RSS Feed

EBAY Sellers

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Get Started on eBay.

So you’ve decided that you want to get started as a seller on eBay. There are a few things that you really 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 speciality? You’ll do far better on eBay if you become a great 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 just sell rubbish at random.

When you think about what to sell, there are a few things to consider. The most important of these is to always sell what you know. If you try to sell something that you just don’t know anything about then you’ll never write a good description and sell it for a good 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 kind of 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 things you could actually 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.

Prepare Yourself.

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 really 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.

A Beginner’s Guide to the Different eBay Auction Types.

Over the years, eBay has introduced all sorts of different auction types, in an effort to give people more options when they buy and sell their things on eBay.

For every seller who doesn’t like the idea that their item might sell for a far lower price than they intend, there’s another who wants to shift hundreds of the same item quickly. eBay tries to cater to all tastes. This email gives you an overview of the different kinds of auctions and their advantages for you.

Normal Auctions.

These are the bread-and-butter of eBay, the auctions everyone knows: buyers bid, others outbid them, they bid again, and the winner gets the item. Simple.

Reserve Auctions.

Reserve auctions are for sellers who don’t want their items to sell for less than a certain price – a concept you’ll know about if you’re familiar with real auctions. They work just like normal auctions on eBay, except that the buyer will be told if their bid does not meet the reserve price you set, and they’ll need to bid again if they want the item. If no-one is willing to meet your price, then the auction is cancelled, and you keep the item.

Fixed Price (‘Buy it Now’) Auctions.

Buy it Now auctions can work in one of two ways. You can add a Buy it Now button to a normal auction, meaning that buyers can choose either to bid normally or to simply pay the asking price and avoid the whole bidding process. Some sellers, though, now cut out the auction process altogether and simply list all their items at fixed price. This lets you avoid all the complications of the auction format and simply list your items for how much you want them to sell for.

Recently, eBay added a twist to fixed price auctions: the ‘best offer’. This means that buyers can contact you to negotiate a price, which could be a good way to get sell some extra stock at a small discount. The only downside to reserve and fixed price auctions is that you pay a small extra fee to use these formats. In general, it is more worth using reserve auctions for higher-priced items and fixed price auctions for lower-priced ones – but remember that you can combine the two formats.

Multiple Item (‘Dutch’) Auctions.

These are auctions where you can sell more than one of a certain item. Dutch auctions can be done by bidding. Buyers bid a price and say how many items they want, and then everyone pays the lowest price that was bid by one of the winning bidders. If you have trouble getting your head around that, then don’t worry – everyone else does too! These auctions are very rare.

What is more common is when a seller has a lot of one item, and lists it using a combination of two auction types: a multiple-item fixed price auction. This just means that you can just say how many of the item you they have, and offer them at a fixed price per unit. Buyers can enter how many they want and then just click Buy it Now to get them.

Now that you know about the different types of auctions, you should make sure that the items you plan to sell don’t violate eBay’s listing policies. The next email will let you know what’s allowed and what is a big no-no.

Learning the eBay “Lingo”.

Do you have trouble sometimes understanding when people talk about eBay? Don’t worry, some of the jargon is really obscure, and you can’t be expected to understand it until someone’s told you what it means. Here’s a little list of some of the most useful lingo to know, but you don’t need to memorise it – even the most common jargon is only used relatively rarely.

Words.

Bid: telling eBay’s system the maximum price you are prepared to pay for an item.
Dutch: an auction where more than one of an item is available.
Feedback: positive or negative comments left about other users on eBay.
Mint: in perfect condition.
Non-paying bidder: a bidder who wins an auction but does not then go on to buy the item.
PayPal: an electronic payment method accepted by most sellers.
Rare: used and abused on eBay, now entirely meaningless.
Reserve: the minimum price the seller will accept for the item.
Shill bid: a fake bid placed by a seller trying to drive up their auction’s price.
Snail Mail: the post, which is obviously very slow compared to email.
Sniping: bidding at the last second to win the item before anyone else can outbid you.

Abbreviations.

AUD: Australian Dollar. Currency.
BIN: Buy it Now. A fixed price auction.
BNWT: Brand New With Tags. An item that has never been used and still has its original tags.
BW: Black and White. Used for films, photos etc.
CONUS: Continental United States. Generally used by sellers who don’t want to post things to Alaska or Hawaii.
EUR: Euro. Currency.
FC: First Class. Type of postage.
GBP: Great British Pounds. Currency.
HTF: Hard To Find. Not quite as abused as ‘rare’, but getting there.
NIB: New in Box. Never opened, still in its original box.
NR: No Reserve. An item where the seller has not set a reserve price.
OB: Original Box. An item that has its original box (but might have been opened).
PM: Priority Mail.
PP: Parcel Post.
SH: Shipping and Handling. The fees the buyer will pay you for postage.
USD: United States Dollars. Currency.
VGC: Very Good Condition. Not mint, but close.

The chances are that you’ll find more specific jargon related to whatever you’re selling, but it’d be an impossible task to cover it all here. If you can’t figure one out from your knowledge of the subject, then type the term into a search engine, followed by the word ‘ebay’. The chances are that someone, somewhere will have seen fit to explain it.

While it’s good to be able to understand others’ jargon, avoid using it unless you really need to (for example, if you run out of space in an item’s title). Many people on eBay are not experienced buyers and you will lose them if you write a load of gobbledegook all over your auction.

By now, you’re well prepared for eBay life, and you’re probably ready to get started with that first auction. In the next email, we’ll show you how to dive in and get started.

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 being 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 items, 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 email about anything at any time, and not answering these emails will just 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, wrap 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 alright with your purchase? I hope you received it and it was as you expected.” This might sound like giving the customer an opportunity to complain, but you should be trying to help your customers, not take their money and run.

Being a really good eBay seller, more than anything else, is about providing genuinely good and honest customer service. That’s the only foolproof way to protect your reputation. Of course, you might be wondering by now whether it’s really worth all the hassle to get a good reputation on eBay. Won’t people buy from you anyway, and couldn’t you just open a new account if it really comes down to that?

What’s Your eBay Reputation Really 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 own behaviour. 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.

In fact, 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, just 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 literally 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 any more. 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 rumours 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.

You really will find selling on eBay so much easier, and there’s only way to get a good reputation: make sure you please your customers every time. But some customers can be, well, just a little difficult to please.