The process of selling on eBay is very similar to that same process in a typical physically present store. The major differences being that getting started is much simpler in terms of associated time and capital investment and that your potential market balloons from a few thousand to well over a hundred million. In a simpler term, making money with eBay as a seller is much easier than with many other platforms!
If you have concerns about the eBay system being unfamiliar, rest assured that if you’ve ever held a yard or garage sale then you essentially know what it’s like to run an eBay store.
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Regardless of whether this is going to be your full time job or just something you’re doing to try and sell some items you no longer want or need, here is a thorough guide to learning how to sell on eBay.
Starting with eBay
1. Make an Account
If you don’t already have an eBay account you’ll need to make one. To get to the site simply do a search for “eBay” using your preferred search provider and click on the result that’s relevant to where you live.
You’ll also need a currently open email account that you can access to confirm that you are indeed the one signing up for an eBay account.
You’ll have to choose an account name, so pick something that’s relevant to you. As there are already such a large number of people on eBay make sure you have a few alternatives in case your first choice is already taken.
Decide what you want to put about yourself on your profile page. It’s important to list your credentials here as buyers will often use this to know you a little better and try and figure out why they should buy from you rather than someone else.
2. Build Your Account
Often times the deciding factor between one person and another will come down to the feedback they have on their profile. In order to get some initial positive feedback, you’ll want to go ahead and buy a couple small things through the site that you’d have gotten anyway, but through other means making sure to pay them off immediately. This will generate a bit of positive feedback and let you start building up some credibility on the website.
Buyers are always on the lookout for those risky unknown sellers. As such your positive feedback might just help you get some of those crucial first sales.
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3. Decide on Payment Options
The methods you choose for how to accept payment will vary depending on your preferences and the ease of use for each method. Some will accept personal checks and money orders, others prefer using only PayPal. Either way you pick what works for you.
How to be an Auctioneer Online
1. Decide what to sell
Perhaps you already know exactly what you’d like to sell and have a good deal of that product stored up and ready to go. On the other hand you may know what sells best on eBay, but don’t know where to get it. Still others will have no idea at first what they want to sell. Because of the considerations that must go into the sales of each type of item you’ll want to figure out what you like to sell best.
If you’re having a hard time getting started try doing a few “test” sales of things in your home that you no longer want or need to get a feel for the process and help you to discover the kinds of things you find easiest to sell.
2. Choose between selling new, used, or both types of items
This decision will be determined by what kind of person you are. New items can be purchased in bulk and then sold one at a time for a profit. Older or used items however must be acquired through auctions, estate sales, or thrift stores before then being sold for more than you paid for them.
When selling new items be sure to research the items before you purchase them and determine if there’s a demand for those items. Trends tend to change rapidly and you don’t want to get stuck with a product you can’t move or enter into a market you can’t compete in and still turn a profit.
With older items on the other hand, you’ll likely have to wait longer to find an interested buyer, but once you do it can pay off well. It will be important to be knowledgeable about how best to package the items for shipping, especially with antiques, so as to avoid angry customers with damaged goods.
3. Consider space requirements
While it can help to reduce your costs to store your products in your home, if you don’t have enough space to work and live it’s going to become an issue. Be sure you’ve got the space available to store and package your goods and you may even wish to consider a dedicated workspace so you need not move items from place to place frequently.
4. Keep an eye on trends
Though you may already have your niche, there are a number of popular items to sell on eBay that are too lucrative to not at least consider. These markets make sense to enter into, but be aware that there will typically be many more people trying to sell the same items you are and you’ll have to step it up a bit to set yourself apart from the rest.
Offering features like free shipping or little bonuses like well written product descriptions can help put you above the rest in these markets. To find out which items are the most popular at the time take a look at: this page and this page.
5. Beware of forbidden items
There are in fact some types of items that eBay doesn’t allow you to sell. Knowing what these are and staying away from them can prevent you from having your account suspended or even banned. To find the list of forbidden items head to the help section and click on “Is My Item Allowed?”.
6. Learn about your markets trends
You’ll want to browse the items in your chosen market and get a feel for pricing. Also take note of how each listing is set up, paying special attention to those things that you find most helpful. Be sure to include these same things on your postings to help out your buyers.
Likewise get a feel for the other sellers and what makes them seem more or less trustworthy. Use this information to make your profile the online face of someone your buyers can trust.
If you need more assistance and you’re willing to pay for it, software marketing tools such as Vendio Research by Terapeak can search through all of eBay’s closed listings and find not only the average price for your item, but also the keywords common to the most closed listing for these items and the top sellers of those items.
Listing Items for Sale
1. Gather materials needed for the listing
For this you’ll want to have already measured and weighed the item so you can provide a shipping cost estimate and you should have item photos and descriptions ready to go as well.
2. Take and post pictures of the product
You’ll want to take high quality photographs that show the item from a number of helpful angles. Unclear or not helpful photos do little to help your listing sell and are almost as bad as having no pictures at all. It doesn’t cost much to get an inexpensive digital camera these days, assuming you don’t already have one you can use.
- Having no photos of the item, especially for new sellers will lead buyers to believe you may not actually have the item or that you’re trying to hide something about it.
- Be sure to make your photos worthwhile. 12 Pictures of the front of an item are not as helpful as 6 pictures of its different faces. Be sure to keep backgrounds non-distracting even using just a plain sheet of paper for smaller items and take pictures in natural light meaning outside or beside a window.
- Don’t be stingy on the pictures. You get to upload 12 for free for each posting so show the item in every way that’s going to help the buyer know what they’re getting. The openness about the product only serves to instill confidence in the buyer and help them feel comfortable with the sale.
- Never copy pictures from other listings or online. Even if there’s no copyright tag on an image, if you didn’t take the picture it’s not your property. Using someone else’s pictures is copyright infringement and is very much illegal. Take a couple pictures yourself and avoid being labeled a criminal.
3. Sign-in and click “Sell”
You can find this either on the main page or on the “My eBay” page.
4. Title your listing
Your title is the first thing a buyer is going to see when browsing listings and so you’ll want something that can grab their attention. It should be informative enough to tell the buyer if it’s worth the time to even look at the posting.
You’ll want to be sure and list all the relevant information in the title that you can. In a market of nearly 180 million there are people looking for your product that know exactly what they want. If you tell them exactly what you have right up front they’ll quickly find your listing and be able to bid. Unspecific listings on the other hand tend to sell for much less than specific ones or just don’t sell at all.
As you have a limited amount of space to work with in your title you’ll want to avoid using “fluff” words such as cute, or excellent. As no one will be searching for these types of words, they do nothing to help your listing. If you really feel the need to include such you could opt for a subtitle, however this will cost additional fees and depending on the cost of the item may be financially unwise.
If you have extra space in the title, be sure to include additional phrasings or spellings for the item. This could help a buyer find your listing if they’re not sure how to spell the item or if they don’t know what exactly it is. Still eBay’s search tool automatically compensates for misspellings and incorrect category searches so this part isn’t vital.
Be certain you spell everything correctly. Though this sounds like simple advice there are those who end up with amazing deals (and earn good commissions) because an item’s title was misspelled. If you have difficulty spelling you’ll want to invest in a dictionary or take advantage of a web browser with an automatic spell checker built in.
5. Choose a category and input a description
You’ll want to include as much relevant information as you can gather about the product. Be certain to include the make, model, compatibility, color, weight, size, condition, etc. Never worry about having too much information. Buyers can skim through what they don’t need, but tend to look elsewhere if you don’t tell them what they need to know about the product. To prevent this from happening too often, include the most relevant information at the top.
Be sure to be honest about the state of the product. If it has any defects include these in the listing. Buyers can decide for themselves if they still want an item with certain defects. Remember that the buyer is counting on you for an accurate description as they can’t physically examine the item themselves. Besides, it’s not as though they won’t find out the product is flawed anyway and being upfront about it can help you to avoid bad feedback and being liable for fraud.
Make sure your item description has a friendly overtone that is welcoming to potential buyers. Many sellers make it a point to use this space to warn those who would try to cheat them not to. This type of approach wouldn’t work well in a real, physical store and it certainly won’t do your listing any favors. If you decide it’s important to include your policies at least be certain the list is shorter than the item’s description.
Confirm that you’ve spelled everything correctly. While this won’t compensate for poor execution in other facets of your listing, it can, especially in combination with appropriate capitalization and punctuation make your listing easier to understand.
6. Select how to sell the item
When you sell on eBay you have a couple choices available to you in regards to how you’d like to sell your items. Both are equally valid and which you choose will depend upon what you prefer.
- Auction: Though this is no longer where the emphasis lay it’s still a very popular option amongst buyers and thus is here to stay. This selling option is typically best for those items of a rarer nature and items with price points you’re unfamiliar with.
- Buy It Now: This sales option will list an item at a fixed price that people can purchase immediately without having to bid on it and wait for the listing to expire. These are best used for common items or things people will want to get immediately.
7. Determine your price
Assuming you’re doing an auction you’ll want to set the price at the lowest you could stand to let the item go for or essentially for cost to be sure you don’t lose any money on the deal.
If you wanted to try and stimulate more bidding you could always set this price below cost, but it is risky as you could end up losing money. If however you’re using the “Buy It Now” option you’ll want to use your best judgment. Likely you’re only choice for a guaranteed sale this way will be to sell for less than your competition.
Regardless of how you decide to price your items, bear in mind that there is no such thing as an items “actual value.” Its value will be determined by how much a person is willing to pay for it. Even if an item has some intrinsic value associated with it, that value is completely meaningless if no one is willing to pay that amount for it.
Keep this in mind when considering placing a reserve bid on your postings and remember that for some items the “market value” is the going rate on eBay.
8. Thoroughly peruse options and double check everything
There are many things to double check, so just go through carefully and be sure you got everything right.
Be sure to fix any mistakes you find before you list the item. If you find mistakes after the fact, you can continue to fix them all the way up until the first bid is placed at which point your listing is locked-in.
Be sure to include a double check of your photos during this process. Tweak them if necessary for greater visual appeal before officially posting your listing.
9. Confirm everything once more before submitting
I know it seems tedious, but for best results you want to be certain everything is as it should be. Quickly run back through everything one last time and then submit your listing. Be certain to click submit from the overview page or your listing won’t post. If it’s successfully posted you’ll get an email confirmation of that fact.
- Determine when you’d like to have your auction end. Different days are best for different merchandise, but Typically Sunday and Monday evenings and weekends have the highest level of traffic and so typically result in better end prices on your listings.
- Keep in mind that some items, being of a seasonal nature will do better at certain times of the year. Christmas items for instance will do better in the winter months whereas items for watersports will tend to do better in the summer.
- On occasion eBay will also run promotions for certain categories. These promotions are planned in advance and can be found here. Be certain to know when these promotions will be happening for your niche so you can take advantage of them.
Tips on Tending the Auction
- Answer buyers questions: Be sure to respond to questions in a polite manner and as quick as you can. Your ability to respond quickly will reflect well on your professionalism while unanswered questions will do the opposite.
- Observe the auction: The counter will give you an idea of the level of interest from buyers. If there isn’t much you may wish to change the listing a bit to entice more buyers to bid.
- Cancel auctions if necessary: If it’s absolutely necessary you can end an auction up to 12 hours in advance of when it’s due to end. As most bidding happens toward the end of your auction this is a bad strategy for actually trying to sell the items and should only be used in the event of broken, stolen, or otherwise no longer available merchandise. To help avoid these situations make sure and store your merchandise in a safe place.
- Watch the buyers: It’s an option as a seller to block certain buyers from viewing your listings. This is handy for filtering out that who can’t pay using methods you accept and those residing in places you can’t ship to. You can also filter out those with bad buyer ratings. Conversely you can set up an approved buyers list to allow certain people to buy regardless of their circumstances.
- Reduce the reserve price: If you find that you’re not getting a great deal of bids, you can choose to lower the reserve price anytime up till the last 12 hours of the listing.
Finishing the Sale
1. Communicate with buyer and ship item
At this point it’s time to talk to the buyer, make sure payments have gone through and pack and ship the item. Quick and effective communication will be vital at this stage.
2. Give feedback
Leaving feedback for your buyers is both courteous and just a good business practice. Once a buyer has completed what they need to do you can feel free to leave feedback knowing that you have all the necessary information to do this fairly.
Typically leaving your feedback on the same day an item ships is good for both buyer and seller as it marks the shipping date. Still some sellers prefer to wait until they’ve received feedback from their buyer in order to ensure that they’re dealing with a happy customer.
There’s no rule that says you can’t politely request feedback from a buyer assuming of course you have the time and desire to take this extra step. Still be sure to ask but once as you don’t wish to pester them.
3. Pay commission promptly
As you sell items on eBay you’ll incur commission fees that you’ll want to pay quickly and in full so that you can continue listing new items. Though the associated fees may be surprising at first, treat these as business expenses and remember that they should be covered from what you’re making from the sale of your items.
Open an eBay Store
Once you become familiar with the ins and outs of the eBay market you might consider opening an online eBay store. There are many advantages to this especially if you’d like your products listed under a unique URL, if you want people to be able to find your store through search engines, if you’d like to organize your items into custom made groups, or even if you want to create a more interesting profile for your buyers to view.
As an eBay store owner you can even list fixed price items in a more long term manner, though these will only appear in your store and not with the online auctions.
It’s important to note however, that there are monthly fees associated with store ownership. It’s strongly recommended that you first take a look at the already established stores before setting up one of your own, and after a good deal of selling experience on eBay you can determine in an informed manner if becoming a store owner is the right move for you.
I hope this rather long post will serve as a helpful guide for those wanting to start selling on eBay. Please feel free to share any tips or perhaps any experience you may have as a former or current eBay vendor on how to sell on eBay successfully.