Thursday, January 3, 2013

Starting the New Year as a Self-Employed eBay Top-Rated PowerSeller

I closed my last blog entry with the news that I have decided to no longer have a part-time job so I can put all of my time, energy and skills into self-employment as an eBay seller, antiques consignor and artist.  

I've been busier than ever since quitting my job.  Self-employment is highly motivating.  I've listed more stuff on eBay than I have in a while, so now I have to start being better organized.  Until a few days ago, I could manage all of my current inventory in just a couple of boxes, but now I have more stuff than the boxes will hold.

Yesterday I bought bankers boxes and today I will start putting my eBay inventory into boxes marked "Listed at auction," "Listed in eBay store," and "Not yet listed."  I will also start keeping a list of what's in each box, so I can find the items when they sell.  


I'm also starting out 2013 with good recordkeeping.  The IRS only requires Paypal to report income if a seller takes in over $20,000 and has made over 200 sales.  I definitely qualify for the over 200 sales part, but I've never (yet!) made anywhere near $20,000 a year on eBay.  But this could be the year.  So I am tracking all of my expenses from the outset of this year, including what it cost me to buy those bankers boxes.  

So far, I've just been jotting my expenses down in a small notebook while deciding what sort of system I want to use.  I've looked at various types of personal finance and business accounting programs, and they all seem to be more complex than what my needs are.  So I am planning to use a simple paper ledger sheet instead.  

 Not yet listed Yoke Planter
I went looking for a ledger book yesterday.  We no longer have an office supply store in TorC, and Walmart didn't have what I needed.  So I went online and found out that almost any sort of paper you might need can be printed free from Printable Paper.  This site has lots of types of paper I might use in my art and music, as well--graph paper, postcards, music paper, etc.  If you're a knitter, quilter, or beader, there are layout sheets here, too.  I was able to print out exactly what I needed.

Figuring out your actual profit on eBay can be complex.  There are fees taken by eBay when you list the item, relist it, and if you sell it.  Paypal also takes a percentageDepending on how I've structured the transaction, buyers may pay for the shipping, but I often throw in free shipping as an enticement to buy small items that are inexpensive to ship.  Then there are shipping supplies, office equipment and supplies, and mileage or other travel expenses.  


Even something like the eBay fees can get a little complicated.  I usually first list an item in a 7-day online auction.  Then, if it hasn't sold, I look at how many "hits" the item got (how many times people looked at it) and decide whether it's worth relisting at a fixed price in my eBay store.  There's a small listing fee for each month that the item sits in my store.  So, by the time an item sells, I may have paid listing fees on it a half-dozen times.  I haven't yet figured out an easy way to keep track of this particular phenomenon.
The hardest thing to determine and track can sometimes be the price of the item itself.  Sometimes I buy "box lots" or "job lots" of stuff at live or online auctionsSimply dividing the cost of the lot by the number of items in it isn't always a realistic basis for determining the cost.  Some items in the lot are worth more than others.  

Also, some items, whether purchased individually or in a lot, need some work to make them sellable.  For instance, I may take a tray that I bought for $1 at a garage sale, paint and collage it and seal my work with a sheet of acrylic, and then I have a $25 tray.  But certainly not $24 in profit.  

And what about the item I bought for my own use at full price, but then sold for less when it was no longer something I needed?  If I bought it for $90, used it for a while, and then sold it for $25, am I selling at a loss?   

So, I can only do my best at trying to solve these little issues.  I keep hoping that some smart eBayer will come up with a great piece of software that's easy to use and takes care of all the little problems.  Until then, I just have to find whatever information I can to help me make decisions and trust my gut.  I have years of experience, and I've made myself a Top-Rated PowerSeller, after all!  I can do this! 


Besides eBay recordkeeping and inventory management issues, my self-employment presents some personal challenges.  I do love the freedom of self-employment, but some days I can get obsessive and spend too much time working or too much time by myself without enough interaction with other people.  A friend commented that I probably have more time for artwork now that I am home more, but so far that hasn't been the case.  Carving out time for friends, art, music, exercise, housework, and cooking healthy food is pretty much the same, whether I'm working for myself or someone else.  

But I remind myself, this is just my first week back at relying solely on self-employment.  I will be able to incorporate more fun stuff as I get myself more on track with the business.  Next week, my son comes to visit me, and I'll be driving up to Albuquerque to pick him up at the airport.  I definitely want to include some sightseeing (and not just thrift shops!) on the trip to pick him up and also a week later when I take him back to the airport.  

Which brings up the topic, too, of traveling.  Now that I'm completely in charge of my own schedule, I can begin making some eBay buying trips in The Guppy.  Like the old days (2011), before I got so settled down (2012).  That's a big part of my motivation to get things going really well with this business.  I'm looking forward to taking it on the road again.  I want to maintain my apartment here in TorC as a home base, but get out to other towns and cities throughout the Southwest to find stuff to sell.  I'll definitely be getting up to Albuquerque a couple of times this month, and maybe next month I'll head over to Phoenix, a thrift store mecca.



  1. I feel your pain on the record-keeping! But it's awesome that you are doing so well with your ebaying, and especially that you also enjoy it. Gotta love the freedom and I love that people get to re-love the pre-loved because of what you do.

    1. Thanks, Lise. I so appreciate your support and friendship. As a fellow eBayer, you know what I'm talking about. "Re-love the pre-loved"! That's great!

  2. Another thought for record keeping would be a simple excel spreadsheet. You could do the listing, fee's etc and just keep moving it over.
    I'm proud of you, MBF!

    1. Yes, I'm definitely going to experiment with Excel or another spreadsheet program. I have a "lite" version of Excel on my new computer that may work fine for my purposes. I've forgotten how to do all of the tricks on Excel that I used to know years ago, but I could probably relearn them.

  3. I read your blog on Refurbishing your "Guppy" Can you take a few pictures and show us the finished project?

  4. Thanks...yes, you can find some pictures at

    These pictures were taken before I left Eugene, Oregon, and show the bare bones carpentry work that was done to outfit my rig with a big work counter with storage underneath and with a small dinette.

    The Guppy originally had some built-in seating in the form of two big captain's chairs and a small octagonal game table. This was pretty much a useless waste of space for me. I needed more storage and a more functional table. I had that all taken out for installation of the big counter.

    Opposite the original built-in captain's chairs, there had been a sort of couch that could be pulled out for use as an extra bed. I had that removed and put in the little dinette instead.

    Later I made curtains, covered some cushions for the dinette, etc.

    The upshot of it is, I have a space that works pretty well for selling on eBay. I can use the big work counter to iron and photograph the scarves I sell online, with my computer set up on the little dinette table.

    Sometimes if I have really big scarves to photograph, I use a sheet or tablecloth to cover the windows and to act as a backdrop, and then I clothes-pin my scarves to the sheet for photographing. Or I'll do my photography outside on a picnic table if one is available and the wind isn't blowing.

    I still use my Guppy for eBay buying trips and as an eBay office when I'm on the road. I'm heading to Arizona next week and will park out in a remote part of the Sonoran Desert and sell on eBay for a month or so. I use a solar panel to generate enough power to run the computer, and I camp at a place that's near a Border Patrol Station that has its own cell tower, so my Verizon internet works great!

  5. Isn't it amazing how much our lives and focus change from year to year? I loved being self employed. When starting my business out of my house, I did a lot of research, and the main caution was to make sure to have groups, etc., that meet from time to time so you won't be alone all the time. Even though I'm pretty much a loner, I still joined the Chamber in my town and a Leads group. Those gave me plenty of friends and activities. I'd guess your shops in town would fill that need.

    I love Excel and use it to record all my income and expenses. You could just put each item on a line, and list each cost for that item as the row goes across. At the end, when it sells, total the line for your costs and then on the next cell list what it sold for. The difference would be your profit. Nothing to set up. Just a line item spread sheet. :) I'll bet there is a program out there, though, with it all done for you already. Ask in E-Bay forums and I'll bet you'll get some good info.

  6. I am definitely going to give Excel a try. I haven't used it in years and it seems a little daunting, but I like what you are suggesting and I definitely will ask about bookkeeping on the eBay forums.

    As far as finding people to spend time with--I'm fortunate to be living in a small town where people are really friendly. We have several fun coffee shops, including one that is a bookstore, and I almost always know somebody there. Lately I've been included in a group of women who have a weekly game night, and that is a very fun development in my social life. I'm actually having the opposite problem of isolation--sometimes I have to make myself go home and get to work!

    Since I sell some items at an antique store, I've met some like-minded folks in the resale business, and that's really helpful sometimes.