eBay spawns 'off-on entrepreneurs'

A growing number of employees are being dubbed the ‘off-on entrepreneurs,’ as they choose to end their day job by rushing home to make a sale over the internet.

Powered by the World Wide Web, enterprising employees are on the increase, with 28 per cent admitting to evening or weekend stints selling goods or services online.

The majority of these, according to Microsoft and pollster, You Gov, are people offering an enterprise unrelated to their nine-to-five occupation.

Katherine Eaton is one such ‘off-on entrepreneur’ who reflects the eight out of ten British workers selling a service online that bares no relation to their normal job.

“I started selling bits and bobs from around the house, making about £50 a month,” she told the Sunday Mail.

When she first logged on to auction site eBay, Ms Eaton was a client-services manager with a technology company.

The former employee has now transformed her hobby into a proper business and runs SK Trading, a fitness company that turns over more than £250,000 a year.

With help from husband Stuart, she raised £500 for start-up costs, stock and warehouses in order to lift the venture off the ground.

Simon Newton-Smith is another UK employee confessing to a spot of moonlighting after his nine-to-five day job as a financial collections agent.

“I started by simply selling the odd music record, CD or vinyl that was no longer being played at home,” he told Freelance UK.

“Within a few months, I could see a more concerted effort would have raised my profits even more than just loft clearing, which is really the reason I began.

“After wandering around a car boot fair one Sunday, it occurred to me that people really didn’t know what they were selling, and this is when I seized the opportunity. Since then, I have purchased a vinyl for 10p and sold it on eBay for £10 – in the last six months, my profit margin has been 800% plus, and never fallen below 40%.”

Mr Newton-Smith said his ‘eBay shop’ has since grown, after he decided to invest more time in his evening venture, and less time in employment-related activities after finishing his City job.

“It’s not quite at the stage where I can quit the daily grind as a collector - but if sales continue to grow and people keep logging back on to my eBay shop, I would be extremely tempted to do it full-time.”

“For now, I’m keeping the security of 9-5 and working in my spare time, but I am seriously considering this as a long term career change, not just for selling music online but all sorts of things.

"Selling on eBay should increase my salary by around £5,000 a year and anyone that’s tried it will know; once you get started and see money coming in, there is nothing quite like it, especially as you know that all the profits are exclusively down to your own very hard work.”

John Coulthard, director of small business at Microsoft, said anyone considering exploring the route of Ms Eaton should consider mortgage and household insurance.

“What happens if a customer visits your home and is injured?” asked Coulthard.

And for Mr Newton-Smith, Microsoft advised: “You must also look at how to protect your computer and the data on it.”

The Warwickshire business consultancy TMI added it was sensible not to take on your boss with any home-run enterprise effort: “It is advisable not to do something that competes with your employer.”


3rd August 2005

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