MarketLink Collectors Network
Even if you only want to occasionally sell a few things, we recommend that you think of your efforts as a business. Planning ahead in this way will allow you to easily transition to a part-time seller if you want. At the very least, it will put it place best practices for your security while doing business online. This section is focused on thinking ahead and preventative and organizational planning to support your endeavors at any level.
When deciding to start a business venture, no matter the size, it is always best to consult your attorney and your accountant or tax preparer. They can help you set yourself up in such a way as to avoid legal entanglements or tax liabilities later on. An ounce of prevention......
The first item to consider when planning your selling endeavor is security for your personal information. Once something is published on the internet, it becomes part of the public record and cannot be erased. Only give out your personal details over a secure site. Look for the https://in the address bar of your browser. Make sure that your details are only given to those with whom you are actually involved in a transaction.
When you first set up an account on any site, you will be asked for a username and password. We suggest that you take the time to select a name that is descriptive of your collectibles category. We also suggest that you use this same username to set up any other online accounts, such as email or blogs. This increases your exposure to prospective buyers from different lines of approach.
We suggest that you treat your venture as a business and set up a business name along with a Post Office Box to use as your home and shipping address. If you have a UPS store, they offer a PO Box with a street address to use for UPS Shipping. This protects your actual physical home address from those who don't need to know.
You may also want to think about keeping a set of books including inventory and expenses. Check with your accountant or tax preparer regarding your tax liability for anything you sell as well as legitimate expenses involved with selling on-line. A good resource for is "Tax Loopholes for eBay Sellers" by Diane Kennedy.
To protect your personal finances, open a new bank account, preferably at a small bank or credit union, and secure a debit card for that account. Use your PO Box as the address on the account if possible. This should be the only account that you use when buying or selling online. Should you be the victim of the theft of your personal information, you can minimize any losses and recoup time.
Set up a separate email account that you use only for your online presence. Your email address can be public information on some marketplace sites. You can use a server like Google or even your ISP but make sure that it is the type of account (a POP account) that you can pull the messages from to your home computer. Answering questions and keeping up with listings and payments can be difficult if the messages are grouped in with your personal email. You will also find that a certain amount of spam is generated from sites like eBay. A desktop email program can retrieve your messages at specific time intervals and usually comes with a good spam filter.
While you can spend tons of money on software, just about everything you need can be found through open source or freeware sites. Here's a list of the programs that we found useful in streamlining our efforts.
Find a little space in your house or apartment for your computer, printer and scanner. You will need some shelving for copy paper, pens, and such. But you probably have that already. We recommend a scanner/printer/copier combination that has a flat bed for scanning. It can really come in handy when creating the images for your listings. Handy? Yes. Necessary? No!!
One good investment is High Speed Internet Access. Depending on where you live, you may have access to DSL or Cable Internet. Being able to upload and download at the faster speeds will save you lots of time and frustration. If you have to use a dial-up provider, try to optimize as much as possible.
A good quality digital camera is a must. Yes, you can use pictures with your cell phone, but the better your pictures, the more successful your listing will be. Check out Step 4: Pictures for more info on cameras and setting up an area for a mini photography studio.
Even though your business is almost entirely digital, you will need some shelving and a small file cabinet of sorts to keep hard copies for tax purposes. The plastic storage boxes are compact and can be stored just about anywhere.
One last, but important piece of equipment is a digital postage scale. When determining shipping costs you will need to know how much your items weigh before and after packing. You'll be surprised how much weight the packing materials add to the total.
Depending on your operating system, you have different ways to set up your folders and files. Creating a Main Folder for your business files and then creating sub-folders for images, and other types of files that you want to save should be fairly simple. Separate sub folders with meaningful names will help you find things that you need later. You will want to download files from you payment processors, sales info from your marketplace, invoices, insurance claims and photos, correspondence with your vendors, etc.
Set up your Desktop Email to retrieve your email messages from your server. Create sub folders to store info that you receive for you business through email, like shipping label notices, sales, returns, payments, newsletters, marketplace invoices - well you get the idea. Then you can clear your in-box, saving the ones that you may need for future reference or for tax purposes. Make sure that you have a good spam filter with your desktop program. We have found important emails that were intercepted by spam by the server and never reached us. With our own spam filter, we can double check that none of our important emails are being classified as junk and erased.
You will need a few items like shelves and a filing cabinet, notebooks, copy paper and printer cartridges. You probably already have most of what you need if you just look around the house. Most, if not all of what you will need is available on eBay or other marketplace sites. Be sure to factor in the shipping costs when ordering online. Of course, if you like to shop and want to spend the money you can also find some great stuff at Office Depot or Staples!!
Don't waiting until an item is sold to buy packing materials. Determine what you will need in order to safely ship your merchandise and stock some before you list. USPS offers free boxes for use with Priority Mail. Of course you can find things like packing peanuts, bubble wrap and cardboard boxes for sale online. If you have the time and inclination, though, your local stores often have boxes left over from their shipments and will be glad to give them to you. Your Avon Lady or Auto Parts Dealer may have peanuts or bubble wrap from their inbound shipments, as do pharmacies and novelty shops. Put a little thought into it and you may be surprised to find that you can really cut costs on shipping by developing these alternative suppliers.
Now is the time to open a personal account with PayPal. You may decide later to use a different service when you start to sell, but PayPal is used as a way of payment on all of the sites that we have investigated and is a good place to start. Be sure to use the new PO Box, bank account, and email address that you have just established. You can then transfer cash from your new bank account into PayPal to be used later as part of your research.
The last part of your Planning Step is to register with eBay. You will not need to provide any banking or credit information at this time. But you will need to be registered in order to use their "Advance Search" feature for some of the research that you will do in the next step. Again, use your user id and the new email account that you have established. eBay's "Advance Search" can only be accessed by registered users and will be an invaluable tool for you as you begin to create your listings.