15 Back to Basics Tips for the First Time eBay Seller

With so many acronyms (TRS, MBG? VeRO?!) and selling features (Guaranteed Delivery, Seller Hub et al) on eBay, it is not difficult to understand why first time sellers on the site may struggle to get their head around it all. For this reason, we’re continuing to go back to the basics and help brand new sellers build solid foundations for their eBay business. Much like our recent article examining common red flags for eBay scams or the two-part series on common eBay selling mistakes, this article aims to provide a quick reference for first-time sellers on the site.

When listing items

  • Understand the full selling process before listing your first item. Learning ‘on the job’ is fine, but being able to anticipate the next steps of selling can be helpful.
  • Consider avoiding selling high-risk items at the beginning. Electronics and high-end designer clothing are prime targets for scammers and it is ideal to have some experience as a seller before attempting to list any of these items.
  • Don’t forget final value fees! It’s important to know that listing fees aren’t the only costs associated with selling on eBay. After an item is purchased, eBay also takes a percentage of the final sale price. Factor this into your selling price.
  • Be aware of eBay’s selling limits. New eBay sellers have restrictions on a number of items they can list every month. These restrictions are automatically removed after a certain length of time or after selling multiple items in a certain category.
  • Don’t underestimate shipping costs. Buy a scale and weigh your item carefully (with packaging too). Double check shipping estimates and always weigh twice to avoid mistakes and losing profit on a sale.
  • Clean items before taking photos. The better an item looks, the more likely it will sell for a higher price. It’s amazing what a duster or a cleaning wipe can do! Also consider the lighting, background and angle of photos – it all makes a difference.
  • Be sure to thoroughly record any serial numbers, unique marks and scratches on the item. This is important for the potential buyer when making a purchasing decision and also to avoid ‘item not as described’ returns. 

The selling process

  • Answer messages from potential buyers as soon as you can, in a friendly and polite manner. In the event of any negative communication, don’t be afraid to block potential problem buyers.
  • Be wary of buyers offering more money than the listed price of the item. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is a red flag for a common scam that is very easy to fall prey to.
  • Learn how to handle some of the most common post-sale buyer requests or what to do when an eBay buyer doesn’t pay right away. These situations are fairly easily dealt with when you know how.
  • Always confirm that payment has physically arrived in your account before shipping an item. New sellers, however, may experience payments being withheld for a couple of reasons. For one, eBay reserves the right to keep payments pending for new sellers to the site until the successful fulfilment of the sale. The other reason is PayPal related – make sure your account is verified.

Shipping items to a buyer

  • Get the right shipping supplies. Boxes, bubble wrap, tape and other packaging materials don’t have to be expensive. In fact, you may find that buying these items on eBay is actually very cost effective.
  • Don’t rush – pack items carefully. Keep in mind that sellers are responsible for items until the buyer receives them. Expect the package to be treated roughly in the mailing system and pack accordingly to avoid any damage issues later.  Consider package insurance, if appropriate.
  • Always double check your receipt for package tracking information before leaving the Post Office. It’s a small mistake that can have big consequences.
  • Take time to fully understand eBay’s Money Back Guarantee policy before the first time a buyer decides to use it. Even if you decided not to accept returns, the Money Back Guarantee allows buyers to return an item if it is ‘not as described’ and also assists when an item is not received.

As an experienced or veteran eBay seller, what would your number one piece of advice be to new sellers? Let us know in the comments below. 

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.