Sunday, August 31, 2008

Simple way to make money on eBay - profitably

Here's a simple way to make money on eBay - and keep your profits...

The basics of making profits and money on eBay consists of the following factors:

  1. How many items you have in auction on a regular basis (during the week or month).
  2. How many successful auctions you have during that period.
  3. How much profit you average from those items - or your minimum profit. (This is actual profit, what you get in as payment minus all of eBay and PayPal's fees, and minus your actual manufacturing and shipping costs.)

These relate like this:

Items x successful auctions x profits = money made.

4 items with 4 successful auctions and $5.00 profit each is $80.

Now you can use this to figure out backwards how much money you want to get during your weekly/monthly period.

If your items average $5.00 profit each, and you want to make $1,000 per month - then you have to have a lot of successful auctions with a few items, or a lot of items with a few successful auctions - or some combination.

Divide $1K into $5.00 chunks and you get 200. So you need 20 items with 10 successful sales each. Or 200 items that sell once. Or 2 items that sell successfully 100 times.

Obviously, if you can make $20 or $50 per auction, then you need to have fewer successful auctions and/or fewer items.

Really, that's the simplicity of it.

Now if you have an item that sells 50% of the time, you are going to have to have twice as many auctions to meet the needed successful-auction quota. And this is why I bring up how many items, because you can actually be your own worst competition by listing too frequently. But the same doesn't necessarily go for having similar items in the same category - people may buy all of your items and so increase your items' success rates.

So you'll need to have some sort of research tool, or compile your own success data so that you can actually figure what you have to do in order to make yourself a pile of money on eBay.

But it can be done. And that formula above one good way to do it.

A weekly basis is tighter - but it can be done.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008 = just don't, Don't, DON'T use them. = overpriced for the casual user, buyer beware!

My experience. Tried it out as a survey suggestion, as it had a 30-day trial. Unfortunately, I thought it was pay-as-you-go fee structure as the cost wasn't clear on sign-up.

Then I accidentally signed up again when I activated the software. So I was being billed twice before I got my credit card statement. When I thought I had it cleared up (she gave me credit for the other account and canceled it, plus was supposed to upgrade me to the $20 postage - but only moved my existing $5 on each to the original account, totalling $10).

Next statement arrived a few days later and I had been billed twice again for the next month. At $15 each billing, I was already out $60. And no, doesn't refund - unless you go through a supervisor. But they gave me a month's credit and I got them to send me that free scale they had also promised (which is usually jumping through hoops to get, from what I'd heard.

Scale arrived today. It is useless without the proprietary software, which only runs on a PC. Has no readout, just a USB cable. Good thing is that you can use it without having to have an active account. Bad thing is that it isn't worth the $49.95 you pay for it. Checking on ebay showed that it sold for $2.25, with a 25% success rate. Means people don't want and can't use this scale for anything else.

Three thumbs down. Extremely over-priced nonsense along with their habit for over-billing.

You have to save enough to pay off that $15 every month. Unlikely.

Here's how you can pay all your eBay and other shipping needs:

USPS ClickNShip will print labels and pick up priority and express packages for you and send you free supplies (you just pay shipping on the supplies). Their self-adhesive labels are pricey, though.

PayPal will also print Priority and Express labels, as well as First-Class Packages. You can print them on regular paper and tape them onto an oversized envelope (just don't cover the barcode). PayPal makes you pay for confirmation in order to guarantee their products, though. So it's a minimum of about $1.40 per first-class large envelope.

Want to know the weight? Get one of those cheap Pelouze scales. (I got one for just under $15, total with shipping.) Good enough for First Class. Then look up what you'll have to have for extra postage. Turns out the post office sells a wide variety of stamps right on their site - and plenty of 1-cent stamps to make up the slight difference.

Example: My info products ship out on a CD with an insert and come in just under 2 oz. And they are stiff cardboard, which can't be machined - so I need to pay a total of 79 cents per item. Get some 78-cent and 1-cent stamps and I'm in business for cheap. (Someone did send me a CD which had been put through their mechanical sorter, but it looked a bit beat up when arrived - still worked though - and only had a 53-cent stamp on it...)

Or - get one of those scales on eBay and download their latest software, and then don't register for it. Buy your stamps from anyone except and you'll be getting everything done a lot cheaper and faster.

Of course, they'll eventually upgrade and won't support legacy software, so the advice on their scale is time-limited. That Pelouze scale has been around for ages, though...

Going from eBay to the Real World - and taking your profits with you

Here's a snippet from a recent email I received from Socrates Socratous, the author of MyDigital Dispatch - which explains the core idea of getting into eBay and getting that traffic to come back to your own site:

" #1. Ebay visitors are people searching to Buy something
whereas Search Engine traffic are mostly looking for free information.

#2. When selling digital products you can modify the
product AS you wish to be able to target any keywords you
want. (this is a little known trick)

#3. When you use the right software such as MyDD from then you can immediately upsell
more expensive products to your customers Immediately after
the sale. (here is where the REAL cash is being made)

#4. Use the products as BAIT to build your list. Frankly
I started out on ebay with no list or products of my own.
Today, I have put over 250,000 people on my lists by leveraging
the people I got from ebay. We added the feature on MyDD
( ) to automatically add your customers
to your autoresponder."

Now - it's not all that simple, but that is the core ideas.

I'm still struggling to get my own backend created and so here's some of the additional steps I've had to take:

A) You have to have some digital product ready to ship. Something that people want to buy.

B) For Kunaki (who will be creating your CD and probably shipping it for you) this means you have to create a CD and have it in your CD drive ready for upload -- but...

You have to do the artwork first, unless you simply like generic versions which they can provide for you (cute, but not really effective as good copywriting would be...)

So - do the artwork (using their templates) and create your CD, then upload the whole thing using their program.

C) Next, you need some follow up products to upsell them. These can be straight digital products - as you've left eBay and their restrictions. Means you can have additional income within minutes of the auction closing.

That's the extra steps. To these I'd also add --

D) Get a website with an ecommerce engine running on it - so you can sell more and people can shop at their leisure. (Additionally, you'd have a newsletter or some way to get them onto your autoresponder mailing list and send them periodic discounted bonus offers, etc.)

Now - in the interests of transparency - these are the exact steps I've yet to complete. I've been working with websites for years, along with other marketing lines, and I find myself so busy with eBay sales and production (burning the CD's myself and creating new info products to offer) that I haven't taken the necessary time to create full artwork to get these up and running and uploaded to Kunaki. I don't even have MyDD up and running - it has been a problem with my host, which has complicated things.

Time is too short for much of these things.

But - now we know what to do and the sequence. If it were an ideal world, we could simply move from one to the next. But for now, just concentrate on the vital things and the smaller ones will take care of themselves.

Luck to us all - and Good Hunting!

Monday, August 25, 2008

What to sell on eBay or any auction

What to sell on eBay or any auction - it's a widely-known secret...

That secret is: stuff that sells!

No kidding.

Let me explain how this can make you a ton of money:

eBay is a niche market. A big one, but still it's a niche. Probably a niche of niches. But stuff that will sell on other venues won't necessarily move on eBay. I've cross-checked several research tools and find that not only sales, but also keywords are different for eBay titles than in the "real world" of SEO. Hot niches you find on WordTracker don't necessarily sell as well on eBay.

So: again, the butt-ugly advice -
"Don't waste your time with trying to pitch things that a lot of people don't want."

Now, just because they don't want to buy your things at an auction doesn't mean they won't want to buy it online or in person. Selling fresh beef is best done over a counter, or in person from the farmer who raised it. Trading cards might sell much better from a booth at an industry event - or a convention.

There is this fascinating trend picking up - Amazon is continuing to expand while eBay shrinks. What this is attributed to right now is that buying habits have shifted over to wanting fixed prices. This last area is one where eBay is still expanding - and have changed their policies to adapt.

This means that Froogle and other such sites will continue to gain as well.

So put your best foot forward and write great sales pages for you items - and continue to promote them via social media while you only put those items which sell well on an auction platform over there. Keep the rest on your website, where the true niche denizens will migrate over and buy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Simple basics to ecommerce

There are 3 simple basics to e-commerce - ignore them at your loss.

  1. - Find something someone actually wants and buys.
  2. - Get a supply of this - the lower cost to you the better.
  3. - Offer and deliver it effectively, profitably, and with the best possible quality.
Your real success is to do the above repetitively - multiple products you can sell over and over. (Rinse and repeat.)

The first point is a sore one. You don't sell what you "feel" will sell well. Those things which sell, people have to buy. You find out what people are buying.

Secondly, your profits are made when you get your supply. The lower price it is for you, the more you can profit from it. If others are undercutting you - below your cost - then you don't have the right supplier (or you haven't bought in enough quantity to keep up.) The exception is the loss leader - they are selling at a loss - but in that case, there are other strategies. The main one is to have other items that are selling well enough to carry your overhead on that item - while you wait for their "sale" to be over.

Third is to immediately have a way to deliver the goods in a high-quality manner as possible. Again, you have to be making a profit on this. But you have to provide great service. Period.

My own downfall has been all of the above. But the one I've been working on recently has been the third. But only because I already have 1 and 2 in hand. You have to have something you know sells first - people are buying it. Then you have to have a low-cost supply and deliver it inexpensively. You make a profit by having all three points in tow. Any of the three being out and you simply don't.

- - - -

I've been studying up on auctions, eBay particularly over the last three months. And so leaving my blogging and other social posts to lag.

With eBay, the above points are simple. I've covered them on earlier posts. HammerTap or other research programs will give you 1. WorldWide Brands should help you find 2. And then you have to create either an eBay store or your own ecommerce site in order to attain 3.

eBay has been evolving since I've been studying in it. They are trying to expand into sales which Amazon has been taking from them - and they've noticed - fixed price. So they've been changing things which tick off their sellers, especially the smaller ones. They've been dropping fees for bulk and larger sellers - and making it more possible to have "stores" online (especially through them.) But there is a lot to be said for the one-off sellers, the specials, the "99 cent" auctions.

So there are now two simple strategies for getting started and using eBay, especially with the three points above:

A. Put in some loss leaders to get leads and reverse funnel buyers. Meaning, you have an email and address for someone who has bought from you - so they will probably be able to buy from you again. Sell some things at bare minimum profit (not at a loss, if you can help it) just to get their name. Then cultivate these leads and get them to your ecommerce site.

B. Get routinely selling items posted for a fixed price. In a month, eBay will have discounted fees so that you can keep that item up there for a month at a time - not the weekly auctions you have to do now. This also gives you customers - particularly if you do a "make an offer" scenario so that they can haggle with you.

The sum of eBay: it's a silo - they try to get you do to everything there.

You use eBay because it's full of shoppers and buyers. The fees, like Amazon or anywhere else, are what you pay for the privilege of using their servers and bandwidth. Just like your own ecommerce site. But they have a lot more people visiting there's on any given day, hour, or minute.

Your whole effort is to get these people to find your stuff - and then get them to buy from you directly, where you don't have to pay a fee for every sale.

eBay is making it harder and harder to get email addresses of your customers. And there are ways to get customers to give them to you anyway - we've covered this with opt-in newsletters and autoresponders.

One tip - no matter what you sell: give away a bonus info-product CD with an auto-run feature that gives them a way to directly access your ecommerce site and sign up for your newsletter. This would be either a PDF catalog of your products with direct links, or a simple HTML page which also links directly to your site - preferably a duplicate of your home page. If you can get your whole catalogue (except for the shoppping cart) right onto that CD, you'll be in good shape. Because there is no bandwidth problem with a local CD. Once they go onto the web for info, you can lose them.

(And if anyone has a shopping cart which will run within a browser - like using local javascript - please let me know. Otherwise, you have to run an executable program with God-knows-what local hardware on that customer's computer.)

So that's the tips for today: Sell what people will buy at a profit - and set it up to do it repetitively. And if you're using eBay, make sure you can start capturing email addresses - because eBay isn't going to let you have them much longer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Critique of Ecommerce Training

Critique of Training in E-commerce - What you should be getting, what to avoid

Having nearly completed some very expensive training in e-commerce, I can tell you what I've learned.

1) Listen to your heart. It's always right - even when it doesn't seem to be.

2) When you buy anything, get a complete description of what they are going to do for you - and then hold them to it.

3) Don't sign up for future commitments unless you know about them (I've already told you about "" and their complete waste of your money and sending telemarketers your way for months..." Another is - which tells you there is going to be a fee, just not clearly how much or how you are going to afford it if you don't send out mailings as a business. (Not only that, you have to jump through hoops to cancel their nagging fees.)

4) Take every experience as a learning one - good or bad, there is a lesson to be learned.

At this point, I can see that I'm going to be on my own in terms of paying off that debt I just racked up for this training.
Am I prepared for it?
Yes, more or less.
Am I satisfied that my training is complete?
Do I think that training company upheld their guarantee? No.
Will I figure it all out and get it done anyway?
You can count on it.
Was the cost worth it?
Only when I've achieved my goals of paying down all my debts and getting financially free. (I've already found other training courses which seem to get better results for less - but we're not going there.)

What was I expecting? Well, after 12 lessons every other week (3 months' worth), I figured to be well on my way. And I do have four products which routinely sell well. But I'm still doing my day job and also now working just as hard at my eBay work - which tends to take me away from the stuff I love to do. If I'd replaced my day job by now, I'd still have time for the things I love to do and working at my own business as well.

I had actually expected I'd be well on my way to paying off that expense plus the other bills I'd racked up by now. I'm on my way, just not well on my way.

This means that the rest is up to me. Like always. A little deeper in debt, a little wiser.

What this feels like is being taught how to swim and given simple lessons in several styles of swimming and then left (free boat rife, though) on a floating dock out in the middle of the lake. Now it's all over to me to get to that distant shore of "financial freedom." I can do it - it's just quite a surprise to see how far that shore seems to be when the fog lifts.

And so I'm sharing this with you. Before you find out you don't have to get more in debt to simply get wiser.

- - - -

A critique of my recent training course -

This company turned out to be a webhosting company with training tacked on.

What I received:
  • 12 15-minute sessions with an advisor, who basically just rolled through a prepared set of items he needed to cover in order to get me started and briefed on how to use their proprietary webhost services. He listened well, but that was the extent of it.
  • Access to a wealth of data on how to make it on eBay and in ecommerce. But don't underestimate the value here. They have amassed a great lot of data and it goes pretty deep. But like the old philosopher said, "Knowledge isn't power, it's potential power." What you do when you learn how is all up to you.
  • Access to special software and webhosting. Except for their version of HammerTap, I didn't need the rest - or could get it much cheaper. Their special listing tool doesn't work as easily as the free tools at Auctiva. OSCommerce (free with my existing host via cpanel) can get me listed on Froogle - while I'm still investigating MyDD for delivering my digital goods. Their prices for getting domain names and upgrades, etc. are average for the industry, but I already have these services cheaper - since I've been my own webmaster for years.
The results I did get:
  • A substantial education in how eBay and auction sites work.
  • A thorough grounding in the reality of ecommerce as a business - not just a hobby.
  • Some light at the end of this tunnel called work-til-you-drop-with-no-retirement called "modern living for boomers and post-boomers."
  • A hands-on introduction into getting really financially free.

What I needed:
  • More direction and guidance - more atta-boys and encouragement on what I had accomplished that last week.
  • I should have been required to build a plan and execute it. My advisor should have been keepng my own feet to my own fire and making sure I was executing what I had planned out.
  • Every two weeks, I should have submitted my own analysis of my business and what I had gotten done in that time. The advisor should have taken that analysis and then critiqued it.
  • Those bi-weekly periods should have been about 30-45 minutes if I needed it. (Instead, it was "I've got to get to my next appointment" if I needed to go over something. When I ran into actual problems with their software, my advisor was helpful - but that burned up our scheduled time.)
What does this section cover - that I needed more structure in my life to ensure that I didn't just drop off lines again.

Lessons learned:
  1. Go with what you know. Look, I've been designing websites for years - and had already been researching keywords and content and all that stuff. I even told my advisor that I was able to already take top spots on Google (I've even put up a video which shows how I did it) for various keyword combinations. So for someone to tell me I had to subscribe to their particular $40/month website with analysis tools was a no-starter. (And that's just for 500 products - you pay more for more products.) I know webhosting is cheaper than that - if you want to roll your own. What I was paying for was hand-holding I didn't need.
  2. eBay is the definite way to get started. They got it right here. You want to start out with learning how to write sales pages and how to pick stuff that people are looking to buy. Then grab their email addresses and turn them into returning customers. eBay forces you to do both in order to succeed at it. You have to have HammerTap in order to do this - that's the analysis tool which tells you how others are succeeding and how well you are. (That was one tool included with the package which is actually worth that monthly fee - which is what about what HammerTap costs on it's own subscription.)
  3. Two things you need: Vision and your Plan. You have to have an idea where you're going and then start off in that direction, writing your plan and updating it as you go. Read Napoleon Hill on this count. He's got the clearest statement of it. (And interviewed over 500 successful businessmen and world leaders to find it.) BUT -- once you have that vision, review it daily and weekly. Write your plan and stick to it.
  4. Keep a written record of what you're doing and when. This is so you can retrace your steps. And will tell you what you're doing and where you could still improve.
  5. There are no free lunches, most lottery winners end up broke, things can't be fixed as fast as they can break, don't believe someone saying you can get rich overnight - or in a few months.
  6. Buyers are the right target for businesses - not just "traffic". This was what I set out to study with all this intensive training I've just been through. And this proved true. But I'll save more on this for a different post...
  7. eBay is just the start - not the whole thing. With all their fees, plus their current bent to build and keep people in a commerce silo (rather tricky, since they have to avoid stepping on their inherited community "toes"), they are increasing fees and limitations at every turn, so it's harder to get started and become a professional at just selling on eBay. The best use of eBay is to attract buyers to your own ecommerce site. (And if they persist in closing off emails, there are other auctions to attend...)
Where I went off the rails - and where I needed help

First point is that I didn't want to sell what everyone else was selling - stuff. My analysis is and has been to sell information products - which seems a lot harder than selling physical objects. But that's my bent and that's what I've been doing, so that's what I know. I'm a writer and editor - and found that people want their information in digital forms these days rather than printed. As it's easier to publish online than ever, this is a no-brainer. Who needs an agent?
As well, this is the easiest way to get into selling something, as Tim Knox will tell you. Also, the cost of creating these is next to nothing, as is delivery. So it's a nearly sheer-profit scene -- once you figure out how to do it. (Of course eBay now needs you to burn and ship an actual CD, but this is pretty minimal as well...)
Their training revolved around selling stuff - although the basics are the same. But their advisor scripts deal with telling you how to use their site to build an ecommerce host to sell stuff. Their website doesn't handle digital downloads. And they don't cover what you have to do to take Public Domain or PLR material or the research and work-methods needed in writing to create your own bestselling books. You have to do this on your own. And there is a lot of material out there on this subject. You are going to have to test is all out for yourself, however, since there's a lot of hype out there and as well, it's changing all the time (like eBay kicking out digital downloads the week I started listing there...)

Second, I got over-involved in the efficiency of my sales and quit concentrating on getting more products to sell. Although this is its own learning experience, I needed to keep getting more products up to sell rather than worry so much about how to deliver them. Burn your CD's, label them, ship them off. Always look for cheaper ways to do things, but add at least one product per week until you have at least 14 products on sale at all times - which is some sort of magic number which boosts all your sales on eBay.
And that's the point here. Get stuff selling first. Yes, you'll want to take advantage of these sales to sell them more stuff through your website - but you have to achieve critical mass first. Only THEN will you be able to refine your backend and get your time back. THAT's the point where you need to build your website and get it running for real. (With 14 products selling two and three per week routinely, you are getting over a hundred new email addresses every week - just stacking up in your files...)
Sure, my own analysis point was that I never built my own backend - meaning set up my own store and started driving people to it. But first is sales, then making the whole scene efficient comes after. Because you have to make money to afford to continue your business. Lots of people sell without websites. There are several ways to do this, Bum Marketing being one (promoting affiliate links through social media). So don't get stuck on the website right off - get into finding new products and making sales so much you can do it easily. THEN get your website running to increase the sales you already have. You can auto-schedule your sales through Auctiva for free - and then just keep delivering.
When you do the reverse, you spend a lot of money which isn't coming in - so you are stuck in your day job and just created another "job" do to at home. In my case, those four bestsellers I have are at least paying my bills - but it doesn't seem to be much of progress when they are only paying for the extra payments you just put on some credit card...

Third, I didn't review my vision in writing and look over my plan every day I sat down to work at this. I even stuck this up in front of me by my monitor - I had 14 products laid out, but only got seven of them up. When three bombed, I didn't continue right on with the other seven, but stuck into those four and improving them. So three bombed - learn from them and then get six more up. Find the holes where people AREN'T providing a solution. But continually get more products up until you have 14 successful products.
I can't state this enough:
Review your vision three times a day, write ToDo lists daily to accomplish your plan, then do a thorough analysis once per week in order to review your progress and adapt.

The sequence should be:
- get 14 successful products selling on eBay and
- then put those products on your website, setting them up for easier delivery.
- Then get some more products up on eBay.

Now, if you're not selling on eBay, it's different. And I'm not going to diverge here on how to do it. Like eBay, there is no one successful way to do this - but if you follow people who have actually done this, like Tim Knox or Michael Cambell ("Nothing but Net"), then you'll get plenty of hints on how to set yourself up.
We're selling on eBay, so we need to subscribe to people like Skip McGrath, who successfully sells on eBay and writes about it. (And he actually answers his emails when you write him!) The other two sources for real data about how to make it on eBay are HammerTap and WorldWide Brands. Both have (free) subscription email newsletters and lots of links to videos they've done as well as ebooks, etc. Those three sources will tell you more than you want to know about how to get started. But once you wade through a few stacks of stuff, the same few data keep showing up - and then you just have to see those few trees in spite of the surrounding forest and do just those few things every single day and week.

Where to from here:

Now that I know how to swim and how far the shore is, I just have to start the workmanlike job of swimming and pacing myself.
Business consists of sales, delivery, customer service, and promotion. Or Supply, Demand, Information, Service. These four are interrelated. You have to promote to get sales. You have to have a quality product and answer all your customers' questions. If delivery sucks, your sales won't hold up - your best promotion is word of mouth, but you get this through good delivery and can't pay for it. I have to balance all these factors for my own business. So far, I've been doing pretty good at it.
The economics of any business consists of income and out-go. If you drop down the overhead, you can have higher profits. A business has to make profits to continue to succeed. In my business, I need to lower costs of shipping, and make these as invisible as possible to my clients.
The other point to improve on is quality of product. My CD's should be professionally printed, not worked up with an adhesive label on a b/w laser printer. Oddly, the cost is comparable in getting these printed. Some of these I could actually get bulk printed - these continuing sellers of mine.
One thing became clear during all this. On eBay, you spend either time or money. With dropshipping, the profits are smaller because they are doing the shipping for you. If you buy in bulk, you are doing the shipping - your time or your dime. Fulfillment centers? More cost, more free time. This is why digitally delivered information products are the simplest and most high-profit items to offer. Your computer (and your paid-for server) does all the work. You are free to concentrate on polishing up your sales pages and finding more stuff to sell.
This was my problem in that I was spending time learning how to get things done effectively and then had little time left. Lots of time polishing up existing products (4) to sell well and then when I did research, it took me off into promising new routes and products while I hadn't exhausted the list of products I already had researched and needed to produce. There's the rub. My training was over too soon, I felt.
But there is only so much one can train on about swimming and then you have to hit the pool. I just figured we'd be doing more laps with more time in the deep end with lifeguards before I was left on that floating dock out in the middle of the lake.

My immediate plan is mostly outlined above:
- build up regular sellers by creating more info products and their CD's. Get 14 of these (at least.)
- cut costs on shipping and mailing to the bone and pass these savings on.
- get MyDD up and running, along with OSCommerce. Gives me digital delivery and Froogle presence. Get WordPress running on this site for content.
- load this site up with all my products.
- get back into social media for promotion, linking into my sites and blog posts.
- get into affiliate sales, both promoting affiliate products and getting affiliates to sell for me.
- move all my traffic over to my site after I get them to buy on eBay.

- replace day job
- get up to $1K per week and pay off all bills - financially independent
- turn business corporate to minimize tax liabilities.
- reinvest profits into more diverse income-making activities.

- - - -

I hope you've had a chance to learn from my mistakes.

The sum of this training is going to show up over at Online Millionaire Plan as an additional chapter. There I'll sketch out this whole scene for you and hopefully lay it out in more sensible form. It will also probably become an online course - so stay tuned to that site for more details...

Luck to us all.