A Beginner’s Guide on How to Sell on eBay and How I Became a PowersellerSubmit to del.icio.us | digg it! | Submit to Slashdot
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine emailed me a couple of questions about selling on eBay. He wanted to be a successful seller.
“I was checking out your blog, and saw what you posted about selling on e-Bay. This is something I’d like to do more, and was wondering if you could give me a couple tips. Here’s what I was wondering:
1) Where did you learn how to sell good on e-Bay? On your own through trial and error, from books or websites, or did you take a class?
2) How/where do you get the merchandise that you sell at a low enough cost that you can make a decent profit?”
Early Beginnings in High School
Man, I remember when I first started selling on eBay. It was a really exciting experience, especially when I sold my first few items. It started when I moved out during my high school junior year to Keene, TX. The most exciting part of the move was that I would be able to sell on eBay since I would be living right next to the post office. I’m not saying that I couldn’t have start earlier but being next to the post office made it easier for me and it gave me an excuse to do it.
At the time, I had already purchased a few items on eBay, but nothing really big. I sold one or two things as well. I think my first item (if you would call it an item) was some currency in the massive multi-player game, The Sims Online. Since I stopped playing the game, I sold my entire virtual bank account online so that it all was not all a waste.
To make these purchases and (few) sales, I had to register under my mom’s name and credit card because I was underage. I continued to use her identity throughout my next year in another town. Finally, when I turned 18, I switched everything under my name.
The Rise and Fall of my “Empire”
In college, my brother convinced me to try selling on eBay as a living. Since I couldn’t find a job in the small university town and I didn’t have a car to drive anywhere else, I decided to give it a shot. Later on that year, eBay awarded me the prestigious Power Seller status. Basically, it was a suffix to my eBay username (like MD, PhD, PharmD, etc) declaring my trustworthiness to the web. It was a huge milestone for me. The requirements for being a member in the Power Seller’s club were basically consecutive monthly sales of $1000 and a good feedback rating.
Unfortunately, problems arose and business dwindled (as I will explain below). I lost my Power Seller status the next year. I became busy with school and only sold on eBay sporadically. And it’s been like that since then. But looking back, I have learned a lot in my eBay business. Plus, it earned me a good portion of pocket change.
“Where did you learn how to sell good on e-Bay?” my friend asked. Like he suggested, I did learn through trial and error. But mostly, I learned from reading around online. Before I started to sell on eBay, I looked for a guide. A free guide online is just as good as a $20+ book people purchase at Barnes and Noble. My first and only guide I read wasSell on eBay - Free eBay Selling Tips at Fadedgiant. This is where I obtained most of my basic knowledge about eBay. It is an outstanding resource! Although it was written for booksellers, its principles are still applicable to most other merchandise departments. Start here for the fundamentals, then move up. The only other good references that I can recommend are the eBay help pages, entrepreneur.com, and AuctionBytes.com.
Now, how about the merchandise? What to sell? I started auctioning my personal belongings and things around the house, even things that were broken. I mean, when CD burners were hot, I sold a broken one with no problems. I’ve sold computer books, old computer parts, Crest Whitestrips, CD wallets, brand name jeans, CDs, and videos to name a few. I started with items as low as $5. Don’t feed discouraged on the initial final value amounts. You’ve got to start small. Nobody will want to bid on an expensive auction from somebody who hasn’t sold anything yet.
Making a Real Living on eBay
But how can you make a real living (or big money) on eBay like those people you read about in the news? Really, there are two main ways.
The first way is by selling other people’s goods for a commission. I suggest charging at least 20%. Most of the time companies and experienced independent sellers charge between 30-50%! Some potential clients may think those commission rates are outlandish so set a lower percentage and tell them to compare it with the main competition. I also tell them that my good eBay experience, feedback rating, and services justify the high percentage. The only work clients do is give the item. Sellers do the rest: research, photography, listing, client correspondence, payment processing, and shipping. My first big-ticket sale was for my dad, a $300 Hard Day’s Night Beatles Movie Poster. Man it felt really good selling that. It was another milestone. I think my dad gave me $75 for my services, which was 25%. That is the rate I now charge for my services.
The other way to make a living on eBay is by “powerselling.” Basically, powerselling is just mass selling the same goods. You’ve probably come across users who list at least 25 auctions of the same items each week. These people know sources where they can buy items cheaply and afford to add a huge markup. The idea is to consistently buy and sell the same things, whether it is iPod accessories or Gap jeans.
When you’re powerselling, there is just one rule: DO NOT GIVE YOUR SOURCE AWAY. Do not even tell this to somebody who is not interested in eBay. Somehow that information may get out to somebody who actually cares. Anybody who knows your source will be your competition. I didn’t really believe this at first. But just last week, my brother and I were at the post office, shipping some items. There was an eBay neophyte who was talking to somebody he met in line. He revealed everything about his sources while we eavesdropped on their conversation. I drank in every work he said. Poor kid. Maybe, one day we will see him at his source.
The biggest problem with the powerselling method is that it requires a steady inexpensive source. A good source is a diamond in the rocks. Most people will not reveal any good ones. This brought our downfall. It is the most common problem on eBay. We were never really able to find a consistent source to buy wholesale prices. Before considering eBay as a source of revenue, you need to also consider where you are going to obtain items to sell.
Before I leave you to embark on your eBay adventure, I’ve provided a couple of random tips to guide you.
- Before you start selling, make sure your feedback is AT LEAST 10. Buy 10 different items on eBay and ask the sellers to report good feedback once the transaction has been completed. You can even buy from my auctions and I’ll be happy to help you.
- When you list your auctions. Set clear the auction terms. Look at a lot of auctions and see what you need to declare like shipping, tax, returns, and insurance. This information is usually located at the bottom of listings.
- Try not to list items AS-IS. That is a huge turn off for bidders.
- Try to accept PayPal. 80% of all bidders and sellers prefer it. You would be forfeiting 80% of the eBay population if you don’t use Paypal! Think about that.
Feel free to ask me questions on eBay by either commenting or emailing me. I’d be happy to help you! Good luck!
Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2005