Working a full-time job and running a profitable eBay business can be a real challenge. Some people seem to handle it with ease while others struggle. I did this for a number of years, and although we were successful, it was difficult at times. Of course, I had an advantage – my wife Karen. The truth be told, she did by far most of the work. If you are married with a spouse that stays at home, this is a significant advantage. Many of you, however, either have no spouse or your spouse also works. This means that you are essentially on your own.
The first question you need to ask yourself is: Are you looking for a hobby or a business? If it is a hobby or a very part-time business whose goal is to make a extra hundred dollars a month or so, then you will have a fairly easy time balancing the hours you spend at work and your eBay business. However, if you are running a business designed to earn $1,000 a month or more, then you have different issues.
Another question to ask yourself is: What are my long-term goals? If your job and your career is important to you, then this must always take first priority. If, on the other hand, you are in a boring or dead-end job, then you need to plan for your success and how and when you will leave your job and do eBay full time (as thousands have done before you).
If keeping your full-time job is your priority, you also need to factor in the type of employment you have and your employer’s policies. People who work outside for a living rarely have an opportunity to check a computer during the day. Office employees, however, are usually connected to the web at work. Many employers today have very strict policies about using your computer at work to transact personal business. There is also the issue of simple integrity. Is it fair to your employer to do outside business while you are being paid to work by the company? Some employers don’t mind if employees use a computer for personal web surfing during their lunch hour or breaks. If this is the case, then you will be able to check emails and auctions a couple of times a day from your office.
No matter which category you fit into, the simple fact is that you are away from your home computer from 8 to 10 hours a day. How you deal with the realities of this will determine your success. Look at some of the problems you will run into. We all know that many eBay buyers can be impatient. They send an email and expect an immediate answer, but you can only work on emails for a brief time in the morning before you leave for work and after you get home. There is the matter of shipping. How will you get to the post office or UPS store during the hours they are open if you are at work? There is also the matter of time for your job, time for your business and time for your life and family. With this in mind, let’s look at some strategies and ideas:
Organization – The very first thing you will have to do is get organized. Taking the time to set up organized structures and systems can be a huge time (and money) saver. You will have to take a lot of photos and you don’t want to spend time setting up lights and a tripod every time you want to launch an auction. Set up a permanent or semi-permanent photo set up in your garage or spare room. Next is a shipping station. Again, you want a table set up with all of your tape, boxes and shipping materials handy. If you have a UPS account you can get one of their small thermal printers to print out your shipping labels. Or, if you use the post office there are several computer programs that will calculate postage and print out labels so you can drop your packages at the post office instead of standing in line. You should automate your auctions with software or an on-line auction management system such as Meridian (www.noblespirit.com) or Vendio (www.vendio.com). These systems will save you time launching your auctions, sending out payment request emails and processing payments, posting feedback and keeping track of your inventory, costs and expenses.
Go High Speed – Time is money, and time is also your most valuable commodity when you have very little of it. Any time you can save, will be repaid several times over in profits. DSL and Cable can be a bit expensive, but these high-speed services will save you several hours a month. If DSL costs you an extra $25 a month and saves you only 2 hours, think what you can do with that two hours. For example, if you are using an auction management service, you can launch anywhere from 10 to 30 auctions in that period of time. (If your product has a standard description and you already have images, you can launch many more in this time.) How much do you make on each auction? If you could launch an extra 30 auction a month, would you make more than $25.00? It can also be expensed on your business taxes which is a big plus.
Get your own UPS account – This can be a real time (and money) saver. If you have your own UPS account you can rent a scale and thermal printer and save hours of time shipping each month. If you volume is high enough, you can also get discounts from UPS. These discounts will often offset the cost of shipping materials allowing you to make a small margin on your shipping and handling costs. UPS will not usually pick up packages from a private residence, but once your packages are prepared with the UPS label you can simply drop them at any UPS drop box or UPS store. For example, you can prepare all your shipments in the evening and drop them off at a UPS store in the morning on your way to work.
Let your customers know your situation – People can be a lot more understanding if they know what and who they are dealing with. Most email programs allow you to add an automatic pre-written signature line to all out-going emails. For example, you could add a signature line that said something like:
"Your complete satisfaction is important to me. Please understand that I work a full-time job during the day, so I cannot always respond to you immediately. Please be assured that I will respond to any request you have at the very first chance I get."
Save some time for yourself – Your mental health and your family’s happiness is also important to your success. Working a full-time job and coming home and spending 4 hours a night on the computer, or taking photos or shipping goods is very tiring. It is very easy to get sucked into the business and suddenly you turn around and it is 11:30 in the evening, you ate at your computer rather than with the family (who are all now sound asleep) and you have to get up in 6 or 7 hours. Time management is crucial. You must set aside some quality time for yourself and your family. Remember, the goal here is to make some extra money – not to get a divorce. If you are single, be sure to take some time to relax, eat dinner or have a glass of wine and watch your favorite TV show. Set a limit on how much you will work each evening. If you take the time to actually do a schedule, then you will be more likely to follow it. If you have a family, the same is even more true. You simply have to set aside some time each evening to spend with your spouse and/or children. If you don’t do these things you will find yourself becoming stressed out and this stress will be reflected in your eBay business and in your job.
eBay has been a phenomenal success as a company and has provided opportunity to thousands of entrepreneurs and home-based businesses. It is not as easy as it seems to start and run a successful eBay business – but it can be done by most people. The secret is nothing more than a modicum of talent and intelligence, hard work, a good plan and paying attention to the details.