This is a guest post by Victoria S and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.
The first thing you need to do is identify what you want to sell and see if it’s worth the bother of dealing with eBay to get rid of it. There are a lot of things that don’t sell well or don’t sell for much on eBay.
The easiest thing to do is to pile up the things you want to get rid of and start looking up the past performance of those items on eBay. Handily, eBay allows you to search for “completed listings”. First, you enter the item, with as much specifics as you can give, in the “search” box at the top.
Say you have a book titled “Hunger Signs in Crops” and it was published in 1949. You want the most information possible, so you would search for “Hunger Signs in Crops 1949″ in the search box. Ebay will return a listing of things that match that. To find the completed listings – you need to look on the left side column – there is a section with a heading “Show only” – click the “completed listings” box there and it will show you the listings for the last month that ended, and what they sold for. You do that for all the items you’re thinking of selling, and any items that are not good sellers or that are not bringing close to the amount you would like to receive you would put aside and not sell.
Okay, so you’ve determined that you can indeed sell the item on eBay for good money. Next, you need to decide if you want to auction it off or sell it for a fixed price.
You need to set up what sort of policies your “store” will have. Will you accept returns? Do you ship internationally? Do you ship to Canada? Will you charge a handling fee? Will you charge shipping or ship for free? All of these will affect your bottom line.
If auctions, 7 or 10 day? Or some other length? Will you set a reserve price?
You’ll have to have a paypal account. For that, you’ll need it tied to a bank account. I highly recommend that you set up a cheap checking account specifically for your paypal payments. Do NOT use your main banking account – as paypal has been occasionally known to hiccup things and try to take back money … search on the internet for many examples of people who’ve had major issues with paypal and aren’t afraid to document them! If it’s an account you’re not depending on, you’re much less likely to have issues that affect your life.
Remember eBay makes its money off the “extras” it sells you. That’s the real profit – those extra things like “bold title”, “subtitles”, fancy graphics in your descriptions, and all those other things. Very few of them are really worth it. I routinely sell items for decent amounts with plain jane text descriptions, no bold titles or subtitles, or anything else fancy.
Good quality photos are a must. Fuzzy, out of focus photos taken in the dark will not get your items sold. You need to invest in either a good quality scanner or at least a decent quality camera. Learn how to set up a light box if you are selling small items. The photos should be inviting, as the buyers are going to use them to decide if they are going to buy your junk rather than someone else’s junk! Ebay does provide the hosting for your pictures, so that’s simplified from long ago days.
Accurate descriptions of your item are also vitally important. Describe every flaw. Better to over describe the flaws and have the buyer pleasantly surprised that the item is better than your description than to have them complain that you misrepresented the item.
You’ll need to collect sales tax for items you sell within your state. Be prepared for that.
You’ll also want to be aware of the peculiar eBay custom of “feedback”. This is where someone you bought from or sold to is able to give feedback on the transaction in the form of positive or negative ratings. Your feedback rating is vital to your success. I cannot stress this enough. You want to strive for 100% positive feedback. It’s SO important that I strongly suggest that you buy a few items and get a bit of feedback under your belt before you start selling items. This will allow buyers to see that you’re not a “fly-by-night” seller and that you actually exist and are willing to spend some money.
Most sellers start out by buying anyway, so it’s perfectly normal. Handily, there are plenty of “prepping” items you can buy for decent prices on eBay to help get your feedback up. How high you want to get it is hard to say. If you’re selling a lot of lower priced items (say under $20) you probably only need 5 to 10 feedback points before starting selling. If you’re planning on selling high dollar items … get a bit more, likely closer to 20 or 30 before attempting to sell.
So, you’ll want to sign up for an eBay account and start playing around with bidding. This will help you see how things work from the buyer’s perspective. Start figuring out the “my eBay” feature – it’s very handy as a central point of contact for your eBay activities. When you start selling, this will be where you can keep track of what you’re selling, but it also keeps track of things you’re bidding on as well as things you’re watching. Watching is just the ability to keep track of something that is listed without actually bidding on it. It can be useful to keeping track of things similar to items that you might be thinking of selling.
Figure out the search feature – it’s not always the most intuitive thing, but it does allow to you to search for completed items. This is most handy for researching items you’re planning on selling – see what items similar to yours have sold for recently!
Okay, the actual listing process. First, you’ll hit “Sell item” under the ”
This brings up a “Create your listing” form. You need to first title your item. You have limited space here, so the idea is to describe the item without wasting space. Assuming you’ve researched similar items, you’ll have an idea of the commonly used abbreviations for similar items – feel free to use them. Here’s a typical title for one of my railroad photos – “Missouri Southern Railroad steam locomotive #1 – b&w photograph postcard”. You can see it gives the important search terms and details without wasting space.
I wouldn’t bother with a subtitle – it costs extra and really doesn’t seem to affect sales that much. Then there is a drop down menu for “condition”. Unless the item is new in the box, use “used”. It’s safer.
Then you describe the condition – be brutal here. Every single nick and scratch and crease and spot and stain should be described. You have plenty of space, use it. Your buyers will be a lot happier if you over describe than under describe. You’re aiming here for a lot of feedback that says “better than described” – that’ll make folks happy to bid on your things. For our example, I used “Curl to card. Slight wear to edges of photo. Yellowing to photo and back. Some slight staining to back. Penciled and stamped caption on back. Never mailed.” The slight wear is almost not noticable, but better to be safe than sorry.
Then there is a section on “item specifics”. This varies depending on the category you’ve chosen, some categories have a whole bunch of possibilities here (for example the toys …) and some have very few (photographs usually only have one – country of manufacture). Fill in what you know, skip what you can’t … they don’t always fit well with what you’ve got.
Next section is for pictures. You need at least one picture. You can have up to 12. Remember .. more is better here. Hit the “add pictures” button and pick your pictures to upload. Once uploaded, pick the most eyecatching one to put first – you can use the little arrows underneath the thumbnails to move the photo order around.
Next section is the “describe” section. Here is where you not only describe what the item is but also where you reiterate your selling policies to your prospective buyers. You want to be utterly explicit here with what you will and will not accept.
So first .. you describe the item. Give dimensions. Give colors. Give makers. Give all the details possible. You have PLENTY of space – use it. A typical description for one of my railroad photo is “One black and white photograph postcard of the Missouri Southern Railroad steam locomotive number 1. Caption on back states ” Missouri Southern #1 Leeper Mo 1907 Alco 42321 /1907″ and is stamped ”J. B. Allen” in one corner. Card is 5.5 by 3.5 inches approximately.” Note that I did not use any abbreviations that I used in the title – instead I spelled them out. I do, however, accurately transcribe the caption on the back of the postcard, abbreviations and all. I give detailed dimensions – if there was three dimensions, I’d give all three.
Then I list my selling policies. Here is where you state if you accept refunds, if you’ll combine items for a discount on shipping, how you ship, and any other things you think important. This section is usually very very long and will grow as you sell more items – you’ll figure out things that you need to add. My example listing is “We do not accept refunds. Please read item condition description carefully. Item will ship with or between protective cardboard. Always happy to combine multiple items for cheaper postage.
If you want to combine shipping – do NOT pay after your auctions end, but instead use the “Request Total from Seller” option to get a combined shipping quote from us! If you desire insurance or tracking numbers, let us know before payment and we will send out an invoice with your requested services. If you purchase multiple items from us, please either let us know when you’re done bidding and wish an invoice or wait until we send you an invoice before sending in payment – this enables us to give you combined shipping prices. (And also avoids us having to refund shipping fees!)” I have this bit of text saved in a text file on my computer so I don’t have to type it out every single listing. (I also have a boilerplate listing information for the photo descriptions, if you plan to sell a bunch of similar items, setting up boilerplate will save you plenty of time.)
Next is the option to add a “listing designer” – it’s an extra cost and I really doubt it adds that much. Then there is a drop down for the style of visitor counter you want.
After this, there is the section for chosing either an auction format or a fixed price format. I generally favor auctions – it’s your best chance to maximize price, but I’m selling mainly one of a kind or rare/collectible items. If you’re selling store stock or other things that are new or common, a fixed price may be better for you. we’ll cover auction style listings, as I’m not very familiar with fixed price stuff.
First you set the starting price. See the listing fees and set your starting price with some input from what your listing fee might be. There is a big price difference between starting an item at $1.00 and at $0.99 – 15 cents difference! Really pays to have some strategy here. I usually start most things at $0.99, but again, I sell one of a kind vintage photos. They usually go much higher and the low price drives sales. Bigger prints I’ll start higher, occasionally.
Buy it now is an option to set a price that you’ll accept an immediate purchase IF the item hasn’t gotten any bids. I never use this, but it has it’s place when you’re selling more common items. You can also set a reserve price, where the item won’t sell if you don’t meet the reserve – this is useful for high dollar items that you must make so much from. I generally don’t use this either. Quantity is self-evident … as is duration. 7 days is a good length, 10 works also. I don’t recommend anything shorter as not all buyers check every day.
You can also set your listing to start at a specified time (generally evenings or weekends) if you want – this is handy if you can only find time to list items in the wee hours of the morning but really want to capture the evening hour bidding. Most bidding happens in the last hours of the auction – you want those hours to be when there are the most buyers able to get those last minute bids in! Evening hours or weekends are the best ending hours so they are the best listing hours.
Payment options are next. You are required to offer paypal. There are other options that you can also take, but you cannot actually take money orders or checks for payment, at least according to eBay. You can’t even mention those options in your listing description – the software won’t let you use those words.
Shipping details are next. Okay, eBay suggests you pack the item totally up and then weigh it so you can figure out shipping. This is insane, because you’re going to get questions from bidders about the item and you’ll just end up opening up your package. Plus, it makes it easier to accidentally send the wrong item to the wrong person! Go ahead and weigh the item and get the box figured out, but don’t actually seal the item! Input your information here. I generally make my buyers pay for shipping but again, you may decide something different.
I do offer options – priority and first class shipping for most photos, but I only use the post office – our local UPS is way too far to deal with. Plenty of folks offer free shipping – what works for me may not work for others. Keep in mind your market. I don’t ship internationally – mainly because I’m selling U.S. railroad photos – there isn’t much market outside the U.S. for them! I also charge a $1.00 handling fee to cover the costs of my packing materials. Set a short handling time here – 2 days is good. You want to allow yourself the occasional emergency when you just can’t get to the post office the next day.
The last important section is the return policy. If you’re not selling antiques or other rare items, it’s probably best to accept returns. I won’t because I don’t trust folks to not buy the photo, scan it, and then return it and screw me over. It’s a lot harder to do that with other items, I will admit!
So, assuming you’ve filled all this in, hit “continue” and you’re on the last screen – where eBay tries to sell you a bunch of addons – and lets you preview how it’ll sorta look. Avoid all those options … if you’ve done your job right with the descriptions and stuff, you won’t need the fancy crap to get your stuff sold. Hit “list your item” and you’ve listed your first item!
You can track the things you’re selling in the “my eBay” tab. Look under “Sell” tab. Hit that and you’ll see your item listed under “active selling”. There are some handy things here that will help you refine your future sales – there is a column for views and watchers – this lets you know how often your item has been viewed as well as how many folks are watching the item without bidding. There is a “bids” column, which is self-explanatory. Then there is the price column. If it’s red, you have no bids. If its green – you’ve got bids! Last column is time left – this is handy to know what’s close to being done.
So, that’s the basics of selling on ebay.
Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – A Volcano Grill courtesy of LPC Survival a $134.99 value, a $150 gift certificate for Remington ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner, a 60 serving bucket of Wise Freeze Dried Food courtesy of EmergencyFoodWarehouse.com and a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain meal a $219.95 value courtesy of Kitchen Neads and a USB Portable VPN courtesy of unspyable a $275 value. Total prize value of $899.99.
- Second place winner will receive – A Sopakco Sure – Pak MRE – 12 Meals courtesy of Campingsurvival.com, a $98.95 value, a Tatsu360 Tenkara Rod a $72.00 value courtesy of Dragontail Tenkara and a one year subscription to Personal VPN service, a $100 value, courtesy of unspyable. Total prize value of $270.95.
- Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net.
Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on November 10 2013