How to become a eBay Trading Assistant – Is it Really That E-asy?

e-how (How to do just about everything) published an article “By ***amylaine” touting these 7 easy steps to fame and fortune as an eBay Trading Assistant.

Huh? Is it really this easy?

I can certainly attest that the process and the challenges facing eBay Trading Assistants are much more complicated and more labor intensive than this article suggests.

Lets review the e-How list…

  1. Sign up with eBay – OK Sounds Easy, until you actually read the accompanying agreement eBay makes you opt in to. The eBay Trading Assistant agreement transfers all legal liability to you and essentially makes the Trading Assistant become a legal shield for eBay. Beyond that, read my previous articles about the eBay Trading Assistant Agreement – It can be a challenge just to read, for an attorney even.
  2. Must have “Ten Sells” in the last three months to qualify (e-How’s English, not mine) Sounds Easy and can be quite easy on eBay, but why is the figure so low? To Maintain a Successful eBay Trading Assistant business one will need to maintain a minimum of 30 sales per month at an ASP exceeding overhead after payout to the client and eBay and Paypal. 10 Sales in three months will not give anyone an inkling of an idea of the dedication needed to become a successful and profitable Trading Assistant.
  3. Create a Simple Brochure and Ask Businesses to display them for you. Wow , there is an advanced marketing strategy.
  4. Pass out fliers and business cards in your community – Must be a more advanced version of the marketing strategy. Sure word of mouth is a good way to add to business, but the marketing plans listed here will not provide anywhere near the volume of traffic needed to pay the bills as mentioned in #2.
  5. Post a classified ad and Post on Craigslist – Hilarious, I mean really, how long does anyone think an eBay Trading Assistant’s advertisement will last on Craigslist?  And even if it is not flagged & pulled, the people on Craigslist are there because they do not like paying eBay fees, much less commissions on the sale. Stay away from Craigslist to advertise your eBay TA business. Classifieds are a much safer, yet infinitely more expensive bet.
  6. Contact local businesses and offer their overstock via the Internet – This plan has a bit of merit, yet without a much more serious business plan I doubt any new Trading Assistant with only 10 sales in the last 3 months will get much face time in front of decision makers. Businesses hate to lose money and liquidating via a Trading Assistant means it will cost them more than if they simply did it themselves. I am not saying a Trading Assistant wouldn’t do a better job, but small business seems to have a hard time seeing the value of eBay Trading Assistants without some sort of organized and efficient plan and usually a brick and mortar location to work from. Businesses want to know they will be handing over stock to a safe and reputable, insured concern. Starting out as a Trading Assistant from your home will not usually give them this impression. Make sure you have yourself established before knocking on too many business owners doors.
  7. Hand out Business Cards at Yard Sales and Flea Markets – Isn’t this a return to #4?  I guess this could have been a 6 step list.

Not That Easy

In reality becoming a Trading Assistant is much more complicated than most articles you find on the Internet will indicate. eBay itself tries to make it sound easy, yet they protect themselves with an agreement which a Harvard Law professor would have a hard time deciphering.

Trading Assistants work is not the path to independent wealth and security, it can provide a nice small amount of extra income for retirees and stay at home parents (if they have the time to do all the work involved).

Bigger is not always Better

Stepping up to a full size Trading Post (Now REDOL) has been proven across the land to be a very difficult business model to sustain. Overhead is too high and margins are too low in most cases. The successful REDOLs (Registered eBay Drop Off Locations) usually have very sophisticated systems of marketing and just plain good locations.

Even with a good location all is not assured because these businesses are rapidly finding the public has learned to sell on eBay for themselves.

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0 Responses to How to become a eBay Trading Assistant – Is it Really That E-asy?

  1. Just A Thought August 29, 2008 at 10:54 pm #

    As a soon-to-be-ex Trading Assistant, I can vouch personally for the amount of work involved and the low return. Granted, it’s possible to find clients, but then you have to keep track of sales, pay out settlements on time, store the product safely (so it’s still there to ship after it’s sold), plus stock shipping supplies, deal with the shipping, and don’t even get me started on returns.

    I’m hoping against hope that I can convert my current consignment contract into an in-house service contract — running their sales, using their staff instead of my aching back, and using their space instead of paying huge monthly storage rentals. There’s a slim chance…

    It -can- be a good way to generate a level of extra income, but after 5 years, I still haven’t reached a steady, livable income. The more I sell, the harder I work, and it seems like the less I have to show for it. 🙁

  2. Steve Kennedy August 31, 2008 at 8:11 am #

    I love the e-asy…awesome eye-catcher in the title.

    Also, good job helping people understand the difficulty of this business model.

  3. Tom D. August 31, 2008 at 11:50 am #

    Not easy but it can be done…

    I have run TA business part time for 2 years and last year my wife took over – she is doing it full time while I assist with marketing and accounting (I sitll have a full time job).

    Our secret? Automate everything to keep the cost down. We use Blackthorne to manage all of our auctions including consignors info and payments.

    We standardized our shipping into (about) 10 typical boxes which we always keep in stock. We use eBay shipping calculator to calculate cost – works fine. We also print shipping labels at home – saves time at the post office.

    As TA’s we often purchase the items for resale rather then work on commission, quite often people don’t want to wait 4 – 6 weeks for the money.

    We specialized in rare(r) collectibles where prices are (typically) higher. Cameras, Bottles, Toys etc.

    We often group items together. There is no profit in selling anything at $0.99. But if you offer 20 similar items for $49.99 you make some money with less work.

    Advertising in local paper works – but we rarely mention word eBay. We buy collections of collectibles for cash. 9 out 10 times we make money. Sometimes we make money by walking away from a deal… If something is worth $1000 we might offer $500 for it. If the owner wants $800 we walk away. Sometimes you make a mistake and its OK. Clear it at $0.99 on eBay and move on.

    We run the business from home to keep the cost down.

    My wife has a lot fun doing it – a lot less stress then her regular job and she has more time for kids and ME.

    I have fun developing the business and interacting with Clients. I have enough expertise now to appraise (most) items on the spot. The secret is simple – buy cheap but never steal. We often deal with older people how simply need money. We treat them the way we want other people to treat our parents. They get preferred treatment and respect.


    Its tought and time consuming. You have to plan to take time out. My wife works only Mon – Fri. I get involved on the weekends. She makes OK money but its not all about money. Less travel, less stress, better quality of life. Its worth it!

  4. Scott Pooler August 31, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    @Tom D

    Great comment, thanks so much for joining in the conversation!

    Observation Re: Couple of keys to your success:

    As TA’s we often purchase the items for resale rather then work on commission, quite often people don’t want to wait 4 – 6 weeks for the money.

    Buying Goods instead of consigning them is a whole different operation than the standard Trading Assistant consignment setup. Much wiser and easier to manage – Glad to hear it is working for you.

    “She makes OK money but its not all about money. Less travel, less stress, better quality of life. Its worth it”

    Expectations – Many people are enticed into the eBay Trading Assistant business by stories of fantastic earnings from single items, and articles such as the one referenced in my article above. These articles come out almost on a daily basis touting the easy, money making, eBay TA lifestyle. More often than not these articles are written by people who never have done the job or invested time in learning what the profession entails.

    I applaud your attitude and your approach to selling on eBay, you have not focused completely on the consignment model (of.. having a retail store with no inventory overhead) because that is just a dream. There is overhead in this business as with any business. Systems, such as you mentioned are required and experience has taught you the path to follow to happily sustain extra income.

  5. Mike Dancy November 26, 2008 at 9:41 pm #

    I’ve been a TA on and off for 7 years, before I knew what it was… and I think around the time eBay figured it out. Just hooking up buyers with sellers and taking a cut.

    It’s tough, the traveling to customer locations can take up a LOT of time. Only to get there and realize that it isn’t going to make either of you a tonne of money. That’s why you have to jack up the commissions.

    I’m lucky enough to have a friends warehouse where I can store quite a bit and it gives me a legitimate ‘address’ which goes really far as well.

    It’s not easy. It’s fun though. My favorite part is just seeing the odd items that people have. I’ve sold everything from unique jewelry, loads of computers and office equipment, cars, forklifts, antiques and just about everything you can imagine.

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