ebay 102 – The Dirty Details
Today, we will jump into the specifics of preparing and listing your items for sale in part two of our series titled – ebay 102 Dirty Details. At the end of this tutorial you will know how to: research your products, determine the target market and listing strategy, price your item, prepare the listing and begin selling. You read that correctly. By the end of this article you will have all the information needed to begin listing and selling on ebay. In fact, we recommend you chose an item and complete your first listing as you read.
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started”. – Mark Twain
The process of listing an item for sale for the first time will take approximately one hour. Then, for all future listings, simply repeat the process with a view toward improving your efficiency. After a few listings, you should be able to get your time down to 10-15 minutes. With practice you will eventually be able to prepare a listing in 3-5 minutes as the most efficient ebayers do. One final thought. You will likely encounter something during this process that deviates from my descriptions, or simply doesn’t work as expected. There is no way to anticipate everything that may happen, but most problems can be resolved or bypassed quickly. The best advice is to persevere through such issues. If you cannot find the answer yourself, contact us. We will be happy to help get you back on track. If you decide to stop working on your listing, it is best not to stop when you encounter a roadblock. Instead, try to resolve the problem and then stop, so there are no issues waiting for you when you decide to continue.
Ebay is a unique forum. Never in the history of the world has there been such a marketplace where almost anyone can perform a few simple tasks from the comfort of their home and begin offering goods and services to millions of people. Of course, there are some rules to selling in this environment and as in any marketplace there will be people willing to bend or break the rules for their own interest and advantage. Caveat emptor is in full effect on ebay. Sellers with more resources have an advantage over the small entrepreneur or occasional seller, but do not be discouraged. In the end, ebay rewards those that do their homework, prepare their listings correctly, communicate well and above all deal with buyers in an honest and forthright manner. Now let’s get to work.
Every item you list for sale on ebay must be researched. By examining the item and searching the internet, collect as much of the following information as possible:
Item Name (i.e. preferably the one used by the manufacturer)
Part Number, Model Number, UPC Number, ISBN Number etc..
Description of the item (color, size, condition, etc…)
Shipping Weight (i.e. the weigh of the item packed in the box or other container you would use to ship it -usually the smallest box or package that will accommodate the item and appropriate packing material)
This may seem somewhat tedious but there is an obvious reason for it. Every piece of information will make your listing more complete and increase the chance of someone finding and buying it. For example, if you list a used “Coach” brand handbag as “Tan Designer Handbag – Excellent Condition”, it is likely that many people searching for a used “Coach” handbag will not find your listing because you have not included the key descriptive term “Coach” in the title of the listing. Similarly, if you list “Spare Water Filter for Braun Coffee Maker” without including the model number of the machine or the serial number of the part, the potential buyer will not find your ad, or will disregard it because it does not provide essential information needed to make their buying decision.
Consider your Target Market
In order to sell, you need to understand both your product and your customer. If you want to sell used children’s clothing, you need to ask yourself, who will purchase them? If you are selling hand-made items are they for personal use, for men, women or both? Are they suitable as a gift? When you have an image of your customer in mind, consider what that customer would need to know and want to see in an ad for that item. Would the customer be most interested in price or quality? Do you think incorporating the shipping cost into the price and highlighting free shipping would help your potential customer make their buying decision? You will need to ask mental questions like these every time you list an item in order to determine the best way to “present” it.
As the seller, only you know the price you are willing to sell an item for. However, there are some guidelines that have proven effective for me, which I will share with you. Keep in mind that setting up your account with ebay is free but selling is not. You may be able to place a number of listings for free (i.e. no insertion fee), but when your item sells ebay will extract a number of fees totaling at least 10% of the final sale price (which includes shipping and handling). Likewise, PayPal receives a 2.9% fee of the final sale price + $0.30 per transaction. So keep in mind that 13% of the final sale price will go to your selling partners.
Do a search on Google Shopping using the part number, model number, UPC number, ISDN number or description of your item. Check the price the item is selling for at several locations. Do a similar search on ebay. In addition to price, make note of the shipping charges. Are they charged separately or listed as “free” (i.e. incorporated into the price of the item).
A new item (such as a common unused piece of clothing with the tags still on it) should still offer some discount from the current average internet price. I recommend pricing your item at least 15-20% less than the average internet retail. For used items (even in excellent condition) a selling price of 30-40% less than the new item price is appropriate. These guidelines are for general merchandise and contemporary items. They do not apply to items that are rare such as: antiques (items over 100 years old), vintage items (items that are iconic of a period – usually at least one generation old – 30 to 99 years), collectibles or other specialty or handmade items. Such items require greater research and care as their price is usually determined by other less tangible factors that will likely make their market price substantially higher than their material value. With these items, you may want to check additional resources before setting your sales price such as: industry publications, reference catalogues, associations, appraisers or other expert sources.
Auction vs. Fixed Price
Another decisions you must make as a seller is whether to list an item for auction or to sell it at a fixed price. Auctions work well with items that are rare and/or highly desirable such as collectibles or items that meet discreet but steady needs (such as ink or toner for printers). Items that are not rare, that have very limited appeal or are for a specific purpose such as a tool that is not commonly used, or a piece of clothing that is common but in an unflattering color would best be listed for sale at a specific price based on your research. There are no hard and fast rules. Some sellers list everything for auction. This approach can be appealing but probably works best when you pay for an ebay store ($20-$60 per month), an ebay extra that allows buyers to find all of your items for sale on one page – among other benefits. Then you can build a following of buyers interested in the type of items you sell who will regularly look to you with a view toward snagging deals. Auctions are like gambling, they can be very addictive. I have sold items for higher than retail price at auction due to bidding wars. The reason someone is willing to pay more than retail during an auction is that they become “invested” in the item after the first bid and feel compelled to “win” it.
Make your item as presentable as possible and take several pictures from all sides and close-ups of any details. If there are any defects, photograph them. You want to frame your photos so that most of the view is of the item, not the background. Make sure all the shots you want to use are in focus. Photograph every side of the item, otherwise you will gives the impression that you are trying to hide what is not visible. If the item is clothing, photograph the tags. If it is a collectible, take a close-up of the maker’s mark, number or signature. Buyers love pictures and they will trust their own eyes more than any words you write about your item. You can use up to 12 pictures with every listing. My rule was to use no less than 5.
Most smartphones and digital cameras allow you to transfer your photos into your computer with a USB cable. Make sure the device is turned on then plug it in. By default, Windows-based computers offer to assist you with several possible things you can do with the device you just plugged in. Chose to “transfer pictures/files to your computer” and follow the instructions or simply bypass these prompts and transfer them manually if you know how to do so. If you are unsure how to copy and paste, there are numerous video tutorials available on YouTube that can help you through the process.
Below is our step by step guide to the listing process. Numerous screen shots are provided. Click the pictures for a full size pop-up view of the process being described.
The Listing Process
|Go to ebay and login using the credentials you established when you setup your account. Then, in the upper right-hand corner you will find a menu called My Ebay. Click it and select Selling from the drop-down menu.|
|Scroll down the page and look for the Selling section on the left side. Find and click the Sell an Item link.|
|You are asked to enter a UPC, ISBN, part number or description to start your listing. If you have one of those numbers enter it now, otherwise use a description. If the information you enter matches an item previously sold on ebay, some information may be presented to assist you with your listing.|
|In our example, we are listing a Precious Moments collectible. When the item number is entered, ebay does not find information about the item.|
|We then add the description, which helps ebay suggest possible categories to assign. Categories are important because they help people who are browsing find your item. Pick the one that best describes the item to your target market. We selected the first category recommended by ebay (i.e. the one highlighted in the screen shot). This is good advice if you are unsure, but look at ALL of the suggestions before making your choice.|
|After you choose the category you will move to the Create a Listing page. Fill in all items carefully. You will notice ebay offers several ways to increase or enhance your listing on this page (i.e. the items with prices next to them). My recommendation is to not pay for these extras, especially when you are first starting out. They will eat into your bottom line and you need to understand more about them in order to use them effectively.
Be truthful and clear as possible as you describe the condition of your item. If you are having trouble starting, read several ebay listings for similar items to get ideas about the language to use but do not copy the words exactly. Use your own voice and be creative.
Always err on the side of mentioning a defect, even when it doesn’t seem to materially affect the item. For example, if the box our collectible comes in had a tear it should be photographed and mentioned in the Condition Description section. You might think this is unnecessarily thorough. After all we are selling a figurine, not a box. But a buyer might demand a refund for such an omission because collectors often covet original packaging, which can add to the desirability and resale value of a collectible. Never assume little things will be overlooked. Buyers will invariably complain about EVERY flaw, however minor, if it is not mentioned in the listing. Some buyers seek out such situations just to get a reduction in price from the seller on pain of returning the item, which almost always results in a loss of time, money, goodwill or all three.
|Upload your photos to ebay. You have probably seen the window on your computer that allows you to open and save files, which is used by many programs. This window has a special name. It is called the “Common Dialog Window”. When you click the “Add Photo” button, the Common Dialog Window will open. Navigate to the photographs of your item and select the first one by clicking on it. Then, click the “Open” button. Now repeat the process for your other photos. After all the desired photographs are uploaded, you can arrange them by holding down a left mouse click when the cursor is over the photo thumbnails and dragging them. You will want your main photo, the one that you want to be seen first in your ad, to be positioned in the first box.|
|In the next section, choose the format of your listing either fixed price or auction. The remaining information you need to provide will be different based on this choice so don’t jump ahead.
If you choose a fixed price listing, enter the number of days you want your listing to run. It is recommended that you choose “7 days”. This provides buyers time to notice the item but also creates some urgency (i.e. if I don’t act now, I may lose the opportunity to buy this great item). Set the time you would like your sale to begin or simply allow it to start as soon as you complete your listing. Scheduling a listing can be desirable as it allows you to control the time it will end, so you can factor in the time when your target customer is most likely to be shopping. How do you know what time that is? Research, trial and error, advice from people who have already sold similar items etc. Please note that ebay displays Pacific Standard time in their scheduling section so if you decide to use it, add three hours to convert to local Eastern Standard Time. There is great satisfaction in completing a listing and having it immediately available for sale. I recommend listing your first item this way.
Select PayPal as your payment option and indicate whether you want to require immediate payment. I allow buyers extra time to pay so I do not check that option. The majority pay within 24 hours without any follow-up.
Auctions work because they offer the possibility of a purchase at a much lower price than would otherwise be possible (i.e. if no one, or only a few others, bid on the item, I will get a great discount). When you use an auction-style listing, you will need to enter the auction Start Price (i.e. the minimum bid you are willing to sell your item for). The price should be low enough to interest potential buyers and you must recognize that you may only receive one bid. For this reason, auctions can be risky and are not the best option if you want to maximize your profit over time. You should also enter a Buy It Now price (which must be at least 33% higher than the Start Price). This option allows a buyer to purchase the item outright BEFORE anyone has bid on it. After a bid is placed, the option will disappear from the listing. Buyers will sometimes use this option to insure they are able to purchase something they need or aren’t willing to wait for.
| Next, fill in your shipping details. This is how you will send the item to your customer when a sale is completed (i.e. when you receive payment). Calculated shipping is the traditional option, where the buyer pays the cost based on where the item is shipped.
If you want to offer “free shipping”, make sure you check to see what the cost of shipping would be to the most distant place you may sell to. For me that was the west coast. You can do this by clicking the blue Calculate Shipping link. Once you know the maximum cost of shipping for your method(s), you can chose to incorporate it into the Sale Price of your item.
Free shipping usually only makes sense for lightweight items. Most people understand that reasonable shipping charges are part of making an on-line purchase. If you use calculated shipping, all of your potential customers will see the correct postage amount for shipping to them via the method(s) you’ve chosen to offer. If your item is small and less than 13oz, First Class Mail from the USPS is the best option. For small to medium packages Priority Mail from the USPS using the free boxes they provide is usually a good option. For large boxes, Parcel Select from the USPS is usually the best rate, but also the slowest method. Always check the price of Priority Mail against Parcel Select for large box items as you will often find it competitive and it will allow you to get your item to your buyer quicker – always a plus. Plus Priority Mail allows you to schedule a free pick-up at home, saving you a trip to the post office.
It is good practice to ship within 1 business day from the completion of the sale. Same-day shipping is great, but make sure that you schedule your listings to end early enough in the day to get your items to the post office in time.
|Congratulations, you have completed your ebay listing. Click the Preview Listing button to see how it will look to potential buyers. If everything is in order, close the preview, review the fees you will incur to proceed and if you approve, click the List Item button to start your live listing on ebay. If you wish, you may click Save and Continue Later.|
If your item sells, you will receive an email from ebay with instructions on how to proceed. Generally, you will need to print a label, package your item for shipping and bring it to your postal carrier.
This concludes the ebay 102 Dirty Details tutorial. I hope you agree that most of the decisions and processes involved in selling on ebay are not very complicated, there are just many of them. My intention was to get you started, which I consider to be the hardest thing to do because of the overload of information put out by ebay. If you like selling on ebay there are numerous places to find additional information. A good place to start is You Tube, which hosts a great variety of informative videos on virtually every aspect of selling on ebay. Everything you need to know can be found free online. Be patient and do a little searching and reading. Seek and you shall find!