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How I Gave Up My Day Job
Member Name: assethound
Date: 12/03/03, updated on 19/06/03 (954 review reads)
Advantages: Great way to earn money
Disadvantages: Could land you with a tax bill
In June 2001 I came across the UK Ebay site. Less than two years later I am the breadwinner of our family - and it all comes from trading on Ebay.
My first impressions of Ebay were that it was an excellent way to earn money online - but I had no idea when I listed my first book for auction that I would realise a massive profit and take the first steps towards a job that would support my family.
The book cost me 20p and I sold it to an American for £36.00.
I didn't believe it either.
After this initial success I bought more books - including a big lot from another Ebay seller, and made a few hundred pounds on an investment of about £150.
I branched out into more different items as I slowly realised the potential to earn money from selling online.
My partner is a computer contractor, and earned most of the money - my Ebay earnings were a great way of gaining some financial independence, and I had a job in a local Post Office too, which meant that suddenly I was earning a small but reasonable amount of money.
It wasn't enough to support the family yet, but I realised the business had a lot of potential to grow - in fact the potential was limited only by the amount of time and effort I was prepared to spend on it..
It got to August, and I had a decision to make.
Would I go back to the Masters degree in Computing that I was doing part-time, or would I put more energy into my Ebay business?
After evaluating my progress, my partner and I decided that the best course would be to stick with Ebay.
Over the initial couple of months I had taught myself HTML to make my listings better, and had realised that this Ebay business could mean working from home successfully with the added bonus of transferable skills I could take to a future job if I chose.
Working from home was great - I could be there for my daughter, and be very flexible about how much work I did on E
I still kept the Post Office job, to make sure I had a regular wage coming in, and watched my business grow.
In April 2002 my partner went to the doctor after experiencing some odd symptoms - his legs felt heavy, and he had a problem with the vision in one eye.
He had just started another contract, which involved driving for several hours a day, and initially put it down to the stress of starting a new job combined with the travelling.
I walked my daughter to school while he dropped in at the doctor's surgery - neither of us was prepared for the result.
The doctor informed him that he almost certainly had Multiple Sclerosis.
Reeling from this news he met me at the school gates, and by that afternoon felt weaker.
Only a few days later he couldn't take a shower without sitting down, and I had to help him get dressed.
Over the next couple of months he had the diagnosis confirmed by his specialist, and after going back to work part-time for a short while, finally had to stop work altogether.
We had gone from earning a good wage to almost nothing in a few months.
He got Statutory Sick Pay - which isn't a lot, and I had first taken a few weeks off to look after him, and then decided to give up work altogether to help him over the next few months of recovery from this relapse.
There was another reason too.
I decided that if he couldn't earn money to keep us at this point, I was going to do it.
I threw myself into the Ebay business and it has paid off.
From selling one book, I now sell hundreds of items a week, and make enough money to keep us - not in riches yet - but it may well work out that way.
I looked at what I needed to do to maximise my sales, and decided that if you sell a lot of different things Ebay is not an ideal way of displaying your stock.
I put my HTML to good use and built a website
my customers to see what I sold - and also to see items I was selling in other categories.
I link to all my Ebay auctions from this website, and have found it increased my sales as well as being a useful tool for me to use when dealing with enquiries - all I have to do is to send a link in an email to the appropriate page.
I decided to use Seller's Assistant Pro to organise my listings - I use this to minimise the time spent on administration, and to list and re-list quickly.
This is essential - as I have nearly 1700 customers now ? and their number is growing all the time.
I have watched my feedback grow from 0 to over 1900, and take great satisfaction in the comments I get from satisfied customers.
We will shortly have another addition to our family - our baby is due in eleven days time, and I have been able to fit my Ebay work around the pregnancy as I can control how much work I do by reducing or increasing the numbers of auctions I run.
We could have been in a desperate situation now - I worked part-time locally, and to take on a full-time job would have meant long hours and low wages, and missing out on spending time with my daughter. We certainly wouldn't have been able to contemplate having another child.
Instead we are looking forward to a bright future, and what looks now to be potentially a very successful business which will be enough to keep our family going without my partner having to worry about working if he is ill - having less stress should keep him fitter for longer.
I used to joke that one day I would earn more than him - you should be careful what you wish for because it might just come true - I meant that we would both earn a lot.
Looking back on the last couple of years I have gained enormously from my association with Ebay.
I am much more confident, my partner has a lot of respect for me and my development of this business,
and we don
e to worry about where the next meal is coming from!
Here then are my tips for success on Ebay:
1 - Make your listings clear and provide as much information as possible - not only will you get more bids and make more sales, but you will spend a lot less time dealing with email enquiries.
2 - Give good customer service and answer emails quickly before the backlog builds up - ideally you want your customers to come back again and again.
3 - Always communicate with your buyers - and sellers - most people on Ebay are one person operations, so sometimes things go wrong. I had chickenpox at Christmas, and had to delay posting out goods to several customers - they were fine about it as I emailed them to explain the situation, offering a refund if they didn't wish to proceed with the deal ? and they were all happy to wait a few days.
4 - Treat each customer with respect - very few customers turn out to be a problem. I have had a few customers who were rude in emails, but the best response is to be polite and professional - you will find that in most cases they apologise, and you have gained a long term customer, and the others you can always stop from bidding on your auctions with the satisfaction that you were polite even if they weren?t.
5 - Accept as many methods of payment as you can - I use Nochex, PayPal, FastPay, cheque and Postal Order payments, the majority of my customers pay with PayPal and pay me straight away.
6 - Exercise your judgement in dealing with credit card and cheque payments - I tend to deal in relatively small amounts of money so I haven't had any problems yet, and no-one has bounced a cheque on me - but be aware that this could happen.
7 - Don't give feedback too soon - you have 90 days to do it, and I have had goods returned by the Post Office 4-5 weeks after a sale because the customer wasn't in and they haven't picked them u
p at the depot
- one of the tw
o negative feedback comments I have said I hadn't sent the goods - I had - he just hadn't picked them up from the Post Office and had not emailed me to ask me where the goods were. In the meantime I had given the customer good feedback, and then had to deal with a negative I didn't deserve.
8 - Build up a good relationship with your suppliers - this will get you a long way - and everyone likes to deal with polite and positive people - it may just get you discounts too!
9 - This is important - ENJOY YOURSELF! There is no point in working for yourself if it makes you miserable.
10 - This is just as important - be aware of tax issues - you will have a tax liability if you sell for profit, and Ebay will turn records over if asked by the Inland Revenue.
* If you sell for profit you are regarded as self-employed - and you must register as self-employed with the tax office within 3 months of starting or face a £100 fine.
* I know this because I assumed I could report my income via self assessment, and got a penalty notice.
* I was OK because I hadn't earned much from the business in that first tax year, and they cancelled the penalty.
* Keep all your receipts and keep a record of any mileage you do for your business - you will be able to write off some of your tax liability if you do.
* Remember to keep records of any fees you pay to Ebay and to payment gateways such as PayPal ? again these will minimise your tax liability..
* Remember you will be liable for National Insurance contributions - but these are low and paying these will mean that you can get some benefits if you need to claim them.
* Plan ahead for your business growing - one day you may have to register for VAT so keep your prices realistic ? you don?t want to be really successful and then have to shut your business because you haven?t fac
tored in VAT liabili
* Consider setting up a limited company - this only cost £100, and should make you far more tax efficient ? meaning you get to keep more of the profits!
I hope I haven't put anyone off with all this talk of tax, but being aware of the potential pitfalls when you start may save you a lot of trouble later.
I have no regrets about giving up the day job - it has helped my business to grow and meant that I have a lot more control over my time. I get to spend a lot more time with my family, and will be able to fit my business around my new baby a lot easier than I could have with an off-line job.
I have had a great time learning new skills and looking for ways to improve my business, and the last year, which could have been horribly stressful,. has actually been one of the best years we have had.