $34 a month is well worth it for us.   And make sure you are getting good value for all the fees you are paying to eBay.  If you pay for a premium eBay store, you get a free monthly subscription to Selling Manager Pro and Markeplace Research but the key point is that you have to turn on the subscriptions to these services.  And, of course, make sure you are filing nonpaying bidder alerts to recoup fees on items that buyers do not pay for and that you take full advantage of listing fee credits for items that do not sell the first time.
Now would also be a great time to evaluate all of your expenses – cell phone, internet service connection, shipping supplies to determine other ways in which you can save money.  If you insure more than a few packages a month, you should check into third-party insurance services like U-Pic to help you save money.
U-Pic shipping insurance        http://www.u-pic.com/
And paying for your shipping using a credit card, rather than through PayPal, may earn you some sweet rewards points with your credit card company.  Every eBay seller can find many ways to cut costs and become more efficient.  Using your new-found savings of time and money to invest in securing alternatives is the next step to becoming eBay-independent. 
3. Invest time and money in securing alternatives
Reinvest the time and money you are now saving into finding and securing alternative solutions for every aspect of your business.  Start first with the product you sell.  If you are relying on only one type of product and only one supplier then your business is using a recipe for disaster.  You may have one main supplier of a product that you prefer to do business with I recommend you do a small amount of business with another supplier.  The time to locate a new supplier is BEFORE you need them.  Being loyal to your supplier is a wonderful thing but you need to make sure that you have a “Plan B” should something happen to your supplier that is out of your control.  If you have been purchasing small amounts from an alternate supplier for many months or years and something happens to your main supplier you are in a much better position to suddenly shift the bulk of your orders to “Supplier B”  to avoid an interruption in your business. 
Securing alternate venues is probably going to be your biggest challenge.  And it’s scary to venture out and do something different, especially if you have been comfortable selling on eBay for many years.  But besides selling on eBay, there is a whole world of choices available now that were not available 10 years ago.  There are specialized venues like Etsy and there are places to become a third party seller such as Amazon.  Of course, you can create your own ecommerce website and possibly find places local to sell your product face-to-face.  Using eBay as a customer farm to draw them to your own ecommerce website works very well if you sell items that are typically purchased by repeat buyers.  Total dependence on eBay for all of your sales is, without a doubt, incredibly risky.  Just ask the sellers who offered ebooks and digitally delivered items.  Their businesses literally closed overnight when eBay gave no notice of a policy change to discontinue digitally delivered items.
Most eBay sellers probably accept Paypal.  In addition to Paypal, I recommend you establish other payment services like Google Checkout or a direct merchant account.  Total dependence on Paypal means that you could be out of business overnight if PayPal puts your account on hold for any reason.  Without cash inflow most businesses could not survive very long.
Another area in which an alternative should be secured is for delivery services.  It doesn’t cost anything to establish an account with UPS or FedEx Ground services.  There have been instances in the past where delivery services have actually refused to open new accounts — for example, when UPS went on strike FedEx literally had a hold on opening new accounts because their systems could not handle the sudden and overwhelming increase in business.  Establishing both a UPS and FedEx account takes very little time and no money but provides choices should you need them.
4. Stay connected, become educated, and be ready to change on a dime
Of course my recommendation to stay connected and become educated would include checking out my blog every day (and saving it as one of your favorites!):
TheBrewsNews        http://thebrewsnews.com
There are LOTS of eBay blogs of interest.  Here are just a few:
Tamebay                  http://www.tamebay.com/
eBayInkBlog             http://ebayinkblog.com
Myblogutopia            http://rksmythe.blogspot.com/
There are also some great resources available for the eBay seller:
Auctionbytes                                  http://www.auctionbytes.com/
Professional eBay Sellers Alliance   http://www.gopesa.org/
Powersellersunite                           http://www.powersellersunite.com/
Channel Advisor                              http://www.channeladvisor.com/
Make the commitment today to yourself to take the necessary steps to become eBay-Independent.  Your independence from eBay will make your business much stronger and more stable and will bring great peace and happiness to you personally.  Good luck, Happy Independence Day, and be sure to let me know how it goes for you!

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8 Responses to “2008 is the Year to Finally Become eBay Independent”

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Great advice, Brew. Thanks so much! Much of it I’m already doing. My biggest drawback is I need to begin diversifying. Ebay seems much more stable now, but who knows what they’ll do in the very near future. Keep up the good work! Really informative and enjoyable reading.

Thanks for the link, Brew. I think your #1 is the most important thing: I’m seeing a lot of eBay sellers who are unable to do that at all – which doesn’t make for great business decisions.

Lisa, thanks for the compliments on the blog. It helps.

Sue, you’re welcome! I so enjoy visiting your site several times a day.

And I agree that some sellers are their own worst enemies when they let their emotions overrule their common sense and cloud their business decisions.

I wrote the article in hopes that sellers who are so emotional right now (including me!) can at least find a way to focus and look past the emotions in order to formulate an eBay exit strategy. I doubt I will ever leave eBay completely but it will serve more and more as a liquidation outlet for the items I can’t sell well elsewhere and my dependence on eBay will continue to lessen over time.

For the seller, like myself, that sells “trinkets” found at local garage and estate sales (and I don’t mean glassware, plates, table wear, and other “common” household stuff). I’m looking for and selling real nitch items. The “odd stuff” others pass up. There is no other viable place than eBay to sell this kind of item. The traffic is just not there at those other sites. I’ve checked, and I check constantly. I can not begin to try those sites until I see the types of items I sell show up there first. I just don’t have the time to waste trying to work other sites, along with ebay, along with my day job.

Also, sites like OLA.com require a fee up front to sell ($8/mo) which may seem cheap since that’s your ONLY cost, but if the items listed don’t sell, you’re out $8 a month. I already have monthly fixed price costs I need to account for by using ebay in the form of auction listing and tracking tools which I pay for.

So it’s NOT as easy as “just four steps”. A routine I’ve built up over 11 years can’t switch gears today, tomorrow, or even in months. Those other sites may or may not ever mature to be usable for what I sell.

JJH, you may need to diversify your product line and find alternative items to sell (step 3). If you absolutely positively can’t or won’t consider selling something different then I agree that there are no steps you can take (not even my four steps) that will help you to leave eBay in part or in whole.

Nope, I’m not interested in trying to find another nitch to sell in. It took me too long to develop the knack to find what I’m looking for, and still sells reasonably well. The scope of what I sell is rather wide, it’s just that I don’t want to start experimenting with other types of items. That’s wasted money if it doesn’t sell. Also, today’s “garage & estate sale” seller knows where most of the stuff is going, so prices are higher than they were 5 to 10 years ago. There are very few $1 items that will net you $100 anymore. The source sellers are wise to “us” now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still selling items and still making a nice profit on low volume sales. My point was just that the other sites are of no use, and may never be. Time will tell.

[…] the end of June of this year, right before the 4th of July holiday I wrote a blog article titled 2008 is the Year to Finally Become eBay Independent and what I wrote then is still relevant today, almost 3 months later.  I have only been blogging […]

Hi Brews

In your step 2 about saving money, there is one very powerful money saver you completely missed ….

Examine carefully the fees between different eBay sites for the same services.

Just as an example, compare the cost difference of your eBay store description between several English (or Spanish, or whatever) language sites.

A basic store in the UK was GBP 6.00 a month (roughly US$ 12.00) but that changes next week and jumps to GBP 15.00 (US$30.00).
However, even a Featured / Premium store on eBay Singapore is only GBP 10.00 a month.

Why is it so cheap there? Several reasons, national population size, no international visibility, no Omniture stats and so on. But the key point is that subscribing on Singapore still gives you a global storefront on eBay.
So if your store URL is currently stores.ebay.com/store-name it remains that on dot com, even if your subscription is in Timbuctoo. On Australia, that same store would be stores.ebay.com.au/store-name – the only bit that changes is the eBay site country identifier ( .co.uk – .fr – .de – .ca etc. )

So why pay mega-bucks for a CA / UK / US stores subscription, when you can shop around the eBay sites and get one cheaper? You still list US listings on the US and get regular US listing fees. You still pay for the store subs in your US invoice, and manage your listings on the US site, and so on. All you do is design and manage your store set up on Singapore – everything else you do as normal from your US account.

I really don’t understand why more people aren’t doing it. I’ve been doing it for years and never had a problem caused by it (other than being banned from the eBay forums for telling people about it – which makes me think it’s a major glitch in the eBay global infrastructure that they don’t want people to know about … because for once it doesn’t top off their coffers).


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