How to start an eBay business, find products to sell, and get good feedback.
Tags: Selling, FAQs
Can I make a living selling on eBay?
First, give yourself a quick reality check: you will not get-rich-quick
selling on eBay, or anywhere else for that matter. If anyone tells you
differently, ask yourself "if it's so easy why isn't everyone doing
But it is possible to make a living on eBay with a
realistic business plan and hard work.
How do I go about starting my eBay business?
The first thing you need to do is get familiar with eBay, VERY
familiar. Get some experience as a buyer - see the Buying
FAQ for some tips. Spend a lot of time on the eBay site, paying
particular attention to the help,
sections as well as the auction categories and keywords that interest
you. Read relevant news, books and web
sites as much as possible. There is a
lot of information out there so do not try to become an expert overnight,
take your time and test your knowledge by explaining what you have learnt
to others or getting involved in discussion boards.
While you are educating yourself about eBay, start putting
your business ideas together. What will you sell? How much time and
money do you need? Do you need to set up a bank account, register
with payment providers, or inform tax authorities?
What should I sell?
Your starting point should be your own knowledge, contacts
and belongings. An ideal way to start is by selling off your own unwanted
property to get some first-hand experience and build up your feedback.
Beyond what you already own, consider whether there are any auction categories
you have experience of outside eBay, for example you may have hobbies
or past occupations that have given you expertise in a particular area.
It is easier to apply your existing knowledge to the eBay market
than to start from scratch, and you are also less prone to make errors
of judgment when you understand the subject matter.
Once you have identified one or more categories to focus on,
increase the depth of your eBay research to methodically track your
chosen categories and keywords (including any relevant wholesale
categories) until you have a strong "feel" for the marketplace.
Search completed items to find final sale prices.
You should be able to predict the final price of common items to within
10% or so, and understand which variables affect the price and to what
degree - for example condition, brand, rarity, and ad quality all have
different impacts in different auctions. Check out the Market Analysis category for online auction software which automates research
and analyses prices automatically. For some more information on the
dynamics of buying see the Buying FAQ.
Finally, be aware that some items will never sell well on eBay.
The items that sell best have a high value-to-weight ratio (because
most eBay items are sent by mail), or are collectible
or rare. This means most electronics and antiques are "eBayable",
while white goods (refrigerators, microwaves etc.) and computer monitors
are best avoided.
Where do I buy?
The other part of the "what to sell" puzzle is buying,
not the bidding you hope to attract but the buying you must do yourself to
acquire goods to sell on. Again, your knowledge is very important to
help you spot a potential profit amongst many poor items (for example
at a flea market) but also consider who you
know - perhaps past involvement in the retail industry means you could
have first refusal (the chance to buy before anyone else) when surplus
stock comes onto the local market. Do not be afraid to leverage your
contacts - you will need all the help you can get to maintain a steady
stream of profitable merchandise.
You could also consider looking further afield (in your own
country or abroad) for sources which other sellers have not found, or
do not have the resources to access them. Be prepared to spend a lot
of time researching and traveling, and never buy unless you are sure
of all the facts.
Consider wholesale sources open to the general public very
— if everyone has access to an item you might find that there the
eBay market is already saturated and profit margins are razor thin.
Never assume that the "eBay price" is going to be higher than
the wholesale price.
Try using Sourcing tools to find products.
Is selling a lot of work?
In a word, yes. The breadth and volume of tasks you need to
master is daunting, but achievable with some self-education and practice.
You will probably find yourself doing research, buying, photography, image
editing, copy writing, HTML coding, responding to questions, tracking
payments, shipping, feedback, managing inventory, accounting and more.
Its good to try these tasks without software or other help
to start with to see what is involved and determine what your software
or education needs are. See the Listing
FAQ for more information on ad design and listing.
Check out the directory for tools which can automate most seller tasks.
In Don't pay for eBay selling tools! Sam Carson reviews free research, fee calculation, and listing services.
How do I get good feedback?
Feedback is the bedrock on which the entire eBay community is
built. Low feedback should not slow you down for long (but you may achieve
slightly lower prices as some buyers will be put off), but negative feedback,
especially early on, will be disastrous for your business. Your must be
focused on customer service right from the start.
Good customer service does not begin when the auction ends,
but when you are composing your auction ad. List your policies on payment,
shipping, refunds etc. clearly; make your auction description informative
and complete, including any defects; respond quickly and professionally
to questions; accept different payment methods; and above all send out
items quickly and well packed.
We all have experience of good and bad customer service so
keep your own standards as high as humanly possible. Read the positive
and negative feedback given to other sellers in your category to see
what buyers value - you will probably see constant communication,
fast shipping and good packaging as the most frequently praised aspects
of the buying experience. Follow the leaders and do what they do (more,
if you can) to keep customers happy.
Where can I learn more?