08/16/2005: "I'm itching for auctioning"
I've had an eBay acount since 1999. Since then, I have one had four transactions through eBay, including my recent purchase of an Apple G3 PowerBook. It's en route and the seller has been an outstandingly helpful guy, and I'm very looking forward to getting it. I'm about to conclude my 5th transaction, which is selling a hunting knife that I've had for probably more than 15 years. I've never needed it, and now simply don't want it around with kids in the house. Bidding is going well, and should subsidize my computer purchase nicely.
Now I'm having to contend with something else. Having been seaching eBay for a few weeks looking for computers, I've realized how many people actually eBay for a living. While I'm not ready to get broadband access and become a power seller, I am itching to start selling more. The question is, once I've emptied the house of all the useless knick-knacks that we don't use anymore, what do I sell?
I'm no antique buff, so scouring garage sales isn't for me. (This is the wrong time of year to start garage sale scouring in any case.) I don't collect cards (anymore - that was my 1st and 2nd transaction, I think) and I'm totally out of touch with just about any sort of collectible, so no dice there. It would seem that there are only two avenues open to me right now to do some serious eBay-based income enhancement.
The first would be to make something and sell it. A friend of ours on the next block over does this, he makes wooden decorations in his basement with a jig saw. From the sounds of it, however, he's not making a lot. Although I have an idea as to what I could make (a cat toy that my sister-in-law can't find and really wants - I have the raw materials in my garage already), I highly doubt that I would be tapping into a profitable niche market. I'd recover my costs, but that would be about it.
The second is where I believe the true money lies: refurbished electronics. There is at least one manufacturer of very popular mobile electronics in my area, and I even know someone working there. Assuming I can find out how to put myself in line for getting any surplus parts, refurbished models, end-of-line close-outs, and the like, that is where I believe the real profit lies. Of course, the first question is, "How do I get hooked up?" That's the question I'm going to try to answer over the next few weeks, and see if it actually goes anywhere.
The only downside I can see to reselling electronics is that to get the good discounts, I may have to lay out a significant amount of capital just to get my stock. Selling a $300 piece of electronics could fetch me some nice coin, but if I have to buy a whole shipment of $300 units, that's going to both fill my garage (read: annoyed wife) and gobble up my line of credit (read: angry wife). Of course, once it's all sold it may be enough to become self-sustaining, but until I know what I can get at what price that's worth how much, it's a really hard concept to nail down with numbers.
Perhaps I need to look more middle-of-the-road. Instead of selling a few high-profit items, maybe I should try being the ultimate source for smaller, low-price, lower-margin items. Something that won't need a huget capital layout to get, and that will be easier to organize for shipping. With smaller margins, however, I'd have to be much more careful about at what price I can get them at, lest I start taking losses instead of profits.
The best way to control costs on low-margin items is to actually make them yourself. One example I could follow is Colourful Apples, a website that sells inexpensive (less than $5 CDN) items that allow you to customize the colour and design of the light-up Apple logo on newer iBooks and PowerBooks. With items like that, the raw materials cost is fixed, the assembly cost is minimal, and you can still sell for a pretty good mark-up. Granted, it would be better if you were going after a larger market, but that's just one example of the kind of product that might work well for a starting eBayer like myself.
I know there are websites devoted to "how to make money on eBay". I'll likely check some of them out soon. I'm sure there's a way to eBay without having to invest lots of time and/or money. I'm not looking to replace my income on a part-time basis, I'm not deluding myself that way. But making a couple hundred dollars a month would be nice. Who knows. I'll have to poke around and see what I come up with.