As a stay-at-home mom with two energetic kids, Kathleen Smith knows all about managing time and resources to make ends meet.
These days, Smith is finding those skills frequently intersect with her part-time eBay businesslike when she braved the long lines on Black Friday to score a Nintendo Wii for her 9-1/2-year-old son for Christmas.
"He wanted one in the worst way, so I decided I would sell some on eBay and make the money to buy it for him," Smith muses. "I ended up selling three of them, and I made enough to pay for his."
Smith deals primarily in used apparel and housewares from her Auctiva Store on eBay, called Kathscloset313, which she describes as more of a hobby than a trade. She signed up with eBay about a year ago as a way to simplify her life andas her store name suggestsempty the closets of gently used clothing and other household items the family had outgrown or no longer used.
"Children grow like crazy, and basically, we just have no more room downstairs," Smith says. "With prices rising and everything's so expensive, if people want my stuff, great!"
"What I like about eBay is it's kind of like my online yard sale, but you're reaching millions of people everywhere," she adds.
Shortly after joining eBay, Smith says she was turned onto Auctiva's free auction management software by another eBay user whom she had befriended online. "I was looking at a woman's store and I e-mailed her, and asked if she'd be willing to talk to me about eBay because I didn't know anything about it," Smith recalls. "She was really nice; she called me on the phone and we talked for about an hour and she told me about Auctiva. I had never heard of it. She said 'Here's the Web site, check it out, you have to use it. Not only will it save you money, but it's also really simple to use.'"
Since then, Smith has listed exclusively with Auctiva, which she likes for its free time- and money-saving features, including unlimited image hosting; the easy, one-page listing designer; and the wide array of professional listing templates. And the ability to schedule auctions to start at any time is especially liberating for this busy mom, who also has a toddler.
While juggling the kids' school activities, illnesses, baseball games and karate lessons, Smith manages her online business by limiting listing creation time to the periods when her daughter is napping. She strives to have at least 20 active listings at any given time.
"I normally try to put in an hour-and-a-half each day," she says. "Usually the day before I'll take the pictures, and the next day I'll try to put the listings up. Or sometimes in the eveningif I have any energyI'll schedule the listings."
Smith says she would like to expand her eBay activity, though she's still searching for her niche. She just might find it in the garage, which is full of tools inherited from her late first-husband, who was a mechanic. "I first need to educate myself on what they are, and then try to sell them," she laughs. "It's funny, I bought a Snap-On Tools catalog that covers a broad period of time, and I thought I could just browse through that and try to decipher everything. Of course, I purchased it on eBay."
Overall, Smith's eBay experience has been positive, though like many sellers, she is unhappy with some of the recent changes introduced by the online auction site. "I think the fees are outrageous," she says. "But the customer service has been very good.
"It's fun," Smith adds. "I've met so many people online, and the bulk of the people are very nice."
If she could offer one piece of advice to other sellers, it would be the same guidance given to her by another eBayer not so long ago: "Sign up with Auctiva," Smith says. "To me, it's very user-friendly, and saves you money. I love the templates; it just kind of dresses up your ads and makes them nicer looking."
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.