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Your eBay & eCommerce Questions Answered #50

December 21, 2015 by Andrew Minalto - 23 Comments
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questions-answers-50Welcome Back!

This is it – our last Questions & Answers blog post for this year! 🙂

Over the course of 2015 you have sent in more than 300 questions and at least half of them have been published in the 35 instalments of our Questions & Answers blog posts.

If you didn’t already know – you can find links to ALL previous Q&A posts on my blog’s archive page here. There you’ll also find links to ALL posts that have ever been published on this blog (250+ and counting).

I’m so happy that I stuck to my goal of reaching 50 Q&A posts this year and even though everyone is busy with Christmas, I still received a few questions over the last week to cover in today’s post:

  • How to make good profit on eBay selling cheap items?
  • Do you do paid reviews Andrew?
  • Is the flat rate VAT scheme best for eBay sellers?
  • How to add your physical shop to Google Maps?
  • How to put text right next to the product image in eBay listings?

Without further ado, let’s get started!

Hi Andrew,

I’ve been reading a lot of articles on your blog, and really felt that I could make something of a small business. I have barely any spare money so I was hoping that selling some small items for a few months would enable me to get a little bit more money to put back into the business.

As it is, I’m actually losing money on the first ‘stock’ item I’m listing! I’m crushed. I was working towards TSR status as you said – and I was willing to ‘pay’ for this by not making much on items at first, but with eBay fees, PayPal fees, postage and packaging, and original product price, I’m making 68p. Not even including the domain I have for £8 a month for the business email.

The breakdown of the product I have atm is as follows:

Buy for: 99p
Sell for: £3.50 (the going rate) +free P+P (as advised)
P+P: 39p (packaging) + 50p (post)
eBay list fee: 26p
eBay final value fee: 32p
PayPal fees: 32p

Profit = 72p.

Yes I could reduce the packaging cost by using different jiffy bags, but that’s still a profit of about 90p on each item. I cannot foresee snowballing a business in this way. Do you have any advice, or should I just pack it in?


Hi Sarai,

You may not realise it but you’re actually doing very well! Making 72p profit on an item you sell for just £3.50 on eBay – that’s actually considered a very good profit margin.

If you switch to cheaper packaging (39p for a small jiffy bag is way too much) AND switch to PayPal micro payments, your profit will be £1+.

That means that you’re making 100%+ return on your investment, if your product purchase cost is 99p. And that’s an excellent profit margin on eBay!

You just need to work towards getting Top rated seller status (which by the way will further reduce your eBay fees) and expand your product range to dozens, and in the future – hundreds of product lines. Then you can turn these cheap items into a full time business.

Hi Andrew,

I am writing to you because I think your blog is great and you seem to have a very large following.

I have a product which I originally invented for my son and then realised it has potential to sell to other families so I have patented it and am now about to start manufacturing. I don’t know if you do this or not, but what if I sent you a free sample of the product so you could try it for yourself. If you like it and agree that it works, I would pay you to write a nice blog about the brand new product. I know bloggers do this, just not sure if you do as well. Please let me know.


Hi Robert,

It’s great to hear that you have invented & even patented a new product. That’s awesome!

But I’m afraid I can’t do such paid blog reviews. It’s just something I don’t and never will do. I only write about products/services that are related to online/eBay/eCommerce businesses that I have personally have found useful and valuable in my business.

Good luck with the product anyway!

Hi Andrew,

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you but I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a while now and after starting our online retail business 6 months ago, we are coming up to the VAT threshold in the next few weeks and I wanted to pick your brains on a very specific query that I’m hoping you might have some personal experience in.

We are taking the advice on your site and going for the Flat Rate Scheme, as it seems like the most tax efficient way after taking everything into account.

My query relates to the VAT we currently pay on incoming air stock shipments from China.

As I’m sure you’re aware, the VAT is estimated by customs (I guess simply on weight and appearance) and we always end up underpaying the VAT, sometimes quite substantially. My question is, simply, will this be an issue once we register for the VAT Flat Rate Scheme?

Is it a non-issue or do we somehow have to top up the outstanding VAT when custom’s estimation comes out at under 20%?

I did discuss this with our accountant but he doesn’t seem hugely clued up on the ins and outs of VAT and initially advised us against the Flat Rate Scheme so I thought it’d be wise to get an opinion of someone directly in the business.

VAT seems like such a daunting step for our business (one step forward, two steps back comes to mind) and this is really the last thing I need to figure out before proceeding so any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Kind regards,

Hi Jack,

The first thing I want to say is that it’s simply unbelievable how under-qualified some accountants can be. You’re not the first person to write asking for advice on an accounting topic, saying that their accountant has no clue about how it works. And to me thatís just crazy as it’s what they’re paid to do!

I’m not an accountant (far from it) but even I have a better understanding on how these things work.

So advice number one – find a better accountant.

Secondly, the VAT you have paid on previous imports – VAT is NOT calculated on weight or appearance of the goods/packages you import. VAT is calculated on the VALUE of your order! I.e. the price you paid for those goods to your supplier in China (or whichever country). So if your orders have been undervalued and you’ve paid less VAT than you should have done, this is most likely because your supplier put a smaller value on the customs declaration.

To avoid this happening in the future, always ask/remind your supplier to attach the REAL invoice to your order, showing the correct value of the goods and shipping, so that customs can properly calculate your due taxes.

Lastly – if you sign-up for the flat rate VAT scheme, you’ll pay 7.5% VAT on your turnover (sales) BUT you won’t be able to claim ANY VAT back on purchases (including the VAT you’ll pay on imported goods).

Whether or not this is the right decision for your business depends entirely on your numbers. An accountant should really look at your expenses and calculate how much VAT you can claim back, and how that relates to the VAT you’ll pay on sales. Only then can you make an informed decision, and it really is necessary for either you or your accountant to take a proper look at the figures.

Hope this helps!

Dear Andrew,

My wife and I recently discovered your website and we love your tutorials! My wife thinks of you as the don of the internet, and eBay in particular.

We were hoping to get your advice on something, even though it isn’t directly related to eBay (though we do plan to expand on to their soon, with the help of all your tutorials!).

My wife opened a prom dress shop about 6 months ago but no matter what we do, we can’t seem to get on Google Maps as a large “handbag” type icon.

We’ve obviously registered with them as a business, and we had the postcard sent to our actual shop address, but still if you search for prom shops in the area we don’t show up! At most we have a little red dot despite having filled in a Google Plus profile and checking the right boxes about being an actual shop rather than someone who just delivers around this area.

We thought it could be because we don’t have any reviews but then we noticed that other featured stores don’t have any either, so it can’t just be that.

If you do have the answer, that would be brilliant!

Even if you can only point us in the right direction so that we are one step closer to sorting this, as we did try ringing Google but they only seemed interested in us paying them money to advertise but I don’t think these other stores have paid to be shown on Google Maps.

Sorry to have taken up so much of your time and I hope you can help us.

Steve and Alison

Hi Steve and Alison,

The verification process DOES NOT guarantee that your shop will actually appear on the map.

It’s Google’s algorithm that determines which shops they show and which they don’t. This is mostly related to your websiteís rankings in Google – meaning if your website ranks in the top positions for those keywords, they will show on the map too.

So what you really need to do is work more on your shop’s SEO – get your website ranked higher in search results and then you have a chance of Google adding your info to their map as well.

Hi Andrew,

I can’t figure out how best to insert text next to a picture, what would you recommend? At present, each picture occupies an entire line. Would I need to create a jpeg of the text using paint or something similar and insert it like that?

Also I can’t seem to enter a valid URL for the gallery picture. I’ve tried using both the link and embed URL’s from Picassa web albums, which work fine in the html, but neither is recognised as a gallery picture by Turbo Lister.


Hi Tim,

There are two ways to do this:

1) Yes, you could create an image with TEXT already on one side. The downside to this is that it’s technically against eBay’s rules (eBay does not allow description text to be an image file) plus it may look bad from a formatting point of view, as it won’t match properly with the rest of your description text.

IF you just need to add a few words/specs, you can do it this way but if it’s a paragraph of text, you need to use method no. 2.

2) The second option would be to include a table with 2 rows and 2 columns so you can use one side for the image and the other side for text. You can use an online table generator to get this done, like this one:


Make sure you set correct sizes, borders with no colour, and no background colour – so essentially this table won’t be visible to your customers and it just acts as the layout to format your text right next to the image.

As for gallery images – you don’t have to host them on your own! Upload them to eBay as they don’t charge for gallery images anymore. There’s one small trick you need to use to make this work though:

Turbo Lister’s Hosted Image Problem SOLVED!

Hope this helps & Merry Christmas! 🙂


Okay, thatís it for today.

Even though I’m going silent on the blog for a few weeks now, you can still keep sending in your questions via the contact page here to get them featured in the first Q&A post of 2016 – in the 2nd week of January!


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  1. Hi Andrew, thanks for answering my message about the product is not popular anymore, so which wholesalers are you recommend me to go?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Itschok,

      Thanks for your comment.

      You don’t start with suppliers/wholesalers – you start with market research – find products you want to sell and THEN look for suppliers.

      You have my EAB course so please start watching Market Research module and take step by step approach I teach in the course.


  2. […] year we reached the magical 50th post right before Christmas and I really hope this year you’ll stay active and keep sending in your […]

  3. Vicky Buckle

    Hi Andrew,
    I have managed to finally identify a product I would like to import but I am now struggling to find a supplier willing enough to do a low MOQ. I have followed your advice about getting the order quantity you want but the lowest I have managed to get is around 125 cartons which is about 2250 pcs and 3.5k! Ideally i wanted to order around 200 pcs but would stretch to 500. I have tried a number of suppliers and did consider ali express but profit margins are so low there. One supplier was willing to do 200pcs but would only quote ex works price. I have become a bit unstuck, any advice?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Vicky,

      Well, importing is all about buying in BULK. With some products you simply can’t avoid this axiom…

      But have you tried checking out Alibaba Wholesaler?



      1. Vicky Buckle

        Hi Andrew,
        Thanks for replying. I didnt know about Alibaba Wholesaler so thank you, good to know as looks like some good deals on low orders. I think i may finally have found a supplier on Alibaba – the price is naturally alot more but think I feel more comfortable with the quantity and initial investment as a first timer.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Sounds good Vicky! 🙂

      3. Vicky Buckle

        One more thing if you dont mind Andrew. I have been reading about VAT on various posts. I am a little confused. I am not a registered company as this is my first import and I only just started selling my own belongings on ebay over the last 2 months. I am on maternity leave so I am a VAT payer through my job but should I register for VAT separately and set up as a company. I am using a freight forwarder but they are asking if I am a registered for VAT and for the EORI number. I did not think i would have to do all that at this stage. Thanks Vicky

      4. Andrew Minalto

        Hi Vicky,

        No, you should completely ignore VAT at this stage.

        Whoever asks you for VAT number, just say that you’re NOT VAT registered and don’t have a VAT number. DON’T register for it!


        P.S. VAT has nothing to do with your employment/salary/maternity leave 🙂

  4. Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for sharing great insights on your website.

    I am looking to import some goods from China. Based on samples I bought in the past, I know they would have to be quality checked once manufactured and before shipping to me. Can you recommend a good QA company in China? Also, what warranties can I secure if the goods don’t match specifications despite their approval?

    Thanks in advance.



    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Lola,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I have tested several times Richforth and Front-Line Enterprise from Alibaba inspection services page and they both are very good:


      You get very detailed reports/tests done with dozens of close up images, specific tests performed so if there are problems with the products, they will be pointed out in inspection report.


      1. Thanks Andrew.

      2. Andrew Minalto

        You’re welcome Lola!

  5. Hello Andrew,
    Happy New Year…
    I found your site just recently by reading your eToro posts, which lead me to this website.
    I am not sure what is the best way to contact you directly and not your customer service so I am trying this comment as it seems you answer them. Hope that is ok.
    I am in a situation where I am needing to change my work life around, nothing was working, my own company did not make sense and even though I have a Stanford Graduate Degree I am obviously not doing something right. And rather than trying it on my own all over again, I feel I would benefit from a professional guidance at the beginning this time. I have beautiful andalusian horses, who do not have a home of their own yet and cost incredible amount of money monthly and if I do not make things happen, I might end up losing them. And this brings me to my question to you….out of all your programs you are offering, what would you recommend to me? Or is it possible to maybe just pay you for a intro conversation or whatever we could call it to discuss my situation in more details and then see what would make most sense to do next?
    Thank you for your time, I much appreciate it.
    Kind regards, Barbora

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Barbora,

      Thanks for your comment & Happy New year!

      If you’re interested in eCommerce/selling online, I would recommend you start with eBay as it is the fastest way to get started. I have a special video course which teaches you exactly how to do this over 15+ hours of videos:


      Then, when you’re all set-up on eBay, you can look into expanding your business on Amazon as well as your own online shop, for which I have a separate course here:


      Hope this helps! 🙂


      1. Barbora

        Hi Andrew,
        thank you very much…I have been browsing your sites before reading this answer, purchased the ecommercemagnates course first just because that is where I failed most recently and for some reason really wanted to get through that material first. I guess live and learn is my current approach 🙂 However, since both this and the easyauctionbusiness course have a free online chat session included with you, I figured I would buy both, go through both first and then use my two chat sessions with you to sort through it all and try to make sense from everything. If that would be enough or maybe I would need few more chat sessions with you, then we could do that, if not enough and I feel like I would benefit more from your 60 day personal coaching program, we could do that at that point.
        Do you think this would make sense?
        Thank you for your time,

      2. Andrew Minalto

        Yes, absolutely, I think it’s a good plan! 🙂

        And Thanks for your purchase!


  6. Hi Andrew

    Happy New Year.

    Three Quickies

    1. What’s your view on selling higher price-point ‘new’ or ‘used’ items on eBay that yield a Net Profit Per Sale of at least £25, instead of lots of low profit items? I’m looking to find an eBay Model where, the long-term aim is ‘not’ to process tons of orders each day, nor to ultimately employ staff to undertake high volume order processing. I’d prefer to be a one-man, home based business, shipping just a few products each day / week, with a revenue objective (after – say – 12 / 18 Months) of around £1000 Net Per Month for a 40 Hour Week. Am I deluding myself with this notion? (I appreciated that – to quickly grow initial feedback and achieve TRS Status – low price items are the way to go for th first few months).

    2. Should eBay Sellers also be taking advantage of prominent Online Classified Ads Sites as additional Sales Outlets / Lead Source? Or is it your view that the time would be better spent putting greater effort into improving eBay Sales rather than working simultaneously on both eBay and a Classified Ads Site?. (If Online Classified Sites nicely ‘compliment’ eBay Selling, maybe you’d consider doing a Post on how to make use of them alongside an eBay Business?)

    3. Is there an existing Post about promoting ‘services’ on eBay or is there innsuffient scope on eBay to focus exclusively on Service Promotion?

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Martin,

      Happy New Year!

      1. It is possible. BUT you either need a very large budget to buy in high volume from China (say at least £20k-£30k) and pick products you sell very carefully, re-brand them with your own brand, even add extra functionality to make them unique. More info here:


      Another approach would be to create unique products on your own as this won’t require that large investment:


      2. Depends on the product really. If it’s a cheap, every day item, you really will be better off spending your time/energy on eBay/Amazon/Your website directly. But if it’s a more unique product with smaller demand/higher price point, you can of course use other online websites/marketplaces/classified ads sites to get extra exposure and traffic to your listings.

      3. I will do a post like this early this year, so stay tuned!


  7. Alan McGinlay

    Hi Andrew,

    First of all I really enjoy your site and it’s given me lots of useful advice. I started my eBay shop after reading your website and especially your article on starting a business with £50.. I was off sick from work and it gave me something to focus on while I was getting better. I’m carrying on with my business now I’m back at work, putting more money into it and still really enjoying it. I continue to check into your site every week for advice!

    I’ve now gone back to full time work as a chartered accountant and really agree with what you’re saying to Jack above. Your accountant definitely should not be advising on an area they are not knowledgable in. They should also be honest enough to say when they cannot provide the expertise. Just as you get engineers who work with planes you’ll get engineers who work with trains that can’t tell you anything about a Boeing 747! Accountancy is a large field and not all accountants can be an expert in all areas.

    In my opinion it’s important to shop around for your accountant/financial advisor and question their areas of expertise I.e what you’re paying your money for! Don’t assume that the person that’s done your personal tax return for 10 years is the right person to advises your fast growing retail business importing from multiple countries.

    Also I think people shouldn’t be afraid to change their accountant if the needs of their business outgrows their current accountant/firm. You should be getting value for money and, most importantly, the right advice to comply with all laws and regulations!

    Happy New Year and all the best for 2016!

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Thanks Alan for excellent advice/insights! 🙂

      Happy New Year to you too!


  8. Simon Walton

    Hello Andrew,
    I have a question about Terapeak and exactly how to use it for Amazon research.

    Could you please explain how to access this feature, I have emailed Terapeak but they have not got back to me yet!

    I appreciate your help, bye the way finished reading, watching and taking notes from the Easy Auction Business course and absolutely love what you have done there.
    I still have not decided what to sell yet, will research properly over next couple of weeks before making my decision as to a niche or an all in one!

    Thanks in advance Simon

    1. Andrew Minalto

      Hi Simon,

      Thanks for your comment.

      They have taken down Amazon research function for now (since few weeks ago) so that’s why you can’t find that function anymore.

      I don’t know whatever it’s temporary or permanent change though.


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