Monday, 12 December 2011

Success on eBay?

Well, it's a question rather than a statement. I was reading one of those men's magazines the other day (FHM since you ask, the Jan 11 edition if you want to check) and there was an article entitled 'Get Rich Ideas' and there at number 8 was 'Set Up an E Bay Shop'. I've done a bit of eBay trading in the past so thought that this must be worth a minute or two of my schedule to see if there are any good ideas that I am missing. I'm usually pretty good on irony but when the first paragaph ended with the statement 'buy your products cheap, sell them at a profit' I did think that I was rather wasting my time. This was rather confirmed when a so-called expert was then quoted as saying 'The key to success on eBay is finding items that sell'. Really?

Anyway, all that aside, I do scan the eBay historical figures section on an irregular basis to see what is currently doing well. A few years ago you could not go wrong with Flames of War. If it was decently painted and presented then it was almost certain to sell. As long as you didn't expect to make a living out of it then it was a way of funding your hobby. At present it seems as if Napoleonics are enjoying a bit of a resurgence with once again, well painted figures seeming to fetch good prices. There also seems to be a thriving individual pieces market with gunfighters, generals, pirates and such like being snapped up. There is a Henry V figure on there as I write which is jaw droppingly good and at a current price of £36 (or thereabouts) is typical of the genre although I would stress that this is at the upper end of what people seem prepared to pay.

But what constitutes a reasonable price? I reckon that for the average foot figure that is well painted then if you get £5 you are doing verywell. Given that it must take a minimum of an hour for the work necessary to create the figure in the first place then you have to wonder if you wouldn't be better off getting a job that pays the minimum wage. I see that the painting pros charge about £20 for a foot figure if you go straight for the commission route although even these acrylic gods seem to routinely use eBay.

So I throw the question open. Is it really as simple as well painted, photographed and priced figures or is there more to it? Does anyone have any tricks of the trade they are willing to share? Does timing play a part? I try to launch my sales at early Sunday evening on the basis that this gives the best chance of snaring weekend browsers - and before you ask, this is only a subjective view. I have no evidence whatsoever to back this assertion up.


  1. We don't use Ebay. We built our business up through attending shows and having a strong web presence. At first we offered pre-painted items for sale but now 99% of our business is commission work. We currently have 1900 hours of work lined up. But it has taken us 7 or 8 years to get to this point.

    The work is not as easy as everyone thinks it is and the pay is on the low end for the time and talent that goes into it. Plus you will most likely loose your hobby once you become busy; the last thing you want to do in the evening is paint more figures when you've painted them all day.

    But it can be rewarding. You have to be very self motivated and disciplined. Customer service is a must.

    Bob Chicka
    Evil bob's Miniature Painting

  2. I used eBay as a way to market my painting in the early days, but it's really a buyer's market there and you will get a better return once you can find a steady clientele.

    For me, what's work the best for finding new clients is YouTube. I do progress reports, tutorials, reviews and other stuff that get seen by a lot of people. Many of my current clients have found me that way.

    Additionally, my photos on Flickr tend to jump pretty high up in Google Image Searches - so people will see my work, follow it to my Flickr account and contact me that way. Just having them on Flickr is helpful, but making sure that you make good use of tags - as well as naming your photos appropriately is the key.

    But what Bob said is true. If you go this route - and are successful - you'll no longer be painting for yourself. I was afraid that it would turn my hobby into drudgery but instead it's made me a better painter and I look forward to getting home from work so I can start my painting work.

  3. The question is how many of your potential buyers are sitting at their computers on the weekend? . . . or are they doing something else?

    Do your potential customers surf the net from work? If so, perhaps trying a few auctions that end during working hours might be worthwhile.

    Good luck, sir.

    -- Jeff