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How to sell on eBay, a beginner’s guide

Updated on March 9, 2016

Selling on eBay is really quite simple, follow these steps and you’ll be up and selling in no time.

1 Open a PayPal account. PayPal will handle all of the financial aspects of buying and selling on eBay and of course there will be fees involved, but first you need an account. Start here:

https://www.paypal.com , there will be a button at the top of the page that says “sign up” Click on it and fill out the form

2 Get verified. You will be asked to link a bank account or credit card to your PayPal account during the signup process. I was reluctant to give them my bank account numbers so I linked a credit card. This enabled me to make purchases that were automatically charged to that card but had no way to receive payments. What will happen, if you are a seller, is that eBay sales will put money into your PayPal account which you can then use like a credit card. You can then log into your PayPal account to check your balance, send money or make withdrawals. PayPal will put a hold on your funds in the beginning until you are established.

If you don’t have an account that you are willing to link to PayPal, you can still shop with PayPal with a MoneyPak, this is a service which is linked to GreenDot prepaid credit cards. What you do is take your cash to one of 40,000 retailers and buy a MoneyPak, then go online to Paypal and transfer the funds to PayPal. A MoneyPak can be bought for $4.95 or less and is available through Walmart, Target, Kmart, CVS and many more.

f you don’t already have an eBay account you’ll need to register here: https://scgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?RegisterEnterInfo

eBay will ask you lots of questions and open an account for you; choose a good name that you want to link to your selling or to your interests. ”Foxy Lady” doesn’t tell me what you’re about but “FoxysBooks” gets right to the point.

eBay has a lot of fees and many sellers have abandoned eBay because of this. There is an initial fee for listing your item, another fee for a “Page Designer” another fee for “extra pictures” (The first picture is “free”), another fee to make your picture stand out, another fee for a subtitle, another fee for lettering in bold and another fee that is charged when and only when you item sells. All of these fees add up and some are for services that yield little benefit like the designer fee.

You’ll need a decent digital camera, and many new cell phones come with one built in. If you don’t have a cell phone camera you’ll just have to buy a cheap camera someplace. As long as you can hook the camera up to the computer to download pictures you’re ready to sell. eBay has a preference for picture of about 1 Mb. in size, smaller pictures will post but you’ll get a warning about your picture being sub-optimal.

Before you sell anything you have to have shipping materials, this will vary depending on what you are shipping. I use bubble mailers for CDs, cardboard mailers for vinyl records, plastic envelopes and salvaged cardboard boxes with bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts for the rest and of course packing tape and mailing labels. I buy self adhesive labels that print two per page so when I print one label I save the second one and feed it through the printer again.

Lately I’ve found the Post Office has been damaging the jewel cases of CDs so I have been adding a layer of cardboard to these packages. Convenience stores and grocery stores will probably be glad to let you take away some cardboard boxes. All the other items are available on eBay or in your local office supply store. DO NOT SKIMP on packaging your items, the Post Office will certainly damage some things and it is up to you to prevent this from happening. Insurance is almost useless except for very expensive items. The Post Office will usually claim that your broken Ming Vase was not properly packaged and deny your claim so pack it right to begin with and save insurance for something that might be lost in the mail, that’s when insurance makes sense! You also need some sort of scale to weigh the items you’re shipping. If you already have a kitchen scale that’s probably good enough, otherwise you need a postage scale.
Finally you’ll need a printer to print postage.

What are you going to sell? The standard advice is to start by selling some things from around the house that you don’t want any longer. Check the eBay home page, at the ribbon across the top is a “sell” button, when you click on that you’ll get a drop down with options. One option is “What’s Hot” click that to see what is selling well or click “Sell an Item” to list your item for sale.

Before you list your item, go into your eBay account and do a search for the same item. You will find out what the competition is and how much they are asking for the same item. I have a lot of cookbooks so I frequently check out what they are selling for. I have one cookbook by Vincent Price that was selling for $5.00 from one seller and $250.00 from another seller. Wow! Someone didn’t do their homework! If you want to sell quickly the best way is to sell for less money. As you build a reputation you may be able to add a little bit to your selling price but if you have ideas of instant riches you’d better have something rare and unique.

Finally, it’s time to sell, take some pictures! Ebay uses white backgrounds on their pages so anything you photograph on a white background will stand out more than if it were on a colored backing. By using a white backing the item seems to float on the page so it will be more visible. Just remember people want to see your item, not your artistic effects. Take good pictures with as much detail as possible; get as close to your subject as you possibly can.

eBay will help in listing many items; any item with a UPC code or ISBN number may have a listing all ready to go. When you list your item, eBay will ask you for one of these numbers; If they find a match they will fill out all the details for you. If eBay can’t find the item you’ll get the chance to browse categories and decide where to place it. If you want to put your item in two categories, well, there’s another up-charge from eBay for each category.

Once you have a category chosen you are moved to a page where you fill out all of the details for the item. Here you will add sellers details like if you will ship overseas, if will you take returns and this is where you add the selling price, buy now or auction and how long the listing will last. There are different prices for auctions and buy it now prices and different lengths of time to post your item.

This is the page is where you will display your literary skills, describe your item, be honest and include all details, if the item is used tell your customers about any faults in the item. If you’re honest you’ll get positive feedbacks.

This is also where you will add shipping costs so you will need to know how much your item weighs and how big it is. There are postal resources on this page that let you enter the weight and get options which you can offer the buyer. Some people recommend packing your item to ship as soon as you list it, this will help you ship quickly and give you an accurate weight to use for postage.

After your item sells, you’ll get an email telling you that the item has sold and another email when you have received payment. Your eBay page will also alert you when it is time to ship.

When you click on the “Ship Now” button you will be taken to a page where you may enter the weight and, if you gave options, the type of postage such as first class or “Media Mail” or “Parcel Post” etc. It’s important here to enter the true weight and the correct date for mailing it; your package should be dated for the day when it is actually mailed. Once this info has been entered you’ll get the button that will print your postage.


You will build a strong reputation by being scrupulously honest in your description of your items, shipping quickly and with reasonable shipping costs.

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