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How to Sell on Ebay: 20 Tips for Beginners


Ebay is one of the largest e-commerce selling sites on the web. It's easy to set up an Ebay account and start selling online. But are you new to this platform and wondering how to sell on Ebay?

Lucky for you, the site is laid out in neatly, organized categories that lets shoppers find items with simple keyword searches. The popular sellers and buyers site offers a great way to make extra money on items you have lying around the house, including clothing, tools, equipment, handmade items and anything else you can imagine.

If you want to set up an online business and sell multiple products, there are tools to help you get started and many entrepreneurs have made their fortunes selling on Ebay. You can sell in an auction format, with interested parties bidding against one another, or you can opt for the buy it now, to avoid the wait.

If you're a beginner selling on Ebay, we've put together some useful tips to help you get started as a seller. This information will help you to know what to expect and how to increase your chances of success selling on Ebay.

1. Register for an Ebay account

This is the first step to get going on Ebay. There is no charge for registering an Ebay account and this will allow you access to buy and sell. You must have bank account or a credit card to open an Ebay account.

This will be the payment source for buying and selling. The site is secure and so your financial information is protected. I've had an account with Ebay for 15 years and my private information has never been compromised.

If you want to open a personal Ebay account and a business account, this is allowed, but it's important to read their rules about having two accounts. Note that you cannot bid on your own items to increase the going price.

This is called shill bidding. It's illegal and it can result in the suspension of your account. By all means, if you have 2 accounts, use them responsibly and in accordance with Ebay policies and regulations.

2. Register with PayPal

If you don't already have a PayPal account, you need one. This is the preferred payment method for most buyers and sellers on Ebay. PayPal accounts are free to register for, and they're a hassle free way to send and receive payments.

PayPal links directly to your bank account or credit card. When buyers make a purchase, the payment is sent to your PayPal account and you can transfer it to your bank account.

If you have a credit card listed on your PayPal account, you can get an instant transfer to your bank through the associated credit or debit card and the balance shows up in your account immediately. If you don't register a card, the transfer shows up in 1 to 3 days.

3. Take high quality pictures

Each item you list for sale on Ebay must have a picture. It should be a picture of the actual item. Make sure that there is good lighting so shoppers can see the details of the item they're considering for purchase.

You can list up to 12 photos of an individual item for free. Take pics from a few different angles. If the item you're selling is used, focus on any flaws or defects so they show up in the photographs.

You want to point out any flaws so buyers know exactly what they're getting. Of course you want the items to appear desirable, but Ebay is a stickler on seller honesty, so don't try to hide defects if there are any. The minimum size should be 600 x 900.

4. List your item under the appropriate category

When you list your item, log into your Ebay account and go to the "Sell" category at the top of the page. This will redirect you to the seller page. Become familiar with all items on this page. Start by selecting a category.

If you're selling a book, for example, select that category. If it's a laptop, choose computers and laptops. Getting your item listed in the category that best describes what it actually is will get you more views from people who are looking for that specific item. This is a critical step for success in managing your Ebay store.

5. Give your listing the best possible title

Before you title your listing, think about the words you would search for, e.g. "antique victrola record player" or "Girl's Carter's Sweatpants, size 7." State what it is in few words, but give enough information in the title. This part is straight forward.

6. Give an accurate description of the item you're selling

In the description you'll begin by stating the condition of the item. Choose the best description from new, new with tags, new without tags, gently used, mint condition, heavily used, worn or simply used.

You can also state, not in working condition or needs repair, or "for parts only" if the item is beyond repair. If it's an electronic or other item you've restored to working order or gone through, let them know it's "refurbished."

Next, give the brand name, the model, if available, the color or any other information that describes the item. Describe any flaws or defects to the best of your ability. The more details you provide, the better.

By giving a thorough description of each item, you will build a reputation on Ebay as an honest and reputable seller. Your rankings are important because this will help potential buyers to have confidence in buying from you.

Keep in mind that if you sell an item and the buyer lodges the complaint that the item is "not as described," you will need to refund their money.

7. Set your listing price

A good way to determine the right listing price is to look at comparable items that have already been sold on Ebay. When you're selling in the auction format, set the listing price on the minimum amount that you would be willing to take for the item.

If you set an auction starting price at $10, and the item is worth $100, if only one person bids $10, you will have to sell it for this price to the winning bidder.

If multiple bidders try for the item, the ending selling price could easily exceed the $100, but there are no guarantees about how much an item will sell for or if anyone will bid on it for certain. Many Ebay sellers start with a low minimum bid because this lowers the listing fees associated with selling. The larger the listing price, the bigger the fee.

8. Set the auction duration

You have the choice of selling in an auction format or as a "buy it now" item. If set your listing as an auction, you will be given a choice of how many days you want the auction to run.

The shortest duration is 1 day, but the majority of sellers list their items for 1 week. Unless you've set a buy it now option in the listing, it will sell when the auction end to the highest bidder.

9. Check your inbox frequently when you have an auction running

Some potential buyers may have questions about an item that you have listed. It's important to get back to them with the answers to their questions as soon as possible.

This could mean the difference between getting their bid or not selling the item at all. When you answer their question about the item, you'll have the option of simply responding to their question one on one, or posting the information on the listing so everyone else who may be wondering the same thing can see the response.

This feature can help save you a lot of time when inquisitive watchers are keeping an eye on the item you're selling.

10. Set the shipping options

You're given a range of shipping options when setting up your listing on Ebay. These include, domestic shipping (in the country you live in) and international shipping that goes anywhere in the world.

The most popular choices are USPS (United States Postal Service), UPS (United Parcel Service) and FedEx. If your item is very large you can ship it by a variety of freight options. When choosing a shipper, you can give your buyers different options including, standard shipping, priority, 2 day, or overnight.

There are fees associated with shipping and if you offer "free shipping" to your buyers, you will pay the shipping costs. Many Ebay sellers offer shipping to buyers and indicate that buyers pay shipping costs.

This is a common practice and the "free shipping" is an offer that is made when sellers can still make a large enough profit off the item to cover shipping costs. You can also offer the "free pickup" option for buyers who are willing to come where you are and pick their item up.

When you start setting up the shipping part, there are useful tools for determining the shipping price. Don't try to make money on shipping, just charge them whatever the actual shipping fees are.

You'll be asked the weight of the item, the size (dimensions) of the package and shipping costs are calculated in accordance with this. There are also flat rate shipping options that are easier for everyone. Remember when providing dimensions and weight, to include the item inside the package because the shipping container and packing will add weight.

11. Preview your listing before it goes live

You'll be given the opportunity to preview your listing before you click the button to start the auction. Go over it and examine every detail to make sure that your listing is accurate, gives the necessary details, is listed for the right price with your shipping preferences and that the photos that you've included are sharp and clear.

When you're satisfied that your new listing is accurate and worded honestly and in a way that will attract buyers, go ahead and list it. You've just put your first item for sale on Ebay.

12. Track your Ebay sales

If you become a serious seller on Ebay, you'll need to have the details so you can report your earnings to the government. Be aware that Ebay is required to report these earnings if you gross more than $20,000 per year and if you have more than 200 total transactions on your account.

Record all business related expenses and include the cost of packaging supplies, the amount you paid for each item, postage, if you drive to the post office, your mileage, etc.

Keep detailed records including all receipts and a mileage log because these can save you a lot of money if your business becomes large. If you are familiar with how to send an invoice, keep copies of the invoices and sales receipts sent to your buyers. You'll include one copy in the package and place one in a file for your own records at the same time.  

13. Test the waters with items you already own

A good way to get started with Ebay is to list quality items that you own, but no longer use. If it's something that has a resale value, there's probably someone out there who is interested in buying it.

A word of warning when it comes to pricing these items. The odds of getting the retail value, or price you paid for an item are low, so make sure that you set the price of used items lower than retail.

In some instances, bidders may go up against one another for a highly desired item, such as an antique or collectible, but you never know from one item to another if it's going to sell.

If you list your item at a retail price, buyers are likely to go with a seller that offers it for half of that price or less. This is why it's important to use the Ebay search filters to find out the average selling price of similar items and start your auction at a little below that price.

14. What to do when a buyer doesn't pay

If you listed and item and the winning bidder doesn't pay, don't sweat it because you have options. First, send an invoice template through the automated system to let the buyer know that they won the auction and they need to pay.

Do not ship an item out until you have been paid for it. If the buyer does not respond to your invoices after a few days, you can open a dispute, and Ebay will assist you in resolving the problem so you can collect appropriately on your Ebay sales.

It's important to go through the steps to ensure that you're not charged a selling fee for an item that you weren't paid for. Don't just ignore it. You also have the option of letting any other bidders know that the item is still available and if you're willing to take the highest bid that they offered to pay, you can sell it to them through the auction platform.

15. What to do when a buyer wants a refund

If you've accurately listed the item and the buyer simply changed their mind about it, you're in a good position. If the item was damaged in shipping, this comes back on you, so it's important to package it in a way that ensures it will arrive to the buyer in the described condition.

You can refund the selling price of the item via the Ebay platform if the situation warrants it, and you can request that the buyer return the item for the refund, or not. It's your choice.

If you are solid in your position that all sales are final and no returns are accepted, this policy should be stated clearly after the description as a term of sale. Buyers are more likely to purchase from a seller that has a return and refund policy though.

You don't have to refund any item that arrived in the condition described and Ebay will support your position if the buyer simply changed their mind.

16. Always post feedback

Every registered Ebay user earns points and either builds or diminishes their reputation as a buyer and a seller by the feedback system established on the site. It's important to provide feedback on each transaction.

You do this whether you are a buyer or a seller, and believe me, the feedback ratings add up and can make your listings appear more attractive to potential buyers if you're a seller. Some sellers will only sell to buyers who have a specific number and percentage of positive feedback ratings. By providing honest and excellent services to all your customers, you build your positive feedback.

17. What to do if someone gives you unfair feedback

If you have followed all the rules and someone posts feedback that is negative and can be proven to be malicious or unfounded, you can file a complaint with Ebay and petition to have the feedback remarks removed.

There is a mechanism in place for disputing unfair feedback because it can damage your reputation as a seller. Ebay will investigate all disputes of this nature and make a ruling after they gather all the facts surrounding the situation/transaction.

18. Sell items that are easy to ship

When you are first starting out on Ebay, it's a good idea to keep it as simple as possible. Selling breakables or large items that are difficult to ship is not recommended for first timers.

Make it as easy as you can until you've learned all the ins and outs of selling and shipping. Ease yourself into selling to make it a positive experience.

19. Take advantage of site sponsored training

Ebay offers a variety of training opportunities along with forums that give you useful information about selling on the site. Many of the questions that new sellers have are answered through these forums where sellers offer pointers on how they built their businesses, and are happy to share some of their proven strategies for selling.

20. Buy a few items before you start selling

It's a good idea to make a few purchases on Ebay, then pay right away, and leave feedback for the seller. This will help you to get some feedback on your account that will give buyers more confidence in you as a seller.

This is the easiest way to start building a positive reputation. All sellers are placed on limits or selling, especially if they are first time members. The limits will be raised as you gain more positive feedback.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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