Many eBay employees are also eBay sellers, giving them a unique perspective among both groups. Whether they sell to offload unwanted stuff or to bring in extra income, they also get a great perk that can help them in both aspects of their lives: their first-hand knowledge of a seller’s needs makes them better at their eBay jobs, and their understanding of eBay policies help them be great sellers.
We talked to two eBay employees who are also longtime sellers—Integration Specialist
Here’s what they had to say.
Why did you start selling on eBay?
Andy: As a teammate on the eBay Buyer Protection team, I quickly discovered that the more I could understand what the customer was going through, the more I could genuinely relate to them. I started to buy items on the site. At first, I was buying items from overseas, hoping an item would get lost or a situation would go bad, so I could understand the customer experience. It just never happened, and after buying tons of items I couldn’t get anywhere else, I became hooked.
I started selling when I was promoted to my first leadership role. The first item I listed was a box of owl pellets, which was bought by a science teacher who was going to dissect them with his class. I sold a unique product to someone who had a need for it, and I got an opportunity to talk to the buyer and understand what he was going to do with the item. It really showed me the personal side of the community. Now, I sell a bunch of stuff depending on what I can get my hands on.
Jason: I’ve been selling on eBay since the late 90s, but I really increased my activity when I was hired at eBay. My focus on selling started around garage sale items. I was your typical treasure hunter who went out each week to multiple garage/estate sales and thrift stores. Eventually, I found my niche in Nike footwear products.
What’s kept you selling all these years?
Jason: eBay is a global marketplace and I am able to offer every item to a global audience. I make money while I sleep. Waking up in the morning to see that I sold ten items is a very liberating feeling. Anyone can do this. eBay is a platform where anyone with a dream can prosper. It allows individuals such as myself to grab an opportunity and run with it.
Andy: I love shipping items all over the world and hearing back from buyers how much they wanted an item that I would have thrown away before. I also love that it’s easy and you can do it completely on your time. eBay is the only business that allows me the flexibility to do what I want, when I want. It’s also a community. As an employee, you hear that constantly, but you don’t really understand until you become part of it.
As eBay employees, how are you different from other sellers?
Jason: As an employee, I hold myself to a higher standard. I don’t receive any special treatment. When I call in to support, they don’t know that I’m an employee and I don’t tell them. I think that is critical because if there is something that we are not doing right in the customer service world, I want to know so I can speak about it as well. If we are to be the customer, we need to be the customer from beginning to end. Special treatment doesn’t help us in the long run.
Andy: I work hard on my seller rating. I might feel more pressure than a normal seller to keep my defect rate down and my shipping and handling time quick.
What advice do you have for eBay sellers who are just getting started?
Andy: When you are starting off, view it just like a new position at your job. You are not going to start off knowing everything and you will probably make mistakes. Stick to the things you know and the hobbies you have. Then, as you find something new, take a chance on it. Start with First Class mail. It’s the cheapest, fastest way to ship an item with tracking that weighs under 16 ounces. Look for little things to start selling and then, as you learn, start to venture into the heavier, odd-shaped items. Also, take good photos on a white background. It’s okay if you start with a sheet of paper or a bed sheet.
Jason: Just do it! eBay has done everything else for you—your opportunity is here and it’s yours for the taking if you want it. Also, find something you’re passionate about. Selling is easy but can take time. If you are doing this around something you love, it’s fun and won’t feel like work.
What are some things you see sellers doing that you wish they would stop?
Andy: Being afraid to start. I talk to a lot of people that want to start selling, but they get so caught up in all the rare “what ifs” that they don’t want to start until they know how they will deal with them.
Jason: They take things personally on the site. Since they are invested in the items for sale, they take it hard when they encounter a more aggressive buyer. You need to separate yourself from the transaction and keep in mind the bigger picture.
How do you balance your full-time job and selling on eBay?
Andy: My full-time job makes me a better buyer and seller on eBay, and buying and selling make me better at my job. As for balancing my time, I run my eBay business, which means I get to decide how much time it takes. You don’t need to go big when you are starting off and learning.
Jason: Selling over 1,000 items a month can be very time-consuming. Sourcing is my biggest time drain, but I’ve found something I’m passionate about and that makes it easier. I’ve also adjusted things in my family life to accommodate—my wife assists with processing and shipping, and my six-year-old child has a small role in the business. I try to make it a family thing. I have also brought in others to assist on a few occasions. I view everything I do through the opportunity cost. It allows me to keep in mind what is important to me.
Working a full-time job and selling must get really overwhelming sometimes—and I’m sure a lot of eBay sellers can relate. Do you have any tips for staying focused?
Andy: When I started off, I really just had two piles: one for items already listed and one for items to be listed. As my inventory expanded, I moved to an a-z system that links with the categories in my store. As for tracking my budget, eBay has made steps in a good direction recently with the Seller Hub showing my expenses.
Jason: I do all my own bookkeeping. I like to use Excel as I like the customization and flexibility it gives me. I also was a finance major and extensively used Excel so I’m kind of a geek around that and have fun using the tool. I constantly make adjustments to how things are being done to look for cost and time savings. My sales have grown beyond my wildest dreams, so I had to revamp many processes. Don’t be afraid to step back and say, “I’m not doing this as efficiently as I should be.” When you realize that, make some changes.
I constantly adjust my processing area, inventory management, and the storing of my products to help minimize errors and increase productivity. One of the biggest changes I made in the past was to add UPC and custom labels to each of my items. This allowed for greater efficiency in the inventory and bookkeeping process, which saves me hours of unnecessary labor each month.
Andy: This is also where the community comes in. Sometimes, I have done things the slower, old-fashioned way just because that is how I had always done it. Recently, I was talking with some other eBay sellers about printing shipping labels. I mentioned that I still did it the old-fashioned way—just printing out the sheet, cutting it out, and then taping it to the package. It takes about a minute each, which doesn’t feel like a long time, but when you ship out 10-15 items, it really adds up. The other seller was quick to call me out on it and made me realize that I could save 80% of that wasted time.
What eBay tools do you use most often?
Jason: I constantly use the Seller Hub. I also draw traffic to my listings with strike-through pricing, Markdown Manager, promoted listings, and Promotions Manager. I have had tremendous traction with each different type of promotion. Currently, the most productive for me has been the Promoted Listings. I consistently sell over 100 items in a 30-day look-back period with Promoted Listings and have moved as many as 160 items in a month with that tool. I wish more sellers were familiar with all the incredible options available to them in the Seller Hub, such as the Growth tab and these marketing options.
I also signed up for eBay Guaranteed Delivery without hesitation. I’m already meeting the requirements as a seller, so there is very little that needs to be adjusted on my side to meet these expectations. But, even if I had to revamp my shipping practices, I would have signed up for this in a heartbeat. Buyer expectations are changing every day, and if we don’t adjust to meet these expectations, we will be left behind in the dust. I’m very excited for this change and can’t wait for it to be implemented. I’m anticipating an increase in my holiday sales due to this change.
Andy: I use the Markdown Manager tool the most often. If I have stale inventory or just need quick cash, I run a sale on my inventory and watch items run out the door.
Speaking of the holiday season, how are you preparing?
Jason: Start your planning yesterday—the holidays always approach faster than you expect. I’m starting my ramp up for the holidays in the coming weeks, and I have major plans on adding inventory. I’ve started to recruit for help as well, as I averaged more than 70 items per day last December, and it was hard to keep up. As soon as it slows down, my wife and I look for areas to improve. If there is something you can be doing better with your business, the holidays will point it out.
Thank you, Andy and Jason, for sharing your insight with us!
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