As long as I can remember I have been a big fan of automation, system design, and strategy.
I grew up playing games like Starcraft, Age of Empires and Monopoly Tycoon all of which lent heavily on efficient resource allocation, production, and timing to ensure that you were not crushed by the enemy.
My first job post-university after studying subjects related to my interests above (Information Systems Major) was a temp job heavily skewed towards data entry. Basically, my job was to check a physical form containing several pages of information matched what had been printed out on a separate physical book and then update the system being used to confirm everything was correct and then mail out the physical book. Each book was unique and yet throughout the entire task process, I estimate 80% of the time I was hitting the same keys and functions on the system for each item processed.
Needless to say after the first week of getting up to speed I was bored as batshit.
This job was within a large organisation and therefore I had KPIs which were simply a target number of these books that needed to be processed each day. Through much past history, these targets were fairly static as to reach them you basically had to be working at a furious pace all day without taking a break. Therefore meeting your KPI consistently (which was required to get a pay rise later) was difficult on a good day. If I ran into a problem or issue that I hadn’t encountered before my chance at success for that day was cooked.
The thing was this system was outdated and in an old coding language which retained some elements of basic programming functions, specifically being able to assign sequences of keystrokes to certain function keys. This meant that I was able to automate I would guess 90% of the previous keystrokes down to just 3 function keys. Suddenly I could fly through my target KPIs for the day and still have 2 hours spare in the work day!
I will add that at this time I didn’t really use my newfound free time wisely. The fact that myself and a friend I had made were goofing around a lot of the time yet somehow meeting and exceeding KPI targets did not go unnoticed by management which of course resulted in KPIs being revised upwards. Our colleagues were less than thrilled until we showed them how to set everything up.
Ironically though no one really seemed that interested in just how we were managing to meet these higher targets.
Now to the key point of this post.
I believe that the use of Auto Hot Key has the potential to give you the same massive returns on your time as I enjoyed back during my temp job.
I have been using autocomplete in Microsoft Office products for some time now (see the previous post here) to improve my day job productivity and free up time at work for my own side hustle but I was looking for a way to get this concept into my reselling business, specifically, eBay to start with.
After a quick google search, I came across Auto Hot Key which is a scripting language to help automate many aspects of windows itself. Even better is that AutoHotKey is free, and open-source meaning it regularly gets reviewed for its robustness.
It was super easy to download, setup and a quick read through of the tutorial docs had me up and running hotstrings (autocomplete) on my eBay listings saving me heaps of time.
I like to keep my listings fairly simple, bulk additional or superfluous information can sometimes cause its own problems.
That said I still tended to use similar strings of text on a regular basis, examples include:
- This item is new with tags.
- This item has been worn but is in great condition and looks just like new.
- Please see the photos as they form part of the description.
- If you think you know someone who may love this item please share it with them. (I use this for unique items only usually)
- Please make a reasonable offer.
- This item is in great condition as per photos.
These listings now can be reduced to a few keystrokes, for example: “This item has been worn but is in great condition and looks just like new.” now becomes “[in”. That’s it! 3 keystrokes and you get the whole sentence, that’s 74 characters with spaces.
Play around with your key assignment and setups and you can generate entire custom descriptions for every item you sell on eBay with a few keystrokes.
This gives me the ability to create detailed condition descriptions (honestly, which is essential when selling items of course) very quickly allowing me to move onto the next item that much faster.
This speed then equals more items actually listed and more listings, of course, equals more money into the PayPal and bank account meaning my goal of getting the investment property paid off gets achieved faster.
So far the above looks just like Auto Complete that works on Windows and well you are correct.
If this is all you need it to do then that’s great. You will still save heaps of time.
This is exactly what I was looking for initially as I specifically was thinking about eBay but I soon realised there was far more scope for the use of Auto Hot Key such as:
- Assigning programs to open with hotkeys.
- Selecting a specific piece of text, use a hotkey which then automatically launches the browser open and search instantly Google, Images, Maps, Wikipedia, YouTube,eBay based on the hotkey used.
- Common spelling error autocorrects with the ability to added new ones as you find them.
- A menu which shows pops up on a hotkey giving me quick access to any system folder I want it to.
eBay Specific Application
Some further learning about AutoHot Key resulted in me creating a GUI (Graphic User Interface) that I can quickly populate my eBay listings with.
The condition section and description below are a total of 9 keystrokes!
After all the details are added, I simply hit GO and the script launches Chrome, opens my eBay page and automatically clicks into creating a new listing using a Tshirt Template as per below.
After a short pause in the script to wait for the listing page to load and the cursor to come up the script then continues inserting all the text values from the GUI into the listing as below.
Finally (for the moment anyway) it stops on the photo section and automatically opens it leaving ready to select and insert listing photos.
A couple of clicks to select and then you can tweak anything else needed in your listing while waiting for the photos to upload before either saving as a draft for later or submitting to list!
It took a while to iron out a few bugs that were screwing with certain listings (due to the way eBay dynamically suggests additions) but I redesigned the sequence and now it is working very well.
The next step I am considering is automating the same listing details straight into Etsy as well. Now I understand the concept this should not prove too hard either.
If this concept has piqued your interest and you got all the way to here and are looking for the code let me know via the contact page.
If you are here and can help me automate the photo editing or uploading process via a developer tie in please also get in touch!
If you can think of other cool aspects of a thrifter and reseller life which could be automated leave a comment!