Online Sales Contractor Proposal
Contractor position specifics
To explore and develop a program in which Free Geek hires independent contractors to sell items on a commission basis.
Sales would be limited to goods that:
- currently leave the building via recycling
- there are no plans in the short- or mid-term to test and make available in the store or for online sales
- have a demonstrable value far in excess of what we currently receive in the store
- have a demonstrable market
- have enough resale value that an individual can make a reasonable income while being responsible for testing, listing, packaging and mailing
Ideal candidates would demonstrate:
- a knowledge of the goods they intend to sell
- a history of successful online sales (high seller rating, high number of sales)
- that the potential value of the stream of goods they intend to sell is enough that they would be compelled to continue doing this
- receive allotment of goods in a fair and transparent manner (see below)
- work on premises at FG
- be overseen by the online sales coordinator and sales coordinators
- not take hardware home
- would not have keys
- would have a short review every 3 months and either be continued or dropped from the position
- would agree that any knowledge gained by selling out of our stream could be used by Free Geek in the future to improve its existing sales apparatus.
Sellers would make 25% of the sales value of the items sold, to be paid post-sale at the end of the month. Sellers would be independent contractors, responsible for their own taxes. Free Geek can alter the commission structure/rate with two weeks notice to the candidate.
Candidates could be dropped (with full commissions paid) at any time for the following reasons:
- insufficient income
- violation of any existing volunteer conduct policy
- end of exploratory period
This position would continue for six months where it would be first evaluated for effectiveness by the staff. At this point, the program would be continued if it was viewed as a net gain for FG or discontinued if it was a net loss.
Items identified as potential online sales goods will be secured in Tardis.
Items will be disbursed to contractors through a random, automated mechanism. How it will work:
- Items available will be presented to the sellers
- Sellers will provide lists for the items they'd like to test and sell
- Contractor selection order will be assigned by a random number generator
- Contractors will be assigned one item per turn based on their lists
- e.g. If a contractor's first item was already picked by a previous contractor, the second item automatically becomes the top choice for their turn
- The process will cycle until there are no more items to distribute
- Items remaining after distribution will be either recycled, sold via the thrift store, or held over for later dispersement at the discretion of Online Sales coordinator.
Contractors will use individual eBay accounts managed by Free Geek. These accounts will be listed as Direct Sellers under Missionfish to avoid any fees that would otherwise be charged.
Why? This provides us a method of retaining control of the income while allowing us to track who sells what easily. Though the sellers' feedback rating will be lost, that can be accounted for in the actual text of the auction ("This eBay profile is managed by <seller's original account> for Free Geek. Please report any problems with your transaction to Free Geek's Online Sales Coordinator."). As individual accounts develop a solid feedback record, we can retain the accounts if/when we change contractors or choose to eliminate the contractor program.
Contractors will not have access to Free Geek's PayPal account. Any refunds that must be issued will be done so by the Online Sales Coordinator.
Contractors will notify the Online Sales Coordinator when items are packaged and ready to ship. The Online Sales Coordinator will then purchase shipping with Free Geek's PayPal account.
If a contractor's interaction with a buyer results in a less-than-positive situation, it will be escalated to the Online Sales Coordinator for a resolution.
Items with especially high value will be sold by the Online Sales Coordinator, who receives no commission.
Rolling a volunteer internship program into online sales
This is an idea that could be explored after a commission-based system is up and running.
Why implement a volunteer internship in online sales?
- Provides individuals who are interested in online sales but have little to no background with the skills that would make them:
- capable of using what they learn at FG to provide themselves with another source of income
- solid candidates for future online sales contractor open hirings
- to be made clear at the onset: being a volunteer intern in no way guarantees a position as a contractor. Hirings for contractors will always be open, and the positions will always be offered to the most qualified candidates. Instead, this should be viewed as a benchmark for tracking an intern's progress in the area.
The idea is that the volunteer intern works with the contractors. This not only provides them with multiple people to learn from, but it gives them a solid example of what they need to be able to do in order to be a successful online seller.
Volunteer would begin as support for contractors. Since this is an internship, any sales the volunteer intern makes will not be subject to commission.
There is a series of goals volunteer interns will work to accomplish during their time in the area.
- Maintaining work area
- Upkeep of testing/shipping supplies
- Basic triage and identification
- Estimation of shipping cost
Merit badge system might be used to track progress in the program, if we can identify sufficient goals to justify the need. After successfully completing the introductory goals, the volunteer intern would move on to selling bulk items and gizmos that require easy, basic testing.
- Properly packing and shipping items
- Learn the basics of digital photography
- Development of basic HTML skills
- Work with contractors to document new basic testing procedures
- Learn to use/manage eBay
- List and sell items
- Would be done w/ FG's eBay account, with oversight by coordinator
At this point, the volunteer intern would have most of the tools needed to test and list high-ticket items for FG.
- Work with contractors to document new testing procedures for more common higher-end items
- Customer support/service
- Learn to use/manage PayPal
- With oversight by coordinator
Upon the completion of these goals, the volunteer intern should have all the tools and skills necessary to work independently.
Things needed to move this project forward
- Define as an exploratory 6-month program
- If it succeeds, we keep doing it
- If it fails, eliminate contractors and roll it into volunteer internship(s)
- Develop round-robin/random assignment of valuable goods to maximize fairness of distribution
- Prepare a multi-user workspace
- Write solid job descriptions with objectively quantifiable criteria, if possible
- Run it through open hiring process
- Review contractors and volunteer interns at 3 months & 6 months