Five Business Lessons from 12 Years of Selling on eBay

Today, I want to share some helpful business lessons I’ve learned from 13 years of selling on eBay.  I started selling on eBay in 2003, after I left the Active Duty Army.  I grew up in the antique business and figured I would find my way buying and selling antiques, vintage items, and junk at some point.

I started out on eBay by selling some unwanted items I had sitting around the house.  From there, I started to visit auctions, flea markets and local yard sales. I even started selling stuff for friends and family members.  My business naturally expanded through the years.

As of date, I have about 7,000 feedbacks and I am a trusted and respected seller on eBay (user ID: chuckholmes301).  Some months I sell a lot of stuff and other months are a bit slower.  I have my own eBay store and I normally sell about 350 items every month (on average).

Through the years I have learned  A LOT of valuable business lessons from eBay.  These lessons have helped me in ALL of my businesses, including my MLM Business.  I’d like to take a few moments and share a few of those lessons with you today.  They are listed in no particular order.  Enjoy.

# 1 Go to Where Your Customers Are

One of the GREATEST things about eBay is that they have MILLIONS and MILLIONS of registered users and customers ready to buy what you have to sell.  That is what makes eBay so powerful: their users and their website TRAFFIC.

People complain about the fees eBay charges, but I have to tell you that you are paying for access to that audience!  If you were to try and build a website on your own that had as much traffic as eBay gets, it would cost you MILLIONS per month!

I always tell people if you can’t get customers to come to you, go to where your customers are. eBay can charge a premium because they have the customers.

When it comes to your network marketing business, go to where your customers are.  If you sell weight loss products, set up a booth at a health fair or become a member at a local gym.  In addition, advertise in publications and on websites where people in your target market hang out.

# 2 Keep Your Overhead Low

One key to success in business is to keep your overhead low.  As a seller on eBay, this is easy to do.  I work from home.  I have no employees.  I don’t have to rent a building, have a payroll, pay insurance, pay for advertising, etc.

My overhead is really low, which lets me have better profit margins in my business.  One of the mistakes a lot of businesses make is growing too fast and having expenses they don’t really need.

Once you take on all these additional expenses, you can actually end up making LESS money (profit) and work on smaller margins.  Revenue is great, but profit is what matters.  Keep a close eye on all your business expenses and look for ways to cut back.  eBay is a great business model for the company itself, and for sellers alike.

When it comes to your network marketing business, be a good steward of your own money. Watch your expenses closely.  Don’t spend money on things that don’t give you a positive return on your investment. Never spend money just to spend money.  Keep your expenses low and let your lack of money inspire your creativity.

# 3 Sell What People WANT

This is a big one.  Don’t focus on what people need or focus on what you think is cool.  Find out what people in your target market want and give it to them.

I’ve tried selling things on eBay that I thought were cool, but no one else wanted to buy.  One of the best things you can do is use eBay to research what others are buying and then go and sell similar items.

If your traditional business already has customers, you could do a survey and find out what they want to buy.  This is just a wise business move.  The bottom line is people buy what they want, not what they need.

When it comes to network marketing make sure you pick a company that has products and services that are in demand.  Find items that people are already buying and WANT to buy.

# 4 Build an Audience and You Can Sell Anything

As I mentioned in lesson # 1 eBay is so successful because they built a large audience of buyers and sellers.  Now, they can market ANYTHING to that audience.  They can rent out their subscriber list, send promotional email messages, sell advertising on their website, etc.

Once you own an audience, the sky is the limit.  If you don’t want to build your own audience you can tap into eBay’s audience: for a price.  Or, you can go out and spend your time and money to build your own audience.  The bottom line is you will either pay to use someone else’s audience or you will pay to create your own audience.

When it comes to network marketing one of my favorite reasons to have my own blog is that I can build my own audience.  I can sell affiliate products, leads, systems, training products, coaching, services AND promote my business opportunities.  It allows me to have multiple streams of income.

lessons from eBay# 5 Be the First at What You Do, and Be the Best

eBay is a pioneer in online auctions.  To the best of my knowledge they were the first in their industry to do what they do.  Because they started early they have a huge market share, it makes it hard for other similar businesses to compete with them.  That’s a key business lesson.

Try to be the first at what you do.  If you can’t be the first, be the best. If you can be the first AND be the best, that’s even better.  Those are the useful strategies to build a successful and profitable business.

When it comes to your network marketing business, try to find a company or product that isn’t saturated in your local market.  Find a company or product that not everyone else is promoting, so you can be different and stand out in the marketplace.  It might be better to pick a company that fewer people have heard of, than to pick a company that everyone else knows about.

Final Thoughts

There you have it folks. These are five key business lessons that I learned from 13 years of selling on eBay.  I would love to hear what you think.  What business lessons has eBay taught you?  Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Disclaimer: eBay is a registered trademark.  I am not affiliated with the company in any way, other than selling products on their site.

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4 thoughts on “Five Business Lessons from 12 Years of Selling on eBay

  1. Diamond Grant

    Definitely a strong point worth mentioning that you should cater to what people want. Sometimes what people want is not the thing that seems the most practical or the thing you’d assume they needed. It’s important to listen to the people you are selling to so that you can cater to them better. This might require a bit of research, but if you pay attention you’ll find the answers you need in order to successfully sell to your consumer base.

    1. Greg Boudonck

      Another great way to really see what people want is to just research what items are selling the best on eBay. I used to sell many collector coins via ebay and there are some coins that just do not sell very well. I started watching the types of coins that seemed to get the most attention, and when I visited coin auctions and other coin wholesale outlets, I would purchase only those types. By doing so, my ebay business started doing much better.

      Since moving to Puerto Rico, I have wandered away from selling on ebay just because of the added shipping costs, but it is a great side business, and I am happy to hear you are doing well with it Chuck.

      That was the other thing I wanted to mention: always pay attention to shipping costs. I will never forget the loss I took because I had to ship a coin to Israel and I did not figure shipping correctly.


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