Time to plan your New Year resolutions

New Year resolutions describe things you plan to do for the first time in the early New Year, or which you have already done in the past and want to do better in future – such as losing weight, for example, or being a better parent, starting your own business, beginning a correspondence course, and so on.

In business, resolutions might focus on developing new products and introducing innovative selling campaigns, along with performing other tasks you may have thought about in the past and didn’t develop to their maximum potential, or they were dropped at the planning stage.

So you may have enjoyed a great Christmas selling period in 2014 from products you dropped from inventory in January 2015, and failed to restock for Christmas this year.

Maybe you found a product other people were selling aplenty on eBay and you had an idea for making your version very different and potentially sell more units than other people are selling. Then another product idea came along, followed by another, and another, and they all got lost in the muddle.

Now let me suggest ways to prevent similar problems – by revealing the thinking behind my own New Year resolutions and recommending ways for you to create your own plans for bigger profits and reduced workload and stress in 2016.

I’ll start by telling you about my close friend who sells on Amazon, using FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) – a process whereby he lists his products on Amazon’s site and sends goods to Amazon to take payment and fulfil orders direct to buyers. Having once sold exclusively on eBay, and doing very well, he decided to expand his products to Amazon, where after just a few months he says Amazon sales beat eBay by about seven sales to one every day.

More than this, using FBA he doesn’t have to pack products and submit them for delivery and he doesn’t have to deal with delivery problems or bounced payments. Amazon does all of that for him, at a cost, but one my friend says is negligible compared to available profits.

  • So my resolution is to expand my selling beyond eBay, including on Amazon and Etsy. I’ve chosen Etsy because listings are easier and take less time to create than on eBay, and feedback isn’t quite so in-your-face and damaging to a seller’s reputation than on eBay.

They’re just two of many viable and reliable selling platforms we’ve discussed in eBay Confidential this year: you may find other platforms more suitable to your own requirements. Go dig out all your past issues and decide where to expand your efforts next year.

One thing I don’t want you to do is stop selling on eBay, which remains one of the most heavily visited sites of all and generates a good income for millions of sellers. Not forgetting that eBay is the world’s biggest auction website, where finishing prices can sometimes exceed all reasonable expectations.

Moving on, the 20:80 rule, sometimes called ‘Pareto’s Theory’, suggests that, among other things, close to 20% of an entrepreneur’s time is spent performing tasks that will make 80% of his income; and conversely, 80% of working time typically accounts for 20% of income. That suggests you could work just one-fifth (20%) of your current working week and still take home four-fifths of your current profits. So if you normally work 40 hours a week and make, say, £1,000 profit each week, Pareto’s Theory suggests you could make £800 every week working just eight hours. Or thereabouts!

  • So my resolution is to determine my most profitable working hours and where I am achieving limited profits from four-fifths of my working day. Then I’ll expand my 20% of profitable tasks and reduce or eliminate proportionately lower-profit tasks.

Personally, I find that vintage postcards I have cherry-picked at flea markets and antiques fairs amount for the majority of my profits on eBay, while items bought at auction typically yield lower profits and demand longer hours spent listing them on eBay and fulfilling orders.

  • So another resolution is to spend more time and money at flea markets and antiques fairs, buying vintage postcards representing subjects currently fetching the highest prices on eBay and cutting back on buying auction lots containing mainly low and medium-price items.

A report I’ve neglected since finding it online six months or so back reveals numerous reliable statistics telling why some auctions end with higher finishing prices than others, including the suggestion that bidders tend to trust PowerSellers more than ordinary sellers, and that auction finishing prices tend to grow in line with a seller’s positive feedback rating. So the more positive feedback ratings you have, the more your auctions are likely to make.

  • So my resolution is to grow my positive feedback rating, to work very hard to avoid neutral and negative feedback, and to have poor feedback revised to good. This report is an eye-opener covering more than just auction listings and the reason I haven’t read more than a snippet or two is because it’s written in statistical jargon, with lots of charts requiring more than a cursory glance.

So I haven’t had time, or rather I haven’t made time, to read a report I honestly believe will have a very positive effect on my eBay profits. That is something I will correct when things slow down for me on eBay between Christmas and the middle of January. The report is called Online Auctions Efficiency: A Survey of eBay Auctions and you can download it here.

Don’t let its publication date of 2008 deter you: many of the findings remain just as valid today.

  • My final resolution is to tackle a lack of focus. This is the main reason people fail on eBay and other marketplaces and it’s a problem anyone can solve with a diary and pen.

You do it like this:

1) When you find products fetching high prices and regular sales for other people, you make a note of the product in your diary, along with ideas for making the product more profitable for you than for other sellers. Spend at least half an hour developing the product by jotting down profitable ideas from other people’s listings, comparing other people’s prices to sales ratios, and so on.

Now move forward five-to-ten days in your diary and place a big red asterisk at the top of the date allocation, along with the product name and the date you researched it.

This allows several days for the product idea to ferment in your mind and present itself as a workable or not-so-workable idea. If the idea still sounds good, you make the second date in your diary the day you turn your product idea into reality.

2) A few days from now start a swipe file of products selling well this Christmas with potential for you to sell on eBay next year. Research products and sales between now and the New Year, before Christmas product listings disappear from eBay’s advanced search returns. Make notes in your diary and enter diary reminders round about October next year.

That’s just a few ideas I’ve given to suggest New Year resolutions you can make to improve your eBay earnings in 2016. There’ll be many more in the weeks and years to come.

For now, though, I want to wish you a very happy festive season and an incredibly profitable New Year.

This article first appeared on Auction Genie. Read more and comment here