Consignment selling on eBay is not for everyone. There’s a lot of work involved: Creating contracts, finding clients, record keeping, etc. However, for those interested in embarking on the journey, know that it can be quite lucrative. So—how do you get started? Well, I’ll tell you how I do it. There’s a lot of detail, so I’ll just start with a few tips this week to get you going. Check back in the coming weeks for parts two and three of the series.
1. Protect yourself with a contract
The first step is to create a solid contract, including a fee chart that even Judge Judy would be proud of. In other words, whether you plan to sell one item on consignment or many, it’s important to have everything in writing should something go wrong. So, even before you have a client, create a contract template. For inspiration, check out this one put together by LegalZoom (including a guide and checklist). Or, you can always email me and I’ll share mine. Either way, you’ll want to customize it to fit your specific needs.
2. Find potential clients
Unless you already have someone in mind, the next step is to find clients. I recommend placing ads on free online sites to drum up business. When I first came up with the idea to sell for others (back in 1998) I ran an ad in a “Penny Paper” in the Chicago area. It was cheap and I got results. I ran the ad in October and it said something like “Need extra holiday cash? Allow me to sell your stuff on eBay.” The first gal that came along was a mom helping her fifteen year-old daughter sell her Beanie Babies so that she could buy a car. It worked. I sold all of them in a few months.
The second lady that came along had so many cast iron doorstops and antiques that I had to pull my ad from the paper because she kept me so busy. So, as you can see, all you need are a few good clients to make this worthwhile.
3. Qualify your clients
As the phone calls and emails come in, the next step is to qualify them. It’s your job to make sure their stuff is eBay-worthy—and worth your time (i.e. the profit margin is high enough). Keep this in mind as you set up your terms. For example: I try to limit my consignment selling to items that list for $50 and up. However, I do have exceptions—like if my client has a couple of items in the mix that would sell for less than $50.
The second part of the qualification process involves reviewing your fees. Make sure your cut is very clear up front. For example, I charge 50%, but I also pay all of the associated costs of selling. I use this basic format for single items valued up to $1000. For items over $1000, I charge 35% and the customer pays all of the associated selling fees up to $5000. I rate anything over that on a case-by-case basis.
4. Keep detailed records
This part of consignment selling is what scares most people away. However, you can greatly simplify the process by using my favorite—OK, lifesaving—record keeping software program called Easy Auction Tracker. It was created by a husband and wife team who are also fellow eBay sellers. Believe me, they know what they’re doing. Before I used this I had to maintain a chart to keep track of the fees and boy was it was tedious. This program made a world of difference.
OK, now that we’ve covered the basics, you should be able to get the ball rolling. In the next installment we’ll touch on the things that can go wrong with consignment selling and what to do when that kind of stuff happens.
Until then, maybe you have some consignment tips of your own? Add them in the comments below.
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