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Foundational Steps to Becoming an Ebay Seller - Part One of a Three Part Series

Updated on August 13, 2019

In my first HubPage article, I shared how I unexpectedly and accidentally started an eBay business during the economic turmoil of 2008-2009. Ten years later, my side business continues to thrive. After learning (and still learning) my fair share of hard lessons through trial and error, I am continually asked how I have been able to make it work. And, in spite of the perceived or supposed economic recovery, there are still many people looking to make additional money.

Many people are looking to make additional money for a host of reasons.
Many people are looking to make additional money for a host of reasons.

In this three part series of articles, I will cover ten basic foundational steps needed to start and maintain an eBay business. These steps include:

Article 1
Article 2
Article 3
Step #1 - eBay Account Registration
Step #4 - Researching & Crafting Detailed Listings
Step #7 - Taking High Quality Photographs
Step #2 - Building a Positive Feedback Reputation
Step #5 - Competitively Pricing Merchandise
Step #8 - Answering Customer Questions
Step #3 - Offering Quality Merchandise
Step #6 - Determining the Best Buying Format - Auction or Buy It Now
Step #9 - Closing the Deal - Selling Your Item
Step #10 - Shipping & Feedback

In this first article I will touch upon, registering for an account, building trust through feedback, and having quality merchandise to sell. Of course, I am aware there are several online selling platforms to choose from to make additional money, but eBay is still one of the largest globally recognized brands, and once you have gone through all the steps, ongoing maintenance of your business does not necessarily require you to be prescribed with these ordered steps.

Step #1 - eBay Account Registration

Depending on your short-term and long-term selling goals, you can set up a personal eBay account or a business eBay account. Setting up either type of account is free and pretty straightforward, and I will not go into significant detail. There are several YouTube videos, blogs, articles, FAQ's, etc. which can provide step by step instructions for setting up your account. I will however, make a few suggestions based upon my personal experiences.

  • Create a professional User Name. This is especially important if you are an incorporated business or you plan to incorporate a business. You also will need to select whether you want to have (and pay) a monthly store subscription fee. eBay gives you 50 free listings per month without a store subscription.

  • Determine which payment system to use in order to receive payments from customers. Whichever processor is chosen, most will immediately take a small processing fee for each payment transaction they process. Plan on sharing approximately 3% of the total gross selling price with whichever company you choose. Personally, I am a HUGE fan of PayPal.

PayPal allows you to accept major credit/debit cards, as well as direct cash transfers from PayPal account holders.
PayPal allows you to accept major credit/debit cards, as well as direct cash transfers from PayPal account holders.
  • Upload a professional, generic business photograph to your eBay profile. Unless it is a part of your brand, save the cartoons and sexy pics for another venue.

  • eBay gets a cut of your coin. Unlike payment processors that take their money off the top, eBay collects their insertion fees and final value fees (commissions) monthly. As a basic rough estimate, their total gross fees after an item sells ranges between 10% to 12%. Plan and budget accordingly.

Make sure you plan and budget for fees.  Remember, you are sharing your proceeds.
Make sure you plan and budget for fees. Remember, you are sharing your proceeds.
  • eBay requires you to designate an upfront payment method for collection of their fees. You can set up automatic withdrawal from PayPal or you can use a credit or debit card payment. eBay allows you to change the method at any time.

Step #2 - Building a Positive Feedback Reputation

When I first started selling back in 2009, eBay had a flawed policy which required sellers to have a minimum positive feedback score. This policy was flawed in that if you were brand new to the site, your feedback score was zero, and if you were an occasional buyer, the feedback was going to be positive because sellers could not leave negative or neutral feedback. Regardless of the then flawed policy, I quickly learned feedback is a litmus test in trust. Before any buyer purchases your merchandise, they need to have implicit trust you are honest.

Feedback is a litmus test in trust.  Potential buyers need to have implicit trust you are honest
Feedback is a litmus test in trust. Potential buyers need to have implicit trust you are honest

Building trust with potential buyers is important. Even though most buyers do not leave feedback, they will, however, look at your feedback to see what you have purchased, and what you have sold. They also want to know what type of feedback you have left for others. A potential buyer may pass on buying your items if you are someone who leaves negative or neutral feedback. This is an unfortunate fact, yet feedback is at the core of your online selling reputation, and it is the only avenue in which a potential buyer can glean whether a seller is trustworthy.

There are many problems with eBay's current feedback system, nonetheless, slowly build your feedback score by buying small ($) useful items, such as shipping supplies, sewing notions, thank you stickers, etc. Before making a small monetarily useful purchase, select sellers who leave feedback for their customers. You can also earn cashback when you purchase your eBay items through Rakuten (this is another useful site). When your item is delivered to you, don't delay, leave feedback for the seller.

In conclusion, do not get too wrapped up in watching your feedback. Again, most buyers do not leave feedback. Feedback operates on a continuum. It is a slow and steady process, but it is important to always be gracious in the feedback you leave, and be grateful in the feedback you receive. It just makes sense.

Be thankful when you leave feedback and when you receive it.
Be thankful when you leave feedback and when you receive it.

Step #3 - Offering Quality Merchandise

Offering quality merchandise is a tricky topic, because the term "quality" is subjective, and eBay is a big, huge online flea market. While they have tried to move away from this stigma, as well as their auction model, it is still home to many eccentric sellers and you might be one of them.

Before you get excited about going shopping, this step is not intended to give you ideas of things to buy for you to sell, or tell you you need start-up money for inventory. Your eBay business seed money is already in your home. You already have what I consider as loose change, laying around your house, hidden in your drawers, hanging in your closet, collecting dust in your attic, garage and basement. It is time to declutter and make some money doing it.

Decluttering can be profitable.
Decluttering can be profitable.

Decluttering is overwhelming. It is also cathartic. To see the progression of entropy to organization and knowing it can yield financial gains is motivational, and it is time to get motivated.

Implement a plan to declutter and avoid stressing out..
Implement a plan to declutter and avoid stressing out..

First, to avoid being overwhelmed, select one room or location you want to clean-out. By selecting one single location, whether it is a room in your parents' home, an old storage unit, garage, or attic, you reduce your anxiety level. This method also gives you a sense of accomplishment when you are finished.

Next is categorization. Decluttering requires you to categorically assess which items you should trash, keep, donate, and sell. Do not feel as if the merchandise you sell has to be brand new or in pristine condition. However, here is where you have to make an HONEST assessment of your belongings. Look at the item and determine if after cleaning it up, would you be p--sed off if you received this item in the mail. If the answer is yes, because it is dry-rotted and crumbling, rusted beyond repair, a recalled item, or a fire hazard, then toss it in the trash.

Keep priceless memorabilia such as photographs. Donate outdated items too large to ship. Sell everything else. Remember, no matter how large or small the market, there is a probability someone is looking for the exact item you are looking to get rid of. A market exists to sell old fashioned shaving bowls, 1920's flatware, used car parts, and vintage knitting needles.

Trash.  Keep.  Donate.  Sell.
Trash. Keep. Donate. Sell.

Now that you have categorized your items, the last step of offering quality merchandise is to clean it up and make it presentable - polish shoes, wash flatware, dust off picture frames, and steam or iron clothing. This little bit of effort and elbow grease will set you apart from others. It will also better position you for the next foundational steps of becoming an eBay seller which is covered in my next article and addresses research, pricing, and selling format.

If only I, and my siblings, had known this advice I'm sharing, and sold my deceased mother's "junk" by using these foundational steps instead of having the "Everything's a Dollar Yard Sale," we would probably be millionaires.

Do not underestimate your clutter, you will not know what treasures you have until you dig it out and dust it off.

If it ain't a dollar, make me an offer.  Big mistake!
If it ain't a dollar, make me an offer. Big mistake!

© 2019 KR Glenn


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