Online Auction sites
Where to begin.
There are many online auction sites willing to take your hard-earned cash in order to sell your items. Each of which has it's pros & cons. For this article, I am concentrating on the world's 2nd-biggest site, namely eBid ( www.ebid.net ), but everything in this article can just as easily be applied to eBay.
Why Ebid?, well, it has several subscription offers available to the seller, from 'Seller' to 'Seller+' (check site for latest pricing). Depending on the service subscription you purchase, your final value fees will vary from 0% - 3%, but your actual listing fees will always be 'nil' (unless you choose the various listing upgrades that is). Ebid can also directly import your Ebay listings via the superb 'Ninjalister'
One of the first purchases should be a set of postage scales. Knowing how much an item weighs allows you to accurately calculate postage costs and avoid the embarrassment of under-charging for the postage costs.
Beginning to sell can be as simple as choosing a title, picking a catergory, entering a description, price & payment options, and clicking on submit.
Chances are, you won't sell anything, but will have learned a valuable lesson, PHOTOS SELL ITEMS. Yes, a good photo can be worth a thousand words when it comes to selling items via sites such as 'eBid'. Nearly everyone has a digital camera these days. It doesn't matter whether it is a 'point-and-shoot' pocket camera, or a full-on DSLR. With enough practice it is possible to take that perfect picture. Personally I use a 8.2Mp bridge camera for the majority of my shots as it has a macro facility for those small items. I also wn a DSLR, and would reccommend either a set of extension tubes or magnifier lenses to get the best macro shots.
Backgrounds are VERY important when composing your shot. Use a plain sheet to cover the table you intend to use for staging the shot, and to hang behind the itme to hide your wallpaper. The colour of the sheet should not clash with the item you are shooting, i.e, a white sheet is a no-no when shooting items with a lot of white within them. The last thing you want is for your item to disappear into the background.
Lighting. Another thing to consider is the lighting of your subject. A built-in flash may be good for those party shots, but may 'white-out' your item. If you can, try setting-up in a conservatory or grrenhouse, that way you can turn-off the flash and make good use of the natural light ( but watch those shadows). If using this method, try hanging a white bedsheet up to act as a diffuser, thus giving a much softer and more even light. For the more adventurous, how about making your own light-tent?, the easy way invovles cutting the sides out of a sturdy cardboard box, painting it matt white, then drapping a bedsheet over. Much cheaper than buying one, and when it breaks, you can recycle the box and go get another one.
Right, now you have the image, you can use something like 'The Gimp' to crop the image and make any final changes to the brightness or contrast.
Now for the description. A good description contains all the buyer needs to know, but without the drivel. A buyer would wish to know the condition of a particular item, but doesn't need to know that it was your mother-in-laws' cousins' grandmothers.. A good description of a book (for instance) would be - " 'A guide to fly-spotting' by I. C. Loads, This is a hardback edition and is in good condition, with only a small mark on back cover". This describes the condition, title, author and type. No one needs to know that it has been sitting on my bookshelf for 4 years, or that it was a gift.
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When it comes to actually posting-off the items you have several options depending on the sie and importance of the item.
For small items under 5Kg in weight and less than £35 in value, then Royal Mail Recorded Delivery is the only way to go. Above £40 in value, use the Special Delivery option instead.
With so many 'Item not delivered/damaged in transit' claims now prevalent, protecting yourself is more important now than it ever was. With a signed-for service, your buyer cannot claim to have not received the item if they actually have, as you will have the proof.
For anything over 5Kg in weight, Parcels2go is a good site. Just give them the dimensions of the parcel and they will give you a selection of couriers and prices. Once again, you get the protection of a tracked service. The only drawback being that you have to wait in for the chosen company to collect.
The one thing ALL auction sites have is 'feedback'. This is the way other sellers & buyers judge you and your trading ability on the site. Quite a few people will for instance, block bidders with less than 10 feedback, or won't buy from people with feedback of less than 95%.
On Ebay it is perfectly legal to buy feedback so for less than a tenner you can buy 20 positive feedbacks. You can also sell feedbacks yourself, but make sure you tick the 'Instant payment required' box (on eBay) to make sure you receive your payment. Don't forget that on eBay a seller can only leave 'Positive' feedback, but a buyer can also leave 'Neutral' and ' Negative' feedback as well.
With Ebid, both buyers and sellers can leave all three types of feedback. It is therefore important to not 'go off on one' if you have had a bad deal. Try to sort-out the problems before posting feedback.
Dealing with complaints
AS you sell, you will, over time, have one or two buyers who consider the received item to be 'not as described'. Sometimes the item will have become damaged in transit, other times it not have been what they are after. How you deal with this can reflect on the feedback they leave for you.
Normally, they will return the item, then you issue a refund. However, sometimes these people will be chancers out to con you into refunding on a similar item they had which was broken (hence buying yours). If selling such items as cameras, laptops, tablets etc., always reply stating you will refund only if the item received back matches the detailed photos you have taken of the item and it's serial number/s. If they are out to pull a fast-one, they will realize they are unlikely to get a refund, as the item they were intending to send-back was not in fact, the one they received.
Since the economy has gone belly-up, Ebay in particular seems to have attracted an awful lot of scammers and thieves, so due diligence is now the keyword when trading on there.
Whilst most people are content to use auction sites to shift the odd item, there are others who consider using such sites to trade as a business. The secret to being a successful business trader is to buy cheap & sell at at least 200% profit. Don't forget that Ebay charges business users 10p per item listed, then charges 10% fees on the first £10 of the final value, then 3.5% on the rest. Then add-on Paypal fees of 3.4%+20p, and your profits can take quite a hit.
So, what sells well?, that all depends on your chosen product. For instance CD's/DVD's and books sell for pennies and unless you have obtained your stock for nothing, it is not worth even thinking of listing on auction sites (see my other Hub on 'Online selling' for info on alternative selling sources). However, items such rare computer games can sell very well. I recently sold a Zelda game for the SNES (a console popular in the '80s) for £20 exc. p&p, I was given the console and 10 games for free by my mum's nieghbour when she had a clear-out. You can easily find lists of collectible games by googling by console make + games + collectible.
If your passion is fashion, then you really need to do your research prior to listing on Ebay, as Ebay has a system in place called 'VeRo'. This is a set of policies that companies can sign-up to that can dictate how/if their products can be sold on Ebay. TomTom for instance, explicitly forbid the re-selling of their satnavs, so will remove any listings with 'TomTom' in the title or description. Burberry also forbid the sale of their items via Ebay. Other companies will ask Ebay to remove listings they believe to be fakes, or where the seller has no proven track record of selling that particular item. Before you list, check to see if you will be breaching the VeRo rules, if you are, don't worry, there are ways around the rules. Instead of listing by make, simply list by 'style', i.e. instead of 'Burberry Mens Coat', you could use 'High-quality Mens Coat' then make sure to include in the listing, a photo of the label. By not mentioning the makers' name, their search systems won't pick-up your listing for VeRo breaching.
It is worth noting that eBid DO NOT operate any VeRo type schemes, so may be a better bet for re-listing goods that Ebay pulls.
Obtaining stock may be one of your biggest headaches, but if you know your market, then you can pick-up stuff cheap at car-boot sales to sell-on at a profit (it can work the other way too), Jumble sales and even Freecycle (although you do have to make sure not to use the same email as your auction account, or to list too soon after collecting the item/s, otherwise you stand a good chance of being busted). Even charity shops can fetch-up the odd bargain or two. The best way to obtain stock though is through a wholesaler or stock liquidator (see list at bottom), but be aware that you may end-up buying by the pallet-load rather than by the case.
So, what if you end-up with a lot of unsold stock?, well, Christmas Day is a good time to get shot of all the tat that just won't sell. Gift-wrap it and job-lot them as 'Unwanted Christmas Presents' using a throw-away Ebay account. Spin a tale of woe about splitting-up with your loved one, pretend you have no idea what is in the presents, add some spiel about them being worth 'Probably about £35', make sure to point-out it is a lucky-dip, charge £20 p&p, and away you go. Just make sure each joblot has no more than 9 presents in, and each listing is at least one hour apart (to prevent you having two listings on the same page). What doesn't sell, unwrap and donate to charity.
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