Beginners Guide to eBay


eBay has been around for more than twenty years now, but there are still lots of people talking about the entrepreneurial opportunities it provides. The question is – is it really so special? And if so, why?

Is eBay a get-rich-quick-scheme? 

eBay has proved to be a very lucrative market for many sellers, especially those who have forged out their own niche. It certainly isn’t a get rich quick scheme – just like any other business it requires hard work and dedication. But an eBay business doesn’t necessarily have to make you a millionaire to be beneficial: the lifestyle benefits are pretty good on their own! Working from home, being your own boss, and having the freedom to choose something to sell you are passionate about, are all great reasons why selling on eBay either part or full time, is a fantastic way to earn money. What makes eBay different from any other business model is that you don’t need much capital to get started - anyone with $50 to invest can get a business underway on eBay. Let us tell you a bit more about what’s involved:

Here’s what you’ll need to start an eBay business – and it’s surprisingly little!

  • An up-to-date computer
  • A digital camera
  • High speed Internet connection
  • A phone
  • Shipping supplies (i.e. boxes, packing tape, bubble wrap, tape measure, postal charts & scales)

To get started, the first thing you’ll need to do is register on eBay.

Registering your eBay account

Go to and click the Register link at the top of the page. If you are already browsing, this link will appear at the top of every page in eBay until you have registered.

Fill in your details. You will be required to enter your email address, residential address and phone number.

Then you’ll be asked to choose a user ID. Your eBay user ID is what everyone will see who deals with you. Make sure that you choose an ID that you like – after all, you will be using it from now on for all of your transactions!

eBay will suggest a number of options if your ID is taken, but most people like to create their own. It’s a great idea to create an ID that reflects your business. For example, redhousejewelry.

Once you have entered your details, you will need to open your email, find the welcome email from eBay, and click the verification link.

You’ll then just need to re-enter your email address and copy and paste in the unique confirmation code into the eBay web page.  Once this is done, you are immediately able to bid and buy.

Your first sales on eBay 

When you first start off on eBay, I recommend just selling some things you have got lying around the house. It could be clothing or jewelry you no longer wear, the children's old toys, an appliance or piece of furniture.

Once you’ve found something, check with eBay’s guidelines to determine whether or not it’s actually allowed to be sold on eBay permissible (some items, like food, weapons and event tickets have selling restrictions or are prohibited).

Another thing you’ll want to do is get an idea of how much your item usually sells for on eBay, so you know what price to list it for. You can easily see how much similar items have sold for by searching eBay’s completed listings.

To access this feature, just type in a product search as normal, then, when the first results appear, scroll down the left hand Refine Search panel, until you reach the Preferences section. Under ‘Show only’ you’ll see a box for Completed Listings. 

Check this box – if you aren’t already logged in, eBay will now ask you to do so – and all the completed listings in the past two weeks will display.

Listings with a green price are those that were successfully sold. Listings with a red price are items that finished without a sale.  

By scrolling through and looking at this data, you can quickly ascertain two things (a) whether your item is likely to sell (if there are more green prices than red), and  (b) how much the item sells for on average.

You can also see whether other sellers of this item have more success with Buy It Now or auction format.

All in all, looking at completed listings should be a fundamental part of any eBay sellers’ preparation. It will help you avoid common mistakes such as listing at a price that’s too low or too high and wasting money listing an item that isn’t very popular.

If you are going to list an item that isn’t a run-of-the-mill household item, but an antique or collectible, then it would be a good idea to get a professional valuation before listing it on eBay. Proper authentication will also encourage collectors to bid.

Finally, another very important reason for starting your eBay career by selling a few things from around the house is that, initially, buyers are likely to be reluctant to purchase anything of great value from a new seller. Building feedback is a really important part of establishing your credibility, so it’s worth starting now to work on reaching at least 30 positive feedbacks before you move into buying and reselling wholesale lots.

Tip: Buying some things off eBay is also a good way to get your feedback up quickly!  

Listing items on eBay 

Okay, so you’re now ready to start listing your first item. Although you can save your listing draft at anytime and come back to it later, it’s easiest just to make sure you have everything ready when you start.

You will need:

  • Between 3-5 good photos of the item you are going to sell. You can use more or less, but this is usually a good number.
  • All the important details about your item: Brand, dimensions, model number, whether it has a warranty, any damage, color, age and so forth.
  • The shipping cost. You can check what other sellers are charging for the item, or take a look at the post office website for your country. It’s very important not to undercharge on shipping, otherwise you’ll end up losing money; on the other hand, you don’t want to overcharge either, otherwise your listing will end up further down the search results and be less attractive to buyers.

When you’re ready to go, click the Sell link from the top of any page on the eBay site.

eBay will now provide a list of suggested categories for the item. All you have to do is check the one that best fits your item.  

Creating a title

Next you’ll be asked to create a title for your listing. The listing title is what people will see first when they are browsing eBay’s listings, so it’s important to think about what will be the most useful information to present to prospective buyers.   

Tip: Take a look at some other listings (both completed and live) for the same/or a similar item to get some ideas.

Here’s an example of a good title for a camera: Nikon Coolpix L4 digital camera 6.2 megapixel.

This title clearly describes the most important attributes of the camera, and will appear in the search results for important keywords that potential buyers will search for, such as: ‘camera’, ‘digital camera’, ‘nikon camera’, ‘digital’, ‘Nikon Coolpix’, ‘Nikon Coolpix L4’, ‘6.2 megapixel camera’, and so on.

You can also add a subtitle, but this is more of an advanced feature for sellers who have got extra killer benefits, worth the additional cost. 

Item Specifics

The next step is to add items specifics, using the drop-down menus.  Item specifics are things like the brand, model and color of the item. It’s really important that you add as many of these as you can, because eBay’s search engine uses item specifics to help match potential buyers with your listing. If you don’t make the effort to add these details, your listing may be deemed less relevant and be placed in a lower search rank.

Adding pictures

You’ll want to have at least 3 good quality photos to add to your listing. The easiest way is to take a few shots on your digital camera, edit them in a program like Picasa, and save in a folder on your desktop for easy retrieval.

For more information on taking the best product photos possible, check out these free resources: 

Writing a description

Once again, checking out other similar listings is an excellent way of getting ideas for your own, paying particular attention to Top-Rated Sellers. That said, you should never copy someone else’s listing too closely, as this is plagiarism. An easy way to write a nice description is to list the main features in benefits in bullet-point form. Don’t forget to include the item’s condition at the top of your listing. You should also include a few sentences with information about the shipping and payment services you offer, and any warranties or guarantees that come with the item.  

A great listing description will describe the benefits of the item (i.e. why the buyer’s life will be so much better with the item!) and even include a little bit of information about your own background, especially if you have some expertise in the area.

Choose the selling format: Fixed price vs auction

The auction-style listing is great for your first listing, as it’s really exciting watching the bidding war take place. If you have a low starting price (recommended), then you’ll also attract maximum interest. On the other hand, the Buy it Now for is good if you know how much you want to get for the item or if you have several of the same item available.   You can also do both: Have an auction running, and a Buy It Now (BIN) price as well. The BIN price will disappear once the first bid has been made.  

Listing duration

The next step is to choose a listing duration. 7 days is the default, and generally the best option as it gives plenty of time for lots of buyers to view your listing. However, in some cases a longer or shorter time is better; for example, if you have a really high-demand item, like an iPod, then 3 days can work well. On the other hand, 10 days is worth considering for a big-ticket item like an art-work or a collectible, as potential buyers often need more time to make a decision that involves a significant financial investment.

Accepted payments

Now it’s time to choose how your buyers can pay you. These are the options you can offer:

  • PayPal
  • ProPay
  • Moneybookers
  • Paymate
  • Credit card or debit card processed through the seller's Internet merchant account
  • Payment upon pickup
  • Bill Me Later

PayPal is a popular payment method, but you should compare its service carefully with Moneybookers, ProPay and Paymate, as PayPal can hold your funds for up to 21 days to ensure a smooth transaction.


Choosing what shipping options you’ll offer your buyer is your next task. Will you post the item out? Or do you only offer pick-up? Casual sellers often use pick-up, especially for cumbersome items like furniture. But if you’re going pro, then you’ll definitely want to post, so that your item is available to as many buyers as possible.

You can choose whether you want to calculate postage cost based on the location of the buyer, or offer the same cost to all buyers. If you are selling to buyers just in your country, and the item is fairly small and light-weight, then the same cost will usually be okay. A calculated postage cost is essential when you ship internationally or are selling a unusually sized or overweight item.  

Select which postal carriers you want to use, these will vary depending on your country. For US eBay sellers, USPS generally offers the cheapest postal rates, but it’s best to compare all the main services by visiting their websites before you select one.

You will note that the location your eBay account is registered at will show up as the default item location.

Tip: If you are drop shipping, you should change this to the location of the drop shipper.


Listing upgrades

eBay offers several listing upgrades. The purpose of these upgrades is to help make your listing more visible. When you start selling seriously, it’s a good idea to spend some time testing these upgrades and finding out whether they make any difference to your final profit. However, there’s no real reason to use them for a casual listing unless you are in a highly competitive market. 

You also get a chance to preview how your listing will appear in the search results. And below that, your entire listing. If you spot any mistakes, now is the time to fix them before you go live!

List your item! (Or create your seller's account)

Normally, following this review you will see a button to List your Item to make it live on eBay. However, since this is the first time you are selling on eBay, you’ll be asked to set up your sellers account first. Click Continue.

At this point, you’ll be asked to sign in again as a security measure. Then, you’ll need to choose how you are going to pay your seller fees from one of the following options (the information below is taken from eBay’s help page

  • PayPal: Your amount due will automatically be deducted from the PayPal account that you select for automatic payments.
  • Automatic credit card payments: eBay will automatically charge your fees directly to the credit card you place on file (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover Card). Your credit card is usually charged five to seven days after you receive your invoice.
  • Direct pay from your checking account:  eBay will automatically deduct your seller fees from your checking account on the same day each month.
  • Check (for business only): Submit a payment coupon along with your check and mail it to the address on the coupon.

See eBay’s help for more information on how to pay your seller fees.

Once you’ve completed these steps, and created your sellers account, you can list your item. You’ll immediately receive an email saying that you item has been successfully listed, and you can keep track of activity via My eBay.

Tracking your listing’s activity

Whenever you want to see how your listing is doing – whether there have been many viewers or bidders – just login to eBay and click the My eBay link from the menu at the top of any page. From here you can easily view all of your active listings, answer buyer’s questions, see how many people are watching your listing and how many have placed bids.

Whenever an activity takes place that requires your action – for example, someone asks a question about your item, or the item sells - you’ll also be sent an email.

Hooray! A sale

When your listing is successfully completed with a sale, an email is automatically sent from eBay to the buyer with your payment instructions. When you receive the buyer’s payment, leave positive feedback and ship the item out as soon as possible.

Feedback isn’t compulsory for any eBay user, but as it’s very important to your reputation as a seller, you should give feedback to your buyer as soon as possible to encourage them to reciprocate.

If the item doesn’t sell, then eBay will send you an email giving you the opportunity to re-list your item.

8 Smart Selling Strategies for Maximum eBay Profit

  1. Use the Completed Listings tool to research your item’s success rate and average selling price before you list.
  2. Make sure your title includes at least five important keywords or numbers that potential buyers are likely to search for.
  3. Always spell-check your title and description before listing. (Writing it in Word and then copying and pasting into eBay is the best way). Misspellings make your item much harder for buyers to find.
  4. Spend time taking decent photographs of your item against a plain background with good lighting. Use a free editing program like Picasa for minor editing. Make sure your final pictures are at least 1000 pixels on the longest side, and/or have a dpi of at least 90.  Edited photos are a proven way of increasing the chances your item will sell successfully.
  5. Don’t end your auction after midnight. The more people online when your auction is closing, the more bids you are likely to receive.
  6. Test Auction format against Buy It Now, and see which strategy gives you the greatest profit.
  7. Ship the item out to your buyer as soon as possible. The longer they have to wait to receive it, the more likely they are to give negative feedback.
  8. Make a point of providing excellent communication: Answer questions within a couple of hours of receiving them if possible; Thank the buyer for their payment; Email them to let them know you have shipped the item; Follow up a few days later to check they received the item and are satisfied with it (also a good opportunity to remind them to leave feedback).

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