Friday, April 3, 2015

How I Found My First Niche and Made My First REAL Money On eBay!

Yesterday I told you how I got started on eBay and how I finally figured out
eBay Money
You can make money from
eBay if you know how!
where in the heck I went wrong.

If you want to really get the lowdown on how all that happened, you can go back and read the previous post here:

The Reason Why eBay Is so Easy to Make Money From…

eBay was instrumental in my getting started in Internet marketing, because it had so much going for it.

For one thing, you could know absolutely nothing about building a website and still be able to set up a site on eBay in a reasonable amount of time.  Since I already had some HTML experience to begin with, eBay was an absolute snap. 

All I had to do was take pictures of the products I wanted to sell, make a brief write up about them, and boom! -- I was in business.

Targeted Traffic on eBay
The other wonderful part about selling things on eBay, was the fact that you got TARGETED TRAFFIC to your products.  If you had a website, you had to somehow drive traffic to your site that wanted what you had to offer.

For people just starting out, that meant shelling money out on ads, which sometimes required lots and lots of money.

With eBay, all you had to do was put your item on the auction block in the category that was relevant.  Once you did that it was duck-soup getting people that were in your target market bidding on your stuff.

Finding My Niche and Making Money…Finally

So after a few bad attempts at selling random stuff on eBay, my wife and I decided to go into the embroidery business together.  And as I mentioned in my last post, I threw a rather wide net and started making any kind of embroidered item that I thought people wanted.

Once again the old marketing adage, “Marketing to everyone is marketing to no one.”

So, my feeble attempts at making any kind of good money fell flat. 
Trombone Hat
Our Master-Blaster Hat
It wasn’t until I came across the idea to mix two of my passions together that I got the idea to mix embroidery with music.  I created Ellistrations music apparel.

I made all of the digitized designs myself.  Hats for every type of musical instrument you could think of.  Trombone hats, shirts, and jackets.  Trumpet apparel, etc. 

And I must have been some sort of pioneer in the niche, because at the start, people were fighting over my stuff. 

I remember designing an oboe hat and putting it up on eBay.  It had a cool design with an oboe crossed in front of it and it said, “Double Reed Disaster” in the design.

Two or three women started bidding on it and it quickly escalated to $65.  Man, I was elated.  After wholesale the hat only ran me about $6.00 total and I didn’t pay shipping because I had already included it in the price.  So, I made about $60 on just one hat.  

flute purse on eBay
We even sold flute purses!

I started to make other hats and shirts as well. Sax hats, trombone shirts, bassoon jackets and every other piece of apparel and musical instrument I could think of.

I digitized my own designs and came up with my own catchy slogans and ideas.  Flute shirts that said “Fluteaholic”, Bagpipe hats that said “Piping Hot”, and tuba hats that said, “Blastissiomo Con Forte” on them. (That phrase is kind of a joke with brass players.  It means blow the *$%@ out of the instrument as loud as you can.)

How I Expanded on My eBay Business

I quickly recognized that there was real market for this music apparel stuff, so I created the Ellistrations website.

Since I’m cheap as they come, I decided to get the cheapest hosting plan I could find and build the site myself.  I needed a merchant account, but during the year 2000 merchant accounts ran about $500 just to get started.

I searched the web extensively and found two alternatives: PayPal and another site called 2Checkout.  Since PayPal had not evolved to a full blown merchant service yet, I needed a way for people to pay by credit card if they wanted to. 
That’s where 2Checkout came in.   

This site would process credit card orders for you without the commitment or outlay of cash that you needed to get started.

It merely took a percentage (2.5%) of each of your sales.  All you had to do was go to the 2Checkout site, type up the prices and label the merchandise, copy and paste the code into your website and you could take credit card orders!

It was perfect for a cheapskate lie Moi.  (That’s French, I think.)

A Huge Lesson in Internet Marketing From the Trenches

Everything was going real well, I was making sales from putting my stuff up on eBay and then directing those happy customers to my website and making sales there. 

It worked perfectly.  I was in business and making money doing something I loved.  

That is... for about a year…

For some reason, I started losing sales on eBay; sales just weren’t coming in as fast as they were before, and I was starting to feel the pinch. I did some investigating, reading and searching. 

Turns out I had made a big miscalculation.  You see in business, if your idea is can easily be replicated, you’ll have competition sooner or later. (Watch Shark Tank if you don’t believe me.)

I started searching eBay and found out that other businesses were duplicating me with much slicker marketing and material as well.  They weren’t making high quality embroidered apparel, they were cranking out silkscreen designs of all sorts.
Anyone can duplicate your business...
if you aren't careful!

Pretty soon, I had at least 20 other businesses competing with the same types of ideas as mine.  It didn’t take long before burn out and long hours multitasking took their toll on me. 

So, I made as much money as I could, socked the money in the bank and sold my machine. 

Turns out that I made quite a bit of money from my little venture, better than I had expected, actually.

But the BIG IDEA I learned from this was: If your business is easily replicated by others, you’ll have loads of competition.  

The key to creating a unique, hard to replicate business is to figure out a way to make it so complex, it will be difficult for other businesses to follow.

So I was pretty much out of the online embroidery business.

However, while running my business I discovered an easy way to make money that was so lucrative, and easy to create, it blew my mind.  This is an idea ANYONE can do if they put the time and effort into it.

However, I’ll tell you more about it in my next post.

Until we meet again…
To Your Success!
Mark “Elmo” Ellis
"When it Comes to High-Response Copy - I've Got Your Back!"
(859) 797-9560

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