Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Nov 11 2013 15:26:56

How Do You Define Success as an Online Seller?

By: Ina Steiner

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What makes a successful online seller? How do you define success? Freelance writer Amanda Hess challenged Etsy's message of seller success in her recent post on Slate Magazine's website. She's referring to research the marketplace conducted that it will use to "urge policymakers to acknowledge the economic power of micro-businesses and to adapt public policies to support and promote them."

Hess is underwhelmed by the impact Etsy sellers have on the economy - and she's underwhelmed by the ability of sellers to make a decent living selling on Etsy.

"Etsy sellers, who are mostly women, "report higher levels of education and lower household income than the general population." The majority of respondents - 52 percent - are college educated, yet average median income for Etsy sellers is just $44,900, 10 percent lower than the national average. Twenty-six percent of Etsy sellers earn under $25,000 in annual household income."



Success is a relative term, Hess acknowledges, but noted, "Etsy emphasizes that, in terms of seller motivations, "personal reasons outweigh business and income considerations."

"More people start up Etsy shops to express their creativity than to generate income. That's fine, but it doesn't explain why the U.S. government ought to encourage more people to take up knitting in return for fun times and minuscule paychecks (particularly when many of them are recruiting other people to work for free). Etsy bizarrely knocks the government focus on creating "good-paying jobs," instead suggesting they invest more in poorly-paying hobbies."

Over on the AuctionBytes Blog, sellers are also discussing what makes a successful seller. I can attest to the number of eBay, Etsy and marketplace sellers who are parents or caretakers or who are disabled themselves and turn to selling online, as well as sellers who would be considered "successful" in the traditional business sense of the word.

Clearly each person defines success differently, but online sellers may not have given this much thought. Do you have a system for measuring your success, and how will you know when it's time to either take your business to the next level or pack it all in?




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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 11 15:40:04 2013

Nowadays success means not putting all of your eggs into the "ebay" basket. Things are so bad there anymore for small sellers that it is necessary to list on Etsy, Bonanza, Ebid, Amazon and other sites (and many sellers are doing better on those sites than on ebay). Build your own storefront website of course, use Swap Shop on Facebook of course, and always offer refunds or returns when there is a LEGITIMATE problem, not just buyer's remorse or the kind of "whims" that ebay encourages from buyers these days.

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by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 11 15:56:16 2013

$$$$ in my bank account

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This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Nov 11 16:00:57 2013

For my purposes, if I made more money in online sales than a typical salary in my profession would bring in then I felt pretty good. That would be social work, NOT a notoriously high paying field.


I also think feeling good about what you do has a place in the definition of success. If you enjoy what you do, that can be priceless! (Literally, too, at times ; )


I do think the ability to work at home is a godsend to many people - whether they have chosen to be a stay-at-home parent, are physically or mentally challenged or caring for someone who is. It is great to have that option.

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by: froggie This user has validated their user name.

Mon Nov 11 16:56:02 2013

Success for me is the level of energy and happiness I feel each morning when I face another day, on top of 3 simple rules that I apply to my business on a daily basis.

I closed my ebay store in the middle of October because my level of happiness upon waking each day was in the toilet. If I didn't take the risk, I would gain nothing and things would only get worse because I had slowly, over several years time, lost so much control of my business to a venue who basically cared not one iota as to whether I was successful or not.

Rule #1: pick your business partners carefully. This includes sourcing as well as selling venues. They must always first and foremost want to build a relationship with YOU! Stick with those who do take the time to build relationships and who believe that your success is their success.

Ebay's policies, while making some things simpler, have evolved to take away the freedom to create and maintain relationships with customers.

Rule #2: build relationships with customers.

I was hoping to gain not just better sales on my own website, but also peace of mind in knowing that I had control over the process and outcome of each sale.

For me, success is in happy return customers. Success is in having the ability to address all problems on my own terms and having a positive outcome be the result.

Success is going to bed at night with enough money to pay the bills, but also knowing that I did my best and that a customer who's package got lost in the mail, will return for another purchase because I was able to call her, deal with the issue in a calm and positive manner, and make her feel that she mattered. All without any interference.

Rule #3: Take responsibility for everything.

I am a success even if something goes wrong with a sale, because I have the freedom and ability to handle issues as they arise.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Mon Nov 11 17:45:34 2013

Trying to keep things simple, we look at two things to measure yearly success.

First we look at the level of inventory on hand and the capital invested into that merchandise. We purchase new inventory from the proceeds of past sales so if inventory has increased sales and profits have been good.

Second, we look at how much we were able to pull out of the business and transfer to our bank accounts for the year. Naturally, our goal is always to exceed last years withdrawal amount.

When the cost value of inventory on hand is the same or higher than last year, and withdrawals have increased over last year, this year is a success.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Siobhan

Tue Nov 12 00:11:01 2013

@Ric, If that is what you base success on an online store sounds a bit trite. I agree with Froggie. I made far more sales on ebay than where I am now but my stress level is nothing compared to what it was on ebay. Also, happy repeat customers is most satisfying. Not everything can be measured in dollars and cents.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 07:38:49 2013

I look at it as a success if I make a profit and more important enjoy what I am doing.
I am doing both. Stress eliminated when I eliminated ebay. Now, it's only Amazon and Etsy.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Al G

Tue Nov 12 08:15:39 2013

Success is being able to accomplish your modest realistic goals within the context of your environment - and have a feeling of satisfaction.

e.g. I'm doing what I like to do & getting paid (somewhat) for it. There are good days, some bad days, but overall, things are dandy.

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 09:22:30 2013

Success to me is NEVER again needing any other platform but my own website.

As long as you sell on any other platform but your own, you do NOT work for yourself, you do not make your own rules and you are subject to whatever they say whenever they say.  They are constantly changing the rules, terms etc and all though you pay all of the bills, supply all of the products, endure all of the losses and provide a reason why people come to their platform, they do not feel as though the customers are yours.  If there is a problem with the platform the sellers take the heat even when it is out of your control.

It does not matter if you make 10 million on someone elses platform, I do not believe you are really ''successful''. I think you proved you have what people want and run your business well, but you are CHAINED to the platform and the more money you make the more chained to it you become.

As we all have witnessed time and time again no matter which or how many platforms we have sold on,the rules always change, the prices always go up and they can and do drop you in a second and many with little to no warning.

None of them ever seem to care how long you have been there either.

But the worst thing about them is what they allow buyers to do to the sellers.  Every day the platforms take more and more of our protections away from bad customers.  Many do not even allow you to block them so you are FORCED to do business with people you do not want to.

So, for me, TRUE success is being FREE and running my own business the way I chose to do it.  Even if I only make the amount I need to pay my bills and live on, I am still successful.  I won't be rich, but am still successful.

If I wanted to work for someone else then I would go work for another company and close mine down.  

At least working for someone else I  do not have to worry about payroll, inventory, warehouse, and all of the other bills to stay open.

The only thing sellers are to every single one of these platforms no matter how big or small they are is, FEE generators.

They do not care how much WE lose, they just care about how much THEY make.  This is why they are ALL focused on buyers and NOT sellers.

For them, sellers are a penny a dozen (we are not even worth a dime anymore).

I wish EVERY seller TRUE FREEDOM & INDEPENDENCE which brings TRUE SUCCESS!

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by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 11:34:00 2013

In 1985, I resigned from a good paying corporate job with a promising future.  I had not a clue how to run a business, but “where angels fear to tread”, I dove into the pool of the self employed head first.  My elaborate business plan to “fame and fortune” was obsolete on day two, but I did not know that for years.

Financially, success for me can be measured by time after time “making small fortunes out of  large ones.”  

My important successes are:

1.) Not have lived a boring corporate life.

2.) Avoiding a heart attack at age 40 if I had stayed with the corporate job.

3.) Enjoyed my travels, the good sales years, and not letting the bad years wear me down.

4.) Having enough sense when I did briefly return to a corporate job to be fired (twice in one year at that), and not to look for a third corporate job.  The almighty spoke and I listened.

5.) Now having lived into my 6th decade when most of my contemporaries are retiring or retired with too much time on their hands, I have a continuing vocation of learning to identify “one man’s trash”, (forgive me lord) painting “lipstick on a pig”, and selling vintage and antique treasures.  

6.) Lastly, the friends or acquaintances that I have met and made in the last three decades of business dealings from the far side of the world to my backyard, are my “pot of gold”.  

This year’s most important success:

7.) There is life after eBay.

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 11:37:44 2013

Think about this.  If the amount of money you make rather than HOW you make it, makes you successful, then JD and every other CORRUPT business person can be considered "successful".

If a thief gets away with stealing a lot of things or money, some would call him/her a successful thief, I on the other hand call him/her just a THIEF!

FREDDY says; "I look at it as a success if I make a profit and more important enjoy what I am doing."
   I can agree with you here..

"I am doing both. Stress eliminated when I eliminated ebay. Now, it's only Amazon and Etsy."
 
  I can understand why you are at these two platforms at least for now, but I am not sure how you can be stress free when you have the same type of issues as with ebay?

Buyers still RULE and sellers are still subject to whatever the platform demands even at their own peril.

Do not get me wrong, in business the customer is king, but only to a point.  They do not actually OWN the kingdom as these venues seem to demand we allow them to. They demand this because it benefits THEM.

I look at it like this.  If I say NO REFUNDS or RETURNS, or if I say 30 day returns etc that is what it means.

In the real world the law says that is what it means as well.  However, these venues DEMAND that we obey THEIR rules and policies and ours are ignored. Thus making us work for THEM.

They do not care if the buyer uses and abuses the item or even returns the item because they lose NOTHING.

Again, in the real world the law does NOT allow for this.

So not only do these venues ignore us and our store policies, they ignore the law.  And this is why eCommerce BUYER FRAUD is at an all time HIGH and only getting higher.

The real question is, how much higher can it go before the dam breaks?  How high will prices have to go to make up for the loses or when will sellers say to the venues, NO MORE we are OUT OF HERE, we cannot afford nor want your venues anymore, and break FREE of our CHAINS that bind us?

Think about this.  Does a Mall owner dictate to the stores that lease there, their store policies, do they say you either do as we say or we will build a brick wall in front of your store so that no one sees your store anymore.

Of course not. But this is what these venues do.

Most sellers are smart and I think it is well past the time that we ALL start being even smarter and putting our heads together to FREE ourselves of the venue chains that have us PRISONER to them.

Contrary to how they ACT and treat us, they DO need us.  We are MANY and they are FEW.

In fact this is what we all complain about right now, which is there are not many places to go.

Even Amazon cannot support itself on its own and this is why they opened up to 3rd party sellers like us. ebay offers nothing, although I am sure they have store.

ecrater is basically an affiliate type of platform for google I thin and that is why they are basically free, so they are making money and now they do charge a fee for their market place sales, although a small amount.

The point is,they ALL depend on the SELLERS to pay their bills and bring in the customers with their products.

The buyers are going to go where the products are, where ever that is.

If anyone has not seen the movie a Bugs life you should, and pay close attention to the Lead ant when he admits that if all of the puny little ants figured out that they did not need them they would be finished (paraphrased).

Watch this video clip;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jkNNNRkYlM

This is US as sellers to the venues. We are those "puny little ants".

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Nov 12 11:56:00 2013

Success

1. No longer having to drive 20-100 miles in blizzards and icy roads. We got about 3-4" of snow last night, and all I had to do was walk out to the mailbox.

2. Profit. We started this business from scratch and even if I don't buy another piece of inventory for the next 3-4 years we can still be in business at the same level. We own the inventory free and clear. After expenses we make a profit monthly. Not always as much as we would like which then drives me to find new and better ways to sell.

3. the ability to work in my jammies the entire week if needed. I am one of the physically challenged and sometimes the only thing I can do each day is work my store and then crawl back into bed.

4. It is a form of occupational therapy for me as it makes me get out of bed daily to be sure all outgoing orders are ready for the mailman when he comes by.

5. Being able to decide how I want to do things, not having to present them to a boss who has to go to her boss who then shoots my idea down and develops a form of what I did only 10X more complicated.

6. No more Christmas gift, birthday gift, boss's gifts, etc. out of my income.

7. I enjoy what I do and what I sell and as I can't participate in my hobby like I used to, selling the items for my hobby keeps me in the loop.

8. Communicating with customers. For the rare nasty ones, the ability to block their emails when I have no more reason to communicate with them.

9. No more office politics and gossip.

10. I'm at home and probably get more done in the 4-5 hours that I might be up to 'working' than in the 8-9 hours that I used to work.

I could go on. I feel successful as I started a business on my own, while coping with a disease that claims more function from my yearly.

And most of all the 100% positive feedback from ebay from when I was on there and now the 100% positive feedback on ecrater. I love reading it and some really give me the 'warm fuzzies'.

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by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 12:17:15 2013

1. Make $35-$50k/year after expenses *check*
2. Work 3-4 hours a day to make that (sorta *check*... I'm in the process of being fully self employed)
3. No debt. *check* (own a house, 2 cars and about 2 years of inventory)
4. Enjoy what I do *check* (once I have the time that is currently occupied by my other job)

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 15:25:23 2013

If sellers want to truly be SUCCESSFUL then we all need to stop building and making our livelihoods around ANY venue and start building and making it about US and our products/business.

I am actually at my limit with all of these venues for a host of reasons, some of which I have already expressed.

As a result I am now working on a project that will FREE ALL SELLERS that want to be FREED, from the venue CHAINS/SLAVERY.

As they say; most great ideas, inventions etc come out of Need and Necessity, and sellers are in GREAT NEED of being FREED from venue SLAVERY.  I know I sure am.

I as a seller am fully aware about the need for traffic, sales etc.  As a buyer I am also aware of the need for helping to protect buyers from bad sellers.

I am confident that the project I am now working on can give sellers their businesses back, make them FREE and provide good and honest buyers a reason and place to go.

But it will NOT allow buyers a place to LIE, CHEAT and SCAM sellers.  Although sellers will be free to allow whatever buyer behavior they choose.  After all, it is THEIR store and THEY can run it how they see fit.  Of course sellers will also not be allowed to LIE, CHEAT or SCAM buyers either.

I am positive that what I am working on IS the solution for ALL of us, buyers and sellers alike.  Well honest buyers and sellers that is.  Scammers are always going to go where they can get away with scamming, but I say, "good bye and good riddens, we do not need or want the scammers anyway." Let the venues have them.

As for scammer sellers, there will be no place for you here either.

It is time for us "PUNY LITTLE ANTS" to show them that we KNOW that we out number them 100 to 1, although more like a 1000 to 1.  And that they should have LISTENED and adhered to our "NOISE"!

Keep in mind, the box stores and even some venues have thousands and some 10s of thousands of products, but all of the sellers combined(excluding the box stores and venues)have MILLIONS!

Also, the box stores have been up in arms because they have been losing customers to internet sellers like us, which is why they have gone to the internet as well, and why many have also gone to the venues such as ebay to help them put us out of business for their own greed and benefit. And ebay being the SELL OUT they are has been bending over backwards to help them do just that.

Then you have Amazon who shuts you down without notice or cause if they find you are "successful" only for them to then start selling your products.

So, it is time we EAT or be EATEN.

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by: Steevo This user has validated their user name.

Tue Nov 12 23:31:55 2013

How do you define success in business?  Well, your business is successful if you are making money instead of losing it.  If you have growth.  If you have profits, if you don't have to depend oa a $dayjob or the income of a spouse to keep the doors open. You don't have thousands in credit card debt to keep your ''business'' afloat.

I knew a couple guys who had jobs in corporate America. I don't know what they did but I would see them at a video store they had opened.  

As far as i could tell at the time they worked their dayjob and then rushed over to help out at their video store (VHS tapes, that's how long ago this was).

The closed the video store after a few years, it didn't seem like they ever made any money in that business.

They seemed like nice guys but I always wondered why you would want to subsidize a money losing business with your dayjob.

Lots of ebay sellers do this.  It's a hobby, not a business, apparently.

I wish more ebay sellers would read on business subjects, costing and the like, so they know what they must do to not lose money.  Businesses have costs.

Every business has to pay for the costs of operation, overhead, taxes, etc, and ultimately those costs *must* be borne by the company's customers. You don't have success in business if you have to keep a $dayjob to pay to keep your business going.  

Unfortunately lots of people don't understand this.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Tula

Wed Nov 13 02:06:38 2013

Success means different things to different people. For some, it's all about the money. For others, it's the freedom of being your own boss. How do you put a price on happiness, anyway? My little brother likes to say "Life is too short to spend it doing stuff that sucks." For me, success is doing work that I enjoy and making enough money to pay the bills, indulge in a few odd luxuries, and save for a comfortable retirement. I can't yet claim success in my online retail endeavors, but I'm working on it and enjoy it a great deal, so that's a partial success, at least.

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 13 09:58:12 2013

Very interesting thread from an ebay discussion board: http://community.ebay.com/t5/Seller-Central/Why-do-you-think-ebay-keep
s-these-boards/m-p/18264199/highlight/false#M146042

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by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 13 10:50:32 2013

If the link doesn't work just visit Seller Central on the ebay discussion boards and find "Why Do You Think Ebay Keeps These Boards"

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This user has validated their user name. by: ebayisajoke
Web Site

Wed Nov 13 13:12:55 2013

This is how I measure success, the more people I send over to Amazon the better. Sellers are constantly on eggshells selling on eBay. Their automated system has driven away millions in the past years with their stupid "Axe you first, and never ask questions later". Now we have PayPal pusher Scott Henshaw appearing on eBay radio Friday that is going to tell us why he thinks its good for eBay to purge innocent sellers from the system. Man I can't wait to hear this.  

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by: Santini This user has validated their user name.

Wed Nov 13 14:59:53 2013

I have a question for anybody here:
Does the record of you getting suspended/limited on ebay or paypal show up in a database somewhere? I would think that prospective employers, insurers, and credit grantors would like to know if you are considered a "shady" character!

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