EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 183 - January 21, 2007 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 8

An eBay Seller's Look at Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007

By Greg Holden

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I'm always on the lookout for time-saving ways of doing things more efficiently, and that includes selling on eBay. I'd like to say I'm trying to save time so I can sell more. But the truth is that I'm "organizationally challenged." When I obtain inventory to resell, it usually gets added a huge Microsoft Word file. If I'm in a big hurry, the data goes right into Turbo Lister, and from there, to eBay. So I was interested to learn of a product from Microsoft that combined eBay listing capability with accounting features.

Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007 can download transaction information about the items you have sold so you can calculate how much you've earned, how much you have collected in sales tax, and so on. And what's more, it enables you to list items for sale on eBay. You also get integration with Office 2003 that lets you email invoices through Outlook and share customer contacts with Outlook 2007.

Office Accounting 2007 comes in two versions, Express and Professional. One big difference between the two is that only Professional allows you to treat sales items as inventory. With Express, you have to classify items as either services or "non-inventory items." Express is free; Professional costs $149 per year, which is still less expensive than competing programs like QuickBooks Premier 2007. This column focuses only on the free tool, Microsoft Office Accounting Express 2007, as a listing and accounting tool for eBay. You can download the program from the IdeaWins Web site (http://www.ideawins.com).

To get started selling on eBay with Office Accounting, you need to set up the program to sell in this marketplace. (This is a separate process from setting up the program to work with your own online business, which requires an entirely different set of steps.) You first sign in with a Windows Live ID (which, obviously, you need to obtain if you don't have one already) and then enter your eBay User ID and password. Next, you download orders you have received from your customers.

This is where something potentially confusing occurs: you are asked to choose whether to download orders for inventory items you listed on eBay with Office Accounting in the first place, or all orders that you've listed on eBay. When you're starting up the program for the first time, you obviously won't have any Office Accounting-created items to begin with and you'll have the program download all of the items that usually appear in Items I've Sold in My eBay. However, if you didn't list those items as inventory with Office Accounting in the first place, you have to go through a time-consuming process of handling "unrecognized" items.

You are also required to set up accounts for each type of payment method you use (PayPal, check, money order, or cashier's check). Finally, you download fees you have paid to eBay or to PayPal for your sales.

This probably sounds like a lot of preparation work, but it's the kind of data entry you learn to get used to with any financial software. And after you set up your eBay business, you also have an application that can help you with your household accounting as well.

Can you use Office Accounting to manage the entire supply chain including inventory management, listing sales, and completed transactions? You can, but when it comes to preparing sales descriptions, there are some big limitations.

One problem: working with images. You upload them to an Online Image Folder that, supposedly, Microsoft hosts for you. The process of uploading is cumbersome; I could only do it one image at a time, which is far slower than FTP.

Once you have your images uploaded, you can prepare your sales listing by filling out the Edit product details form. The problems I ran into using this form (which is shown below) were pretty substantial:

  • There was no straightforward way to alter the design of the description by choosing colors, typefaces, and formatting paragraphs.
  • I couldn't get the shipping tool to work at all and instead saw the message "Shipping Disabled."
  • I could not include more than six images per item.
  • I could not save details from one sales listing to the next so that I wouldn't have to type them from scratch each time.

There are also some limitations as far as the number of sales listings you can post on eBay per month. As part of the setup process, you are required to choose of two options:

  • The free option, Marketplace Services Basic. This lets you create 20 free listings per month for a year. After a year you are given the option to upgrade to the Marketplace Services Standard; the application doesn't make clear whether or not you can continue with the Basic service, however.
  • The fee-based option, Marketplace Services Standard. For a fee of $9.95 per month, you are allowed to list 200 items per month. After 200 listings, you are charged five cents per listing.

The obstacles with the Edit product detail form are a potential deal-breaker for busy eBay sellers. You may want to use Office Accounting 2007 for record-keeping, but not for creating eBay sales listings. Office Accounting Express turns out to be a significant step up from the "dump it all in a Word file" record-keeping method. But in terms of listing sales online, it's not going to replace Turbo Lister or another tool that lets you format sales listings and pre-enter standard information.

If you're also looking for an affordable application for everyday personal and small business accounting, Microsoft's tool is a good choice, especially since it's integrated with Microsoft Office. It will also help you "clean up your act" when it comes to financial record-keeping for eBay, and that still applies whether you decide to use the cumbersome listing tool or not.

See followup to this story online here: http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y207/m02/abu0185/s04


About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.


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