You Know You Have an Online Retail Business When ...

Cliff Ennico on

It's the most commonly asked question eBay and Amazon sellers ask me: "I've been selling on eBay/Amazon/Etsy/wherever for a while, but I don't know if I should treat it as a hobby or a business." Sooner or later, every online seller has to make the fateful decision: Should I do this only occasionally for the fun of it, or should I consider making it a part-time or full-time living? Sometimes the decision is made for you, as when so many people are asking you to sell their stuff on eBay that before you know it, you've made $50,000 or more in profits and you almost have to treat it as a business.

Here are 20 signs, David Letterman style, that your online selling activities are getting a wee bit beyond the hobby stage.

20. You've run out of things in your attic and basement to sell online, and your friends, neighbors, parents and children are complaining stuff goes missing each time you visit them.

19. After putting your garbage out by the curb on pickup day, you drive around the neighborhood to see if anybody is throwing away anything interesting.

18. You've taken out classified ads in the local newspapers and placed one-page flyers in all of your neighbors' mailboxes offering to help other people clean out their attics and basements -- for a fee, of course.

17.You begin haunting local funeral parlors, like Paul Newman in "The Verdict," offering your online selling services to bereaved relatives who just can't bear the thought of cleaning out Mom's house.


16. You're personally acquainted with every estate, divorce and bankruptcy attorney in your community.

15. A hedge fund wants to invest in what you're doing.

14. You consider building out the shed in your backyard or adding a third story to your center-hall colonial so you'll have more room to store your inventory.

13. You keep your Yorkshire terrier chained to your inventory at night so you can deduct him as a guard dog (hey, they're mean little guys; you may actually get away with it).


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