8 Easy Steps to Improve Your eBay Sales and Income Immediately!

For those of you who don’t know, I worked for a small independent music store for about 7 years during my teens and early 20’s.  One of my major jobs at this store was to sell as much store inventory on eBay as possible.  After spending a few years listing and selling items on eBay day in and day out, you get pretty good at listing and selling. When my wife and I got on the Dave Ramsey plan and went through Financial Peace University, we decided to sell a lot of the items we no longer wanted or needed on eBay, and still have great success buying items specifically to sell. After having several friends and relatives ask me for some advice on how to maximize their sales and profits, I decided to share these  8 Easy Steps to Improve Your eBay Sales and Income Immediately!

1.     Keep the title simple, but descriptive.

Far too often I see products listed with lots of fluff in their item description.  When I see these items I just keep browsing and never look at the product.  Simply put, you want a title that gives an accurate name of the product you are selling and a very brief description of it’s condition.  For example, I would not click on a title such as AMAZING APPLE IPHONE GREAT DEAL DON’T MISS IT!  But I would consider a listing as follows: AS IS Apple iPhone 3G – 8GB – Black (AT&T) Smartphone.  The product description is completely informative as to the cell network, memory capacity, model, and condition (AS IS usually indicates there is something wrong with the item.)

Also, avoid spelling mistakes.  Not to many people search for Aple computers, or iFones.  So test your title: if you can tell what you are about to see before you click on the link, you’re probably doing fine in this area.

2.     Choose your category listing carefully.

eBay has gotten much better with helping you choose a good category to list your product, but this still escapes some people.  A while back I sold an antique trumpet on eBay.  Now while this item is an antique that would appeal to some antique collectors, it is still a trumpet that would appeal to musicians, including those who usually care nothing about antiques.  If I were to list the trumpet in antiques I’d miss a large portion of the interested buyers, and the same is true for listing the item only in musical instruments.  So I listed the item in both categories so that all potential buyers would get an opportunity to see and bid on my antique trumpet.  Product exposure is very important!
It is important to know that listing in multiple categories does cost extra money at listing time, but it can be well worth the cost.  Just don’t get stupid with double listings.  Yes an iPhone plays MP3’s, but don’t list your iPhone under MP3 Players.  Someone searching for MP3 players is looking for an iPod, not an iPhone so you’d be completely wasting your money doing this!  So ask yourself, “Who would want to buy this product?”  Once you are convinced on a category (or possibly two), then list your product accordingly.

3.     Take clear pictures of what you would want to see.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  If you were trying to buy a piece of fine China, such as a bowl, would you want only one blurry picture taken from directly above?  If you answered “yes” to the preceding question, please donate your computer and camera to the poor and never think about eBay again.  If you answered “no” to the question, then be sure you don’t make the same mistake.  If you were buying a used item, you would want to know just how used it is.  With the example of the bowl, take a wide picture of the entire item followed by detailed pictures of the sides, the inside, the bottom label (clear enough to read!) and any chips, cracks, or scratches the bowl might have.  You don’t want the buyer surprised by these things once they’ve already purchased the bowl because it’s likely they will ship it back to you and demand a full refund (eBay will help them do this too!).
And please don’t take the pictures with your cell phone. With today’s technology even the cheapest pawn shop digital camera has the ability to take clearer and higher quality eBay pictures.  Use the camera’s close-up settings, and avoid using the camera flash unless it’s absolutely necessary to show a blemish.  I usually turn all the lights in the room on, and leave the flash turned off.  This allows indirect light to show the item as your eyes would normally see it.  Also try placing the product on a white background, such as a white sheet, blanket, or towel.  This will help your product stand out in the pictures.
Again, sometimes you do have to take one picture with the flash to help a scratch, or crack show up that otherwise will not.  In most cases you are looking at a max of 3 to 5 pictures.  Some people go overboard and list 20 pictures of the same post card sized item.  Go through and delete any duplicates, or pictures that didn’t really show what you wanted.  Just be sure that any problem areas are well documented in your pictures.

4.     Save money by avoiding unnecessary features and fees!

While they may look really cool, eBay does offer some unnecessary options on listings that simply don’t help much.  I never pay the extra $2 for a Bold or Highlighted listing.  The theory is that it somehow attracts the eyes of buyers, but in the long run the quality of the content in the listing is what sells the item.
Avoid the listing “themes” that give your pictures frames, or the picture slideshow.  I know how to click on a different picture when I want to see a different picture.  eBay charges you to have all these options on your listing, and many are simply not necessary. And please whatever you do, don’t do the silly graphics like showing dancing reindeer around the screen at Christmas.  Just don’t waste your time and money doing this sort of stuff!  I have never once had someone say “Hey Matt, I bought that $5000 dollar guitar from you because of the dancing elf you included in your listing!”
Pretty much the one exception that I make to this rule is the Gallery Picture listing option (about $0.35).  This feature includes a thumbnail sized picture to the left of your item description so the potential buyer can actually see what they are about to click on.  While it’s not necessary to do, I am personally more likely to click on that link than one without the Gallery Picture listing.

5.     Give accurate, but positive descriptions.

When you are typing up your description (this is different from listing title) be sure that you are accurate.  Tell us about the chip in the finish.  Tell us to check out the photo that shows the crack and scratches.  A buyer wants you to be honest and wants to feel like they are getting an accurate description.  Trying to avoid mentioning flaws doesn’t go over too well.
On the other hand, don’t come off sounding like Eeyore in your listing.  If the item has a crack but is still fully functional then tell us.  If we go back to the AS IS iPhone listing from earlier, I included in the description a list of what was wrong (the screen and back cover) but then pointed out that these problems were completely fixable and that the buyer could end up getting a great deal on a great phone that just needed a little fixing up.  The most important thing here is to be honest, and be positive in the way you describe your items.

6.     Know the true value of your item.

Just because you like a particular item doesn’t mean that people are going to pay more for it.  If Taylor Swift used your Sharpie to sign your arm, the fact remains it’s just a Sharpie and has no increased value!  We often place great sentimental value on items that we own which means if we had to buy that item from ourselves, we would be willing to pay more for them than the average eBay buyer will.  Just realize that except for in rare cases, you probably won’t make more on your item than other people are on theirs simply because it’s yours.
That being said, if you do all of these 8 steps completely and correctly then you should be able as much as much profit as possible out of an product you sell.  But have the realistic price of what items like yours are selling for on eBay.  Search for products like yours before you list and look at only the completed listings.  If the items like yours are selling for around $5, it’s a safe assumption that yours will do the same.  If the products like yours are not selling at $10, yours probably won’t either.  eBay simply doesn’t work that way.  Know what your product is worth and list it accordingly.
Avoid the Buy It Now feature unless you are selling something at a huge discount and want the money today instead of 5 days from today.  If you are going to ask the same amount for the Buy It Now at which most auction items will end, it simply isn’t worth the price because it likely won’t be used by a buyer.  Most people like the thrill of the auction and the belief that they will come out ahead if they don’t use the Buy It Now.  And don’t mess with the reserve price.  Just start your auction at the lowest price you are willing to take for the item.
Ask yourself the following question:  If someone was standing right in front of me with cash, what is the smallest amount they could put in my hand before I would let them leave with this item?” Answer that question and use that as your starting price.  If it sells then you came out ahead.  If it doesn’t then you aren’t really willing to sell the item for what it’s worth.

7.     Timing is everything.

How much time do you spend browsing eBay at 9:00am.  How about 3:00am, or 11:30pm?  These are times of the day where eBay’s traffic is not at its peak.  You want your item to end during Prime Time viewing, which means you need to list your item during the same time, or use the scheduling feature to automatically list your item during Prime Time (just another non-recommended fee).  You want your item to end during Prime Time because auctions will usually increase drastically in price during the last few minutes.  Excited buyers get into bidding wars over your product, unless they are asleep at 1am.  Make sure you list, or that the auction will end during your favorite Prime Time TV shows.
Also stick with a 5 day listing for most items.  7 and 10 day options are available, but unless you are selling a very rare or high dollar item such as a car, the longer auction just doesn’t benefit you much.  1 and 3 day auctions are available as well, but I don’t feel that they give enough time for your item to be seen by as many potential buyers.  eBay purchases are not usually impulse buys.  Most people look at a product they want to buy several times before they bid so give them the adequate time of a 5 day auction.

8.     Do your shipping through eBay.

eBay usually gives you a discount if you print your shipping label through them, and will automatically send your buyer a tracking number (one less thing you have to do).  My recommendation is to use the USPS flat rate shipping boxes if at all possible with your item, and include a few extra dollars for your “handling charge.”  This is not unethical in any way because you will burn gas going to get the box, and don’t forget that tape, bubble wrap, printer ink, and paper costs all come out of your pocket as well.  If I’m using the $5 flat rate box, I will probably charge $7 flat rate shipping to ship the item so that my expenses are covered.

At any rate (please pardon poorly placed puns and alliteration) try to stick to flat rate shipping.  If this is not an option, then completely package your item before the listing.  This is to ensure that you can accurately determine weight and dimensions to use in the shipping calculator that eBay provides to figure shipping costs.  This also helps you avoid shipping costs won’t exceed the amount you are charging the customer for shipping.

I hope these tips will help you with your next eBay listing.  If you have any additional questions, feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll try to help you out as best as I can.  Good luck, and Happy Selling!

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Can’t Keep Up? 8 Ways to Simplify Your Bible Reading Plan for 2012

Each year I try to set new goals for myself and one of the goals that I started early this year is to read my Bible daily.  Actually, it’s a goal I’ve had for several years now, but it tends to get off track not long after I start, causing my Bible reading for the rest of the year to suffer.  Knowing my tendencies, I began working on this goal a few months ago and I now have a routine in place that helps me keep up with all of the daily responsibilities of work and home, but still keeps plenty of time each day for reading my Bible.  It has been such a blessing to have the daily reminders and reinforcement of God’s Word in my life.  So much, in fact, that I want you to be able to experience the benefits I have.

So to help you get started, here are 8 Ways to Simplify Your Bible Reading Plan for 2012.

1.     Start with something you want to read.

Reading material or studying topics that you want to study will help you keep interest in reading your Bible.  It’s practically guaranteed that if you start reading something you want to read, new questions and new curiosities will arise, leading to the desire for more reading and study.  Do you like Paul?  Read about him.  Do the miracles of Jesus interest you?  Read about them.  Don’t let the traditional reading plan of starting in Genesis and falling asleep in Leviticus derail your reading goals for this year.  Start with your favorite part of the Bible and go from there.

2.     Start at the beginning of a book. (Not wherever the page opens!)

Would you enjoy reading a murder mystery novel if you started half way through chapter 6?  Maybe…but you definitely wouldn’t be as engaged in the story and you’d miss out on most of the details.  It’s always easier to get engaged in what you are reading if you start from the beginning. Use the guidelines from tip #1, but try to start at the beginning of that book so you can develop some context for what you are reading.  Knowing the context of a particular verse (what comes before and after) will certainly effect its meaning, so be sure you know what a verse means by starting at the beginning and understanding the context!

3.     Keep it short.

The last thing you need is for something as beneficial and enjoyable as reading your Bible to feel like a time burden right from the start.  Start by setting a goal of reading for 5 or 10 minutes at a time.  You could also begin with one of the short books of the New Testament, like Jude, Philemon, Titus, or James.  All of these books have tons of information you can immediately apply to your lives, and answer some of the deep questions of faith.  All of the books listed above can be read in one sitting or less.  Almost all of us can find 10 minutes of time right before bed, or first thing in the morning, to read a chapter or two.  The goal is to start small and get hooked on reading.  An additional advantage to this approach is having more time to digest smaller portions of Scripture, leading to deeper understanding.

4.     Read with a highlighter and pencil.

I have always found that I get much more reading done when I’m looking for important information.  But I must confess, I don’t always know what I’m looking for!  I have developed the habit of reading my Bible with a pencil or highlighter so that I can underline, highlight, or make notes about any verses that I find interesting and meaningful. The verse may have something to do with a topic I’m studying, a verse I don’t understand and want to come back to, or a verse I really like and want to remember.  It becomes almost like a game to find the next verse I am going to underline. (By the way, I’m going through a new copy of the New Testament this way right now…it really does work!)

5.     Have a designated reading time.

Sticking to a routine can help you stick with your Bible reading.  Make a plan to spend a few minutes at the same time every day (morning, lunch break, before bed, etc.) and most importantly, stay consistent!  Let’s face it, life happens and our routine will need to be a little flexible.  But if this schedule varies drastically from day to day, it just becomes harder to get into a routine of reading daily.  Try to not read at breakfast one morning, and the next day at lunch, and the next at bed.  Have your Bible reading attached to roughly the same time every day so that it becomes as routine as brushing your teeth.

6.     Have a designated reading location.

This might sound like a strange idea, but keep your reading location the same, and leave everything you use in your Bible reading (see #4) in that location.  Reading in the same place every day has helped me greatly because every time I walk past my reading place, I see my Bible and pencil and I’m reminded that I need to get my daily reading in. Having a designated location becomes a memory trigger throughout the day.  Suddenly the chair I watch TV in is now the chair I read my Bible in. If you are a coffee drinker, then read your Bible where you drink your coffee in the morning (most of my Bibles have coffee stains on the pages.) Having the physical connection of a place that you read will greatly improve your chances of keeping your routine. (If you are a person who likes to read in different locations like the porch in nice weather, that’s fine.  Just have a “home base” for your regular Bible reading that will trigger your memory.)

7.     Let others know your plan.

This tip will help you in more ways than one.  If you let your friends and family know that you are making an effort to read your Bible daily, they will probably be willing to help you remember that you need to complete your daily reading.  Another way this will help is that if you stick to tip #5 and #6, your friends and family will know that you are reading, and where you are reading.  This will allow them to do their best not to bother you while you are reading.  Another suggestion here is to share with your friends and family what you are reading.  This can open up avenues of conversation about God’s Word that you may not have any other way.  Just sharing a little of God’s Word with someone may completely change their lives.  It will probably change your life too!

8.     Increase your prayer time.

Anything worth doing is worth doing with God’s help. Philippians 4:13 reminds us that with God’s help anything is possible.  Through prayer we can reach our goals, especially when they are focused on Him.  Increasing our time in prayer continues to focus our minds on God, and on His Word.  It draws us into a closer relationship with our Creator and Savior and allows us to communicate our deepest feelings of hope, anger, despair, and anything else that life throws our way.  Communicating with God will most likely increase your desire for Him to communicate with you.  And how does he do that? Through his Word, the Bible.

All of these tips can be put to use immediately. So don’t just make it a goal to read your Bible more this year.  Make it an all-out Bible reading routine.

What are some of your Bible reading routines?


God’s Will…or Ours?

Several years ago I heard a preacher ask a very thought-provoking question that I have never been able to forget.  The question went something like this:

During the Civil War in the United States, the North was motivated, in part, by the fact that slavery was evil and not in keeping with the way that God would want us to treat other people.  The North reasoned that slavery was against God’s wishes, and they were carrying out God’s will.  God, therefore, supported the efforts of the North.

The South was motivated, in part,  by the fact that the Bible is full of examples of God’s people living in slavery, and the New Testament is full of examples of Christians both being and owning slaves.  The South reasoned that slavery was in keeping with God’s wishes, and they were carrying out God’s will.  God, therefore, supported the efforts of the South.

Whose side was God on?

I’ve never forgotten that question, mostly because of the discussion that arose afterward.  Many Christians in this Bible class had no idea how to answer the question, mostly because of the way the question is worded.  Let me reword the question for you:  Did God’s will conform to the ideals of the North, or the ideals of the South?

Obviously when we ask the question this way, the answer is that God’s will doesn’t conform to anyone’s ideals!  God doesn’t choose sides!  God is God.  God is unchanging!  God is truth, his word is truth, and his word is eternal!

James 1:16-18 – New International Version (NIV)

 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

This idea of God choosing sides came around again in Bible class tonight while discussing Saul and David both believing they were acting on God’s will (see 1 Samuel 23-26).  Someone brought up the idea that if the United States goes to war with another country, there may be Christians fighting on both sides of the conflict.  Who’s side is God on?

This idea of God choosing sides has also been circulating in the media recently with regards to Tim Tebow.  Many are believing that God has decided to become a Bronco’s fan because of Tim Tebow, and in turn he allows them to win. I don’t know Tim Tebow personally, but I greatly respect his ability to live his faith in Christ while using his talents to honor God in a way that other people take notice.

The point is God doesn’t choose sides.  People have the choice of being on God’s side or not, but the fact remains: God does not choose sides.  God is not choosing to be on Tim Tebow’s side. Each one of us chooses what side to be on.  Either we are on God’s side, or we are not.  Each of us has been given the opportunity to understand God’s Word (1 Timothy 2:1-7), everything has been revealed so we have everything we need to know (Romans 16:25-27), and to have the ability to choose whether we will be on God’s side or not (Joshua 24:15).

Tim Tebow has made his choice.  I have made mine.  And believe it or not, you have already made your choice.  Either you have chosen to follow Christ, or you have chosen not to.  There’s no in-between.  The good news is that if you don’t like your choice, you can change your mind!  God gives us that freedom!

So, whose side are you going to be on?

Zephaniah

Sometimes when we’re faced with grief, or distress, or abuse, persecution, looming punishment and the like, we develop a feeling of hopelessness. When those situations evolve we often feel completely surrounded, as if there’s no way out. If only there were something to give us hope, then we’d be alright…if only.

Zephaniah was a prophet who’s ministry came to an end just six years after Jeremiah’s began.  And God’s people at the time had just come out of being under the rule of two very evil kings, Manasseh and Amon. And as we too often see, corrupt rulers corrupt their people.  God’s people had become very wicked themselves during this time and had turned their backs on God’s will.  The situation gets more interesting when we learn that they knew they had drifted away…they knew they had major problems, and they had lost hope.  And into this mix comes Zephaniah preaching a message of repentance and hope.

Zephaniah 2:3 – Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD’s anger.

Zephaniah called the people to repent, and the people knew that God would eventually bless them, but Zephaniah made it clear that there would be judgement first, then blessing.  Our actions do cause us to face consequences. Sometimes even after we have repented, we still must deal with the consequences of our past actions against God, and that’s what happened to Judah.  They would see Judah fall to the Babylonians in 586 BC, but the good news is that they did repent!  And as a result they had hope for the future.  They were able to weather the storm, the destruction, and the hard times because they had hope in God’s promise to bless them for their repentance and righteous living!

Zephaniah 3:14,17 – Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! … 17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

There is a lot to be learned from the small book of Zephaniah.  God does not take sin lightly, and it will be punished.  But we can take hope from the words of Zephaniah because our God reigns, and he will rescue the faithful remnant of his people who worship him, and obey his Word.

True Faith

Hebrews 11:1-2 (NIV) – Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for.

Letʼs break this verse down for a moment. What is faith according to the Hebrew writer? Itʼs being sure! Thatʼs the NIV translation, but other translations render the word as “assurance” or “confidence.” The actual Greek word means “firm trust, steadfastness of mind, firm foundation!” Itʼs not a brief fleeting thought, itʼs not a doubt filled state of mind! Itʼs being sure!

Ok great…sure of what? Once again, according to the Hebrew writer, its being sure of what we hope for. So as a follower of Christ, what do we hope for? We hope for Godʼs promises to be fulfilled…or in other words, we hope for God to do what he says he will do. Now, the word hope here doesnʼt have the same meaning as we often think. Itʼs not a wish like hoping the Texas Rangers actually win the World Series this year…itʼs not that at all!  Strongʼs Greek Definition of the word means “to wait for salvation with joy and full confidence…hopefully to trust in.” Hereʼs the mention of full confidence again! “Being sure of what we hope for” is having a full confidence that God will do what He says He will do! FULL CONFIDENCE!

And let us not forget the last part of verse 1, “certain of what we do not see.” The definition, again from Strongʼs Greek Definitions for the word “certain” is “a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested…a conviction.” So if I were to paraphrase this verse, using the definitions of the words in Hebrews 11:1-2, to summarize what weʼve just covered, then the definition of faith would be something like this:

“Now faith is being sure and having a firm trust and confidence of the salvation that we hope for, with joy and full confidence, and certain of the proof and conviction in what we do not see!”

Now that doesnʼt leave much room for doubt or being unsure, does it? And letʼs not forget verse 2! “This is what the ancients were commended for.”

So, how does your faith measure up?