Randomn3ss Refreshed

Thirty-nine months ago I launched this project known as Randomn3ss.  The sole intention was to use this site as a platform to rant, rave, give reviews, complain and write about anything I wanted.  A staff of sorts quickly started writing with me and now, this is the 899th article published!

During the lifespan and evolution of Randomn3ss many changes have been made and this now is the third re-skinning of the site and I’m very pleased.  After using premium themes to re-launch my own site and more recently a friend / client’s site it seemed to make sense that Randomn3ss would receive one too. Continue reading »

The complete list of websites to stream full TV shows and movies from

Paying for cable seems so 2008, doesn’t it?  Check out this complete list of sites to legally stream full TV shows and movies from, for free!  Most sites will require either the newest version of Flash or the new Silverlight technology to run them, so if prompted, install those plug-ins.  From my experience, most work great in Firefox on Windows and Mac.

Broadcast Networks

Cable networks with full episodes and / or live streams

Roku + Netflix = Instant Movies on your TV

Show specific full episodes

Independent Internet-only networks

Aggregation sites

Pay Per View

Sports

Consider clipping your cable bill after all that is available for the cost of your current broadband internet connection.  If you’re curious to try out Netflix, you can get a 2 week free trial by clicking here.  Way back when, I was a huge fan of Joost, but it was clunky, only worked on my Windows computer (which I’ve since sold) and required a stand alone application.  Even after it became available for Mac I lost interest when Hulu opened up to the public.  Delivering most shows in 480p, full screen with only minor 15 second commercials, it’s one of the best sites out there.  Netflix is also getting better with the video delivery, but there is still a bit of room for improvement.

While I still enjoy flipping through channels on my TV, I can see streaming video starting to become more and more of my daily life, especially since I can’t always be home to watch a certain show at any given time when it airs.  The downside is most sites wait 24 hours to seven days to air the most recent shows, if you’re OK with that, checkout some of these sites!

How to list an eBay auction for maximum profit

Over the last 8 years I have been buying and selling items on eBay for myself and more recently, small businesses. In that time I’ve learned a few tricks to help get you maximum profit for your items with just a few tweaks during the listing process. Here is a checklist to go through when listing your items.

  • List the item on Sunday
  • Know the item you are listing
  • Research what similar items have sold for
  • Be honest with your description
  • Be realistic with what you expect to get for it
  • Avoid most eBay add-ons
  • Get a good starting bid, avoid reserves, use Buy It Now
  • List the item for maximum visibility
  • Be as descriptive as possible
  • Use quality photographs
  • Explain any flaws
  • Spell check
  • Explain shipping & handling fees up front
  • Create a disclaimer
  • Reply to all questions in a timely manner
  • Ship fast
  • Use PayPal
  • Promote your auction

List the item on Sunday. It is a proven fact that listing a standard seven day auction late Sunday afternoon into early evening will give you the best chance of a great auction selling price. More people are likely to be home and you will get the exposure of the remaining part of that day and the entire following Saturday. If you live on the east coast of the US, list it somewhere between 6 and 9pm, this will give people on the west coast ample time to see it. Ideally, you want as many people to see it in the last few hours as possible, which is when most people make the decision to buy.

Know the item you are listing
. Sounds silly, but many people don’t know exactly what it is they are selling. Say for example you are selling a toy you bought for your toddler but they hate it. You threw out the box when you gave it to him, so you lost a lot of the information about it, what age group it was for, etc. Without that information, you cannot make a solid, descriptive auction. The information should be available on the manufactor website, so search for that. Likewise, if you are selling something like a handmade wood bowl that your grandfather gave you, list that it is a handmade item and that it is one of a kind (if it truly is).

Research what similar items have sold for. You’ll need to login to your eBay account to do this then go to the advanced search options. Search for already completed auctions to get an idea of what recently ending items have sold for and how much of a bidding war too place. With this information you should be able to properly gauge what your item is worth and start the auction accordingly.

Be honest with your description
. Sounds easy enough, but the number of sellers who don’t give any information or very little about an items real condition can often not get as much money from their sale or have to deal with numerous questions during the auctions. If you are trying to sell a set of bookshelf speakers for example and you know that on the left side of one of them is a small mark, take a photo and make sure you note it in the description. By being honest you will not only save the aggravation of dealing with an unhappy buyer after the fact, you will be more likely to come off as a real person selling the item. Buyers like to know that they are getting something from an honest seller. If you embellish your listing you are only selling yourself short. Likewise, be sure that you mention other details that some may care about. Often times when selling used clothing it is a good idea to mention that your home is smoke free and pet free, only do this if it is indeed true.

Be realistic with what you want to get for the item. After you’ve done your research on what similar items have sold for, be realistic with the condition of the item you are selling and how much you can get for it. Sometimes people shoot for the stars and end up not selling the item; by not selling it you waste money in listing fees. If you are not comfortable with the price at which recent auctions have ended, don’t list your item. There is a chance the market for that particular item will have an upswing, just as likely as it could have a downswing though.

Avoid most eBay add-ons
. There are dozens of options when listing your auction, you can see all the sellers fees here. Most of them will not get you more money in the end, such as fancy templates, making the title line bold and putting a funny little outline around your listing in search engines. Unless you have something really rare, I’d avoid these.

Get a good starting bid, avoid reserves and use Buy It Now. Low starting prices attract buyers, reserves scare them away, and so I’d avoid using them unless you really need to get a certain amount for the item. Listing your item at $1.00 with no reserve will more then likely draw attention but be aware that it might only sell for $1.00. Over the years, the Buy It Now option has become more popular; I personally prefer to buy auctions with them. There is a small fee associated with it, but auctions that list with the BIN add-on usually sell faster.

List the item for maximum visibility. eBay offers several add-on features for a fee to get your item to stand out better in the search results, some of these are worth looking into some are not. The only one I’d ever really consider is the thumbnail view of your item to the left of the text link. What you can do for free is use all the space available for your auction title. Currently eBay gives XX characters, use all of them. Additionally, use the underscore to separate words instead of a blank space. Why you ask? The modern type is dynamic to each letter; the lower case letter l takes up less horizontal space then the lowercase letter w. By using the underscore instead of spaces you will essentially widen the auction title and possibly get it to spill onto a second line for free. An example can be seen here:

New Playstation 3 Core System With 2 Controllers
New_Playstation_3_Core_System_With_2_Controllers

Not only is the wider one easier to read, it will attract more viewers. There is also an add-on when listing your auction called Gallery, it is a $0.35 add on feature. While I am against most of these add-ons because they can really cut into your profits, this is one that is worth it. Why? Because it will show the buyer what your item looks like from the search results field. This can be very handy for many different types of auctions, in addition to drawing more attention to the listing.

Be as descriptive as possible. If the item is of electronic nature, say a home stereo, see if the manufactures still has the specs listed on their site and either link to it or copy over the important ones. In addition, list your personal experience with the item, how it works, functions, etc. You’ll want to make a point of listing everything positive you can about the item. In some cases, I’ve also listed why I’m selling some items, depending on what it is. Recently I sold a piece of luggage that I purchased in California on vacation that was needed to haul home all the stuff I bought. It was used once as a carry on and was in as new condition. This information was listed in the auction. Also take the time to list the environment the items lived in. If for example you were selling clothing, even new with tags on it, list in the auction that the item is new with tags and if applicable, that it comes from a smoke free, animal free home, kept in a cool, dry closet. Don’t lie here!
Explain any flaws. Take photos of scratches, dents, scuffs, wear, etc. No matter how small it is, disclose the information in both photographs and pictures. This lets the seller know how are trying to be honest and up front about the item. You don’t have to go into full detail about how everything happened, just be sure to list them.

Use quality photographs. If it is something small, get a piece of white poster board from a local Wal-Mart type store and place it on your kitchen table. Put the item on it and turn on all the lights in that room. Take a few pictures of it making sure nothing else is being shown but the item and the white background. If the item is fairly small, look for a macro setting on your camera and use that. For any given item, 3-6 quality photographs will go a long way. Resize them down to be used on the web; an easy way to do this is with the freeware program Irfanview (Windows only, Mac users can use iPhoto). Once open, go to Image > Resize / Resample and click the 800×600 option, then OK. Save these to a new location. Since eBay only gives you one photo for free, use a free web photo hosting solution for the other images to be listed in your auction. Some of these sites are:

They all provide code to place them into eBay auctions and are free to use. I’ve been using xs.to for sometime and never had a problem. Simple and straight forward.

Spell check. Take two minutes and reread what you wrote, make sure it makes sense and there are no spelling errors. Not only will this make the auction more valid for your potential buyer, it is the right thing to do.

Explain shipping & handling fees up front. When listing your auction, eBay has the boxes you can use for shipping, flat rate, by weight, etc. I think it is also worth listing in the auction itself what the shipping & handling fees are, where you will and won’t ship to, what the insurance options are, etc. My experience is that buyers prefer flat rate shipping, so you will need to determine what your item weighs packed up and what the rate is from who you will use as a shipper (UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.). I usually add $1-4 to that to cover my costs of the box, packing material and gas to drive to where I’m mailing it from. Insurance is an option in the listing process, you the seller decide if you want to make it required, optional or not available. I usually use the optional portion, 50% of the time the buyer will want it, and the other half they won’t.

Create a disclaimer. At the bottom of all my auctions I use something similar to the following:

I have listed this item to the best of my ability. If you have any questions, please contact me with at least 24 hours prior to the auction ending so I may reply to them. Payment is expected within three days of the auction ending, PayPal is the preferred method. The item will be shipped within one business day after payment has been received. Insurance is optional, however it is recommended. Please leave positive feedback for me when the item arrives, I will do the same for after you have left feedback for me. If for some reason there is an issue with the item when it arrives, please contact me ASAP to address it.


Reply to all questions in a timely manner
. Common sense here folks. Don’t list an item and go on vacation. Do check your email and eBay account at least twice a day to look for questions. Reply to them in a timely manner and address each question to the best of your ability.

Promote your auction. On any given day there are millions of items listed. Just having a clever title isn’t good enough anymore. You need to tell people you have an auction. Read any ecommerce how to guides online and they will tell you that you need to tell people you have an auction. Get on the social network of your choice, like MySpace and make a blog or bulletin post announcing your auctions. Don’t go around spamming people, but once when you list the auction and another the day before the auction ends can help drive extra traffic to your auctions.

Ship fast. If you can, ship an item the day of payment or the following day. This will help build a positive feedback rating for you as a fast shipper, something a lot of buyers look for. No one wants to pay for something on Monday to find out it hasn’t shipped out till Friday. Take this into consideration when listing your item.

Use PayPal. PayPal allows instant payment and the ability for you the seller to receive credit card payments. By doing so, you have now enabled someone who may not have the cash to purchase your item to do so by putting it on their credit card. Additionally, it allows you to track payments and create shipping labels for both USPS and UPS. Using the built in option for shipping labels will also send notification to the buyer that the item has shipped and what the tracking number is, one less thing you need to do. There are too many instances where checks and money orders bounce, get lost in the mail, etc. to make them worthwhile. Additionally, it adds time until the buyer receives their item.

Lastly, build relationships. Use the feedback options on all auctions, making sure to emphasize what the buyer has done right, using terms like fast payment or painless transaction. This will make you seem much more human and more buyers will want to deal with you. Should have an issue, do everything in your power to resolve it as fast as possible.

Make money selling digital photos Part I

Title sounds great, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to make a little extra cash these days? With the price of digital cameras dropping on what seems to be a daily basis, as seen here, you might as well put yours to some use. For the last 5 years I have been selling royalty free stock photographs and will share my thoughts, ideas and concepts with you, along with some suggestions on getting started.

What is stock photography? The Wikipedia entry for stock photography states

Stock photography consists of existing photographs that can be licensed for specific uses. Book publishers, specialty publishers, magazines, advertising agencies, filmmakers, web designers, graphic artists, interior decor firms, corporate creative groups, and other entities utilize stock photography to fulfill the needs of their creative assignments. By using stock photography instead of hiring a photographer to perform on location shooting, customers can save valuable time and stay on budget. With a wealth of images, stock photography databases that may be searched online save photo researchers valuable time when they are looking for just the right image. With today’s digital delivery methods, images may be purchased online and delivered via email or downloaded right away.

In a nutshell, that sums it up. In my own words, everything for commercial use these days has some sort of marketing on it; a good portion has a photograph. Take a look at your cereal box, there is a photo on it. Flip through any magazine, someone took the photographs in all those ads. This website often uses images to help describe a story better, someone had to take those. Legally speaking, you cannot simply right click and save an image from the Internet and use it on a website, print article or magazine. A marketing firm based in Florida may need a photograph of snow-capped mountains or a woman answering a phone for their client’s brochure. They obviously don’t have mountains in Florida and don�t have a budget to hire a model and photographer, so they turn to stock photos, which they can purchase at a reasonable rate. The photographer then makes a percentage of that image sale.

Moving on, how can you start making money? This question comes up rather fast, but there are some precursor questions that should be answered first.

 

View My Portfolio
  • Do you have the time to invest, perhaps as much as 4 hours per week?
  • Can you capture images other then your immediate surrounds?
  • Will friends and family be willing to sign model release forms?
  • Is your camera of high enough quality?
  • Do you know how to properly edit a photograph?
  • Will you be able to associate keywords to go along with your photo?
  • Will you be willing to invest more into gear and cameras?
  • Can you be objective with yourself?
  • How well do you handle rejection?
  • Are you willing to invest time to learn continually?

Do you have the time to invest, perhaps as much as 4 hours per week? Silly question, but putting together time to upload full sized files takes time, as does editing them and giving full descriptions. That is aside from actually taking photographs. When I was doing this on a regular basis, I would often spend an hour or more a day just editing photographs, another 2 hours to upload and catalog them.

Can you capture images other then your immediate surrounds? In order to sell a photograph, you need to give the buyer something they can’t grab themselves. This rules out most of your everyday surrounds, including everything at your desk, kitchen, living room, even your sock drawer. Thousands of these images exist in stock catalogs already.

Will friends and family be willing to sign model release forms? One of the best ways to sell a photograph is to have someone in it. In order to do this, the model(s) in the images need to sign off their rights to collect any money for them. Often times, I will do a trade with friends and family. I’ll agree to bring my camera to so-and-so’s birthday party and photograph the event for them if one or three agree to give me an hour or two time around the house, at the park or wherever to pose and let me photograph them, and sign the release. This very often works out for the best of both parties.

Is your camera of high enough quality?Many online stock sites now have minimum requirements for files they will accept. Generally speaking, the baseline where you want to start is a 5mp camera. A digital SLR camera, one that you can change lenses on, is much more desirable as they produce better quality images. More megapixels doesn’t always mean better images; the quality of the sensor has a lot to do with it.

Do you know how to properly edit a photograph?Photographs can often be improved by making adjustments to them, such as:

  • Cropping
  • Color
  • Density
  • Shadow detail
  • Sharpening

A basic photo-editing program will be needed, as every image that comes out of your camera can always be tweaked a bit for better quality. I’ve been using Photoshop for years now, current version is CS3, but Photoshop Elements is acceptable. You might also like the GIMP, which is free for both Windows and Mac users. Any corporate name will also need to be edited out of an image. Logos, text or other copyrighted material cannot appear in a photograph that will be sold as stock.

Will you be able to associate keywords to go along with your photo?Stock photography sites use their own internal search engines; you find an image you’re looking for by putting in descriptive words. Nothing magical about that. It is when you need to convey more then what is physically in an image. You could associate 50 or more keywords with an image. This light bulb is an example of a stock photograph. If this were my photo for sale, some of the keywords I would associate with it are:

  • Light bulb
  • Glass
  • Red
  • Clear
  • Transparent
  • Illuminate
  • Idea
  • Copy space

As you can see, some are descriptive of the actual item, others are there as adjectives. The key wording game is directly related to how well people will be able to find your images. This will be covered in greater detail later on.

Will you be willing to invest more into gear and cameras? As you progress, you will find yourself needing better cameras and lenses, more gear such as studio lights, tripods and just spending more money. You may not make the money back for several months, maybe not at all, but would you be willing to make a small investment? I found myself shooting three cameras and in a studio paying rent for it at one point. It was very much worth it.

Can you be objective with yourself? Self-editing can be a photographer’s biggest downfall. I don’t mean editing the photographs in an image editor like Photoshop. I’m referring to selecting the best possible image from a group. The photographer who took the above light bulb photo more then likely has a dozen of them at slightly different angles; however, she chose what she thought would be the best example of that group. Uploading 15 photos of essentially the same photo all at slightly different angles doesn’t give buyers more choices, it confuses them and often leaves them second-guessing. Only show and sell your very best of the best images. I’ve found myself doing shoots with models with 400 or more shots from a two-hour session. When it was all said and done, I had about twenty I was really happy with and that’s all anyone ever saw.

How well do you handle rejection? More then likely you are going to get images rejected. How often? Don’t be surprised if 50% or more of what you submit gets rejected. Don’t let this get you down, use it as a tool to help build upon your growing portfolio.

Are you willing to invest time to learn continually? Whether you are new to photography or have been shooting for years, learning is part of the game. I’m on several different forums on a regular basis chatting with other photographers about how to shoot, tips, techniques and most importantly, critiques. Books and now DVDs are becoming increasingly more important tools to mastering different techniques as well and I often reference them prior to doing a shoot.

As this series continues, I will be writing articles on specific topics, giving examples and suggesting ideas to really maximize photography as a source of income. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

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