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eBay's online auctions have created business opportunities for thousands of people. Now the Trading Assistant program is making it easier than ever to start a business from home.
Trading Assistants act as brokers, selling merchandise for others and keeping a percentage of the profits. The profit potential can be great, especially when selling high-value items.
Though there are millions of registered users on eBay, many people still don't know how to sell goods themselves. A Trading Assistant fills a need in the marketplace, allowing you to make a profit while helping others unload their stuff. Almost everyone has a box of items in their garage or closet that they would like to sell.
You will need to decide what types of products you are willing to sell and may want to set a minimum value on merchandise you accept. It can be difficult to make a profit on $5 items so many assistants require the products have a minimum estimated sales value of $10 or $20.
Most assistants set their fees between 20%-40% of the ending auction price. You may also want to charge a per-item listing fee of $1-$5, and possibly deduct this from the commission if the auction ends successfully.
As a Trading Assistant, you will list the item for sale, handle all buyer questions, collect payment and shipping fees from the buyer and ship the item. You may also need to do some research on your customers' items to determine their value. Search the closed listings to find out what similar items have sold for and list your auctions accordingly.
You should create a simple contract that your customers sign to indicate that they agree to your services and fees. You can check out the competition in your area to determine what services other Assistants are offering and how they are structuring their fees. Check eBay's directory by zip code at http://contact.eBay/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?TradingAssistant&page=main.
You will also need to decide how to obtain the items from your seller. You could offer a pickup service, visit customers' homes and complete a contract there. Or you can offer a drop-off service, where customers bring their items to you. Many assistants operate from their garage so buyers don't have to enter their homes.
Promote Your Business on eBay
eBay offers a directory of Trading Assistants that consumers can use to locate services in their geographic area. To get listed in the official Trading Assistant program, eBay requires that you have a feedback rating of at least 50, have sold at least one item in the past 30 days, and maintain satisfaction rating of 97% or higher.
A listing in the official directory is free and you can also download best practices information and other tools from eBay at http://contact.eBay/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?TradingAssistant&page=toolkit.
Other Ways to Promote Your Business
Here are some ideas for getting the word out about your service:
?Create a simple brochure and ask nearby businesses to display them for you.
?Leave brochures or fliers on doorsteps in your neighborhood.
?Place classified ads in the local newspapers.
?Place free classified ads on www.craigslist.org.
?Contact small business owners and offer your services to them. They may want to unload their overstock and your service could provide the perfect solution.
?Post fliers and brochures at colleges, retirement centers, and community centers.
?Ask your kid's school to mention your service in the newsletter.
?Visit garage sales and flea markets and offer your services to sellers.
Launch Your Business
Make sure you follow the rules of running a home-based business and check with your county offices to apply for a business license and resale permit. Though online sales are not heavily governed, someday they will be and it is better to comply with business laws.
Also make sure to set expectations with your customers. Since many aren't familiar with how eBay works, explain the process and set realistic expectations for the final values of sales. Some may expect their items to be worth far more than they can get on eBay, and you don't want to disappoint or worse, upset a client by selling an item for less than expected.
If you don't yet have any experience on eBay yourself, it's easy to get started. Begin with some spring cleaning and list some merchandise from your home. Make sure you have a good understanding of how eBay works before you represent your services to others.
A Trading Assistant business is a great opportunity for anyone interested in a relatively easy home business. Once you launch your business, repeat customers and word of mouth should help your business grow. Your only regret could be that you didn't start sooner.
Stephanie Chandler is the author of "The Business Startup Checklist and Planning Guide: Seize Your Entrepreneurial Dreams!" and the founder of http://www.BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of free resources for entrepreneurs. Sign up for the BusinessInfoGuide newsletter to receive hot resources and tips every month.