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Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Sell on eBay

How to Sell on eBay

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit
Selling on eBay is exactly like selling in any other marketplace except that the usual barriers to entry (such as cost, employment, etc.) are virtually non-existent and, instead of just a few thousand potential buyers, you have access worldwide to over 181 million potential buyers![1] In fact, people who have already experienced selling through garage or yard sales or swap meets are already well and truly familiar with what it’s like to sell on eBay. Whether you're a home-based business, a big business, or just trying to sell some stuff you may have sitting around, here is a comprehensive guide to becoming an eBay seller.


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Getting started
  1. Create an eBay account if you don't have one already. Go to eBay's main page in your country and register following the instructions on the page. To find eBay, simply use your favorite search engine and type in eBay and check that it has returned an eBay relevant to where you live.
    • Have a valid email account so that you can confirm your account and who you are.
    • Decide on a good account name ahead of time. Since so many people are already on eBay, spend some time checking that the name you want is actually available and come up with alternatives when your preferred name is already in use.
    • Think about what you want to add to your profile page. People do read these to try and find out more about you, so it's a good place to explain your credentials, such as being a collector, a retailer, a person with knowledge of particular items, etc.
  2. Build your account. Since feedback matters to people buying from you, it's a good idea to buy a few small things and pay immediately so that you will get some positive feedback ratings. At this stage, don't buy things you intend to resell because you won't know what works until later; just buy things you'd buy anyway, such as something to add to a collection, an item of clothing, some food, etc. This will give you the experience on using the site and your "site cred" will start to build.
    • Potential buyers who see a new seller without feedback can be very wary that you're a "fly-by-night" or an unknown (and therefore risky) factor.
  3. Work out how you'll accept payment. This varies depending on where you're selling; some people prefer Paypal or similar services, some prefer direct deposit into accounts, some prefer checks or cash. The rationale will depend on ease of using any particular payment system and what your buyers are used to. You may need to be flexible for overseas buyers too if you allow them to bid, as they'll have different payment expectations from those purchasing within your own country. Do research on which payment options are best for you.
Becoming an online auction seller
  1. Consider what you want to sell. You might already have an excellent idea of what you want to sell and you've been hoarding the product for a time. Or, you might know but have no product and need to know where to source it from. Alternatively, you might want to sell but you don't have a clue what just yet. It's important to think through a number of things when deciding what products you're likely to sell on eBay regularly.
    • Consider a trial sale of items you don't want that are simply around the house. This will get you used to what it feels like to sell and all the paperwork and logistics involved but it might also give you more ideas about the types of things you enjoy selling.
  2. Work out whether you'd prefer to sell new or used items, or a combination of both. New items can be sourced in bulk from warehouses and wholesalers and resold for profit individually, while used items need more work to find such as through real life auctions, thrift stores and direct buys from estates, etc. It really depends on the type of person you are and whether or not you enjoy hunting far and wide for things to sell. When selling new things, you need to know the existing market and make sure you're not entering something that is already saturated unless you are able to massively undercut the existing sellers. Be aware that trends can pass quickly too, leaving you with stale stock. With older things, you might have to wait longer for the collector or other interested buyer to turn up but the sale can be a sweet deal if it goes well. If you're selling antiques, you'll also need to be very knowledgeable and able to pack fragile, precious and valuable items really well to avoid problems with buyers.
  3. Think about space as an important issue. Working from home selling things can reduce overheads but if your stock starts taking over the space, your life won't be the same. Do you have room for your products and room to wrap, pack and store purchased items? Do you have a dedicated space for eBay selling or do you have to keep moving everything around? Space and storage are very important factors to sort out.
  4. Know what's hot. The most popular items to sell are probably something everyone wants to be a part of and to an extent that makes sense. However, also be aware that if it's popular, there will be many more sellers on your patch selling the very same things as you, so you'll need to set yourself apart with things that customers like, such as lower prices, more features, added bonuses and good descriptions that reassures the customer that you know what you're talking about. To find out what's hot, check out eBay's page: Items commonly listed here include CDs, women's and men's clothing, toy cars, cell phones, laptop computers, gold jewelry, cars and football shirts.
  5. Know what you can't sell. There are forbidden products on eBay, some are more obvious than others. Check out Help -> Is My Item Allowed? to find out what eBay doesn't allow to be sold. Ignoring this can have your account suspended or even permanently banned.
  6. Research your market. Search eBay for items like those you want to sell. Read the listings. Take note of what sort of information or photos you find most helpful to you as a potential buyer – the same type of information will be helpful to your potential buyers. Consider what makes you think a seller is trustworthy and how you will manage to convey that same sense of trustworthiness through your sales and profile.
    • You can use products built specifically for seller research such as Terapeak or Vendio research but you'll need to pay for these. These web-based software solutions search all of eBay's closed listings for you and will quickly show you what the average price of your item is, what keywords are associated with the most closed listings, and who the top sellers are. ( is a free version just for music if you're into selling music.)
Listing items for sale
  1. Assemble the information you will need to place the listing. Usually, this includes measuring the item, weighing the item so you can estimate shipping costs, and having your photos ready.
  2. Take photographs of your item. Good photographs which clearly illustrate the item to be sold can make a listing; bad photographs are little better than no photographs at all. Get a cheap digital camera or a camera-phone if you don't have one already; no photograph at all will (especially for a new seller) lead some people to think that you don't own the item at all, or have something to hide.
    • Make your photographs useful. In preparation for taking the photo, place the item in area where there won't be a distracting background and get rid of any nearby clutter. A simple sheet of white paper may be used to provide a nice, neutral background for smaller items. Where possible, turn off your flash and use natural light; go outside, or take a photo by a window.
    • Get as many photographs as your buyers will need, and then some. Take photographs of your item from every angle that you think someone will find useful. Get photographs of any unusual feature, any defects, and so on. The extra confidence that this will give buyers is almost always (except on the lowest-valued items) worthwhile. Of course, some items only need one photo; use your judgment here.
    • Don't copy photographs from other listings or anywhere else on the Internet, ever. Apart from being dishonest and fraudulent, this will almost always be copyright infringement; nearly everything on the Internet, and elsewhere, is copyrighted, whether it has a copyright notice or not. Don't become a criminal through being too lazy to take a couple of photographs.
    • See How to take better product photos for free for more ideas on producing good photos for eBay sales.
  3. Log in and go to "Sell" either in "My eBay" or through the Main Page at the top.
  4. Enter a title for your listing. The title is the front line in getting your auction noticed. A good title will not only give potential buyers enough information to know whether the listing is worth their time to look at, it will also attract people searching for your items.
    • Include all relevant words. Experienced buyers know to look for bargains from inexperienced sellers by browsing listings and looking for those with insufficient information in the title; for example, the title "Land Rover" instead of "Land Rover Series 2 SWB 88" 2.25 Petrol". Insufficient information in a title will attract a far smaller number of potential buyers and/or bidders; consequently such an item will either not sell, or go for a much lower price than it would otherwise.
    • As a corollary to the above, keep the words relevant. Exclude fluff such as "cool" "excellent", and the like. You have very little space, so use it for what people are searching for (you can be rather sure that nobody is going to be searching eBay for items titled "L@@K" or "AWESOME!!!!"). Use a subtitle for any information that you think people will neither be searching for nor want to see immediately (this costs more; depending on the value of your item it may not be worth it).
    • Include alternative spellings and phrasings if you have space. For example, if you're selling an iPod, put "MP3 player" in your title. However, eBay's search will automatically account for variant phrasings; it will also sometimes check category names in addition to the auction title. Do a search on specific terms and look at the titles of the auctions that come up.
    • Spell it correctly! This sounds basic, but many people find bargains (and many online tools make money on commissions) by routinely checking for mis-spelled auction titles. If your spelling sucks, use a dictionary or use your web browser's auto spell check feature. If your web browser does not have an auto spell check feature, download a better one that does.
  5. Enter a description, after choosing a category.
    • Include any and all relevant information. This includes things like the manufacturer, compatibility (for items intended to be used with something else), size, weight, color, condition, and so on. Err on the side of adding too much information rather than too little. A buyer can skim through information they do not need to know, but will likely hit the "back" button if they don't see the information they want; for this reason, it's best to put the most important information at or very near the beginning of the listing. Try not to make your listings into big bags of random figures; use the "feature-benefit" method beloved of marketing drones. "The camera comes with a big long lens which I don't know anything about" is bad. "The high-quality 80-200 zoom lens (feature) lets you take sports and wildlife shots like the pros (benefit)" is much better.
    • Keep the design simple, if you see the need to design a listing at all. Some sellers clutter their listings with unrelated elements that that it makes the listing itself more difficult to read; others (particularly eBay's standard listing designs, which cost money) look ugly and lead to two very different, clashing designs on the same page.
    • Be honest. Be clear about any defects in the item. Buyers will find this out anyway, so let them decide for themselves what is a significant problem and what is not. Remember, buyers cannot physically touch and examine your item. They are relying on the detail and accuracy of your listing to make the purchase. Not describing any significant faults (and your assessment of what is "significant" may not match with the buyers, or with what courts will decide) is fraud, and will likely lead to the buyer leaving bad feedback. You are just as liable for dishonesty as you would be with any other kind of sale. In short, "underpromise and oversell".[2]
    • Keep a friendly tone. Many sellers seem to go to extra efforts to intimidate potential customers; they seem to think it's essential to leave several pages of threats (invariably in huge, colored fonts) to report non-paying bidders, and so on. Don't do this! You wouldn't want to buy from a bricks-and-mortar store wherein the owner watched your every move and reminded you that you would have to pay for every item you looked at if you left the store with it. Nor would you want to shop at a store wherein the sales clerk complained about other customers. The Internet is no different; it's insulting to your potential buyers to treat them as potential thieves or wrongdoers; drop the bad faith approach. If you must include additional information on your policies, ensure the length is shorter than your item description.
    • Check your spelling. This won't make up for a bad listing in other respects, but it still goes some way. Proper capitalization and punctuation makes listings much easier to read.
  6. Pick a selling format. You have two options; which you will pick depends on your personal preferences
    • The online auction. Despite this being somewhat de-emphasised by eBay recently,[3] this is still enormously popular with buyers and isn't going away any time soon. Auctions are probably best for less common items, and when you're uncertain as to what price you should sell at.
    • Buy It Now items are fixed-price items. You might want to consider this for more common items; for example, new items which people need immediately are unlikely to attract many bids in an auction.
  7. Set your price. If you are selling at auction, set this to the lowest price that you could ever imagine selling your item for. If you're brave, set it lower than this; lower starting bids attract more bidders and interest in your item, and may well result in your item selling for more. Avoid setting a reserve price. This is somewhat akin to a form of shill bidding, with bidders bidding against the seller himself. A reserve auction irritates some potential buyers because they have no idea what the seller wants, and may not bother bidding at all. If you're selling a fixed-price item, then use your judgment. You have little option but to undercut other sellers on eBay.
    • Whatever you do, remember that there is no such thing as an item's "real value". Bear this in mind if you are thinking about setting a reserve price in an auction. If items really do have some Platonic dollar-value, it's irrelevant to the real world if nobody is willing to pay that for it. (And for many kinds of items, eBay is "the market", not just an entertaining side-show thereof.)
    • See How to determine what to price your eBay items for more details.
  8. Continue to go through the options, and be sure to look everything over very carefully. There's a lot to look through and you'll want to make sure everything is correct. Make sure the item is sold at a reasonable price.
    • Fix any mistakes. You can continue to fix mistakes in an auction until the first bid has been placed, after which, it is what it says!
    • Rotate or crop any photos that might need it for a better appearance.
  9. Double check everything before saving. Be sure that when you're done with everything at the end (you're at the overview page) to double check and press submit. If you don't press submit it won't be entered. You'll then get an e-mail confirming that your product was placed on eBay.
  1. Decide when to end the auction. There are some times that are best for ending an auction, dependent on the item you're selling. Auctions ending on Sundays, Mondays and weekends tend to catch high traffic, therefore increasing the chances of better end prices for your items.[4] Many items are also seasonal, and so there are better times of the year to be selling these than other times of the year. For example, beach gear does better in summer while skis will do better in winter.
    • You can check out eBay's planned promotions for certain categories at: Check this out and plan your sales for when these categories will be highlighted.
  2. Choose the end time either by listing at the same time you want the item to end or choose it manually when listing. If you want a different end time from the one that is automatically chosen, set it to the time you'd prefer.
Tending the auction
  1. Answer questions from your buyers as the auction runs its course. Be prompt about it, and always be patient, clear, professional and friendly. Buyers don't like to see unanswered questions and it impacts your professionalism, so don't hesitate to respond.
    • Refuse offers to buy your item outside of eBay. This is against eBay policy, and gives you little or no comeback if the buyer refuses to pay.
  2. Watch the auction. You'll get an idea of interest by watching the counter change and if few people are looking, you might need to make adjustments to the auction to make it more appealing to those browsing about the site. Learn by observing what works and does not work and apply changes as needed.
  3. End an auction if needed. You have the ability to end an auction up to 12 hours before it's due to end. This should be used very sparingly though, as watchers may well have been excited about making bids and will be disappointed to see this as a "habit". Keep it for exceptional circumstances such as broken, lost or stolen items. (And by way of a hint, once you have listed products for sale, keep them somewhere safe!)
  4. Keep an eye on buyers. It is possible to block some buyers for certain reasons such as buyers who can't pay with Paypal, buyers who are in countries you can't ship to and buyers with low or bad feedback. And you can also set up Approved Buyers lists that automatically allow some buyers to bid.
  5. Lower the reserve price. Prior to the last 12 hours of an auction, it's possible to lower the reserve price if you find you're not getting bids.
Finalizing the sales
  1. Breathe a sigh of relief once the product sells but get ready for the packing, tracking and answering your buyer's emails. You're not finished yet and here is where timely responding and good communications really come into their own.
  2. Leave feedback. It's polite and good business practice to leave feedback once the buyer has met their end of the bargain. Adding feedback on the day of shipping is a good record for both of you and if you're doing all the right things, there should be no risk in leaving feedback at this stage. However, some sellers prefer to wait until they're reassured that the buyer is happy with their purchase once the buyer has left feedback; you'll need to gauge the need for that dependent on what you're selling. It comes down to how much faith you have in the feedback system and how your buyers usually respond.
    • It's fine to politely ask buyers to leave you feedback if you have the time and willingness to do this. Only do this once though; don't badger them.
  3. Keep an eye on the invoices that eBay sends you and be a timely payer. You will owe commission fees and other fees over time from listing and you need to make regular, full payments in order to be able to continue listing your items for sale. While the fees might initially surprise you, treat them as very much a part of your business expenses and soon you'll remember that these need to come off the costs of your products and efforts.
eBay store or shop
  1. In time you might consider opening a store or shop on eBay. This may be attractive if you want people to be able to search via your own distinct URL on search engines, you want to group sales items together under unique categories of your own making and if you want to build a really interesting profile for your regular and other buyers. There are benefits such as longer term, lower fee "fixed price" listings but these sales are only ever shown in your shop, not on the usual auction lists. Also, there is a monthly fee for owning a store or shop, which needs to be taken into account when selling your items. For a beginner seller, it's a good idea to check out other stores or shops first and to decide after some experience with selling whether or not a store or shop is for you.
  1. Consider if you're keen to work toward becoming a Powerseller on eBay. You can't ask to be one but you have a greater likelihood of eBay making you one if:
    • You make a minimum amount of sales per month, consistently (check eBay's requirements as these change both over time and according to which region you're in)
    • You maintain the minimum amount of sales for at least three months in a row
    • You have good feedback.
  2. Check out the eBay Sellers Unite blog until this status is conferred on you. It's at: It'll help you pick up some excellent selling tips.



  • Payment will be vital. PayPal is an extremely popular payment service on eBay, and as a seller, you will want to understand how it works and quite possibly sign up. Offering this service also may help attract buyers, because payment is instant and simple. Checks and money orders are also popular, but by nature take time. Also, be aware that payments from buyers by check does not necessarily mean they have sufficient funds! So consider what your comfort level is with these different payment types when you list your item.
  • Blog your listings, especially if you're an artist or crafter. Share them on Facebook and Twitter.
  • If you're dissatisfied with a buyer or another seller, contact them and discuss the problem in a timely, polite way. Use negative feedback as a last resort if the issue can't be resolved. Always try to negotiate instead because negative feedback is difficult to reverse or remove if you were mistaken about something. Remember that you don't know if your buyer was in a car accident and wound up in the hospital rather than sending your payment, things like that do happen in life.
  • People will look at things that have cheap or free shipping, so include the shipping price in the total price (or min bid) and people will be more inclined to buy. If you offer it, make sure they know that you're offering it.
  • Sell inexpensive items to build up your feedback first.
  • Choose moderately large, easy to read text fonts for your listing and don't overdo animation, clashing colors and other distractions. Let the pictures and your text speak for themselves but remember some buyers have poor eyesight and prefer large print. Think of "large print books" as an example of text size.
  • Packaging is also important. If items are fragile, improper packaging can result in broken items and unhappy customers! Also keep in mind the price you pay for shipping: the box, padding, etc., to decide on a reasonable price or add it to shipping and handling fees.
  • Try and have it so your auction ends on a Sunday. Avoid ending auctions on Friday or Saturday when people are not home to bid.
  • You will have to ship the product out on your own, so you're going to have to add shipping into the price; there's a section where you set the shipping.
  • If you're selling original art or handmade goods of any kind, participate in eBay groups for your product. Collectors join these groups as often as artists/crafters and many artists/crafters are also buyers. Some hobbyists sell in order to fund their purchases. Read threads, be pleasant and friendly, don't engage in flame wars and compliment anything you like. It's a good way to make friends and get involved in a thriving niche community.
  • Look for the most popular auctions so you can be sure that the item you want to sell is in demand.
  • Help keep the feedback system honest by only placing honest feedback and avoiding the "trading" of positive feedback. A seller should leave positive feedback if the buyer pays promptly. A buyer should leave positive feedback if the item arrives in a reasonable time and is as advertised. A seller who waits for a buyer to leave positive feedback is really trading feedback. Such a practice skews feedback ratings.
  • Whether you're a novice seller or someone who has been selling for a while, is to realize that there isn't any single secret to sales success. There are some generalizations that apply but even they have their exceptions and the reality is that you need to try out the selling your own way until you find the way that produces the most success for you, your items and your approach. Rely on your common sense, good observation and research skills as well as being an excellent communicator and you'll be able to make a success of selling on eBay. Don't make it any harder than it is, which really, isn't that hard at all!
  • You can always go back and edit it if you don't like something. Just go into "My eBay" and go from there.
  • Take advantage of free sales training. There are dozens of books on how to sell on eBay. You'll find at least one at your local public library and it should be sufficient (as they all tend to say the same thing after a while and purchasing one isn't really worth it).


  • Do not sell illegal items. Doing so can bring heavy consequences upon you.
  • A sale on eBay is as final as a contract anywhere else. If you commit to selling something at auction on eBay, then you can't change your mind because it didn't reach a price high enough.
  • Negative feedback makes buyers mistrust you and makes sellers think twice about selling to you. Follow up any negative feedback with accurate facts. Do not call names.
  • Be careful when sending feedback. You can be sued for making dishonest statements on the feedback page, so keep in mind that you are responsible for your remarks. Keep it honest and professional, and above all, don't make childish and angry remarks.
  • Don't overcharge for shipping and handling. A reasonable amount for your materials and effort is okay, but buyers don't want to pay $15.00 for shipping and handling and then see on the postage label that it only cost you $3.85 for shipping.
  • Never put the starting price lower than what you can afford to lose by selling it! You need to consider the fees for eBay, Paypal (if you offer a PayPal payment), and shipping. It is entirely possible to lose money on an item if you put a starting price that is too low for you to at least break even if only one person bids on it.
  • Be careful of selling overseas. Most items are perfectly fine, and can increase your bidding pool. However, what may be perfectly legal in the US may be illegal in other countries (or vice versa).

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

  1. Ian Peel, Saving & Selling Online, p. 38, (2010), ISBN 978-1-84836-519-3
  2. Quoted from
  4. Ian Peel, Saving & Selling Online, p. 55, (2010), ISBN 978-1-84836-519-3

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