Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So, you think you wanna sell online?

We travel frequently, and are always meeting new friends. Many of them have approached me about selling online– it seems so effortless and so easy ... just have a widget, take a picture of it, put it on an online selling site ... then sit back and wait for someone to buy it.
"It’s simple, right? Tell me what you think! Should I sell online?"
Here are some things I recommend they ask themselves when trying to decide if selling online is right for them:
  • What will you sell?
  • Do you have an area of expertise? Something you are passionate about, that you collect?
  • Is there something that you have ready access to in large enough quantity to keep a viable online presence in your “shop”?
  • Do you have an inventory of items built up so you can keep your online presence strong?
  • How much time are you willing and/or able to devote to building your online business? Are you available every day to answer questions from potential buyers?
  • How much time will it take to acquire items to sell? Do you have a local source for items to sell?
  • How much time will it take to: research your items, clean them, repair them if necessary, photograph them, upload and edit your photographs, write your item listing, and post it on the selling site.
  • Where will you sell your item? Research online selling venues.  What kinds of items are sold on those sites? What are their rules for selling?   What are their selling fees?   Can you sell your item for a profit based on their fee structure?   Does your selling philosophy align with theirs?
  • Where will you store your items?  Do you have space in your home to store the items you are offering for sale? Do you have space to keep that inventory for an extended period of time while you wait for it to sell? Do you have space to store “seasonal” and “holiday” items (such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day) to reserve them for the appropriate time to sell?
  • Do you have an area to photograph your items? If your items are large, do you have a well-lighted area to photograph your item? Look at the photographs of other sellers on the site you have chosen. What do their photographs look like? Can you produce high-quality photographs of your item? Photographs need to be clear, in focus, and show your item at its best. 
  • Online sellers have to be prepared to ship their items. Do you have an area to store shipping supplies? (Boxes, bubble wrap, envelopes, packing peanuts, wrapping paper) Do you have a good printer?  A reliable scale to weigh your items? Do you have a space to safely package items for shipping? Do you have easy and regular access to your local post office?
  • How are your computer skills? In today's marketplace, an serious online presence is required. Online sellers need to understand search engine optimization, tagging, analytics, etc. Social networking is the next big thing. Are you comfortable with sites like Facebook, Twitter, Kaboodle ... sites where you can effectively market your shop and your items?
As an online seller, I work every day. Every single day. Days off reduce my income. Every day I check my email, and respond to any requests for information. If a purchase is made from my online selling sites, then I prepare items for shipping. I visit all my social networking sites. I work on this blog. I try to list at least a few items every day, or at least tweak existing listings to keep them fresh and current.
While it may look easy from the outside, it feels rather like the scene from the Wizard of Oz ... "pay no attention to the (wo)man behind the curtain" ... because behind every online shop you frequent, there is a hard-working person pulling all the levers and turning all the dials.

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