10 Important Tips for New eBay Sellers

eBay for beginners
New eBay sellers should start by selling low dollar items from around the home. Getty Images

As an eBay seller since 2003, I am often asked by new sellers for tips on getting started. eBay is a vast place and can be complicated at times. If you are brand new to eBay, it is best to start slowly, learn the landscape, read the rules, and grow your eBay hobby or business slowly. Here are my top tips for new sellers just getting started on eBay.

Understand How to Price Items

Before posting anything on eBay, understand how to price your item.

One of the biggest mistakes new sellers make is looking at retail value, active eBay listings, or going by what they paid for an item recently or any number of years ago. Bad idea. eBay is its own universe and you will be very disappointed if you assume you will be able to sell items at retail prices.

An item is only worth what someone will pay. To find out what an eBay buyer will pay, look at completed listings, which shows historical sales data not asking prices. (Just like in real estate — you price your home according to what homes have sold for, not what someone is asking.) This video explains how to gather price data using eBay's completed listings filter.

Start Selling Things You Already Have

The average American home contains 300,000 items from paper clips to automobiles. You already have plenty to sell without having to buy anything. You just don't know the items in your home have value on eBay.

Start going through your home room-by-room and looking up items on completed listings. Look up everything, even if you don't think it is worth anything. You will be shocked! Some examples of items that have value on eBay but don't seem like they would sell for much:

  • Lids from pots and pans
  • Empty perfume bottles (people collect them or use them for home decor)
  • Any kind of craft supply (sewing, Perler beads, scrapbooking)
  • Broken jewelery and watches (people buy them for parts)
  • Pantyhose (used for crafts, gardening, computer fan covers)
  • Unopened cosmetics, razors, batteries
  • Anything new in the package
  • Empty printer cartridges
  • School supplies

The list is really endless. Get more ideas here about what cash is hiding in your home.

Choose items that will sell for less than $50. Since you are a new seller, you don't want to be a target for a scam. Also, learning while selling inexpensive items will take the pressure off. You're going to be learning how to ship, answer customer inquiries, and navigate your seller dashboard, so it is best to work with low dollar items at first. Furthermore, choose items that are easy to ship. Avoid breakables, very large items, or items with multiple pieces. Keep it simple at first while you learn.

Buy a Few Things to Get Some Feedback

Every member of eBay has a feedback score based on their trading experience. The number is a combination or both buying and selling transactions. The more feedback you have, the more trusted and authentic you appear as a community member. It is very difficult to get sales with a low feedback score.

If your account is new and you have less than 20 feedbacks, you can earn feedback by buying a few inexpensive items so that sellers can rate you. Buy things you will actually use like small cosmetics, office supplies, stickers for your kids, or dog treats. (Don't waste money just to get feedback!) After receiving an item in satisfactory condition, leave feedback for your seller and ask that they leave it for you. Twenty feedbacks is a good solid number to have before trying to sell anything.

Understand Seller Limits

eBay places selling limits on all sellers, but they are more strict for new sellers. eBay wants sellers to establish a positive selling history, and limits prevent some level of fraud. New sellers have account limits, category limits, and item limits. Learn how to find your selling limits here.

  After you have sold a few items, you can request higher selling limits. 

Avoid Selling Problematic Items

Unfortunately, there are plenty of unscrupulous and dishonest people waiting to pounce on new eBay sellers. Protect yourself and don't fall victim to their scams. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to stay away from high-risk items. These include:

  • iPhones and smartphones
  • Designer handbags 
  • High-end designer clothing and shoes
  • Electronics
  • Anything with multiple parts or components that could be removed and the item returned
  • Autographed items without COA
  • Event tickets
  • Commonly counterfeited items including designer handbags, designer sunglasses, expensive designer jeans, Nike shoes, Ugg boots, Otter Boxes

It is best to establish yourself as a seller first before trying to sell any of these items. Also, if you sell a designer item on eBay and it is a fake (such as a handbag or other designer clothing item) you can be suspended on the first instance. Don't let greed drive your eBay selling motivation. Slow and steady wins the race. Learn more ways to protect yourself from eBay scams here

Get the Right Supplies

You do not need a lot of expensive equipment to sell on eBay, although the internet will have you believe otherwise. Veteran sellers have done just fine since 1996 with just the basics — before the "after eBay market" appeared with a plethora of listing tools, photography equipment, photo editing apps, and research tools. All you really need is:

  • 2 pieces of plain white poster board to make a solid background for photos
  • A scale to weigh items when listing and when shipping
  • Shipping supplies (get free Priority supplies from USPS, order polymailers on eBay for first class items)

Choose the Right Listing Type

Auction or fixed price? Which is better? Well, it depends on who you ask. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Auctions aren't what they used to be on eBay, so make sure you start your auctions at an acceptable price even if you only get one bid. Fixed price listings may take longer to sell, but you can often get a higher price if you wait for the right buyer. Read more about which listing is right for your unique eBay business based on pros and cons of each type.

Is Free Shipping a Good Idea?

There are two camps on this issue. Experienced veteran sellers are really divided here. Free shipping isn't really free — you will build it into the price of the item. Calculated shipping is really the most fair way for the buyer and the most accurate way for both buyer and seller. 

If you are selling items that will fit into a padded flat rate mailer or box, you can charge a flat rate for shipping, or offer free shipping and increase the selling price by the amount of the flat rate shipping. eBay charges fees on both the sale price and the shipping cost, so you won't save any money on fees by offering free shipping. 

Definitely never offer free shipping on large or heavy items. You can take a big hit on shipping if the item ships to a buyer geographically far from you. Always enter the dimensions when listing a large or heavy item as oversize charges may apply. If the shipping fees are too low, and you didn't charge enough, you will have to absorb that cost. 

Learn to Package and Ship Items Properly

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for new sellers is packaging. This is a skill that anyone can learn with practice and patience. Thankfully, there are thousands of tutorials on YouTube that show how to ship different kinds of items using creative materials like pool noodles and egg cartons

Offer a Fair Return Policy

Many new sellers don't like the idea of offering a return policy, but under the eBay Guarantee, all sellers have one whether they like it or not. eBay wants buyers to feel confident purchasing on the site, so they guarantee that if an item isn't as described or doesn't arrive, they buyer will get a refund. As a seller, you want to do everything possible to outperform the competition and persuade a buyer to choose your listing over the competitors. A fair return policy does just that for a few reasons.

eBay rewards sellers who offer a 30-day or longer return policy by giving them a boost in search results. So if you have a 30-day return policy, you will automatically place higher in search than a seller who does not offer one. This is an easy way to get some free SEO

Buyers also look for sellers who offer a return policy as this builds trust. Sellers who don't offer returns may be viewed as sketchy, dishonest, or unaccommodating. You don't want to be any of those things! Don't worry, you won't be giving refunds left and right. Most buyers who ask for a return never get around to doing it. In my experience, about 75 percent of return requests are closed because the buyer failed to ship the item back. You can also include this verbiage in your return policy:

Item must be returned in original condition, new in package if applicable. 

This disclaimer keeps you from being scammed. And if your item is returned just as you shipped it out, just go back to your Sold Item folder, and hit re-list and it is up for sale again. Easy, peasy! Returns are a part of being a seller, so accept it and keep listing. 

Summary

eBay is a great way to make some extra cash from the comfort of your own home. It is accessible to anyone, there are no barriers to entry, and eBay is a household word. Make sure you take the proper steps to educate yourself about eBay policies and rules before jumping in.