Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Chatter - Anything and everything' started by denisebrain, Aug 10, 2005.
The photo in the article that you posted is from our very own Memphisvintage.
Sorry, I've been rather absent from my own thread! One of my big needs, as several of you have discussed, is time. It is hard to find ways to budget my time further; alas, the VFG can not be perused as often as I'd like.
The general points that most resonated with me from all here and on the VCA board:
1. Up the volume. The most common suggestion was to budget time better with other suggestions including getting help.
2. Consider other venues. This includes consortium malls online, shows and a web site. Consider adding on to existing web site.
3. Marketing. I'm new to this, but would consider newsletter-style emails, ads, promotionals and other ways to get the word out.
4. Be willing to try new areas. Don't get complacent about what works.
5. Find a mentor.
To a degree I have each of these started, and was wondering which road to try to race down first! I've decided that my first goal is to see if it is possible on my own to list 150 items on eBay in one month, while continuing to source the clothing, make bags, do cleaning, washing and mending. (And, yes, practice, teach and perform on the horn!)
Thank you for all your input!!!!
I don't know if this will make you feel better or worse... but I gave up. I found it too difficult to try to make a real living off of eBay. I started selling in 98 as a sideline and did so well at it almost immeadiately that I focussed on selling full time until last year but only the first three years were really good for me. The more I worked, the more I made. After 9/11 the economy started to slump, more people took to selling on eBay (competition) and my sources pretty well dried up. I figured if I was making at least 50% profit from sales I was doing okay but when I finally stood back and looked at my growing debt load and shrinking profit margin as well as the amount of time I was spending on making sales through eBay and the lack of time I had to do anything else I realized it wasn't worth it anymore. So I am out of doing it full time and back into only occasionally selling vintage on the side. Its a tough way to make a living. I don't have any suggestions for you because I consider myself a failure at making a living through selling vintage clothing online but at least you know its not you -- it's a tough way to make ends meet.
<B><I>"I've decided that my first goal is to see if it is possible on my own to list 150 items on eBay in one month..."</I></B>
A very good friend of mine who is a very successful vintage seller tells me all the time, "Volume, Volume, Volume!" That's one of the things I'm looking forwrd to when I get to California - buy vintage in wholesale bulk lots. I will have a large garage to store my stock in & I plan to cram it as full as I can! In fact - if I can get the lighting right, I will use that garage as my photo studio, workroom, mailing centre, etc etc etc.
So - I think if you set your <U>minimum</U> goal to listing 150 items per month, you'll see an increase. Aside from that - maybe you should think about putting more stock in your Babylon store - because I think you can demand better prices & get them there. That means less work for more $. JMHO
Once I get moved, I will be re-opening my website, but it will actually only be a window to my babylon mall store (also to be re-opened). And - Of course I have to figure out how to make that window work properly. LOL
I just purchased a small website for a year from GoDaddy. I love them! They have a Fabu support team & they always answer all my questions quickly & in terms I can understand.
I *may* also take care of my eBay carp & start selling there again. I just need to pay them off & I will be taken off my temporary suspension. My situation didn't allow that to be done in a timely manner but eBay has made it very clear that they'd love to have me back.
however... I sure as heck won't be putting anything ultra fabulous up for auction there. Although I shop well (read: I'm Cheap!), I still refuse to give this stuff away & eBay makes it feel like that's what I'm doing a lot of the time. On your "me" page, I *think* you can add a link to your personal website. If not - I know you can list the URL. So - that may send more folks your way, too. At least that's what I'm hoping for...
Best to ya, Margaret!
I'm lucky that I don't have to worry about HAVING to make a living selling vintage, especially not on eBay, but now that I'm retired (School starts in 4 days and I don't have to go ) what I make from selling vintage is an important suppliment to my income.
When I first started seriously thinking about my retirement, about 5 years ago, the plan was for me to sell on eBay full time. That was back in the "good ol' Days" of 25 cent listings, free relists and no special add-ons like Gallery. I knew I could clear $500 a week without hardly trying. But that just didn't last, and we all know now that clearing $500 is a good week.
So I decided that all my eggs did not belong in the eBay basket. I found another place to sell. I started a store in the vc mall, but it could have been Ruby Lane, or my own website, or whatever. Even an eBay store has worked for a lot of people - especially people like you who have an established eBay presence.
I also began to look locally for a selling venue. All the Vintage shops in Asheville are pretty much 60s-70s retro-type places that cater to a young customer. I found one in which the owner wanted an arrangement where she saves me all her nice 40s and older vintage, and I trade newer stuff for it. I'm not really making money that way, but I'm saving me a lot of work. If I trade 10 items (for which I'd get $9.99 @ on eBay) for one 1930s dress (for which I'll get $100 in my web store) I have 1/10th the work and no eBay fees. So that is one thing that is really working for me.
Another is that I lucked into finding a very nice vintage store about an hour's drive from me. She does consignment 50/50. She wants only excellent condition 40s-60s, mainly dressier things, and she prices them much higher than any other vintage store in the area. BUT, she's got a great location and a beautiful store, and I suspect many women have bought their very first vintage pieces from her. At any rate, I'm making as much - or more - off the things I have consigned there that I'd make off eBay, or even my mall store. And best of all, I have very little work to do. That leaves me more time to work on my website and my web store. At any rate, it's well worth the drive once a month to take her things and to collect my check!
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm working toward working Smarter, not Harder. I can't take credit for the next statement, as it has been repeated here often - You put as much work into a $10 item as you do a $100 one. My goal is not to sell lots of $10 items, but to sell my fair share of $100+ ones. So maybe I'm going against the advice others have given you when they say you need to sell more. But there are only so many hours in a day, and I suspect that you are already putting in a lot more than 40 hours a week!
Constant Contact is a newsletter website. They have a 60 day free period so you can try it out. I love doing a newsletter, but they do take a bit of time. I've found that they do work, as I always make a sell or 2 after sending one.
All points well taken. I have to get rid of a certain amount of fodder (slightly more average items) in my vintage inventory by selling it online. Spokane doesn't have that sort of retro market that you have Lizzie, that is a neat deal, trading retro for better vintage! :D
Sourcing is always a concern. Sometimes I come upon quite a lot and I feel like there will never be an end to it, and other times, weeks at a time, I find and hear of nothing. It is a bit scary. I would dearly love to have things good enough to work less! As it stands, I have to kind of take what I have, better and lesser, and just move them as quickly as I can with accuracy and integrity.
ASAP I'm going to be spreading out into another venue...that seems to be necessary.
Oh, and of course there is always the possibility that it just can't work as a living wage job, as you decided Jonathan. I have the "good fortune" to have started selling vintage not long before 9/11 (as a matter of fact I'll never forget the raspberry red suit I sold to a woman working in the Pentagon, with the auction ending that fateful day...she was on the other side of the building, but still in deep shock). I've never had it relatively easy, as a matter of fact, my business has been slowly improving throughout the time I've been selling, probably more than anything through a growing list of repeat customers.
I'm stubborn as a mule, so don't expect me to disappear anytime soon.
Thanks again for your thoughtful insights...this has been interesting!
My problem is distraction...I let myself wander off on the net and have trouble reighning it in. Here's an example of me wandering off:
We're all disheartened right now, because the sales are down.
I try to think of my fave nurseryman, a family friend. He spends all year working, but the majority of his income is for those few months in the spring when all of us dirt-fools are buying plants.
He starts before Xmas planning and ordering, plants seeds in February, waters every day, tends the greenhouses, and then sells March to July.
He raised 6 kids on this schedule and income. He works all day, hard, every day, and enjoys what he does.
He is not rich.
He also diversifies his business by selling related products, fruits & veggies, dirt, tools, local honey & jams.
What can we learn from Mr. Nurseryman?
We may need to work all year prepping and photographing for the big push of Xmas, VLV, prom, or Halloween. But, when those days are here, we're ready with a load of auctions waiting on deck and all we have to do is list. (Mine wait in the mall, sometimes, and if they sell..yeah!)
We probably won't get rich doing what we really love.
Any investment or business has to diversify. Sell related items such as jewels, linens, lingerie, or purses (like yours), that you will run into in your vintage search. Those items may help fill in the gaps between dress sales.
It's an "eggs in basket" thing...
Advertise. Business cards to people who may have vintage, different ones to that gal you see wearing some. Flyers on poles in college towns. Web banners, and other things like that. (OK, so I do the first two, but I intend to do more some day!)
Don't loose hope. If you have to go check groceries at the Piggly Wiggly for 20 hours a week, so you can have food and gas money, then do it. There's nothing wrong with that, and you aren't giving up your dreams-just being smart and realistic. It's an honest living, and work you don't have to take home with you.
You have good auctions with good stuff. Don't forget that.
Excellent advice Lizzie. I am definately in your school of thought. I was second guessing myself last night, as I am opening a website as a window to Babylon also. But my fiance snapped me back into reality. I have already made up for the cost of Babylon with very few sales. That feels good!!!!
I think I did something to offend the vintage gods, because on Sunday, both my trusty camera of 5 years and my trusty sewing machine of 25 years ceased to function! Wow, is this a test??? Hope to get back listing and sewing soon, but I'm not so sure about making any new goals this month.
Oh, Margaret - my digital camera broke a couple of weeks ago too.
300 dollars to repair, but I don't want to spend the same amount on a less good newer replacement...
I've borrowed a housemate's 'snapper' in the meantime, which is only making me appreciate the old one more. You feel handicapped when you lose one don't you?
Lin, in a word, YES. I'm actually procuring the very same 1.3 megapixal camera to use until something better comes along.
it's not about megapixels is it? it's about the focus, adjustability and lens.
Stick to the old one. My house mate has just taken hers back for a weekend excursion, so I'm completely cameraless - I used it for soooo much since I bought it in 2002 (almost made a scanner obsolete, used it to make powerpoint slides etc.). Have definitely lost a limb.
so many thoughts......
I have so many thoughts here... I'm self employed with Another Time since 1978 and always in vintage (plus more). I'm going to fight myself:USEROCKY: to keep it short here! (Great comments already spoken... and pls pardon the lack of author reference here).
"a lot of it comes down to the typical traps of being self employed"
Amen! SE people are natural risk takers and thinkers! Everthing that applies to the world of small business applies to us. Become part of the "regular business" world even it it seems like it's "not appropriate" to the size of your business. It will keep your sights up and give you ideas.
Cashflow. I don't always have lots of cash ... but I always have food to eat, clothes and a place to sleep! And abundant freedom.... That is a lifestyle I choose to live. When cash is flowing, be cautious. When cash is tight, be prepared and flexible.
"scouring the internet for magazines and places to add my link to. Marketing is key!"
Yes Yes Yes! But I am going to qualify this by agreeing with Lizzie's comment - it takes as much effort to sell $100 as $10. Why would spend hours PR'ing $10 if you can do the same for a $100 item?
One of the reasons I love Babylon Mall and VFG is because we are networking! Whether you realize it or not...your circle is growing everyday! And again.. website cross-links.
And I've just been noticing the increasing number of "Join my newsletter" links that some of our members have. I just looked at Constant Contact yesterday thanks to a VFG member's link! Oh boy..... another new level to work in!!!
"We probably won't get rich doing what we really love."
Sorry... I have to disagree with that one! The only time you can succeed is when your heart is into it! The key is to recognize when you are bumping a brick wall and learn to sidestep it. Even within your passion, you still have to read the signs!
Maggie.... 2 things that strikes me especially about you:
1) Your wonderful flair for personal fashion ads!
Where do we keep coming when we want a cute add for a special.... like upcoming Pamper Yourself Sale and the July sale?? Follow up on this and go with it - you are a natural! Couldn't this even become a "product" to sell??
2) You mentioned about sewing and your sewing machine....
After you get it fixed ... extend your talents (aka $$$) locally to restore and repair OTHERS fashions. I just wish that I could sew and am constantly looking for talented sewers to hook up with! And by the way.... I'll bet you get ooodles of vintage buying leads off that too!
All this = Diversification!
I have always kept my business diversified in very subtle ways but they all feed each other. When one is weak, guaranteed the other is stronger.
I'm working towards the goal of getting every part working at 100% All the Time! and that will only come with the help of a friend or two...
Do I live solely on my business....no because I don't have to at this time. But it is a major contributer in our household. The money and the freedom it has given me allowed me to be a stay at home mom in the 80s AND keeps us afloat too. I am secure that I could manage ...with adjustments again.... if we had to depend soley on the business.
Last but not least.... if you are only working for money, money will always be the issue. So, measure your successes with a very broad measuring stick. And be sure you do take stock of what you accomplish and ...... pat your back occassionally!
Very well put Barbara. I agree on all points. I just had a similar conversation with a Babylon seller about diversification of selling venues as well.
I've been wanting to get back to this thread for a couple of days, but it has been a bit crazy chez moi...apologies for dredging the topic up again, but I just have to say:
Thank you Barbara for your long-term (since 1978!) small vintage business insight...such wise, thoughtful words!
Is it always good to sell in more than one place? I just wonder if some buyers miss spotting things if it takes going to, say, Ruby Lane from eBay? Also, I could use examples and suggestions regarding newsletters if anyone has a lead. I get a couple from sellers here, and I would love to see more. I am a bit skeptical about my own ability to offer something of interest in this form on a regular basis. If I do it, I'd want to provide something genuinely news-worthy or fun...or something distinctive.
Again, thank you so much for the insights. Collectively, you are my mentor!
Re: Picking more than one venue....diversification is good.... but too much isn't
Choose one venue as your main place and use the rest of the venues to either make your life easier or to use as marketing. The pit some people fall in is trying to push everything they are involved in at once, and then you end up splitting hairs. Obviously you want to keep working to optimize your chances in every place you are, but you don't want to be promoting to customers "check my stuff out here, but I am here to, and if you don't like that, try this...or how bout this" versus pushing the "Denisbrain" branding/image or "Margaret Wilds, expert vintage merchant". Once you make this shift, people will follow you wherever.
The common pitfall with ebay sellers is if you don't have something "up" at that moment, you are out of sight/out of mind.
When I tried to promote my mall shop and ebay equally, i was running into exhaustion because my message was confusing to people. The same customer base could see that if they wanted something cheaper, all they had to do was wait for me to move it over to ebay versus the two being a seperate customer base/buying style which they really are, with some overlap.
Decide what your main venue is and everything else is just marketing
If it is Ebay, then use a website or mall store to promote your auctions. There are many examples of websites that provide more info, but still direct people to your auctions. And/Or Put your items that might not be the right time to put on ebay, and the holy grail items that you are willing to hold out on to get your price on your website or mall store. Or a few items that are fun but lower priced and you don't want to have to pay the fees on necessarily and would be nice add ons. Your Me page tells people that for more denisebrain, click here, and they can see other things, but not the things that they are seeing on ebay right now. The website/mall store would also on the about page, say that you are an ebay seller. etc. so check out your auctions and would bring in additional people to your auctions and to sign up for your newsletter.
If you decide your main venue is a website, etc, then use ebay to meet new customers or move things once in awhile.
I see most of you mentioning the same problems I struggle with daily.
Ahhh it's good to have company!
Try explaining to my husband that I don't just "sit at home" all day. He knows I don't, but he can't keep that phrase out of his speech. I'm having a hard time balancing housework (I have the DH plus a young DD) with vintage work. When DH comes home and asks why I haven't picked up the living room, I'm increasingly grumpily replying "Why did you mess it up?"
I'm in the process of diversification as we speak. I'm gearing up to do some local shows where I have connections. I"m thinking that, mostly, I'll keep the higher priced items on the website (which has had slow, but steady sales... I can't complain since I've not done any advertising) and move the less expensive ones quickly via shows. Ones that don't sell perhaps I'll do lots on ebay.
Turn over is one of my biggest problems. I'll put off listing something for months and months.. and then I think "oh gosh.. I've had this for SO long! I need to get rid of it!" even though the public has never seen it!
I'm awful at time management and I really need to figure out a way to reign that in. Plus.. I'm very unorganized, so it doesn't always make the task at hand seem appealing. I spend half the day putzing around... I try to get some housework done... then the DD comes home and I've got homework/snacks, etc to take care of... by the time my DH comes home I've gotten very little work done and he gets upset if I go back to the computer when he's home. Ugh.
This is my ONLY work these days and we do feel the crunch. However, I can't bartend anymore and I'm not trained to do much else that would pay enough to hire a babysitter for DD anyway.. AND we're hoping for another addition to the family. I'd just rather be at home so I HAVE to make this work.
It's frustrating sometimes. But it's nice to have somewhere to discuss both the good and the bad & commiserate.
Working at home with "others" sharing our spaces is a challenge.
This is my only business/work too. I don't have kids, just dogs.
I have an office in the house for my business.
My husband is self employed/independent contractor also and I long for the days when he had predictable hours. On days that he doesn't make appointments til 11 am or later i get nothing done. It's "HURRY...come look at this!" and its something or other on tv. Getting out of the chair when I am working on the site, etc, running out there and "darn, you missed it" takes up so much time. And if I say "NO, i am busy" I am having an atitude. Not that i don't like being with him, I do. But when he comes home he expects me to be just hanging out with him and doesn't understand that if something should be "part time hours" why it takes so much of my time. A schedule can be flexible, but i try to impress upon him that it doesn't mean "spontaneous".
Mostly, i pull in long hours for a few days after a large haul and then I ease up and can do whatever. Yes, it is a job that "runs itself" once things are up and running, but that is only after you put the work into it first.
This is the same problem I have with my DH. When he comes home he gets mad if I'm still on the computer, even though I've barely had time to work all day. But if I do come hang out with him he's just watching TV. Heck.. if I'm going to sit on my butt, it might as well be productive time!
Separate names with a comma.