Chris Dreams of eBay

Dollar Flipper eBay Tips, Musings 15 Comments

This blog post is based on real dreams that I’ve had. It may be a little off the wall and full of rambling, but bear with me. I’ll get to the a point that actually has something to do with eBay reselling. Guaranteed or your money back!

Rambling Background

The inspiration (other than the dreams) for this post was one of Tim Ferriss’s free podcasts with Ramit Sethi. He’s the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, a book that is supposed to help you cut a 40 hour work week down to 4 hours. Instead, it mostly reminds me of how much time I waste.

I’ve read the 4-Hour Work Week twice now (gearing up for a 3rd after finishing The Serial Podcast), and I always go through a huge boom of work right after finishing it. After a month or so, I come back down to earth and muck around for a while until my poor performance and feelings of distraction start giving me an itch again.

At this point, two other similar books enter the rotation: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the late and great Stephen R. Covey and Getting Things Done by David Allen. I  use most of the tips/strategies at my real job, but the tactics seep into my eBay reselling too!

Pro Tip: These books only work if you actually use the material. I haven’t found a way to sustain each books’ entire plan for a long time, but each read through gives me a few small returns that are definitely building on each other. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to get everything done effectively in a 4-hour work week someday!

Back to the topic at hand though, Tim Ferriss’s guest mentions a documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi (available on Netflix and Amazon).

Here’s the blurb from IMDB:

A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, his renowned Tokyo restaurant, and his relationship with his son and eventual heir, Yoshikazu.

Ramblings on eBay Dreams

The tie in for this blog post and the documentary is that Jiro had dreams about the sushi he could make. Similarly, I’ve had dreams of finding awesome items at garage sales. Imagine finding five Super Nintendo systems with TONS of games and oh, only 50 bucks for everything.

*Wakes up and wipes drool away*

It’s always disappointing when I wake up from that dream! The saving grace is that I’ve experienced similar situations in real life already, and I think that’s why the hunt and this hobby are so addictive.


Even Obama’s dreaming of Jiro’s sushi!

Getting past my goofy title, Jiro’s questionable fathering attitude (which I hope to avoid), and Jiro’s amazing work ethic (that I’m sure I’ll never be able compare to), I still found a valuable idea from this quote of Jiro’s:

I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.

I don’t think that I’ll be selling on eBay as long as Jiro has made sushi (over 75 years!), but this idea of constant improvement resonates with me and my eBay side business.

I missed my goal of $5,500 profit last year by ~$5-700 (I had some more sales before the end of the year, but they wouldn’t have pushed me over the goal). The single, most important factor in me coming short was not listing enough. I list more. I sell more. If I have around 200 items in my store, I sell ~1 a day.

I rationalize sourcing as the most important part of the process (it’s definitely the most fun), but I don’t remember the last time I went out shopping at garage sales or thrift stores and came home empty handed. Few and far between.

So, to improve my business, I’m going to focus on improving my listing process bit by bit since this is the biggest hurdle in meeting my goals for this year.

Ramblings on my listing process (after buying awesome things of course)

1 – Prepare clothes/items and add to my spreadsheet. I’ll remove any tags or stickers, write down the information about the item (condition, size, where it’s made, etc.), but NOT measure or photograph the item. I do this with a bunch of items at once to move them out of my garage.

2 – Measure/photograph. When I have ~3 shelves of my bookcase filled up with clothes or other doodads (about 30 items normally), I’ll switch over to taking pictures of the items. I’ll also take any measurements and note any extra notes about condition.

Am I the only one who finds more flaws the 4th time I’m looking at something than the first? It must be the thrifter’s goggles wearing off…

After I’ve measured the item, I’ll get it ready for storage (placing it in a clear plastic 12″x15″ bag and sealing it with a fancy “thank you please give me good feedback if I didn’t screw up” sticker. Then I mark it with an item ID (this will be in the listing too) and throw it in a storage tub until it gets listed and sells.

2.5 – Crop/touch up pictures. I go through all of my pictures using Google’s free picture editor Picasa to crop and clean up the photos. This only takes ~10-15 minutes to get through 100 photos, so it’s not a full step.

3 – Finally, I actually list my items. When I finish listing a batch, I’ll mark their Excel rows as yellow and will fill in the date. This is the only step of the process that will actually lead to more money, so that’s why I included it as the trigger for my Beeminder goal. Check out the fancy graph on the righthand sidebar tracking my monthly progress.

Ramblings on Improvements

Wow, that’s actually not a quick process at all, especially when you type it all out. To paraphrase Jiro, 95% of the preparation happens in the kitchen before he even touches the sushi. 95% of my work is already complete before I go to list it at this point.

I like the fact that I make the last, most important part as simple and easy as possible. Just start listing, upload pictures, and complete. I have some templates to help with this part too (just a .txt file at the moment).

Ignoring how cumbersome my listing process is, I’ve focused on having enough time to actually work on listing items. In that vein, I’ve started to wake up a half hour earlier – now 5:30 AM. This lets me get some time to list a few items in the morning (goal of 5).

Another habit that I’ve added is doing my morning chores the night before (set up coffee, make lunch for work, etc.). Again, this lets me focus on cooking my morning eggs and listing items until my daughter wakes up!

Future state, I’d love it if I had 30 items ready to list like this for every morning of the work week. I’m sure that won’t be possible to maintain every day since it takes a lot of weekend work to get 30 items ready, but imagine listing 1560 items in one year! Holy moly!

So that’s the end of my eBay dreams and today’s ramblings.

Am I the only one out there that dreams about what they love (I’ve also dreamt of volleyball and swung my arm in the middle of the night much to my wife’s chagrin)?

Any glaring holes in my process?

Best changes that you made to bring you over an eBay hump?


Image credit: “Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe at Sukyabashi Jiro April 2014” by The White House from Washington, DC – P042314PS-0082. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Comments 15

  1. LOVE this post my friend! I’ve become a huge bookwork (haven’t read that David Allen one yet but looks interesting) and I listen to nothing but podcast whenever I’m driving or working on eBay related stuff.

    I think a lot of sellers face the same dilemma when it comes to listing, myself included. It’s definitely the least fun when it comes to the reselling process. I could thrift shop all day and not think twice about it. But when it comes time to actually take pictures and list these items then my business comes to a grinding halt some times.

    Templates are a must, especially for the amount of items we list, and I like the idea of setting up the night before, might have to try that one myself. For me, good ole “powering through” works wonders. Some days the last thing I want to do is list items, but if I don’t then I won’t get paid. Usually that thought is enough to get me going.

    Hope you have an awesome weekend of sales!


    1. Post

      I can imagine that templates get more important the more times you list similar items. Right now the clothing one is plenty for me, although I had to have a separate shirt and pants one. Good sales to you to!

  2. Great post Chris. I dream of Ebay too! I’m a borderline hoarder as I too love to shop and hunt for treasures, but then I’ve got this huge backlog of inventory. I’m glad that i have my 15 yo son helping me out a bit now. He’s been doing some of the photography and measuring/weighing for me. I love the shopping and actually the listing too..just not the prepping. It’s taking a little bit of my time to train him, but once he’s trained, I’m excited I’ll be able to hopefully get all my inventory listed this year! (Fingers crossed).

    I was listening to Dave Ramsey today and he mentioned that there are top hitters in EVERY field. Top surgeons, sports players, musicians, carpenters, etc. What can we do, how can we implement processes, etc. to help us become the top hitters in this field?

    I’ve read all of those books and perhaps I should re-read them again. They do motivate me!

    1. Post

      Dave Ramsey is also a great read although I think I’m further up the financial curve compared to a lot of his readers. He makes starting to get out of debt manageable. I’m not sure if I want to be a top hitter or just an above average one… I feel like the sacrifices wrt family would be just too much!

      1. Oh, I agree with you. I’m all about enough. I guess what I mean is that I want to get to the point where I’m making a comfortable living with reselling asap…so that I can replace my photography income and let go of my studio. Just saying that this reselling is doable and you can make good $ doing it. I love listening to his show because it keeps me motivated. My goal is to have our house paid off in 5-6 years, so I still get a lot out of his show…if you listen to it religiously like I do, you learn a lot…a lot of people call in with very complicated situations…lots of people just starting out too. There was this kid that called in to do his debt-free scream. He was a reseller (aged 21), who was netting over $120K a year..he did ebay, craigslist, etc…sourced garage sales, estate sales, auctions. It was awesome to hear this young kid doing so well. I really love this business and this lifestyle!

        1. Post

          WOW! I wish I knew about doing this when I was 21.

          We were debt free but the decided to go and buy a house. :-/ We’ve shaved off over 4 years of the mortgage so far (it’s a 30 year), so I’m not sure when we’ll pay it off fully. Sooner than average though!

          I’ve never tried Dave’s radio show. Sounds like it’s a good kick in the butt though. I’ll add it to my podcast list!

  3. You should definitely. Ours was a 30 and we have 28 left, but if we continue paying down the way we are now, 6 years may be doable. We just got our tax statement from the mortgage company today. A little over over $4K went towards principal and over $8K went towards interest? Better than average is not good enough for me. I want that money to stay in my pocket so that it can earn interest for me, not the mortgage company. You should listen to Dave’s is a kick in the butt!

    1. Post

      Wow! That’s a lot of money towards the principal Congrats! We’ve put in similar numbers. It’s amazing how you can put in relatively small #’s and still see huge rewards. Like an extra $500 and then you shave off a month of payments. Crazy stuff!

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