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Outsourcing Parts of Your Operation

Focus on what you do best and hire out the stuff you don't.

Almost every online seller we’ve met has some aspect of the day-to-day routine that they would just rather not deal with. For some, it’s writing; for others it’s taking pictures. Others are expert at sourcing profitable merchandise but feel lost at the computer when it comes time to create listings.

If you find there are certain tasks that take all your time, leave you frustrated, or that you simply don’t know how to approach—when what you’d rather be working on is building your business—consider offloading some of the unwanted work. We’ve put together a few ideas for locating the kind of help you need.

Hire at home

The obvious first place to look for help is within your household or social circle. Many eBay sellers enlist spouses, older kids, siblings or friends to help out with their day-to-day operations, like packing and shipping, taking pictures or creating listings. For older kids, it can be a great way to stay busy during the summer, learn responsibility and even pick up a marketable skill for later on.

Just be sure to set some ground rules and expectations, in terms of hours and specific job duties, and work out the compensation details before the job starts. Sellers might pay their kids with “eBay credit,” i.e., an allowance to spend on eBay, rather than cash, or have them work toward a special reward like a new bike or game console.

There may be tons of students looking for part-time or occasional work to make a little extra dough

Feed a starving student

If you live in or near a college town, there are probably tons of students looking for part-time, or even occasional, work to make a little extra dough. Use the school’s job board to reach out to those who are hungry for an opportunity.

Maybe listing photography isn’t your bag. Post an ad on the job board for a photography student to shoot your product images once or twice a week, or as often as needed. Writing’s not your strongest suit? Need help creating content for Web pages or your blog? Check with the marketing, journalism or English departments. These are chock full of writers who would fit the bill.

Consider hiring a computer science major to help set up or administer your home-office network, or ask a Web development student to do some basic programming for your site.

If you’re unsure what kind of assignments are reasonable for students, and what’s acceptable in terms of pay, check with the school’s job placement adviser or the dean of the department.

Make an exchange

Perhaps you feel uncomfortable paying someone to assist with your online selling operation. Or maybe you’re low on cash and just need help with a one-off job. You might consider bartering, that is, offering some product or service in exchange for the work you need done.

There are lots of people out there with a skill to offer that would happily accept a non-cash payment. This could take the form of handyman work, mending some clothing, a used TV, or even cleaning out their garage and hauling the junk to the dump. Top-rated seller Rebecca Miller, who’s also a product analyst at Auctiva, once bartered for a haircut, offering to help the other party organize items for a garage sale—a job that’s right up her alley!

Peruse the barter listings on craigslist, and you’ll see that there are any number of things people are willing to trade for. Just use caution when dealing with someone you don’t know.

Hire a professional

When the kind of help you need requires proven expertise—like designing a template, Web site or logo—it can be well worth the expense to have the job done by a professional. Don’t know who to call? Check out talent-for-hire sites like elance and guru. On these sites, freelancers bid on specific jobs posted by businesses in need of help with technology, creative and business tasks and the hiring party can select from among the bidders.

Craigslist, local classifieds and job-seeker sites such as may also be good resources for finding local, qualified help within a specific discipline.

Create workflows with checklists that spell out every step in the process, and every detail to consider

Quality control

Whatever skill or task you decide to outsource, remember that the finished product reflects on you, as a seller. So make sure the service you are paying for not only fulfills the purpose but lives up to your standard of quality.

For example, if someone is doing your writing for you, always proofread their copy and then put it away and read it again before you publish it. Look not only for typos, grammar and incorrectly used words (e.g., your/you’re, their/there, to/too, etc.), but also make sure the content conveys the message you intended. If it’s an item description, it should include all the pertinent information in the appropriate order. This can be tricky for someone who doesn’t make eBay listings on a regular basis, so it could be helpful to create an outline or list of keywords and phrases to use for each product or category you sell in.

For repeatable jobs, such as packing and shipping or photographing and uploading images, it could be helpful to create workflows, or written procedures with checklists that spell out every step in the process, and every detail to consider. We do this here at Auctiva EDU to keep our editorial operations running smoothly and consistently—and trust us, if someone strays from the procedure, it can lead to mishaps! Make it clear to your helpers that they should follow your instructions to the letter and, when in doubt, they should ask questions.

Now that you have a few ideas of where to find help with your online operations, why not give yourself a break? You deserve it!

About the author

Crista Souza
Crista Souza is founding editor of A journalism graduate of San Jose State University, she spent 13 years as a business and technology reporter in Silicon Valley. Crista has been writing about B2C and C2C ecommerce since 2008. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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