Work-at-Home Saturday — Scentsy

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Welcome back to Work-at-Home Saturday! If you’d like to feature your work-at-home story and tips here, please email Please note: This is not a space to simply advertise your home-based business, although it can of course include links to your business. It is intended as a space to share your story, help others see how they could do something similar, spark ideas on different ways to work from home, and give tips for success.

Amanda’s Scentsy Story

I started selling Scentsy in September 2011, and during that holiday season made close to $1000 from mid-September to December — a great payoff, considering that the consultant kit/agreement just ran $99. I chose to sell Scentsy because at the time I had two boys, one with autism and both with speech difficulties and needed something extra to supplement my income. Since then, we have added a third son to the chaos!

Learning to love Scentsy

When I was first introduced to Scentsy about two years ago, I honestly wasn’t a huge fan. I loved their warmers, but not so many of the scents. The hook came the following March, when Scentsy released their charitable cause warmer — a warmer called Piece by Piece, which benefited Autism Speaks. That was the first warmer I purchased, and then I tried it again with different fragrances. Since then, and with the help of my consultant (now my director), I have fallen in love with the majority of the scents. I’m traditionally a food/spice scent kind of person, but the spring scents that Scentsy released are WONDERFUL. I’m also very excited about the new fall scents that Scentsy released on September 1st, including French Toast, Apple Press, Dulce de Leche, and Frosted Ginger Cookie.

What Scentsy sells

Scentsy not only offers warmers and scented wax, they also offer Layers, a line of personal care and laundry care products. I am a big fan of the solid perfume (and I’m not really a perfume kind of person). They also have Scentsy buddies, a line of stuffed animals that have a pocket for a scent pak of your favorite fragrance. With each new catalog (two a year) they also offer a charitable cause warmer that benefits a foundation voted on by Scentsy consultants. In the new 2012 Fall and Winter catalog, proceeds from the charitable cause warmer will go to support the Special Olympics. They also have warmers that donate proceeds to firefighters, police, EMTs, and our armed forces.You can check out all of the products at

On May 1st of this year, the Scentsy Family launched Velata, a line of chocolate fondue warmers with silicone dishes that can go in your fridge and microwave along with specially crafted Belgian chocolate. A third line, Grace Adele, is a line of stylish and sophisticated handbags and accessories designed with an “intelligent interior” — an interior with pockets designed for the matching wallets, notebooks, cellphones. These also come with a TSA approved resealable clear plastic bag for all of your travel size bottles. Best of all, this line uses five simple steps to help people like me (who are used to carrying diaper bags!) create a fashionable look that coordinates my jewelry, accessories, and my handbag.

What you can earn

Across the board for all three brands (Scentsy, Grace Adele, and Velata) consultants initially earn 20% commission on their sales until they hit $1000 in cumulative sales. At that point, your commission is bumped to 25%. There are no order requirements for consultants. In order to stay “active,” however, you need to sell $150 in a 3 month consecutive period. But, consultant agreements are not terminated until January 1, giving lots of leeway for consultants to arrange the business to best suit their needs.

Scentsy Family also provides great (yet easily attainable) goals for your first 15 days and first 70 days as a consultant, ranging from purchasing a pack of warmers at a great discount, to product credit, to purchasing what you want. Another factor that makes it super-easy to be successful is that by selling one of their brands (Scentsy, Grace Adele, or Velata), you can recruit for all 3, which is practically unheard of in direct sales. If you sell more than one brand, all of your sales go into a combined “pot.”

Tips for getting started

If you are interested in starting a business with Scentsy, Grace Adele, or Velata, I would strongly encourage you first to find out which line you LOVE. It will be so much easier for you to achieve your goals and sell if you love what you are selling!

Then, be adventurous — talk it up! Start out by making what Scentsy calls their “list of 100,” or, one hundred people you know from church, work, the gym, parent groups, school parents, work associates of your spouse’s, long distance relatives, etc. Get on the phone, share your enthusiasm, and introduce them to Scentsy, Grace Adele, or Velata if they haven’t been already!

You could also host your launch party in your own home, earn commission on what you sell, AND get the hostess rewards from the party. If you do not already have a consultant for any of these brands, I would be more than willing to answer any questions you may have about starting your own business with Scentsy Family. I am part of a great team in Central Illinois, but we also have members in Wyoming, Indiana, and Ohio.

Marketing the products

The fall season is the best sale period for Scentsy. Start asking around about holiday open houses — one idea is to get together with other direct sales consultants and do a one stop shopping event for Christmas. Other ways to market include doing fundraisers for local groups (think church mission trips or school PTOs), displaying products at your local fall festival, and encouraging your friends, family, (and future customers) to book parties! There are so many ways for people to host parties even if their home doesn’t accommodate a large quantity of people — the only way really not to succeed at this is not to try.

Here are a few other ways I sell Scentsy products:

  • I sell from my own Scentsy website.
  • I host parties in my home (about one every quarter).
  • I have done parties in other people’s homes.

I also do tote parties, where a customer will take a bag with some samples in it, mini testers so others can experience the fragrance, catalogs, order forms, and whatever specials I am running that month. They’ll take that tote to work, church, etc., they’ll collect orders, and then I sort and package the orders when they come in and deliver them to the hostess. The hostess gets all of the host rewards, I earn money, and the hostess doesn’t have to worry about cleaning her house! This is a win on all fronts.

Income potential

September-December was my busiest time last year, including my launch party, one home party, one tote party, and two holiday open house shopping events. You really do get out what you put in to it, so your income will vary based on how many parties you have per month.

Summer tends to be a harder sell because so many families are on vacation, kids are in summer sports, and so on, but it is still possible to make a decent commission during the summer months. With just one $500 party a month, you get $125 in commission. Figure 2-3 hours for a party, an hour to set up, about 30 -45 min for packing up your things (or less, depending on how much you bring), and you could average about $25 an hour. Vendor shows like holiday open houses are a little more labor-intensive (usually 6-8 hours if it’s a weekend show), but can also pay off with better profits.


Being a part of Scentsy’s family has been great for me! I have fabulous support, not only from Scentsy corporate, but also online from my director and fellow consultants. There are a ton of training tools and ideas available on the consultant workstation that you can access at any time. Scentsy really has given me a wonderful opportunity to make the most of this job on MY time, on MY terms, with very reasonable requirements. If I’m having a horrendously busy month because of school schedules, work schedules, and therapy schedules, I don’t HAVE to work my business as hard as I have in other months. One of the many great things about Scentsy is that I can work my business while I live my life, and that my business doesn’t have to run me.

Current promos

During the month of September, Scentsy’s midsize Pumpkin warmer and Caramel Pear Crisp scent are 10% off. If you haven’t checked them out already, please visit to learn more. All warmers carry a lifetime guarantee against manufacturer’s or electrical defects, and Scentsy support has been excellent at replacing items with no hassle.

Get in touch

If I can answer any questions, help you launch your own Scentsy Family business, or put you in contact with someone closer to you who could, please let me know! You can reach me at or on Facebook at Amanda Stribling, Independent Scentsy Consultant.

Work-at-Home Saturday — Etsy

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Welcome back to Work-at-Home Saturday, which highlights different ways to make money on the side! If you would like to share your own story, please do drop me a line at — it’s wonderful to hear about all the different things you are doing.

Michelle’s Etsy story

I am a kindergarten teacher by day and a hair clip maker by night! My business is Looney Daisy Creations, and I create hair accessories for girls of all ages. Right now, most of my creations are geared toward babies and young girls; however, I am hoping to branch out soon.

(The name Looney Daisy is after my aunt Martha, who passed away very young of cancer. She was a big part of my life, and I wanted to do something for her — she loved loons and daisies. I always thought I would own a daycare or school with that name, but this works for now!)

How it began

My business idea started while I was on bed rest with my daughter. I was trying to keep busy, and found Etsy. I ordered some bows, flowers, and hair clips for her to wear after she was born, started watching videos on how to make them, and my business was born from there. When she was about three months old, I went to the craft store, and then got started. I started selling to family and friends at first to try them out, then opened up my shop soon after that. I got lots of feedback from these people and that helped me to make my product better. This feedback has been key to the success of my shop thus far.

Advantages of my business

One advantage of having a side business like this is the ability to make some extra money. However, my husband may disagree, because I tend to spend all my earnings on supplies! I also do try and make my items affordable so that other moms like me can buy them and not feel guilty for spending a ton of money of hair accessories; I try to give my items a fair price while still making a profit. I also try and buy supplies on sale — I am a sucker for a roll of ribbon on sale. This allows me to keep my prices low for my customers!

I really enjoy being creative, and I have for my entire life. This business is my creative outlet — I love taking pieces and putting them together to make something new or different. In my shop, I also try to offer something a little bit different than what I have seen in the stores or in other shops; I want my items to be unique and stand out.

My shop allows me to make special gifts for friends and family, but I have also been able to do some charity work with my shop. I recently offered some of my sushi clips for an auction, which was for a family who lost their 20-month-old son. I am also working on a gift basket for a silent auction which will benefit children and families affected by prematurity.

Building a business

I market my shop on Facebook and on my blog — and of course by showing off the clips on my daughter and myself when we go out! If someone asks about them, I give them my card, which includes a coupon code to save 10% off an order. Word of mouth has also helped my business grow, and I do giveaways and offer coupon codes as well.I also like to include freebies with my orders as a way to say thank you to the people who are buying my hair clips.

I try to price my items lower so that they are affordable to more people. It’s also useful to have a variety of prices, and I run sales and offer coupon codes often to draw in more business. My business started out small, with just the simple clips. Now that I am making a little bit of money, I am able to purchase more supplies, allowing me to offer more items in my shop.

My business has grown immensely from its beginning. I started out with some headbands, and then moved onto  simple clips, and have branched out from there. I browse other Etsy shops to see if they offer anything I can turn into a hair clip, and several of my newest clips were created with the help of other Etsy sellers.

How you can get started

My biggest tip for others on getting started is to just do it! You can start small and go from there. I started with one idea for headbands and then branched out from there. You can also learn a lot from YouTube. I hope to one day stay at home with my daughter (and future children). I am hoping that this business will be a stepping stone to help my family get to that point.

Work-at-Home Saturday — Focus Groups

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Today’s Work-at-Home Saturday is brought to you by Lili, who shares her experience with focus groups, as well as ideas for anyone looking for these types of opportunities.

What do YOU do to work at home or earn money on the side? Would you like your story featured in Work-at-Home Saturday? Please drop me a line at

Lili’s focus group story

Some moms might not be aware of money-making opportunities through focus groups advertised on Craigslist and other sources. While most of Craigslist’s advertised focus groups are at on-site facilities, some are for in-home interviews, journaling with photos of your grocery or retail shopping, or some other daily activity that you forward online at completion.

The only drawbacks for some may be that on-site focus groups don’t offer childcare services during your group, and don’t reimburse for your travel. For any downtown Chicago focus groups, parking is your responsibility. But whether you go to a facility or meet in your own home, I haven’t seen a difference in reimbursement.

Since I first began looking into focus groups over eight years ago, the trend has moved toward in-home interviews or online interactive groups, reflecting a falling economy. But there still are far more money-making opportunities to be had at on-site facilities. For my schedule, focus groups at facilities are more convenient, as I’m either downtown or on the move during the day and can’t stay home to wait for an interviewer.

What can you earn?

Over a period of 5 years, the lowest-paying groups I’ve applied for paid $75 for 1-2 hours of my time. The majority pay $85-$100, usually in cash. The most I’ve earned in one group — over 2 years ago — was for the only mock juries I’ve ever participated in. Oddly, I participated in 2 mock juries within 30 days through different survey houses. One paid $250, and the other $225, for about 4 hours of time each. (P.S. — neither advertised “Mock Jury participants wanted,” and I can’t remember ever seeing any ads for one in all these years.) Except for being asked if I ever heard of a small company (which I hadn’t), one screener’s questions were so deliberately vague I only knew after I walked in what I was there for. That happens from time to time. Following those mock juries, I wasn’t contacted for any groups for well over a year, and that’s just how it works.

Occasionally, extra incentives are offered. For example, a group might offer an extra $25 for completed homework assignments you bring into your group, or an extra payment gets forwarded to you for post-group homework assignments.  I even won an extra $50 in a raffle once, just for showing up 30 minutes earlier than my scheduled group.

Besides snacks and beverages, sessions are often preceded by catered box lunches or suppers for downtown lunch-hour or after-work groups (suburbs, too!). These focus groups are a great way to expand your social connectedness, and I often find it affirming, even exhilarating when strangers brainstorm together or disagree with one another during a session. Sometimes you’ll be flattened by an over-aggressive participant, other times you’ll find yourself driving the discussion. Whatever the group dynamics, people are always in an upbeat mood, for sure, as we pick up our cash lump sum exiting the building.

If your spouse or significant other, your children and/or their friends take part, the amount you receive goes up exponentially. The big money-makers are men’s beer/alcohol preference groups, potential car buyers, mock juries, or kids’ in-home focus groups.

Finding focus group opportunities

See if you can register online with Fieldwork Chicago or Focus Pointe Chicago; both are large survey houses. Fieldwork sends me emails about upcoming focus groups based on my profile and past focus group participation. Be aware that with these larger (Fieldwork-type) survey recruiters, their database tracks your activity with them. If you have exceeded their client’s specs of doing a focus group within the last 3 or 6 months, you’ll automatically be excluded from notification. For smaller survey houses, self-reporting that you’ve done more than 3 groups (ever!) can disqualify you from some of their upcoming groups as well, and they tend to offer a lot less for your time.

If you’d like to go further, go here to view an extensive list of Chicagoland recruiters — some sorted by specialties. This allows you to register online for specific companies through the provided links, whenever you have time on your hands to do so. Also, at the bottom of the “Jobs” column on Craigslist, click on <ETC> to view focus groups currently available. You can select the tab on top to view your preferred area, “Chicago” only, West Suburbs, Northwest Suburbs, etc. I’ve also recently learned that you can download the Craigslist app to your phone and get a notification whenever a new ad is posted.

Diverse opportunities

I’ve had diverse opportunities in large groups, such as: To critique Toyota TV ads following its recent publicized recalls; to offer viewpoints on religion and philanthropy;  to express concern about healthcare or health insurance; to talk about political trends; to brainstorm on women’s fashion catalog mockups, Dove’s branding; and to express preferences in healthcare products like contact lens solutions or even asthma inhalers. One quirky incubator group wanted ideas for what seemed were products as-yet-undeveloped, giving us only the letter, let’s say, “Q,” to come up with ideas on what products, services and businesses they might develop with only that letter for us to work with.

About a year ago, I did a 30-minute session to tweak new washer/dryer models, simply because I’d been looking at new washer/dryers anyway, and earned $75 cash. Another group brought together a diverse group of women to talk about our families’ meals and needs, then wanted feedback for a famous chicken company’s plans for healthy frozen meals and projected freestanding restaurants. I’ve done a 30-minute individual assessment of Sara Lee’s packaging for fresh deli sections, and participated in a large group to critique new Kraft cheese lines. Note: Participants never receive samples to take home (lol).

Next week, during lunch, I’ll be in a 30 min. individual session at a State Street store to evaluate their website. The reward?  A $100 store card at the conclusion. Note: This opportunity came from answering a Craigslist ad posted by an outside group, who’s conducting the evaluation, not through the store itself.

Overall, I’ve sought focus groups that were most interesting to me or outside the box, and highest-paying for my time. I’ve had broad exposure to upcoming products, themes, advertising, and new packaging, and given up a modest amount of time to receive a huge leg-up toward expenses on the household “wish list.” Because the focus group experience has been overwhelmingly positive for me on a lot of different levels, whenever an offer is made to participate, I jump at it — not knowing when the next opportunity will come up again.

Work-at-home Saturday: Swagbucks

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Search & Win

As long as we’re doing work-at-home Saturday stuff, let’s talk about Swagbucks. Since we’re now at the end of the Christmas shopping craze for this year, it’s time to start thinking about next year (don’t hit me!). What I mean by this is: Let’s start thinking about using sites like Swagbucks to add to our holiday funds with minimal effort for the next year, so that next holiday season you have a bunch of free money sitting in your Amazon account to spend on gifts for your family.

Swagbucks, it is silly, and people get sucked too far into it and spend too much time hunting down the codes. But if you can avoid that nonsense and simply use it for everyday activities, and enter the free codes as they come to you, points can add up. (I often post these codes here or on the Mashup Mom Facebook page.) Think: If you only make $20 a month in Amazon gift certificates, which is a very reasonable goal, by the end of 2011 you’ll have $240 in your Amazon account — and that’s nothing to sneeze at, if they have the same excellent deals we saw this year. :)


  1. Sign up for Swagbucks here. Use code JoinIn2010 to start with 60 bonus Swagbucks instead of 30.
  2. Existing Swagbucks folks (or if you create an account today): There is also a 9-point Christmas Swagcode on their blog, good all day. If you’re newer to Swagbucks, you simply copy the code, then paste it into the “enter your swag code” box on their home page.


I do not use the Swagbucks toolbar, because I find it both intrusive and annoying. What you can do, though, is instead add their search plugin to the built-in search in your Firefox or Internet Explorer browser. Scroll down the page here under the toolbar download, and you can download a plugin.

What this does is add Swagbucks to the list of search engines in your built-in search at the right-hand side of the top of your screen. You can use Swagbucks to search for things you already know where they are, like, say, “mashup mom” — I use it to go to my own site and to other sites I commonly visit. In this case, I don’t have to worry about their craptactular search capabilities, because I already know where I’m going and can easily scroll through the junk sponsored results to get the one I want.

Now, if you want to do a real search, what you’ll want to do is switch your search engine back to Google. You can either just go to in your browser, or very quickly click the little arrow next to the Swagbucks logo in the search box in the upper right and pick Google from the list.

Use Google for your important searching, then you can switch back to Swagbucks when you’re done.

Why is Swagbucks search worse?

Well, they have to make their money some way, and one way they make money is by “sponsored” searches. Sponsored searches means someone paid Swagbucks to have their site show up in the top results when someone searches for given keywords, regardless of whether it’s actually relevant to that search. Let’s see, for instance, what happens when we search for “mashup mom.”

In Google, if you search for “mashup mom,” I’m the first result. (As well I should be — there’s only one me! lol) In Swagbucks, I’m the fourth result, and mixed in with other irrelevant sponsored results… Williams Sonoma, sexy mommy quiz, Polish pottery direct (?). If you’re searching for something simple like mashup mom, OK, that’s easy enough to weed through. If you’re searching for something important, like, let’s say, information on a medical condition, Swagbucks is not what you want to use.

Then why do you use it yourself?

I wouldn’t be talking about Swagbucks at all if I didn’t use it myself. I do use it, and keep it as my default search engine in that search bar in the upper right of my screen. But I use it almost exclusively to visit my everyday sites, rather than using it for real searches.

I continue to use Swagbucks because I do earn for my searches, and do like having money in my Amazon account. The trade-off is worth it to me, but I think it’s important to be aware of Swagbucks’ limitations and to realize that they’re not going to give you something for nothing; they’re making money off of this too!

Other stuff

If you have extra time, you can do “trusted surveys” and “no obligation special offers” on their site for additional Swagbucks. Be very careful of anything that asks you to download software or make a purchase in order to earn. Like anything else, you’ll make more Swagbucks the more time and effort you put into it — but like anything else, it’s important to be aware and to protect yourself online.

What is Swagbucks and how do I sign up?

If you want to sign up for Swagbucks, you can do so here. This is a referral link, so I will earn some points for the points you earn from your searches if you sign up under me.

Not familiar with Swagbucks? It’s a “search to win” site — you get random “swagbucks” for searching, which you can add up and redeem for gift cards and other prizes on their site. Most people redeem for gift certificates, since a $5 Amazon certificate runs you 450 Swagbucks.

Note that their search is NOT ANYWHERE NEAR as good as Google, no matter what they claim, because it only includes a few results from Ask and Google mixed in with sponsored (paid) links, so I use it mostly for things that I already know where they are — type in Mashup Mom, for instance, when you want to come here. You’ll see a lot of people very uncritically promoting Swagbucks with lots !!! of exclamations!!! Why is this?

The very best way to make money on Swagbucks is through other people.

If people sign up under your referral link (either when you email friends or post that link on, say, a blog), you earn matching Swagbucks for those they earn from their searches, up to 1000 Swagbucks. Even though I post seldom about Swagbucks, and post warnings whenever I do, I still earn more from referral searches than from my own. Now, think how well some sites can do by pushing it uncritically and often.

Whenever you see someone pushing Swagbucks or anything else online, stop and think: What’s their motive? That’s not to say that Swagbucks is inherently bad (again, I do use it myself), but it’s important to be aware and to take anything you read online — here or anywhere else :) — with a grain of salt. Use it, but use it in the right way, and know that most non-blogger people earn between $10-$20 a month for light everyday searching, not hundreds of dollars a month.

Work-at-home Saturday: Selling on eBay

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Today’s work-at-home Saturday features Christy, who, in addition to blogging at The Shopper’s Apprentice and providing the excellent Meijer matchups over here, sells on eBay as silkster.

I’m going to be reviving this work-at-home Saturday series and again bulking up the money-making side of Mashup Mom in the New Year. If you’d like to share your own story of how you run a home business or otherwise make money at home, please drop me a line at — we’d love to hear about it!

Christy’s story

Selling on eBay is an adventure. You can make it into a career, a part-time job, or a hobby. In this article, I will discuss my history with eBay and how it has changed over the years. I will also walk you through the steps necessary to sell a particular item on eBay, and I will show you ways that you can find a niche and begin your own eBay business.

I started selling on eBay almost 12 years ago, and have seen many changes over the years. In the beginning, selling on eBay was a necessity for me and my family. My husband and I were newly married and had two children within 23 short months. We were faced with providing for our growing family on one income, since I didn’t want to return to my job as a research engineer. So, we started cutting corners wherever we could, from shopping the sales at all the grocery stores to turning down the thermostat.

To save even more, I picked up baby clothes and toys at garage sales. Since my mother had an antique store when I was younger, I have some knowledge of antiques and would often see them at garage sales for very low prices. My mother encouraged me to buy them and take them to antique stores to re-sell, but this was a lot of work, and the stores didn’t often pay well. She then recommended that I try eBay.

How it began

I listed my first item almost 12 years ago. I still remember the white Beanie Baby bear I purchased for $2 at a garage sale and put up in my first auction. Seven days later, it sold for $153 — and I was elated. I had found a way to supplement our family income, while at the same time staying home to care for our children!

In the beginning, the antiques and collectibles sold very well. In a good year, I made $15k selling on eBay. Their fee structure was more favorable to sellers and the economy was thriving, so making a profit was much easier than it is today. Every year, we use the money I make on eBay for our family vacation. We have also used it for large-scale home improvement projects and to purchase new cars.


eBay has seen dramatic changes over the years. Many new rules and restrictions in make it more challenging for small-time sellers like myself. For example, any package lost by the post office is now the responsibility of the seller, and we are no longer able to offer shipping insurance to our customers. As eBay has become more profitable, more and more companies have also created eBay stores in order to sell their merchandise, creating much more competition — there are literally millions of listings!

Finding flexibility

Yet people continue to bid on my auctions, and I continue to make a profit. This is an extremely flexible way to make money while at the same time being home to care for your children. One of the benefits of selling on eBay is the ability to set your own hours and decide on your own pace. Our family has since grown to include five children, and I’ve chosen to take a leave from eBay after the birth of each child. I took just a few weeks after the birth of our third child, since we weren’t as financially comfortable as we are now. When my fifth child was born, I took a 6-month leave from selling on eBay. There are few other jobs that allow you the flexibility to make those kinds of decisions with virtually no penalties (except the lack of income!).

Getting started

So let’s assume you have an item that you want to sell on eBay. The very first step is to find out if it’s worth selling. In order to find this out, you will need to set up a free eBay account. Enter the name of your item in the search box and take a look at the auctions that come up. Some of them might have bidders, perhaps none of them do.

Realize that this results page doesn’t give you complete information about the way your item will sell, since many of the hot auction items won’t go up in price until the last few minutes of the auction. Now, go to the left side of the page and click on “completed listings.” You will see a new set of auction listings, all of which have been completed. You can now get a sense of how well your particular item is selling, and what price it is selling for.

Once you know the selling price, you can estimate your final profit. Is this item something you found in your house, that you were going to get rid of anyway? Then your profit is the final selling price minus the fees. Is the item something that you purchased for the sole intent of re-selling? Then you need to take the final selling price and subtract the eBay fees plus your original purchase price. Whatever is left is your profit, and only you can determine if the work ahead of you is worth that amount of money.

Deciding what to sell

So how do you go about finding an item to sell? If you’re getting rid of the clutter in your house, just sell what you have. If you want to turn this into a business, though, you’ll need to pick a product to specialize in. The best way to see hot selling items on eBay is to go to, which will show you the items that are most often searched for on eBay. The ten most popular terms will come up on the first page, but if you want to narrow your search, select a sub-category in the pull-down menu above. For example, if you select Health and Beauty, you will see that the top three search items are: 1. Mac, 2. Philosophy, and 3. Victoria’s Secret. These are the items in Health and Beauty that people are most after. So if you want to develop a business, you can contact those companies and see if they are looking for sellers, or you can try to find wholesale lots of those products to resell. For example, I just searched on Victoria’s Secret, and the number 1 item was an auction for 500 bras selling for $9,995. Now do some research and decide if you could make a profit purchasing that lot, breaking it up, and selling the bras individually.

Figuring out fees

If you’re going to accept PayPal for payment (and almost ALL sellers do), you can count on the total fees being somewhere near 15% of the selling price. This includes the insertion fee, the final value fee (which is based on a sliding scale), and the PayPal fees. Some sellers try to recoup their costs by charging a large handling fee, but that practice is discouraged by eBay (and I agree).

Posting pictures

So now you have an item that you want to sell, and you’ve decided that you will probably make a profit on it….what’s next? You need to get a picture of the item to show your bidders what they will be getting, so you will need either a digital camera or a camera phone. Take a few pictures, upload them, and edit them to best show off your item. Is one picture enough, or will your item require multiple pictures to best show it off? If you need multiple pictures, you can load them separately onto eBay (only the first picture is free) or edit multiple views of the same object into one picture. I do this with Microsoft Image Composer, but there are several programs out there that can do this kind of task. Note that eBay is becoming more controlling of the pictures on their auctions (I believe in order to reduce storage requirements on their systems). It is important that your pictures are crisp, clear, and colorful, so do your best with them. A picture truly is worth a thousand words!

Listing your item(s)

The picture is complete, and now you need to start the auction. There are several ways to do this. I use Turbo Lister, a free program provided by eBay for medium- to high-volume sellers (or us busy moms!). Turbo Lister allows me to maintain a template I can change with each listing. The inputs are simple, and I can do the work offline, so I put my auctions together during the week and then upload them all at one time using Turbo. This is a great convenience! If you’re not going to use Turbo, you will have to enter the information for your item manually through the “sell your item” page on eBay.

There are so many choices to make! First, come up with a title for your auction. Include as many keywords as possible that a buyer might search on.  You then need to select a category – look at the category of similar items that have sold, and put it in the most popular category. Now write a description, and be as detailed as you can. Make sure you include information about defects, cracks, repairs, holes, or any other details about the item’s condition. If you’re selling clothing, list the size, but also use a tape measure to make exact measurements (some sizes vary by manufacturer).

Then you will have to decide what style auction you want. Most auction-style listings are 7-day auctions with no Buy-It-Now (BIN) option. You have the choice of adding Buy-It-Now, but this costs extra. If you want your bidders to have the ability to buy your item outright, you need to decide on the price that you will be happy with. You can do a straight Buy-It-Now listing (no auction), an auction in combination with a Buy-It-Now (buyers can start bidding at a price lower than the BIN, but if someone comes onto the scene and is willing to pay the BIN price, the item is theirs for that price), or a straight auction with no BIN.

You also need to set a starting bid for your item. Some sellers start all their auctions at $.99 and let them ride, but it’s helpful here to think about the lowest price that you would accept for the item you are selling. I usually start my auctions at $9.99, but I’ve been at this for many years and am experienced in auction trends. Start carefully until you are sure about what you are doing! There’s nothing more frustrating than having an item sell for much lower than it was worth – and this has happened to me numerous times. The other side of the coin is the items that sell for far more than you expected, and I figure they balance each other out.

Setting shipping

Now you need to make some decisions about shipping. First, figure out how you will ship your item. Will it fit in a bubble envelope, or do you need a box? I’ve had great success in getting free boxes from grocery stores. Find the right box for your item, and weigh the item with the box. You’ll need to input the weight into eBay so they can compute exact shipping charges. I usually ship breakable items Priority,  and non-breakables Parcel Post. (Packages that are shipped Priority are handled much more gently.) If you are shipping books, CDs, or DVDs, you can ship them media mail. It takes longer, but is extremely inexpensive! Just make sure there are no advertisements in your media mail items, as anything with an ad disqualifies your item from media mail shipment. Items under 12 oz can ship First Class.

Now you can decide if you want to include a handling fee. I always include a $1.70 handling fee when I am shipping an expensive or breakable item – this is the cost of USPS insurance for items up to $50. I figure if I sell something for more than $50, I will pay for the extra insurance myself, since the item did so well! Insurance up to $200 is $2.10, and there is a sliding scale for more expensive items. Just make sure you don’t use the word “insurance” in your auction itself — eBay won’t allow it!

Now you have to decide if you will ship your package overseas. I usually allow this, but I charge a sliding scale handling fee based on what I think the shipping fees will be. Some fees, such as PayPal fees, are computed based on the total payment — so if it costs $50 to ship that package to Germany, you will see much higher PayPal fees because of the high cost of shipping. My average added international shipping fee is $5.00, because not only do I get charged higher fees based on shipping, I also have to fill out customs forms at the post office and wait longer while the clerk processes the item. To me, my time is worth money, and I charge accordingly. I am upfront about these charges in my listings, so my international bidders can decide if the shipping fee is something they are comfortable with.

You can add other options to your auction listing, but they will cost you. eBay has a good tutorial about the various selling options on its website. I rarely (if ever) pay more for these services.

Up and onward

Now your auction is up, so sit back and watch it for the next 7 days. Don’t be surprised if there are few or no bids on your item until even a few hours before the end of the auction, since many bidders wait until the last minute!

Soon enough, your auction is over and your item sold. Now what? Go to your “my eBay” page and click on “sold” items on the left-hand side. You should see a detailed account of everything that you have sold. Click on the “send invoice” button and send your buyers an invoice, then wait for payment. When the buyer pays, you will receive notification from PayPal. I always send a courtesy email to the bidder to let them know that payment has been received, and to let them know when their package will ship. I usually ship within 24 hrs of the end of the auction, and after the package is shipped I send another email to notify the buyer that their package is on its way.

Wrapping it up

That’s it! You’ve just completed your first sale on eBay! All that’s left now is feedback, a system where you can rate your buyer, and the buyer can rate you as a seller. Having high feedback marks is important – this is often how a buyer determines if they want to purchase from you. It is important that the item description is correct, that you ship in a timely manner, that your shipping charges aren’t too high, and that you have good communication with your buyer. One bad feedback rating affects your overall score. A good score can lead to seller fee discounts, increased sales, and a better sense of satisfaction for a job well done.

If you want to get started on eBay, my personal recommendation is to sell what you love. After all, you will be handling all the merchandise — so it might as well make you smile. Best of luck, have fun, and happy selling!

Work-at-home Saturday (OK, Sunday) experiment — Swagbucks

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Search & Win

Next installment in our ongoing work-at-home earn-a-bit-on-the-side experiment: Swagbucks.

Again, I’ve been a Swagbucks member for quite some time now, so no sign up bonus or anything in this segment of the experiment. Here, I’m not counting Swagbucks earned from referrals — again, I’m trying to compare apples to apples and see what the average person might earn from these things, not what someone with a blog who has a wider referral reach might earn.*

  • 9/11 — Did 15 searches, earned 26 Swagbucks from searching (6, 11, 9). Entered trusted surveys, got one Swagbuck for that. Tried three surveys, qualified for none, took two minutes doing that. Did a poll for one Swagbuck (30 seconds), and went through no obligation special offers (30 seconds) for another one. Total: 29.
  • 9/12 — Did 12 searches, earned 25 Swagbucks (8, 6, 11). Total: 25.
  • 9/13 — Did 12 searches, earned 30 Swagbucks (11, 8, 11). Got one for opening the toolbar and a 5 Swagbuck toolbar code. Total: 36.
  • 9/14 — Did 11 searches, earned 21 Swagbucks (7, 7, 7). Got a 12 point code from their blog. Total: 33.
  • 9/15 — Did 13 searches, earned 12 Swagbucks. Got one for opening the toolbar. Total: 13.
  • 9/16 — Did 12 searches, earned 26 Swagbucks (8, 7, 11). Total: 26.
  • 9/17 — Did 9 searches, got 23 Swagbucks (12, 11). Total: 23.
  • 9/18 — Did 14 searches, got 26 Swagbucks. Got one for opening the survey page. Got 7 from a code on their blog. Tried two surveys, qualified for none. Total: 34.

So my total Swagbucks for 8 days of very light searching and no serious messing around (I didn’t play much with the surveys, only took one poll, didn’t do any of their special offers, etc.): 219 Swagbucks. Now if I were going to cash out, I’d do the $5 Amazon gift card, which costs 450 Swagbucks. At this rate, it would take me about 16 days to do so, so I’d earn about two $5.00 gift cards a month.

This is not making anyone money fast, but it takes very little effort. I do my searches from my own toolbar, not their crap one. I just added Swagbucks search to it — I use it to search, for instance, “Couponers Wanted” whenever I go to that site, and it keeps the phrase in there so I just need to click to go. If I were to put a bit more time into the surveys, special offers, polls, etc., I’d earn a bit faster.

What I like — Easy peasy. Good way to just save up gift cards all year to use over the holidays — even at $10 a month, that’s an extra $120 a year to help avoid credit card bills in January.

What I don’t like — Their assertion that their search is just like searching Google, because it’s absolutely not. The spammy nature of some of the “special offers,” if you go in there.

Will I keep doing it? — Yup. The opportunity cost is almost nil. If I need to do serious searching I can switch to Google with just one click. I’d keep doing Swagbucks even without the extra referrals, but see below for…

* Why I’ve been fascinated with Swagbucks in particular

As a former librarian, the assertion by Swagbucks (and blindly repeated all over the Interwebs) that their search is as good as Google bothers the heck out of me, as does the implication that you too can earn fabulous prizes (buy a Wii on Amazon after just a few months!).

I see a lot of people hyping the heck out of Swagbucks, and here’s why they do so. Through their referral program (full disclosure: this is my own referral link), you can earn up to 1000 Swagbucks per referral. Swagbucks matches whatever your referrals win through their searches, up to 1000. (They don’t match Swagbucks earned through codes, surveys, or other methods.)

Do the math on some of the larger blogs. Let’s say you refer 20 new people to Swagbucks this month, and each of your referrals earns … oh, say, around 300 Swagbucks in the next month from their searches. That’s 6000 Swagbucks for you just from referrals that month, or enough to cash out for a $50 Amazon gift card (cost: 5900 Swagbucks) instead of a $5 one.

What have I actually been making on Swagbucks? I’ve been cashing out for $50 Amazon gift cards, and have earned about one a month for the past few months (except in August… I think I didn’t post about them in August… and have been mostly posting the codes on Facebook instead of here). So, about 80% of my Swagbucks income is coming from other people’s searches (thanks!), and I don’t even hype it all that much.

So I obviously do post about Swagbucks on occasion (and always with the disclaimers about the quality of their search), because it’s something I’d participate in even without the referral income. But as always, it’s interesting to think about why a particular service is promoted so excitedly and so often.

Oh, and here’s a way-back-when little post about their search quality and how to add them to the built-in search on your toolbar so you don’t have to use theirs.

Work-at-home Saturday (OK, Sunday) experiment — SendEarnings

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On 9/14/10 I also joined SendEarnings, which pretty much looks and acts like InboxDollars, so I’m not really clear why there are two different sites. Anyway…

  • 9/14 — Made a $5.00 bonus for signing up. Tried and completed two initial surveys and earned $1.00. Read one paid email, $.02. Spent about 10 minutes, made $6.02.
  • 9/15 — Tried 3 surveys, spent five minutes, didn’t qualify for anything, $.00.
  • 9/16 — Took a silly quiz, $.75. Did a household survey, $.25. Did a cash survey, $.50. Spent about 10 minutes total, made $1.50.
  • 9/18 — Took a profile survey, made $.25, spent about one minute.

So. Spent 26 minutes on the site and earned $7.77 — although after that $5.00 signup bonus, your return on investment drops considerably. They have a referral program where you earn a bit for certain activities your referrals complete on the site; this is a referral link. I haven’t explored the site thoroughly or done some of the other activities, but it’s worth a look-see.

What I like — The $5.00 signup bonus is nice, and I kind of like taking surveys (if I have about as much fun as I do playing around on Facebook and have the chance to earn a bit on the side, why not?).

What I don’t like — The “offers” it makes you skip through (be careful about what you accept!), and the fact that you can spend time trying for surveys and not qualify for anything.

Will I keep doing it? — Off and on. I probably won’t pop in there every day, but I will when I have a few spare moments or feel like trying my luck at the surveys. Update: Segal reminded me in comments — I do recommend setting up a separate email account at Hotmail, Gmail, or Yahoo Mail to use with any of these sites so that the mail they send doesn’t clutter up your real inbox.

Work-at-home Saturday (OK, Sunday) experiment — YouData

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So on 9/14 I joined YouData as part of my ongoing experiment in these little side ways to earn money online. The premise here is that advertisers pay you for your attention to their ads: A few cents for looking at an ad, and a few cents more for clicking through to their site. Annoyingly, they require that you receive one text to your cell phone for account verification, but they don’t text you again after that.

You sign up on their site and then create what they call a “MeFile” — basically, you answer some survey questions about yourself and your household. The more of these surveys you fill out, the more ads are supposed to be available for you to look at.

  • 9/14 — joined, filled out a couple of initial surveys, looked at and clicked on ads. Time taken: 4 minutes. Earned: $1.11.
  • 9/15 — spent 5 minutes updating profile by answering more surveys. Spent about 30 seconds looking at and clicking through on ads. Made $.61.
  • 9/17 — no ads available.
  • 9/18 — spent about 30 seconds logging in and clicking on ads. Made $.11.
  • 9/19 — no ads available.

So. Total time spent: 10 minutes. Total earned: $1.83. You also earn up to $1.00 for everyone you refer to the site ($.01 for every ad they click on for the first 100 ads). This is a referral link. :)

What I like: Quick, easy to do, and they automatically dump your earnings into your PayPal account every Friday, so you don’t have to wait to reach a set payout amount or wait for a check.

What I don’t like: The text verification, and the fact that you can login and find no ads available. Huh, I just also noticed they charged me a $.03 PayPal transaction fee on Friday. Is that even legal?

Will I keep doing it? Yes, why not! It takes a very minimal amount of time (especially after you answer the initial surveys) to check for and click on new ads, and I like these little ways of keeping my PayPal account funded for when I want to buy something online. I’ll probably keep checking in every couple of days.

Work-at-home Saturday — resources

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Welcome back to Work-at-home Saturday! Since so many people have been asking, I’ve added a bunch of work-at-home resources and links in a new permanent page.

You can always click “Work at Home” at the top to access it again. This is a huge work in progress, and I’ll be updating it regularly. If you have suggestions for additional resources, please comment here.

Work-at-home Saturday — Amazon Mechanical Turk experiment day one

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Last experiment of the day with little ways to make side money online: Amazon Mechanical Turk. I’d signed up a while back but not played with it much; today, I logged in and poked around some more.

What I found: A lot of this is spammy and asks you to sign up for offers, etc. Some of the offers ask you to do things like post their spammy links to your Facebook profile (don’t). Others pay you a penny or so to go to a website and vote in a contest (not quite fair, is it). So, be careful what you click on and what types of information you give out.

The tasks, or “HITS” that seem more legitimate are those that require more time and effort, such as writing articles. I managed to accept a HIT, take 20 minutes to write an article, and then accidentally clicked “return HIT” rather than “submit.” Returning the HIT puts it back in the pool for someone else, and then I couldn’t find it again. Gah!

So, had I done it right, I would have made $2.00 for 20 minutes of work. That’s not super, but apparently as you complete more of these tasks your rating improves and you get a chance at better-paying projects. Me, I just wasted 20 minutes. :) I’ll try again, and report back next Saturday on how the week progressed.

Update: I just played with some of the quick tasks some more. Spent 13 minutes total and: Entered identifying info from the covers of 9 comic books (made $.27), took a survey (made $.20), answered two questions ($.16), and gave someone my ZIP code location ($.01). That’s $.64 in 13 minutes, or less than $2.00 an hour. Hmm. Of course, some of this time was my getting used to the system…