As I mentioned in Part One, I started selling on eBay as a desperate attempt to bring in enough money online to allow me to quit my job. I foolish bought more inventory than I could afford because I wanted a successful, profitable business RIGHT NOW! (Yes, looking back I can see that impatience is probably the quickest way to failure. I have been impatient all my life; it is definitely one of my less desirable traits.)
By the time my second child was 9 months old, I was back to work full-time, taking care of my two children, and trying to juggle my growing eBay business. I now had close to 3,000 items in my online store, and I was selling $2,000 to $4,000 a month. Despite the monthly sales, I was not actually making any money. A portion of the sales went to eBay fees (which grew to be more hefty as the years and my inventory increased) and Pay Pal fees. A portion went to shipping expenses including postage, envelopes and plastic bags to wrap the clothes in. I spent a small fortune on storage tubs to hold all of the clothes. Our very large size study was stuffed with tubs as was the walk in closet off the study, the landing of the stairway leading to our front door (enclosed), and the landing of our stairway at the back door. The rest of the money went to buying new merchandise or paying down business debt. I was essentially working for nothing.
The other thing I had not counted on when growing such a large store is that eBay is fickle, and they change their rules frequently. One month after I was back to work full-time, when my son was five and my daughter was 10 months old, eBay began deleting any listings that were not marked with an item description–new or used. Now, in every one of my listings, I specifically wrote if an item was new with tags, new without tags, or used, but that wasn’t what eBay wanted. They designed a little button that you had to click to mark new or used, even if you had it written in your description. Because of the way I had initially listed my items, I had to change all 3,000 listings one by one using time I did not have. I thought of getting out of the business then, but I simply had too many debts. In the end, over 400 of my listings were deleted by eBay before I could make the change. I had no way of knowing what items were deleted.
Postage was always a problem too. Customers understandably don’t want to pay more for shipping than they have to, so I tried to make my shipping prices as accurate as possible. The trouble with doing that was that each year the USPS raised postage prices, leaving me to manually adjust each item. It did not happen. Over four years time, I began to lose some serious money on postage for some of my older items.
EBay also had something called accounting assistant where I could download my sales and import them into Quick Books. However, I had to keep up with my sales and importing them because after 60 days, all information about my sales was deleted. I had my third daughter at the end of April last year. When she was about 6 weeks old, I was ready to start working on downloading my sales, only to find out that eBay had decided to do away with accounting assistant. Now I had no good way to download my sales.
Finally, I admitted defeat and decided to close my business. I have not bought any new items for my store in 15 months. I have been putting my items on sale trying to clear them out. Finally, I feel that bit by bit we are beginning to reclaim our study. I look forward to the day all of the tubs are gone so my son can move his desk in here and have a work space next to mine and my husband’s. He is six, soon to be seven. He needs his own space away from two little sisters.
I have been steadily paying down the debt; I now have 35% of the business debt paid off, and I hope to see that go down faster as I sell off more and more items. My husband and I agree that if we have to pay some of this off ourselves as “stupid tax” we will. It is more important to be out of this business and regain our living space and my time.
My husband never really wanted me to pursue this business, so I am glad that he is not too upset with me now. We have talked about it, and both think I put so much energy into this little business because I did not have enough confidence to believe I could make a living out of blogging and writing. Now, my husband is about to graduate and work full-time; his salary will provide our primary means of support; I will have time to finally stay home with my kids and grow my blog and writing business on the side. It feels so freeing to begin to shed this eBay business. I hope to close it by December 31, 2011. What a great way to start 2012!
Have you had an experience like this? Have you diverted your energy because you did not have confidence to pursue what you truly desired?