05/01/2019 at 12:48 am #61007
It’s been an interesting last six months. In September of 2018, I was wrapping up my sixth year managing e-commerce for a medium-sized sporting goods business. Sales had grown from about $300,000 in 2012(I started in December of that year) to a projected $1.7M in 2018 with the same two guys running it(myself and one other guy) the entire time. We were both compensated very well but did everything from the marketing right down to packaging items and shipping. It was hard work but it was really fun and fulfilling(emotionally and financially) despite the long hours during the three-month busy season. I liked my job and it was somewhat flexible. We lived a nice life. Two kids. New cars. Two or three nice vacations every year.
Then in September, I got a phone call from someone I worked with on a project several years ago. His company(a big corporate company that was the leader in my industry) was looking for a few marketing people. The pay was great and I was able to work exclusively at home with some travel mixed in. It seemed like a dream come true. So I jumped at it. Within a few weeks, I knew it was a mistake. The great things he said about this company were not true and when talking with other folks around the company I learned he was not well respected and was on a short leash. It looked like this new round of hires was pretty much a hail mary to save his own job. It was pretty stressful and I considered getting out right away. But then I realized I was working at home and making good money. Might as well try to make the best of it. My wife and I had booked a 12-day vacation for the end of March 2019 during the previous summer and we were pretty pumped for the adventure with our kids during Spring Break.
We had a great time but I received some alarming news on the second day of our trip. Two people from our five-person department were laid off. The next day I received an email to call in for an all-staff meeting the following Monday. When I called in the CEO said there were some changes that needed to be made but as of right now there are no plans for further layoffs. I felt like I had survived. We flew home on Saturday night. While I was working on Monday my boss emailed me a meeting request for the next day. It was titled “Project Catchup”. I assumed that he would call me and tell me all of the work I would be inheriting from the guys who were laid off. My assumption was incorrect. I was let go about five months after being recruited to work for this “great company”. I went from having a good paying job that I loved, to having a good paying job that I hated, to being out of work in less than six months.
I started selling baseball cards on eBay in the 1990s. This was back when people would send money orders so they didn’t have to wait for their check to clear before shipping! I sold some other odds and ends in the early 2000s. Like Jay and Ryanne, I worked in television and the money in small market TV is awful. I sold stuff just to make ends meet. As I aged and started to have a family, I moved away from eBay. But a few years ago, I started thinking about creating my own e-commerce business. I had successfully built a business for my employer and was looking for a way to do it for myself. I just needed something to sell. I heard Gary Vaynerchuk talk about buying stuff at garage sales and flipping it on eBay. I knew the eBay platform well as that was where I was selling things for my employer and I had done it in the past. I decided to give eBay a try again a few years ago.
I’m pretty sure the first garage sale flip of my new eBay adventure was a vintage program from the British Open. I know exactly where the house is where I bought it. I think I bought it for .50 and sold it for $15. I thought I had something! My wife thought I was crazy. That changed soon. It was a few weeks later and I was hitting garage sales in town with my kids. The house was old and the garage was dirty. On the table were three motorcycle helmets. I picked one up and set it back down. The guy running the sale said, “that one is a Bell”. So I picked it back up and looked inside. The tag said “Bell Helmet Long Beach California 1968”. When I saw Long Beach California and the date, I thought it had to be worth something. The guy wanted $2 each for the helmets. I offered him $5 for all three. On my way out to the car, he said, “there’s another one in the free box.” So I picked that one up too. 4 helmets for $5.
When I got home I checked the solds on the Bell. It looked like they were selling for $300 to $500. I couldn’t believe it. I literally could not believe it. I decided to put it up for auction starting at $99 on a Sunday night with the listing ending the following Sunday. The next day I received two messages. The first one said, “I’ll give you $300 right now for that helmet.” I showed it to my wife and she said, “you should take it!” The next one said, “I’ll give you $400 right now for that helmet.” Then she really got excited. But someone had already bid on the helmet and as far as I’m concerned, an auction is an auction. I don’t believe in ending them early.
Come Sunday night, my patience paid off. The helmet sold for $565. The guy who offered $300 bought that one and another one for $80. The other two brought about $30 each. But my $5 investment turned into about $700 and I was hooked. That is my best flip ever but there have been some other good ones. Like most everyone else, it’s usually a few bucks turned into $20 or $30. Our lemons are $10. But compared to margins on new consumer goods, we’re still killing it.
Over the past few years, I think my best month was about $1,000 in sales with my worst month probably around $100. Most months were $200-$300 but it was all funny money anyway. Some extra cash to splurge on the family and it was just kind of a game to me. I love computer strategy games but it seemed like I would spend hours playing them and have nothing to show for it. At least with this strategy game, I put some money in my pocket.
But that changed on April 2nd. When I got that call, I was angry. I had built a nice income and a nice life over the past five years. Now I had nothing. I used to joke with my co-worker that I wish I could go full time selling garbage(I call my eBay selling “The Garbage Business”) but my job was too good to quit. As of April 2nd, I no longer had that good job. It was go-time. On April 2nd I had 86 items listed on eBay. A long way from enough to sustain a fulltime income but a start nonetheless. I called a few people I knew and secured some freelance writing and video work. But I still want to do about $800 per week in gross sales. With freelance work and $3200 gross, we can sustain our lifestyle. My wife has a great job. I didn’t make it this month, but I didn’t expect to.
Here are my numbers for April:
Active Listings April 2: 86
Active Listings April 30: 211
Items Sold: 56 for $1414
Average Sale Price: $25.25
My goal is to hit $2,000 in sales for May with 400 listings at the end of the month.
$2,500 in sales for June with 500 listings at the end of the month
$3,000 in sales for July with 600 listings at the end of the month
I’d like to sustain about 600-800 listings. I believe I can hit my monthly sales goal at this level.
I have a different selling strategy than Jay and Ryanne. I usually take good pictures and price my items somewhere around the middle of what things are selling for. Most people take crap photos so your photos can allow you to price a little higher. If I’m unsure of the value, I usually put an item up at auction with an opening bid of a number I’d like to get for the item. Sometimes, I hit a jackpot. Sometimes, it doesn’t get bid on and I drop the price down a bit and sell it as a Buy It Now. I usually lower my Buy It Now prices a wee bit every month until the item sells. I’m not maximizing value as Jay and Ryanne do but I’m consistently turning sales with a fairly small inventory. When you’re at the stage I am, that’s important.
On a side note, on my return flight home from my vacation, I decided to make a big lifestyle change. I’m a big dude at 6’3”. On that return flight, I weighed 344 pounds. Sure, some of that was vacation weight. But I’m turning 43 this year and there are not a lot of 60-year-old dudes that weigh 344 pounds. I want to turn the page and didn’t let my layoff get in the way of this plan. Today I weighed 313 pounds. I lost 31 pounds this month. My goal is to be under 300 pounds for the first time in about seven years by the end of May. That should be doable!
I’m hoping to make this layoff the best thing to ever happen to me. But it’s super stressful. Before I started that e-commerce job I was a fulltime freelancer. I remember how much cashflow problems stressed me out. I had three days this month that I didn’t sell anything and several days that I only sold one thing. It really makes you question if you’re doing the right thing. But I’ve seen enough of the process that I believe I can do it. I’ll keep updating this. It’s going to be a bumpy but exciting ride.
05/01/2019 at 8:34 am #61016Retro Treasures WVParticipant
I love computer strategy games but it seemed like I would spend hours playing them and have nothing to show for it. At least with this strategy game, I put some money in my pocket.
Exactly! I deleted all of the games off of my cell phone. They are a waste of time (not money though…I’ve never spent a dime on an app except my mileage tracker app).
I started my ebay business after a layoff as well. I also got wind of the “bloody Monday” while on my anniversary weekend getaway vacation. Boy that really took the fun out of the weekend…
The facility I worked at went from 400 people to 100 people over a few months and a few layoff rounds. I did get an exceptional severance package that had me collecting my usual paycheck for 5 months and maintained my insurance for a year.
That summer was the greatest summer of my adult life! I wore flip flops and shorts the entire time, spent a ton of time with my family doing all the fun things I usually missed out on during the summer. I also started the ebay business and did quite well with it. I had a new job secured by the end of July but had them hold off on my start date until the summer was over.
It still sucks to have a day job after having that kind of freedom, but my boss knows about my ebay work and my “FU” money attitude at work buys me alot of freedom that makes it more palatable.
So good luck and I look forward to seeing your business grow!
05/01/2019 at 9:05 am #61020JayKeymaster
- Location: Virginia
I’m going to enjoy this journal. Thanks for the detailed background.
Its good for people to know there are many ways to sell. Especially with a smaller inventory, makes total sense to price super competitively and ride your items till they sell.
Also smart to take this time to lose weight and get healthy. That’s tough to do when working hard for someone else and their schedule.
–If things went south, could you go back working for the sports memorabilia eBay guy?
–What was his business model? Would he buy the items at auction and have you guys list and sell? Did he do any work at all?
–If he gross $1.8 million a year, what do you think his net profit after paying you guys an his expenses?
05/01/2019 at 9:20 am #61022Winchester38Participant
Thanks for sharing! As someone who has very recently gone full-time,(March), I can tell you that it can be stressful, and is a lot of work, but is also incredibly rewarding. I still enjoy driving past my old workplace (on my way to ship sold items). I left of my own accord, and driving past while doing something I enjoy feels like the ultimate “FU”.
My wife also has a good job that has really helped take some of the pressure off of me, which is a blessing.
I may have missed it, but where do you live?
05/01/2019 at 9:37 am #61023MyCottageParticipant
As Jay says, there’s no one way to success on ebay, and I think you have a pretty sound strategy. Looking forward to reading more as you progress, and you are definitely in the right place if you have questions….lots of helpful, knowledgeable people here.
05/01/2019 at 10:12 am #61025
Thanks for the comments. I did get a small severance but not enough to chill all summer. I’m planning to use it as a war chest since I don’t think I’ll hit the numbers I need right away.
I actually sold the memorabilia on my own in the late 1990s-early 2000s. The gentleman that I was working for sold sporting goods. We purchased them from manufacturers, then resold them as an authorized dealer. He also had a large retail pro shop. We basically sold items online from the backrooms of the building. He didn’t do much with our part of the business. He basically ran the pro shop and would come back for meetings and high-level stuff. Our sales were almost always growing so he didn’t have much to complain about. It made it a great place to work. If I needed to leave early or come in late it was never a problem because during the three-month busy season we would be putting in 10-12 hours a day. So the flexibility was nice even if it came at a cost. During the busy season, I would work a normal day shift and go home to see the family. After they went to bed I would go back for a while or work at home for a few hours.
After the layoff, I did approach him with a few different proposals to go back to work for him. Unfortunately, he hired someone right after I left. I do know their sales are down significantly right now but I think he hired him at a large cost savings and I don’t think it’s at a spot where three people can work and it will be profitable. We did most of the buying for our part of the business too so I know what most of the costs are. I believe his net profit on the 1.7M was somewhere between 125K-175K. That’s with salaries and employee costs, building costs, websites, and Amazon, eBay fees, etc. He was able to share many of the costs over both parts of the business(pro shop and online) which made it possible. I honestly don’t think you can survive just doing one or the other in today’s world. I think he took it a little personal that I left and that’s part of the problem too. If one of the two guys decide to move on or sales continue to slump perhaps he may call me back. I’ve given up on sending proposals. He knows where I stand. It’s on his time now. He’s a good guy and I’m thankful for the opportunity I had with him. If I could do it again, I definitely would not have left. But I can’t so I have to move on and rebuild to the best of my abilities.
I’m in Wisconsin and it’s finally starting to warm up(but not today!). There is a 100 mile garage sale that starts tomorrow. It runs up and down the Mississippi River in my area. I’ll be spending all of Friday hitting sales. It should be a blast. Have a great day, folks. I’ve got orders to ship and listings to post.
05/01/2019 at 10:32 am #61028InglewoodParticipant
Enjoying your story – aside from eBay, several months ago not only did we start kicking eBay into high gear, but I have a similar health story – I’m 6’5″, and weighed just over 350lbs last year. The weight comes off easy when your not stressed. The last check-in was about a month ago and I was down to 320, and feel I am down to 310 now. I’m not doing anything crazy – the only thing I don’t do anymore is drink beer and I don’t crave junk food. Stress was the real factor, and probably led me to eat/drink bad things.
We’re on similar journeys, but take care of your health – it’s fairly easy to turn around things when your head is in a good place!
05/01/2019 at 3:44 pm #61060T-SattParticipant
Great story. Looking forward to seeing how it goes.
Good luck, and remember to reach out to us if you have questions or fears. We are all here to help you succeed!
05/01/2019 at 4:28 pm #61063scott2Participant
- Location: Merida, Mexico
Wow, sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you! Bumping your total listings like that is certainly possible, but it is going to be a full time job for you from here on out.
It also sounds like you should be okay for the next 5 months, but my advice would be to think that you only have 3 months, not 5, that will keep you motivated!
Good luck at the yard sales!
06/14/2019 at 3:24 pm #63473
A few years ago I produced a documentary on the history of a nearby city for their historical society. I interviewed several local historians. During one of the interviews, a gentleman said the words “short-lived”. But he pronounced it “LYE-vd”. I’ve always pronounced it “livd”. I was a little startled and actually stopped him and asked him. He insisted this was the proper pronunciation. I went along with it but I still think its “livd”.
The point of the story is my foray into full-time eBay selling was short-lived and it really doesn’t matter how you pronounce it. Two days after publishing this post I was contacted by the owner of another company I used to work with during my time selling sporting goods. He found out that I was available and offered me a fantastic job. I’ll be traveling 6-7 days a month but I get to work at home when I’m not traveling and the work is what I enjoy.
The idea of selling full-time is exciting. I know it is the dream of many here on the forums. The reality is I’ve worked as a freelancer before. I know what the stress of having inconsistent cash flow feels like. I was willing to go for it but having a good income that is predictable has a lot of advantages, especially when you have two active children and you’re used to taking vacations.
The good news is in the roughly 45 days I was out of a job I built my listings up. I’ve always had about 100 listings as a part-time seller. I hit a high point of 232 in early May. Admittedly, I haven’t done much listing in the last 30 days. I’m sitting at 190 right now. I’d like to push that number back up to 250 and then maintain it there for good. That will provide me with a lot of extra cash. I’d really like to start stockpiling cash so if I find myself in the same position in a few years, it’s no problem. 250 listings would also leave me with a really nice foundation if I ever needed to shift back into full-time selling. Once I get there, I’ll just replace listings as I sell items off. This will allow me to be a little more selective with sourcing as well. It would be great to get into selling more expensive items.
My goal is to work my store back up to 210 listings by the end of June, to 230 by the end of July, and 250 by the end of August. Here’s what May looked like.
Active Listings May 1: 215
Active Listings May 31: 199
Listings Created: 63
Listings Sold: 79 for $1767
Average Price: $22.36
Overall it was a pretty ho-hum month. I came up about $250 short of my goal of $2,000 but I pretty much quit listing things after about the 10th of May. I only listed 20 items after that as I shifted into new job mode. No really big sales other than a pair of Made in the USA Red Wing boots I bought at auction for $11 and sold for $80. I also sold a Tommy Bahama shirt bought at a church garage sale for $1. That went for $50. I averaged about 215 items throughout the month. My best day of the month was the 9th. I sold 8 items on that day. There were two days in May that I sold nothing.
My scavenge of the week is some patio door hardware. I found some Andersen door hardware that was still in the box at a garage sale this week. There were 8 sets and they wanted $5 a set. I used to sell this stuff as one of my first jobs out of college. It is very expensive, $200-$300 a set new. I offered them $20 for all of it and they countered with $25. So I got them for a little over $3 a set. They sell on eBay for about $80 a set. So a really nice find!
Even though the full-time experiment was short-lived, I have revved up my part-time income. In the end, I had to do what I thought was right for me and my family right now. You never know what the future might bring. I’ll keep updating my story here. Even though it’s not full-time, I still enjoy it and like sharing. Two of my friends have really gotten into reselling over the past few months and it’s fun to hear their stories. They’re texting me just about every day with what’s going on with their stores and their scavenging stories.
06/15/2019 at 7:45 am #63491Winchester38Participant
“JOB” is only a four letter word if you dislike what you’re doing.
Like Jay said, keep the ebay thing rolling. Keep building it, and use it as a back-up plan for the future. I can really give you the confidence and leverage to exit a job you dislike, or to ease the burden when a job goes away.
06/15/2019 at 12:32 pm #63500TerriParticipant
A: The traditional pronunciation of “-lived” in a compound is with a long “i,” but current dictionaries say the vowel can now be either long (as in the noun “life”) or short (as in the verb “live”).
Just looked it up after reading your post. I heard Alex Trebek pronounce it with a long i on Jeopardy once and was astounded. I know he NEVER gets anything wrong and I’d always pronounced it with a short one. Sounds like both are now considered acceptable.
06/16/2019 at 9:06 am #63518Antique FrogParticipant
- Location: Leicester
I’ve never heard anybody say “long-liived”, not even wurzels, but then someone pointed out on a webpage somewhere that if you were to say “cats are nine-lived” then it would have a long ‘i’.
I heard some Shakespeare in ‘original pronunciation’ some time back, and it’s a lot less tedious!
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