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Selling on eBay as an eBay Consignment Specialist

How I got my start consigning on eBay

Learning how to begin eBay consignment sales might seem like a difficult task, but I recently discovered it’s not so hard once you take the first step.

I had never considered taking on consignors as a viable business element. It can be somewhat intimidating to think about expanding like that. Not only do you have to put yourself out there and present yourself as a professional to attract clients, but you also become responsible for other peoples’ things.

Client No. 1: My mom

A vintage Hewlett Packard scientific calculator—which was purchased at a yard sale for $1—sold for $51

After recently moving to a small town, I needed more income, so I beefed up my eBay listings. My mother watched me construct several eBay sales and then started giving me things to sell on her behalf.

I was more than happy to help her. Not only do I love getting rid of things I no longer use, but I also enjoy helping others do the same.

My mother agreed, noting that she didn’t want to do all the listing work herself, but saw that I enjoyed doing it. Besides that, she’s getting some extra spending money from things that otherwise would have sat in the attic or been sent to thrift shops.

“I’m tired of giving everything away because we don’t have time to do garage sales,” she notes.

The first thing my mother gave me to sell was a pack of unopened bottles of Niacin. Someone in Florida bought two of them, and the other two also sold. After that, we started listing her books, jewelry, DVDs and other items.

Although I recently had a good sell-through of my own personal library, my mother’s books didn’t sell, but we’ve been surprised by some things that have sold. Her Nikken magnetic therapy necklace sold for $180, and a vintage Hewlett Packard scientific calculator—which was purchased at a yard sale for $1—sold for $51.

Other successful sales include DVDs of TV series, long-reach staplers, food dehydrators and a chainsaw sharpener. So far, my mother has been happy with the outcome of our new partnership. She appreciates that someone else does the legwork so she can avoid hosting yard sales.

“It’s easier, takes less time and I make more money,” she says.

Friends get on board

Bonne says the reason she wanted to consign her stuff is nearly the same reason as my mother. “I don’t want to do the work, and I don’t want to have that hanging over my head”

Soon enough, her friends caught wind of the new income my mother was making and said they were interested in consigning through me as well.

The first gal I talked to had a large curio cabinet filled with a lifetime collection of Princeton Gallery unicorn figurines. After some research to see how similar items have sold, we were disappointed by the low numbers.

While collectors had spent as much as several hundred per figurine years back, they are now only selling for a pittance of the original investment. We decided it was in both our interests to not pursue eBay as a marketplace for her collection.

I recently met with the second contact, Vera Bonne. She’s been remodeling her home and getting rid of everything she no longer needs or uses. We decided to start with a few simple things, so we could get a feel for how our new relationship will work. She promised that I will get a chance to list her library of antique books and other high-value items sometime soon.

Bonne says the reason she wanted to consign her stuff is nearly the same reason as my mother.

“I don’t want to do the work, and I don’t want to have that hanging over my head,” she reports.

While listing stuff on eBay isn’t hard to learn, Bonne says she still wants more independence. If she does the selling herself, she will want to maintain a high seller score, but doesn’t want to worry about shipping items immediately.

“I don’t like the restraints it puts on me,” she adds.

Figuring out consignment fees

When I was selling for my mother, I did it for free, but I used it as an opportunity to start learning how to set up consignments. I use Auctiva’s listing software for most of my eBay sales, and it has a great template for managing eBay consignment items and consignor information.

I began by creating several basic consignment plans based on fixed percentages I would charge for my services and creating accounts for new clients. When my clients’ items are listed and sold, they will receive an automatic email that keeps them updated on the progress.

I also created a simple Excel document so clients can get an idea of how much they can expect to net.

Based on this format, Bonne would pay the fees for listing and selling her items, plus an agreed-upon commission. She thought this was too complicated, so we decided to negotiate an easier plan. After all fees are paid on a sale, we would divide the remaining amount based on our agreed-upon commission.

I believe the best way to break the ice is by starting at home with friends and family, and let word-of-mouth do the expansion of clientele for you

I went home to reconstruct another Excel document to see how the spoils would divide according to our new fee schedule. The numbers are certainly different. Bonne will receive a heavier amount of the pocket money, but I believe it is still a fair exchange.

There are other, slightly more complicated ways of figuring out a commission plan based on a variable scale.

For example, you can charge a 15-percent commission for sales under $50, and 10-percent for sales $51 or more. Or you can charge 15 percent for the first $25, then another 10 percent for the remaining sale value, and so forth.

As I become more accustomed to selling on consignment, I expect to eventually adopt these variable rates. But for now, I want this experience to be easy and fun for both myself and my clients.

For those of you out there who have been curious about starting consignment sales on eBay, I believe the best way to break the ice is by starting at home with friends and family, and let word-of-mouth do the expansion of clientele for you.

Do you consign? If so, I’d love to hear your story, what you’ve learned, and what tips and tricks you can share.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • I have been an eBay consignor for many years now, and after killing myself using my own time consuming spreadsheets, just found an amazing spreadsheet program sold on eBay. It is “run” by a husband and wife team whose customer service is AMAZING!! It is called “Easy Auctions Tracker” for a mere $49.99 a year.

  • I consign, and my biggest problem is having enough time to list all the items. And I’m not being facetious. I was contacted by a retiring MD who wanted me to help close out his office. Before we could get all that sold, his family decided to downsize, and asked me to help liquidate the contents of his house. And I already had two consignment customers bringing a steady stream of items.

    Looking back, at some point I should have realized that there was too much work for one person, but I didn’t. As a result, I ended up with a huge backlog of items, and agitated customers who wanted to know when they would get their money.

    Fortunately for me, they were super nice people, willing to let me pay them a lump sum for all the items. But for now, I’ve taken my name off the TA list.

  • I sell almost exclusively by consigning other people’s items. I also have a backlog, and I view that as a double-edged sword. I am very clear with potential clients that it will be months before I can handle their items. Sometimes if a client only has a few items, or they are especially high-end, I will bump them up in the line, but otherwise it is first come, first served. I have also increased my commission several times since I began, and so far it has not hurt my business at all. On the contrary, I seem to be attracting clients with nicer items. My commission at this point is 40%, and I split the fees with my clients.

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