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Deciding What to Sell on eBay Get ahead of the competition with these tips for selling items you know and love.

By Marsha Collier Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I'm often asked what the sticking point is that keeps most people from selling online. "What should I sell?" or the ever popular, "What item will make me the most money in the shortest period of time?" are the most popular questions representing barriers to online success. People just don't seem know what to sell.

The answer to the second question is much more complex than the first. To be honest, the lucky individual that finds a hot item and makes a killing with their sales is an extreme rarity. Think about it. How many instant success stories have you ever heard about? It would be nice to think you could be one of them, but the odds of finding that life-changing, magic item are miniscule. There's no slam dunk--no magic key to an "instant" fortune for most of us.

So why not concentrate on finding a group of items that'll give you a steady stream of income over a long period of time? It may be a slower way to riches, but at least you can control your income as your business grows.

To start out, you can easily hone your selling skills by helping your neighbors get rid of their excess stuff. Offer to sell for people in your community (post a flyer at the laundromat or at church) and charge a percentage (plus eBay fees). This way, the profits you make from selling the excess in your neighbors' garages becomes the backing for buying your first "official" merchandise to resell. You'd be surprised how positive your neighbors may react, finding it a blessing if you offer to sell their excess stuff on eBay for them. eBay even backs you in this endeavor with Trading Assistants, experienced eBay sellers who sell your items for you on eBay for a fee. By hiring a Trading Assistant you can take advantage of their selling expertise, save time and effort, and still reap the rewards of selling your item on eBay. Visit the Trading Assistant hub page for more information, including marketing tools and templates at

Now that you have to actually buy merchandise to sell, you need to consider selling what you know. Did you have a hobby as a teenager? Is there something particular that interests you? For example, if you loved drama in college perhaps you know a lot about Broadway shows and could sell Broadway memorabilia like old Playbills and posters. Did you collect coins? You can get back into what's hot and what's not by starting out bottom-feeding and buying coins from people who want to sell off collections.

If you're coming out of a career, think about selling items that would be of benefit to people with a similar job. Say you were in the nursing profession--weren't there a few items that made your job easier for you? Were there certain things you and your friends just had to have? That's what you should be selling.

Get it? Sell what you know! Sell what interests you. That way you'll have a leg up on the competition who has just randomly picked a group of items to sell. When you sell the same item as your competitors it's your personal experience that'll place you ahead. Your experience allows you to move with the trends far better than someone can who's not an expert in the field.

If you're still at a loss for an idea, look around your house. Check out products you use or you think add something special to your life. Check out the packaging and find out the manufacturer's name. Google them and make contact. Find out how you can sell their item online.

Once you've gathered a few dollars and are ready to go out and buy "wholesale," there are a few steps to complete. Assuming you and your business are ready to go, you have to deal with the tax man. Be sure to file a fictitious name statement, look into local licenses and file for your Federal Employee Identification Number. Once you have that you'll need a Seller's Permit. Use Google to search for your state's sales tax department--that's usually the group that issues a "reseller" or "sellers" permit. This permit is the only way you can buy at true wholesale prices. Legitimate wholesalers won't even let you through the door without producing your seller's permit number.

Check out my website for a listing of Merchandise Marts by clicking here. These are places that have a large group of manufacturers' salesmen whose job it is to sell wholesale merchandise to retailers (that's you). Also, check out the website for a list of upcoming trade shows (huge expos where manufacturers sell their latest lines of goods).

Once you've established a selling relationship with a manufacturer or a manufacturer's representative, see if they'll drop ship some of the bulkier or expensive items in their line for you. Try not to start out with a drop shipper since they're basically middlemen marking up merchandise to sell to you. This cuts severely into your profit margin.

Please send me feedback on my website,, if you've found a unique way to find merchandise for your business. In the meanwhile, have a great holiday selling season!

News Flash
eBay now has a subscription service designed to help inexperienced sellers set online prices and better understand the eBay marketplace. The new service, called eBay Marketplace Research, gives subscribers access to data, charts and graphs to help them understand the demand for items they're planning to sell. Subscribers can view top searches within a category or the entire site to see what buyers are searching for, with the charts providing information on the average bids per item, the number of completed items and more. For less than $10 a month, sellers can follow trends as they play out online, allowing them to adapt their sales strategies immediately.

Marsha Collier

Author, Radio Personality and Educator

Marsha Collier is a Los Angeles-based author, radio personality and educator specializing in technology and selling online. She is the author of eBay for DummiesSocial Media Commerce for Dummies and other books about selling online.

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