Learn to Sell on eBay - 

(Success tips, not a tutorial)  

If you want to learn to sell on eBay, the best place to start learning the ins and outs is, of course, eBay's own tutorials. However, selling on eBay is a skill that requires some cultivation and to help you get over the learning curve I've put together a bunch of tips that I wish I had know when I first got started.

Choosing your User Name

Did you sign up already before you read this? *Sigh* if you're like me when I first started to learn to sell on eBay, you probably did and probably used some sort of user name that's similar to the user name you use on every other site out there. Here's what I didn't know when I first chose a user name - eBay buyers actually note and CARE about what your user name is. Over the years, I've changed my user name a couple of times as my product line has changed, but it took me several months to figure out that this was something that would help me stand out from the crowd at the beginning.

If you're just starting to learn to sell on eBay, you might not know what a good user name would be. Here are some good tips: Choose a user name that will help give folks an idea about your eBay business. Choose a user name that will be memorable. Try to keep an excess of numbers OUT of your user name - most people won't remember it. If you're using your eBay store to drive traffic and new customers to your independent eCommerce domain, use that domain as your user name with _com at the end.

Finding stuff to sell on eBay

If you're new to selling things online, start simple with the stuff in your closet. Chances are that once you start telling folks that you're selling things online they'll start to ask you to sell things for them as well - you can do that as well to help boost your feedback ratings. Once you get more than 100 ratings, you'll pretty much know what you're doing and you can think about specializing and sourcing the stuff you sell.

At this point, the biggest hurdle to folks looking to learn to sell on eBay full time is finding sources for their goods. There's not a bunch of help out there for newbies because sourcing is a jealously guarded secret in the online world.

First of all, sell things on eBay that sell. Yea, I know it sounds simplistic, but it's important to mention. Unlike a lot of websites, people go to eBay when they're looking for specific things. As you learn to sell on eBay you'll become skilled at researching and testing the eBay waters for your potential products. Your products on eBay should meet the needs and desires of what folks are searching for. You can use pulse.ebay.com, which  will show you the most popular searches in each category, but I've always found that watching auctions and sales of currently listed things is the best way to find out what sells and why.

Secondly, sell things you know something about. Don't sell GPS navigation systems if you don't know about them - you won't know what inventory to stock. Don't try and sell china if you don't know anything or care anything about it - you won't know what to buy at garage sales and Goodwill. The amount of time it takes to learn to sell on eBay will be multiplied exponentially - only putting off the time it will take you to make money.

That said, what you're selling will dictate where you get your items. If you're selling antiques or collectibles or refurbished stuff, then you'll have to buy things at garage sales and thrift stores and such. If you're wanting to sell new things, you'll need to set up your eBay business and find wholesellers and dropshippers who will work with you. I love Wordwide Brands for finding great sources of wholesellers and dropshippers and they have TONS of tools to help you learn to sell on eBay effectively and for profit. The initial membership fee is well worth it, and unlike many of the other services out there - this one actually lives up to all the hype.

Learn to sell on eBay stores

eBay stores are a great option if you're looking to brand your stuff, get repeat customers or track inventory closely. You've really got to be selling more than about $200 of stuff a month to make it worth your while (in my opinion) but as if April, 2010 eBay started giving their store owners discounts on listing fees, which means you can list more stuff for less money.

If you're doing any sort of volume business, the Seller Manager Pro tool (free with upper two tiers of stores) makes your life that much easier by automating the feedback and follow-up email process. It's a little wonky to integrate at first, but if you take the time to figure it out, it can save you time in the long run.

Use the free listing tools

When you first learn to sell on eBay, you learn using the online listing wizard. That's great, but if you're doing more than just a few listings using something like TurboLister, which allows you to prepare products for listing when you're offline, can save you time an enable you to list in bulk.

TurboLister is free for eBay sellers. The best way to learn to sell on eBay with TurboLister is simply to download it and mess around with it a bit. While there's a bunch of fancier competing listing tools out there, eBay keeps TurboLister having the most up-to-date features that most folks are looking for. The only reason you'd use one of the other tools is if you want to use one tool for multiple auction sites. That said, it has its quirks. I love creating listings in bulk with spreadsheets, especially since I'll frequently like 150 similar items (one for each breed of dog). Spreadsheets make this work bearable. I've found, however, that TurboLister's bulk import from .csv file isn't always as functional as I would prefer. There is, however, a very active support forum with lots of folks to help you figure out what the problem is and help you get it fixed.

Use the re-list function

When you learn to sell on eBay, the concept of re-listing isn't something that's obviously an advantage to most folks. Yet, it can greatly impact how often your products appear to customers. This took me FOREVER to learn to do. I used to create a new item each time I wanted to list something again using the old one as a template. This works fine, but if you go to the old item and hit 're-list' instead, you're going to rank better in the eBay search algorithm. Go figure, something so innocent.

Use words in your listing titles

NR, NWT and other abbreviations save you valuable space in your listing title, however if you can use the space for a whole word that will actually be searched for, do. Why? Because eBay submits their products to Google product search. So, while you learn to sell on eBay, learn some SEO product listing skills and get even more traffic. While an eBay shopping regular might (and only might) think to search for NWT in their hunt for a new DKNY pair of size seven women's jeans, a Google user won't even think of it. However, if your product title matches what the Google user is searching for, they'll click through from Google right to your listing and bingo! you've bypassed your fellow eBay seller's competition. Do, however, make sure to put those acronyms and their spelled-out equivelents (No Reserve, New With Tags) in your product description so that if someone on eBay DOES put it in their search, you'll still show up.

Bad Feedback

Feedback is one of the simple yet hard steps to master as you learn to sell on eBay. While bad feedback is to be avoided like the plague (do this by over-delivering on product quality and customer service), sometimes a customer doesn't communicate with you before they leave their negative feedback and you don't get the opportunity to make it right. One day you log into your account and you're at 100% positive feedback, on track to getting that coveted "Top Rated Seller" badge. The next, you've been hit and you're suddenly at 98% (or lower) because of just one or two bad reports. The younger you are in the selling process, the harder this will hit you (due to the whole caluclation of percentage thing... 2 bad feedbacks out of 100 is much worse than 2 out of 1,000).

What do you do? Me? I eat chocolate. Seriously. I take great pride in providing good customer service, but sometimes things go wrong. You get sick and miss a shipment by a day. Your shipper doesn't dropship your item in a timely manner. You try to communicate with the buyer but they miss your emails. These things happen in the course of running a business. Even years later, I still take a blow when I get bad (or even neutral) feedback. Give yourself some time. This is especially true if your first reaction to such things is anger- NEVER leave feedback when you're mad. It will wait a day or two.

When you've cleared your head, you can respond to whatever feedback was left. Do so in neutral terms, don't blame anyone and own where you went wrong. You've only got 100 characters, so be brief as well. Don't respond to the customer in the feedback you leave for them, respond on YOUR feedback list - then folks who look at your feedback will be able to see your response then and there.

Then move on. It's hard, but the only thing you can really do to get over bad feedback is to get as much good feedback as quickly as you can and push it down off the bottom of the screen. Most folks evaluating before a purchase won't read your feedback results past the first page. Plus, more positive feedback will help raise your overall percentage.

Taking a Vacation

You don't have to take down all your products when you go to Hawaii for 2 weeks on your eBay earnings. If you've got a store (most likely if you've got longer-term listing products) you can set your stuff to "vacation settings" to let your customers know that if they order something from you while you're gone you won't get it sent out till you get back. How awesome is that? I had been selling on eBay for years before I figured this out (perhaps before they added the feature) and it's made my vacations much more pleasant.

Learn to sell on eBay effectively

eBay is a huge business because it's so addictive, so if you're going to survive and have a life in this business you need a plan. While obsessively checking your sales and listings can seem exciting while you learn to sell on eBay, if you're still doing it 3 months in you should set up some separation for yourself. Your store will function if you don't check it every 30 minutes. After I finally got things in my store calmed down, I could relax and only check it twice per day - in the evenings to get my orders for the next day and add products, and in the mornings to mark orders as shipped and reply to questions from customers. If you're doing auctions, you should set regular ending times so you can be online during the last hour of a listing without having to be online for an entire day. Again, this is where using TurboLister is a great asset - you can upload all your auctions at once so that they all end at relatively the same time. 

Return from Learn to Sell on eBay to the Make Money on eBay page


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