An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Selling on eBay

Selling on eBay has become increasingly more complicated over the years. It can be overwhelmingly difficult for new sellers to work out where to start. Even the Guides section on this website, specifically intended to help new sellers through the eBay maze, can seem hard to navigate at times.

This post starts at the very beginning, explaining the eBay sales process step-by-step for aspiring new sellers. Each section links to relevant articles for further reading both here and on eBay.com.

Sign up to eBay and PayPal

The first step to becoming an eBay seller is to sign up for an eBay account. If you already have one to make eBay purchases, you can also use it for selling too. Don’t worry too much about your eBay username – it is possible to change it later if needed.

If you don’t already have a PayPal account, sign up for one now. PayPal is the most trusted way to receive payment for eBay sales.

After signing up (or if you have an existing account), link your PayPal and eBay accounts together. This is possible via My eBay >> Accounts >> PayPal Account

Learn more – eBay is gradually moving to a ‘managed payments’ system that will reduce the use of PayPal as the default payment method on eBay.

Buy an item

Aspiring sellers who have never used eBay before would do well to purchase at least one item on eBay before starting to sell. There are a few reasons for this.

Firstly, it offers a chance to become familiar with the eBay marketplace, the sales process and how it feels to be a buyer. Secondly, if the transaction is successful, it will improve your Feedback score.

eBay’s Feedback system allows users to see how they have been rated by other eBay users that they have traded with. After each eBay transaction, the buyer and seller are invited to rate their experience and leave a comment. These ratings generate a score, which is displayed next to the username of each eBay member. The higher the number, the more positive ratings a user has.

Every eBay member starts with a 0 Feedback score. Successfully purchasing an item (or two) will increase that score and help assure buyers of your legitimacy as a seller.

List an item

Listing your first item on eBay can be intimidating.

Selling fees

Before creating a listing, you should be aware of the three main types of selling fees charged on eBay:

Insertion fees – Much like a newspaper, eBay charges a fee to list an item on their website. The insertion charge is usually a flat fee. eBay offers sellers free listings every month (the amount of listings is region dependent).

Listing upgrades – To help the listing stand out and attract more potential customers, eBay offers listing upgrades. These are optional and each come with an additional cost. Examples of listing upgrades include larger photos, bold title text and subtitles.

Final Value Fees In exchange for use of their marketplace, eBay charges a percentage fee on each sale. This is called the Final Value Fee and is usually around 10% of the sale price (category and seller status dependent). In certain scenarios, sellers can apply for a credit for Final Value Fees.

Learn more – A Beginner Seller’s Guide to eBay Fees

Selling limits

New eBay sellers usually have a maximum listing limit. Category limits may also be imposed. Selling limits such as these are reviewed on a monthly basis and adjusted based on sales volume and buyer feedback.

Auction vs. fixed price

Though eBay started as an auction website, most listings on the website are now fixed price listings. These offer items at a set price with a ‘Buy It Now’ purchase button. Sellers can also choose to allow buyers the chance to negotiate and make their ‘Best Offer.’

There are benefits and disadvantages to either type of listing, with the choice usually depending on the type of item and the seller’s personal preference.

Pricing items

Pricing strategy is a common discussion point for eBay sellers. Indeed, it can be one of the most fundamental purchase factors for buyers. Low pricing may entice more buyers but profits will also remain modest. On the other hand, pricing high risks sales for better margins.

Learn more – 5 Essential Tips for Pricing Items on eBay

Title and description

Every eBay listing must have a title and description. A listing title has the role of drawing the buyer in while also ranking while on eBay’s search engine. This can be best achieved by evoking interest while accurately and succinctly describing the item.

In a similar manner, the aim of the listing description is to inform the buyer about the item and also encourage them to buy it. Accuracy is crucial here too, with the description setting up expectations for the buyer. When writing the description, imagine that the listing has no photos.

New sellers should be careful to avoid any copyright infringements in their listing titles and descriptions. eBay’s VeRO program protects intellectual property owners – violators risk listing removal.

Learn more – How to Write Great eBay Listing Titles and Descriptions

Taking photos

Up to 12 photos can be uploaded to each eBay listing (for free). The first photo uploaded takes the role of the feature photo and appears in eBay’s search results alongside each listing title.

Together, the feature photo and listing title provide the buyer with the very first impression of the item. For this reason, it is important to take the time to photograph the item well.

  • Always clean and dust items as appropriate before taking photos
  • Use a plain background to keep the focus on the item and demonstrate exactly what is for sale
  • Avoid shadows, harsh lighting and reflections
  • Take photos of every angle of the item with some close-ups to show detail
  • Be sure to show any flaws or damage

Learn more – 12 Tips for Taking Better eBay Photos 

Shipping

Shipping can be a confusing aspect of selling. There is no ‘wrong’ way to do it, though it can take some time to work out which is the best method for you.

  • Calculated shipping – Choosing this option allows eBay to create a total shipping cost (paid for by the buyer) based on the item’s package weight and dimensions plus the buyer’s location
  • Flat shipping costs – With this method, you enter a flat fee for shipping costs. eBay provides a Shipping Calculator to assist.
  • Free shipping – eBay strongly encourages sellers to offer free shipping with various rewards for doing so. Most sellers using this method will factor some, if not all, of the approximate shipping and handling costs into the price of the item

eBay sellers have the choice to ship items to buyers who live in the same country (domestic) or in other countries as well (international). eBay’s Global Shipping Program simplifies the process to send items to international buyers.

Return policy

Refunds and returns are an unavoidable part of selling anywhere. eBay.com users have five return policies to choose between:

  • No returns accepted
  • 30-day buyer-paid returns
  • 30-day free returns
  • 60-day buyer-paid returns
  • 60-day free returns

A seller who chooses ‘no returns accepted’ for a listing does not have to return items for reasons of buyer’s remorse. If a seller chooses any of the four other remaining categories, it is indicated that a return is possible for almost any reason. 

New sellers must, however, be aware that all listings are still covered by eBay’s Money Back Guarantee, no matter the selected return policy. If a buyer believes that the item they were sent does not match the listing, has arrived damaged or did not arrive at all, the buyer has the right to return the item and receive a refund. 

Learn more – The Lowdown on eBay’s Money Back Guarantee for Sellers

Promoted Listings

In addition to offering listing upgrades, eBay also allows sellers the chance to gain better visibility with Promoted Listings. In exchange for a percentage fee of the final sale price, eBay will place chosen listings in prominent positions around the site in the hopes of improving sales.

Learn more – How to Use eBay’s Promoted Listings Effectively

Selling items

Selling your first item on eBay is exciting. New sellers must, however, be aware of payment holds and the risk of the buyer not paying.

Packaging

Sellers are responsible for items until the buyer receives them. As per the Money Back Guarantee, the buyer has the right to request a refund if the item is damaged during transit. For this reason, it is so important to package items with care.

  • Packing items properly starts with using an appropriate container, such as a box or bubble mailer
  • The item should then be cushioned with packaging material to stop movement during the journey
  • Securing the container properly is another crucial step, to prevent the box or envelope opening along the way

Always choose packaging supplies in consideration of potential weather damage. 

Learn more – Packing Tips to Ensure Items Do Not Arrive Damaged

Shipping

Sellers must be prepared to send items out promptly, as per the stated shipping and handling times in the listing.

The cheapest and easiest way to ship eBay items is to print shipping labels at home. A weighing scale is required but the cost of the initial purchase will be paid back with substantial shipping discounts (as well as savings on gas and time).

Providing tracking information is an essential part of the eBay shipping process. As well as providing seller protection in the event that the item is delivered late or not received, it also helps reassure buyers that the item is on its way. It is good practice for eBay sellers to upload an item’s tracking information as soon as possible. 

Consider purchasing shipping insurance to protect items from loss or damage.

Learn more – How to Save Money when Shipping eBay Items

Common post sale problems

Even when sent with the best of care, some eBay items do not make it safely to their destination. Under the Money Back Guarantee, buyers are eligible for a refund or replacement if an item arrives damaged. This is also true if the item does not even arrive, up to 30 days after the estimated delivery date.

Another common post sale scenario is when the buyer believes that the item does not match the listing. This is also a covered by the Money Back Guarantee and the buyer is eligible for a refund or replacement.

Feedback and defects

eBay has certain expectations for sellers, with the intention of keeping buyer satisfaction high. In addition to giving positive, neutral or negative Feedback about a seller, buyers can also leave detailed seller ratings in the following areas:

  • Item description
  • Communication
  • Shipping time
  • Shipping and handling charges

Every month, sellers are also evaluated against eBay’s Seller Performance Standards. The Seller Dashboard displays whether you are Top Rated, above standard or below standard. Falling below standard may result in lower listing rank and/or restriction of sales activities.

The calculation of the Seller Performance level takes into account the following factors:

  • Transaction defect rate
  • Percentage of cases closed without seller resolution
  • Percentage of late shipments
  • Percentage of transactions where tracking wasn’t uploaded on time and/or validated (Top Rated Sellers only)

Essential selling knowledge

Beyond the listing, payment, shipping and return process, sellers need to be aware of so many other aspects of eBay selling. Here are some examples with respective links:

Experienced sellers, do you have any wisdom to share with people starting their own eBay selling business?

Gemma
Gemma
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.

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