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How to Sell on eBay

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Downsizing your possessions in retirement can be one of the most tedious and labor-intensive chores that you’ll face, particularly if you’re selling a large house filled to bursting with a lifetime’s accumulated debris and moving to smaller quarters. Yard sales and estate sales are two ways of quickly moving large quantities of items. However, you can maximize your returns by selling on eBay, particularly if you have collector’s items or items of value.

Your neighbors will probably not know the value of your collection of rare 7-inch vinyl singles from the 1960s and won’t offer more than a few dollars for them; but buyers across the country, or in Germany or Australia, will bid rare items up, giving you an opportunity to earn top dollar.

Selling on eBay is similar to selling in any other marketplace; there are no special “secrets” to making money on eBay. Attractive presentation, appropriate pricing, and above all common sense are what’s needed.

Before you get started, you’ll need to create an eBay account if you don’t have one already. Simply go to eBay’s home page and click on “register” near the top. You’ll need to provide some basic information about yourself, and create a unique user ID and password. Registering is free, and your information is safe with eBay. Once you have an account, buy a few things and pay immediately, to get some positive feedback and establish credibility as an eBay user. Sellers will routinely post positive feedback, and with each instance of feedback you’ll build up a positive profile. When you eventually begin selling, potential customers will look at your feedback; sellers with no feedback whatsoever are often seen as “fly-by-night” operators.

How to Sell on eBay

Ebay Selling

Each transaction involves two-way feedback; you should likewise post positive feedback about your vendors, if they send your purchases promptly and accurately, just as you should post positive feedback for your eventual customers if they pay you promptly. The feedback you accumulate over the weeks and months applies to you as a purchaser or a seller, just the same, although each instance of feedback will specify whether you were a buyer or a seller in that particular transaction.

Then, research your market. Look up items that are similar to the items you wish to sell and see what they’re selling for. Looking at your vinyl collection, there are currently (as of July 2011) 1,332 Beach Boys 45-rpm singles on offer from sellers around the world, ranging in price from just a few dollars for common items to several hundred dollars for Japanese pressings on red wax. Study the descriptive titles and take note of any special lingo or abbreviations used; you’ll need to draft such titles for your items in such a way that your buyer can zero in on exactly those items. Provide sufficient information in your titles, making it as easy as possible for your buyer to find you.

Examine the photographs that sellers have posted of the items for sale, determine which ones are most effective, and prepare to photograph your sale items in a similar way. Get a digital camera if you don’t already have one; if you’re selling small items or want to post photos of small details, make sure your camera can take good close-ups. Free your “studio” from clutter; if your items are small, provide a neutral background. White usually works best. If possible, use natural light, either outside or near a window.

How to Sell on eBay

Make money on ebay

Depending on the type of item you have, you may wish to post several photographs from different angles — think of what a buyer might wish to see. Inexpensive and easy-to-find vinyl singles would need only a single photo, but rare and pricey items might need separate photos of both sides of the record itself, with the label clearly legible, plus another two photos of both sides of the picture sleeve (if any), showing the sleeve’s condition. Three-dimensional items may need photos from several angles, or close-ups of important features. Pay attention to depth of field; learn how to operate your camera to provide maximum depth of field so that the photo is in focus from the foreground to the background.

And then add a lengthier description; look at other descriptions to see what information they provide. It’s better to provide too much information than too little; different buyers may be interested in different features of your item. If you design your listing, don’t overdo it — keep it simple. And be honest. Be sure to point out any flaws or defects. Your buyer will find out anyway, and will leave negative feedback if he or she feels deceived. Finally, ensure that there are no misspellings in the title or description, and that your writing is grammatically correct. Have a friend who’s good with language proofread your titles and descriptions if necessary. A misspelling in the title will mean that no one will find your item.

On eBay, you can sell in two ways: via an auction (in which you set the opening bid price), or via “Buy Now” (which is fixed price only). Auctions usually work better for rare items, fixed price for more common items. Apart from seeing what similar items are actually selling for — you can track these items to find out their eventual sale price — pricing your items is something of an art. Remember, the real value of any item is what the market will bear. But, for many hard-to-find items, a certain segment of the market — those buyers who really, really want what you have — will pay more than casual shoppers, who will only snap up your item if the price is right. If you’re selling via auction, put the initial price at the lowest price you could ever imagine selling that item for; avoid setting a “reserve price,” which is akin to asking bidders to bid against you. This is irritating to many buyers.

You’ll also need to figure in shipping costs; weigh and measure your item, in a shipping carton as appropriate, to get actual costs so that you can bill your customer accurately. You might figure in various shipping options, including international delivery; include a schedule of shipping costs in your item description.

The easiest way to receive payment from customers (or to pay for items that you purchase yourself) is via a PayPal account, which is easy to set up; you can connect a PayPal account to a bank checking account and transfer funds back and forth as necessary. PayPal makes its profit by charging sellers a small percentage of the transaction amount; be sure to figure in the percentage when you’re pricing your items.

Once you get the hang of it, selling on eBay is simple and direct, and if you do it right you’ll make much more in income than you would selling at a yard sale.