As my readers know, I travel the country talking to people who make a living selling stuff on eBay, Amazon and the other online e-commerce platforms.
As a lawyer and business consultant, I'm not always able to answer the more technical questions people have about starting and maintaining their online accounts. But as we used to say in the Bronx when I was a kid growing up, "I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy ..."
Here are some of the best guys and gals I know who can help you get your online retail business off to a solid start, and who will be there for you when the going gets rough.
How Do I Get Started on eBay?
EBay offers an excellent online tutorial for newbie eBay sellers. You can find it here: https://www.ebay.com/help/selling/selling/start-selling-ebay?id=4081.
EBay also offers a weekly podcast for sellers, hosted by one of its senior executives, which you can find here: https://community.ebay.com/t5/eBay-Podcast/ct-p/eBay_podcast.
For help with specific topics, new eBay sellers should bookmark the "Seller Central" page on the eBay website.
If you are not a do-it-yourself sort of person and you want human help setting up your accounts, your best bet is to join a meetup group of eBay sellers. To find the group nearest you, go to https://www.meetup.com/topics/ebaysell, or search "eBay seller meetup group (your state)" online.
Finally, if you need one-on-one consulting from a pro seller, search online for "eBay consultant (your state)." You will pay by the hour, but the job will be done right. Some of my favorites are Stephanie Inge (https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanieinge), Kathy Terrill (https://ilovetobeselling.com), Deena Quilty ([email protected]) and Danna Crawford (https://powersellingmom.com/ebay-consignment-selling).
How Do I Get Started on Amazon?
Selling on Amazon is a much different experience than selling on eBay. To understand the differences, go to https://crazylister.com/blog/selling-on-amazon-vs-ebay (fair and balanced), https://www.sellerapp.com/blog/amazon-fba-vs-ebay (pro-Amazon) and https://www.wheretosellonline.com/amazon-vs-ebay (pro-eBay).
Like eBay, Amazon offers an online tutorial for newbie sellers at https://services.amazon.com/selling/getting-started.html. As part of the startup process, you will need to decide between Amazon's "Fulfillment by Amazon" (FBA) and "Fulfillment by Merchant" (FBM) programs. For help in deciding which is right for your business, check out https://feedvisor.com/university/fbm-or-fba.
Next, sign up for Skip McGrath's weekly Amazon sellers' blog at https://www.skipmcgrath.com/blog1. Skip is a top-ranked Amazon seller who has been offering advice and resources for Amazon sellers since the very beginning. If you want to learn about the latest seller software, deal with difficult customers or sourcing merchandise in Kazakhstan, you want Skip's blog in your inbox every Monday morning.
If you're looking for more personalized help in getting started on Amazon, go to https://www.meetup.com/topics/amazon-seller or https://amzsummits.com/amazon-seller-meetups to find the nearest meetup group (many of these folks sell on eBay, too). For one-on-one consulting, some of my favorite Amazon people are Bob Willey (www.sellercoaching.com), Karen Locker (www.solutions4ecommerce.com) and Chris Green (www.amazon.com/Mr.-Chris-Green/e/B005PPUPX2).
What If I Get Into Trouble?
EBay and Amazon each have their own rules and regulations for sellers, and it's easy to make mistakes. Sooner or later, your account is likely to be suspended because someone (usually a competitor) thinks you are selling counterfeit merchandise or trademarked merchandise without authorization from the manufacturer.
For eBay's rules, go to https://www.ebay.com/help/policies/member-behaviour-policies/user-agreement?id=4259.
For Amazon's rules, go to https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/G521?language=en_US.
If your account is suspended or shut down, it's best to get expert advice before you deal with eBay's or Amazon's customer service personnel. A cottage industry of people has sprouted up in recent years offering to help suspended eBay and Amazon sellers get back on track. My favorites are Cynthia Stine (www.egrowthpartners.com) and attorney C.J. Rosenbaum (www.amazonsellerslawyer.com).
How Do I Deal with Sales Taxes When I Sell Online?
As a newbie online seller, you are legally required to register for sales tax in your home state. Search "(your state) Department of Revenue" online to find the website for your state tax authority. Many local accountants will help you register for sales taxes free of charge if you ask them nicely for help (and offer to help them clean out their attic).
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision may require you to pay sales tax in other states if you have a significant volume of sales there (generally $50,000 to $100,000 per year). For an up-to-date listing of each state's rules, check out https://www.avalara.com/us/en/blog/category/sales-and-use-tax.html. If you find you need to register for sales tax in multiple states, Taxjar (www.taxjar.com) offers resources that will help you keep track of returns and payments.
If you sell internationally, you may be subject to laws in other countries requiring you to protect data you receive about your customers there, such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (see https://gdpr-info.eu). Also, things you can sell legally in the United States may not be legal to sell in countries with different laws and cultural traditions. As with any business, knowing a good lawyer, and keeping him or her informed as your business grows, is the best way to stay out of legal trouble.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.