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How to make money from E-Bay without ever listing a sale

Today thousands of people use e-Bay and other online auction houses every day. Photos with e-Bay ads make a huge improvement in sales and in the price received – so you’d think every person listing with e-Bay would post a photo with every item they list. Surprise – not everyone does. Often it's because they just don't know how to do it, or don't have the equipment needed.

Here’s a service you can sell.

How do you do this? Take digital pictures. You’ve got the expertise and the equipment. All it takes is a digital camera that will take a close-up. Set up an area with a seamless background. Have a couple of things handy to prop up plates or art. For flat items – stamps or photos, even thin 3-dimensional objects - you can throw them right on a scanner.

If you’ve got your own website, post the pix to that and print out the address (URL) of the picture. Set up a directory in your website with a name such as "auctions." So the address might be www.chriscamera.com/auctions/7500.jpg.

Make the files small – no bigger than 450 pixels in either dimension – and save them so they’re less than 30 KB so they load moderately fast.

Maybe you can put a tag line at the bottom of each image that says "photo hosted by www.chriscamera.com"

How much do you charge? Companies that host photos on line charge 50 cents each for 30 days, when the customer takes the photo, prepares it and sends it to the company. You are going to take the photo, prepare it and host it – presumably because the customers can’t figure out how to do it themselves. I think a price of $4 or $5 for the first photo in a session is reasonable, with each additional one in the same session half price. Yes, this is dirt cheap for professional close-up photography – but your cost of goods is zero! You can charge more for bigger and more valuable items.

How will you tell the customer the address of his pix? You could scribble it on a piece of paper – better still print it so it’s legible. With word processing you can save the info. Best method of all: e-mail a message so they can paste it into their listing.

Why do I suggest e-mail? It’s good for the customer, because it reduces the chance that he’ll make a transcription error. It’s good for you, because you’re adding another customer name and address to your mailing list. What, you don’t maintain an electronic mailing list? See our article on the correct use of Spam.

You want to make the pictures very sharp and clear, but of low resolution so the customer won’t think of this as an alternate to professional quality macro photography. That is, you don't want to make the pictures so good they can make good prints from them.

OK, what’s to stop you from turning the camera to high resolution and making really good photos? Nothing. Now you can charge a little more . . .

OK, what’s to stop you from backing up a few steps – making the background a little bigger – and putting people in place of the collectibles you’ve been shooting? Nothing. Now you’re taking quick and dirty digital portraits, and there’s another profit center.

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