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A Guide to Selling on eBay

Ready to dive into online auctions? Our Getting Started guide offers information, tips and resources to help you list your first item on eBay.

Getting Started: An EBay Glossary of Terms

To get started on eBay we recommend you look through some of the eBay-related terms on Webopedia.com: eBay alternative, eBay feedback, eBay block bidder list eBay Buy It Now , eBay Ad Format, eBay Compatible Application eBay Online Auction Format, eBay Fixed Shipping Limits, eBay Insertion Fee eBay Fixed Price

Creating an EBay Account

The first thing you need is an eBay account. If you have a new or existing eBay account with a low feedback score or number, plan ahead to work on increasing your feedback before listing an item for sale. Buyers tend to trust sellers more when they have a higher, more positive feedback rating.

Improve Your EBay Reputation

To boost your own rating you can make purchases on eBay yourself. If you choose to buy a few very inexpensive items for a feedback boost, you have to be careful not to overdo it, especially if you purchase lots of cheap (99 cent) items.  Doing this could have the opposite effect you're looking for as users can look at your feedback, see your transactions and note that you purchased ten, one dollar items in the past week, for example, and wonder if you are attempting a scam. Still, it's worthwhile to conduct a couple transactions, get the feedback and show some recent account activity if you plan to sell on eBay. This step is all about making yourself look trustworthy to potential buyers.

Do I Need PayPal to Sell on EBay?

PayPal is easy to use and many buyers prefer it. With a PayPal account you will to make couple choices: The basic PayPal accounts lets you send and receive money for free if there is a cash balance in the PayPal account. To accept credit cards payments you must upgrade to a Premier or Business account. Once upgraded, you will pay a small fee on every transaction you conduct through PayPal.

Recommended Reading: This PayPal page provides details on fee structures and an overview of the different account types -- Personal, Premier and Business.

Listing on eBay

Before actually listing an item on eBay, there are several things you'll need to prepare. eBay auction listing for new sellers is an easier process when you have all the information collected before hitting the "sell" button. Here are some of the things you will need to consider when preparing to list an item on eBay.

Research Your Item

Consider starting with a lower value item if you do not have a high feedback score. Buyers might be more willing to purchase a $30 item from you rather than a $100 item, if you don't have a high score. Another thing to consider is listing a couple similar or related items at the same time. Buyers will often use an eBay option that allows them to view a sellers' other auctions. This enables you to promote similar items to the same potential bidder.

The biggest problem new eBay sellers face is no bids or sales. While you might think you have highly saleable item, it's possible that there are hundreds of items just like it on eBay, also with with no bids. Remember that you will pay an insertion fee even if the item does not sell, so do your research first and make sure items like the one you plan to sell are getting bids first and see at what price they sell for as well.

Decide on a Price

Decide if you want a minimum dollar amount for the item. Do you want to be risky and hope people will bid your item up? If they don't, you could end up selling your item for pennies. Do you want to be safer and list the starting price as the lowest amount of money you are willing to take for the item? Again with some research behind it you can make an educated guess as to which method will work best. Consider that lower starting prices will attract more buyers. If you see many similar items selling around a specific price you may want to start with a bit lower price to encourage bids, knowing that people are bidding on similar items.

Shipping Details

The big question is — do you want to ship to U.S. only or worldwide? To ship outside of your own country, you basically have to fill out a customs form and get shipping rates. It's extra work but the tradeoff is that you increase your potential bidder pool. You can also choose specific countries other than the U.S. that you will ship to. It's important to figure out shipping costs before listing an item, something that many new sellers on eBay encounter.

Never guess at a shipping price. That bad habit will put you in the negative hole after all is said and done. Weigh your item along with the shipping box and measure the length, width and height (LxWxH) of the box. You'll want to tell people in the listing what shipping costs will be. If you decide, for example, to allow Canadian and U.S. buyers, then you find a ZIP Code (U.S.) and Postal Code (Canadian) of the state or province located the furthest away from you. This should be your maximum shipping cost. Input the postal code info and parcel details into the USPS Web site and obtain your shipping quote. You can choose to add money for handling — that is up to you, but it is recommended you charge only a very small fee.

The other alternative is to use an eBay feature where you enter in your parcel dimensions, and buyers can use a built-in rate calculator to determine their own exact costs.

Write the Item Description

Write up your item description: When you get to the point where you want to enter in your auction details text, you'll find eBay offers an easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor. You can enter in all your information as text or HTML. You can also use your favorite HTML editor or word processing application to design your auction and copy and paste it into eBay's editor to get the exact look you want. In your auction details you should include at least the following:

- An accurate description of what you are selling.
- At least one image of the item
- Shipping quotes for different countries (with one or two services listed for each is better)
- Accepted payment methods

Recommended Reading: Post an Ad with These eBay and Classified Abbreviations.

EBay allows you to insert one image for free on you item page. You can choose to pay eBay extra per image, but if frugal is your way of thinking you can choose to host your images with a third-party service provider if you want to add multiple images at a lower cost (or for free), or you can get creative and edit multiple views of the item into one image with a graphics program.

When writing your auction description it is important to not only include an accurate item description and terms of service, but industry experts say you should also be creative. By showing a bit of your own personality and uniqueness to online buyers you create a feeling of trust that can boost a potential buyer's confidence in you, and are more likely to have bids placed.

eBay Selling Formats

With all the above work done and issues considered, there is one last thing to consider when selling an item on eBay, and that is which online selling format you will use. eBay offers several types of listing formats, each with its own benefits and, of course, its own fee structure. For the purpose of listing your first auction, the following are the selling formats which are available to new sellers;

Online Auction Format

The Online Auction Formatis the classic eBay selling format where you list an item for a specified amount of time (the default is seven days) and buyers must place a bid to purchase your item, that is higher than the last bid placed. At the end of the auction the buyer with the highest bid wins that item.

Reserve Price Auction

A reserve auction works the same way as the classic online auction format, but a seller may choose to set the opening or start, bid at the minimum price they are willing to accept for the item. Bidders will not be able to see the reserve price until that price has been met or exceed.

Buy It Now

An eBay feature that enables you to add a Buy It Now option to an online auction or fixed-price listing. In an auction format, if no bids have been placed a buyer may choose to skip the auction format and purchase the item at your set Buy It Now price. eBay charges an additional fee to sellers using Buy it Now.

Fixed Price Listing

A fixed price format is more like purchasing from a store. You will set a price for the item and buyers can purchase it at that price, with no auction or bidding involved. Sellers are required to have a feedback rating of 10 or more (or be ID Verified) to use the Fixed Price listing format.

EBay does offer additional selling formats and options, but some will require a higher level of feedback and ratings than a beginner eBay seller might have.

Listing Your Item

You're ready to list your item. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you have done this a few times, you'll get a good grasp on the process, which will also become faster over time and with practice. You can save time for future postings by designing a template and overwriting the description part for similar items. eBay will also allow you to save auctions as templates for faster listing, or you can work with a template saved to your own computer. Getting accurate shipping rates also gets easier and faster with practice. Most users will find actually listing an item on eBay using the seller's submission form is easiest to use when you load it knowing what information and details you will be filling in each section. When you're ready to list you simply log into eBay with your username and password, click the "Sell" button at the top of the page and copy your pre-written information into the labeled fields of the form.

Know the Rules

Before conducting business on eBay you should become familiar with eBay's policies concerning Prohibited and restricted items, Listing practices, and Practices that are not allowed involving transactions. You can view eBay's Policies and Rules for Sellers here.

Completing The Sale

If your item sells on eBay, you and the buyer will need to contact each other to finalize the deal. You will be able to see the location of the winning bidder, and using the invoicing option provided by eBay (from within your "My eBay" control panel) you can invoice your buyer and include the appropriate amount for shipping. When you provide shipping costs in your listing, you may also find that more experienced buyers will even send a total PayPal payment before you have had a chance to invoice them.

Once you have received payment for your item — through PayPal or by other means, you will need to ship the item to the buyer. If the buyer used PayPal you can print a packing slip from the PayPal transaction details to include with the item. eBay and PayPal provide sellers with automated invoicing and payment options making it easy to complete your online transaction.

After the item has been paid for you can go in through My eBay and leave feedback for the buyer. Some sellers will choose to wait until the buyer leaves feedback first. This enables you to better respond to a negative comment, plus it serves as a reminder for buyers to go back and leave feedback for you. Not all buyers will leave feedback, which is an important aspect of building your eBay reputation. A couple weeks after shipping an item, sooner if you use expedite or priority shipping, you can contact the buyer, make sure everything was received and ask them to leave you feedback and say that will do the same when they have done so.

EBay Seller's Quick Tip List

- Ensure your online accounts (eBay and PayPal) are in good standing
- Research to see if you have an item that will probably sell
- Figure out what price you want to start the auction at
- Decide on an selling format (fixed price, online auction format, reserve auction format)
- Determine where you will ship to and prepare shipping quotes for buyers
- Decide which payment methods you will accept for this listing
- Take your digital photos and prep them if needed
- Type up and format your auction details for listing on eBay
- Complete the transaction with good communication and remember to leave feedback




Based in Nova Scotia, Vangie Beal is has been writing about technology for more than a decade. She is a frequent contributor to EcommerceGuide and managing editor at Webopedia. You can tweet her online @AuroraGG.





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