Monthly Archives: February 2013

Am I too dumb to share my trade secrets for free ?

By Tony Lam

I am pondering about my friends’ advice from day one when I tried to share my experience in selling on eBay. They reminded me to be careful that my competitors will take my ideas to attack me.  I didn’t  take the advice serious until lately when I read some stories from other bloggers about the consequence of disclosing trade secrets to the competitors.

I was not born to be a seller. It was my friend who helped me out to start this business in 2009 when I was out of job. My friend was taught the nitty-gritty by a veteran eBay seller who spent more than 10 years in selling eBay. With detailed step by step coaching from my friend, I could be able to jump start my own business and avoid a lot of side tracks and hurdles that prevent me from moving forwards.

trade secrets

trade secrets

In the business world, everything is changing very fast. New products and new business opportunities arise every day. As long as profitable ways to make money are discovered, people will rush to follow suit and hope to get a share of the gold mine. As more and more people get into it, the earning opportunity becomes more difficult.  In most of the time, the business trade secret behind contributes the key factor for success, such as the secret formula of Coke. If the trade secrets of a company once opens to public, it’s privilege position in the market will disappear and it will take some time to brew another profitable ideas.

Questions to be answered

In my posts, I tried to share my own experience to earn money on eBay. They include viable tools, business ideas, and feasible ways of working by showing testing data and result. This is my success model or blue print to get the proven result.  I helped two sellers last year to start their eBay businesses from scratch. They have no idea about the ways to make money on eBay such as price set up, packaging and handling customer complaints etc. By following my suggestions, one got more than 500 positive feedback within a year. The other got a few hundred positive feedback without actively working on it. They put up only a few listings (less than 10) and repeatedly selling them. I noticed that my business share dropped because of this. I don’t mind the loss in business since they are my friends. What if they are my competitors whom I never heard of. Am I too dumb to disclose my trade secrets and let them to take away my profit?  If you were me, are you willing to do so ? Are there any good reasons ? I’m open to your input regarding to this topic.

Profitability goal setting for online selling

By Tony Lam

Did you set up profitability or residual income goals for this year ? Any plan to achieve your goals. Without the goals, the sellers may easily lose the direction or motivation to move forward.  It is easy said than done. How to set a realistic target and achieve goals of profitability?

Goal setting

If you don’t have one, the first step is to think of your goal of profitability.  Profitability by definition is the net income less all the operational cost and expense.  I did mention how to figure out the profitability at Sales or Profit. For simplicity, you may just focus on net income less the variable cost only (without considering fixed cost). Be honest and set a realistic goal for yourself. The realistic goal is the one that can be achieved only with additional efforts. If you set the goal too high, you may be frustrated after trying all your efforts but still no way to get it. The little baby steps of advancement is your driving force towards the goal.  You target can be reference to last year result. For example, if you set the profitability goal to be 50% higher than last year. If the monthly average residual income last year was $1000, you have to earn $1500 per month on average in this year.


How to achieve goals

The next step is to assess your current way of working, and figure out what actions to be taken to get additional money per month.  You may brainstorm creative ideas with your partners or do some research on Google. For instance, if you are selling on eBay and want to get additional 50% net income per month, there are several recommendations for your consideration.

Option 1 : Sell 50% more of the items with current profit margin.

If you focus on your existing categories you have while keeping the same profit margin without slashing the price, you may list more items and increase the visibility by promoting your items via different channels . Take actions to list  50% more items per week and promote your listings at Pinterest, Youtube channel or Facebook page.

Option 2 : Adjust or add  items to increase profit margin

You may review your existing products to see if any items have room for higher profit margin. As a rule of thumb, the slow moving items are those with less demand from the market. As a result, the merchant have a longer turnaround time for them. It is not justified to set a low profit margin for those items in the long run unless you want to clear out your stock. Also, try to find some niche products with few competitions in the market, such as antique collectables, they are good candidates for higher profitability.

Option 3 : slash your price with lower profit to double your sales

This is a way to sell more but it should be treated it carefully. Sometimes it works magically. The sales volume may be increased to many times. Periodically check  the net income to see if the increase is justified. By doing so,  your products are being traded down and “on sale” effect may not last long. You will be tied up extra time and money for inventory to keep the same business income as before.

Option 4 : Combination of all above options

Sometimes, a tweak and mix of options 1 to 3 will have powerful chemical effect to boost your profitability. Keep on trying different strategies and find the one that works best for you.

Check your result against the goal

Again, it falls into a PDCA Improvement process. By constantly checking the residual income earned  against the profitability goal. If not as expected, find out the problems and try other strategies or tweet the actions if necessary.

Reward yourself

If your effort pays and you reach your monthly or weekly goal,  don’t forget to reward yourself. Treat yourself with a gift that you are longing for and share the happiness with your friends. This is not only to make yourself happy but also to create a driving force to keep you move forward.  If you have any questions or wonder story to tell, I love to hear.

Online resources, online tools, freebie, free app and free trial for online sellers

By Tony Lam

When I first started as an eBay seller, I just focus on few products and make them repeatedly generate revenue for me. After I jump start my earning machine, my next step is to find ways to automate the process and multiply the earning to make it a sizable income to justify the effort I spend on. During the process, I spend a lot of time to research online for helpful information and tools. I started with free online tools, online resources, free app that help me to keep up with the changing marketplace, latest technology,  and buyers’ trends.  To save your time on research, I have consolidated my findings into the “Tools and Resources” page. They are mostly free but some require subscription fees for upgraded levels. I would recommend you to try those free of charge before invest your money on them. I will constantly update the page and please keep it bookmarked for future reference. If you want to receive extra premium training material and freebie, please subscribe my monthly newsletter too.

seller tools _ resources

Content Summary of “Tools & Resources


1)      Paypal contact, USPS contact & UPS contact

In the past, when I have questions to clarify or complaints to file, I spent a lot of time to find the right contact to resolve them.  Once I had a terrible experience to spend almost 6 months to get my money back from a legitimate shipment claim from USPS. Therefore, it is very important to know the right service contact to get your job done. The contact information in the page is based on the terrible lessons I paid.

2)      Free eBook

I will include website links containing free eBooks relating to online selling, primarily for eBay sellers for the time being. If you have any other valuable sites to share, please let me know and I will include them into my list.

3)      Online tools and online resources

As online sellers, we may need to make some product demo videos or edit eye-catching pictures, infographics  and animation graphics for marketing purpose.  Also, product research service and accounting service, eBay listing hosting services will be included. For the online tools and resources in my list, I will try my best to test them with example shown and make sure they are working.


4)      Free app for iphone

Nowadays, people use mobile device more than desktop or Laptop computer. By utilizing mobile apps, you can get your job done quickly when you are not in office.  I will list some free app that I’m using to edit photos, email photos, and read my blogs with RSS Feed.

5)      Best blogs and social media for sellers

The online market is very competitive and changing very fast. Sellers must keep watching the buyers markets and communicate with other sellers to keep pace and take quick actions to adapt to the changes. Also, social media such as Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter are widely utilized to draw traffic and keep in touch with sellers and buyers.  I will list the best blogs written by experienced seller coaches and social media discussion groups for your reference.

Reduce credit card processing fees by Paypal Here

By Tony Lam

I spent past weeks in collecting and managing the records for IRS tax return. I looked through all my credit cards /check accounts /Paypal transactions and the cash receipts, just to make sure I don’t’ miss any business expense items. The most time consuming job is to manage the cash receipts . I am not sure if I had kept every cash receipts. Without the receipts, I can’t report them as my business expense since they are the only records I had.

Health insurance premium charged twice

Also, I discovered a duplicate charge from Kaiser for the health insurance premium in the visa card statement in July last year. I called in visa card company and requested a chargeback but only to find that it was too late, as chargeback can only be done within couple of months. My only way is to get hold of Kaiser to request a refund for the duplicate charge. Kaiser’s customer service rep opened a case to credit my premium but it will take around 6 to 8 weeks to process. I recorded down the case number for future follow up reference.

Paypal credit card reader

Credit card processing fee hikes

I know that credit card processing fees are high but have no idea how high it is. This year, I did a calculation on the total processing fees over all the payment I received. The average credit card processing rate is 5.2% !!! The fees include normal card rate, statement fee, mobile line charge, and two monthly nonPCI charges (because I didn’t fill out self-declared PCI conformance survey) and one PCI yearly charge.

If you encounter similar experience as me, you may consider the following steps that I took to improve my situation and prepare for next year IRS tax return.

1) Get a free Paypal credit card reader

Get a Paypal Here card reader to process credit cards payment. It charges fixed rate of 2.7% without hidden charges. You may use the Paypal card reader to accept payment in parallel with current credit cards machine to make sure okay before cancelling the credit card merchant account.

2) No cash transaction for expense

It is really hard to keep records of all the cash receipts. Therefore, pay all the business expense by credit cards/checks/Paypal, and avoid to have business meals in those restaurants that accept cash only.

3) Check all expense every month & consolidate with Outright

Keep track of expense items and check every month for the bank statements/ credit cards transactions and clarify very questionable transaction. You may consider to open,a free Outright account like me, to consolidate and monitor all the income and expense.


P.S. (7/30/13 update) I am very happy with the The Paypal Here, it is easy to use and saves me a lot of money. My credit card merchant account was cancelled last week.

Shipping Large Items