Complete Beginner's Guide to Selling on eBay
If you have any unwanted items lying around the house or crammed in your attic, you might be surprised to find out they can be resold on eBay and turned into a handsome profit. eBay’s reputation precedes it – the e-commerce mammoth has more than two decades of experience in the field, enabling people from over 30 countries to sell and buy goods online. If you’ve been toying with the idea of selling things you already own or thrifted items on eBay, you must read this ultimate beginner’s guide to selling on eBay before making your first listing.
Getting a Paypal Account
Signing up for a PayPal account is free and only takes a few minutes. The account will enable you to safely receive money from your eBay customers regardless of their location in the world or preferred payment method. PayPal currently offers users the possibility to open a Personal or a Business account.
- A personal account is the ideal choice for those who are just beginning to sell on eBay as it allows them to receive or send payments without sharing any personal information.
- A PayPal business account is better suited for those who have a registered company name, manage several employees and wish to display their logo or business name on the checkout screen.
To set up a PayPal account users need an email address and a password as well as a bank account, credit card or debit card. After submitting the required information, you have to link your bank account in order to transfer the money you receive on PayPal. After completing this last step, your PayPal will be ready to use for your eBay transactions.
Signing Up on eBay
With over 18 million buyers registered in the UK only, eBay can be a prosperous platform for sellers whether their niche is electronics, sports gear, furniture or vintage jewellery.
Registering on eBay as a seller is an intuitive process that only takes several minutes. Users need only type in the basic required info (email address, password and phone number), accept the User Agreement and, finally, confirm their email address.
eBay also requests all users to choose a user ID. This is the name your clients will see when you sell your things online. If you’re unsure about what to choose, don’t fret about it. eBay allows you to change your ID name every 30 days.
Researching the Niche
There is a reason why almost 90% of new businesses fail in the first year and more than 50% of listing on eBay never get bids: lack of research. Selling on eBay might not seem rocket science, but don’t dismiss researching, otherwise, your items will remain unsold for a long time. Increasing your sales should be your main aim in the long run, but knowing your niche is vital to success.
Regardless of the niche you choose, take the time to check out the competition. Look at items that are similar or even identical to what you plan to list and sell. Pay close attention to the listing, the layout, description, photos and, most importantly, the price.
The best way to get a gist of an item’s worth is to search for it on eBay and go to the “Sold Listings” page (on the left side panel, under “Show Only”). If you can’t find the exact item you want to sell, find similar products in its category. This will help you get an idea of the price tag you should attach to your item. In addition, you can also spy on the shipping costs and factor that in when you price your listings.
For items that have never been sold on eBay before, Google the original price tag. This process is going to vary according to the niche. You won’t be able to sell gently used electronic devices for more than their initial cost. However, vintage clothes might now be worth double or even triple than what they cost back in the 60s.
Only by thoroughly researching the niche, checking out the competition and even extending your research to other online selling platforms (like Amazon) you will be able to set the right price for your items and, as a result, turn them into cash.
Listing Your Products
Knowing your niche inside out is only half the effort you have to put in when you start selling on eBay. Knowing how to properly list and present your items in the best light possible is the other half.
An awkward phrasing, a poorly lit photo and even the wrong font choice can put off customers and make them turn to other sellers for more information or better quality descriptions. Here are the six most important things to pay attention to when creating an eBay listing.
eBay currently offers its sellers two ways to sell their items: at a fixed price or in an auction.
Beginners don’t really have a choice between the two since the “Buy It Now” fixed price option is available only for sellers with a minimum on ten completed sales.
Auction-style listings can be started at 99p and will run for up to ten days. When setting the duration of your auction, make sure to include at least one weekend, since Saturdays and Sundays are proven to be the buyers’ preferred times for browsing and placing bids.
Meet your potential buyers halfway and help them find your items in their results page. Use keywords to your advantage and they will bring you more views, increasing conversions.
The secret to keywords is being straightforward and thinking like a buyer. Use the research you made to figure out the best keywords to use and be as specific as possible. Describe your item’s condition, colour, size, use and anything else you consider relevant with one or two words. Don’t include imperatives or suggestions such as “Buy now!” since it won’t help your ranking. You will just end up wasting precious space that can be put to better use.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so take your time during the photo session to make sure the lighting is right and that the picture looks crisp and professional.
Even if you don’t own a fancy DSLR, you can still take the best photo of your product by using a point and shoot or even your smartphone’s camera.
The most important tip to keep in mind is to shoot your photos in the best available lighting (right next to a window, or outside, if possible). This will make sure the camera picks up all the item’s details, convincing your clients to hit that “Bid” button.
Choose a plain, solid colour background for your photos to make your item stand out and look professional. If you don’t have a plain wall or table suitable for pictures, you can improvise and create your own background by using simple kraft paper. This can come in handy especially when shooting smaller items like pieces of jewellery or coins.
Take dozens of pictures so you can choose the best handful when you’re retouching them on your laptop.
Experiment with different angles and snap as many photos as possible. Make sure to include close-ups with the item’s texture or pattern in your photo gallery. You want to give buyers a clear view of the product. Don’t try to hide any imperfections. In fact, take a clear photo of any defects your item might have and be straightforward about them on your eBay listing. It’s better to be honest upfront rather than receive negative feedback and have to deal with a return.
Category, Title & Description
If you want your young eBay business to thrive, you have to take care of the nitty-gritty of listings: the category, title and description.
These three are as important as the pictures you add to your listing since they have the power to:
- guide your potential buyers towards your product (category);
- entice clients to click on your listing instead of the competitors’ (title);
- convince the user to buy the product you’re selling (description).
The category you list your item under makes sure your listing is in the right grouping, together with other similar products. This helps eBay keep a tidy and organized catalogue of all its listings, and enables clients to quickly find what they are looking for by narrowing down their search.
The title of your listing is crucial to your selling process. You have a limited character space that you must use cleverly – ditch unnecessary phrasings like “don’t miss out” or “rare find, bid now”. Instead, choose a straightforward, all-encompassing short description. Mention size, condition, colour, fabric and anything else that is relevant. Leave out unnecessary adjectives like “gorgeous” or “one of a kind” and keep them for your product description.
The description of the items you are selling has to be honest and appealing. Disclose any defects the product may have, but dwell more on the unique features of your item. You can include info about where the product was first acquired from, how it was used, as well as styling or design suggestions.
Add in all the relevant information that will help clients know the product suits them perfectly. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation, you don’t want to start your eBay on the wrong foot and receive negative feedbacks.
Postage costs will play a big role in your eBay online selling business.
Set your shipping costs too low and the difference will have to come out of your pocket, reducing your profit. Set the shipping costs too high and your customers will be inclined to buy from someone else.
The safest way to work out shipping costs is to get familiarized with the post charges and invest in some high-quality postal scales that will save you a lot of hassle. The scales will help you figure out postage prices so you can set the appropriate shipping costs, reducing the risk of underestimating or overestimating.
You can also opt for including the shipping costs in your product’s price, in which case your listing will reflect “Free Shipping”. This might be appealing to some clients, but bear in mind that it will increase the product’s price and the item might end up looking more expensive than the competition’s item.
Another option is to select a flat shipping rate for all your products. For example, you can set your shipping price to £3, which means some clients will pay more for shipping (when they buy a lightweight item that would cost £1.50 to ship), while other will pay less (when they buy a heavier item that would cost £5 to ship). This method can be a little tricky, but it’s easier and more convenient to implement when you have dozens of listings and you prefer not to weigh each parcel individually in order to figure out the shipping costs.
As a beginner seller on eBay, it’s vital to know how to price your products. In the early days of your business, building a reputation and earning positive reviews from happy clients weighs heavier than making a huge profit.
New sellers are undoubtedly at a disadvantage in comparison to older sellers boasting a well-established reputation. Beginners can’t afford to overprice the items they are selling, so you might consider selling a few things at cost price (i.e. not turning a profit). Clients are usually wary about new sellers, which is why positive, five-stars reviews will put even the most cautious customers at ease.
After acquiring several reviews, you can adjust your products’ price tags in sync with your competition. If you want to get an item off your hands quickly, all you have to do is list your product £4-£6 cheaper than your rivals.
On the other hand, if you’re confident your product looks or performs better than the competition’s, go ahead and add a few more pounds to the price tag. If you choose to go down this route, make sure to accompany the heftier price tag with a strong description and professional photos.
If you are considering building a long-term, serious business selling on eBay, price your products in a smart way to build a loyal client base. As more and more eBay users learn about your online shop, selling your inventory will become easier and quicker, and you will afford to steadily increase prices.
One of the surest ways of standing out from the sea of eBay vendors is to come up with a unique, branded format for your product listings. eBay is great in this respect since it allows sellers to use HTML to create unique listings that customers can easily recognize at a glance.
For those who are not particularly tech-savvy, there are countless of free eBay listing templates to download and customize in order to suit your product and your brand.
Together with the photos and description, the format of the listing has the power of making or breaking the sale. The good news is that you can save the template of your choice and reuse it for each individual listing. Taking this into account, it’s worth to invest an hour or two fine tuning your listings’ format, since you will be reaping the benefits of your work indefinitely.
Shipping Your Sold Items
Listing and selling your items on eBay are the hardest parts of the process. But that’s not the end of it. You also have to individually ship your items and make sure they reach the buyer intact. This implies carefully selecting high-quality packaging that is specially designed for the item’s needs.
Treat your customers like you would expect to be treated yourself and don’t cut corners trying to save a few pennies. Reusing old shoe boxes to ship your products will only damage your reputation and can come across as rude and disrespectful.
Show your customers you are willing to go the extra mile and invest in proper, superior die cut postal boxes that were specifically created for mailing. The smart closing mechanism will only add to the beautiful experience of receiving a much-wanted product. Your customers’ satisfaction will be reflected in the positive reviews they will leave on your eBay shop.
When shipping delicate items like ceramics, glass, mirrors or other fragile objects, make sure your customers receive it in one piece. Create a protective cushion around your item using bubble wrap with large bubbles and you will sleep soundly, knowing the item didn’t break during shipment or not.
Loose Fill Packaging
Even items that are not prone to breaking should be protected during shipment. The best solution for this is loose fill packaging. This is gentle enough to protect the product in transit, yet sturdy and reliable enough to keep the product secure.
Don’t be tempted to cut up some old newspapers, stuff them in the box and hope for the best. What makes loose fill packaging better than old paper is the unique S shape that makes them interlock when they are tightly packed. This creates an excellent cushion around your product, ensuring it reaches its destination in pristine shape.
Your customers will be particularly thankful since the high-quality chips are reusable, and can easily be put into service time and time again.
Shipping cards, jewellery, books or prints? You can rely on bubble envelopes to protect fragile goods without adding a lot of bulk. Padded envelopes are super easy to use, reliable and professional looking. Their versatility makes them useful for dozens of items and their low price won’t make a dent in your beginner eBay seller budget.
Adding Nice Touches
In the vast sea of eBay vendors, you want to make sure you stand out through the thoughtful touches you add to your items. You might not have the most exclusive deals or the best prices in your niche, but you can over-deliver and beat your competitors by going the extra mile, conquering your category one loyal customer at a time.
Here’s what you should be paying close attention to if you want to make a lasting impression on any client.
Fresh & Neat Products
Whether you’re selling clothes, jewellery, electronic devices, books, furniture or décor items, you must make sure they reach your customer in their best condition. Make sure the surface is smudge free, iron out any creases, dust and clean any nooks and crannies.
Even if the item is second hand, make it look pristine and flawless.
When dealing with clothes, don’t forget to wash and iron them before shipping. Don’t use scented detergents or fabric softeners, since your client might not share your fragrance tastes. You want the clothes to feel clean and fresh, just like you would buy them from a physical store.
You want to make sure your item reaches its destination intact, but don’t sacrifice looks for safety. Wrapping your products in old magazines or newspaper might seem practical, but it can put off pickier clients. As a result, they can choose to leave a negative review and never shop from you again.
Consider investing in acid free tissue paper especially when you are selling and shipping vintage clothes, antique jewellery, handmade jewellery and delicate pieces of clothing with intricate beading or sequins. This special type of paper doesn’t leave any residue and is the best choice for delicate items. The true connoisseurs will take note of this considerate touch and your effort won’t go unnoticed.
If you really want to go the extra mile, you can’t fail with handwritten tags. Take the time to write down any special care instructions or a short thank you note on a white paper tag and attach it to the product you are shipping.
A sweet and genuine gesture, it will surely make the customer return to your shop knowing that you are a trustworthy vendor who appreciates their business. Not only will they become loyal clients, but they will also recommend your products to friends and family, spreading the word about your business.
Frequently Asked Questions
As you'd expect, a site like eBay is always going to run into problems, and people are always going to need a hand finding what they're looking, that's why we've compiled some of the most common FAQ's about eBay and answered them for you here.
How much are eBay Seller fees? - Usually you'll only be charged when you make a sale. The amount you are charged is a percentage of your final sale price, and so there is never a fixed price to be deducted.
Do you pay tax on eBay sold items? - This is a great question and the answer is that you should be paying tax on any and all sales made on eBay. You are legally required to pay tax on any income, so should by law pay tax on any items you sell online. However if you only sell one or two items every once in a blue moon, then you can probably get away with not declaring your few pounds profit. While if eBay has become a business for you, you'll definitely need to announce your income and pay tax!
How long do you have to pay on eBay? - eBay have a policy stating buyers are allowed up to two days to make payment for an item before the seller is allowed to "UnPaid Item" claim. This then issues the buyer with an additional 96 hours to make payment, if the item isn't paid for in this time the seller can close the UPI claim and re-list the item or even offer it to the next lowest bidder.
How do I get paid on eBay? - PayPal is the most commonly used and recommended payment method as it is secure and easy to use. Set-up a PayPal account and connect it to your eBay account, this will allow you to make and receive payments.
How to ship items? - Shipping items is completely the sellers responsibility, you can arrange courier services like UPS to transport the item or use your standard mail and send by Royal Mail etc.
Who pays for shipping on eBay? - When selling an item, you are given an option to provide a "Shipping" cost, this is added to the sale total of your product and payed to you by the buyer. You will however have to pay for shipping yourself, hence why the buyer pays extra to cover that cost for you.
What can I sell on eBay? - eBay allows you to sell ALMOST anything. They do however have a prohibited list which can be found here and includes items such as drugs, firearms, hazardous materials and more.