Ravell Call, Deseret News
Marsha Collier put her daughter through college using eBay.
"When money was due I stepped on the gas and started selling more," she says.
Collier isn't an average eBay seller, but she talks to them all the time and helps them become "PowerSellers" — an eBay designation for the best, most reliable, most praised and most successful people who offer things for sale on the site. She is the author of more than 30 books in the "For Dummies" series on eBay and e-commerce.
As people look for ways to make money in a weak economy, many are turning to the Internet. eBay reports it has 108.3 million active users — the people who are actually buying and selling on the popular auction and commerce website.
Revenue from eBay's marketplace (the buying and selling portion of the company) was $3.4 billion for the third quarter of 2012. That is 15 percent higher than the same time period last year. Generating that revenue for eBay came in part from fees it charges sellers for the $16.3 billion in items closed on the site worldwide during that period (excluding vehicles).
About 36 percent of the amount of U.S. sales on eBay comes from "top-rated sellers" — people who have set up successful online stores on eBay. Those stores have seen a 24 percent growth year over year.
Collier is the first to say, however, that people do not have to go all out and open an official eBay store online. They can just use the normal selling functionality to sell things.
"Anybody can sell and be a success," she says. "It doesn't have to be a big deal."
All it takes is hard work
Easy and difficult
eBay isn't the only way to sell online, of course. Amazon.com is an outlet for many online sellers. There are specialty websites, such as Etsy.com, which help artists market their goods. Craigslist.com takes a classifieds approach nationally. KSL.com classifieds and its new artist market andRuby.com in Salt Lake City are also part of the mix.
Kristy Braby runs two businesses out of her home in Salt Lake City. One is a home cleaning business. No need for a web store for that. The other is a two-decades-long passion for making colorful and creative jewelry.
Normally she sells her jewelry at art shows (such as the Utah Art Market on Feb. 1 and 2 at the Sugar House Garden Center in Salt Lake City), but she also wanted a place to sell online. eBay didn't quite seem to be a match for her, but Etsy.com was.
"It was just so easy," she says. "I just needed somewhere I could send people online to see my jewelry."
So KristyBrabyDesign.etsy.com was born in 2010. So far, Braby says she has had about nine sales.
"I'm kind of frustrated with promotion," she says. "But that is my own doing. Some people on Etsy are really successful. I haven't had the time to market myself. It's not Etsy, it's my doing."
Unlike opening a physical store, opening an online store doesn't take a huge outlay of cash. The risks are small and if things don't work out, the pain is less.
Begin at home
Collier says people should start with what they have in their homes.
"People have about $2,500 worth of stuff they could sell right now on eBay," she says. "You inherited your aunt's ashtray collection? Sell those. Old postcards? Sell those. Learn on the little things on how to craft your words."
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