Hello readers! So I promised that I’d be doing an occasional series about things that affect my mental health. Now, normally when I write a blog on the subject of mental health it’s because mentally I’m in a bad space and so need to release some steam. However, today I’m ok you’ll be hopefully pleased to read! I have though been conscious of the fact that I promised you a part 2 to my previous blog about how selling on eBay affects my mental health (if you’ve not yet had a chance to read part 1 you can find it here). So here we have the promised part 2!
For this blog, I’m going to be focussing on one of the most important aspects of running a business on eBay which is sourcing stock for retail. I’ve written a blog previously about where I source stock from (which you can find by clicking here) so I won’t go over old ground but suffice to say my main sources of stock are as follows:
- Charity shops.
- Car boot sales
- Retail shops.
This means I’m out and about sourcing stock a lot which brings me nicely on to the first benefit that sourcing stock for the business brings me:
Mental health positives of sourcing stock to sell on eBay:
1. It forces me to leave the house.
It is entirely possible to run an eBay business based on stock you can source online. But doing that leaves you open to having to wait in for deliveries and means that you’re not always getting the best bargains. Plus nothing beats being able to touch a product in your own hands and being able to assess it’s quality in person. Plus in all honesty the chances of picking something up online for a couple of pounds that’s worth up to a hundred (or even more) are slim to none. So, therefore, I’m driven to go out sourcing for stock in order to get stock of sufficient quality and with sufficient profit margin to help support the business. I’ve deliberately used the word ‘driven’ there by the way because as a man who suffers from anxiety I can tell you that anxiety can have two effects. It can make you super driven to do something because you’re worried about what’ll happen if you don’t. Or you can be so overcome by that worry that you end up collapsing and doing nothing. With me, if my anxiety is high I can quite often end up on the ‘driven’ end of the spectrum.
Anyway – I’m digressing. So yes – I have to go out sourcing stock. This means horror of horrors I have to interact with other people. So I’m forced to tackle my social anxiety. I have to smile and nod and try and figure out social cues (hard for a man with Asperger’s cos reading people can be like learning a foreign language to me!). But social interaction is a great thing for people with anxiety. The more successful social interactions anxious people have the less anxious they become. And that’s not just me saying that. There’s loads of research on the internet done by people with highly intelligent brains and lots of letters after their name that will confirm this. Plus some actual real-life experience recounted by mental health bloggers such as myself! And being out also exposes me to sunlight and prevents me from becoming a vampire! Sunlight, believe it or not, is another great thing to help with anxiety (I’ve written about it here in fact) which is why people who suffer from Seasonal Affectation Disorder have light therapy. So yeah I’m forced to leave the house, conquer my anxiety in dealing with people and get some sunlight in the process!
2. It teaches me new skills.
To get the best profit means getting the best prices. To get the best prices not only do I have to speak to someone and ask how much something is but I also have to negotiate with them. I have to hold my nerve during these negotiations as well. Ever noticed when you ask a price and then offer a counter offer which is lower that there’s then a big pause while the seller considers your offer? Well quite often that pause is deliberate. A lot of people will cave during that pause and will give the seller the price they originally wanted because they feel anxious about the seller saying no and then refusing to sell to them at all! Now imagine that anxiety is compounded by the fact that you already suffer from underlying levels of anxiety and that pause can seem like true torture. But hey guess what? The seller is there to sell to you. So all that’s going to happen is one of three things:
- They either accept your counter offer. In which case great – you’ve got your purchase!
- They come back at you with a revised offer which you can decide to accept or negotiate further on. Sometimes shock horror I will still stick to my guns on my original offer in this case!
- They say no they’re sticking to their original price. But guess what – they’ll still sell the item to you! Never, ever in literally tens of thousands of negotiations have I had a seller refuse to sell to me because I’ve attempted to negotiate with me. What does occasionally happen though is that I (as the buyer) thank the seller and walk away because the price is too high for me personally. So the only person who loses out in that scenario is the seller. You as the buyer have all the power!
So yeah as you can see – I’ve learned some haggling skills! But not only that I’ve also learned to develop a keen eye for what sells and will make profit for me. I can now navigate a car boot sale in parts of Wales where there’s no phone signal (because it can be that rural) and walk away with a car full of profit. I’ve also developed a level of awareness for my surroundings that I previously never had because my eyes are literally always looking for the next bargain. Although that can make it hard to focus on any conversations I’m having with people who aren’t selling stuff to me but that’s a different story!
3. It gives me a routine.
Shops are only open during certain hours. Charity shops especially are often open for reduced hours as they’re reliant on volunteer staff. Car boots start ridiculously early in the morning. I can no longer be out partying on a Saturday night because if I do I won’t make the car boot the next day. So I have to go to bed at a sensible time. I have to get up early to go to the car boot. Or up early to get to the post office to make sure I send a package in the first post. Or even up early to package stuff. I have to really plan my days to get the best out of them. So I have to factor in time to do my day job, time to manage my eBay business and time to source. Organisation (which traditionally I’m bad at) is therefore very important. When sourcing stock I need to know when my local shops and charity shops replenish their stock (as some of them do work to set times for this). One example of this is that I know my favourite charity shop does it’s testing for electricals on a Tuesday morning. So if I go there on a Tuesday afternoon they’ll have lots of cheap, fully tested, electricals for me that probably won’t be there the day after.
When you suffer from anxiety and depression it can take over all aspects of your life. Finding the energy to do something can be a real struggle. Basic tasks can seem overwhelming. So imagine how good it feels for someone who experiences that on a daily basis to look back on their day and think to themselves that today they’ve managed to list 15 items on eBay, package 4 orders and source 20 new items to sell and all while feeling like your mind is working against you and that you may die at any second? Well if you’re not sure then let me tell you its a great feeling to have. Coping with anxiety and depression can often be about small victories. Especially when you’re having a bad day. So having a day that has lots of big victories in it is a massive boost. It can literally help change the chemical make up of your brain for the better.
4. You can make friends with people while you’re sourcing!
This has been the biggest revelation for me. I never expected that by doing reselling (which I saw purely as a selfish way to make money for myself) that I’d actually end up expanding my social circle. And yet while out sourcing I’ve met fellow resellers who I’ve engaged in conversation with and ended up forming friendships with. I’ve also met people selling stuff to me that I’ve done the same with. As I become more of a regular in places I start to get to know the people who are serving me. When I see them in social environments such as the pub we can have actual conversations and form closer bonds. And to be fair this applies across some of the other activites I do (such as my blogging and youtube work). It may sound obvious to others but it wasn’t to me that what I’m doing is actually a good way of meeting people. And of course, some of those people have the same interests as me. Resellers are interested in selling tat, just like me! And sellers are often selling me stuff from their personal collection that reflects on my own interests. So we can talk about it and our shared love for whatever the item is. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t happen with every person I meet. But it happens with enough people for me to notice the positive impact. And this all helps ease my anxieties at dealing with people and improves my confidence. So the next time you’re out sourcing for stock take a minute to engage the person you’re buying from in conversation. And don’t see your fellow resellers as competition but instead as potential new friends you haven’t made yet! I promise you’ll be amazed at how much more positive you suddenly start feeling.
Mental health negatives of sourcing stock for sale on eBay:
1. The days where you source nothing.
There will be days where you go out and you literally get nothing. Nothing at all. Either the prices are too high, there’s no stock of any quality or the sellers aren’t there because the weather is terrible so there are only two tables at the car boot and they’re being mobbed by crowds of fellow resellers. Because honestly when the weather is bad it is ONLY resellers who are at the car boot. Everyone else is indoors enjoying spending time with their family or watching TV. That’s not me saying don’t bother going out when the weather’s bad by the way, just that it can be harder to source stock when the weather is bad – I’ve still had some of my best buys in what feels like a force 10 gale! But the point I’m making is there will be days when you have picked up nothing and you feel like an utter waste of space. When you’re suffering from anxiety and depression this can be bad as it can send you into a downward spiral. But the important to note here is that it’s really not your fault. You’re not responsible for the weather and you certainly can’t control it. You’re not responsible for the high prices other people decide to set. And you’re not responsible for how good or bad the stuff someone’s trying to sell is. In short, you have absolutely no control and no responsibility for any of it. Yes, you might have set off ten minutes late for the car boot and so you may have missed out on a couple of items. But on the opposite foot if you’re late to the car boot then a seller will be as well and you might end up getting first dibs on their stock because all the other buyers are at the opposite end of the field!
So yes. When you don’t source anything you will feel bad. You might even let this feeling push you into buying something, anything, out of desperation to make that feeling go away. Well here’s my top tip. Don’t. Don’t buy stuff just because you don’t want to go home empty-handed if you’re not confident it’s going to make you a profit. It’s ok to go home empty-handed. Do you know why it’s ok to go home empty-handed? Because there are far more days where you go home with some real bargains. All that’s going to happen with those bad buys is that they end up buried in a pile somewhere because you can’t be bothered listing something for a measly 50p profit when you’ve got stuff that will earn you more money. So instead of feeling bad at having nothing reflect instead on all the great purchases you’ve made. Think about all those times when you were first to spot a bargain. And think instead about the fact that now you’ve got an opportunity to list some of the stuff you’ve put off listing and how you can get rid of that stuff instead.
2. Beating yourself up because you’ve just missed out on the bargain of the century
I call this scenario the ‘Alf Plush Scenario’. I’ll always remember the Alf plush. It was put there right in front of me on a chair for 99p. 99p for an Alf plush! The bargain of the century. I knew it in my gut. But I had my hand full of stuff I’d just bought. ‘It’s ok’ I thought. I’ll take this stuff to the car, look up the sold values for Alf and head back into the shop if it’s any good. So yeah I loaded up the car. And the sold values told me that the Alf plush was worth at least £40. I ran (literally ran) back to the shop. Alf was no longer on the chair. Disaster! Where was he? There he was at the counter. Someone was buying him. I was gutted. I’d literally picked him up and had him in my hands two minutes ago. I followed the buyer out of the store and actually offered to buy it off him for a profit. But he didn’t want to sell. I’d just missed out on all that money. Why? Because I couldn’t be bothered to turn back around, pick him up and pay for him. It was all my fault! What an idiot I am. Why didn’t I listen to my gut? I’ll never make it as a reseller. I’d completely forgotten by this stage that I’d walked out of the store two minutes before with bags full of stock that would make me well over a £100. I was consumed by the Alf plush I’d missed out on. I beat myself up about this for days afterward, It seriously affected my confidence. When you have anxiety it is really, really, really hard to shake things like that off. Every time I missed out on a bargain afterward I was haunted by Alf.
But do you know what? I’m not haunted by Alf at all anymore. Do you know why? Well firstly because I know that there are hundreds, no thousands, in fact, millions of bargains like Alf across the country. And secondly, because I learned something from that experience. Now if I see something like that again I stop and buy it. I don’t hang around or doubt myself anymore. And thirdly because actually, I’m making plenty of money (and this isn’t to boast but to illustrate a point) despite not having bought that Alf plush. Not having the money from selling Alf has not made one single jot of difference to my life. And having the money from it wouldn’t have either. The other day I saw an item going for five pounds that would have made me forty pounds. But the charity shop wanted me to come back the next day for it. I decided I couldn’t be bothered going back the next day and I cared not a jot at all about missing out on it. Because I knew there’d be something else I could pick up later in the week or the week after that would do just as well (maybe not a five pound item that will turn into forty, but five one pounds items that will turn into fifty pounds for example). So now I’m grateful to Alf and the Alf plush scenario. Because it’s made me a stronger person and a better reseller. And I have the certain knowledge that when I come across another Alf in the wild I’ll be buying him. But I won’t be selling him. Because I’ll be keeping as a reminder of how far I’ve come. So thank you Alf for everything you’ve taught me. Bet you didn’t know readers that you’d be reading a story about an Alf plush today!
3. I have to interact with people.
Ok so I know I’ve said above that social interaction is good and it’s great making new friends and there’s rainbows everywhere and what not but hey people can be hard work. I remember once messaging someone on facebook who was selling a highly collectable minon figure for £10 that was worth about £35 – £40. Obviously me being me I sent him a message asking if he’d be willing to take £8. ‘No’ was the response. ‘Ok no problem’ I said, ‘I just need to make sure I’ve got £10 in the bank (it was the day before payday so I was poor) so that I can get it out to pay you’. ‘Don’t bother’ was his response. And he left the facebook conversation. Just like that. Oh did I have a major anxiety attack after that. What had I done wrong? Why couldn’t I just have offered him the £10? I could have scraped it together. But do you know what? I did nothing wrong. Either the chap had been messed about that often on Facebook that he’d assumed I was another time waster and so decided to cut his losses with me or he was just an idiot. To be honest I suspect the latter because that minion figure stayed on facebook marketplace for months after. My friend messaged him about it the other week. He’s still got it. And the price is £5 now. But I still won’t be buying it from him because of how he was with me.
Unfortunately, I meet sellers like that all the time. There was a chap at the car boot the other week who wouldn’t come down even a penny on an item at all. He wanted his £5 and that was it (the item was worth about £12 for resale). His perspective was that he shouldn’t be taking offers on anything because he’d just set up and people who wanted to make offers on stuff should come back and see what he had left in an hour. He was a little aggressive about it, to be honest. He thought as the seller he had the power. Because of his aggressive manner, I knew I wouldn’t be spending a single penny with him. And I was pretty certain that other people would feel the same because he was just as aggressive with everyone else who approached him. Given that it was just as the car boot was opening and so pretty much everyone else there buying stuff was a reseller they were all attempting to negotiate with him! I was still there an hour later. I walked past the seller’s store and heard the seller sat complaining to his wife that no one would buy anything from him and the day had been a complete waste of his time. He angrilly started chucking stuff in his car. And all I did was smile to myself knowingly. But honestly when you have anxiety dealing with people like that is exhausting. Social situations are hard and there’s always a part of me that feels like things are my fault when a situation like that goes badly. Sometimes it might be. But I’m strong enough now to know that if I don’t like someone then I’m not buying from them unless they’ve got a real BOLO item (BOLO = be on the look out for i.e. items that sell for a far higher value than they are being sold for).
4. Being overwhelmed
I went to an indoor car boot sale the other day. There were sooooo many people. And it was soooo hot. And there was sooooo much noise. And soooo many people (I know I’ve said that twice but that’s how it felt). So I suffered from major sensory overload. I felt completely overwhelmed. Lost at sea. Man overboard! I wanted to run away. It’d have been so easy to walk out and leave. But do you know what? I didn’t. Because I have a technique for dealing with this. I’ll walk up to the closest table and buy something I like the look of from it. Not something to resell necessarily. Just something I like the look of. So that’s what I did. And then all of a sudden I’m back in control. I’m breathing again. I’ve come here to buy things and guess what? I’ve just bought something! I’m still feeling overwhelmed don’t get me wrong. But I’m buying things. And I buy things all the time. So I’m back in my comfort zone. Now I can look around and start seeing what’s in front of me. Hey, there’s a Barbie car over there. I do well at selling those. ‘How much is it?’ ‘A pound’. Ace, I know I can get £15 for that I think to myself. I buy it. ‘What else have you got? I think. An electroysis machine. ‘I bet there’s money in that’ I think. I look at the sold listings on eBay. There is money in if I get it for the right price. I get it for £2. That is most definitely the right price. And boom I’m off. Even if I buy nothing else I’m well into profit so I’m riding high. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed. I’m still a little anxious. I still manage to buy a few fails. But I’m spending so little money on them that it doesn’t matter. And I buy far more successes. So it’s a good indoor car boot. I guess I’ll always feel like that but I know I can deal with it now. And how was it afterward? Did I do ok? Well, I’m going to let you make your own minds up because (in a little plug for my youtube channel here) I’ve actually filmed my pickups and included them in a youtube video which you can find by clicking here.
So I’ve talked a little here about some of my experiences with sourcing. I’ve drawn upon some of my personal experiences to hopefully bring this article to light. But what would I say in conclusion? Well it seems obvious to say that sourcing stock from my perspective has helped me mentally. I’ve learned negotiating skills, I’ve formed new bonds and friendships with people, I get out more and I get up earlier in the morning so see more of the day! But it’s been a hard journey. You can see from the above that I still struggle with some aspects of it. But the most important part of this conclusion is that I overcome those struggles. Every single time. Sometimes (as in the case with the Alf Plush Scenario – so important is this scenario in my life that it rates capital letters at the start of every word!) it takes me weeks to overcome these struggles. But I always overcome them. There’s an old saying that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’. I’ve never really understood that saying before. But now sat here writing this I feel that I’m finally beginning to understand it. I am stronger because of the experiences I’ve had when sourcing stock and I’m better for them. But I’d like to offer my own interpretation or reworking of that saying. I’d like to finish by saying ‘what doesn’t kill you helps you learn’. And that right there is what the title of this blog should have been!
Thanks for reading.
P.s. I never know where or how these blogs are going to go when I write them. They’re literally a stream of consciousness. So if you’ve enjoyed reading this please do let me know in the comments section below!