A Beginners, and VERY important, Guide to Selling on eBay
Updated: May 19, 2019
When you find a highly successful business, the primary mechanism to their success is massive sales. Whether you're selling cell phone, computer, shoes, clothing or just about anything else, other than real estate, it's important to remember that generating huge profits requires selling a lot of products.
For this reason, especially for a new business that are now establishing a web presence, we highly recommend selling on marketplaces such as eBay. eBay and Amazon expose your products to millions of shoppers without the need to think about marketing. Fees are high, usually around 7-13% when you add both eBay fees and payment processing (Paypal), but advertising is both expensive and time-consuming. So while you'll pay a bit more, in the beginning, you can save time and effort worrying about marketing and instead focusing on sourcing products and establishing processes to streamline your business.
Below is an old guide we've reviewed that every new seller should read. It's packed with fundamental strategies that should be practiced not just by new eBay sellers but experienced sellers as well.
These strategies will allow you to multiply while maintaining a good reputation that will drive more sales. This, along with a business management platform like 3web1, can really be an advantage over other sellers. Let us know what you think about the guide after you've read it and don't forget you can set up your eBay management tool in less than 5-minutes and try it for free. Plan start at just $7.99 monthly.
Table of Contents
Welcome to eBay and Tons of Income Opportunities! 5
What You Need to Know Before Getting Started 6
5 Easy Steps to Posting Your First eBay Auction 8
An eBay Seller's Checklist 9
What's Your eBay Reputation Worth? 10
10 Steps to Successful Selling on eBay 12
How to Think Like an eBay PowerSeller 14
Choosing the Right eBay Product Category 15
Tips on Writing Your eBay Title 17
eBay Description Writing Tips 18
10 Tips for Increasing Your eBay Response 19
The eBay Glossary 22
Welcome to eBay and Tons of Income Opportunities!
If you've ever read an article about eBay, you will have seen the kinds of incomes people make - it isn't unusual to hear of people making thousands of dollars per month on eBay.
Next time you're on eBay, take a look at how many PowerSellers there are: you'll find quite a few. Now consider that every single one of them must be making at least $1,000 per month, as that's eBay's requirement for becoming a PowerSeller.
• Silver PowerSellers make at least $3,000 each month,
• Gold PowerSellers make more than $10,000,
• Platinum Powersellers make more than $25,000, and
• Titanium PowerSellers make at least a whopping $150,000 in sales every month!
The fact that these people exist gives you some idea of the income possibilities here. Most of them never set out to even set up a business on eBay - they started selling a few things, and then kept going. There are plenty of people whose full-time job is selling items on eBay, and some of them have been doing it for years now.
Can you imagine that? Once they've bought the stock, everything else is pretty much pure profit for these people - they don't need to pay for any business premises, staff, or anything else. Multi-million dollars businesses are making less in actual profit than eBay PowerSellers do.
Even if you don't want to quit your job and go for it, you can still use eBay to make a significant second income. You can pack up orders during the week and take them down to the post office for delivery each Saturday. There are few other things you could be doing with your spare time that have anywhere near that earning potential.
What's more, eBay doesn't care who you are, where you live, or what you look like: some PowerSellers are very old, or very young. Some live out in the middle of nowhere where selling on eBay is one of the few alternatives to farming or being very poor. eBay tears down the barriers to earning that the real world always puts up. There's no job interview and no commuting involved - if you can post things, you can do it.
Put it this way: if you know where to get something reasonably cheaply that you could sell, then you can sell it on eBay - and since you can always get discounts for bulk at wholesale, that's not exactly difficult. Buy a job lot of something in- demand cheaply, sell it on eBay, and you're making money already, with no set- up costs.
If you want to dip your toe in the water before you commit to buying anything, then you can sell things that you've got lying around in the house. Search through that cupboard of stuff you never use, and you'll probably find you've got a few hundred dollars' worth of stuff lying around in there! This is the power of eBay: there is always someone who wants what you're selling, whatever it might be, and since they've come looking for you, you don't even need to do anything to get them to buy it.
So you want to get started on eBay? Well, that's great! There are only a few little things you need to learn to get started. Read on!
What You Need to Know Before Getting Started
So you've decided that you want to get started as a seller on eBay. There are a few things that you need to know before you go and throw yourself in at the deep end.
What to Sell
First off, you need to know what it is you're going to sell: what's your specialty? You'll do far better on eBay if you become an excellent source for certain kind of products, as people who are interested in those products will come back to you again and again. You won't get any loyalty or real reputation if you sell trash at random.
When you think about what to sell, there are a few things to consider. The most important of these is always to sell what you know. If you try to sell something that you don't know anything about, then you'll never write a good description and sell it for a reasonable price.
You might think you're not especially interested in anything, but if you think about what kind of things you usually buy and which websites you go to most often, I'm sure you'll discover some interest. If all else fails mention it to your friends and family: they'll almost certainly say "Oh, well why don't you sell..." and you'll slap your forehead.
Out of the things you know enough about, you should then consider which items you could get for a good enough price to resell, and how suitable they would be for posting. If you can think of something of that you're knowledgeable about and it's small and light enough for postage to be relatively cheap, then that's great!
Don't worry if you think the thing you're selling is too obscure - it isn't. There's a market for almost everything on eBay, even things that wouldn't sell once in a year if you stocked them in a shop. You'll probably do even better if you fill a niche than if you sell something common.
Tax and Legal Matters
If you earn enough money, you should be aware that you're going to have to start paying tax - this won't be done for you. If you decide to sell on eBay on a full-time basis, you should probably register as a business.
There are going to be ups and downs when you sell on eBay. Don't pack it in if something goes a little wrong in your first few sales: the sellers who are successful on eBay are the ones who enjoy it and stick at it whatever happens.
Anyone can sell on eBay if they believe in themselves - and if you do decide it's not for you, then the start-up costs are so low that you won't have lost anything.
If you're ready to start selling, then the next thing you need to know is the different auction types so you can decide which ones you will use to sell your items.
5 Easy Steps to Posting Your First eBay Auction
It's surprisingly simple to get started posting your very first auction on eBay. Here's what you need to do.
Step 1: Open an eBay seller's account.
If you've bought things on eBay, then you already have an account - log in with it and click 'Sell' in the toolbar at the top of the page, then click 'Create a seller's account'. If you've never used eBay before, then you'll need to open an account first using the 'register' link underneath the toolbar, and then click 'Sell' and 'Create a seller's account'. The eBay site will then guide you through the process. For security, this may involve giving card details and bank information.
Step 2: Decide what to sell.
For your first little experiment with eBay, it doesn't matter what you sell. Take a look around the room you're in - I'm sure there's something in there that you're not all that attached to and could put in the post. Small books and CDs are ideal first items.
Step 3: Submit your item.
Click 'Sell', and you're on your way to listing your item.
The first thing you need to do is choose a category - it's best to type in what the item is and let eBay choose for you. Next, write a title and description. Include keywords you think people will search for in the title box and all the information you have about the item in the description box.
Now set a starting price. $0.01 is the best starting price, as it draws people in to bid who otherwise wouldn't, and items will rarely finish at such a low price. The next thing to set is the duration of the auction: 3, 5, 7, or 10 days. This is up to you: more extended sales will usually get more bids, but will also seem to drag on forever. If you've taken a picture, add it now - items with images always sell for more. Finally, tick the payment methods you will accept (just PayPal is best for now), and where you will post to (limit yourself to your own country, to begin with). Submit, and you're finish!
Step 4: Wait for it to sell.
This is just a matter of sitting back and letting eBay do its thing - buyers will find your item and leave bids on it. Some bidders might email you with questions about the item, and you should do your best to answer these questions as quickly as you can.
** Remember that if your item doesn't sell, then you can list it again for free. **
Step 5: Collect payment and post it.
eBay will send your buyer emails guiding them through the process of sending you payment for the item. Make sure you have the money before you ship anything.
Once you've got the payment, all you need to do is pack the item for posting (make sure to use some bubble wrap), take the buyer's address from the confirmation email eBay sent you, and write it on the parcel. Put some stamps on, post it, and you're finish!
An eBay Seller's Checklist
Being a seller is a lot of responsibility, and sometimes you might feel like you're not doing everything you should be. This simple checklist will help you keep on top of things.
Have you found out everything you possibly could about your items? Try typing their names into a search engine - you might find out something you didn't know. If someone else is selling the same thing as you, then always try to provide more information about it than they do.
Do you monitor the competition? Always keep an eye on how much other items the same as or similar to yours are selling, and what prices they're offered at. There's usually little point in starting a fixed price auction for $100 when someone else is selling the item for $90.
Have you got pictures of the items? It's worth taking the time to photograph your products, especially if you have a digital camera. If you get serious about eBay but don't have a camera, then you will probably want to invest in one at some point.
Are you emailing your sellers? It's worth sending a brief email when transactions go through: something like a simple "Thank you for buying my item, please let me know when you have sent the payment". Follow this up with "Thanks for your payment, I have posted your [item name] today". You will be surprised how many problems you will avoid just by communicating this way.
Also, are you checking your emails? Remember that potential buyers can send you an email about anything at any time, and not answering these emails will make them go somewhere else instead of buying from you.
Do your item description pages have everything that buyers need to know? If you're planning to offer international delivery, then it's good to make a list of the charges to different counties and display it on each auction. If you have any special terms and conditions (for example, if you will give a refund on any item as long as it hasn't been opened), then you should make sure these are displayed too.
Have you been wrapping your items correctly? Your wrapping should be professional for the best impression: use appropriately sized envelopes or parcels, pack the item in bubble wrap to stop it from getting damaged, and print labels instead of hand-writing addresses. Oh, and always use first class post - don't be cheap.
Do you follow up? It is worth sending out an email a few days after you post an item, saying "Is everything all right with your purchase? I hope you received it, and it was as you expected." This might sound like allowing the customer to complain, but you should be trying to help your customers, not take their money and run.
Being an excellent eBay seller, more than anything else is about providing genuinely excellent and honest customer service. That's the only foolproof way to protect your reputation.
What's Your eBay Reputation Worth?
Your eBay reputation is everything you are on eBay - without it, you're nothing. Your reputation is worth as much as every sale you will ever make.
If you've ever bought anything on eBay (and the chances are you have), then think about your behavior. Buying from a seller with a low feedback rating makes you feel a little nervous and insecure while buying from a PowerSeller with their reputation in the thousands doesn't require any thought or fear - it feels just like buying from a shop.
A Bad Reputation Will Lose You Sales.
A bad reputation will lose you almost all your sales. If someone leaves you negative feedback, you will feel the pain straight away, as that rating will go right at the top of your user page for everyone to see. Who's going to want to do business with you when they've just read that you "took a month to deliver the item", or that you had "bad communication and sent a damaged item"? The answer is no-one.
Your next few items will need to be very cheap things, to push that negative down the page. You might have to spend days or even weeks selling cheap stuff to get enough positive feedback to make anyone deal with you again.
It's even worse if you consistently let buyers leave negative feedback - once you get below 90% positive ratings, you might as well be invisible.
You Can't Just Open a New Account.
Besides eBay's rules about only having one account, there are far more downsides than that to getting a new account. You have to start all over again from scratch.
You won't be able to use all the different eBay features. Your existing customers won't be able to find you anymore. Your auctions will finish at a lower price because of your low feedback rating. Opening a new account is like moving to a new town to get away from a few people who are spreading rumors about you: it's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
A Good Reputation Will Get You Sales.
When a PowerSeller tells me something, I tend to believe them. They can be selling a pretty unlikely item, but if they guarantee it is what they say it is, then I trust them - they're not going to risk their reputation, after all. This is the power of a reputation: people know you want to keep it, and they know you'll go to almost any lengths to do so.
This is true even to the point that I would sooner buy something for $20 from a seller I know I can trust than for $15 from someone with average feedback. It's worth the extra money to feel like the seller knows what they're doing, has all their systems in place and will get me the item quickly and efficiently.
10 Steps to Successful Selling on eBay
So you want to be a successful seller with your own eBay business, do you? Here's a simple, ten-step path to eBay enlightenment.
Step 1: Identify your market.
Take a while to sit and watch for what sells and what doesn't out of the items you're interested in. Any market research data you can collect will be handy to you later on. You'll probably see the 'sweet spots' quite quickly - those one or two items that always seem to sell for a reasonable price.
Step 2: Watch the competition.
Before you invest any money, see what the other sellers in your category are up to, and what their strategies are. Please pay special attention to any flaws their auctions might have because this is where you can move in and beat them at their own game.
Step 3: Find a product.
Get hold of a supplier for whatever it is you want to sell, and see what the best rates you can get are - don't be afraid to ring round quite a few to get the best deal. If the eBay prices you've seen are higher than the supplier's, then you're set.
Step 4: Start small.
Don't throw thousands at your idea straight away - get started slowly, see what works and what doesn't, and learn as you go. Remember that it's very cheap to try out even the craziest ideas on eBay, and who knows, they might work!
Step 5: Test and repeat.
Keep trying different strategies until you find something that works, and then don't be ashamed to keep doing it, again and again. The chances are that you've just found a right niche.
Step 6: Work out a business plan.
A business plan doesn't need to be anything formal, just a few pages that outline the market opportunity you've spotted, your strategy, strengths, and weaknesses of the plan and a brief budget. This is more for you than it is for anyone else.
Step 7: Invest and expand.
This is the time to throw money at the problem. Buy inventory, and start spending more time on your business. Set a goal number of sales each week, increasing it each time.
Step 8: Make it official.
Once you've made a few thousand dollars worth of sales, you should register yourself as a business. Don't worry, it's not expensive or hard to do - a lawyer is the best person to help you through the process.
Step 9: Automate.
You'll probably find that you're writing the same things again and again in emails or item descriptions. This is the time to give up on the manual method and turn to automated software that can create listings for you, and respond to completed auctions and payments with whatever message you provide.
Step 10: Never give up.
Even when it looks like it's all going wrong, don't stop trying until you succeed. If you keep working at it, then you'll almost always find that you make a real breakthrough just when things are starting to look desperate.
Once you get into the swing of things, you might start thinking that you should quit your job and take up eBay selling part-time. However, it's not always as easy as that - there are all sorts of factors that you need to consider. The next email will weigh up the case for and against taking up eBay full-time.
How to Think Like an eBay PowerSeller
As explained earlier in this guide, PowerSellers are the people on eBay who've made it, recognizable by the little 'PowerSeller' badge next to their name. You've probably seen these people around - and to succeed on eBay, you want to think the way they do.
How to People Get the Right to Call Themselves PowerSellers?
eBay gets to decide who can be a PowerSeller and who can't, and they have strict requirements. To get in at the minimum PowerSeller level, you must have a feedback rating of at least 100 (minimum 98% positive) and sell at least $1,000 worth of items every month for three months in a row.
There are different levels of PowerSeller membership as you sell items of higher value:
$1,000 total is bronze, $3,000 is silver, $10,000 is gold, $25,000 is platinum, and $125,000 is titanium.
If PowerSellers ever fail to meet the required amount of sales, or their feedback falls below 98% positive, then they lose their PowerSeller status. In short, the only people who get to be PowerSellers on eBay are the people who have been successful for a good while and are on track to stay that way.
The Shop and the Marketplace
This is the most crucial part of understanding how PowerSellers think. They don't see what they're doing as being some random bazaar, or a hobby - instead, they see themselves as a business.
Put it like this. If you run a stall in a marketplace, the chances are that you have a general area of business, but you mostly sell whatever you can get your hands on that week. If your dodgy buddy got his hands of a job lot of something at a discount, then that's what you'll be selling. This might be fun - and when you have a good week, you'll have a great week - but it's no way to run a real business in the long-term.
PowerSellers think far more like shops. They sell the same things again and again, every week - regular stock for regular customers. They do 'boring' business things like keep inventories and budgets. They know what they're going to be selling, how much they buy it for and how much they expect to sell for. Just like a real shop, there can be hard times sometimes, but their income is stable, and their business can grow slowly.
The best advice I can give you on thinking like a PowerSeller is this: don't take long-term risks for short-term gain. Look after your reputation, manage your selling properly, provide excellent customer service, and the rewards will come to you in due course. Also, you'll get a little badge next to your name that makes people trust you more!
One possibility that you might have realized so far is what eBay can do for any other businesses you might have. Remember, millions of people visit eBay every day - why keep everything separate when you're starting to tap into that kind of power?
Choosing the Right eBay Product Category
Some people think it's easy to choose the right eBay category, and often it is. Sometimes, though, it might not be entirely clear exactly what to go for.
Why is it Even Important?