How to Start a Successful Small Business – Right Now

Looking for another stream of income? How about a little business that you can start — almost instantly — for less than $100 and with 100 million customers ready and waiting?

Ten years ago, it would have been an ignis fatuus; today, however, it’s a very real possibility. The breakthrough Internet site eBay allows people to bid on, or sell, anything from aardvark Beanie Babies to Zydeco accordions — and everything in between. All you need is a checking account and a small budget for a few ads. Since ads can cost as little as $5, you can conceivably start your enterprise with only five bucks. With a $100 investment pool, you’ll be able to test 20 ads. Where else can you test moneymaking ideas for so little money?

But wait! There’s more!

With eBay’s payment-processing service (PayPal), you can even accept credit-card payments without any of the hassles or expenses that usually go with opening a merchant account.

Imagine that: With five to 100 bucks in the bank and a product to sell, you can get an ad for your product in front of millions of potential customers — and take credit cards for payment!

What’s that? You say you don’t have a product to sell? No problem! Get your feet wet by selling your own stuff — anything you don’t need that’s lying around the house. Once you’ve turned all your trash into cash, look elsewhere for merchandise. (Some people even wind up making deals with manufacturers who can drop-ship their merchandise to buyers.)

Here are some good sources:

  • Garage Sales and Rummage Sales

Next to getting stuff free, the best way to obtain items for resale is by going to garage sales and rummage sales. Check the classified section of your local newspaper for ads, and get out there and find yourself some bargains. It’s very possible to buy something at a garage sale for $1 and then sell it on eBay for $10. That’s a 1,000% mark-up! Do that in volume, and you’ll be on your way to making significant profits.

  • Consignment

Taking things on consignment is another good way to get merchandise. You don’t invest any of your own money in inventory, so you have no risk. And you can accumulate an unlimited number and type of products to sell. When an item sells, you take a percentage of the proceeds — 30% to 40% is standard — and give the rest to the consignee. You can even sell your services online. Take a look at one entrepreneur’s ad:


NO experience needed at the piano, just the desire to learn and the willingness to go to the instrument and do your lesson 10 minutes a day. Your online teacher will be Fritz Owens. For more information, go to www. . . If you’re already involved in online sales, an excellent way to use eBay is to place an ad there and drive people to your website — where you can sell your more profitable “back-end” products without the overhead of eBay and PayPal fees. In your eBay ad, just list your website address and link it to your “About Me” page by saying, “Visit my About Me page to learn more about your seller!”

Once customers go to your website, you can capture their e-mail addresses by offering them a free newsletter. Eventually, you will build a huge database of interested buyers.

All this is a perfect way to start or further promote an ETR microbusiness — which, as I’ve been telling you, is a small business that you can start for a song but build up to give you a nice reliable income. If you’re not a technical whiz, not to worry; eBay is so simple to use that even a computer-illiterate person like me can sell products there very easily. There are just a few basic steps:

Step 1. Figure out what you want to sell.

If you’re not sure, this problem, thanks to eBay, is easily solved. Browse around and you’ll be able to see how many bids every item is getting. If an item is “hot,” that might be a good product for you to sell — perhaps with some kind of unique twist you can add to it. If, on the other hand, you see that an item isn’t selling well, chances are it won’t sell well for you either. Either way, it’s like all the market research has already been done for you. This is one of the most powerful benefits of eBay. Make sure you use it.

Step 2. Create the ad for your product.

Here’s where ETR readers have a huge advantage over everyone else selling on eBay. Because, in past messages, you’ve learned a lot about how to write effective ads. (For openers, see Message #138 — and then check the ETR Archives for lots more on this subject.) Even better, you might have decided to become a real expert by studying AWAI’s  copywriting course. (If you haven’t, you can get started for $79 at.) Stop for a minute and think about what this means.

  • You can easily find the hottest-selling products with a huge, ready-to-buy audience.
  • You can write strong advertising copy for them.
  • In a few days, you could be selling more of them than almost anyone else!

If this isn’t an easy recipe for sales success, I don’t know what is.

Step 3. Once you have your ad ready, get a good-quality photo of your product that was taken with a digital camera.

Step 4. Log on to eBay and go to the “Selling” section. You’ll find easy-to-follow instructions that will walk you through the entire process.

Here are some other tips offered by veteran eBay sellers:


  • Do accept international as well as domestic buyers.
  • Do be forthcoming and honest about any defects in your product.
  • Do ship products as quickly as possible. A one-day turnaround policy is sure to satisfy your customers and make them want to buy from you again.
  • Do offer a money-back guarantee, when feasible.


  • Don’t schedule your auctions so they end on a holiday.
  • Don’t use a negative tone.
  • Don’t waste the limited space in your title on words or symbols like “L@@k,” “Nice,” or “No reserve.”
  • Don’t use music, waving flags (or other animation), or a multicolored background in your ad.
  • Don’t say “as is.”