Thursday, October 6, 2016

Top 5 - Advice for the eBay Beginner

When I first started this blog I was completely new to eBay selling. My goal when I started this blog was to write about my eBay learning experience. Almost three years into selling I still learn new stuff about eBay-but not daily like at first. I used to get excited or anxious when a potential buyer messaged me. Now I don't reply 25% of the time.

Questions that might be ignored go something like this: "Is this sweater brown or light brown, and I know it says medium, but does it fit like a medium?" At first I would have taken this question seriously. I can't miss out on this $12 sale! I'd think. But now I'd ignore this question for so many cynical reasons, like this buyer is annoying, this buyer will return the item, this buyer will complain that I said it was light brown, when she specifically asked what type of brown it was, and it's clearly medium brown, and you did not describe it correctly and she's returning it and will not pay return shipping because this item was INAD.

Certainly my overall experience with eBay and eBay buyers has been great. And I am not nearly as cynical as the above passage would make you assume. I've enjoyed 95% of my time selling on eBay and 100% of my time searching for items to sell on eBay. It's given me confidence, work experience, knowledge and "career" fulfillment. It's even given us some pocket money. But what I've gained from eBay has all been learned overtime, and maybe that remaining 5% would have been more enjoyable if I could go back in time and give my beginner self some advice.

If I could, the following would be my Top 5:

1. If you hate corduroys, don't buy 30 pairs at the Goodwill Outlet to sell.
Maybe a better way to put it is; sell what you know and love (at least to start out). Then if you think you'd like to sell corduroy pants, try one or two pairs first, that way you'll know quickly that the feel of them irks you and that what you really love to sell is flatware. Glorious, stainless flatware!

2. Plan your storage out (as least a little) beforehand
Storage is fun! You need a place for your eBay junk or it WILL takeover. Growing organically does not a storage solution make. My kids' toy area has grown organically, just like a zit and inevitably will explode when it's least convenient.

3. Have a designated shipping station from the get go
This can be anything from a box that you pull out filled with supplies, to an actual table in your garage. It should be well stocked with free USPS mailers and boxes, tape, an x-acto knife and a couple sharpie markers. Eventually you may want to purchase bubble wrap, newsprint or tissue paper, and poly-mailers, because if you expand quickly you may not be able to scavenge all your shipping supplies.

4. Buy a scale
Weigh your items before entering the weight for calculated shipping. Getting the weight wrong has been my number one most repeated mistake, and every time was borne of laziness.

5. Jump right in
There's no better way to learn than by doing. Doing includes reading blogs, listing a few items, making a few mistakes,  and most importantly feeling that excited flutter in your chest when you hear "cha-ching"

What advice would you go back and tell your eBay beginner self?

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Liquidation

The big liquidation sale is over. I sold hundreds of items and the space really started to clear out.

Overall clothing did not sell well. Knick knacks, kitchen and Christmas sold really well, most of it for $.25 a piece. The bigger and or more expensive pieces I have listed (and some sold) on Craigslist.

Here's an overview in photos:
Sold these gorgeous Soda Fountain pumps on CL
for $100, a $50 profit.

Sold the 5 trays I had left for $80
a good deal for the buyer and myself - as I got them out of the trash.

Lots of ephemera and crafting supplies sold - most for $.25

Shoes - sold for $2-$3

Has not sold:(

Dollhouse sold for $5 - found it in the trash,
lots of fashion jewelry sold too!

These shelves were nearly cleared out after the first day, Christmas sold VERY well.

Clothing did sell but not at the rate I would have liked.
This gorgeous mirror is on CL with a $100 price tag.
I have a Salvation Army pickup scheduled for the leftovers. I have some furniture still listed on CL. I will list the shelves and clothing racks soon.
I have about 200 listings still on eBay, mostly flatware and a few paintings and expensive winter coats, which I hope to sell this fall and can easily store at home.
Overall it was a busy few days! I was happy to finally meet Ree Cee and she bought some great items, which I should have photographed. I met lots of fellow eBay sellers and it was a real pleasure talking shop with them all!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Art of Yard Sale Signage

This blog is coming to an end soon, as my eBay business does as well. The past couple months have just been treading water with eBay trying to sell as much as possible.

In three weeks I'll be having my final blowout Garage/Estate sale at the office/warehouse. Local readers please come out! I've been pulling everything out of boxes and setting it up like at an estate sale. I also made signs today.

I get pretty annoyed going yard saling and finding poor signage along the way which is why I am writing today's post. Who better to speak on the effectiveness of yard sale signs than resellers, scavengers, pickers and the like who professionally patronize these events? What do you as an eBayer look for when following a sign?

Last move I was this person, trying not to this time!

If you live in a suburban or heavily populated area, you may see many of these every weekend:

Then the same sign again, the next weekend...

and then again, the next weekend.

At some point you stop following these signs. You've been down the road of one too many non-existent yard sales to fall for this again.

So, if you're having a yard sale - let people know that it's going on, RIGHT NOW, TODAY, and that it's AWESOME.

Here's how:

Saturday 4/14
123 Main St.

Saturday 4/14
123 Main St.
Rain or Shine

Saturday 4/14
123 Main St.
Lawn Mover, Generator, Plants

An actual date is a must. NO "Todays"
Put a beginning and end time. At 1pm I will not follow a yard sale sign but if it says "til 2" I might.
Address or clear arrows leading from the sign to your sale.
If you have room, list a few larger items you're selling.
Write it all out in a LARGE font.

Cheaper is better! A piece of cardboard with ALL the pertinent info on it is much more effective than a store bought arrow that says "Yard Sale."

What do you look for in a yard sale sign?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


I've been painting furniture.
It started with chalk-painting our dining table.
This took about three days. I pulled fabric from my eBay inventory to reupholster the seats .
Paint and supplies cost about $80.
We originally paid $100 for this table on craigslist six years ago.
So we're still only in $180 for the whole thing!
I found this breakfast table and two chairs on the curb.
(I also found an xbox 360, and a bunch of Native American home dΓ©cor,
as well as a doll house from the same spot).
I am kicking myself for forgetting to take a before picture!!!
Imagine the table was brown, now imagine the chairs were brown, and you got it.

I'm pleased with the results.
It's for sale on eBay and Etsy and locally (Virginia Beach) available for delivery.
I have a couple other pieces I am working on which I'll post soon.
Where does this fit into moving and dissolving my eBay store?
Well this stuff I found in the trash.. so.. there's something.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

This Isn't Trash

Recently I read the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. (Yes another blogger is about to write about this book, but please stick with me). Afterwards I went on a decluttering frenzy and after a mediocre yard sale, unloaded about four pick-up truckloads of stuff at various places (be it the thrift store, animal shelter, or dump). This wasn't eBay stuff, it wasn't even eBay WORTHY stuff, it was my own household clutter. In the book Kondo has a kind of "set it free and life will give back to you ten-fold" mentality on stuff. She has a great attachment to things and is all for keeping your things in your house, but the rule is each item has to bring you joy or ease, not pain or anxiety.
About a day after setting a bunch of stuff free, the universe did indeed pay me back ten fold. I opened up the dumpster behind my office and found these:
Ten wooden printing press letter trays.
I've always found these interesting and admired them in antique stores or on other's walls. In the digital age where these are completely obsolete and will never be manufactured again I think they're a true treasure. Someone was going to throw them away. I was able to save them so 10 other people could have them as a centerpiece on their walls, and my heart soared with JOY. Real joy. A feeling that only fellow scavengers and artists could understand. Ms. Kondo certainly would.
I borrowed a neighbors power washer and got to work.
Eight were probably antique and I left them pretty much as is. Here's my favorite.
A few were newer and made of pine, they were in really poor condition and unlike the older ones did not have a patina they just had ugly green paint.
I chalk-painted this one and am very happy with the results.
I have not been listing for about two months now. So far I've managed to tread water plus a little while I dissolve my business in anticipation of our move. But I have been listing these trays this week plus a very few things which surfaced during the decluttering.
I'd love to hear how things are going for you in the comments.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Downsizing For a Move - An eBay Seller's Perspective

We all have lots of stuff, despite the fact that right now it's very IN to be minimalist. I am not against stuff, but I am against "junk" and "junky stuff." My favorite minimalist gurus advocate purpose and joy. Do the items you own serve a purpose and bring you joy?

Downsizing for a move will make you take a good hard look at all the stuff you have and forces you to ask these questions. There are two types of people: those who can easily part with stuff, and those who can't. We all know which category we fall into. My husband and I are opposites in this regard. I can get rid of stuff all day long but he always thinks we might "need" it later.

Regardless of which type you are, if your move is necessitating a downsize you'll just have to do it.

Traditionally there are three piles for those who are downsizing. KEEP, DONATE, TRASH.
Us eBayers though, I find, will have a voice nagging us when we go to donate something;
"You could sell that you know, it's worth probably $30 on eBay."

If you plan ahead enough, and don't feel incredibly stressed out - definitely sell some of your higher dollar items that you are downsizing.

I do feel incredibly stressed out though, and the idea of listing a bunch of my "junk" on eBay makes my stomach turn. (I much prefer to buy someone else's junk and sell that - yes I understand this is counterintuitive but if you're a fellow reseller I'm sure you're with me on this.)

So I've alleviated the guilt of the "you could get $10-$30 for that on eBay" items by donating them directly to organizations that will get the BEST use of them. Here are some examples:

Old Blankets, towels, sheets - Animal Shelter
Nicer Blankets, towels, sheets - Women's shelter/Homeless Shelter
Toys, books - and organization like Samaritan House which helps to put women and children into stable environments.
Clothing - the trickiest of all, can sometimes be donated directly to shelters, Winter items are often collected by churches, and of course pass clothes on to friends and family with children slightly younger than yours
Baby stuff - to your pregnant friends, or friends who have pregnant daughters, or pregnancy crisis organizations
Tools/Garage items - Habitat for Humanity
Pantry items that cannot be moved - A Local Food Pantry

And of course donating to thrift stores is fine too (and much easier).

What I've done is started a yard sale box in the garage, Animal Shelter box, friends/family box (items I want to return or give to family, like the dress you borrowed from your sister last year, or that special heirloom baby bonnet) etc. Then, if you know you're going to be driving by the food pantry that day, you can grab the box and drop it off.

How do you manage donations (even if you're not moving)? Do you have a hard time getting rid of "stuff"? What are your tips for a big downsize?
 What other organizations have the most direct need for household items?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

EVERYTHING MUST GO! Exciting News & Advice from Readers

Hi Readers! No this is not a Mattress Sale!

We will be moving back to Japan in January 2017 for my husband's job. This is exciting news for us, and we are looking forward to the adventure. Upon getting the news I had about two seconds of excitement before it hit me: "I have so much to do!" Besides the "normal" moving stuff, I have my eBay business to consider.

The lease on my eBay office is up in October 2016. Leaving me about 6 months to dissolve my eBay business.

I'm sitting here brainstorming and the overwhelm is hitting me.

Here's what I know:

I must pay rent and eBay fees every month for the next six months. So I still need to make about $850 minimum/month to tread water.

I need to stop acquiring but still sell. I like to list a little every week and find it helps with sales. How to keep sales going without listing?

I need to get rid of all of my inventory by October.

What I'd like help figuring out:

What's best way to liquidate my inventory with still making money?

When should I turn "off" my store, and have a giant estate sale?

Keep in mind I have about 1060 items in my store right now ranging from small flatware to some largish furniture.

How to do it all without losing my mind?

Any tips or ideas would be much appreciated!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

5,000+ Sales on Etsy : Interview with TeaStainedMadness

Today I interview Elliott a Virginia Beach native and owner of the Etsy Shop; TeaStainedMadness. Elliott and I met in college where we were both getting art degrees. Through Etsy he's turned the idea of starving artist on his head. He is successfully selling his art in a way that is manageable, sustainable and best of all rewarding. Elliott opened his shop in May of 2013 (just under three years ago), and has currently 5,000 sales.

How did you get started on Etsy?
As a person with a visual arts background, I heard about Etsy as a platform for selling art, but I never produced much artwork post-college so I always put off the idea of starting a shop. And in general, with each new drawing or painting I deemed a success, I would write off/ hate the work I had made previously- so curating a shop with 10-20 required pieces was daunting. Then I actually went to the Etsy site and looked at what some successful shops were doing; a few shops were printing found imagery over antique dictionary pages - things like medical anatomy or hot air balloons.  I knew I could do something like that, but with my own twist.

At this moment, my perception of what Etsy was /could be shifted from a site where I could sell some of my art to a platform for a new business opportunity.  In the following weeks, I spent a lot of time building my shop and creating products before finally going live with my Etsy shop.  I thought I was going to be really busy initially, but I was wrong.  Partly because it was the summer (generally a slow season) and partly because I hadn’t honed in on the right subject matter, I didn’t get my first sale until almost two weeks in and only three sales total in that first month.  It wasn’t what I expected, but I followed the pattern of what was selling and listened to buyer’s requests. After my first holiday season with about 30 product listings, I was encouraged and had a real sense of what I needed to do to make the shop more successful, and two years later, I had my most successful month to date with over 300 product listings and more than 650 orders in December 2015.

What do you sell?
I sell tea-stained prints featuring digital creations of manipulated imagery and some original drawings and paintings.  The majority of my sales are pet related prints like "Pug Riding Whale" or "Corgi on Narwhal.”

What is your process of making the prints? 
I tear down sheets of Rives BFK to size and then stain them in a tea bath for 6-8 hours generally. After they are thoroughly dried (usually another 6-8 hours), I print the images on the paper.

Is Etsy your full time job?
Etsy has become my main source of income, but I still hold a part-time gig as a sign artist.  Here’s some samples of my sign art:
Do you foresee it becoming your full time job at any point? 
Yes, definitely.  I think it’s sooner than later, but right now I’m able to keep a part-time job for a steady income and insurance. 
Tell us about your shipping process:
The prints are made to order and ship within 3-5 business days from the date of order.  I generally ship 2-3 times a week. Each print is placed in its own plastic sleeve and I mail using rigid cardboard mailers.
Do you use Etsy labels exclusively?
Do you have a label printer?
I have a DYMO label writer 4xl and it was one of the best purchases I made during my second year in business.
Do you go to the post office or have them pick up? 
I always go myself.
How has your shipping process evolved since you first started selling on Etsy? 
I used to save cardboard from work and cut it down to size so that I could sandwich prints in between and then mail in a yellow bubble mailer.  And then I would cut and paste labels on plain white typing paper. Yikes- that was a painful and time consuming process.  Now, I just order 9x12 rigid mailers and slap the pre-printed adhesive label on there.  I also throw “PLEASE DO NOT BEND” stickers on there because I’ve had some that have been stuffed into mailboxes. 
Are the buyers generally easy to deal with on Etsy?
For the most part, yes.  Sometimes they have requests for notes or wrapping, and I try to accommodate their requests.  Recently, Etsy has added calculated shipping so buyers can choose between standard, priority, and priority express shipping methods and rates are calculated automatically based on their location- this is extremely helpful as I don’t have to field email questions if someone wants to upgrade their shipping.
Let's talk numbers.
Here are some of my favorite stats:
•Business increased by 500% from 2013 to 2014, and 300% from 2014 to 2015
•329,000+ views all-time for TeaStainedMadness
•430+ orders to locations outside the US

How do you do your bookkeeping?
Etsy has great resources and tools for tracking sales, revenue, tax, shipping cost, etc.  That’s where the majority of my sales/stats are made and kept. 

How do you do your taxes?
Mainly locking myself in a room for a day or two with TurboTax.  I pay quarterly estimated taxes and that keeps me on track.

How much is your overhead?
As a percentage of sales, around 20-25%
How much marketing do you do? Are you very active on social media and how much does that drive sales?
I use Etsy’s Promoted Listings mainly during the peak holiday buying time from Black Friday through Christmas.  Other than that I don’t market nearly as much as I should.  I created Instagram and Facebook accounts specifically for Tea Stained Madness but haven’t really kept up with them.  I think online social marketing is a powerful tool especially for Etsy shops and plan to increase the content and activity on social platforms this year. 
Advise for any new artists or sellers on Etsy?  
"Ready, Fire, Aim!"  If you’re thinking about starting an Etsy shop, I’d say go ahead and start.  I’m familiar with the notion that you want everything to be perfect before you launch, but I guarantee that things will change no matter how ready you think you are.  So go ahead and fire and do the aiming as you go along. 
Anything else you want to share? 
I try to do a few art fairs/shows a year.  It’s fun to see how people react and what sells in person vs. online.  I don’t want to limit myself to only Etsy and I think sellers should try to find as many ways to get their work out including online, wholesale, shows, and consignments.
Elliot will be at CraftedVA on April 23 at O'Connor Brewery in Ghent in Norfolk.  He says; "It's the first Spring version of the popular Fall CraftedVA event- beer, food trucks, live music, tons of arts and crafts vendors, and hopefully beautiful weather."
Click above or check them out on Facebook for more info.
Thank you Elliot for sharing your Etsy experience with us.
Like TeaStainedMadness on Facebook or follow on Instagram @teastainedmadness

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Recent Sales 3/6/16

Thank goodness February is over! Not only is nicer weather setting in, but people seem to be finally buying again on eBay. It was my slowest month since the previous February, it's also shorter which mean less time to make money to pay the bills. Here are some of my recent sales.

This is some department store wrapping paper on a large roll. It sold for $110 - my best sale in awhile. I paid $10 at an estate sale.

I took a best offer of $35 on this vintage stainless and wood flatware.
This vintage Scotch tape dispenser sold for $19.99, paid $2 at Family Thrift

This cute handmade tissue box cover for Easter sold for $12.99. I got it at the GWO so I probably paid $.10 as it is very light.

This Lands' End garment bag sold for $34.99. It is embroidered LBD - which could be Little Black Dress. Paid $3 at the GWO
How was February for you? How is March starting out?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Recent Sales 2/22/16

Here's some of my better sales lately. February hasn't been great sales wise, but it did pick up this past weekend.

This amazing 80's charcuterie platter sold for $52. I paid $6 at Family Thrift.
I got these rollers at and estate sale in a garage. They've been listed for about a year, but finally sold for $26. Ha! Unbelievable.

This Breville Juicer filter sold for $29.99 - I got it at the GWO for maybe $.10

This Eddie Bauer sweater was another goodwill outlet find. It has very cute clouds and cows across the top. Paid maybe $1, sold for $24.99

These Studio Nova Yacht Race Pasta bowls sold for $24.99
I paid $.99 each at CHKD
This Dish network set sold for $99
I paid $2 at an online estate sale. It was in a box with a bunch of junk!
Other than this it's been lots of $9.99 type sales. How are things going for you?