How to turn your eBay hobby into a fully-fledged business

Neil Parker is the managing director of DriveDen, an online automotive parts retailer that got its start on eBay. Here he explains how he made the leap from selling as a hobby to successfully running an independent online store.

shutterstock_165020897Millions of people worldwide use online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon to sell lightly-used or brand new possessions that they don’t need. Often, their initial goal is to declutter their home or, in my case, earn some extra pocket money. As I found, though, it’s incredibly easy to get a taste for it once you discover how easy it is to list an item, and watch people bid on the pieces you’re selling. If you’re anything like me, you’ll get a buzz from it and will begin to hunt around your house for bits to sell as you realise that everything you own could be worth some money.

The next step for me was to begin sourcing products from wholesalers, car boot sales and markets to sell for a profit. From here, my sales grew naturally as I learned how best to list the products I was selling. After a few months, I was making enough money to leave work and set DriveDen up as an independent online shop, which is exactly what I did.

Since then, DriveDen’s turnover has grown to more than £2m, and we’ve seen the largest amount of growth in the last year. I’m very proud of the business we’ve built up from the eBay account I set up all those years ago. If you’re looking to do something similar, here are some tips you’re likely to find useful.

Continue to sell on multiple platforms

Branching out from selling on an existing platform doesn’t mean that you should close the door completely — particularly to begin with. So, once you’ve set up your own website, I’d recommend continuing to sell through the online marketplace you started out on. Listing products on your website mightn’t come with a fee, but sites like eBay and Amazon are always going to attract far more traffic, which is why large retailers like Halfords and Argos choose to sell through them. Therefore, the online marketplace that you’ve been using and benefitting from isn’t something you should turn your back on.

However, I would recommend investing in multi-channel management software, which will help you manage the orders from each platform. It will allow you to monitor listings, inventory and warehouse operations, helping you to avoid buying too many or too few of particular items. This kind of software is also cost-effective, as you won’t need as many staff to keep on top of things.

Concentrate on delivering the best possible customer service

There’ll be a whole host of businesses selling the same products as you. Therefore, you need to stand out from the crowd and can do so by offering fantastic customer service.

You want your customers to trust you and recommend your company to their friends, as well as come back to you the next time they’re looking for something you sell. So, you can’t focus entirely on offering low prices — you need to provide a positive experience, too. This will earn you a great reputation and help you to build a successful future for your company.

Seek professional advice when needed

It’s wise to seek expert advice when it comes to the more complex areas of running a company. For example, since setting up DriveDen I’ve asked for assistance with our accounts and HR from experienced professionals working within those fields.

I’ve found this beneficial as it’s difficult to keep up with the regulations surrounding these areas. Running a business didn’t leave me with enough time to ensure that I was doing everything correctly, so I knew it would be wise to acquire some outside help. It’s been well worth it as it’s saved me a lot of time and given me peace of mind.

Transitioning from selling through online marketplaces like eBay to having your own business isn’t easy — it takes a lot of work and a great deal of bravery. But, DriveDen is a testament to the fact that, if there’s a market, it can be done. So, if you’re thinking about taking the next step, do some research and follow these tips to make things much easier for yourself.

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