My first successful online venture was eBay. I was a poor 18-year-old, wanting to earn a little bit of money straight out of high school, and decided that eBay was as good of a place to start as any!
I bought things on eBay all the time, and it seemed like a simple system. I just needed to find products for cheap, and then sell them at a bit of a mark-up.
I started in my final year of high school, as the year was coming to an end. I didn’t have a job yet, but obviously I knew I needed some money!
I started looking online for places to buy products wholesale at a cheap price.
After a little but of research I found the website www.aliexpress.com which is a place for suppliers and manufacturers to sell items at a low price. Most of the sellers on here are factories from China.
I found a seller that had snapback hats for sale, and he was selling these for just $5!
Heaps of my friends wore these, but in stores in Australia they were $40-$50 per hat on average!
Straight away I purchased 20 NBA snapback hats for $100, and within a week they had arrived from China. I put a few photos up on Facebook and Instagram advertising these hats. I offered 1 hat for $15, 2 hats for $25, or 3 for $30.
I figured I should at least double my money, and if they didn’t sell then hey, I’d got a heap of hats for a cheap price.
Within 30 minutes of posting photos online, all of the hats had been claimed.
Just like that I made $100 profit. I met up with those people over the next couple of days, gave them the hats and collected my money!
Next, I decided to order 100 hats. If you order in bulk on AliExpress you often get a discount, and as a result this order only cost be around $470 in total.
I decided that I’d try to put these hats on eBay, and if they sold as well as they did on my Facebook, then I’d have struck gold.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of competition on eBay. Heaps of people were selling these hats and the margins were small.
But still, I started making sales. After postage fees, eBay fees, and PayPal fees, my profit was around $5 per hat. Not a lot, but it was money.
I sold a few hats here and there, and was making a little bit of money. I also got a part-time job at the local gym, and was studying to become qualified as a personal trainer. It wasn’t much, but the eBay money did help.
I quickly fell in love with business, and was dreaming of building an eBay empire! I added a few different products, and bought a lot of samples from different people on AliExpress. Not everything sold but I added some jewellery, and jerseys that sold quite okay. I started making $150-$200 a week from eBay at this point, while making around $400 at my part time job.
My goal was to hit the $400 mark and essentially replace my part-time income.
I was contacted by a guy in Melbourne who wanted to know if I could get bulk orders of hats. He had a small store, and I ended up selling him around 200 hats per month in bulk. The margins were slim, and I only made around $1 profit off of each hat I sold, but that meant an extra $50 each week for practically no work.
Things were going well, but just not growing at the rate I wanted.
Then, one day my sister was asking about where I source all of the products I sell. She took a look and found a bunch of cosmetics and beauty products and couldn’t believe how cheap they were.
I let her pick what items she thought were good and then ordered a few of them.
I knew nothing about cosmetics, so I gave her one of each product and got her to test them. She said they were good, and so I was seeing dollar signs!
I set up a whole new eBay account and started selling these cosmetics. The margins were heaps better, and now I was clearing the $400 mark with this store alone!
I was making up to $1000 profit a week from eBay alone. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.
And then, the problems started.
I’m not sure what happened but eBay decided to temporarily shut down my account where I was selling hats. I’m not sure why, perhaps a competitor had complained.
eBay has some terrible communication, and were impossible to work with. Eventually I got my store up and running again, but only after a few weeks.
The same thing happened with the cosmetics as well. This actually happened a couple of times with both eBay and PayPal giving me grief.
eBay actually owns PayPal, and so they work together very closely. Unfortunately, to have an eBay account you are forced to use PayPal, and just like eBay, they enjoy shutting down and freezing your account with little to no notice or reason.
I found out that a couple of my items I was selling were in fact knock-offs (good quality ones at that) and had to stop selling them.
That’s one of the tough things with sourcing from China, a lot of the products you buy can be fake.
That cut in to my profits, and eBay kept shutting down my stores sporadically.
I wanted to replace my income and quit my job. Although I was earning a decent amount from eBay at some points, especially for an 18-year-old, it wasn’t consistent enough for me. My stores kept getting shut down, and I didn’t want to risk having no money and no job to fall back on.
The most I could consistently make was around $200 per week from selling the hats and apparel, but even that occasionally got shut down.
I was frustrated with eBay and decided I’d had enough.
I threw in the towel and decided to move on to another online venture. eBay had been good to me in many ways though. I learned a heap about business, and began studying commerce at the same time. It was great to put the things I was learning into practice, and do my own accounting, forecasting cash flow, managing stock and all of those kinds of things!
It was a great education, and I made some extra money in the process.
Here’s a video from my YouTube where I talk about my eBay story!
If you want to get started on eBay, it’s not too difficult to begin. Just be aware that this business can be difficult to grow, but it is a great way to make an extra $100-$200 per week.
If that’s what you’re looking for, then go for it!
That can be a great help to a lot of people and does definitely add up over time.
If you’d like to get started, learn from my mistakes. Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Head to a wholesaling website
3 good ones are:
– www.alibaba.com (this one is normally for larger orders, but it will be cheaper)
Step 2: Research some different products
The criteria for me was items that were cheap to ship. In Australia, if an item is under 500 grams then it can be posted for around $7 to anywhere in Australia. If it weighs more than 500 grams, then the price can go way up depending on where you post it.
Check the postage costs in your area before you decide to choose a product. The margins may seem good, but when you factor in the price of postage those margins can disappear very quick!
Once you find a few items that look good, head to eBay and search for those items. How much are they selling for on eBay, and is there any money to be made?
I like to use this cool website called: www.finalfeecalculator.com
This website calculates the postage, eBay, and PayPal fees and tells you how much profit you’ll make per sale.
It can take a while, but once you find a good product, you’re on to the next step!
Step 3: Order a Sample
Now that you’ve found a supplier and a good product, it’s time to order a few samples. If there are multiple people selling the same item you might want to order 2-3 units from each, so you can pick the supplier that provides the best quality product.
Once you have these samples, check the quality and if you’re happy it’s onto the next step.
Step 4: List Your Item
It’s time to sign up to eBay, and dive in!
Take some photos of your item and create a listing. I recommend learning some basic HTML code to make your listing stand out. These little things can help.
If you have zero feedback it can be a little slow to make sales at first, but they will come.
Hopefully the samples of your product sell at this point. If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find something new. Unfortunately, not every product will sell quickly, and you don’t really know until you try.
If the product does sell, it’s time to scale. Order a bulk amount from your preferred supplier. Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, or free express shipping. Ordering in bulk should save you lots of money and usually people on sites like AliExpress do offer bulk order discounts.
Then, you’re in business. You have 1 item successfully selling.
Step 5: Rinse & Repeat
Now that you’ve gone through the process once, it’s easy to replicate.
Add extra items to your store, following the exact same steps as above.
I do recommend selling items that are related to each other, and build a bit of a brand around your store. However, this is up to you.
You can always sell a bit of everything and still make good money.
Obviously, there are other ways to make money on eBay. This is just the way I have tried, and I can recommend it to anyone wanting to earn a bit of extra coin.
Don’t expect to make a fortune, but do expect to get a great business education, have a ton of fun, and make a bit of money as a bonus.
I know that some people drop ship on eBay, and some source items locally from places like thrift stores. These are both options you can use, they’re just not the methods I was interested in testing myself.
With all of that being said, I hope you found this post to be helpful!
Get to work on your eBay store, and of course please let me know how you go with it! I hope it works out for you!
All the best,