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My eBay ToolBox (2012 update)

Updated on October 5, 2014

The Right Tools Can Make Any Activity Easier - And More Profitable!

If you want to generate serious income, then selling on eBay will be serious work, and serious work requires tools. When you grow beyond just casual selling, you need a toolbox with tools you know, trust, and can count on. As an eBay PowerSeller and Trading Assistant, I needed to make maximum use of the time I had available to me - and that meant finding tools that worked the way I ran my business.

Will these tools work well for you? Maybe. But more than that, wouldn't it be great to know what kinds of tools are available? Let me show you a few of my favorite tools.

OK.... so it's 2014 and some of the tools in the old toolbox have changed. In my toolbox, that means Windows XP has been replaced with Windows 7 (64bit), the old P4 has been replaced with a quad-core AMD A8 system, and that old 250MB EIDE hard drive finally gave up the ghost, making room for a fast, new SATA2 1TB (1000GB) screamer. So... yeah... a few things have changed.... but the basics remain the same. You still need tools you are comfortable with, that work -with- you and not -against- you, and tools you can afford. Let's see what's in the ol' toolbox these days!

I Thought Selling On eBay Was Simple, Easy, and Quick.

(or: Why You Shouldn't Believe Everything You See On TV or Read In The Paper)

Listing on eBay is easy. Yep... but listing is not selling, and selling is not so easy. Just as children learn to walk and then to run, it still takes training and dedication to become a marathon runner. So too just about anyone can get a listing posted on eBay, but it takes education and discipline to consistently sell, and to sell at a profit.

IMHO, key amount the things that separates the casual seller from the serious seller is their ToolBox. You don't have to spend a lot of money (unless you prefer to), and you won't have to spend hours poring over a dry, dull operators manual... but you will need to invest some time and intelligence to learn which tools are best for you.

I'm going to show you the tools I use. Some of these I've been using since 1999, some are fairly new additions. My preference is for FREE tools, but I choose to use what works best for me - and cost is only part of the overall picture. There are both free and for-fee selections in just about every category I'll be talking about, so feel free to look around and decide for yourself.

If you like my tools, great! If not, that's cool too! Tools are personal objects - you have to be comfortable with the ones you use, or you won't use them and their value then is seriously impacted.

SixBit eCommerce - the rising online sales tool!

(or: What Are Those Guys Up To Now?)

For 2012, SixBit eCommerce Solution is better than ever and still growing! Designed by the man who created what is now eBay's Blackthorne, and developed by the same folks who ushered that tool from infancy to eBay powerhouse, SB (as it's friends all call it) is the tool poised to become a force in the multi-venue, multi-seller, online-sales management suite world. Let's take a look at a few reasons way.

This desktop application will come in multiple 'flavors', designed to assist the new start-up/hobbyist, the growing business, and the power seller alike -- their basic needs are similar, but the details of what they want to do are what makes them unique. So too will this application start with the basics for the new seller, and allow them to grow and expand without having to learn new tools and new rules.

This is one to watch folks. I'm currently working with the team in an alpha/beta testing capacity, reminding them of what features are needed, and helping them find the bugs that are a natural part of any software project. I've done the same with their earlier child-turned-powerhouse -- I'm happy to be involved with this latest progeny of their very creative minds.

If you want to take a look, just follow the link below and check it out - it's all explained and the software is available for download if you like what you read. Or, if you want to know more, check out the User Forums -- where you can talk to real SB users AND the developers themselves. Granted, the devs don't spend all day monitoring the boards... they've got to spend -some- time coding, after all. But there's always someone around who can answer a question or two. Maybe not immediately, but that's the fun of discussion boards! :)

If you think your current solution is a bit 'long in the tooth', or the tech support is not quite as responsive as they should be, or you just don't like the company behind it -- this may be the next step for you.

If your growth is exceeding the capacity of your current software, consider looking into this desktop application - growth is what it's all about! It's got lineage that others can only dream about... nearly as much history as eBay itself!

And we're not talking just an eBay tool here -- SB is already multi-venue and adding more as quickly as is warranted. I'm looking forward to a multi-venue future -- are you?

Why Do I Use Online Sales Management Software? - (or: Just Tell Me The Good Stuff!)

I joined eBay very soon after the original website was developed, but due to ISP changes (both planned and unplanned), my current ID was not registered until 1997. By 1999, I knew that I wanted to get serious about selling on eBay, enough to have spent nearly a year looking at various "solutions" before settling on Auction Assistant Pro. But that story is a whole 'nuther lens.... :)

What I looked for then, and continue to expect from my tools today, is a product that fits the way I work, has the capability to grow as I grow (and I definitely did!), and will save me more than it costs me. This last part is actually the easiest... just estimate the number of hours saved (after the initial learning curve) and multiple that by the current minimum wage. If that number is greater than the monthly fee, you are saving money! If not... perhaps you need to find a job that pays more than the minimum wage, to offset your eBay losses. :)

So what do I look for in my online sales automation? Let's see....

  • Save Me Time! This is perhaps the biggest reason to use ANY automation, and for me it's number one. I wanted, and I got, software that does all the boring stuff that I hate (like tracking payments) and leaves me the good stuff (like designing ad templates). And the time it saves me has been significant! I went from listing just a few dozen items a week to listing 25-35 items a day, every day, 7 days a week. Without my automation, I'd never be able to efficiently handle all the paperwork associated with my selling activity, and I'd spend the best part of the day sitting at my computer, posting listings, rather than spending that time with my family. Time saved comes in many flavors, so be sure you consider all your online sales activities when looking at automation.
  • Consistency. The ability to develop and use templates allows me to ensure that all my listings are consistent - that they contain the same information without me having to add it over and over again. And it's easy to create these templates - even an HTML beginner like myself can make some great looking listings! Look for a template editor that works both in WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get, pronounced "whizzy wig") mode as well as HTML mode. When starting out, WYSIWYG is awesome, and quite sufficient. As you grow, being able to 'tweak' the html will be a nice feature to have. So look for both.
  • Communications. By automating a lot of my standard email contacts, I can ensure that my bidders and buyers receive the best information quickly. Look for the ability to pull information from the Item, Listing, or Sales record, so that you can include information from all those sources automatically. This leaves you free to focus on personalizing the message, without having to hand write each one. It won't be long before you'll get tired of having to type and type again - better to let the computer do that for you. :)
  • Ease of Use.Learning new software can be intimidating - and some are known to have quite a "learning curve", but I personally didn't find it that big of a deal. What I recommend you look for would be levels of function, allowing you to start out with the basics and then add on capabilities as your experience grows and you find you need them. Once you get a few key concepts, the rest falls into place as it should.

    Once you have your basics in place, creating a new Item record for a new piece of merchandise should easy! And because of that, you can spend more time writing better descriptions instead of trying to get things to 'look right'. I prefer to focus on where the money is instead of fussing with html code, getting pictures to show up, etc. You don't need all the bells and whistles to start, but it's nice to know they will be there when you are ready for them.

  • An open/unlocked database.This may not mean much to a lot of people, but it means that I can use Excel to pull out data I need for reporting to my clients. I'm not tied to reports defined in the application - I can create my own the way I want them. My client settlement processing, which used to take the better part of a day, can now be finished in minutes. That's what automation is all about -- making things easier, and faster!

    One point to consider is -what- database your application is built on. The more robust, the better the chances it will be able to handle your growth with minimal fuss. And you want it to be 'network ready'.... not because you have a dozen people working for you, but because some day you might, and if you think learning a new application is hard, you ought to try unlearning the old, converting the data, and relearning the new!! It -can- be done, but I don't recommend it becoming a frequent activity! :)

  • Fully- and Semi-automatic processing.Some things are fully automatic - like updating Listing information with current eBay data. Other things are semi automatic - meaning the application should help me define what needs to be done, but I still make the final call on the details.

    Like sending email or leaving feedback -- I want an application that tells me which Orders need to be dealt with, but allows me to decide when (like when to leave feedback) or to personalize (like sending emails). Sometimes full-on automation is good - like automatically sending shipping confirmation emails with all the details the customer wants as soon as you've confirmed shipment to your application. But sometimes you want a bit more control - like when leaving feedback comments for an overly-critical customer you've just added to your blocked bidder list. :)

  • An Active and Sharing User Community. It was other users who helped get me 'over the hump' when I first starting using online sales management software in '99... and that tradition of users helping users continues to this day. And while I may not be as active in supporting others as I once was, a whole new generation has stepped up, moved in, and is getting the job done. Sounds corny, but that's what 'community' really means. And wouldn't you rather get help from someone who actually uses the software like you do, and not someone reading from a script and only listening for keywords to bring up the next screen? I know I prefer advice from real user... :)
  • Unattended, Automatic Posting of my scheduled ListingsThis feature alone has saved me over 3 times the monthly fee! And it allows me to spend my time the way I want to spend it! My prime posting time was 6-8pm Central time, which is also prime family time. By using a built-in automated posting feature, I can schedule my listings to be posted when I want them to, then just walk away, leaving the application running with a live internet connection. It will take care of posting at the proper time(s).

    Of course, I can also do immediate posting of my newly created Listings, or I can request they be scheduled thru eBay -- the application should let me decide. But why pay eBay's scheduling fee when your application can do it for you? That 10-cents-a-pop adds up over time, especially for a seller 'on the grow'! Another "money saved" consideration...

Talk, Talk, Talk - The eBay Discussion Boards Are All Talk!

(or: Member Helping Member - The Way The Web Once Was)

eBay has a large collection of online discussion boards - where any member can go to ask questions, express an opinion, or just share a tale with friends. These boards can become valuable resources -- consider that the members posting are doing the same thing you want to do - buy and sell on eBay. Who better to learn the ropes from?

My current favorite board is the Starting an eBay Business board (previously known as Building an eBay Business). There's a great collection of intelligent folks, some full time sellers, some part time sellers, some new to eBay, some long-time members, some with little business background, some with extensive backgrounds. One thing we all have in common? Humor and a desire to do better. OK, that's two things, but they go together very well.

There are many boards to choose from - I'd recommend doing a lot more reading than posting at first. Why? Because, unfortunately, some boards can become cliquish, just like high school, and we all remember how much fun it can be to be the new kid in school. So do some reading first and find out if the board is one you fit in with.

And who knows - you may even find that your questions have all be discussed before! Every board has a Search function - so that you can search for keywords and find discussions on topics of interest. Spending a bit of time reading is like spending a bit of time wandering around the neighborhood before you decide if you should buy a house. It's a great way to get a feel for the place, and you never know what 'jewels' you might find doing so!

Google

(or: It's More Than Just The Newest Verb)

Any search engine will do, but I prefer Google and we're looking in my toolbox, so this is the one I'm going to mention.

When writing your ad for your item, you need to give some details. Details that can sometimes be hard to find.. like material content. Google can help. And with time you'll get good at focusing Google's results to be more what you need and less of what you don't need.

You don't want to out-and-out copy someone else's ad text - that's a copyright violation and just not nice. But you can collect information from a variety of sites (similar to reading a number of newspaper or magazine articles or {gasp} books and taking notes) and then write your own ad copy.

Proceed with caution!

Windows 7 Paint

(yeah, that's right - Paint)

If you want to sell on eBay, you have to have good images. Clear, focused, minimal background distractions, and small in bytes but large in content.

To do this, I use a Kodak camera and MS Paint on my Windows 7 system. I told you I prefer free... and since I would have had to pay to upgrade my prior image editing software, but only used a couple features, I decided to look into Paint once I had Win7 installed. And I was pleasantly surprised!

Once the image is offloaded from the camera to my PC, I can:

- Crop The Image. This is done to remove as much distracting background as possible. I also use a plain, neutral colored backdrop for the same reason. I want all eyes focused on my product, not trying to read something in the background!

- Resize The Image. I was my images to be of a certain size, designed to fit best into my template. This is more important today with eBay requiring a minimum of 500 pixels of width for your images.

- Rename The Image. I don't do this as much now as I used to (SixBit has better image handling, so I don't need to keep my images files as long anymore), but I still prefer a text label on an image rather than just digits. Call me old school if you like -- that's just the way I roll. :)

Listing Template Assistance

(or: HTML Is Not A Foreign Language, But A Little Help Goes A Long Way!)

My current fav site for tricks to add to my Listing Template is www.isdntek.com -- a site referred to me by another poster on one of the eBay Discussion boards.

What I found was a collection of online tools to help me create some basic listing template features and formats. Nothing super fancy - no dancing girls, no blaring music, no jarring graphics. Just basic border design assistance, background assistance -- the basics. And the code copy function actually works!! I've tried others that haven't - very frustrating to create something and then not be able to easily move it from the development site to your own.

This one is worth a look-see.

eBay Stores - Good For Sales, Good For Buyers. - (or: Long Term Inventory Can Mean Greater Selection From A Single Seller)

I do consider my eBay Store to be yet another tool in my toolbox of products used to further my eBay sales and to make selling easier for me.

My first attempt at an eBay Store was not so hot - I barely covered my costs. So I closed that one, did a lot of reading, redesigned my listing template, and reopened my Store. The difference was shocking -- my 'redeisgned' Store immediately added 50% to my monthly sales, and continues to contribute 35% or more of my monthly sales. And the best part is that these sales come at all times of the day and night... not just when a listing starts or ends.

Points to Consider:

  • Ease of Setup. It's relatively easy to open a basic eBay Store. You'll need to settle on a Store Name, define a few categories, and that's about it. As things go along, you'll want to add to and update your Store, but to get started, just the basics will do quite nicely.
  • Incremental Sales The Easy Way. Once a buyer has made the decision to buy from you, it's easier to sell them additional items. That's where your Store comes in -- offering all your Listings in one place, with categories for browsing and Search capabilities to boot! You've just got to lead your buyer to your Store, which leads us to...
  • Marketing Your Store. Unlike most internet marketing, basic marketing for your eBay Store happens within your eBay Listings. In your Store setup is a checkbox to activate the Store Header - an add-on header bar that eBay will add to ALL your listings, letting your buyers know you have a Store. You can also include links within your Listing to direct your shoppers to additional selections within your Store. Just be careful of 'keyword spamming' rules and other eBay restrictions.
  • Low Cost, Long Term Exposure. If you are marketing your Store properly in your Listings, your Store becomes a great place to keep your slower moving items, your off-season items, or just additional inventory for auction items. The lower listing fees mean that keeping a Listing running for 2, 3, or even 6 months is still cheaper than 7 days at auction. That lower listing fee is balanced by a higher Final Value Fee, however, so don't go too crazy when stocking your Store.

A Few Other Suggestions

(or: More Stuff I Use On A Regular Basis)

There are a few other tools in the old toolbox, tools not specifically for eBay, but that I wouldn't want to be without:

- AVG AntiVirus. Everyone should have, and USE, anti-virus software. Preferably one that will update itself, has an active developer, and that you are comfortable with. I like AVG, and the price was right: $FREE$

- Mozilla Thunderbird email and FireFox browser. More freebies, but they get the job done without a lot of fuss or setup.

- Chrome web browser - free and fast, what more can I say?

- Ad-Aware and SpyBot Search-n-Destroy. Both are great for cleaning out the gunk that can slow you down. AdAware lets you clean up all the tracking software, and SpyBot goes after the nastier stuff. Both are recommended.

Links of Note - (or: More Things You May Find Useful)

In my wanderings thru the World Wide Web, I will sometimes stumble across "items of interest" (otherwise known as "why didn't I think of that!"). From time to time, if I find something of interest to eBay sellers, I'll share it here. Please note that I do not guarantee that all the links will be good forever - if you find a dead one, please let me know so I can remove or correct it. And not everyone is likely to find them interesting. But we all have to start somewhere, right?

Enjoy!

I'm always looking for comments....

Talk To Me!

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    • profile image

      eBid-Squid 8 years ago

      Nice lens, Thanks for the eBid info, But ive now moved to eBid.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      For an additional tool, you might want to look at www.lingotip.com, where you can create a multilingual widget of your eBay description.

    • SilverLotus1 profile image

      SilverLotus1 9 years ago

      Excellent lens Bob! I rate it 5 stars. Come visit mine when you have a moment.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image

      Kiwisoutback 9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Excellent lens, this is a great resource for sellers. You've been accepted into the eBay Education Group!

    • TN Grand Dad profile image
      Author

      TN Grand Dad 9 years ago

      Check out my other eBay-related lenses, or visit the eBay discussion board "Building An eBay Business", where this very question has been asked almost daily for nearly as long as I've been contributing to the discussions held there. :)

      (And watch for more lenses on just this type of question!)

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Hi, and thanks for the valuable information. How do I get distributors to take me seriously? If I want to sell refurbished Logitech for example how do I go about doing that in a way that will get them to pay attention to me and getting a price that is going to allow me to be competitive on ebay.

    • profile image

      anonymous 10 years ago

      I WILL be an eBay power seller! I want to make this MY business. I have worked as an administrative secretary doing all the work, and reaping very little benefit. You have just helped me see a more clear picture of where I go from here... I can't thank you enough for the great information!