Do you WORK online or do you have an online BUSINESS?
As there’s a difference, a huge one in fact.
Over the years, I have been contacted by hundreds, probably thousands of eBay business owners seeking advice on how to improve their business, listings and so on. And almost in all cases the main thing I notice is that eBay sellers work very hard! Maybe even too hard…
Most people who sell on eBay are individuals who don’t have employees and therefore spend all their days doing everything on their own! I’m talking about such tasks as:
- Product sourcing
- Creating listings
- Order processing
- Order packaging / dispatching + returns
- Customer support
- and so on!
And they have to, right? As all small time traders are faced with these tasks when doing business on eBay. Yes, correct.
The problem is that most people spend TOO MUCH time on these tasks! They work crazy hours just to get everything done and even then, in many cases they earn less than minimum wage!
I’m sure one of the reasons you started your own business was to get out of the rat race and crazy hours you were working before and now you’re stuck doing the same thing, just in your own business and not someone else’s? So what’s the solution?
First and foremost – you need to start automating as many tasks and processes in your business as possible.
Yes, this means learning & USING new tools and software.
Yes, this means investing some money in those new tools and software.
Yes, this means that you should finally start working SMARTER and not HARDER!
This will be your first step towards having an online BUSINESS instead of having an online JOB!
So in this blog post I want to cover 10 basic eBay tools you can start using immediately to increase your productivity. These tools will help you free up your time from mundane daily tasks (with low return) and spend more time on tasks that can help you grow your business.
I know this is beginning to sound like a broken record but seriously – if you want to do proper research on eBay, you have to get a Terapeak subscription! There’s currently a 7 day free trial available and after that it’s $30 per month and you can un-subscribe any time you want. If you’re just starting out on eBay, this really is the best investment you can make for your business..
Usually, all you need is one month to research products and find a new niche to start in.
2. Listing Creation
If you’re still manually creating your listings using eBay’s interface, you’re losing out, big time! As it’s just so much quicker and easier to create listings using a proper listing tool. I personally use Turbo Lister for this task and it does the job. Plus it’s FREE! (you can never get too much of that, right?)
Yes, Turbo Lister is not perfect, I get that, BUT when you actually start working with it, it’s really not that bad at all. Just don’t click all over the place when it freezes – wait for some time and in most cases it will resume and go back to ‘working mode’. Just one important piece of advice with Turbo Lister; make sure you do weekly back-ups of your listings so you don’t lose any important data should disaster strike.
3. Image Management
If you’re serious about your eBay business, you can straight away forget about free image hosting websites such as Photobucket. Get your own hosting account & use a FTP client such as File Zilla to upload and manage your product pictures. This one tool alone can save you hours upon hours each month spent uploading and managing product images – especially if you have hundreds of live listings.
If you’re new to image hosting, take a look at my Image Hosting Video Tutorial here.
4. Listing Management/Scheduling
Here’s what I do – create one perfect eBay listing in Turbo Lister and save it. Then simply duplicate that listing for other items as well. All I have to do then is change the image URLs, description and shipping terms which takes less than 2 minutes for each new listing.
Scheduling – if you’re always waiting for the right time to list MANUALLY, you’ll love this! With Turbo Lister and a Selling Manager Pro (SMP) subscription you can schedule all your listings in bulk, upload to eBay and that’s it – It will automatically start listings based on your settings! Plus it’s all FREE when you have an SMP subscription.
And this is crucial to get right!!! Many newbie eBay sellers do it this way; they simply list items when they finish them – be it 10AM, 5PM or 2AM at night. While with BIN & ‘Good Till Cancel’ listings the end time really doesn’t matter, with AUCTIONS it’s very important to get this right. As right before it ends is when eBay gives the biggest boost to your listings in search results. That’s why you want to make sure to END your listings at the times when your potential buyers are online and in a buying mood. To find out what precise times are best for your listings, use Terapeak.
5. Stock Management
You need a system for stock management, period. And there are 2 major ways to go with this. The first one is to manage your stock levels through Selling Manager Pro. This gives you the option to add SKU numbers to items for easier integration with your eBay warehouse set-up. With SMP you can also set-up Low stock alerts which are very handy when dealing with hundreds of different items. And all this for just 5 quid per month.
Alternatively, you can look into more sophisticated cross platform selling solutions such as Linnworks. Not only will it manage your stock levels and help with order processing, it will also allow you to sell on Amazon and your own website using the same stock level and order processing system. Yes, there is a learning curve involved with this one but in the long term; it should definitely prove to be a prudent investment for your business.
6. Order Processing
If you’re still individually printing out each order from eBay and then manually creating invoices, labels and packing lists, then to put it bluntly – you’re lost. No, seriously – if that’s the case, then it really shows where the full time eBay work title comes from.
Order processing (printing invoices, labels, marking orders dispatched etc.) should be a one click operation. Selling Manager Pro, Linnworks and countless other tools allow you to BULK process your orders meaning you select all orders, make a few clicks and all orders will be processed, invoices created, packing lists and shipping labels printed, and marked as dispatched. There’s no reason at all not to take advantage of this.
7. Shipping Labels
This is a good one! I’m still surprised to see how many eBay sellers do this manually – copying & pasting each individual addressee into Excel, then printing them out on A4 sized paper, cutting them into pieces using scissors and then attaching the home-made ‘label’ to each package. WRONG!!! Again – there are no excuses for having such a time consuming process for something so simple!
Whether you use Integrated Labels or Dymo (thermal) labels, it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re using one! Linnworks integrates easily with both and with Selling Manager Pro, you can print out each integrated label individually OR by using one of the free tools provided by Integrated Labels to process all orders in bulk (most probably the best method).
Not only will this free up your time but it will make your packages look professional! Remember – thermo labels are water safe while ink jet print outs are not! So if you use integrated labels, print them using a Laser printer, not an Ink Jet one.
I personally leave feedback to buyers right after payment is made. But I don’t do it manually! Selling Manager Pro does this for me 24/7 and you can even customise the feedback messages it leaves for your buyers.
Another thing you want to watch out for is negative feedback. You will get much better results if you act on them as soon as they’re left as the quicker you respond to an unhappy buyer the better your chances of getting the negative feedback amended and maintaining your all import seller ratings! Selling Manager Pro will alert you immediately when you receive a negative feedback and that’s an incredibly helpful tool you should be taking advantage of.
Some people must really enjoy hard work, seriously! Very often I get hand written messages/e-mails from eBay sellers when I make a purchase to thank me for my custom. Which is a great touch of course BUT why do it manually?
Selling Manager Pro allows you to customize payment received, item dispatched and feedback reminder e-mails so they are sent out automatically and best of all you set the exact wording of the message that is sent so they can still be designed to look real and personal! The only difference is you don’t have to manually type out each one, so why not use this feature?
Next, the eMail tool you should be using is an auto-responder service such as aWeber (my personal choice) or MailChimp. I still don’t know why eBay sellers are so lazy in using new technology and improving their business and this is a prime –example – extra money is just being left on the table!!
If somebody purchases something from you, there’s a chance that if you provide a good service they will do the same in the future, right? YES, but the problem with eBay is that your customers will forget about your shop in a matter of days after receiving their package. And the next time they go on eBay looking for a similar item they’ll do a brand new search and chances are they’ll end up buying from one of your competitors rather than you!
You can fix this by using auto responders and building a customer e-mail list! So you can REMIND them about your company by sending out regular newsletters, sales promotions and special offers. If you have a website, this would be the easiest way to “funnel” your eBay customers to your eCommerce shop and avoid those eBay fees! The most effective way to do this is by sending out special discount codes which your customers can then redeem at your online shop. After all, who doesn’t like to receive a discount?
Lastly – accounting. I’ll be totally honest with you – I don’t know much about it and I have no plans to change that. I started outsourcing accounting from the day my first company went VAT registered. In my humble opinion, life is too short to be wasted on accounting tasks especially when you can pay someone to do a much better job for you. Plus this is a task where it’s really worthwhile getting an expert to take care of it for you as you really have to be on the edge all the time and continually learning to do your own books as laws and business accounting specific rules change every year.
But if you’re just starting out, as a self-employed business owner, you don’t have to outsource your accounting completely. All you need is someone who can prepare your tax return once a year (based on the invoices & receipts you have collected).
You can of course organize your books using an Excel spread sheet BUT why not use specialist tools, built specifically for this purpose? There are various online tools perfectly suited to small eBay traders’ accounts – most will have an import function which means you can import your sales data directly from eBay/PayPal which can save a lot of time! I don’t want to recommend any specific tool as I haven’t tested them personally but here are some of the UK’s most popular online accounting tools:
So, that’s the TOP 10 eBay tools to help you increase your productivity! I’m almost certain that when you implement all of these tools in your eBay business, you’ll reduce your work load dramatically and most importantly free up your time for the really productive tasks that will keep your business growing
To sum it up, here’s the list of tools I use to help me automate my eBay business:
- Turbo Lister
- Host Gator
- File Zilla
- Selling Manager Pro
- Dymo 450 Label Printer/ Integrated Labels
- Excel/Google Drive
Yes, some of these are paid tools but you really shouldn’t look at this as an expense. It’s an INVESTMENT.
Also, make sure you SAVE money whenever you can! For example, each year Terapeak runs a massive promotion on yearly accounts – offering huge savings. I’m on a yearly Terapeak account with access to ALL sites for just $17 a month (the regular price is $50 per month)…
The Linnworks local version is free to use…
Host Gator also runs regular promotions + you can use my coupon code to get $10 off your first invoice: ANDREWMINALTO
And if you’re starting just out, you can use Mail Chimp as your e-mail auto-responder as it offers a free account version. There are of course some limits though and it’s only free until you reach 2000 subscribers. Still, it’s perfect for people on a low budget.
So it’s not that bad when you sum it all up! The only significant expenses are the auto-responder account, Terapeak and Selling Manager Pro and all this together won’t cost you more than 50 quid per month BUT will give you countless benefits while definitely improving your productivity!
Have a great eBay tool I haven’t mentioned? Feel free to share it with our blog readers below, in the comments section.