What should newbie eBay sellers know?

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What do you wish you’d known when you started out as an eBay seller?

I’m currently putting together a list of those clever tweaks and tips and secrets that would be vital to the newbie eBay seller. I’m writing it for starters on ecommerce with an eBay focus. Can you help? I’ll be wrapping it all up as an ebook in the next few week.

What did you wish you’d known, way back when, as you set out upon your own eBay selling journey? What would you advise a newbie seller to do? What’s the inside scoop about postage and despatch and fulfilment? How do you operate day-to-day?

I’d really like to hear your ideas so I can include them. I’m asking the experts.

And, of course, your smart and snide answers may amuse you and I don’t begrudge your fun. But I’m not that interested in them (*shakes fist* eBay are bleeding rotters! etc.) Let’s focus on those genuinely useful nuggets: sparkling ideas and thoughts of genuine use are what I’d like to hear.

I’ll be seriously grateful for all those clever and cunning ideas you have. Looking forward to your comments and insights. Go for it.

33 Responses

  1. First Rule of selling on ebay is your the seller it your actions and methods that makes it work , dont blame ebay paypal or your shipping company

  2. When entering postage in a new listing do not leave the “each additional item” box empty!

    If you are not charging more when buyers buy more than one item then put 0.00 in that box.

    If you leave this box empty, eBay fills that box with the same price you charge for a single item.

    I could almost swear it did not used to do this but it bit me recently and I had to edit all 20 listings that only charged postage once no matter how many items they bought.

  3. For eBay, Amazon and in law, the burden of proof is on the person getting the money.

    A monumental simplification of course but a good rule of thumb.

    This does not mean the seller is always wrong, just that there is a presumption in favour of the buyer which the seller has to disprove.

  4. Get the basics right.

    I make a modest part of my online selling income by finding, buying and re-listing items that are listed in the wrong place, in the wrong way and/or with the wrong details.

  5. Be a pal.

    Don’t we all wish we had had a pal at some point when we screwed up? So be that pal to a stranger.

    With wide format printers, if I see someone listing a 42 inch printer as a 24 inch or vice versa, I send them a message…

    “I thought I should point out that…”

  6. As a newbie seller take particular note of newbie buyers – eBay don’t have any address verification system and the buyer can potentially supply anything from the incomplete to total gibberish.

    Have a quick look at their feedback if it is low in number, any indication of items allegedly not being received, in either feedback received or feedback left, then be sure to use tracked delivery.

    If possible try to build up your own feedback by selling inexpensive and uncomplicated items at first – anything that might require a degree of technical knowledge to use (spare parts for instance) or need to be a precise fit (clothing) tends to be more problematical.

  7. keep it simple buyers care little that you have the best looking listing and your the most wonderful seller that has ever been
    they have seen and heard it all before .
    ship via the post office or royal mail or other main stream companies to learn the ropes,
    3rd party apps become essential as your business grows ,
    though only use them after you have learned the basics and understand the business,

  8. Communication is the most important thing. Assume the buyer doesn’t read about the product they are buying and know nothing about you as a seller .

    For eg: When you have holiday settings on and you are still selling ? Ensure the buyer is aware you are on holiday and message them to tell them when their item will be despatched. Sounds long winded but it works and protects your account .

    Ensure all the important bullet points regarding the item are in your item specifics and thoroughly detail about the product in your item description.

    Return forms: Buyers anticipate being up for a fight to return a product and may defect your account by attempting. Make it easy for them with a good, solid returns form.

    If they have a problem with their transaction , try to see it from their perspective. If you can’t , be nice , polite , sort it and then block them from using you again. There is little point fighting with a buyer when ultimately you know you are going to lose. Times money and focus time on the important things of selling.

    Customer service: React as quickly as you can to a question or to resolve a problem.

    Be their friend and be nice.

  9. above all remember that
    ,ebay is for buying, and selling ,stick to facebook if you need friends, or go to church if you want love

  10. Keep one eye on the competition but don’t get hung up with their price V yours. By offering good comms and service they are more inclined to come back to YOU regardless. Make them know they can trust YOU.

  11. 1. Profits are made when you buy.
    2. Making money online is not easy.
    3. Be professional.
    4. Invest in your business.
    5. Understand that you cannot be the cheapest and make money, you have to be the best to make money long term.


  12. Don’t get too enamoured by the-sometimes not so gentle persuasion from eBay to create your listings they way they would like to see them. If they’re “promoting” an idea to list a certain way don’t blindly follow it.

    Example : eBay used to love “99p listings”, though not as prominent now. Just remember, you list something for 99p and FAIL TO AMEND your listing when you get concerned there seem to be no bidders then it might just sell for only 99p in the last seconds. Same for the pressure to list “Free P&P”, it isn’t as YOU pay for it.

    Do YOUR research, do YOUR maths, remember you’re there to make money for YOURSELF?

  13. If you’re buying or making to sell, register with HMRC even if you don’t make much profit, and register as a business seller with eBay.

    Don’t get emotionally attached to your stock. It’s an asset and sometimes you may need to dump it at cost or even at a loss.

    Don’t get too hung on what the competition are doing and don’t get involved in price wars by trying to be the cheapest.

    If you get bad feedback, don’t take it personally. Don’t reply straight away, let yourself calm down and never try to get your own back by buying something off them to leave bad feedback yourself.

    Don’t expect eBay to do you any favours. You’re meaningless to them, view them as a means of selling, not your BFF.

    Don’t use others’ intellectual property. Loads of sellers make badges, coasters, cards etc using images of well known pop stars, film and tv characters and so on when they have no right to do so. 1000s get away with it, but if you get caught by someone like Disney, you’ll be sorry.

  14. Don’t try to do the impossible – eBay make the rules so you will do a lot better if you do things the way they want you to. e.g. new rules on eBay mean the easiest way to conform (and not acquire defects) is to use tracked post. So don’t bother selling items where you can’t include that in the price.

    Similarly, don’t bother selling any small widgets from China – there will be thousands of others already doing it and a race to the bottom price-wise doesn’t make money for anyone. (Except eBay.)

    Consider carefully the price point of your items – is it really worth it (in terms of workload) to have to list, photograph, pack and post 100 items a day making 20p on each? Better surely to sell 1 item with a profit of £20…

  15. Making it easy for those seekers of unique items who enter unique keywords into ebay search to locate your item. If you are not sure what an item is do research before listing to find those unique title keywords that every potential seeker of your item will be using. If you stick with generic title keywords on ebay you will be disappointed.

    List in the correct category and use customised item specifics to the maximum to enter your unique keywords. All this gives you a search/seeker advantage.

    And if selling “used” then copy and paste the item description with all its flaws into the condition box. This is critical for mobile.

    Use ebay picture hosting. The use of anything else to host pictures puts you at a disadvantage.

    And don’t fill your listing with loads of terms and conditions drivel. This is all meaningless and puts buyers off. Makes you look defensive. ebay set the rules not the seller.

  16. always use tracking. unless you are happy to give it away free.

    make sure item specifics are 100% correct, in case of any dispute, both ebay and the buyer will completely ignore what you wrote in the desciption, but may take item specifics into account.

    under-promise and over-deliver, not the other way round. if you offer delivery in 2 days, they’ll expect it in 1.

    invest in proper layout and construction of your listings before you start; managing 10 listings manually is no grief at all, by the time you reach 1000, you’ll need them to follow some kind of uniformity.

    familiarise yourself with the worst program in the world; turbolister. as a professional seller it’ll be the thorn in your side you cant live without. one day you will earn enough to replace it with something else, in the meantime, you’ll have to learn to work around its infinite failings.

    know your profit margin, and costs. turnover is pointless if you’re not making a profit after paying the bills.

    use DPD, or Royal Mail.
    DO NOT use Yodel or XDP unless you really have to.
    – they may be £1 cheaper per parcel, but they more than make up for this with loss/damages.

    know your product, people will ask you the most ridiculous, irrelevent questions. if you dont know, they’ll buy somewhere else.

    if you insist on publishing listings from your iphone, in 10-point plain text, with “sent from my iphone” at the bottom, you should realise your listing looks terribly unprofessional. if this is the look you’re going for, grand, if you want a professional look, use the right tools.

    dont put your mobile number on the listing, unless you enjoy 3am wake-ups with “the item i ordered half an hour ago isnt here yet”.

    dont offer alternate payment methods to start, stick to paypal. its nasty, but ebay and paypal make paying any other way difficult and confusing for the buyer on purpose, its grief you dont need when starting. paypal is simple and easy.

    also “require immediate payment” to start, turn this off later once you know what you’re doing. it’ll save you a lot of stocktake and inventory related grief when people order but dont pay, which happens a lot without “immediate payment”.

  17. If you plan to specialise in a certain sales niche then start building up and obtain all the support research literature you can to eventually create a massive library of knowledge. I have several shelves of books. magazines, catalogues, price lists and more dating from the 1940’s through to now. This is an invaluable resource that I have built up over many years and is time saving Google simply does not go far enough back for me.

  18. self flagellation anti depressants &drink are a great help if you intend to sell on ebay

  19. never contact ebay support , for any reason ,never expect anything from ebay other than frustration and irrational decisions, always always and thrice always remember your on your own,

  20. Buy a laser printer for address labels. Reduced my INRs a few years ago when I changed from an inkjet to laser (following an accidental dropping of the post onto a wet pavement and seeing the total mess left on the address labels).

    Leave selling to the US until you are able to deal with tough buyers.

    Base stock purchases on long term average rather than the previous months sales. Think its better when selling on Ebay (not elsewhere) to run out of stock, rather than purchase based on a short term history of sales and have a pile of stuff you can’t shift. Sales tend to be very erratic.

    Sell stuff you want to sell, rather than what everyone else says you should. Then if things go wrong, or not as well as you would like more motivation to fix it rather than blame someone else.

    Get to know your postie, can be very helpful dealing with emergency shipments if you can flag down his van.

    Set up your own low cost website, even if only sells one item a month, its there as a learning device and establishs your site in Google, Bing etc. And later if ebay sales flatten out or drop (as does happen sometimes I believe) there’s a back-up plan in place.

  21. When listing, do not add any of Ebays inserts “links”. Look to the future, because you may well want to integrate your Ebay listings, & all of that detritus in the listing will have to be removed. Anyway, I have never clicked on “view my other items” link there.

    Look to save all listings to Ebays “Inventory”. But look to the future again, make sure they are all in logical categories. I have over 10k of listings, but they are in quite a muddle.
    Although Ebays inventory search function is quite snappy, it helps to have them listed correctly. Inventory,search function is by Folder, Category or product name.
    Items in inventory will stay there forever.

    When listing, use the most descriptive 1st 5 words that describes your item fully, in the “title line”. These are important for Google searches.

    Answer questions as quickly as possible. Buyers, even non buyers, appreciate this.

    Read the forums for 3 months before selling, to get a feel for the pros & cons of the site.

    Really read up on the postage charges & weights for the items you are selling. Many sellers just put in any price from the top of their head & are shocked when they are charged twice as much at the Post Office.

  22. Without using a Tracked Service, I don’t know how anyone will survive on eBay. Buyers are too aware now when something is not tracked and therefore they are also aware that they can claim it has not arrived. eBay punish brutally when this happens.

    On another note, they seem to be trying to drive everyone into using the Global Selling Programme by restricting International Selling. Which is annoying if you have good international sales!

  23. As a newbie eBay seller myself, I’ve been immersing myself in all things eBay, the creation of a seller account, business Paypal account, product research, listing design, product fullfillment and the list goes on.

    From the short experience I’ve had with eBay, three tips come to mind straight away:

    1. As all new eBay accounts have selling limits, ask eBay customer service for an increase of your limits straight away and every 30 days after.
    2. Research the competition and model the listings that are selling items consistently
    3. Test your prices – one item I would sell at £1 sold just as well at £2 when I tested it.

  24. I hope Dan won’t object to a bit of humour. 🙂 I posted this on the powerseller board many years ago…

    Titles. Make sure titles are in capitals, it’s guaranteed to get your items noticed more as they stand out from the crowd. Other unusual and eye-catching things in titles will help too such as ‘>>>>>’ ‘W@W’ ‘L@@K’ or any combination of these. Don’t waste time using loads of words in your titles, just stick to one or two basic one’s as these will get people curious and they’ll click on your listing.

    Listing Text/pictures. It’s important to make your text easy to read; therefore bright red text in capitals and in a big font size is the best. Using a different typeface especially a script and italic style will make your listing stand out from the rest and give it a professional touch.

    Graphics can really make your listing stand out too. Animated spinning logos with wording like ‘bid now’ work well. Don’t make the pictures of your product too big either you don’t want to detract from the text too much. It doesn’t matter if you’re not good at taking pictures either, one taken with a basic web cam on its lowest resolution is fine.

    Terms and conditions. It’s very important you make sure you cover every eventuality, make sure you don’t leave anything out, learn from past problems in sales and add things as time goes on, you’ll soon be a proud owner of an extensive list that should protect you in every situation. Best place for these is at the bottom of your listing and remember to keep the text as small as possible so you can fit more in as they increase in length and complexity.

    Postage and packing. Always make sure you charge as much as possible for P&P, if your category has limitations on the maximum amount, don’t worry there’s a way round this, select freight or pick up only and put whatever charge in your listing you like.

  25. Sadly there’s still far too many that look like web pages from the 90s. Not sure the marquee tag even works nowadays I think it was an IE specific feature but is now obsolete?


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