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How to Become an eBay Consultant, Part 1

Successful business professionals weigh in with advice for the neo-expert.

You’ve been selling on eBay and/or other online marketplaces for years now. You’ve attained a degree of success. We’ll bet that, as a result, would-be online sellers ask you for advice all the time. If so, perhaps this is a good time for you to consider hanging out your shingle as an eBay consultant.

Now, we’ve heard all the jokes about consultants, how anybody with a briefcase can claim to be one. So, of course, you need to be able to back up your claims as you market yourself. That is, you must actually have some proven wisdom to share, wisdom worth paying for.

To help you chew a bit on the possibility of becoming an eBay consultant, we spoke with some highly successful consultants, some of whom concentrate on e-commerce, and some who don’t. In Part 1 of this two-part article we’ll share advice from consultants specializing in fields other than e-commerce.

Map out your approach

Pinny Cohen operates a full-service consulting firm that handles everything from website development to general marketing and business development. Through his firm PinMedia he works with all types of businesses, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers. Many are trying to better understand who their customers are, and how best to reach them. Hopefully, his clients improve their website conversion rates and boost sales.

To stand out from the crowd in the consulting world, you need to identify a philosophy that will permeate everything you do

As we describe in our book, How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, Cohen has worked with car dealership groups to “refine their sites and offline marketing, rug manufacturers to improve their tradeshow displays and boost distribution of their products, and restaurants to enhance their patrons’ dining experience.”

Here he shares his best advice for would-be consultants:

  1. Define the scope of your role. Always define in your arrangement or agreement with a client whether you will be merely advising them, or actually doing the hands-on work. The ideal situation in the consulting world is to get paid for access to your knowledge. You want to make sure you aren’t charging for access to your knowledge, and getting stuck doing the actual work as well.

  2. Identify your philosophy. To stand out from the crowd in the consulting world, you need to identify a philosophy that will permeate everything you do. The philosophy will encompass how you view your client, his or her customers and the marketplace. It will also speak to the method you will use to solve problems the client presents you. I have always believed that you can’t market efficiently “against the grain” of what customers truly want.

  3. Decide on a billing method. The two most common billing arrangements for a consultant are the retainer and the hourly rate. If you can enter a retainer arrangement with the client, you will generally both be happiest. This way, you will know the project is worthwhile and not be tempted to cut corners, and the client will know he has access to you pretty much whenever he needs. If you must bill hourly, always be sure your client is aware of, and approves the amount of time a task will take. The goal is to keep the client “holding the reins.”

  4. Establish your topic authority. Consultants get the jobs because they establish their topic authority for a certain field—they become experts in their niches. How can you establish topic authority for yourself in your niche? Some options include: Start a blog on that topic, get cited in books, magazines and on the Web, and speak at small gatherings of business people. The more you establish your topic authority, the more clients will feel confident going with you as their choice.

Strut your stuff

Tamar Weinberg is a digital and social media consultant whom we profiled in an Auctiva EDU article about creating great business blogs. We mentioned in that article that Weinberg is in great demand, and is able to justify a fee of $200 per half-hour for phone consultations. She shares with us what she thinks are the two most important things for new consultants to know.

Make yourself known so that others who have similar specialties can help you, and of course, so that you can help them

“Have an online presence (and strut your stuff),” Weinberg advises. “In our local communities, there are practitioners who specialize in just about everything. But word of mouth in real-life circles can only go so far. An online presence gives you the benefit of being found when people are searching for exactly what you specialize in. That gives you the benefit of being found globally.

“I’ve had clients from companies local to me in New York City, and as far as New Zealand, because they were able to find me online, and because I use my blog to empower others,” she continues. “Don’t give away everything, but make it known that you know a good deal so that they will hire you to apply your knowledge for their benefit.”

Yes, Weinberg feels a website where you market your consulting services is crucial. But she believes it’s also important to get out there and let people get to personally know you.

“Network with your online community at local events,” she advises. “I’m part of two major communities, and both of them have conferences where most of the major players are. If you have a presence, people want to know who you are. Make yourself known so that others who have similar specialties can help you, and of course, so that you can help them. At the end of the day, you’ll find yourself getting referrals and perhaps links to your website to bolster your online presence.”

Always give your best

Now, aside from writing books and articles, Deb and I have had quite a few consulting projects over the years. We’ve done everything from help a new fashion website launch to assist first-time authors in getting their books off the ground.

Our advice? No matter who you’re working with, always do your best possible work. This is especially important when you’re just getting started and building your client base. A happy client will, hopefully, refer you to other prospective clients, and personal referrals like that are pure gold. At a minimum, a satisfied client should be willing to write a recommendation you can use on your website, LinkedIn profile or wherever else you market yourself.

In Part 2 of this article, we’ll speak with some eBay consultants who have parlayed their knowledge into lucrative consulting sidelines.

About the author

Brad & Debra Schepp
Brad and Debra Schepp are the authors of 20 books, including eBay PowerSeller Secrets and The Official Success Guide: Insider Tips and Strategies for Sourcing Products from the World's Largest B2B Marketplace. Their most recent book is How to Find a Job on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Brad is also a literary agent for Waterside Productions. For further information, visit the couple's website, Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Wayne Odle

     I am the best type of an ebay member becausew I honestlt doI care about my clients wants and needs. Ebay members need to understand that making money is just a part of your life. The real markof each member to acheive is how you treat individuals when you are not profiting from them. This is a true gauge of each individual member. Offering correct information is always my goal, then let the client decide whats best for them.
    Wayne Odle ebay id wayneswatchworldinc 

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