One of the biggest barriers people face when opening a business are the starting costs. Thankfully, with advances in technology and payment systems, there are now a low of small businesses you can start with little or even no money. You can create a profile on sites like Elance and get started with promoting your freelance services in half an hour. The same thing goes with setting up an online store on Ebay and joining the 150,000 Britons who use it to generate a new source of income.
A friend of mine did just that a couple of years ago, and started selling toys out of his basement. The strategy was simple: get half a dozen toys that promise to be a hit next Christmas, wait until early December when desperate parents forgot to buy the toy and it is getting scarce, and resell for a profit. What was a seasonal side hustle soon became a part time job, as he an his wife spent a couple of hours each evening answering emails, packing and shipping toys, and invoicing customers. A few years back, with no internet to place orders, one of them would have had to quit his full time job to get started on the new business. Now they could even print postage online in a matter of minutes, instead of going to the post office during working hours.
That fantastic flexibility allowed them to keep their stable income while growing their business, until they grossed enough for one of them to quit his job, and the other to follow a few months later.
While I am not a seller at heart, and usually do much better selling skills than stuff, I gave Ebay a shot on a few occasions. When moving out, instead of leaving half my belongings on the sidewalk for some lucky broke student to reuse, I decided to list part of it online, and actually made quite a bit of money.
Even if you aren’t taking things really seriously, and selling things online is just a hobby for now, try to do the best you can, as the price you will get for your item will be a direct correlation of the efforts you put in. Have you ever seen those ads with no pictures, or a blurry one, with little description, and so on? They are great if you are on the buyer’s side, to grab a bargain as no one pays attention to them. However, as a seller, you want the best price possible.
So get your camera, not your phone’s camera, and take the best picture you can. Take several, edit them if necessary to cut the unnecessary piece of kitchen table where you took your shot. Take a macro picture of the details you want to focus on.
Then be as thorough as possible with your description. Explain why your item is great, but remember to be honest and talk about the not so good parts as well. Tell potential buyers why they are getting a bargain, why you are selling your item, if it is for parts or because you are not using it anymore, and describe everything that is included in the price, like a charger, a case, etc.
If it is your first time selling something online, be realistic with your shipping costs and delivery times. Better safe than sorry. You can look up online different shipping options and parcels, if the estimated shipping time is three days, but you know you will be too busy to ship on the same day the order is placed, offer to deliver in five days. Your buyer will be free to accept or go shop elsewhere, however, your profile won’t be tarnished by a negative reference.
If anything, customer service is key. When you get started, even more. Communicate with your buyer if anything goes wrong, be quick in offering an alternative solution, or a full refund. We live in a great technological world where customers love to publish their opinions online, and unhappy customers can break you, like happy customers can make you very successful. So treat them really, really well. Listen to what they need and give it to them.
Finally, remember that making extra money is great, but you need to be reporting your earnings to HMRC. You can register as self employed from the beginning, and bear in mind that if you start making more than £68,000, you will have to register for VAT as well.
While it seems like a long way ahead, you are not risking much by starting a small online business as a side gig, and earning potentials can be huge if you put in the right amount of effort and dedication.